Blogtober

Happy Halloween!

And so, another October comes to an end and it’s time for spooky things to happen – though probably a lot of people have already gone full out on the spooky stuff.

I’m probably not going to do anything for Halloween, maybe watch Hocus Pocus because it’d be weird not to (it’s kinda become a tradition to watch it on/close to Halloween) and chill out. I was never a big Halloween person even before we were living through a pandemic where gathering in large groups is a no no.

Anyway, however you decide to mark Halloween I hope you have a great day/night, and if you’re not doing anything – hope you generally have a fab weekend!

Friday 56: The Good Girls by Sara Shepard

The Friday 56 is a weekly feature hosted by Freda’s Voice. The aim is to share a few sentences of a book (whether it’s one you’re currently reading or not) so other people might be enticed to pick it up.

Here’s the rules:
– Turn to page 56 or 56% in your ebook
– Find any sentence – or a few, just don’t spoil it
– Post it
– Add the URL of your post to the Linky on Freda’s most recent post

Julie just nodded, but Parker glared at the woman, puffing up her chest. “Actually, I was planning on setting fire to the house, thanks. And maybe doing heroin in your bathroom. That cool?”

That was from page 56 of the paperback edition of The Good Girls by Sara Shepard which I am currently reading.

The Spooky Books Tag

As blogtober draws to a close, it’s time for one more seasonal tag! The Spooky Book Tag was created by Shelby Masako and I’m going to do my best to not repeat any of my answers from previous tags I’ve done this month.

What goes bump in the night?: Name a book that has legitimately scared you while reading it.
I know I’ve mentioned Lirael in a previous tag for this kind of question but it’s still relevant. Maybe Safe as Houses by Simone van der Vlugt also deserves a mention as that was a different type of scary as it’s about a home invasion.

Jack O’ Lanterns and Classic Costumes: A book you always reach for during Halloween time.
I don’t have a spooky/horror book that I always pick up at this time of year. In fact, I cant remember the last time I reread a book (must be at least four years ago) and that’s something I’d like to rectify soon.

Black Cats and Magic Mirrors: A book you love that is laced with superstition and/or magic.
Again, I think I might’ve mentioned this series in a previous tag but I don’t care – The Magician’s House Quartet by William Corlett. There’s magic and secrets in the house and talking animals and an evil Magician’s assistant.

Witch’s Brew: Favourite witch character in any book/series
It’s easy to say Hermione Granger from Harry Potter but really, I think my favourite witch is Angela from the Inheritance Cycle. My first thought was Hermione because Angela is more than a witch, she’s a healer and maybe a seer and there’s so many layers to her that witch almost seems like a too simple term.

Ghouls and Ghosts: A book that still haunts you to this day (good or bad).
Allegiant by Veronica Roth. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Divergent trilogy but the ending of Allegiant sticks with me, mainly because I think it’s an incredibly ballsy move from the author and I kinda liked how things went down – even though I know a lot of people weren’t.

Haunted Graveyard: You’re all alone in a haunted graveyard, you get ONE book to give you comfort, which is it?
Hawkeye vs. Deadpool by Gerry Duggan and Matteo Lolli. The vast majority of comics featuring Hawkeye (especially the Clint Barton Hawkeye) bring me comfort but Hawkeye vs. Deadpool was just so much fun, it’d hard to be scared when revisiting that book.

The Undead: Favourite supernatural creatures to read about (i.e. vamps, zombies, werewolves, etc).
I don’t often read about supernatural creatures – the Cal Leandros series by Rob Thurman has a lot of them in there though. I think my favourites though are vampires, I think they’re the creature that authors can really put their own spin on.

In the dead of night: Pick a book with a black cover.
I feel like I’ve mentioned this book so much on my blog over the past few months, but I’ve got to pick The Sisters Grimm by Menna van Praag. It has a stunning cover and it’s just the sort of book I should be reading at this time of year as I think there’s magic and witches and mysteries, but I haven’t picked it up yet.

Non-Fiction November TBR

As well as November being Sci-Fi Month it’s also Non-Fiction November. It’s a readathon/challenge hosted by abookolive, steakuccion, Infinite Text, Curious Reader and The Book Bully and the main point of it is to read more non-fiction than you normally would that month.

There are four one-word prompts to help shape your TBR if you fancy using them. They are Time, Movement, Buzz and Discovery. You can interpret these anyway you want to, and you don’t have to use them.

I have 11 unread non-fiction books; more than I thought I did to be honest. I’ve picked out four books that I’d like to make a priority next month. Somewhat unintentionally it’s a mixture of books for my Read the World Project and books that are feminist.

