REVIEW: Message from the King (2016)

South African Jacob King (Chadwick Boseman) arrives in Los Angeles to find his missing sister who appears to have gotten involved with the criminal underworld.

Boseman gives a solid performance as a guy who’s more than capable to take on anyone and anything thrown at him on his mission for justice. King is a smart man and has an aura of control that brings him to the attention of pretty much anyone he encounters.

The plot moves slowly in this film as there’s a lot of layers to this criminal underworld King dives into. With a lot of layers comes a lot of characters including major players Wentworth (Luke Evans) and Preston (Alfred Molina). Wentworth is more interesting of the two as he’s the middle man who knows everyone and attempts to deal with any potential problems.

The fight sequences are brutal and on the most part they are well-shot and easy to follow. They are also rather bloody and King is not afraid to be violent to get the information he wants.

Message from the King is an average crime thriller that’s only real notable achievement is having a great lead in Chadwick Boseman. 3/5.

READ THE WORLD – Nepal: Gurkha: Better to Die than Live a Coward by Colour Sergeant Kailash Limbu

A memoir from Colour Sergeant Kailash Limbu on his time in the army, the tough training he went through to become a Gurkha, and what it was like during the thirty one day siege in the town of Now Zad in Helmand, Afghanistan during the summer of 2008.

I hadn’t really heard of the Gurkha’s much, not until when actress and comedian Joanna Lumley became the public face of the campaign to provide all Gurkha veterans who served in the British Army before 1997 the right to settle in Britain, in 2008. This led me to learning more about the Gurkha’s and I was fascinated by how determined and fearless they were.

Colour Sergeant Kailash Limbu’s story definitely puts across what the mentality of the Nepalese soldiers who become Gurkha’s is like. Only a handful who apply each year actually make it through the three stages of the tough selection process to become Gurkha’s and join the British Army. He recounts the things he went through in training and how being a Gurkha, like his grandfather and uncle, was all he ever wanted to be.

The book almost seamlessly goes between Kailash Limbu’s childhood and training to what was happening during the siege in Now Zad at regular intervals. This means that while the parts on the Gurkha selection are no less interesting, they are slower paced compared to the action in Afghanistan. I thought it explained military terminology very well, along with things like Nepal’s caste system. There’s a lot of information to take in really but it’s all pretty easy to understand.

The sections on the siege are tense and compelling. It does a great job of putting you right into the action and how relentless the attacks on the small compound the Gurkha’s were based in. You get to know the men Kailash Limbu fought with and how they do all get scared sometimes but they fight through it and do the job that needs doing.

Gurkha: Better to Die than Live a Coward is a great memoir. It is interesting and exciting and is a great insight into what it means to someone to be a Gurkha and why they are so revered in the military. 4/5.

REVIEW: Miss Meadows (2014)

Prim and proper elementary school teacher Miss Meadows (Katie Holmes) moonlights as a vigilante, but her quest for justice gets put in danger when she becomes involved with the local Sheriff (James Badge Dale).

Miss Meadows looks more like a 1950’s housewife than a killer and the two juxtaposed together can be shocking and unsettling. Miss Meadows has old-fashioned values and all the children in her class seem to love her but knowing what she’s really like makes her interactions with the children feel a bit weird. She’s lovely and kind but through her there’s a steely core.

Katie Holmes gives a good performance here. Throughout the film you start to see the different layers of Miss Meadows, why she does what she does with little to no remorse and how she can be so smiley but deadly. The romance between Miss Meadows and the Sheriff works really well, these two people who are technically on opposites sides of the law come together and Holmes and Dale have good chemistry.

Miss Meadows is a bit of an odd film. It’s sweet yet bloody, and Miss Meadows is an interesting character. There’s often a dark sense of humour about it all which doesn’t always work but it does make for a weirdly captivating film. 3/5.

READ THE WORLD – Canada: Even this Page is White by Vivek Shraya

A collection of poetry about race, politics, gender, sex and the crossover between all these things and more.

