The Finally Fall Book Tag

Who doesn’t love a seasonal tag! I think the Finally Fall tag was created by Alina Melena on YouTube (not 100% sure as the original video no longer exists) and I saw it over on Bookables channel.

1. In fall, the air is crisp and clear: name a book with a vivid setting!
I didn’t like the book a lot, but I won’t deny that Uprooted by Naomi Novik has a very vivid setting and it’s the main thing I remember about it.

2. Nature is beautiful… but also dying: name a book that is beautifully written, but also deals with a heavy topic like loss or grief.
The Places I’ve Cried in Public by Holly Bourne has such good writing that’s powerful and sad and is about a teenage girl trying to understand how her relationship wasn’t OK and it was actually emotionally and sexually abusive.

3. Fall is back to school season: share a non-fiction book that taught you something new.
I work at a university and while my job is all year round, there is a sense on new beginning when the students come back at the end of September. I’ve read a lot of non-fiction thanks to my Read the World Project and I’ve learnt a lot about different cultures and countries. I think The Wife’s Tale: A Personal History by Aida Edemariam was one of the ones where I learnt the most though as I knew nothing about Ethiopia’s history.

4. In order to keep warm, it’s good to spend some time with the people we love: name a fictional family/household/friend-group that you’d like to be a part of.
It’s so easy to say the Weasley’s and while they’ll be an honourable mention, I’m going to say Izzy’s small but awesome family/friend unit from The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven. I love her relationship with her grandmother and her best friend Ajita and they’d be an awesome, fun and supportive group to be a part of.

5. The colourful leaves are piling up on the ground: show us a pile of fall-coloured spines!
Good job I was at my mum’s when I was drafting this post as I don’t have any TBR books that have autumnal colours on their spine. So all but one of these (A Keeper) I’ve read.

From top to bottom we have:
The Door in the Tree by William Corlett
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Illuminae by Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
A Keeper by Graham Norton
Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe
The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore

6. Fall is the perfect time for some storytelling by the fireside: share a book wherein somebody is telling a story.
This was a hard one to think of a book for, I’ve definitely read books that were like a story inside a story, but it took me ages to think of one. In the end I remembered The Murdstone Trilogy by Mal Peet, in that a creature tells a story of a fantasy world.

7. The nights are getting darker: share a dark, creepy read.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read a dark and creepy book. Thinking back, I’ll mention The Strain by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro. It’s a creepy story with vampires and conspiracy theories and from what I remember there’s some really eerie moments.

8. The days are getting colder: name a short, heart-warming read that could warm up somebody’s cold and rainy day.
I wouldn’t say it’s short or even heart-warming, but it is a lot of fun and it’s set somewhere warm and sunny – Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book I’d call “heart-warming”, but fun contemporary stories are always a good shout on dark nights.

9. Fall (luckily, it’s my favourite season) returns every year: name an old favourite that you’d like to return to soon.
There are so many books I’d like to reread but I think I’m going to go with The Passage and The Twelve by Justin Cronin. I’ve still not read the last book in the trilogy, The City of Mirrors, so I’d love to reread the series and finally finish it and see what happens to this huge cast of characters. I’d also like to revisit The Magician’s House quartet by William Corlett, of which The Door in the Tree is the second book, as that was a childhood favourite series.

10. Fall is the perfect time for cosy reading nights: share your favourite cosy reading “accessories”!
Definitely my blue fuzzy blanket. Well, technically it’s a Slanket (a blanket with sleeves) but I don’t often use the sleeves, instead I just have it on my legs as I read.

11. Spread the autumn appreciation and tag some people!
I think this tag has been around for a while so no doubt a lot of you have done it before but consider yourself tagged if you want!

READ THE WORLD – Botswana: The Screaming of the Innocent by Unity Dow

When a twelve-year-old girl goes missing near her village, the local police tell her mother and the villagers that she has been taken by a wild animal. Five years later, young government employee Amantle Bokaa finds a box bearing the label ‘Neo Kakang: CRB 45/94’. It contains evidence of human involvement in the affair. So begins an undercover struggle for justice and retribution.

