4 stars

REVIEW and GIVEAWAY: One Would Think The Deep by Claire Zorn

I was contacted by Ransom Publishing to see if I’d like a copy of One Would Think The Deep to review, and they were nice enough to send me a second copy to giveaway! More on the giveaway below and on my Twitter, and just so you know, my thoughts on the book are my honest opinion.

Sam has always had too much going on in his head, and now his mum is dead and it’s worse than ever. With nothing but his skateboard, his discman and some clothes in a garbage bag, Sam goes to live with the only family he has left; Aunty Lorraine and his cousins Shane and Minty. But his mum cut ties with them seven years ago and he doesn’t know why. Sam faces suspicion and hostility in his new home, but he starts following Minty around like he did as a child. Soon he’s surfing with Minty, finding it to be the one thing that cuts through the static in his head. But the secrets of the past refuse to stay hidden. What happened seven years ago that caused such a rift? Why won’t anyone tell him who his father is? And if things weren’t complicated enough, there’s also this girl…

Set in 1997, One Would Think The Deep is like a love letter to Australian surfer culture. Surfing is Minty’s life and it could be a way for him to leave his small hometown and make a name for himself. The way the beach, the ocean and Sam’s experience learning to surf is described, paints such a vivid in my mind it was almost like I could hear the waves. The setting and counterculture described in One Would Think The Deep reminded me of the films Point Break (1991) and Lords of Dogtown (2005) so if you like either of those films, you’ll probably enjoy this book.

I really liked Claire Zorn’s writing style. It’s beautiful as you were inside Sam’s head, but like him, there is also a distance there between what he experiences and what he feels. It’s almost a gentle, contemplative story so when there are outbursts of emotion they are even more affecting.

Sam is such an interesting character. He has a lot of grief and anger that he’s dealing with, or not dealing with as the case may be, and while his mother’s sudden death is a big part of that, as the story unfolds you see that he was angry before that too. The way his mind works, how there’s almost too much going on in there and his memories are like photographs he files away so he doesn’t have to think about them.

The secrets the adults in Sam’s life keep from him bubble away under the surface and while he meets new people and potentially finds love, those secrets and his own confused mind drag him down. It’s like if he doesn’t know his past, or come to terms with his past actions, then how can he figure out what his future should be?

Sam, his Aunt Lorraine and the rest of the main characters feel like very real, flawed people. While their stories develop over the course of the book, it feels like you only spent some time with them and they’re going to continue living beyond the pages of the book.

One Would Think The Deep is a slow burn story, about a young man figuring out who he is and who he wants to be. It has beautiful writing, and a gorgeous setting. The only negative, and it’s a small one, is that it took me a while to get into the rhythm of the story and the writing, but once I had loved seeing what might become of Sam. I feel like it’s a book that will play on my mind for a while. 4/5.

Like the sound of One Would Think The Deep and fancy your own copy? Make sure you follow me on Twitter and retweet this tweet and you could be in with a chance to win a copy – this giveaway is open internationally too!

Advertisements

REVIEW: 5 to 7 (2014)

Twenty-four-year-old aspiring writer Brian Bloom (Anton Yelchin) embarks on a relationship with thirty-three-year-old Arielle (Bérénice Marlohe), the only catch is she is married with two young children and they can only meet between the hours of 5 to 7 each evening.

5 to 7 is a sweet romantic film that is elevated by the performances and chemistry between the leads. Brian could easily be an annoying would-be writer, putting off going to law school in order to “follow his dream”, but Yelchin has this effortless charm that makes Brian an idealistic romantic. Arielle is the more complex and interesting of the two of them, she’s up front with what she wants and the rules of their relationship. Seeing Brian and Arielle’s relationship grow is surprisingly beautiful.

Glenn Close and Frank Langella are Brain’s parents and while they aren’t in the film much, when they do make an appearance, they are hilarious, Langella especially. Their reactions to Brian and Arielle’s relationship is very realistic as they care about their son and don’t want him to get hurt, but can also see that he’s happy.

The directing, cinematography and music is all top notch and the film shows New York City at its most picturesque.

5 to 7 is unexpectedly lovely. The way the story unfolds as these two people fall more and more in love is both touching and wistful. 5 to 7 is an intriguing take on love, and how there can be so many different types of it and you can encounter it when you least expect it. 4/5.

REVIEW: The Meg (2018)

A team of scientists exploring the deep depths of the ocean discover more than they bargained for when they encounter a megalodon, a giant species of shark thought to be extinct.

The Meg does take a while to find its feet. There’s a lot of characters to introduce, almost too many to keep track of or care about, which takes time but once ex-deep-sea diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) arrives things step up a gear. The first half of The Meg is more of a claustrophobic thriller as researchers are trapped at the bottom of the ocean with something attacking their vessel, the second half is more of the fun, action-packed people vs giant shark film you were probably expecting.

