21 August 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Of Love and Other Wars by Sophie Hardach

Title: Of Love and Other Wars
Author: Sophie Hardach
Genre: Fiction, Romance, War
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 29th August 2013
Goodreads Summary: London, 1937. The profoundly moving story of a Quaker family and a Jewish family in love and at war during WWII.
At a rally in the Royal Albert Hall, two Quaker brothers, Paul and Charlie Lamb, sign a pledge of peace that only one of them will honour. Meanwhile, in a draughty Victorian mansion in Hampstead, Mr. Morningstar wonders why his wife, a crystallographer from dynasty of diamond cutters, turns into a cursing somnambulist at night, while their daughter, Miriam, comes home from her shifts at the munitions factory with her stockings inside out.
As the streets throng with khaki, the Lambs and the Morningstars must decide how to do good in a world transformed by evil. Should a scientist use her skills to maximise civilian casualties? Should a Quaker stand by as millions are murdered? And is it possible to love someone if you hate their convictions?
When the two families are torn apart by war, Paul is forced to choose between his conscience and the woman he loves.
Of Love and Other Wars is a profoundly moving tale of faith, longing, and decisions made in the split second of silence between bullets, whose repercussions last a lifetime. With distinctive flair and dazzling creative energy, Sophie Hardach pulls us into lives upended by betrayal, violence and passion.

{ Review }

Of Love and Other Wars attracted me because of its vibrant cover and the high praise from critics plastered all over the book jacket. I have to admit that it wasn't what I was expecting really as the quoted passage on the back of the book cover does not wholly reflect what this book is all about, despite being one of the most poignant passages from within so in this case, I really wouldn't judge this book solely by its cover. Of Love and Other Wars is made up of three parts, spanning between 1937 and 1945, the time of the Second World War. Whilst the main characters are said to be Paul and Charlie Lamb, I'd say that this book actually has at least six main characters, Paul, Charlie, Miriam, Esther, Max, Grace. The story is written in the third person, however, it alternates between three plot lines, that of Paul, Charlie and Miriam; Esther and Max; and Esther. All of these story lines overlap but at it's most basic level you could split it into three parts in this way. The main theme of Of Love and Other Wars is conscientious objection during World War II which is the refusal to bear arms  or to serve in the armed forces during a period of military conflict on moral or religious grounds. 

I absolutely flew through Of Love and Other Wars, and not just because it's a great read, there's something about it that makes it very 'readable', which is curious because the language is not simplistic, nor is the plot or the themes discussed. Throughout the first few passages of this book, I actually found myself looking up several words in the dictionary as they were related to either Quakers or diamond cutting, neither of which are topics that I'm particularly familiar with, so this book really is a learning experience right from the beginning to the end. The majority of the book seems more about exploring ideas rather than an unfolding plot, however, everything starts to come together at the end with lots of twists and turns that had me tearing through to the finale. This book isn't what I would call 'exciting', however, it is most certainly gripping and I found myself really connecting with the characters.

What's great about this book is that so many different view points are discussed. Sophie Hardach doesn't impose her own views upon the reader, she merely presents the views of her characters and allows the reader to decide for his or herself at the end of the novel. This book really makes you think about the issues concerning war, but from an angle that not many have explored before. I didn't particularly like all of the characters but seeing their ways of thinking develop throughout the novel as they experience various different things related to growing up and the war around them was still truly fascinating. Were these characters real, I'm not altogether sure that I would friends with many of them, however, I mostly certainly would respect them and their viewpoints a great deal. 

It does take some time to wrap your head around all the different characters, plot lines, viewpoints etc but by about a third of the way through, you find yourself settled into the world that the author has created and it's only upwards from there. I did struggle a fair bit in the first few chapters and I couldn't place certain characters as some of them seem to be set in different cities or time periods but as I said, it just takes some getting used to. As the events in this novel almost span over a decade, there are some time jumps in this novel, but miraculously, these are barely noticeable. The author goes into immense amount of detail over seemingly small events that, upon greater reflection, turn out to be rather large events and thus time is not linear, and does not need to be, in this story. 

