Reviews

MINI COMIC REVIEWS: Poe Dameron Vol. 1, Monstress Vol. 1 and A-Force Vol. 0

I couldn’t figure out what book I wanted to read recently (the great thing about the Read the World Project is I’ve got a lot of interesting options but it does sometimes feel like homework) so I went back to my comic shelves and read a few of my unread volumes. I have stuff to say about them but not a lot so here’s some mini reviews.

Poe Dameron Volume 1: Black Squadron by Charles Soule and Phil Noto

I really loved this comic! Poe Dameron stole my heart in The Force Awakens so when I heard he was going to have his own comic series I knew I had to read it. Black Squadron is a prequel to The Force Awakens and Poe, along with his friends in his squadron, are tasked by Leia Organa to find Lor San Tekka (the old guy Poe’s talking to at the start of The Force Awakens – boy I’ve said The Force Awakens a lot in this paragraph!).

So, the comic is all about the mission but also the downtime and you get to see Poe interact with his team which is great. It’s a funny comic, Poe’s charm shines right off the pages and it’s a nice way to learn more about the character. Plus, his relationship with BB-8 is brilliant, there’s a scene where the whole plan depends on BB-8 and some other droids and Poe has complete faith in them.

I also love the art style in Black Squadron. Phil Noto draws some gorgeous stuff (his Black Widow run is also fab) and I love the colours. It is a bit funny seeing Oscar Isaac’s face in a comic, but I soon got used to it. This is such a fun comic with good adversaries for Poe and his team and they kind of go on a heist at one which was wonderful (heists are my favourite thing ever) and I can’t wait till Volume 2 is released. 5/5.

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READ THE WORLD – Denmark: The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Copenhagen Detective Inspector Carl Mørck has been taken off Homicide to run a new department for unsolved crimes and he’s not happy about it. Soon things get busy when his first case concerns Merete Lynggaard, a politician who vanished five years ago. Everyone says she’s dead, he thinks they’re right. But that might not be the case, and Merete’s time is running out.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a detective thriller and The Keeper of Lost Causes did not disappoint. Carl is one of those typical cranky detectives who doesn’t work well with others, his colleagues don’t really like him but they still ask his advice on difficult cases, but he’s still a decent person who’s good at his job. It’s great to see bits of the case come together because as the reader you sometimes know more than Carl but you never get the whole story till the final chapters.

Carl Mørck’s department is in the basement of police headquarters and it’s just him and his assistant Hafez el-Assad. They’re an odd combination and provide some moments of humour. Assad is Syrian so he doesn’t always get how things work in Denmark but he’s never portrayed as stupid, in fact he’s a great help to the case, seeing things others don’t. It was really nice to see how Carl respected Assad’s religion, getting a floorplan of the station so Assad knew which direction to pray – the religious aspect of Assad’s life was so natural and just a part of him and no one made a big deal of it.

Assad is a very likeable character with some hidden talents, I enjoyed seeing him and Carl slowly start getting to know each other, each dealing with each other’s unusual habits and personal traits. Carl is definitely a character I didn’t like to start with but he grew on me, especially because he has a very dry sense of humour and is often brutally honest.

The Keeper of Lost Causes is a proper-page turner, there were revelations at the end of most chapters and a sense of desperation as the novel progressed as you learnt more about Merete and the horrible situation she’s in. 5/5.

REVIEW: Fast & Furious 8 (2017)

When Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is seduced into the world of terrorism by the mysterious Cipher (Charlize Theron), his family and crew must join with old foes in order to stop him.

Fast & Furious 8 really steps it up a gear in terms of stunts and spectacle. There’s car chases on the streets of New York, a giant wrecking ball taking out cars and, of course, a submarine vs cars on ice sequence. They shouldn’t work and sometimes it’s a little chaotic to follow where everyone is but it’s best to let the adrenalin start pumping and go along for the ride.

Cipher is a very different kind of villain to what the crew has faced before. She’s almost all seeing and all-knowing thanks to her hacking skills and is powerful enough to get Dom to turn on his family for her. Most of her scenes are with Dom so it would’ve been nice to see her interact with more of the characters and see how characters like loud-mouth Roman (Tyrese Gibson) would react her.