Naturally the scenes filmed on boats are a combination of filming in a giant tank with green screen, and being on the actual ocean, and the computer wizardry meshes those two together really well, so you really believe these characters are either going to swim or be eaten. The special effects are also great on the shark, it feels like a real intimidating presence and when a character gets a bit close to its jaws you get worried.

The film really thrives whenever Jason Statham is on screen. The Meg was pitched as Jason Statham vs a giant shark and it certainly delivers that, eventually that is. The action sequences whenever anyone is in the water are tense and while there are a lot of people for the Meg to chomp on, not that many people get eaten. The Meg doesn’t really go in for the blood and gore, which in certain sequences is a shame and makes the deaths somewhat samey and almost dull, but it’s a film that knows exactly what it is and relishes in it.

The Meg does try for more serious and emotional moments and they don’t always hit the mark. That’s not down to the cast, who all look like they are having a great time and do a great job even with some of the cheesy dialogue, but is more down to the pacing and the film trying to overstretch itself beyond the monster movie it is.

I will give The Meg its due for having a more internationally diverse cast than you usually see in a Hollywood film of its ilk, and it has not one but three smart female characters who are all scientist of some description. In the case of Li Bingbing’s Suyin, she is almost a co-lead with Statham and does just as much as him when it comes to saving the day.

The Meg is a lot of fun. There are jokes sprinkled throughout, a lot of which land, and the film generally knows what it is and has fun with that. There are a few typical tropes, for instance the greedy billionaire, but it makes them work. 4/5.

READ THE WORLD – Brazil: Never Stop Walking by Christina Rickardsson

Translated by Tara F. Chace.

Christiana Mara Coelho was born into extreme poverty in Brazil. She grew up living in a cave outside Diamantina with her mother, and then survived on the streets of São Paulo where they begged for food and avoided the many dangers being homeless brought. When she and her young brother are suddenly put up for adoption, everything changes for Christiana as she and her brother move across the world to a village called Vindeln in the north of Sweden, to start a new life with their adopted parents. It’s there she becomes known as Christina and must learn so many new things while missing her mother an indescribable amount.

Never Stop Walking is two stories in one and they’re told in alternating chapters. There’s Christina’s childhood, growing up in the forest and on the streets, her time in an orphanage before being adopted and moving to Sweden, and there’s her as a thirty-two-year-old, going back to Brazil for the first time in search of her biological family.

Christina is adopted when she was eight years old, and because of her time on the streets she had knowledge and memories, no young child should have. She’d seen her friends be beaten or killed, she’s gone hungry for days and learnt never to trust anyone in uniform. To say it was a tough childhood would be an understatement, but it’s clear that it is one that was full of love and laughter too. Christina adored her mother and her little brother Patrick (he was a baby when they were adopted so didn’t have the same memories or difficulties as Christina), and the three of them had fun and shared a lot of positive memories.

Seeing how Christina as a child dealt, or didn’t, with the culture shock of moving somewhere where she was the only child who wasn’t white, who had to struggle, and who had never seen snow before, was awe-inspiring in a way. Seeing how children can be so resilient, but at the same time being sad that so many children have to go through traumatic things just because where they were born. As an adult she has culture shock again, along with a whole host of other emotions, when she returns to Brazil for the first time. She’s forgotten the language, and while some memories are clear, for so long she’s never really understood how she came to be adopted when her mother was out there somewhere, wanting to be with her.

Never Stop Walking is the story of a woman finding out where she belongs and coming to an understanding that she can be both Swedish and Brazilian and that she can have a biological family and an adopted family she loves equally but in different ways. Over the course of Christina returning to Brazil and retracing her childhood, she learns many things about herself, while also affirming who she is. It’s a remarkable tale that’s told with so much raw emotion. 4/5.

REVIEW: Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is under house arrest after the events of Captain America: Civil War but soon he’s roped into helping Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lily) and her father Hank (Michael Douglas) who are attempting to travel to the Quantum realm in the hope to find her mother still alive.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is a visually dynamic film. It has fun with the whole concept of people shrinking and growing, and to make things different compared to the first film, it also has cars and even buildings shrinking to tiny sizes. The fights are innovative, and having Hope become the Wasp is great as she has wings and blasters, making her fights just that bit different to Ant-Man’s.

After the intensity of Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp is just a good action-comedy. Like the first Ant-Man film, Ant-Man and the Wasp has small-scale and personal stakes. Hope and Hank are desperate to find their lost mother and wife, Scott just wants to be a good dad to his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), and even the main villain Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) doesn’t have world-domination intentions, and instead has a personal stake in the Quantum realm technology Hank Pym has created.

