blogmas

The Guilty Reader Tag

Created by ReadLikeWildfire on BookTube, the Guilty Reader Book Tag is all about those things we have – or haven’t – done when reading and how we treat our books. I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to look after my books, so we’ll see how guilty I am.

Have you ever re-gifted a book that you’ve been given?
I’m not sure if I’ve ever regifted a book I’ve been given but I have definitely gifted a book that I bought and read myself. Book I read often don’t look like they have been read as I don’t bend the spines or anything, so I’ve gotten away with gifting a book that I don’t want to keep many times.

Have you ever said you’ve read a book when you haven’t?
I don’t think so… no wait! I say I’ve read The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but I never actually finished The Return of the King, so I technically haven’t read the trilogy.

Have you ever borrowed a book and not returned it?
Nope. I’d hate someone borrowing one of my books and never returning it, so I always make sure I give a book back to who I’ve borrowed it off.

Have you ever read a series out of order?
I don’t think so but if I did it was probably by accident.

Have you ever spoiled a book for someone?
Luckily not. I hate spoilers and I’m always paranoid I’m going to accidentally spoil things for people.

Have you ever doggy eared a book?
No. I may not use an actual bookmark most of the time (I’m a big fan of using receipts and train tickets), but I don’t go as far as dogearing the book.

Have you ever told someone you don’t own a book when you do?
Nope or if I have it’s probably because I’d forgotten that I own the book.

Have you ever told someone you haven’t read a book when you have?
Nah, I’m not a believer in guilty pleasures when it comes to books and films. Even when I’ve read books that are considered “bad” or “trashy” I’m alright with saying I read them. The books this question makes me think of is the Twilight Saga. I read Twilight and found it pretty enjoyable in an easy-read kind of way but then I read New Moon and hated it and didn’t carry on with the series.

Have you every skipped a chapter or a section of a book?
I’ve never skipped a full chapter or section, but I do definitely skim read when I’m in a chapter following characters I don’t really care about or if there’s a lot of description that I find boring.

Have you ever bad mouthed a book you actually liked?
No, I don’t think so. I don’t see the point of it, especially if it’s just to fit in with the general consensus about a book.

Do you have any bookish sins to get off your chest?

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Winter TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. This week it’s what books we plan to read this winter. I’m not particularly a seasonal mood reader but here are a mixture of books I’d like to read before 2019 finishes and books I want to get to early in the New Year.

The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam
I really want to hit 100 books read for my Read the World Project by the end of 2019 and I’m really close (I’ve read 98 books/countries) and The Good Muslim is a book that’s recently come into my life and it will cross off Bangladesh from my TBR. The Good Muslim is about two siblings who have been scarred by war and how they attempt to reconnect.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
I’ve had this book on my TBR for years, probably since it was first released and got all of its praise. I recently got the audiobook cheap so I’m hoping that’ll give me the push to finally read it.

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott and Harmony Becker
Graphic novels are always a good way to get more books read before the year is out. I’m sure this will be a tough one though as it’s based on George Takei’s childhood experiences in a internment camp.

Night, Again edited by Linh Dinh
This is a short story collection from different Vietnamese writers so theoretically it should be a relatively quick read.

How To Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis
I received this through TBTBSanta a few years ago and I still really want to read it. It’s an essay collection about the roles of literary heroines in our lives and how their stories can impact us.

Only God Can Make a Tree by Bertram Roach
Another one for my Read the World Project this book is by an author form Saint Kitts and Nevis and it’s a pretty short book at less than 150 pages.

Black Panther: The Complete Collection Vol. 1 by Christopher Priest, Mark Texeria, Vince Evans, Joe Jusko, Mike Manley, Mark Bright and Sal Velluto
I got this graphic novel collection for my birthday a few months ago and it’d be good to read it soon. Plus, T’Challa is one of my favourite Marvel characters so I would like to learn more about his history.

The Places I’ve Cried in Public by Holly Bourne
Contemporary YA, even hard-hitting YA, is often very easy and quick for me to read so maybe I’ll get through this one before the end of the year.

Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and other lies) curated by Scarlett Curtis
I do like reading essay collections as they can be something you can dip in and out of, I think that’s how I’ll read this book over the next few months.