If I could think of one word to describe this novel, difficult though that may be, I'd probably choose the word 'poignant'. Not all passages of this book were that impressive in terms of writing style and prose but every so often, I'd come across some of the most beautiful passages I have ever read. I wouldn't necessarily call this a romance novel despite the fact that a lot of the relationships between characters are of a romantic nature as Hardach manages to talk about love in way that isn't soppy in the slightest, but rather the sort of love that creeps up on, so as a reader you're not even really conscious of it until you're right in the middle of it. 

I have to admit that I didn't know that conscientious objection was even a thing before I read this novel. In the back of my edition of this book there was a short interview with the author who stated that one of the reasons that she wrote this novel is because she was fascinated by this idea, one that does not exist in Germany, where she comes from and I think that in itself proves that this is something that *everyone* should read. Although many serious and thought-provoking issues are discussed, this book isn't too heavy so don't shy away from it. 

All in all, I'd highly recommend Of Love and Other Wars to everyone. I firmly believe that this is a must-read as it is thought-provoking and moving novel that makes the reader really consider and explore his or her own ideas about war, an important issue at any time, in every country. You don't really feel the full impact of this novel until you've read the very last sentence and you take a second to reflect upon what the author has written. If you'd asked me what I thought of this novel as I was reading, I would've probably given it an average review but upon finishing it, I realised just how special this story is. Hardach mixes a gripping plot with beautiful writing to create a real modern masterpiece and if you haven't already read this book then I would urge you to as soon as possible! 

19 August 2014

FILM REVIEW: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

So I'm a little late to the party on this one but The Desolation of Smaug was just released on Netflix so I thought I'd better watch it. Although An Unexpected Journey was a very impressive film, I still firmly believe that The Lord of the Rings trilogy is much better, despite the fact that it was made over ten years prior to The Hobbit and with the release of the second instalment of The Hobbit, I still stand by that. Although perhaps more visually impressive, the use of computer generated effects is also much more obvious and things are less 'real' than in Lord of the Rings. What I do love about this, however, is the vibrancy that these effects bring to the film. Both The Desolation of Smaug and An Unexpected Journey are such colourful and vibrant films and this really stands out to me. Whether the scenes are full of dark magic, Smaug's orange fire or the green Shire the picture on screen always looks incredible. It's so nice to see familiar places from The Lord of the Rings trilogy made even more impressive by the use of modern technology, in addition to the fact that The Hobbit is set before LoTR thus these places are much 'younger' in this story anyway. 

In term's of plot, being the middle instalment I feel that this film was much more developed that An Unexpected Journey which did much for setting up the world of The Hobbit but not much for developing the plot. Of course, the big plot point that is introduced in this film is Smaug himself, a fearsome dragon who sleeps on a bed of Dwarf gold. The voice of Smaug is absolutely perfect, giving off an incredibly dangerous and evil feel and every time Smaug spoke it sent shivers down my spine. Benedict Cumberbatch has proved that even when you can't see him on screen, he's still incredibly talented. There are a few different plot strands running through this film but they all fit together nicely meaning that there's very little room for confusion and it's always quite clear what is going on. Although I have read the book, it was a very long time ago and I'm glad to see that it's still easy to keep up with the plot even if you don't have any prior knowledge of Middle Earth or Tolkein's world. That said, you will almost certainly have to watch this film after having seen An Unexpected Journey otherwise the full impact of the quest that Bilbo is on will not be realised. Despite the fact that there's nothing explicitly 'funny' in this trilogy, there are numerous humorous elements throughout which help to stop this film from becoming a horribly, dark tale.

The cast in this trilogy is very strong with numerous famous names and a few familiar faces from Lord of the Rings, most notably Legolas. Although Legolas is supposed to be younger in The Hobbit, somehow the effects make him look like he has aged instead which is disappointing. I've found that Legolas' character seems to be rather different in The Hobbit, almost more cold than his later self in LoTR and I don't know whether this was intentional or not. It is a shame that we don't see more of either Gandalf or Legolas in this film as it is these subtle ties to the original LoTR trilogy that make these films all the better for existing Tolkein fans. Ian McKellen's Gandalf is much the same as he is in LoTR so obviously he is a superb character the little screen time that he has in this film still makes a mark. 