What Would Boudicca Do?: Everyday Problems Solved by History’s Most Remarkable Women by E. Foley and B. Coates
This was a gift from my best friend. It looks like one of those fun non-fiction books where you can learn about real people but in a tongue in cheek way as it uses these interesting historical women as ways to give you advice on your own life. This could fit the “Discovery” prompt as I don’t really know anything about Boudicca or some of the other women included in it.

An African in Greenland by Tété-Michel Kpomassie
This will be my book for Togo in my Read the World Project. It’s Kpomassie’s autobiography. He discovered a book on Greenland when he was a teenager and from then knew he had to go there. An African in Greenland follows his journey from Togo to Greenland and his adventures among the Inuit. This could easily fit the “Movement” prompt.

Child Soldier by China Keitetsi
Another book for my Read the World Project and this one’s Uganda. I think this will be a very tough read as it’s an autobiography about Keitetsi’s life on Uganda and as a National Resistance Army child soldier. This could also fit for “Discovery” as I don’t

Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies) curated Scarlett Curtis
This is a collection of essays from a wide range of celebrities including, actors, writers and activists all talking about what feminism means to them and how they started to call themselves feminists. This would fit the prompt “Buzz” as it’s a book that I saw a lot of hype about when it was released a couple of years ago.

I think An African in Greenland and Child Soldier will be my priority during Non-Fiction November but I should be able to read the other two as well as they are essay collections rather than narrative non-fiction so I could read an essay or two a day.

Are you taking part in Non-Fiction November? What’s the last non-fiction book you read? I’ve read five non-fiction books so far this year and my favourite so far is Spain: The Inside Story of La Roja’s Historic Treble by Graham Hunter.

REVIEW: Vehicle 19 (2013)

Michael Woods (Paul Walker), a parolee, arrives in Johannesburg to reconnect with his ex-wife but when he unknowingly picks up a rental car that has kidnapped whistleblower Rachel Shabangu (Naima McLean) in the boot, he becomes entangled with the corrupt local police.

Vehicle 19 is one of those one location films and this one takes place in a car. It’s in a similar vein to Locke (2013) and Wheelman (2017) however with Vehicle 19 the camera never leaves the inside of the car. While Michael may briefly leave the car, the camera stays stationary. This technique is a double-edged sword really. It’s supposed to rack up tension as you are in a tight space with the main character with no escape, but equally some thing’s end up repetitive as you’re forced to see the action happening at a distance through the car windows.

Paul Walker does a good job carrying the film, giving a solid performance. His character wants nothing to do with Rachel and the trouble he’s now involved in and seeing him go from self-centred to determined to do what’s right feels like it’s earnt. Rachel and Michael’s dynamic ends up being really interesting and something I wish we’d seen more of. The fact that Michael is kind of a fish out of water works well too, both in terms of the politics of the city and just knowing about the layout of the city. He is clearly a skilful driver, but he doesn’t know Johannesburg at all so is often forced to ask for directions or go back on himself as he races through the streets.

Corrupt police officers are nothing new in film, but Vehicle 19 does manage to pull a few surprises with the genre. The car chases are often exciting though sometimes restrictive in terms of how the action is shown.

At just over 80 minutes Vehicle 19 does go by at a good pace and, after more character stuff at the beginning, the action beats are hit steadily. Vehicle 19 is a decent thriller and though its unusual filming style makes it stand out a little more than the generic action film it could’ve been, it’s still not something that’s super memorable. 3/5.

REVIEW: 30 Days of Night (2007)

After the Alaskan town of Barrow is plunged into darkness for a month, it is attacked by a bloodthirsty gang of vampires and survivors, led by Sheriff Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett), fight to survive the next thirty days until the sun comes up again.

30 Days of Night is a great vampire film and it’s also a great apocalyptic survival film. The film begins with many of the townsfolk moving away for the month as thirty days without sunlight is enough to put anyone on edge, nevermind throwing vampires into the mix. As people move out, Eben is called to investigate more and more weird occurrences and soon it becomes clear that something is trying to cut the town off from the rest of the world. When the sun goes down, it’s clear why that’s the case.

The film quickly sets up Eben as the lead and introduces various townsfolk and the people who are most important to him; his grandmother (Elizabeth McRae), his younger brother Jake (Mark Rendall) and his ex-wife Stella (Melissa George). As the sun sets and the vampires attack, things get very gruesome very quickly.

