Author: elenasquareeyes

READ THE WORLD – Federated States of Micronesia: My Urohs by Emelihter Kihleng

A short poetry collection from Pohnpeian poet, Emelihter Kihleng.

I think this was a very interesting collection. A lot of the poems were almost short stories or small snapshots at life, and I feel I learnt things about the Federated States of Micronesia from these poems, which is an achievement considering how short they are. For instance, I never knew about the connection between the Federated States of Micronesia and America, that many people live or work or have connections to Hawaii especially. In the poem “Destiny Fulfilled?” it covers how people from the various islands joined the US Armed Forces and its “War on Terror” in Afghanistan and Iraq. I also liked how it gets its title from a Destiny’s Child album and uses lyrics from the song “Soldier” to show the differences between pop culture and actual war.

I liked how the poet had footnotes in the poems, explaining a word or phrase that was in a different language, or adding context when a poem is inspired by real events. I believe Pohpeian is the language used throughout the collection, with many of the poems being in a combination of English and Pohpeian. Some are like a dialogue between two characters and there’s the English translation after each phrase, while in others it’s just the odd word or line that’s not in English.

The poems in My Urohs are about the people, the culture, the food, and the connections and differences between people who live on different islands in the Federated States of Micronesia and their different languages, stories and culture. It’s an interesting little collection and a great insight into a place I’d only ever heard of and knew nothing about.

REVIEW: Upgrade (2018)

After a brutal attack that leaves his wife (Melanie Vallejo) dead and himself a quadriplegic, Grey (Logan Marshall-Green) feels his life isn’t worth living. When an artificial intelligence implant called STEM is offered to him, Grey is able to move again and with his newfound abilities he seeks revenge for his wife’s murder.

Upgrade is really clever while never being obnoxious with it. The basic premise is something we’ve all seen before – having a man seek revenge/justice for his wife/girlfriend/family’s murder is the starting point for so many action/thriller films. With Upgrade it it takes that starting point and takes it to new and interesting places.

Upgrade is set in the new future where technology is so advanced. There are self-driving cars, smart houses, and the integration between humans and machinery seen as the norm. Grey is a guy who prefers to not rely on technology and to build things himself, so when he’s suddenly put in the position where he’s near enough defenceless without technology it makes things challenging for him as he has to relearn his body – both when he’s paralysed and when he can suddenly move again thanks to STEM.

STEM is like its own character. Grey can here its voice in his head and they have these conversations, discussing how to find the people who killed his wife. Stem can also take complete control of Grey’s body which lead to some very violent and innovative fight sequences. They really are great, and Marshall-Green does a great job as his body is moving robotically but brutally but the expressions on his face (which he always has complete control over) are often scared, confused and shocked by what he’s doing. His performance is all around great as you can clearly see the difference between not only when STEM has control and not, but also how Grey was before the attack.

Upgrade is a great revenge action flick but it’s also one of those films that has a decent amount of substance to it. In this world where reliance on technology is so great, there’s ethical dilemmas about what Grey has done to his body and how he can allow something to take control of it. And even outside of Grey’s situation the little bits of world-building that show how everyone is reliant on technology, surveillance and AI is interesting.

Upgrade is tense and thrilling and the action sequences really stand out due to how well they’re shot and how creative they are. The violence is sometimes pretty gruesome so be aware of that, but it’s also surprisingly funny thanks to the dynamic between Grey and STEM. Upgrade really is one of those films that you hear a load of great stuff about, and it does indeed live up to the hype. 4/5.

REVIEW: Fast Colour (2018)

After years in hiding, Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is forced to go on the run when her superhuman abilities are discovered. Years after abandoning her mother Bo (Lorraine Toussaint) and her young daughter Lila (Saniyya Sidney), the only place Ruth has left to hide is with them.

The three generations of this family all have abilities and while there’s similarities between them, they each have a different level of control to them. The abilities themselves, to break things down and rebuild them, to see the colours of the universe, for being a mythology that’s so different from the big blockbuster superhero films we are used to seeing, it’s explained well and it is captivating.