Martin Freeman continues to play Bilbo Baggins and he does so just as well as he did in the first film. He makes an excellent Bilbo managing to be both a bumbling idiot and an incredibly intelligent hobbit both at the same time. His character is brings both humour and humility to this film the audience really roots for him. Of course, this trilogy is all about Bilbo's adventure and Jackson has managed to perfectly balance the film between focusing on Bilbo himself and the rest of his comrades, who are also incredibly important. The entire group of Dwarfs are also made up of very good actors, though it is difficult to distinguish between different Dwarfs but as a collection you can't help but love them. It is particularly nice to see Stephen Fry in this film who only has a few short minutes of screen time but he also makes a lasting impression.

The action sequences are not just made up of mind-numbing fights but highly exciting and dramatic scenes. During a particularly stressful fight between some orcs and elves I was literally sat with my hands covering my mouth, with my heart pounding for the safety of the elves. I found myself incredibly drawn into this film, much more than I thought I would be and the whole process of watching this trilogy is quite an experience. 

This film is very, very, very long. Almost three hours long, in fact. It is a little slow to get started, but once you've made it through the first 45 minutes or so, you stop noticing time passing as it's just action packed amazingness for the next two hours. There are action scenes, romantic scenes, humorous scenes, adventurous scenes, fight scenes - everything that you could wish for in a Tolkein adaptation. There wasn't a single moment in the second half of this film that I was bored in and I was very disappointed when this film came to a close. The way that this story has been cut into three pieces is absolutely perfect for giving audiences enough of a story per film, but leaving them excited enough about the next instalment to ensure that they return to the cinema for the next part. I cannot wait for the third, and final, film in this trilogy to be released as these films are moving from strength to strength and I'm sure that the finale will be stupendous. If you haven't watched The Desolation of Smaug yet then you absolutely must. It is a fantastic film that spreads across so many different genres that it's impossible not to enjoy or be drawn in by it. All in all, I'd highly recommend this film (and trilogy) as it's an excellent example what great acting and special effects can offer audiences. 

17 August 2014

Showcase Sunday #48

Showcase Sunday is a weekly meme hosted by Books, Biscuits and Tea. Its aim is to showcase your newest books and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders this week. If you'd like to join, click here.

{ Thoughts }

So I finally got a new library card! Popped into the library to pick up "Crow's Revenge" by Marcus Alexander, the first book in the "Keeper of the Realms" series, as I won a signed copy of the second book, "The Dark Army", on Goodreads. Whilst I was there I also picked up "The History Boys" by Alan Bennett which I've been meaning to read for a while (I absolutely love the film!) and some other plays by Oscar Wilde including "The Importance of Being Earnest". Also, today Tesco is giving away free copies of "The Hundred-Foot Journey" with every copy of The Daily Telegraph and who doesn't love free books?! The film adaptation is being released soon and it stars Meryl Streep though I have to admit, I hadn't heard of it before. I've also finally started on my university reading list, which I guess is a mild improvement upon last year. I've got way more novels and plays to read this year but I can't read any of the French!

What's everyone else received this week? Let me know in the comments below! 

Review: Fever Nurse costume

So I was recently offered the opportunity to review a fancy dress costume from Jokers' masquerade, an online fancy dress seller. Being a university student, there's always an opportunity to dress up so I snapped up this opportunity and bagged myself a Fever Nurse outfit. 

joke.co.uk sell a wide variety of costumes for men, women and children from celebrities to Halloween costumes, from sexy to silly costumes at affordable prices. They sell lots of individual items as well as costume packages so whatever fancy dress event you're going to, you should check them out! 
So what's included? 
Included in this bag is just the nurse dress and headpiece (note: not the hold ups, gloves or eyepatch as displayed in the picture). This is all you need really as when put together it's pretty obvious that you're supposed to be a nurse, even if the dress is pink. The headband has the tendency to flop backwards a bit but it's still pretty clear that you're wearing a nurse headband when this happens so it's not really an issue. 
So I ended up getting a size 'M' which is supposedly a UK 12-14 so this is a little big for me (I usually wear size 10). This wasn't really a problem though as these costumes are clearly meant to fit a large range of sizes and have designed their dresses perfectly for this. Although it is a little lose, it's not really noticeable at all. My friend who is a UK size 6 also tried this dress on and it didn't even look that bad on her (though noticeably baggy at the back). Fancy dress size guides are usually horribly inaccurate but they seemed to have got it spot on with this range. From my own experience, I'd say that if you're unsure, order the size bigger rather than smaller, though this dress is made from a very stretchy material so if you'd rather this dress was tight, then size down. 

