Author: elenasquareeyes

Thoughts on… my Read the World Project

Way back in January 2017 I was inspired to try and read a book from every country in the world before I was 30. I turned 30 at the end of September this year and unfortunately, I didn’t hit that goal – I had 48 countries still to go. I’m still carrying on with this challenge though and I’m tweaking my deadline. I will now attempt to finish my Read the World Project while I’m still 30. So, it’ll kind of be in line with what I originally planned.

I’ve enjoyed reading books from places and authors I’d never normally pick up. I’ve read poetry, plays, novels, non-fiction, and short stories. I’ve learnt a lot about different places and cultures and have just generally read a lot of interesting and entertaining stories.

I had a pretty bad reading year in general which didn’t help me with my Read the World Project and as it stands, I have 42 countries left to read before I’m 31. I should read at least more book this year (I hope). I already own 25 books that fit 25 countries. They’re a mixture of hardbacks, paperbacks or ebooks. That means I have 17 more books/countries to acquire in the next nine months.

It is getting harder to find books, poetry etc from the remaining countries. Many of the countries I don’t have works for yet are smaller ones and therefore the chance of having works in English and readily available is smaller too. So, if you happen to know of any writers who are from any of these countries, please let me know: Brunei, Central African Republic, Kiribati, Liechtenstein, Maldives, Mayotte, Monaco, Nauru, Niger, Panama, San Marina, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste (East Timor), Tuvalu, Vanatu.

42 books in a year is normally doable for me and I’m going to make reading a priority in 2022. Wish me luck that I’ll finally complete my Read the World Project.

READ THE WORLD: Namibia – The Purple Violet of Oshaantu by Neshani Andreas

Mee Ali has a happy marriage but for some in her village marriage becomes a loveless entrapment. Young Kauna defies convention by making it no secret of ger suffering at the hands of her abusive husband. But when he is found dead at home villagers and relatives are quick to suspect her of poisoning him or witchcraft.

The Purple Violet of Oshaantu is mostly told from the point of view of Ali, Kauna’s best friend and neighbour. Ali is older than Kauna and has taken on a nurturing role for her, especially as all of Kauna’s family leaves in a different town miles away. Their relationship is great and it’s clear to see how much they care about one another.

It’s not just the friendship between the main two women that’s the focus of The Purple Violet of Oshaantu. Female friendship is a big theme in this book and it shows the value of that friendship and respect in ways I wasn’t expecting. It shows how women (like anyone) have many different facets to their personalities. These women might gossip about Kauna and how her husband sleeps around but that doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily abandon her and refuse to help in her time in need.

As well as friendship being a huge part of The Purple Violet of Oshaantu, so was the conflicts between tradition and modernity. The Purple Violet of Oshaantu was published in 2001 but a lot of the action takes place in a village with few modern amenities. It’s not the technology (or lack thereof) that stands out, it’s the conflicting opinions of younger generations verses older ones. Older generations want to do things in a certain way for Kauna’s husband’s funeral and when Kauna doesn’t act as a grieving widow traditionally should, she starts to get ostracised.

It’s tradition to not speak ill of the dead and for the widow to put on a huge performance but no matter how her husband died, Kauna didn’t love him anymore for how he treated her – he even put her in hospital once. She doesn’t see why she should do certain things and while Ali agrees with her in some ways, she doesn’t want her friend to be shut out by her in-laws and be left with nothing.

The writing is pretty simple but often effective and I liked how words in Oshiwambo and Afrikaans were used throughout the book. Sometimes there was an asterisk and a translation at the bottom of the page and others they weren’t. There was a glossary at the back of the book to check the meaning of these words but sometimes you could have a good guess at what they meant due to context of the characters conversation.

The Purple Violet of Oshaantu is a story about love, relationships and friendships. It shows both the best and worst in people and how tradition can hurt people but also provide comfort to others.

WWW Wednesday – 22 December 2021

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words. It’s a simple meme where you just have to answer three questions:
– What are you currently reading?
– What did you recently finish reading?
– What do you think you’ll read next?

I think it’s a great way to share my recent reads as I don’t review everything I read and often the reviews I do post are behind what I’m actually reading.

What I’m currently reading
The Purple Violet of Oshaantu by Neshani Andreas
I’m very nearly finished this and I’ll probably finish it tomorrow. It’s a story about a woman who is abused and the women in her life that help her.