The collection is split into five parts titled “white dreams”, “whitespeak”, “how to talk to a white person”, “the origins of skin” and “brown dreams” and seeing the headings they definitely caught my attention.

These poems are brutally honest and I think it’s something white people should read. Even from the above section titles you start to get an idea of what to expect and as a white person you learn to listen and take it in. The poetry made me think and while I’ve personally be aware of my privilege, they made me want to be more active in trying to use that privilege “for good”.

Shraya’s poems talk about white privilege, anti-blackness and the different ways racism presents itself towards people of different races. I liked how there was a section that was a conversation between Shraya and her white friends Sara Quin, Amber Dawn, Rae Spoon and Danielle Owens-Reid, though I did second guess myself because as Shraya writes, “white people listen to white people.” It’s is a great couple of pages of dialogue.

Flicking through the book, finding my favourite poems I realised that my favourites generally came from the “how to talk to a white person” section. I think that was because in a way they were targeting me. A lot of them are about how people of colour may change how they act or what they say or how they say it in front of a white person.

I really enjoyed this poetry collection. It was a very quick read as the poems are all short and concise and they were all written in interesting ways – interesting to me anyway, as I don’t read a lot of poetry. The poems are hard-hitting and don’t shy away from potentially controversial topics and opinions. I can imagine seeing Vivek Shraya perform her poetry would be an amazing experience as often the poems feel like they should be spoken aloud by someone. Still, it is a thought-provoking and lyrical collection of poems. Definitely recommend Even this Page is White. 5/5.

REVIEW: Dunkirk (2017)

When 400,000 Allied soldiers are trapped on the beach of Dunkirk by the German army, civilian boats are commandeered to evacuate them.

Dunkirk is an incredibly tense and stressful film. From the first gunshot, the film pulls you in and doesn’t let you go. The sounds are so loud it feels like you’re right there on the beach and the RAF and Luftwaffe planes really sound like they are flying over and around your head. Dunkirk is an incredibly loud film, and it can be disorientating but that helps put you in the shoes of the stranded soldiers.

There’s three groups of characters you follow; RAF pilots Farrier (Tom Hardy) and Collins (Jack Lowden), civilian Mr Dawson (Mark Rylance), his son (Tom Glynn-Carney) and their friend George (Barry Keoghan) who are making their way to Dunkirk to help rescue the troops, and a trio of soldiers who are desperate to get off the beach. It’s a bit confusing at times as these events aren’t always running simultaneously but it’s not too hard to follow and each groups story is compelling.

A lot of the characters aren’t named, or are maybe are called by their name just once so it’s easy to miss, so while they aren’t really fully-fleshed characters that didn’t really matter. The situation they’re in is so dire that you are willing and hoping they survive, and it doesn’t matter what or who they’re trying to get home to, they just need to be off that beach. This is especially true to the trio of soldiers played by Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard and Harry Styles. You know next to nothing about them but the actor’s performances of desperate and scared young men is all you need to root for them to survive.

Another thing that’s quite interesting and clever is that you never see a German soldier. There’s the Luftwaffe that have dogfights with the RAF over the sea, and the Allied forces do get shot at but you never actually see a German solider. This helps to not vilify the Germans and also adds to the suspense as you are never sure where the enemy is hiding or how close they really are.

The score by Hans Zimmer is definitely worth mentioning. I don’t always talk about the score or music in films in my reviews, often because I don’t really notice it, but in Dunkirk the score helps crank the tension up a notch. The ticking clock sounds reinforce the fact that time is running out for all these men and adds to the stress you feel.

Dunkirk is a brilliant film. It’s well-shot, all the actors give great performances and it is an incredibly tense film about people desperate to survive. It is one of those films that’s worth seeing at the cinema, if not for the action (which is spectacular) but for the sound that immerses you into the film. 5/5.

READ THE WORLD – Zimbabwe: The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah

Memory is an albino woman, serving time in prison in Harare, Zimbabwe. When she was nine she was adopted by Lloyd Hendricks, a wealthy white man. It is his murder she is now convicted of and is facing the death penalty. As she waits for her death she tells the story of the events that brought her here – but is everything as she remembers it?