I know that everything in the 'Fever' ranges is supposed to be sexy but this costume is still shorter than I imagined it would be. The tutu layering of the skirt means that the skirt poufs out quite a lot at the bottom which makes it even shorter and I can't really bend over when wearing this outfit without revealing what underwear I'm wearing. I'm not even that tall, I'm only 5'6"! I'm not sure I'd wear this costume without any tights or at least something a little bit more substantial underneath and I'd probably recommend buying a pair of cotton hot pants or something just as an extra precaution. 

This costume is made from 100% polyester which doesn't sound like it's of the best quality but I think that quite the opposite is true. The material is stretchy and flexible and I can't see how you'd end up ripping it or anything like that. The pink straps are made from a thin, silky material so there's no chance of them rubbing your shoulders. The straps are the perfect length so that the top of the dress leaves just a hint of cleavage without giving too much away and this also means that they don't slip off which is great. The zip goes up the left hand side of the costume but comes far enough down that it's not a struggle to get into at all, which is a relief. 

The only real 'problem' I see with this costume is that the tutu layer underneath the skirt is rather scratchy which is a bit annoying if you've got bare legs. There is another layer of material between the tutu material and your legs but it's slightly shorter than the netting hence the slight scratching. 

Final thoughts...
All in all, I am very pleased with my nurse costume. I have tried to really pick apart all the details of this costume in this post but as far as fancy dress costumes go, this is definitely one of the better ones in terms of authenticity, fun and quality! Although the dress is very short, it's not too low cut which means that you don't come off looking too inappropriate and it's the perfect balance between 'slutty' and sexy. This is the perfect costume for a fancy dress party if you're looking to dress to impress but have a laugh at the same time! Also, there aren't many pink nurse outfits out there so this one is extra cute! I'll definitely be taking my costume with me to uni next term as it's a classic costume for pretty much any dress up party. 

Find more doctor's and nurse outfits here

Many thanks to joke.co.uk for providing me with this costume for review! 

*Product was received from free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

15 August 2014

The Freshers’ Guide to University Life On Screen

The results are in and teenagers all over the country now know whether or not they have secured a place at their university of choice where they hope to continue their quests for knowledge and meaning that will more than likely turn into endless, trashy club nights. Freshers’ minds are no doubt full of questions, such as the ever troubling – Will I make friends? But more importantly - What’s the nightlife like?

If you’re a soon-to-be fresher, here is a guide to some films and television programmes from the last 5 years that will ‘accurately’ prepare you for what’s in store.  

Fresh Meat
Fresh Meat represents some of the very best of British comedy and I haven’t met a single person from our generation who hasn’t found it hilarious. If Fresh Meat characters were colleges, Kingsley would be Mansfield (friendly, fairly liberal, kinda left wing), Oregon would be St Johns (loaded, but conceals it’s wealth behind those walls), Josie would be Jesus (she is Welsh after all), Sabine would be Merton (‘it’s where fun goes to die’), JP would be Christ Church (red. trousers.), Howard would be Corpus Christi (small, unnoticed, situated in Christ Church’s shadow), Vod would be Wadham (don’t think this one needs explaining).

“First year is beer year. Third year is fear year. But second year is spear year.”

(Good news – it’s on Netflix)

See my thoughts on Fresh Meat season 1 here.

21 and Over
Asian kid gone wild. This is the film for any impending fresher who had really strict parents growing up. The newfound freedom at uni will no doubt be far too much for them to handle and they’ll go completely craycray. It’s set in America so, of course, the legal drinking age is 21, but pretend this film stars a bunch of 18 year olds and it’s spot on.