Predominantly set in a rural village in Botswana in 1999, The Screaming of the Innocent is a story of ritual murder and a cover up. Have to say I found the opening chapters very difficult to get through and uncomfortable to read. They are set in 1994 and follow the men who are watching young Neo and planning how they are going to take her. The description in those chapters is vivid as you get into the minds of deprived but powerful men, as they watch Neo, describing her young body in a sexual manner. It almost made me feel queasy and that was the most striking part of the book. Then there’s the five-year time jump, and it’s not till much later that you discover what exactly they did to Neo and again it’s in graphic detail.

The Screaming of the Innocent is a relatively short book (just over 200 pages) and I thought the way the story was told was interesting. From the beginning you know who the men are who took Neo, but you don’t know how they got away with it – was it corruption or incompetence. It’s a fight for justice as long-lost evidence is discovered and someone who wasn’t even in the same region when the girl was taken, is pulled into the village’s turmoil and becomes their spokesperson.

While The Screaming of the Innocent is told from multiple perspectives as different characters remember what happened after Neo’s disappearance all those years ago, Amantle could be called the main character in the present. She discovers the evidence and has no idea of the impact it’ll have on her life or those in the village she’s just arrived in. She is someone who wants to fight for what’s right and is very earnest. She has connections to lawyers through friends and she almost has a fake it till you make it in her quest for the village’s to find out the truth. It can be a little grating as she’s so serious and focused and doesn’t always seem to realise the potential consequences of her actions as she’s convinced her method is the best.

The scenes where Amantle and her lawyer friends discuss the case and theorise what might have happened to Neo and how and why the evidence ended up where it did for five years was one of the most interesting parts of the story. The Screaming of the Innocent doesn’t feel complete though as while Amantle gets the answers she seeks, there’s still the longer fight for justice still to come.

The Screaming of the Innocent is one of those crime/mystery stories where by the end of it you as the reader know the answers, and even some of the characters do, but that doesn’t mean they’re good answers or ones that give people closure or justice. It’s a bit frustrating really as personally I like my crime stories where everyone gets their comeuppance.

Still, The Screaming of the Innocent being set in the 90s and a place and culture so different to my own was interesting. I didn’t always like how it was written, it seemed very simplistic at times – especially after the impactful opening chapters – but the story was a compelling one. 3/5.

WWW Wednesday – 7 October 2020

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 am I currently reading?
The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell
Haven’t got a physical book on the go at the minute but I’m listening to The Old Drift on audio. It’s a multi-generational story set in Zambia following three different families. It also seems to have some fantastical or magical elements to it too.

 

What did I recently finish reading?
The Screaming of the Innocent by Unity Dow
My full review of this will be posted tomorrow but while it took me a while to get through this book, even though it was just over 200 pages, I did like the mystery and how it explored how prevalent corruption was in this time and society.

 

What do I think I’ll read next?
Loveless by Alice Oseman
I’ve kind of been in a bit of a reading slump recently and usually contemporary YA gets me out of that, or at least it’s something I can read very quickly so hopefully that’ll get my reading groove back. I think because my recent reads for the Read the World Project have been quite heavy it’ll be good to have something potentially lighter.

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Book Covers with Autumn Colours/Vibes

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. This week it’s time to show off some book covers, more specifically the ones that have autumnal colours or we feel give off autumnal vibes. There’s definitely a lot of different shades of orange and yellow here but there’s a few covers that probably look out of place, with those ones I can’t really describe why I think they give of autumnal vibes – they just feel like books I should be reading as the nights get longer and darker.

Electric Souk by Rose McGinty
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
Raised from the Ground by José Saramago
The Sisters Grimm by Menna va Praag
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

The Secret Fire by CJ Daugherty and Carina Rozenfeld
Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
The Poisoned Island by Lloyd Shepherd
The Eighth Life by Nino Haratischvili
Kartography by Kamila Shamsie

Have you read any of these books? What are some book covers that you think give off autumnal vibes?

REVIEW: Time Out (2018)

When inmate Joan Anderson (Melissa Leo) is granted one weekend out of prison to see her dying mother, rookie correction officer Nicole Stevens (Tessa Thompson) struggles to keep her under control.