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
I got this book in a subscription box years ago and I did try to read it then, but I couldn’t really get into it. Since then I’ve heard more and more good things about this series, so I want to give it another go.

What books do you want to read this winter?

REVIEW: Little Woods (2018)

Ollie (Tessa Thompson), a reformed drug runner who was caught coming back from Canada with medicine for her dying mother is trying to do the right thing when her sister Deb (Lily James) arrives on her doorstep in need of help. As the sisters try to get the money together to stop their family home from being reposed, Ollie must go back to the dangerous way of life she thought she’d left behind.

Little Woods is described as a modern Western and that description makes sense. Ollie does illegal things, crossing the border into Canada to buy drugs, to help people. The people she sells the prescription drugs to are her friends and neighbours who often don’t have insurance or the time or the money to go to the hospital to get treated themselves. This job Ollie finds herself in, is not one she enjoys, and she is in constant fear that she’ll get caught, but when things get tough for her and her sister, they have very few options. She’s fighting the system and helping the little guy while in a town that feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere.

Little Woods shows how messed up the American health care system is when a pregnancy can cost at least $8,000, and getting an abortion is even more difficult. Never mind all the other health care costs characters in Little Woods face, and as they are in a former oil boomtown with very few financial prospects, it’s like a hopeless cycle.

Tessa Thompson and Lily James both give a brilliant performance full of pain as they struggle to dig themselves out of the bleak situations they are in. Thompson is the lead and the main focus of the film but the strong sisterly bond the two of them have is palpable and it adds another dimension to Little Woods as each of their actions are not just for themselves, but to help each other.

Director and writer Nia DaCosta allows the camera to linger on the characters, so you get to see more of their inner conflict, especially when a character is now on their own or no one except the camera, is looking at them.

The score composed by Brian McOmber is haunting and compliments the beautiful cinematography by Matt Mitchell. Set in an North Dakota town, the setting of Little Woods is equal parts pretty and desolate as the wide-open spaces give way to struggling communities.

Little Woods is a tense atmospheric thriller with compelling performances from Thompson and James. 4/5.

Little Woods or Crossing the Line as it’s called in the UK, is currently available to rent and buy quite cheaply on iTunes – I’d definitely recommend it.

REVIEW: Unlikely Angel (1996)

When performer Ruby Diamond (Dolly Parton) meets an untimely demise, she finds she hasn’t done enough to get straight into heaven. Saint Peter (Roddy McDowall) says she has one chance, she needs to reunite a workaholic widower father (Brian Kerwin) and his two children, rebellious teenager Sarah (Alison Mack) and quiet Matthew (Eli Marienthal) before midnight on Christmas Eve.

Everything about Unlikely Angel is cliché and easy to predict but that’s part of its charm. It’s sometimes nice to watch a film where you have a pretty good idea of what all the moments of conflict will be about, and you know everything will turn out alright in the end.

There are all the usual tropes, Sarah acts out wanting attention from her dad, while Matthew is scared his father is going to forget about his mum if they move on, and it’s up to Ruby to smooth things out. Then there’s the time limit element, as Ruby must reunite this feuding family and bring Christmas back to their lives before it’s too late for her.

The interactions between Peter and Ruby were equal parts sweet and amusing. They’re two very different characters but they bounce off each other well as either Ruby pesters Peter for advice, or Peter does something to stop her having “impure thoughts” about the men she might meet.

What I liked about Unlikely Angel was how Ruby grew as a person over the course of the film. She was always likeable (being played by Dolly Parton certainly helps with that) but she always looked out for number one before she died, but she grew to care so much about this family that she puts her potential future in Heaven on the line to see them happy.

There’s a couple of original songs written and sung by Dolly Parton in Unlikely Angel that will either make you get up and dance or profess your love to someone. “Unlikely Angel” (the song not the movie) is actually quite lovely and Dolly Parton’s voice is always beautiful.

Unlikely Angel is peak Christmas TV movie but with added Dolly Parton it means it isn’t quite as grating as it could be. 3/5.

