REVIEW: Who Runs the World? by Virginia Bergin

Sixty years after a virus almost wiped out all the men on the planet, the women of the world have grieved, pulled together and moved on. Life is pretty good if you’re a girl, but not so much if you’re a boy. Fourteen-year-old River wouldn’t know that though, as until she meets Mason, she thought boys were basically extinct.

What Who Runs the World? does very well is that it doesn’t just say men are bad and women are good. Though it makes it very clear that in this world, a lot of violence and crime was committed by men, it also shows that that doesn’t stop women from getting angry or lashing out.

River’s world is one without gender expectations. People are expected to be open, communicate and share their problems and work together to solve any issues. When Mason is discovered it’s clear he comes from a different world, one where from watching porn and playing videos games he has a certain idea of what women should look and act like. River has a certain idea of what men should be like too and seeing their beliefs clash is fascinating.

Mason has been brought up surrounded by toxic masculinity, believing he must be physically strong and it makes him lesser if he cries. River, and other girls and women who have grown up without men, on the other hand has grown up being taught that showing emotions isn’t a weakness and in fact sharing your thoughts and feelings is a good thing.

Kate, River’s great-grandmother, is an interesting character as she remembers life before the virus wiped out the male population. She was a teenager when it happened, so she and other women her age understand the loss of losing their husbands, fathers, brothers and friends and that indeed not all men were dangerous people. She remembers the various social cues that were just there and made men and women act differently. She remembers the good and the bad and now being confronted with Mason gives her some hope that boys and men are out there and can join the society she’s a part of now.

Who Runs the World? is great because it doesn’t just look at gender, it’s also a fast-paced mystery. River, her mother and Kate are all trying to understand where Mason came from and what that means for all the other men and boys that might still be alive somewhere. It would’ve been nice to learn more about where Mason had come from and there’s a lot left up in the air. River’s life has changed by meeting Mason but besides from that there doesn’t seem to be many long-lasting affects from the events in the book. It’s like nothing will get better or get worse in this world, and that River and all the other women are in limbo. 4/5.

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REVIEW: Ocean’s 8 (2018)

Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) gathers a crew to pull off the impossible, stealing a $150 million necklace from around actress Daphne Kluger’s (Anne Hathaway) neck at New York City’s Met Gala.

Ocean’s 8 is a spin-off from the George Clooney-starring Ocean’s movies from the 2000’s. Besides from a small cameo near the beginning of the film, which is a nice touch rather than feeling desperate, Ocean’s 8 is its own thing and stands on its own merit.

There’s something immensely satisfying watching women who are good at what they do, go and get the job done. There’s all the usual types of characters when it comes to a heist film. Lou (Cate Blanchett) is Debbie’s right-hand woman, Tammy (Sarah Paulson), is a fence, Rose (Helena Bonham Carter) is the one who has to stick close to their target, Amita (Mindy Kaling) is the forger, Nine Ball (Rihanna) is the hacker, and Constance (Awkwafina) is a pick-pocket. They are all so great in their roles and the chemistry between them all is wonderful too. I have to say Hathaway is the standout when it comes to the cast’s performances. She’s the epitome of a diva here, funny, outlandish and deceptively smart too.

The heist itself is clever and manages to fool the target and the audience though Ocean’s 8 lacks the style seen in previous Ocean’s movies. That being said, the costumes more than make up for that – all these women look fabulous. The soundtrack is also pretty great too.

Ocean’s 8 is an entertaining heist film with characters you root for. I really hope there’s a sequel because I’d love to see these women steal more amazing and priceless stuff. 4/5.

REVIEW: Mission: Impossible (1996)

As the latest film in the Mission Impossible series is released at the end of July, I thought I’d rewatch the series and review them all, posting a review a week leading up to Fallout’s release.

When his team is killed, and he’s presumed to be a traitor, Agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) must discover and expose the real traitorous spy without the help of his organisation.

Mission: Impossible is great because it feels like an old-fashioned spy thriller rather than a full-on action film. It focusses on the mystery behind who is the real mole in the organisation and while the set-pieces it has are gripping, it’s very much a character driven film.

The settings also make it feel almost timeless. The way the foggy streets of Prague are lit gives the scenes there an almost film-noir feel. Those scenes introduce the team, led by Jim Phelps (Jon Voight), showing how each of them fits into their roles, and some of their cool gadgets too, and how things can quickly unravel when there’s potentially a traitor in their midst.

The iconic sequence midway through the film, you know the one – Ethan Hunt is hanging on a wire, into a room where he cannot make a sound or touch the floor – is fantastic. It’s so tense and thrilling and a large part of that is due to the fact that there is no music. As soon as Hunt enters the room, it’s just the sounds the characters make that you can hear, nothing else. This cranks up the tension to almost nerve-wracking levels.