Time Out (or Furlough as it was apparently originally called) is a comedy drama that doesn’t really have any decent comedy in it. Leo and Thompson play the typical odd couple roles, Leo’s Anderson is carefree and impulsive and is more than happy to take advantage of her naïve caretaker, while Thompson’s Stevens is straightlaced and stressed about this assignment and the fact that she’s leaving her forgetful mother (Whoopi Goldberg) at home alone. This duo doesn’t really have the chemistry that you need to make this kind of dynamic work. Anderson comes off as super self-centred for the majority of the film, and then when it tries to add some depth to her character it feels cheap.

While not the focus of the film, I did like the relationship between Nicole and her mother. While it’s not explicitly stated what condition her mother has, as someone who has multiple relatives live with dementia, I think that’s clear that’s what the screenwriter and Goldberg’s performance was going for. It really captured how a carer gets no time for themselves, even when they’re supposed to be working, and the frustrations of having to answer the same questions over and over again. I especially liked the entitlement of Nicole’s sister Brandy (La La Anthony) when she had to look after their mother for one weekend when Nicole has been doing it every hour of every day for who knows how long previously.

That side plot aside, the plot of Time Out is very generic and predictable. A lot of the “comedic” moments are more cringey than anything else, and personally I didn’t laugh once. Melissa Leo and Tessa Thompson are both incredibly talented actresses, but they are both given little to do here and nothing about their characters or performances really stands out. 2/5.

REVIEW: The Craft (1996)

Sarah (Robin Tunney) is a lonely newcomer to a Catholic prep school in LA, until she falls in with a trio of outcasts, Nancy (Fairuza Balk), Bonnie (Neve Campbell) and Rochelle (Rachel True). Together they practice witchcraft, conjuring up spells and curses in order to get what they want like love, beauty, and power – but magic comes with a price.

At the beginning of The Craft, it does a great job of leaving you guessing how much of what the girls are doing is magic, and how much is by chance. Sarah has always had weird things happen to her but it’s not until she’s with the other three that they can seem to control what they want to happen.

Yes, The Craft is a bit dated and very nineties in a lot of ways. The hair and the fashion, the chunky landline phones and the way the girls learn from the occult through books in a shop rather than scouring the internet. But, for someone like me who’s watching it for the first time almost fifteen years after it was first released, it’s still an effective film.

It’s creepy and eerie and the sort of spells or things the girls want are all relatable teen things. They want the boy their like to like them, they want their bully to stop tormenting them, they want to look beautiful – all things that teen girls wish for, but these four can actually do something about it.

The four actresses are all great in their roles and they have good chemistry. The dynamics between them all is interesting, especially how Sarah fits in (or doesn’t) with a ready-made, solid trio of friends. Tension rises between Sarah, who appears to have natural power, and Nancy, who wants to be strong and powerful and to get what she wants. The way these two butt heads as the film progresses and their spells get out of their control is interesting as there’s the high school teenage bitchiness level to a friendship group potentially breaking down, but then there’s also the potentially dangerous consequences to these girls actions and how they can hurt one another if they no longer see eye to eye.

The final act goes all out creepy and scary and perhaps it’s a bit of a leap from the sort of high school drama The Craft had inhabited before, but it’s still exciting to see how everything comes to a head – Fairuza Balk deserves a special mention for doing crazy so well.

The Craft is a great mix of high school drama and the occult. It’s whole aesthetic is great and it’s the kind of eerie but fun horror film I’m totally on board with. 4/5.

REVIEW: Corpse Bride (2005)

When shy Victor (Johnny Depp) practices his wedding vows in a forest, he inadvertently gets married to Emily (Helena Bonham Carter) a deceased young bride who rises from the grave to be with him.

If you couldn’t tell by the character designs, Corpse Bride is directed by Tim Burton. I wouldn’t call myself a big Burton fan, I tend to like his films more often than not, but his stylish flair isn’t something I’m particularly fond of. Still, the character designs are all Burton with exaggerated facial features, especially the eyes, and quirky costuming. The whole animation style is beautiful and suits the tone of this odd story very well. The grey, sombre tones in the land of the living is a sharp contrast to the characters and setting of the underworld where everything is that bit more vibrant and weirder.