It’s weird going into a Fast and Furious film without Paul Walker being there and they do have a reason why he and Jordana Brewster are not in the film, but the film generally still holds up with the old crew and a few new additions. There’s Eric (Scott Eastwood) Mr. Nobody’s (Kurt Russell) new protégée, who takes a while to gel and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is roped in to join the team. The conflict between him and the team is a bit hit and miss, the film quickly brushes off his history with the team (they almost killed his brother and he in turn killed one of their own and tried to kill the rest of them in the last film) and it would’ve been nice to see some more of that conflict. The one place you do feel that tension is between Shaw and Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), their chemistry is great and there’s a lot of humour from them two trash talking each other.

Each member of the team has their moment to shine but in many ways, this is Dom’s film. He has the emotional beats of the film, along with (to a lesser extent) Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). She, as his wife, is the most visibly torn up about his betrayal and while she does have some cringey lines, she gives a good performance.

What can I say, if you’ve seen any of the recent Fast and Furious films then you know what you’ll be getting into – a world where the laws of physics don’t apply and the main crew of street racers are more like spies or superheroes nowadays. Fast & Furious 8 continues to be a lot of fun with a thrilling finale and a lot of laughs all the way through the film – it’s mad but it works. 4/5.

READ THE WORLD – SOUTH AFRICA: Nineveh by Henrietta Rose-Innes

Katya Grubbs, like her father, deals with the unwanted and unappreciated. In contrast to her father’s methods, she is in the business of pest relocation, not pest extermination. Katya’s business comes to the attention of a property developer whose luxury estate on the edge of Cape Town has been standing empty due to an infestation of mysterious insects. As Katya investigates the chaotic urban wilderness of Nineveh she must confront some unwelcome intrusions from her own past.

I found Nineveh pretty hard to get into and at times quite a slow read. It was a very put-downable book, once I was reading I could get through 40 or 50 pages easily but I never felt like I just had to get back to it after I put it down for whatever reason. I think that was maybe down to the writing style, it was quite floaty and dreamlike in some places – especially when something would remind Katya of something from her past.

Katya’s relationship with her father is interesting yet unsettling as he is almost unintentionally abusive towards her and her sister. What happened to them when they were young is abuse but Katya is so blasé about it that it’s very uncomfortable to read sometimes. When you start seeing the similarities between Katya and her father you start to think she will never be happy or “normal” because of such an unusual childhood. They are interesting characters to see bounce off one another but I didn’t like either of them.

That’s the thing with Nineveh, I didn’t like any of the characters. That might be in part due to the fact the book is from Katya’s point of view and she naturally keeps people at arm’s length, even her family, but I didn’t really like Katya much either.

When Katya is in the Nineveh complex, it is an eerie and unsettling place. That came across really well as you were just waiting to discover what sort of infestation the place had and how would Katya deal with it. The problem was there never felt like there was any payoff to what was happening and Katya was just a spectator in her own narrative.

Nineveh just wasn’t for me. Not a lot really happened and I just didn’t like the characters or the writing style. Nineveh as a place was interesting and when the book was set there I enjoyed it more but otherwise it was a pretty dull read for me. 2/5.

READ THE WORLD – United Arab Emirates: Dubai Tales by Mohammad al Murr

A collection of short stories about family, love and relationships all set in and around Dubai.

I can’t remember the last time I read a short stories collection, it’s generally not my thing but I did enjoy Dubai Tales. They were often about five or six pages long with only a couple being closer to ten pages. Such short stories allow the author to build up your expectations in a story and then completely turn them around. These abrupt endings are often funny but some of them left me wanting more – though I feel that could be said for most short stories.

The stories in Dubai Tales are often quite mundane, about people’s everyday lives and their relationships until the last few lines and the whole story turns on its head. The stories are quite clever and funny, there’s humour in the ridiculous of the situations some of these characters get themselves into. The stories often subvert what you think traditional marriages or relationships are like in Dubai which is quite nice. There’s loving relationships, those which have their secrets and those you think are marriages but aren’t.

