Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

I just watched this film and didn’t quite know what to make of it.

I usually enjoy films like this; sweet and romantic, with vivid imagery and significant conversations.

This one fell a little flat, somehow. Maybe it was because I grew up in the Middle East. One of my closest friends at school was Yemeni. I was submerged in the Arabian culture, and even met plenty of bedouins.

The thing that stands out about these people is that they are intrinsically tough, but a lifestyle of riches and ease has made them softer. Their natures are harsh, but they are the most generous, warm and hospitable people I have ever met. The desert folk are certainly not as affectionate as, say, the Lebanese or the Syrians, or even the Moroccans. However, they have a charm of their own, a charm which is years of strife in the heat and strong family connections and a deep sense of self-less generosity.

Salmon fishing in the Yemen is a story about a sheikh who wants to bring salmon fishing to his people in Yemen, a scientist who strongly opposes the absurd notion of taking British salmon to a torrid country, and the young woman who works for the sheikh, and plays a large part in persuading the scientist (Dr. Alfred Jones) to help make the project happen.

Essentially, this is a love story. The story of a scientist in a dead-end marriage, a young woman who has promised herself to a British soldier whom she barely knows, and a sheikh intent on changing his homeland to make it better for his people and join the tribes together.

Growing up in the Middle-East, the whole tribe thing was very much a real situation. My husband, who also grew up there, bore the brunt of it. He went to an all-boys government school, populated by the sons of bedouins, and if you looked a certain way, or talked differently, you were bullied. If you were friends with a boy with that particular surname, then the boys of another surname would harass you and attack you. He was called ‘Bush’ because he was white, and came from England, and the boys hated ‘Bush’ because Bush bombed other countries. He had to survive by mocking them and their ways, and learning how to fight. Only when he fought them, was he accepted as their equal. It was ultimately tribal, and small boys learned from older boys who learned from their parents.

On the girls side, it was less violent and more catty. It was more bragging about how many princesses they know and who’s mother was friends with which princess. If a girl was from a revered tribe, the other girls would treat her royally. For me, it was disgusting, and I wanted no part of it. For that, I was made to feel like a ratty little girl from the slums who sweats. Ugh, how could she sweat?! How undignified. Look at her, let’s ignore her because she is not as pretty as us and her hair is not straight. Look at her uniform, and my goodness, she uses the same school bag every year?! That was honestly the reason why a lot of girls shunned me or looked down on me. They all followed fashion trends when it came to accessories and because my parents were British and working class, they didn’t see fit to waste money on a new bag when I already had a perfectly useful one. So while all the other girls had their gleaming, satin trim Lulu Catty bags, I walked in with my square pattern, solid bag coloured a drab brown.

Of course, as I grew older, and my little enemies became my very close friends, because bags no longer mattered and deep down, these girls were wonderful and had deep, understanding personalities. I am still in contact with a few of them and they are some of the truest friends I have ever had. I learned that tribal feuds were very real, but also not as nuanced as the days of yore because everybody’s lifestyle had changed.

The point is, of course, that Salmon Fishing in the Yemen portrayed a glorified and unrealistic Arab sheikh. Even when they were speaking with each other, I had to laugh. Every man had a different dialect, and some were speaking Standard Arabic, which is like Shakespeare to desert-folk. They only use it for poetry and when they recite the Qur-an. Literally nobody, ESPECIALLY not a bedouin, speaks like that. I know I am nitpicking. I know. But for me, it dimmed the magic of the story somewhat.

Then we move on to the story itself. The plot was actually wonderful. It was a story of survival, faith, a merging of cultures, acceptance and ultimately, of course, love. If you took the love equation out of it all, the story would have been magnificent. However I think the filmmakers tried way too hard. They romanticised the sheikh to an absurd level. I found it hard to buy his character, namely because it was a version designed to fit the Western ideals of good and bad. It wasn’t true to Yemen or the Arabs.