REVIEW: The Knight Before Christmas (2019)

When medieval English knight Sir Cole (Josh Whitehouse) is magically transported to present day Ohio, he meets high school science teacher Brooke (Vanessa Hudgens) and together they must figure out how he can complete his quest in order to return home.

The Knight Before Christmas is one of those Christmas films that is most definitely not good, but at times it can be weirdly watchable and that’s mostly down to the charm of Vanessa Hudgens.

The Knight Before Christmas is a classic fish out of water tale. Being a medieval knight Cole knows nothing about anything from technology to food and everything in between. This leads to what are supposed to be funny moments – sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t. After Brooke hits Cole with her car she takes him in as she feels bad and it’s obvious that he’s lost his memory what with him having old fashioned speech patterns and believing he’s a fourteenth century knight and all.

You do have to give Netflix kudos for having a character in The Knight Before Christmas sitting down and watching another one of the Christmas films. I guess it makes sense in terms of costs and the legalities but it’s still kind of funny. I’m pretty sure they namedropped a fictional country that features in another of their Christmas films too. Does this mean that there’s a Netflix Christmas Film Cinematic Universe?

The close relationship between Brooke and her sister Madison (Emmanuelle Chriqui) is nice and they feel like believable siblings without Madison being solely relegated to the supportive family member. Hudgens and Whitehouse don’t have a lot of chemistry but they’re not terrible together. As Cole and Brooke slowly begin to understand and care for one another you can’t help but wish they’d realise how they feel a lot sooner – but then where would be the drama and “suspense”?!

The Knight Before Christmas is cheesy predictable Christmas nonsense. It’s harmless but forgettable but Vanessa Hudgens’s charm and big doe eyes save it from being awful. 2/5.

REVIEW: Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)

I reviewed The Force Awakens when it was released. You can read my original review here. As a good chunk of time has passed and I’m rewatching the sequel films on the run up to The Rise of Skywalker’s release, there may be more spoilers here than in a normal review – you’ve been warned.

Three decades after the Empire’s defeat, a new evil threatens the galaxy – the First Order led by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). After meeting Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), defector Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) gets caught up in the fight against the First Order along with scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) and they struggle to find the Resistance and help in the search for the missing Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).

I love The Force Awakens. I didn’t grow up watching Star Wars (I first watched all previous six films when I was at university) so there wasn’t the nostalgia or added fear and excitement that came with seeing a new Star Wars film when I went to see The Force Awakens. Still, I was blown away by the spectacle, the magic and the characters in this story that simultaneously felt new and exciting, and comforting because of how familiar the themes and the score were – because even if you’re not a huge Star Wars fan, some of those motifs are a part of popular culture.

The Force Awakens juggles the old and the new really well. It gives space for the original characters who everyone knows to be a part of this story, while also introducing us to new heroes and villains. The new trio of heroes; Rey, Finn and Poe are all wonderful. The immediate chemistry between Isaac and Boyega is palpable and how Poe and Finn meet and immediately put their lives in each other’s hands make their relationship so strong. With Rey and Finn, it takes them longer to really trust and understand one another, with each of them running away from different things. For Finn it’s his past while for Rey it’s the future and the unknown. It’s when the two of them start letting the other in that they relationship goes from annoying siblings to firm friends. Finn is the first person who ever came back for Rey, while for Finn, Rey is someone who makes him want to be brave.

The action in The Force Awakens is exciting and fun. The sound effects, the way things are shot, along with the score makes it all come together into these wonderful fun sequences. The aerial battles between the Millennium Flacon and TIE Fighters or between X-Wings and TIE Fighters are almost awe-inspiring to watch. It’s fun to see Finn and Rey or Finn and Poe work together to take down the bad guys. And it’s always great when after hearing a character is really talented at something, you actually see them do it. In this case it’s Poe being the Resistance’s best pilot. It’s even mentioned in the opening title crawl and you see how good he is multiple times.

Kylo Ren is an interesting character. He’s still feeling like he’s being pulled towards the light and he prays to a Darth Vader helmet to keep him on what he perceives to be the right track, but he’s also kind of scared and inexperienced. I love that he looks like such a normal guy when he takes off his helmet for the first time. Due to his costume and his actions, torturing Poe and killing villagers, he seems like such an imposing figure, but beneath it all he’s just pretending to be stronger and more in control than he is.