It’s the brilliant chemistry from its cast that makes Ant-Man and the Wasp so much fun and enjoyable. The banter between Scott, Hope and Hank is great and the way they all work together, however reluctantly to begin with, is fun to watch. Scott’s ex-criminal friends Luis (Michael Peña), Kurt (David Dastmalchian) and Dave (T.I.) bring the jokes, with Peña stealing just about every scene he’s in. There is almost an abundance of characters. FBI Agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) is almost constantly watching Scott, and businessman Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) want the technology Hope and Hank have been building. There’s a lot of people after our main trio and one has to think that the film could’ve probably lost one antagonist and not lost much in the way of the actual plot.

Ant-Man and the Wasp isn’t ground-breaking but it’s fun. The many different types of familial relationships are what is at the films core and the action sequences are always entertaining. It’s just the sort of easy-watch summer superhero film you need after Infinity War. 4/5.

READ THE WORLD – Philippines: Smaller and Smaller Circles by F.H. Batacan

The body of a young boy is found dead in the landfill in a poor district outside of Manilla. His face has been cut off, and his heart and genitalia removed. The police are stretched thin and are unsure of what to do, but as another boy, and then another boy, is discovered with the same injuries, the police need help. Father Gus, a forensic anthropologist, and Father Jerome, a psychologist, are asked by the Director of the National Bureau of Investigations to help the police in their efforts to track down the killer before they strike again.

Set in the late 1990’s there are quite few subplots in Smaller and Smaller Circles. There’s naturally the main plot of these murders and the police’s attempts to solve the case with the help of Father Gus and Father Jerome, but there’s story threads about the police and the Catholic Church too. The fact that the police in the Philippines don’t have good filing systems or good communications with the various departments places a major role in the story, and then with regards to the Church there’s a priest that Father Gus believes is using his power and influence to get away with abusing young boys he has access to.

Father Gus and Father Jerome are both compelling characters and are both smart in their own ways. They make each other better, bouncing ideas off one another until they might get a clearer idea of any patterns or motivations regrading the killer and their victims. Their easy camaraderie is great to read about and it’s fun to see how they manage to juggle working at a university and all the things that come with that like marking papers and getting funding, and with helping the police on serious crimes.

Smaller and Smaller Circles is a well-paced mystery as you as the reader have the same amount of information as the police and Father Gus and Father Jerome, and when they do have a suspect they spend the time trying to catch them and get concrete evidence. This makes the final part of the book tense as you wonder whether they’ll get to the killer before he kills again. Also, it means the ending isn’t rushed and various characters do have some form of closure.

Smaller and Smaller Circles is a bit gruesome. The bodies are described vividly but clinically and there’s some unsettling characters too. It’s not too scary or creepy and instead is a good mystery that’s set in a place where crime stories aren’t usually. In fact, Smaller and Smaller Circles is credited with being the first Filipino crime novel. It brings in the politics and socio-economics of the Philippines into the story in a way that fleshes out the setting and characters but isn’t something you need to have prior knowledge of to see how a lot of these characters lives are affected by forces outside of their control. 4/5.

REVIEW: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)

When the IMF is dissolved, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is on a mission to find out the truth about the Syndicate – an international rogue organisation as highly skilled as the IMF were. As he tries to track down a mystery figure, he encounters Isla Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a woman with her own agenda. Ethan and the remnants of his team are unsure if they can trust her, but they may not have a choice as the Syndicate steps up their dangerous game.

Rogue Nation starts off with one of the biggest stunts in the series which is a thrill ride and shows you just what the Mission Impossible series is about. Unfortunately, the film can never really top that. It’s still a well-paced action film with some great fights, car chases and stunts and it’s also a lot of fun.

Rogue Nation has more of a spy thriller feel to it that the first Mission: Impossible had. It has shady agents with their own agendas, there’s the head of the CIA Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) breathing down Agents Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and Dunn’s (Simon Pegg) necks, as they try and aid Ethan without being detected, and a villain who is more like a ghost that Ethan is constantly chasing after. Rogue Nation does a good job blending together the action spectacle and the espionage thriller aspects to make an entertaining and exciting film.

Isla Faust is a fascinating character. She’s not just the female-version of Ethan Hunt (which she so easily could’ve been), she has her own motivations, flaws and personality. She’s a skilled fighter, she’s smart and is the kind of character that you believe is a badass secret agent.

The final showdown in Rogue Nation is more of character-driven one rather than a spectacular action sequence. This makes it tense as it involves characters you’ve seen across a number of films now so have seen their relationship grow. 4/5.