“Yeah, she’s cute, but she’s not my type.”
“What is your type?”
“Girls who want to have sex with me”

(Also on Netflix)

Monsters University
Being a ‘Mike’ (Grade A nerd) and ending up with a ‘Sully’ (lads lads lads!) as your roommate is probably every fresher’s worst nightmare but you’ll grow to love your corridor/staircase/flat (probably). This story teaches you that nothing should get in the way of you and your bros and that despite your differences you can make friends with anyone! (Cheesy, I know – it’s Disney). Unfortunately nothing quite as exciting as the Scare Games happens at university, but we have University Challenge and that’s basically the same thing, right?

“Imagine a university…”
“Where I can be unique in a sea of thousands”
“Where I can learn to learn”
“and learn what I love”

- Said no one ever

The Social Network
You can only hope that you’ll be creating something quite as amazing as Facebook during your time at university. Prospective E&Mers who think this is going to be the story of your university years, I’m sorry to break this to you, but that probably isn’t going to happen. When you leave university you’re likely to be broke, alcoholic, and to top it all off you’re going to have to look for a ‘real’ job in ‘real’ world.

“I need to do something substantial into order to attract the attention of the clubs.”
“Because they’re exclusive. And fun. And they lead to a better life.”

The Inbetweeners 2
Finally, for those of you off on your gap yahs before heading to university, here’s what you’ve got to look forward to! You’ll probably have plans to travel far, far away from dreary old England, maybe even as far as Australia like Jay, but hopefully you’ll have something more meaningful planned than hunting for ‘klunge’.

“Everyone knows the backpacking girls are the loosest. That’s why it’s called a gap year”


These are just a few of my top picks for films and series to watch before heading off to uni. Of course there are tonnes of other student-based series worth noting: Legally Blond, American Pie,  Starter for 10, Animal House, Greek and more!


Congratulations to all those who made their offers! Are you off to university this year? If so, where are you going and what will you be studying? I'll be going into my second year in October - time flies! 

10 August 2014

Showcase Sunday #47

Showcase Sunday is a weekly meme hosted by Books, Biscuits and Tea. Its aim is to showcase your newest books and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders this week. If you'd like to join, click here.

{ For review }

{ Thoughts } 

This is actually an accumulation of stuff that I've received over the last few months that I simply haven't had time to post about! Last Thursday I attended what I was to find out was the penultimate Spinebreakers meeting. *CRY* Yep, you heard me, Spinebreakers is winding down. For those of you that don't know, Spinebreakers was a collaboration between Penguin Books and Livity, a youth marketing agency, who used to provide review copies to teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18. It makes me incredibly sad to say goodbye to Spinebreakers and I used to love getting YA review copies, attending the Spinebreakers meetings and the numerous bookish opportunities that were offered to us Spinebreakers! I managed to pick up a copy of Will Grayson, Will Grayson at the last meeting which I'm so excited to read as I love John Green and I've heard lots of good things about this book! Pretty much all of the books in this haul are books that have had a fair amount of hype surrounding them around their release dates but I, shamefully, still haven't read any of them. Hopefully you'll see some more reviews over the next few weeks! 

What has everyone else received recently? Anyone read and reviewed any of the above books? If so, leave your links below and I'll check them out!! 

Giveaway coming soon, so keep your eyes peeled ;) 

6 August 2014


What are they? 
According to Squishable: "They're giant round fuzzy stuffed animals. Hug them.", and to be honest, I couldn't put it any better myself. They are literally just massive balls of fluff that come in three different sizes in the UK: 3", 7" and 15". Pictured above is my 15" Squishable Narwhal and it's the best thing ever. I picked the Narwhal because it's one of the cutest, in my opinion, and my friends and I are trying to collect all the different animals between us. Other animals available include: a fox, a penguin, an owl, a pink owl, a hedgehog, a dragon, a corgi, a manatee, an octopus, a panda, a peacock, a pink kitty, a yeti, a 'worrible', a kitten, a unicorn, a T-Rex, a werewolf, a moose and a sea turtle! If you're not into animals, you could get a cinnamon bun, a cupcake or even an Android! The best thing is that Squishable are constantly updating their range and if you have a look at the American website you can see how much potential there is for the UK site! 