Mission: Impossible is a great spy thriller with a lot of twists and turns. The few action sequences are great, though the finale is a bit over the top. That being said, it’s a finale built on the revelations that Hunt, and the audience, has been seeking throughout the film, so it’s pretty satisfying. 4/5.

My #ReadtheWorldathon TBR

It’s 1st July on Sunday and that’s when the #ReadtheWorldathon starts. The Read the Worldathon in a month-long readathon that I’m co-hosting with A Novel Haul and Ninja Book Box. The aim of this readathon is to read books from a variety of different countries and there’s a bingo card you can “travel across” to make things more fun. For more info and an explanation of all the squares, see my announcement post here.

Now onto my TBR. I’ve planned my route across the bingo card, as you can see I have two possible routes, one taking 7 squares and one taking 5 so if I’m running out of time in the month I’ve got some options. I’ve also said what other squares a book can be used for in case anyone might have it and be unsure of where best to use it for themselves.

Celebrate WOC
Smaller and Smaller Circles by F.H. Batacan – Philippines
I have the ebook of this. I stumbled across it when browsing books on my kindle and it’s a highly praised detective story. I’m really looking forward to this one.
Other squares it can be used for: Genre, Asia, Firsts

Caribbean
Augustown by Kei Miller – Jamaica
Set in 1982 on the precipice of something major happening, a boy is distracted by Ma Taffy asking him, “Kaia, I ever tell you bout the flying preacherman?” I bought this book second-hand in London at the beginning of the year I know next to nothing about it.
Other squares it can be used for: Historical

Middle East
I have two choices for this square.
De Niro’s Game by Rawi Hage – Lebanon
This is an audiobook I have borrowed from my library. It’s about two long-time friends who grew up together in war-torn Beirut.
Other squares it can be used for: Firsts

The Nimrod Flip-Out by Etgar Keret – Israel
A collection of short stories that was a recent purchase and the only thing I know about these short stories, is apparently they can be a bit weird and satirical.
Other squares it can be used for: Short Stories

Non-Fic
Summer is my Favourite Season: A Memoir of Childhood and War in Kosovo by Ilir Berisha – Kosovo
A memoir from footballer Ilir Berisha. I’ll admit he’s not a footballer I know of, but I think it’ll be an interesting insight of what it’s like growing up in Kosovo – a country that’s not recognised as its own independent state by some countries.
Other squares it can be used for: Firsts, Europe, Political Controversy

Americas
Never Stop Walking: A Memoir of Finding Home Across the World by Christina Rickardsson – Brazil
Another book I’ve got on my kindle. This sounds like a potential sad autobiography as Christina Rickardsson was born in Brazil but at the age of seven she was taken to an orphanage and then to a village in the north of Sweden.
Other squares it can be used for: Celebrate WOC, Firsts, Non-Fic, In Translation

In Translation
Another square where I’ve got some choice.
Letters from Burma by Aung San Suu Kyi – Myanmar
Aung San Suu Kyi is a politician in Myanmar and this collection of letter from her are about how she sees her country and its people – both the good and the bad.
Other squares it can be used for: Political Controversy, Non-Fic, Celebrate WOC

Thirty Days by Annelies Verbeke – Belgium
Thirty Days is about a musician who moves to the countryside to be with his girlfriend, and how they and a local doctor start to Afghans and Syrians at a refugee camp – something the locals do not like.
Other squares it can be used for: Europe

Africa
And my final square offers me some choice too – I’m all about the choice when it comes to TBR’s for readathons!
The Last Gift by Abdulrazak Gurnah – Tanzania
Another audiobook from my local library. This is about a man who’s kept his past a secret but when he gets ill, he starts to share how he came from Africa and made a life for himself in the UK.
Other squares it can be used for: ?

Secret Son by Laila Lalami – Morocco
I think this book is about the relationship between a son and his mother and how it becomes strained when his absent father renters his life.
Other squares it can be used for: Celebrate WOC

That’s my TBR for the next month! I hope to manage to make my way across the bingo card and if I do manage to read all these books, I do have some other books I could read for random squares on the card.

Do let me know if you’re planning to take part in the #ReadtheWorldathon – I would love to see your TBR’s! I’d also like to know some of your favourite international books or authors too. There’s so many books out there from so many countries, there’s just not enough time to get them all.

READ THE WORLD – Pakistan: Kartography by Kamila Shamsie

Karim and Raheen have grown up together, they finish each other’s sentences and speak in anagrams. They are irrevocably bound together and to Karachi, Pakistan, a city that’s violent, vibrant, corrupt and magical but is also their home. Time and distance bring a barrier of silence between them until they are brought together in Karachi during a summer of strikes and ethnic violence. Their relationship stands poised between strained friendship and fated love – one wrong action, or reaction, can tip the scales.

Kartography is a book I picked up over a year ago but didn’t get further than the first few chapters. I am so pleased I gave it another go as this time a sped through it.