I felt there was no chemistry between the lead actor (Obi Wan in the prequel series! Ewan McGregor) and actress (Emily Blunt, who is brilliantly beautiful, I have to say). I didn’t see why they had to fall in love, they basically had nothing in common and certainly nothing real to talk about. Blunt’s character was grieving for her army boyfriend throughout their ‘courtship’, so falling for Dr. Jones seemed vastly inappropriate and exceedingly uncomfortable, especially when her boyfriend was miraculously found alive. Dr. Jones said some dubious things to him, and it really didn’t go down well for me or add to his character. Not to mention that he was already married!? I didn’t like how he left his wife, sending her a text saying ‘it’s for the best.’ That was cruel and harsh. If there had been a real reason to be so horrid, it would have made sense, but to me, marriage is sacred, and one could at least make a show of trying, rather than scarpering at the call of the first attractive young woman. It was ridiculous and cheap.

To be honest, I didn’t feel invested in the story. The dialogue was dry and tried too hard to appeal to emotions, ultimately failing to convince me of anything.

I heard this film was based on a book, but frankly I have no interest in reading it. Who knows, it might be brilliant, but I just didn’t buy it. I hate that sometimes other cultures are ‘Westernised’ to fit into the Western ideal or understanding. They are romanticised and made to seem ethereal and magical, when in reality they are just other people living their lives just like we are.

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Anne with an E.

I started watching the recently released Netflix show, with high hopes because of how beloved Anne of Green Gables is to me. The previous TV film and spin off series was captivating and mostly true to the books, if you disregard ‘The Continuing Story’.

I understand that all TV shows and productions are adaptations of original sources, and are to be seen as interpretations, not ‘real life versions of written work,’ no matter how desperately we want them to be. I don’t like watching an adaptation which has been changed drastically to demonstrate another person’s interpretation, merely because I love an original piece of work and don’t like to see that work marred by another, more morbid piece, masquerading as the original source. Do you understand me? I loved Montgomery’s Anne because she was Montgomery’s Anne, and I didn’t like Moira Walley-Beckett’s Anne because it is a fan fiction Anne. Moira would have been better off creating an entirely different character with a similar story, but I guess that is not how adaptation works.

Anyway. I began watching the show, and from the opening scenes I decided that actually, I was peeved and irritated and this was not for me. What first got me was the speech. Anne spoke very much like Megan Follows did, in terms of language applied, however her intonation and expression was highly modern, reeking of the millennial generation and its snarky, questioning lilt. I disliked that so I began to skip through the whole series.

Anne with an E is extremely morbid. People have said it is a good show because it dealt with ‘PTSD, rape and gender equality in the first few episodes’ (reference). Anne appears in this show to deal with her new life as a victim of abuse, suffering extreme PTSD and shrouding all her previously lighthearted ‘scrapes’ in a darkness only alluded to in the books.

This bothers me because this generation seems to be fixated on darkness and illness and pain, thinking that these things and social issues need to be represented on TV shows and films. While that makes sense, it also is worthy to note that not everything needs to be about social justice. One can enjoy the vitality of Anne of Green Gables, and learn some wonderful morals, without being reminded that she suffered in her past.

The greatest thing about Anne was that she never let her suffering determine who she was. She overcame it with positivity and love, she grew and transformed into a sensible and wonderfully strong and able young woman because she was loved when she came to Green Gables. She found a home, and solace, and the books were very much focused on the vibrant characters she encountered and who, essentially, made her eventually who she was; a brilliant mother and a wise and accomplished woman. Completely different from the homely, carroty chatterbox with an overly fanciful nature with a knack of getting into trouble that she was when she first arrived on the scene.

I don’t see anything wrong in viewing Anne as a survivor of mental and physical abuse, because, ultimately, that is exactly what she was. I know that this series is meant to allow the viewer into the deeper, darker recesses of Anne’s brain, because in the books we only ever saw Anne in the third person.

Montgomery wrote about Emily Starr, through Emily’s own eyes and words, in Emily of New Moon and the sequels, and in there we do see some darkness and hints of abuse and more adult themes, I suppose. However, Anne, for me, was a focus on the love, light and beauty in the world. I want it to remain so, and for that reason I will not be watching the new Netflix adaptation. Anne is the voice of my childhood, and there are some things that shouldn’t be tainted through adult eyes, and Anne is the ultimate of these things for me.