The lightsaber fights between Finn and Kylo Ren, and Rey and Kylo Ren are absolutely brutal. They tear chunks out of each other and cut down trees as they go at it. Finn is wholly unprepared and while he does get one hit in against Kylo Ren, ultimately, he is bested. It’s when Rey steps up, the lightsaber flies to her hand and the music swells that it’s really impactful, and once she lets the Force in, she is just as strong, if not stronger than Kylo Ren and it is beautiful to see her absolutely wreck him.

The thing I love the most about The Force Awakens is the characters – both the old ones and the new ones. The whole cast give such great performances (quick shout out to Harrison Ford for playing a believably world-weary Han Solo but still retaining that attitude) and their chemistry is wonderful. Even though you don’t see a lot of some characters or their relationships with one another, there’s enough hinted through the script and the actor’s performances that you can see the history between them. One such example is Poe and Leia (Carrie Fisher). It’s clear he’s told her all about Finn, that she trusts his judgement on Finn and his tactics, and that Poe is clearly relatively high up in the Resistance due to how easily he can talk to Leia and in a relatively familiar way.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is just brilliant. It’s funny, thrilling, emotional and just a joy to watch. There’s so much to fit in but there’s never a dull moment or a moment wasted. The quieter, character driven moments are just as important and as engaging as the dogfights and action sequences. The Force Awakens is truly something special and I’ll always love it. 5/5.

The Christmas Carol Book Tag

We’re almost halfway through blogmas so thought it was time for a Christmassy book tag. The Christmas Carol Book Tag was created by Lauren Wade on YouTube and I saw it over on Jess’s blog, Jessticulates. I read A Christmas Carol when I was in school, but when I think of the story, it’s the film Muppet’s Christmas Carol that always comes to mind.

The Ghost of Christmas Past – A book that was a childhood favourite
Love Street by Andrew Matthews
I think this is one of the first YA books I read and it was one I reread over and over again. It’s about a teenage girl who makes up her own soap opera in her head to deal with the stresses of friendship and relationship drama.

 

 

The Ghost of Christmas Present – A recent book that you think will become one of your all time favourites
The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven
I read this book at the start of the year and I still think about it. It’s funny and heartfelt and it deals with such tough topics it can be equally infuriating and inspiring.

 

 

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come – A book coming out next year that you’re most excited about
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
I’m so bad at keeping track of book releases but this in one I know about and will definitely be getting. I don’t particularly like the books title but I’m looking forward to going back into the world of The Hunger Games.

 

 

Bah, Humbug! – A book that everyone else loves that you just can’t stand
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
I do get why people like this book and I did like the writing style but the story just didn’t grab me and I didn’t like the relationship and (albeit very small) hints at romance between the two main characters.

 

 

Bob Cratchit – An old dependable that you always recommend
Luther: The Calling by Neil Cross
This is the prequel book to the first series of the TV show Luther but I still think it’s the kind of book that both fans and non-fans of the TV show would enjoy because it’s such a creepy and tense thriller.

 

 

Tiny Tim – An underhyped book that you think deserves more love
Safe as Houses by Simone can der Vlugt
I read this thriller earlier this year and it gripped me from beginning to end and it definitely deserves to be talked about more.

Today? Why it’s Christmas Day! – What’s a book that always gets you in the mood for Christmas (apart from A Christmas Carol)?
I don’t really read a lot of Christmassy books to be honest, nor do I reread a lot of books, but I do like reading comics and graphic novels on the run up to Christmas because they’re shorter and my brain likes to get in that more chilled out mood as Christmas is a time for relaxing.

The Muppet Christmas Carol – Your favourite film adaptation of a book
The Martian by Andy Weir
Book to film adaptations often get a bad wrap but there are a lot of good ones out there. While an honourable mention has to go The Lord of the Rings, I’m picking The Martian. It’s one of my favourite books of recent years and the film got so much right, the humour, the characters and the heart of the story. Plus, The Martian is just an endlessly rewatchable film.