 

 

What I recently finished reading
Cadence of the Moon by Oscar Núñez Olivas
I finally finished this book! It’s one I started months ago but I finally put the time in and read it. It’s a crime story that while I thought it had some interesting moments, I didn’t really like the writing style.

 

 

What I think I’ll read next
The City Where Dreams Come True by Gulsifat Shahidi
I’d like to read at least one more book before the end of the year and I think a collection of four short stories might be the way to do it. They’re about Tajikistan’s civil war and the effect it had on the people. This is another book for my Read the World Project.

SPOILER REVIEW: Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

It’s been a while since I’ve watched a film and felt the need to talk spoilers but Spider-Man: No Way Home is a film that I saw almost a week ago and can’t stop thinking about. So this is your warning, this is going to be full of spoilers (but won’t necessarily be a play by play of the movie) so if you want to know my general thoughts on the film you can check out my spoiler-free review, though to be honest I recommend going into Spider-Man: No Way Home knowing as little as possible.

Now onto the spoilers!

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REVIEW: Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

After the events of Spider-Man: Far From Home, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is dealing with the repercussions of the world finding out his secret identity. When things starting affecting his loved ones, Peter turns to Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) for help but when a spell goes awry, dangerous villains start to appear with one goal – take down Spider-Man.

Don’t worry, this will be a spoiler-free review!

In previous Marvel Cinematic Universe Spider-Man outings, Tom Holland’s Peter Parker has felt very young and naïve. He’s previously made mistakes but it’s seemed like it took him a long time to learn from. For me, No Way Home finally sees Peter mature and become Spider-Man in a way we haven’t really seen much before in the MCU. It’s impressive that with a film chockfull of characters, Peter Parker stays the focus and driving force behind everything and Tom Holland does an excellent job in the role.

MJ (Zendaya) and Ned (Jacob Batalon) as team FoS (Friends of Spider-Man) are both great, adding both humour and suitable drama to various situations. Having the two of them knowing about Peter’s not-so-secret identity and helping him on his missions just feel right. All three of them have different skill sets but are super smart and seeing them work together and deeply care for one another is great.

It is a joy to see past Spider-Man villains on screen again. Alfred Molina once again delivers pathos to Doc Ock, but it’s Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin that is the real standout. How he portrays both sides of the character, Norman Osborn and the Goblin, and can switch instantly between the two is still incredibly creepy.

It’s easy to say that Spider-Man: No Way Home prays on nostalgia and fan service with all these characters we’ve seen in previous iterations of Spider-Man making an appearance but No Way Home uses these characters so well that it doesn’t feel cheap. Sure, some of the villains aren’t as well developed as others but generally speaking it feels like these characters are there for a purpose and have a narrative arc that compliments what we’ve seen them before. There’s a purpose to the vast majority of these villains and no one feels like a brief cameo.

The first act is a little shaky but once the spell goes awry and a bunch of villains start showing up everything seems to click into place and Spider-Man: No Way Home is such a fun experience. The action is exciting, there’s some real emotional moments between various characters and so much of the cast has great chemistry that I’d love to see some of these actor combinations on screen again some time.

Spider-Man: No Way Home is probably not a perfect movie, but I can’t deny how much I enjoyed it and how I got swept away by it all. Having too many villains has been detrimental so many films before but here they know how to use them to great effect and keep Peter Parker at the centre of it all. 5/5.

REIVEW: Scrooged (1988)

In this retelling of A Christmas Carol, Frank Cross (Bill Murray), a selfish, cynical television executive, is haunted by three spirits bearing lessons on Christmas Eve.

This is one of those classic Christmas films that I had never seen before so watching it as an adult without the nostalgia factor is probably a different experience to those who’ve watched it for years. I will say, if I had watched Scrooged as a child, it would have really freaked me out and scared me at some points.

There’s the ghost of Frank’s former boss Lew Hayward (John Forsythe) who warns Frank that he’s about to be visited by three ghosts. The make up and prosthetics are great as he really does look like a rotting corpse, with a mouse in his head and everything. Then there’s the Ghost of Christmas Future which was dressed like the Grim Reaper but again had freaky prosthetics going on. The future it shows Frank is also kind of horrifying and one scene would definitely have given child-me nightmares.