Fast Colour is one of those quiet sci-fi films. It’s a film about superpowered characters, but their abilities are not really the driving force of this story, instead it’s the relationships. It’s the moments where you get to see these three people just inhabit the same space that really work. There’s a static shot of the kitchen and slowly the three of them come in at different moments, easily moving around one another as they make breakfast together that hits home how even though Ruth hasn’t been with her mother and daughter for so long, they’re still a family and are connected to one another.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw is the standout here. Her guilt, fear and regret when it comes to how she acted in the past towards her family is palpable and I would say she gives a star performance, but to be honest she’s been giving great performances for years and it’s everyone else who needs to take notice. Lorraine Toussaint is also great. Her world weariness and desire to do anything to keep her family safe, her calm guidance when it comes to trying to teach her daughter and granddaughter their abilities, it all hides a pillar of strength and power more than those who’d seek to harm her daughter could imagine.

Fast Colour is just a beautiful film about familiar ties and inner strength. It has a beautiful and often haunting score by Rob Simonsen, that compliments the open, deserted spaces of a middle America where so many people are struggling. Fast Colour is a striking and impressive film, and it’s one that’s likely to stick with me for a while. 4/5.

My TBR: 2020 Edition

It has been a long time since I’ve done this, almost five years in fact. I last shared all the physical books on my TBR in January 2016, the time before that was April 2014 – so really this is long overdue. Please don’t go and compare my TBR now to my TBR in 2016 or 2014 as I’m sure there’s going to be books here that were on my previous TBR’s and that’s just embarrassing.

This time I’m going to share the physical and digital books, whether that’s on audio or my kindle, I have in my possession. I have to say earlier this year I did go through my bookshelves and unhauled over twenty books so this TBR could’ve been worse! Though I’ve also had my birthday since then and was gifted more books, so it probably evens out.

Before I start I just wanted to flag I’ve currently got a giveaway of boxes of bookish stuff happening on my Twitter, it closes on 22 November so check it out if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

This list is split into four sections; audiobooks, books I have with me in my flat, kindle books, and books that are at my mum’s place. I do not have room for all my books, so my mum is kind enough for me to keep the majority with her. Every now and then I take the books I’ve read but want to keep to hers and then pick up more books I’ve yet to read to bring back with me.

Any books with an asterisk * symbol are books for my Read the World Project.

Audio:
I do get audiobooks from my library, either via RBdigital or BorrowBox, but these three are via Audible as I do sometimes get a subscription/extra tokens if there’s a good deal on and then stock up there.
The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell* – I’m currently reading this
Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch (more…)

REVIEW: All In: The Fight for Democracy (2020)

Documentary about the history of America’s democracy, how people gained and lost the right to vote, and the barriers to voting that so many Americans face today thanks to voter suppression.

Honestly, as a someone born and raised in the UK it really blows my mind how difficult it is for Americans to vote. I have never spent more than a couple of minutes at a poling station, with no more than three people in front of me waiting to vote in the five General Elections I’ve been able to vote in – never mind the local elections I’ve participated in.

Stacey Abrams, who ran for Governor of Georgia in 2018, is a big part of this documentary and her story almost bookends the film. At the beginning you learn a little about her upbringing and how her parents made sure she and her siblings knew how important voting is, and then the last part of the film sees more about her run for office, how that turned out and how it serves as an example of the damage voter suppression can do.

I learnt so much about the American voting system from All In: The Fight for Democracy. One thing that really surprised me was how after the Civil War and Black men were able to vote, there were Black senators in the late 1800s and, knowing about the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s and how the majority of Black people were unable to vote in Southern states I couldn’t comprehend how things went backwards in 80 years. But, All In: The Fight for Democracy showed how a similar thing happened after Obama was elected in 2008; as soon as people who don’t fit the “traditional” mould start getting power and influence, those who want to keep the status quo get to work. Honestly, I spent a lot of time watching All In: The Fight for Democracy in awe of the cruelty and underhand way people have tried (and succeeded) to prevent people from voting.

Today there’s the strict use of voter ID, polls closing, gerrymandering, voter intimidation and purging the electoral roll. All of these things make it a lot difficult for people to vote, but Black people, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, poor people and young people are disproportionately affected. Naturally if voting is hard or people don’t know their rights, they will eventually stop trying and then they will lose their voice and ability to say who governs them.