The initial attack on the town is brilliant. It’s very suspenseful and does the jump scares just right. There’s also a great overhead view of the town that shows the devastation these vampires are causing, pools of blood on the snow, people trying to escape before being struck down, and the echoes of screams.

The vampires themselves are very creepy and effective. They are all dressed really smartly but then they have pale skin, black eyes and a load of blood coating their faces and hands. Danny Huston plays the leader of the vampires and he is an intimidating presence whenever he’s on screen. Admittedly I often find Danny Huston menacing in films as I think I’ve only ever seen him play the bad guy, but adding fangs, long nails and blood into the mix makes him even more menacing.

There are time jumps, as seeing the whole thirty days would make a very long film, and it shows how time has passed with the growth of Josh Hartnett’s beard. The survivors have to decide between whether staying put for the thirty days would be their best option, or do they need to go out for supplies and maybe move elsewhere to be safer.

30 Days of Night is so effective because normally in vampire (or any monster) films, the humans only need to survive for one night, or generally a much shorter period of time than thirty days. The thirty days adds an extra layer of tension as there’s so many other things that could go wrong. The survivors could be discovered, they could turn on one another, they might run out of supplies – some of these elements could have been explored more but the ones it does touch on are good.

The performances are all great too, naturally the characters closer to Eben are given more to do and development than others, but there’s still some effective character moments. 30 Days of Night is an unsettling vampire/survival film, the score is eerie and adds to the whole creepy vibe of the story and the vampires themselves are some of the most lethal and scary ones I’ve seen for a while. 4/5.

REVIEW: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994)

When the brilliant but unorthodox Victor Frankenstein (Kenneth Branagh) creates life, it is far more powerful and gruesome than he imagined. After its creator turns his back on him, the Creature (Robert De Niro) escapes and swears revenge.

Much like the Dracula story, the tale of Frankenstein is one I know thanks to popular culture as I had not read the original book. While I knew how Dr Frankenstein reanimated the dead and it all went very wrong, the stuff about Frankenstein’s family, his upbringing, the intricacies to do with his experiments and the Creature was completely new to me.

Have to say I was rather surprised the film started with a crew of explorers running into an iceberg and their ship getting stuck on the ice. I did not know that was a part of the Frankenstein story at all. Still, it’s an eerie opening as there’s the threat of the elements the crew have to deal with before there’s weird noises and a strange figure appearing out of the snow.

As well as having the titular role, Kenneth Branagh also directed this film. His style is all over this with close ups of actors faces, spinning shots and dramatic zooming. The sets and costumes are lush and the house Frankenstein grows up in is suitably eerie when it needs to be thanks to the lighting choices.

Along with his over the top filming techniques, Branagh also gives some over the top acting. He says pretty much all of his lines with so much passion, even when a quieter reaction would better suit what’s happening. Branagh and Helena Bonham Carter’s chemistry is a bit hit and miss and her performance is just as grand.

Robert De Niro as the Creature is unrecognisable. The make up and prosthetics that bring that character to life are incredible and deserve that Oscar nomination. De Niro does well to portray the Creature in a sympathetic light as he is shunned by society and slowly tries to understand people and where he could possible fit with them.

The problem with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is that a lot of the time is spent waiting for something to happen. Especially when you know the basics of the story, you’re waiting for the monster to be created and then you’re waiting for everything to go wrong. The stuff with Victor and his friends and family just isn’t that interesting unfortunately.

All in all I think Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein could make a good double feature with Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Both are classic stories, with gorgeous sets and costumes and both are very dramatic and over the top. Unfortunately for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the exaggerated filming techniques and performances don’t work in its favour and it mostly ends up as a bit of slog to get through. 2/5.

BOOK BLOGGER HOP: If you could go trick-or-treating with your favourite book character, who would it be?

Book Blogger Hop

The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly feature hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, to find bookish blogs and to learn more about the bloggers themselves. You can find more info on the feature here.

This week’s question is: If you could go trick-or-treating with your favourite book character, who would it be?

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a proper favourite character from a book, but I think I’ve got two picks for this. The first would be Izzy from The Exact Opposite of Okay. I think she’d be great fun to go trick-or-treating with, she’d be full of jokes and would probably make an inventive costume. My second pick would be Locke Lamora from the Gentleman Bastards series. He’d be very good at the trick part of trick-or-treating.

Who would you want to go trick-or-treating with if you could?