I think that’s one of the things I found so odd about Scrooged. It’s supposed to be a comedy and with Bill Murray in the lead there is certainly a lot of funny moments, but the tone when it comes to some of the ghosts and what one of Frank’s fired employees goes through is a lot darker. It really pushes some characters to their limit and the humour is also often dark and weird and the whole thing just feels a bit disconcerting. That’s not to say Scrooged is bad or this hybrid of tone doesn’t work, strangely it does and how chaotic it is works in its favour.

Having Bill Murray as the lead and in the Ebeneezer Scrooge role works as he has a dry sense of humour but still manages to play Frank as someone you might not hate to be around due to his offbeat vibe, even when Frank is at his cruellest.

I can see why Scrooged is a Christmas film that people routinely watch. It has the happy ever after and is based off of a classic Christmas story, but it’s also weird and has a darker undertone that doesn’t make it cheesy. 3/5.

REVIEW: The Family Stone (2005)

Strait-laced Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) accompanies her boyfriend Everett (Dermot Mulroney) home for Christmas and to meet his outgoing family for the first time. Soon secrets are revealed and Meredith feels like the whole family hates her.

Everett’s family is big and loud and a bit chaotic. Diane Keaton is great at Sybil, the matriarch of the family, and Rachel McAdams as his snarky and brutally honest sister is often very mean but in a wry way that almost makes it OK.

Meredith and Everett do seem like an OK match to begin with and that’s because Everett doesn’t have that much of a personality. It’s how his family reacts to him when he’s with Meredith that comes across as either they’re seeing he’s pretending to be something he’s not, or that they just don’t know him at all. It’s not exactly clear who he is outside of Meredith.

The Family Stone is a bit of an odd film really. It’s a Christmas film I hadn’t even heard of until recently and while it has the typical big family Christmas and all the hijinks that typically ensue it’s also got a bit of a dark streak to it too.

Yeah, Meredith doesn’t really fit in with this family but she doesn’t come across too terrible and unlikeable until a truly cringeworthy scene at the dinner table. Thad (Tyrone Giordano), one of Everett’s brothers, is gay and Meredith sticks her foot in it by saying she doesn’t know how any parent can hope their child’s gay as it makes life so much harder for the child. She doesn’t know when to stop and as much as she tries to explain herself it makes it worse and sound even more homophobic and everyone around that dinner table is perfectly in their right to get mad at her but the way things play out it’s like it’s supposed to be an easy thing to forgive.

There’s also an almost love square thing going on in The Family Stone which I wasn’t expecting and you’ve got to wonder what’s going through some of these characters heads – Everett’s especially. But it does lead to a couple of grown men chasing each other around the house and acting like kids which is something I always find amusing.

I think it’s fitting that The Family Stone is a messy film as the family at the heart of it is messy too. They’ve each got something going on in their lives including bad medical news and not great love lives. All the actors who make up the Stone family do a great job of feeling like a dysfunctional family who do love each other even though they take the mick out of one another.

The Family Stone is like an alternative Christmas film, one of those ones where family meals sometimes end in a fight and not everything can be wrapped up neatly and be a happily ever after. 3/5.

Thoughts on… My most watched actors (2021 edition)

It has accidentally become a thing where every couple of years I look at my most watched actors ever list courtesy of Letterboxd and see what conclusions I can come to from it.

It’s fun to see how much (if any) change there’s been since I did this in 2017 and in 2019. The first thing I noticed that while their position to one another may have changed; Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Statham, Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman have always been my top four most watched actors since I started looking at these stats.

This year a quarter of my most watched actors are women – the most I’ve ever had on this list. Kristen Stewart, Anna Kendrick and Anne Hathaway making an appearance here for the first time. I definitely would like to see more women on here and I wouldn’t be surprised if Kristen Stewart especially manages to stay on here as I have about half a dozen of her films on my watchlists on various streaming services.

There are also six actors of colour, two more than last year as Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie make their first appearance on this list. Both of whom I’m not surprised about as they’re both the kind of actors I’ll watch a film just because they’re in it.

Having Anton Yelchin on this list is kind of bittersweet. Last year I watched a load of his films I hadn’t seen before so that helped get him onto this list. And while I do still have over a dozen more of his films to see, there will come a time when he probably won’t be able to stay on this list just because he is no longer with us and making films when other actors are.