Who are they for?
Anyone! It's impossible not to have fun with a Squishable no matter how old you are! I first heard about Squishables from my University friends and they've literally spread like wildfire across our colleges. Yes, we're 19 year olds, and we're obsessed with Squishables! We've already amassed an impressive collection including a werewolf, a pink owl, a manatee, a panda, a narwhal, a hedgehog and a moose! Of course, Squishables are probably aimed at those who under 18 years old but we're all 'adults' now and we love them too! I cannot even begin to explain to you the amount of joy my Squishable Narwhal brings me so I can only imagine how ecstatic I would be had I received one of these when I was under 10 years old. This is the ideal gift for a child or anyone who's still young at heart! 

What's good about them?
They're. Just. So. Soft. And. Squishy. Everything about a Squishable is the best thing about it! Whilst they look pretty big in the pictures, it's not until it arrives that you can fully appreciate just how large and round Squishables really are. I can comfortably fit my arms around my Squishable which makes it the perfect size for squishing. As they're perfectly round, fluffy and squishy there are virtually no hazards associated with them so they're perfectly safe for your children to play with, even if they're very young (though not for children under 3 years old). All the Squishables are incredibly cute - my friend was given the werewolf squishable as a joke for her birthday because it is 'ugly' but (somehow) it's actually still pretty cute in real life somehow. On a slightly more serious note, having seen and played with a large variety of Squishables, it is clear that these toys are very well made and even after much use they still retain their squishiness and softness.

What's not so good about them? 
I don't think I can think of a single thing that is wrong with a Squishable. They are fairly pricey I guess, a 15" Squishable will set you back £35, but luckily for you, I can offer you a 10% discount by using the referral link below: 

Final thoughts... 
Whether you're six years old or sixty years old, there's bound to be a Squishable out there for you! It's hard to explain just how much joy a Squishable can bring to your life and I can't really put my finger on what it is about them exactly, but everyone who's come across them falls in love with them immediately! I cannot emphasise just how worth it these Squishables are. You can play with them, use them as a pillow, throw them around, even use them as massive stress balls if life's getting you down - the possibilities are endless!  There's free delivery for orders over £60 so team up with a friend and enjoy! 

Finally, here's a selfie I took with my Squishable Narwhal! 

*This product was purchased at a discount from Squishable.co.uk in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

30 July 2014


Besson tries and fails (again)

Luc Besson’s films haven’t really received many good reviews over the past few years and unfortunately his latest release, Lucy, does nothing to change that fact. Starring both Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman, this film had the potential to be pretty darn great, but it fell short at just about every hurdle. The film follows the story of Lucy, a student who is forced into becoming a drug mule with a packet of a new drug, CPH4, sewn into her. Her passage takes a turn for the worse when she is violently attacked, causing the drugs packet inside of her to burst, releasing very large amounts of the drug, which increases the user’s brain function capacity, into her bloodstream.  Lucy immediately begins to develop powerful mental talents such as telekinesis, the ability to absorb information instantaneously and mental time travel amongst other things.  

Lucy seems to have passed under the radar in terms of popular summer film releases, which surprised me upon hearing about it, but doesn’t surprise me at all now that I’ve seen it. Whilst the plot is intriguing and there are some superb special effects, the two don’t quite mesh together and it all starts to crumble the minute the film gets going. At only 89 minutes long, there isn’t really any time for anything to be properly developed, be it the characters or the plot and quite frankly the last third of the film literally makes no sense at all. Typical of Besson’s films, there are lots of cool special effects and the whole film is very ‘visual’, but the attempt to combine snazzy action sequences and exploding visuals with a complicated story line about the capacity of the human brain results in a huge muddle (a beautiful muddle, but a muddle nevertheless).

I’d say that a lot of people don’t often fully comprehend the complicated scientific theories behind these sorts of films; however, enough information to support a basic understanding of what is going on would be ideal. Unfortunately, Besson does not seem to think the same, leaving watchers completely baffled as to what exactly is going on for all 89 minutes of this film.  