Before watching it, I didn’t realise that Corpse Bride was a musical. While “Remains of the Day” was a catchy song while it was playing out on screen, it and none of the other songs, were particularly memorable once the film was over. The score though, composed by long-time Burton collaborator Danny Elfman, was really lovely. It often manages to be eerie but with a magical quality to it, suiting the action and setting perfectly.

The voice casting is really good, but the standout is Christopher Lee he plays the intimidating pastor. He steals every scene he’s in and he’s equal parts menacing and funny. Joanna Lumley and Albert Finney are also entertaining as they voice Victoria’s (Emily Watson) parents and they make a great bickering double act.

Corpse Bride balances the spooky with the charming very well and visually it’s great, but the songs and the story aren’t up to the same standard. With it’s less than 80-minute runtime, Corpse Bride is a quick watch and one that gets you into that spooky, Halloween mood but there’s not enough to make a huge lasting impression. 3/5.

It’s Blogtober!

Thought it’d be a good idea to do a little announcement about the fact I’m attempting Blogtober this year – plus, I can then use this post as today’s entry to Blogtober. I took part in and completed Blogtober a few years ago in 2017 but not done it since, though for the past few years I have been doing Blogmas instead.

So what can you expect here during the month of October/Blogtober? There will still be my weekly book reviews on Thursdays and film reviews on Mondays but there will be extra film reviews at the weekends. I plan to watch and review some spooky/horror films and share them every Saturday and Sunday this month. I’m quite the wuss when it comes to horror films so some of these are more on the creepy/happen to include witches rather than being super scary. When it comes to horror I don’t think I mind zombie or vampire films, though they wouldn’t be my first choice when choosing a film to watch, it’s more the super gory, slasher films that I don’t like and I’m also not a fan of the ghosts/paranormal type horror. Maybe it’s because that I know zombies and vampires are not real, and while I don’t exactly believe in ghosts, there’s still the unknown when it comes to death and what (if anything) comes next.

Here’s some of the horror films that I own physical copies of or are currently on my Netflix watchlist, so expect some of these films to make appearances over the next few weeks.

There might be extra film reviews in the shape of London Film Festival too. I have press accreditation for the first time this year and as the majority of the festival is online due to current world events, I should be able to fit a lot of films in around my day job.

Besides the planned film and book reviews, that leaves me thirteen days to find posts for. I’m going to fully embrace features like Top Ten Tuesday and Book Blogger Hop to fill in the gaps, and a few other features that I haven’t taken part in in years and want to bring back to my blog and get in the habit of taking part in. there’s probably going to be a few tags too – some autumnal themed ones obviously. This month there will be a whole mix of stuff on my blog so I hope it doesn’t get overwhelming – for you or for me!

I’m attempting to get as many posts written and scheduled in advance – as I’m scheduling this at the end of September I have 12 blog posts already scheduled which I’m happy with. In October I’ll have work, LFF and (hopefully) will be going to Spain to see my sister and go through my dad’s things so that’s why I want to get as much prepped as possible. I think I will manage to post every day this month, I’ve been successful with previous Blogtober’s, Blogmas’ and April A-Z Challenge’s and once I make a decision about something like this I get myself organised and make it work.

So, to sum up this needlessly rambly post – I’m attempting Blogtober and I hope you enjoy the extra stuff I’m creating this month. Good luck to you if you’re also attempting Blogtober, I’m sure you’ll smash it!

READ THE WORLD – Yemen: A Land Without Jasmine by Wajdi Al-Ahdal

Translated by William Maynard Hutchins.

Under the watchful eyes of the men in her community the beautiful, virtuous university student Jasmine goes about her daily business, keeping to herself and avoiding the male gaze at all costs. That is until one Valentine’s Day, when she disappears without a trace. As the details surrounding her sudden disappearance emerge the mystery deepens. Sexual depravity, honour, obsession; the motives are numerous and the suspects plentiful. Family, friends, fellow students and nosey neighbours are quick to make their own judgements on the case, but the truth may be far stranger than anyone anticipates.