All In: The Fight for Democracy is an important and impactful documentary. With historians, authors, lawyers, politicians, activists and academics explaining how and why voter suppression is happening, and how communities can fight against it, it’s a rousing film. It makes you feel equally infuriated and inspired but it doesn’t shy away from the realities of what is happening in America and how all citizens voting rights are in danger and the difficulties that lie ahead in trying to once again level the playing field for all American voters. 5/5.

Happy Halloween!

And so, another October comes to an end and it’s time for spooky things to happen – though probably a lot of people have already gone full out on the spooky stuff.

I’m probably not going to do anything for Halloween, maybe watch Hocus Pocus because it’d be weird not to (it’s kinda become a tradition to watch it on/close to Halloween) and chill out. I was never a big Halloween person even before we were living through a pandemic where gathering in large groups is a no no.

Anyway, however you decide to mark Halloween I hope you have a great day/night, and if you’re not doing anything – hope you generally have a fab weekend!

Friday 56: The Good Girls by Sara Shepard

The Friday 56 is a weekly feature hosted by Freda’s Voice. The aim is to share a few sentences of a book (whether it’s one you’re currently reading or not) so other people might be enticed to pick it up.

Here’s the rules:
– Turn to page 56 or 56% in your ebook
– Find any sentence – or a few, just don’t spoil it
– Post it
– Add the URL of your post to the Linky on Freda’s most recent post

Julie just nodded, but Parker glared at the woman, puffing up her chest. “Actually, I was planning on setting fire to the house, thanks. And maybe doing heroin in your bathroom. That cool?”

That was from page 56 of the paperback edition of The Good Girls by Sara Shepard which I am currently reading.

READ THE WORLD – Kyrgyzstan: Jamilia by Chingiz Aïtmatov

Translated by James Riordan.

Jamilia’s husband is off fighting at the front. She spends her days hauling sacks of grain from the threshing floor to the train station in their small village in the Caucasus, accompanied by Seit, her young brother-in-law, and Daniyar, a sullen newcomer to the village who has been wounded on the battlefield. Seit observes the beautiful, spirited Jamilia spurn men’s advances, and wince at the dispassionate letters she receives from her husband, while she also draws closer to Daniyar.

Jamilia is a very short book at around 90 pages and it’s just one long chapter. Jamilia is told from Seit’s perspective and he narrates the story in the first person. It’s a simple story in terms of plot, a young woman in a small farming community potentially finds a better and stronger love while her husband is away, and in terms of writing. The writing is so simple that it often reads like Seit is sat with you, telling you the story. That come partly the tenses as sometimes the narrative voice knows more than the present-Seit would.

Considering this book was published in the 1950s, Jamilia herself could almost be described as a manic pixie dreamgirl. Seit is infatuated with her, as are a lot of the other men in the village, and as it’s from Seit’s point of view, you never really get to see much of Jamilia’s personality or her hopes, dreams and desires. You just see her through Seit’s eyes, and his judgement is clouded by his own feelings for her.

Jamilia is one of those books that even though it’s so short it took days to get through. I think that’s because of a few things. One, the story didn’t really grab me, I thought there’d be an illicit romance and more drama when there really wasn’t and it was just a series of events in these farming peoples lives. Two, I thought it’d be from Jamilia’s point of view so you could see her conflict about being drawn to a man who wasn’t her husband and have more of an insight into her seeing she is the titular character. And three, the writing style was so simple it ended up being boring so even when there was something different happening in the plot, I wasn’t really engaged with it.

Looking at Goodreads a lot of people seem to really like this book so maybe I’m in the wrong, or it could be down to the translation. Either way I’m glad to have now crossed off Kyrgyzstan from my Read the World Project.

The Spooky Books Tag

As blogtober draws to a close, it’s time for one more seasonal tag! The Spooky Book Tag was created by Shelby Masako and I’m going to do my best to not repeat any of my answers from previous tags I’ve done this month.

What goes bump in the night?: Name a book that has legitimately scared you while reading it.
I know I’ve mentioned Lirael in a previous tag for this kind of question but it’s still relevant. Maybe Safe as Houses by Simone van der Vlugt also deserves a mention as that was a different type of scary as it’s about a home invasion.

Jack O’ Lanterns and Classic Costumes: A book you always reach for during Halloween time.
I don’t have a spooky/horror book that I always pick up at this time of year. In fact, I cant remember the last time I reread a book (must be at least four years ago) and that’s something I’d like to rectify soon.