One of the main problems with this film is that it was just too ambitious. It has been said that in Besson’s ‘Statement of Intent’ he compared the film to Nolan’s Inception. Really, Besson? This film seems lost and misguided, unsure of where it’s going and what it’s trying to be. At several points throughout the film the audience was laughing but I certainly wouldn’t classify this film as a comedy. Whilst at the beginning this seemed like a serious thriller, it swiftly turned to meaningless action sequences reminiscent of Besson’s Hitman. The film’s one saving grace would be that Scarlett Johansson kicks some serious ass and there’s a real ‘girl-power’ vibe throughout. The acting is great but without a coherent plot to support it, it all goes to waste.

Indeed, Lucy has received very mixed reviews from critics since its release just under a week ago but a lot of those reviews tend to be along the lines of ‘it’s better than expected’ which doesn’t equal ‘worth watching’. All in all, Lucy is a film that had the potential to be something great but poor execution has led it astray and consequently the overall feeling is just one of confusion and disappointment.  

7 July 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Landline
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Publisher: Orion Books
Publication Date: 31st July 2014
Goodreads Summary: Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now.

Maybe that was always besides the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

{ Review }

Landline wasn't at all what I expected it to be. I expected this to be a romantic young adult book but what I got was a lesson in life and in love. This story is written from the perspective of Georgie McCool, a thirty-something woman who is married with two children. She's busy trying to make it as the script writer for a major Television show but in the meantime she's let her family life slide. It's nearing Christmas day in 2013 and Georgie finally gets the call that she, and her partner (and best friend) Seth, have been waiting for. A major television producer wants their show. The problem is, this means Georgie has got a week to whip up four episodes worth of content, during which time she's supposed to be celebrating Christmas in Omaha with Neal, her husband, and his family in Omaha. She tells Neal that she can't go and to her surprise, he takes the kids and leaves without her. Thinking she's really blown it this time, Georgie ends up back in the comfort of her childhood home, but when she calls Neal from her old telephone, it's not her Neal that picks up, but a Neal from twenty years ago. Georgie has somehow managed to communicate with her husband from the past, but is unsure of what she should do with this power. 

Although this story sounds like it is mainly about Georgie being glued to a phone that is somehow connected to the past, that's not what this book is about at all. Now thinking about it, this book is very simple. It basically details the antics of Georgie McCool from December 17th through to Christmas Day. Taking place over a mere nine days, I feel like I've lived a lifetime with Georgie. Rowell has seamlessly weaved bits from the past into a story that takes place in the present in such a way that you don't even realise it's happening. There are rather a lot of books emerging on the market right now that involve either time travel or the past and present colliding and Landline is definitely one of the forerunners in this new craze. 

I am thoroughly amazed at the author's ability to capture the mind of her protagonists. In my review of Eleanor & Park, also by Rowell, I noted how impressed I was by her insight into the mind of a teenage girl, given that, obviously, she is no longer a teenage girl. The same sort of thing applies to Landline, I am thoroughly amazed at how Rowell has captured the thoughts of Georgie McCool, a thirty-something mother and wife, though in this case, Rowell is both. Georgie's narrative sounds completely authentic and she's not a perfect character, but she is wholly human. I am so tired of reading novels about perfect heroins or people that we should 'aspire' to be like when I'd much rather be reading about, for want of a better phrase, the girl next door. I am an eighteen year old girl; I don't know what it's like to be a wife or a mother but I could still wholeheartedly relate to Georgie. I thin there's a part of Georgie in every human being, a part of each person who has no idea what they're doing in life, so this book could be enjoyed by anyone of any gender, age or race. 

What's amazing is that this story wasn't sappy in the slightest. Yes, it is predominantly about recapturing romance and love, but somehow this doesn't overpower the story. Georgie's story didn't make me cry nor did it give me butterflies in my stomach, but there was something about it that made me want to keep reading. This book was nice. Not in a bad way, but in the best possible way. Nice has become a somewhat pejorative adjective so some of you may be confused as to why I'm using it to describe this book that I'm speaking about with so much praise, but reading this book really was a nice experience. I read this book in one sitting, but I didn't 'speed' through it, it was more of an amble really, a pleasant walk through Rowell's words. There are so many quotable passages from this story that it was simply impossible for me to note them all down. Every few pages I would have to set my book down and reflect for a few seconds on what I had just read. There is something profoundly true and moving about this Rowell's writing and he made me see love and life in a completely different way. 