If you do watch it, I hope you enjoy it, as it seems to be well-made with love for Montgomery’s original work.

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Girls is an Abhorrent TV Show

Girls is a TV show which debuted in April 2012, and became critically acclaimed for its raw nature, ‘refreshing tone’ and original, if dry humour, as it explored a group of young girls in their twenties, trying to make something of their lives in New York city and making a tremendous amount of mistakes along the way.

I came across the show in 2015 and honestly, I was shocked into watching it. It was different from other TV shows, it was addicting in a way for me because it not only explored experiences but delved into the raw feelings and emotions people work so hard to keep hidden, but which add dimension to motives. I didn’t find the jokes humorous at all, but I generally don’t find mirth in dark comedy. The first two seasons expressed this very well. There were some genuinely excellent plot points, and the characters, although abhorrent, had redeeming ‘human’ qualities.

Well, once I’d watched the first season I was hooked of course, so I carried on watching all the way through to season 6. It was like watching a train wreck. I finished each episode feeling more and more depressed as the seasons progressed. The show, which started off as a mocking satire, became downright meaningless. I was watching for the sake of watching, not caring if these self-sabotaging characters sabotaged their way to hell.

I really don’t see how this show is innovative, sure, it challenges the norms of TV and our expectations from the programs we watch, but the only way it does this is by grossly exaggerating the deepest, sickest human notions ever. Everybody is disgusting. People rape each other. Best friends sleep with each others’ lovers, and they do it the in the dingiest, darkest settings imaginable, and it almost ALWAYS boils down to sex. It is as if to say that the most nefarious of human intentions is always, inherently sexual.

I feel like the show reeks of STDs and unwashed humans. A lot of characters are just so explicit about matters regular people would just keep to themselves to create even a semblance of dignity. The small, supposedly humorous mentions of the creepy openness between Elijah (Hannah’s ex-boyfriend and gay roommate) and Hannah is not funny, it is disgusting. Why does a show have to be so sexually explicit and feature nude women and men to be appealing? Why does it have to make its characters make the same old mistakes at every turn, and never learn anything from them, except perhaps to be even more disgusting and revolting and self absorbed? Are people in the real world really like this? Or is this show an exposé on the darkest aspects of daily humanity just bled out in the open for the world to see? This show strips characters of all dignity they might have, whilst allowing them to think they still maintain it. It’s like a dirty form of dramatic irony. I don’t want to see people having sex, thinking they are doing it in private. People having sex is ugly, and I don’t think it’s something others need to watch. I don’t want to see people masturbating. If you wanna do that, do it in private. It literally adds NOTHING to the plot, and if a point needs to be made, surely there are a billion more creative ways to do so?

I just think the creators of the show had nothing to offer except shock factor.

I don’t know why I carried on watching. I felt honestly like I had to flush my soul to get rid of all the black filth my eyes were seared with. I don’t think this show is innovative, I think the writer of the show took some of her own life experiences, dramatised them with some shocking nudity, sex scenes and ‘raw’ revelations about characters suggesting outlandish and ALWAYS sexually deviant things to other characters, whilst disguising this laziness under the pretext of feminism and freedom of expression. I admired the way the writers flouted their flaws, but each of the four main characters gave up on every endeavour they attempted.

The cinematography of the show is mediocre at best. None of the characters are redeemable, nor am I able to empathise with them because they all just seem to be little devils biting at one another and trying their best to hurt each other.

An example of how ridiculously this ‘feminism’ and sexual harassment is portrayed can be seen in one of the episodes in season 6, when Hannah visits a writer she wrote a bad review about. The writer invites her into his room, she lies down on his bed, and he pulls his penis out. Just flops it out like nobody’s business.

I am sure this has happened to people in the past. But I honestly felt like Hannah put herself in a dodgy situation where this, clearly, to anybody, could be a likely outcome. Why would a woman lie down on a strange man’s bed without even knowing the man? I’m sorry, but any sane woman not intoxicated would not do that – everybody knows you shouldn’t lie down on strange mens’ beds if you don’t want to be sexually harassed. And for all the people saying ‘a woman should be able to lie on a man’s bed without being harassed’ – YEAH, IN AN IDEAL WORLD SHE SHOULD. But this is the REAL world, and people rape each other, so in the name of self preservation one would avoid situations where such attacks will be likely! It is unrealistic.