The Book of Memory is an interesting story but one that I sometimes found hard to get through. It wasn’t till I got to the half way point that I began to like the book more and start reading it more quickly. I think that’s because The Book of Memory is split into three parts, Memory’s childhood with her family, her growing up with Lloyd and her time in prison. Though while the book is labelled like that, she does meander with her storytelling meaning it jumps from the present to various points in the past. I personally found the parts more focussed on her adolescence with Lloyd more compelling than her childhood – though I did like how the story brings those two halves of her together.

Memory’s name is apt as so much of her story is recounted from her memory and she doesn’t have anyone to collaborate what she remembers. It’s an interesting to see how something you see and remember when you were a child changes dramatically when you get more information.

Memory is a likeable character, as are many of her fellow inmates, though naturally the prison guards are the main antagonists Memory’s present situation. That being said, there is one guard whose behaviour towards Memory is so nice and almost kind that it makes both the reader and Memory uncomfortable.

I did like the smattering of Shona language used in the book, as well as how it didn’t give you a crash course in Zimbabwean history. Memory often would go between calling her home country Zimbabwe and Rhodesia, and talk about warring political parties and how white people were seen.

For me, there’s not much memorable about The Book of Memory. While I liked Memory well enough, the other characters weren’t particularly notable and there wasn’t many stand out moments in the story. 2/5.

My BookTubeAThon TBR

The BookTubeAThon starts next week! The BookTubeAThon is a readathon that was the brainchild of Ariel Bissett over on YouTube. While it’s a readathon that focusses on the BookTube community and there’s many video-related challenges, you can take part whether you make booktube videos or not. There’s even Instagram challenges during the readathon if bookstagram is more your thing. You can learn more about the BookTubeAThon here.

BookTubeAThon is from midnight wherever in the world you are on Monday 24th July till 11:59pm on Sunday 30th July. This actually works out quite well for me as I am at my dad’s in Spain from the 27th July, and at my dad’s I always get a lot of reading done. Also, you can read anything during the BookTubeAThon – novels, audiobooks, comics, graphic novels, non-fiction, poetry, short stories – ANYTHING!

During the BookTubeAThon there are seven reading challenges you can attempt to complete (you can use a book for more than one challenge and the challenges are in no way compulsory) and here they are:

1. Read a book with a person on the cover.
2. Read a hyped book.
3. Finish a book in one day.
4. Read about a character that is very different from you.
5. Finish a book completely outdoors.
6. Read a book you bought because of the cover.
7. Read seven books.

Here’s my TBR and theoretically I’ll be able to complete all these challenges with it:

For both the “Read a book with a person on the cover” and the “finish a book in one day” challenge I have multiple comics/graphic novels. The ones I’ve chosen are Saga Volume Six and Seven by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples, Kaptara Vol. 1: Fear Not, Tiny Alien by Chip Zdarsky and Kagan McLeod and Filmish by Edward Ross. For the “Hyped Book” challenge, I have The Unexpected Everything by Morgan, which coincidentally also works for the “Person on the cover” challenge.

For the “book you bought because of the cover” challenge I have Sirius by Jonathan Crown and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer. Gurkha: Better to Die than Live a Coward by Colour Sergeant Kailash Limbu fits the “read about a character that’s very different to you”. This is a non-fiction book but it’s the story of a solider of the Brigade of Gurkhas and I have never been in the army and I don’t really know anything about Gurkhas.

While I’m not sure which book(s) I’ll read outside, I know I will read outside while at my dad’s as I have a spot by the pool in the shade that I always read in. Also, I have eight books on my TBR so theoretically I should be able to read seven of them books during the readathon.

Is anyone else taking part in the BookTubeAThon? Whether you take part or not, I highly recommend checking out the readathon’s discount page here – you can get 10% off all the books listed there with the code “BTAT2017”. I’ve already taken advantage of it – I’ve decided from August I’m going on a book buying ban for at least two months so I’m making the most of it right now!