If you’re interested into snapshots of life in Dubai and the people who live there then Dubai Tales is a great read. It has information on the geographical location of Dubai such as where it is in relation to the capital of the UAE Abu Dhabi as well as the different suburbs of Dubai and it has a glossary which is a nice touch. 3/5.

REVIEW: Men Explain Things to Me and Other Essays by Rebecca Solnit

A short collection of feminist essays looking at rape culture, family, Virginia Woolf and everything else in between.

In 2008 Rebecca Solnit wrote an essay titled “Men Explain Things to Me” which struck a chord with people. Through other readers sharing their experiences, that essay was the catalyst of the term mansplaining. It’s was an interesting and relatable essay and it was great to see where the phrase mansplaining came from. As Solnit explains “I love it when people explain things to me they know and I’m interested in but don’t yet know; it’s when they explain things to me I know and they don’t that the conversation goes wrong.” I agree with that statement wholeheartedly and that’s what’s so frustrating about mansplaining.

The other essays are pretty good too. Naturally there’s some I like more than others for instance, I didn’t really enjoy the one inspired by Virginia Woolf’s writings as I’ve only read one of her books so don’t have much of a connection to her.

I like how Rebecca Solnit writes and her essays are all accessible, no matter what your background knowledge on the various subjects she talks about. It’s an interesting collection as they’re essays from 2008-2014 so some of the events she talks about I didn’t really remember, while others like the Delhi gang rape in 2012 are still fresh in my mind.

I did enjoy “Pandora’s Box and the Volunteer Police Force.” Written in 2014 it’s all about how feminism and women have got a long way to go but they’ve still made some headway. It’s also about the idea that the Pandora’s Box full of equality for men, women, LGBT+ people and all races has been opened and people won’t be able to stuff those who once were (and in many cases still are) back in a box and away from the general public. I don’t know if I’ve described it very well but I like the idea that the world is becoming a more tolerant place no matter what people may say or do and it can continue to, slowly but surely, get better.

That’s the thing with this collection of essays, like most feminist literature it makes you angry at the injustices in the world but it also offers a spark of hope that things will indeed get better. 4/5.

REVIEW: Letters to Eloise by Emily Williams

*I received a free e-copy of this book in return for an honest review*

When Flora, a post-graduate Uni student, falls unexpectedly pregnant during her final year of studies her plans for her future are thrown into chaos as she now has someone else to look out for. As Flora reads many baby books she must figure out if she will continue with her recent affair with a handsome lecturer or should she chase after the past with her estranged first love?

Letters to Eloise is an example of epistolary fiction as it’s made up of a series of letters from Flora to her unborn child. They start as soon as Flora realises she’s pregnant and follows all the ups and downs of pregnancy. The letters also slowly reveal the circumstances of her baby being conceived, the potential dads (though Flora is always confident in who the father is, it takes a while for her to tell the reader) and the good and bad times Flora has had with friends, family and love interests. Sometimes it can be a bit confusing as Flora’s letters go back and forth from the present to various points in the past but I soon got my head around it.

I’ve never read a book where one of the main themes or storyline is pregnancy (and I’ve never been pregnant myself) so I was unsure how I would connect with a book, and a character, whose pretty much whole life now revolves around being pregnant and being an expectant mother. But I did connect with Flora. Her student life and the friends she has at university, are what pulled me in to start with but she’s a likable and understandable character and I wanted to see her happy.

I loved the dynamic between Flora, her best friend Brooke and their housemate Brian. It felt like the sort of relationship I had with my university friends and flatmates, especially how there’s very few secrets between them.

Letters to Eloise is set during the early and mid-1990’s and I really liked how the lack of mobile phones and the internet was naturally woven into the story. Flora would send letters to people or have to go to a phone box at the end of the street if she needed to call someone as her student house didn’t have a landline. It’s great as this time where people weren’t necessarily so easy to contact allows for some drama and surprises.

Letters to Eloise is a book that sucks you in, it’s a small, almost personal story but it’s a touching one. 4/5.