Hannah is a blob of body she takes pleasure in exposing, and whenever I look at her I think she is riddled with unhealthy ailments. What was the point of showing her naked with her legs spread basking in the sunshine? Literally, how did that add anything to the plot? She is completely self absorbed and selfish and her parents are a goddamn mess. In fact, all their parents are goddamn messes. I don’t think in real life that ALL PARENTS are messes. She gives up on everything she ever tries to do and blames everybody else for her failures, disguising it as concern for her friends; which, coincidentally, is what all the others characters do as well.

If this were a story about people navigating their twenties, it would be less about the sex and more about the character development. We all know people have sex, we don’t need it shoved in our faces every other scene. I don’t even know how these people make money, how do they pay the extortionate NY rent rates, when all they do is backstab one another and sit around with their legs wide open (literally). All their conversations are melodramatic and self absorbed, and they always find a way to revert the conversations back to themselves. I really don’t see how that is innovative in any way. Each season follows the same format and eventually it just became a string of sex scenes and selfish actions which none of the characters ever learnt anything from because they were all just too busy attacking each other and being absorbed within their own depressing selves.

The show only serves to show young people that it is okay to accept the lowest forms of achievement and to not have any passion for anything. To wallow, to flop around like a fish and to have no human dignity or self respect. The characters deserved to be slapped silly.

Bill Persky of Time magazine makes a refreshing point when he says “You would think that a young female talent like Lena Dunham would be showing her generation a way up, rather than reinforcing the idea that it’s cool to be down.” (Time, 2013).

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Flowers from the Storm

I hate love stories. I hate stories written purposely because there will be a romance in the end, and all we get are a string of sex scenes punctuated by poor dialogue and a laughable plot. I don’t mind a bit of romance sprinkled into a plot otherwise meant to be something different. I don’t mind a coming of age novel with a blossoming romance between its pages.

But let me make it so very clear thatI hate erotic novels with a passion. They are sleazy and make me roll my eyes. Sex scenes are just porn, really, cheap and designed to enthral.

However, this book was not an ‘erotic novel’. I was duped into this ‘historical romance’. I was offered the title on a Kindle buying spree. Flowers from the StormLaura Kinsale.

It was £1.99 and the ratings were high, so I thought, who cares for a blurb and bought it anyway. I started reading the first page on Saturday night.

Oh, some arrogant rich man is having sex with another man’s wife. Classy.

Then the man began to have a pounding headache. You know an author does not insert a pounding headache, one that makes one incapable of performing basic needs, for no reason. I was intrigued, but also tired, so I put the kindle away and closed my eyes to sleep.

I didn’t touch it again until Sunday night, when it ensnared me in a vortex of mathematical equations, and a headache that morphed suddenly into lunacy. What. 

I desperately wanted to stay awake that night reading but the husband was getting irritated with the light of my kindle and I was tired.

I lay like a foetus all Monday, folks. I read eight hours straight, I only stopped once because a woman called me about a job interview and another called about a gym membership. I did not eat and did not drink. I was lost in this world.

This world of mathematicians and Quakers and dukes and it sounds so silly and frivolous but there was something so tangible and real about it. I was ensnared, I tell you, bewitched by someone’s hand. Drawn by characters on a page into a world I did not want to leave, and was not ready to leave at 1:10am last night when I turned the last digital page and felt an ache of loss in my heart.

I didn’t expect to love this romance the way I did. So I thought about it. I desperately wanted these two characters to be together by the halfway point. I was on tenterhooks throughout the book, and upon glancing down at see how much I’d read, realised that even at 19% my heart was beating furiously. At 30% I felt nauseous with anticipation. At 50% I felt dread and my nerves were clanging.

Not halfway through the book and already we were being taken on a roller coaster of small literary climaxes. Of fiends and cold baths to cure ailments of the mind and human apes. A field day of all emotions readily available to man, inspired by the actions of people who do not even exist.