WWW Wednesday – 21 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 I am currently reading
Jamilia by Chingiz Aïtmatov
I thought I would’ve finished this by the time I needed to post this WWW Wednesday but work got in the way so I’ll no doubt finish it tonight before bed. It’s a very short book at less than 100 pages and is set around World War One in a small village in the Russia/Kyrgyzstan area and is about a wife of a solider who is working the land while her husband is at war.

 

What I recently finished reading
The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed
This book was set during the LA Riots in 1992 and I thought it was really good. It’s thoughtful and impactful and while I didn’t always like the main character, I thought her confusion and impulsiveness was understandable. If you like The Hate U Give I’d recommend The Black Kids for something along a similar vein but is set in recent history and around real events.

 

What I think I’ll read next
The Good Girls by Sara Shepard
I read The Perfectionists last week and really enjoyed it and while I new it was a first book in a series I didn’t quite realise that it was going to end on such a cliffhanger so naturally I had to buy the sequel immediately. Definitely looking forward to seeing if/how the five teen girls prove their innocence for multiple murders.

The Autumn Tag

It’s time for another autumnal tag! You know I love a tag when I’m trying to post something every day of a month. This is the Autumn Tag and it’s created by Jenniely, do go check their blog out. Now onto the tag!

1. Hot Chocolate – what is your comfort book?
I’m not sure if I have a comfort book anymore as it’s been so long since I’ve read a book multiple times, no matter how much I love a book. Thinking about it, the only book I think that fits this description – even though I’ve only read it the once – is The Martian by Andy Weir. It was such a fun and hopeful story and I adore the film adaptation.

2. Pumpkin Carving – what is your favourite creative outlet?
I don’t think I’m that much of a creative person. Though I guess my blog and writing for JumpCut Online are my creative outlet. I enjoy writing reviews for books and films and just generally being organised and scheduling posts ahead of time.

3. Falling Leaves – changes that appear bad, but you secretly love?
(This one is a bit ambiguous; it can refer to your life or fictional changes in books & movies!)
In terms of books, I sometimes struggle with stories that have multiple point of views or have been from one characters perspective for the majority of it and then suddenly switches to someone else’s, but in the end I do end up liking seeing another side to things more often than not. I think I tend to like multiple POV stories more than most people.

4. Pumpkin Spiced Latte – something you love that others tend to judge
Having a weekend doing nothing and staying in your PJs all weekend? I’m sure everyone enjoys lazy weekends now and then, but I still feel a little judged sometimes when I either say before a weekend that I have no plans so I’m really looking forward to the weekend, or if after a weekend people ask what you got up to and then I’m like, “I slept and watched Netflix and/or read books?” Guess this is one I should lean not to get too caught up in what other people think.

5. Bonfire Night – what makes you explode with joy?
Oh boy, after the year that has been 2020, I’d definitely say the answer to that is seeing my friends, especially in real life. I haven’t seen my best friend of ten years since February due to us living in different cities and I cannot wait to see her again. And I think even generally before 2020 I loved seeing my friends as I’m lucky enough to have a lot of different groups of friends who live in different places, so I’m used to not seeing some of them for a while but now it feels extra weird that I can’t see some of them – like it’s almost exactly a year since I’ve seen my work wife!

6. Fright Night – favourite scary book or film
I am a wuss so have read or watched very few scary things. There’s a sequence in Lirael by Garth Nix that I still think is one of the scariest things I’ve ever read. No matter how many times I reread that series, that sequence still freaks me out.

7. Halloween candy – favourite thing to eat
When the nights get darker and longer, I seem to eat a lot more biscuits – especially chocolate chip cookies and chocolate digestives.

8. Scarves – your autumn ‘must have’ accessory
Well it’s obvious but I do love a good scarf. I’m also a big fan of fingerless gloves even though they’re not too practical. Note to self: I need to get new fingerless gloves as I seem to not have a complete pair anymore.

9. Fire – a book or film that burns your soul
A recent read that made me very happy at a deep an emotional level was Spain: The Inside Story of La Roja’s Historic Treble by Graham Hunter. I just loved reliving those six incredible years in Spanish football and learning things I didn’t know about people and matches that I’d watched.

10. Toffee apples – a book or film that seems one thing but really has a different inside
For book I’m going to say The Passage by Justin Cronin, mainly because I didn’t realise it was a first book in what turned out to be a trilogy when I was reading it, so as I was getting through the story and there were less and less pages for everything to be resolved I was really freaking out!

As for films, I’ll mention Personal Shopper as for some reason I thought it was going to be a full on horror/thriller and while it certainly has those elements it was a much more impactful film than I thought it’d be.

I tag anyone who facies doing this tag!