Curiously, not all loose ends are tied up at the end of this novel, and for once, this didn't bother me! The endings of novels are a constant source of bother for me, but I was actually really content when I finished reading Landline. Rowell doesn't give us an answer for everything, but I found that I didn't need one, which, ironically, was something I learnt from reading this book. This book teaches you about how to approach love, family and life but it doesn't present Georgie's actions as the only way forwards. There are lots of ifs and buts along the way but I never felt like the author was imposing her opinions on the matter onto the reader which gives you a certain freedom to interpret this book how you wish. Rowell throws a different light onto scenarios that countless authors before her have explored and I feel like I'm looking at the future in a slightly different way now. 

All in all, Landline is a throughly good read, an inexplicably unputdownable tale that is impossible not to enjoy. This is something that everybody needs to read before carrying on with their lives because I firmly believe that every reader will carry away with them something profound and enlightening from Rowell's work. 

Available in UK bookstores from the 31st July 2014.

10 June 2014

FILM REVIEW: 22 Jump Street

I had serious doubts about this film from the second I sat down to watch it. From the outset it’s clear that this film is going to follow the same line that the first film did with very little variation, but stick with it because directors Lord and Miller will show you how good sequels can be.

Following their ‘success’ in the 21 Jump Street program, Schmidt and Jenko are back with a new assignment – they’re going to college. Their job is to find the supplier of a new drug, WHYPHY (pronounced ‘wifi’), which is spreading quickly across campus and has caused the death of a student already. The plot line is pretty much exactly the same as its precursor, 21 Jump Street, except the explosions are bigger and the jokes are funnier.

Neither Jenko nor Schmidt have matured in the slightest since their first assignment, which allows Channing Tatum and Noah Hill to be as silly as they like. Tatum shows off his character’s fearless and foolish attitude, scaling walls, jumping off buildings, getting shot (yes, again), whilst Hill reminds us what it’s like to be desperately unfit and uncoordinated. All things considered, Schmidt and Jenko shouldn’t really be friends and yet they have what is possibly the most beautiful bromance that Hollywood has ever offered us. This pair works so well together with their characters’ personalities each bringing something different to the table, but it’s when the two are combined that the real magic happens. The slight twist in this film is that Jenko and Schmidt’s relationship starts to wane under the pressure of the social hierarchy at college, which just makes it all the more obvious that this pair should never be apart.

It’s not just Tatum and Hill providing comedy gold, but the impressive supporting cast as well. We see much more of Ice Cube than in the previous film and there’s one particularly memorable scene involving green beans and a very, very angry Ice Cube. I can’t say more without revealing this film’s best moment so you’ll have to see it yourself to find out more. If that doesn’t tempt you then Jillian Bell’s rendition of a vicious Barbie doll sure as hell should.

There are numerous ‘in-jokes’ throughout the film which gives the impression that script writer Michael Bachall is having his fun with us.  These references are subtly blended into this film in such a way that you’re not sure whether it really is Bachall talking directly to us, but it is. This film doesn’t take itself very seriously, but it sticks to know what it’s best at and repeats. The jokes are not forced in the slightest and this film simply oozes effortless comedy value. The jokes are somewhat repetitive, but miraculously, this doesn’t grate on you, they just get funnier every time. There were a few occasions where I couldn’t help but massively cringe at the script but these moments were rare and infrequent.

For those of you who are fans of the first film but are afraid of 22 Jump Street ruining your fond memories of Schmidt and Jenko, give this film a shot – you wont regret it. Remodelling the exact same story is difficult, but rest assured that Lord and Miller have outdone themselves once again - this isn’t anything like the disappointment that was The Hangover Part II (and Part III for that matter).

Make sure you stay until the very end of the film where there’s a series of mock scenarios for future films, up until around 41 Jump Street – the perfect end to this smashing action-comedy.