The story was compelling. The premise rich and intriguing. The plot vibrant, never ending.

A rogue duke with a pounding headache pronounced a lunatic and put in an asylum. His mother thinks it is a punishment from God for his waywardness. He had some sort of stroke which rendered him incapable of communication, but to medical practitioners, who didn’t know this, he appeared a lunatic. I felt I was being exposed to the depths and layers of nineteenth century thought and medicine, of notions of ‘propriety’, of religion, and this made the story so plausible. Nothing like the crudely assembled plots of other romances I have tried and hated. I was reading about the treatment of ‘lunatics’ – in this case a man with temporal loss of some cognitive part of his brain due to an accident, but also the ‘lunatics’ around him – the stigma with which mental illnesses were viewed, the class system; I was reading about all this and more, and not just a historical love story.

The characters did not fall in love upon their first meeting. There was too much between them, and too many differences in who they were and where they came from for this to be even a passing thought in their heads. After the ‘accident’, and the lunatic asylum, there was a beautiful, gradual build up. Slow, progressing character development, mind development, and after the halfway point, a strong sense of duty deteriorating and blossoming into something richer, stronger, more passionate. There was rich pain, all the characters’ misgivings, their drawbacks, their fears and their hopes painted so richly. Their pain was my pain, literally, I loved it!

That is why it satisfied beyond belief. It was satisfying as ‘romantic literature’ – something I previously despised. However I genuinely feel as though something is now missing from my life. And I know this feeling very well. I had it first at the tender age of nine after reading a book so rich my entire existence paled in comparison. Of course my existence hasn’t paled, but doing daily things now feels irritating. I feel like I need to go back into that world, and I can’t, and I want to be severely upset, but I can’t because the book had a happy ending. See? Why do I react this way if the book ends on a good note? Why do I feel so incredibly dissatisfied, even though I honestly loved reading it? My gut feels wrenched, folks. Perhaps this book awoke in me something I didn’t know I wanted? I want –  I don’t know what I want – and it’s all this book’s fault.

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The Age of Miracles

This is a review.

The Age of Miracles is a coming of age debut novel by Karen Thompson Walker.

As debut novels go, this one was outstanding. Walker did not waste a single moment getting to the point, which I found refreshing and mesmerising.

The tale followed the story of an eleven year old girl ascending slowly and painfully into adolescence, chronicling all the awkwardness of the age, in an apocalyptic time when the earth begins to slow, rendering the days longer. With each cycle around the sun, more minutes are added to the day, and this phenomenon is called the ‘Slowing’.

It was a new idea, and what made it plausible was that it was backed by scientific theory – which gave life to the events unfolding.

I loved how Walker combined the coming of age with this almost sic-fi plot line, and wove them together seamlessly. This was a girl, growing up, going to school, experiencing what we have all experienced with friends and parents and troubles that might seem insignificant to an adult but could make or break a child struggling to make sense of their rapidly changing world – and to have that world very literally change around her too, is remarkable.

Walker, I felt, took a great idea and delivered it excellently. I did not feel as though I was reading words. I felt submerged in the tale and when I was jerked out of it at one point because it had got so dark out that I literally could not see the words on the page anymore, I felt as though I had resurfaced from another world.

It takes a great deal of skill in writing to make you feel like that, and I think Walker has delivered this very well. I would say it was the defining factor of this book. It is a beautiful tale, tragic and extraordinary. I had me thinking about it days after I had turned the last page, and I found myself wanting a bit more.

I would give this book five stars out of five, and would love to read more from Karen Walker.

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Tom Hardy as Heathcliff

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Is bloody brilliant.

It’s not just because he is a handsome man. He is terribly handsome, yes, but I never saw Heathcliff as handsome. I saw him as a dangerous man full of bitter anger and passion and revenge but he also had a tremendous amount of presence. He was exploding with emotion, he loved to hate.

I felt that this came to life in many of the scenes in the 2009 film with Tom Hardy. His voice is wonderful and resounding and allows him to maintain authority as well as instil fear. His tendency to enunciate his ts as ds is terribly compelling. This is also why he did excellently as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.