Black Cats and Magic Mirrors: A book you love that is laced with superstition and/or magic.
Again, I think I might’ve mentioned this series in a previous tag but I don’t care – The Magician’s House Quartet by William Corlett. There’s magic and secrets in the house and talking animals and an evil Magician’s assistant.

Witch’s Brew: Favourite witch character in any book/series
It’s easy to say Hermione Granger from Harry Potter but really, I think my favourite witch is Angela from the Inheritance Cycle. My first thought was Hermione because Angela is more than a witch, she’s a healer and maybe a seer and there’s so many layers to her that witch almost seems like a too simple term.

Ghouls and Ghosts: A book that still haunts you to this day (good or bad).
Allegiant by Veronica Roth. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Divergent trilogy but the ending of Allegiant sticks with me, mainly because I think it’s an incredibly ballsy move from the author and I kinda liked how things went down – even though I know a lot of people weren’t.

Haunted Graveyard: You’re all alone in a haunted graveyard, you get ONE book to give you comfort, which is it?
Hawkeye vs. Deadpool by Gerry Duggan and Matteo Lolli. The vast majority of comics featuring Hawkeye (especially the Clint Barton Hawkeye) bring me comfort but Hawkeye vs. Deadpool was just so much fun, it’d hard to be scared when revisiting that book.

The Undead: Favourite supernatural creatures to read about (i.e. vamps, zombies, werewolves, etc).
I don’t often read about supernatural creatures – the Cal Leandros series by Rob Thurman has a lot of them in there though. I think my favourites though are vampires, I think they’re the creature that authors can really put their own spin on.

In the dead of night: Pick a book with a black cover.
I feel like I’ve mentioned this book so much on my blog over the past few months, but I’ve got to pick The Sisters Grimm by Menna van Praag. It has a stunning cover and it’s just the sort of book I should be reading at this time of year as I think there’s magic and witches and mysteries, but I haven’t picked it up yet.

Non-Fiction November TBR

As well as November being Sci-Fi Month it’s also Non-Fiction November. It’s a readathon/challenge hosted by abookolive, steakuccion, Infinite Text, Curious Reader and The Book Bully and the main point of it is to read more non-fiction than you normally would that month.

There are four one-word prompts to help shape your TBR if you fancy using them. They are Time, Movement, Buzz and Discovery. You can interpret these anyway you want to, and you don’t have to use them.

I have 11 unread non-fiction books; more than I thought I did to be honest. I’ve picked out four books that I’d like to make a priority next month. Somewhat unintentionally it’s a mixture of books for my Read the World Project and books that are feminist.

What Would Boudicca Do?: Everyday Problems Solved by History’s Most Remarkable Women by E. Foley and B. Coates
This was a gift from my best friend. It looks like one of those fun non-fiction books where you can learn about real people but in a tongue in cheek way as it uses these interesting historical women as ways to give you advice on your own life. This could fit the “Discovery” prompt as I don’t really know anything about Boudicca or some of the other women included in it.

An African in Greenland by Tété-Michel Kpomassie
This will be my book for Togo in my Read the World Project. It’s Kpomassie’s autobiography. He discovered a book on Greenland when he was a teenager and from then knew he had to go there. An African in Greenland follows his journey from Togo to Greenland and his adventures among the Inuit. This could easily fit the “Movement” prompt.

Child Soldier by China Keitetsi
Another book for my Read the World Project and this one’s Uganda. I think this will be a very tough read as it’s an autobiography about Keitetsi’s life on Uganda and as a National Resistance Army child soldier. This could also fit for “Discovery” as I don’t

Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies) curated Scarlett Curtis
This is a collection of essays from a wide range of celebrities including, actors, writers and activists all talking about what feminism means to them and how they started to call themselves feminists. This would fit the prompt “Buzz” as it’s a book that I saw a lot of hype about when it was released a couple of years ago.

I think An African in Greenland and Child Soldier will be my priority during Non-Fiction November but I should be able to read the other two as well as they are essay collections rather than narrative non-fiction so I could read an essay or two a day.

Are you taking part in Non-Fiction November? What’s the last non-fiction book you read? I’ve read five non-fiction books so far this year and my favourite so far is Spain: The Inside Story of La Roja’s Historic Treble by Graham Hunter.