It seems like every time I do this, this top twenty list gets more and more competitive. Back in 2019 the actors with the least amount of watches to their name were Rachel Weisz, Jim Broadbent, Maggie Smith, and Channing Tatum who all had 24. In 2021, none of them make the list and now my “least watched” are Denzel Washington, Liam Neeson, Scarlett Johansson, Dwayne Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Anthony Mackie, Anton Yelchin and Kristen Stewart with 27 films each.

It’ll be interesting to see in two years’ time who will still be on this list. For instance, John Goodman still has a spot like he did in 2019 but I haven’t watch one single more new-to-me film of his in two years. He often plays supporting characters and sometimes pops up in the most random of films so it’s easy to see why I haven’t seen more of his films but equally I wouldn’t be surprised if he managed to cling onto the list.

My predictions for 2023 is that Samuel L. Jackson and Jason Statham will still be my most watched actors but I think Idris Elba will surpass Morgan Freeman. I think Kristen Stewart will manage to stay in my top 20 most watched actors and I’d like it if more women could join her on this list too. Otherwise, who knows what could happen in two years!

READ THE WORLD – Costa Rica: Cadence of the Moon by Oscar Núñez Olivas

Translated by Joanna Griffin.

A series of murders committed with dreadful sadism by a psychopathic killer shakes Costa Rica like one of the earth tremors that periodically bedevil Central America. The police and press compete to uncover the murderer’s grisly trail – leading to a passionate encounter between a detective and an astonishing female reporter whose charms are her most powerful investigative tool.

Cadence of the Moon is a multiple POV story with it sometimes jumping from one point of view to another in the same chapter – though at least there’s line breaks to give you a hint something’s different. It’s mostly in third person a part from one point of view that’s in first person. I don’t know if I missed something early on but I didn’t figure out what character the first-person narrative was from until near the very end of the book where it revealed it. There may have been clues I missed before but I was so unsure that for a while I thought they might be the killer as they definitely seemed somewhat obsessive as the killer had been profiled.

Gustavo is the main detective and he is almost a reluctant detective. He’s smart and good at solving puzzles but he didn’t join the police because he wanted to but rather because he needed a job with a decent pension. He doesn’t quite fit in with some of the other detective and he clashes with his boss who has political aspirations.

As things slowly unravel and the police and the press follow different threads of the investigation it becomes clear there’s layers to this crime. The murders are gruesome but there’s also talk of secret societies, political intrigue and police corruption. Cadence of the Moon can be frustrating for the reader and for some of the characters as they are never given enough resources to make an impact on this case, and that might be deliberate.

Something I had trouble with was how women are described in this book, especially the journalist Maricruz Miranda. Not to generalise but it did feel very typical of a male author, especially a male author in the crime/thriller genre. Just the way her appearance and attitude were described in an often sexual way made me feel uncomfortable, like she was an object rather than a person. It’s something that did put me off Cadence of the Moon for a while and after reading the first 50 or so pages I put it down and didn’t pick it up again for over a month.

It was not just Maricruz, all the women are described by their appearances and a few male characters are quick to fall into bed with them or lust over characters who have no intentions of being with them. It’s as if all the women’s main purpose was to be a subject of male attention and then be a journalist, judge or whatever second.

I found Cadence of the Moon a slow read but it ended up being an interesting one. It’s based off the true story of Costa Rica’s first serial killer which is a compelling premise and how characters who were driven by moral and professional ethics were stumped by the corruption and lies of the real world presented a decent conflict of interests.

Book Blogger Hop: If you were in a book, would you rather be the main character or in the background?

Book Blogger Hop

The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly feature hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, to find bookish blogs and to learn more about the bloggers themselves. You can find more info on the feature on their website.

This week’s question is: If you were in a book, would you rather be the main character or in the background?

While I like the idea of being the main character and the hero in a book, I think it’s a lot of responsibility to have. I think I’d rather be a bit more in the background, maybe help the hero. I’m a bit of a people watcher so I think being in the background watching what’s happening would be helpful to the hero. Also, I do like to wonder what the every day kind of character thinks about all the drama that goes on around them. Whether it’s a bystander to some big romantic miscommunication or to a big fantasy showdown.