I found A Land Without Jasmine strangely captivating. It’s a super short novel, less than 100 pages, and has seven chapters, each from a different character’s perspective. The first is from Jasmine’s, as she describes the heated gazes she receives from all men, young and old, even when wearing her niqab. How uncomfortable she feels, how their attention often makes her feel anxious as she wishes to be treated for more than what she looks like. The following chapters are from the perspective of detectives, neighbours, and family as they try and piece together what has happened to Jasmine.

The way Jasmine describes the unwanted attention she receives is uncomfortable to read, but what’s even more uncomfortable is when the story is from the point of view of her teenage neighbour who is infatuated with her. He, like a lot of the other male characters, seems to be unable to separate his desires and dreams from reality. His desires are explicit, and he becomes obsessed with figuring out what happened to Jasmine, forgetting to look out for himself or how his actions might be perceived by the police or Jasmine’s family.

I thought the writing in A Land Without Jasmine was often very good and provocative. However, there were some phrases that felt a bit stilted down to a choice of a word when another might’ve been more suitable but that was likely to be down to the translation. It did take me a little while to get into the story though. I think that was down to it being written in first person and I can’t remember the last book I read that was written in that tense. I think sometimes first-person narrative can make the writing seem more simplistic. At some points this seemed to work in the novels advantage, as it sometimes made statements more impactful, but at other points it made reading it feel slow and awkward.

A Land Without Jasmine is a almost a sexy mystery story – though while it does have erotic language in it, the way the characters objectify and belittle Jasmine doesn’t make it particularly sexy or appealing. There are some moments of wry sense of humour here, and how it brings in family politics, the importance and power of different family tribes for one, is interesting as that’s something I knew little about. A Land Without Jasmine is a strange mystery but once you get into the writing style, it becomes a compelling one. 4/5.

REVIEW: Enola Holmes (2020)

When Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown), teenage sister to Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes (Henry Cavill and Sam Claflin respectively), discovers her mother (Helena Bonham Carter) is missing, she sets off to find her. Soon she become entangled with a missing Marquess (Louis Partridge) as she follows the clues and fights to make her own way in the world.

Now Enola Holmes was just delightful! It is based on the book series by Nancy Springer, a series I haven’t read so don’t know how well it fares as an adaptation or to what extent the quirky humour and fourth-wall breaking may be from the novel. Because that’s the thing, the film opens with Enola talking to the camera, giving the audience a rundown on her life and what the immediate mystery is, and throughout the film she makes quips and gestures to the camera to highlight her true feelings about what is going on. Breaking the fourth wall tends to be something you find in comedy films, think Deadpool, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Trading Places, so to have it here, in what is in all intents and purposes a cosy mystery drama just adds something different to the film.

Millie Bobby Brown is brilliant as Enola. She’s funny and headstrong and resourceful, but she also shows the softer side of Enola. Her mother has taught her a lot, both academically and in terms of fighting skills, but she is still quite naïve about the world. She’s lived a sheltered life with her mother so when she disappears, it’s like her life crumbles a bit – especially when Mycroft wants to send her off to a finishing school.

Speaking of Mycroft, I was somewhat bemused by Claflin playing the eldest Holmes especially when Cavill is three years older than him and (no offence to Cavill), he looks younger and more boyish than Cavill – despite the help of a bushy moustache. This is Enola’s time to shine and the Holmes brothers aren’t featured all that much but when the siblings do get to share scenes, either all three together or just two of them, they all work really well together. Mycroft and Sherlock have been absent from Enola’s life for so long that they don’t know her, and she doesn’t really know them, so seeing how they do (or don’t) start to try and understand one another and build connections is interesting and shows different sides to each character.

The whole mystery aspect of Enola Holmes is a lot of fun too, and surprisingly politically. Enola has been raised to be a very modern woman for the early twentieth century and women’s suffrage and the ‘Representation of the People Act’ both play key parts in the two mysteries Enola is investigating.

Enola Holmes is just a delightful and charming film. The tone might not suit everyone, what with its lively score and often unconventional characters, but it’s the kind of film you can sit back and relax as you’re swept up in the adventure. I do hope we get a sequel, even if the more famous faces don’t all make a return. 4/5.