This time I was almost instantly submerged into the vivid city Raheem and Karim grew up in. The city, and to a lesser extent the country of Pakistan, is a character in its own right. Karachi is a part of Raheem and Karim and while Karim attempts to distance himself from the place after looking for and finding all of its darkness, Raheem purposely avoids thinking too much of the violence and corruption that’s rife in her city.

Kartography shows that while history doesn’t necessarily repeat itself, present events do tend to parallel the past. There’s definitely an element of “the sins of our fathers” here, though the children are often unaware of what those sins actually are which leads to misunderstandings and more hurt than if people had been honest with them from the start.

Kartography takes place across several years. There’s Karim and Raheem’s early teenage years in the 1980’s and when they are young adults reconnecting in the mid-90s. But events that transpired before they were even born, most notably 1971 and the civil unrest that affected their parents when Bangladesh became independent from Pakistan, had a knock-on effect on to the people they grew up to be. This book is a historical novel and while it references many political events, it doesn’t feel it has to explain everything. Shamsie trusts the reader to either have prior knowledge on this period of history, or to go a research it as they’re reading if they want to. That being said, if like me you have limited knowledge of that time period you can still follow what’s happen really easily.

Kartography is about barriers. Religious, ethnic, gender and class – all these barriers come into play and some are easier for characters to cross or accept than others. The writing in Kartaography is beautiful, the characters are flawed and sometimes frustrating, but they are still people that you enjoy reading about. Kartography is a wonderful story and one I enjoyed far more than I thought I would. 5/5.

REVIEW: About Time (2013)

When Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) turns 21, his father (Bill Nighy) tells him the family secret – all men in their family can travel back in time. Tim learns that changing events in his life isn’t as easy as you might think, especially when he uses it to find love.

About Time is a charming and funny romantic drama. It blends together the science-fiction of time travel with all the best stuff about love and family. While it is funny, About Time is also incredibly sincere – it’s definitely the kind of film you should embrace wholeheartedly and leave any cynicism you may have behind.

When Tim meets Mary (Rachel McAdams) things go awry when he uses his time travel skills. Slowly he begins to realise that changes to his past have consequences and it can be tough keeping track of it all. The way the relationship between Tim and Mary develops is really sweet. There is the potential for it to be a bit creepy, what with Tim learning more about Mary each time he might time travel but to her it’s a first encounter, but the chemistry between Gleeson and McAdams and a heartfelt script makes it Tim’s awkwardness more endearing than sinister.

While the main focus of Tim’s story is about his romance with Mary, About Time is also about family. Tim adores his sister Kit Kat (Lydia Wilson), their relationship is just the best and he always tries to help her, with and without time travel, though it doesn’t always work out. And then there’s Tim and his dad – these two have one of the most touching, and realistic, father-son relationship I’ve seen in a while.

There are some issues with About Time. It’s perhaps a little long with the middle dragging slightly and some may find it too sentimental, but all in all it’s a beautiful film. About Time is funny and romantic and shows off all the highs and lows of what life truly is. Yes, Tim may have time travel to help him out now and again, but it’s much better to take the time to experience life in that moment. 4/5.

REVIEW: I’m Travelling Alone by Samuel Bjork

When the body of a young girl is discovered hanging from a tree, the only clue the police have is an airline tag around her neck. It reads “I’m travelling alone”. In response, seasoned investigator Holger Munch is charged with assembling a special homicide unit. That means tracking down his former partner – Mia Krüger – a brilliant but troubled detective who’s plans are to die. Reviewing the file, Mia finds something new – a thin line carved into the dead girl’s finger nail; the number 1. This is just the beginning. To save the other children Mia must push aside her own demons and see the bigger picture before the murderer becomes a serial killer.

I’m Travelling Alone is told from multiple perspectives meaning that the action never really lets up and while you may have more information than the detectives, that doesn’t mean you can see how everything’s connected straight away. There’s subplots that on the surface don’t look to be related to the main case but slowly the people become connected and the way everything is interwoven together is very natural.

The chapters are very short, often less than 10 pages, and they nearly all end on a mini cliff-hanger which makes this over 500 pages story a quick read. I’m Travelling Alone is often tense and it definitely has some unexpected twists and turns as the case develops and it becomes clear that there’s something seriously disturbing about the killer.

Mia and Holger are very different people but the way they work together is great. There’s the mentor-mentee relationship but Mia is so good at seeing patterns and the connections between things that she’s often smarter than Holger. That doesn’t mean Holger’s an idiot though, they each bring something to the partnership and the scenes when they bounce ideas off each other are enthralling. The whole team is great and it’s clear why they have been brought in on this case and they all bring a unique perspective to the team.

I’m Travelling Alone does end somewhat suddenly. Everything’s been building and building, and then it doesn’t really have the closure that I was expecting. Besides from that, it is an enjoyable and engrossing detective story. 4/5.