His emotions translated strongly throughout the film, and I found myself crying with him when Cathy died, as opposed to cringing when I watched the Ralph Fiennes version. Tom Hardy also had great chemistry with Charlotte Riley who played Catherine Earnshaw in this version.

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It’s interesting, though, to see these emotions played out on screen because in the book I had a tendency to sympathise with Nelly, the narrator of Heathcliff’s story, as opposed to Heathcliff himself, the living and breathing soul of his own story. Seeing him actually experiencing the cruelty he experienced, and being cast aside by the one person who he thought really saw him for the vulnerable human he was, made all his later actions make a lot more sense. Yes, I don’t empathise with how he treated Isabella Linton and his son and the poor animals, but I understand it more because I could see the character actually go through his harrowing experiences as a child, and see how they affected him directly, rather than be told by a rather biased servant that he had gone through them. A child (for he was a child) is impressionable and if all he has known is hatred and cruelty, and being second place (to Edgar Linton of all people) he is bound to grow up compassion-less. I think that made all the difference to me, and will definitely influence my analogy of the subject and the character.

I’m studying Wuthering Heights in great detail at the moment at university so have watched all the possible versions of Wuthering Heights and I must say, to me, the 2009 mini series did Heathcliff the most justice.

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Saving Mister Banks

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I watched this film thousands of miles above ground, above clouds, amid bouts of extremely nauseating turbulence. Everytime the plane lurched downwards or swung sideways my heard thundered like a thousand hammers, and my fingers curled ever tighter around the arm rest.

Glancing at my sister beside me, I saw that she was very much the same way. Only she didn’t let films distract her, she suffered in face-on agony. Nobody else seemed perturbed. The fellow to my left had his head covered with the thin airplane blankets, and the fellow next to him was nodding his head, faint music wafting my way.

And so I watched Saving Mr Banks, pausing every time an especially vicious lurch of the metal cabin took over my senses, my mind drifting to the leagues between my feet and the rocky grounds of the Arabian desert.

Slowly, though, the film began to creep over my fear. I was absorbed into it, and my terror became an underlying itch that was almost entirely ignored.

It was lovely. Emma Thompson never ceases to evoke my admiration. She carries herself with such potent charm. The little quirks about her; her eyebrow thrusts, her scornful looks, her straight back and her flawless irritability made what could have been sombre, mirthful. Tom Hanks slid right into the character of the typically American, typically loud and excessively friendly Walt Disney, as he is wont to do. Thompson and Hanks had a humorous relationship on camera, goaded by Disney’s attempts to please the ever irked Mrs. P L Travers. The combination of old classics and new … abecedarians made for a pleasant watch.

 

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I especially enjoyed how close Ginty kept Mary Poppins to her heart. She loved the woman, much as I did when I first read about her. The film portrays what the producers, the author and Walt Disney himself went through in the making of Mary Poppins, and truly it is a refreshing insight into the old classic.

Not many films are so well made that they capture one’s feelings. Especially one whose feelings are so distraught as mine were during that dreadful, dreadful flight.

I would completely recommend Saving Mr Banks to anybody who sees sentiment as an old comrade, and who cherishes old classics and has a sight for a well made film. It is not for impatient children. I also read a review which said that it was not for people who didn’t like Disney. Personally I find Disney too wishy washy and excessive, and yet I loved this film. It left me in an aura of pleasant thoughtfulness. I also loved Mary Poppins (the book, more than the film). The film attracted me because of Julie Andrews, whom I loved in The Sound of Music. I adored the way Mary Poppins was portrayed; she was just how I imagined she would be! Naturally the film wasn’t entirely in keeping with the book, and I haven’t watched it more than thrice, I imagine. However this whole story about Mrs P L Travers and Walt Disney and waiting twenty years and her absolute correctness and her history.. Oh dear it all combined and exploded in my mind and there I was weeping tears of sadness and sentiment on my seat high up above the clouds, all puffy and white. And I thought to myself, thought I, “Well by gosh, Lenora. You shall be wanting to read Mary Poppins again!”

And so I shall. So I shall.

 

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The Dream Thieves

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Normally, sequels are a huge splash of disappointment and and a tangled web of unfulfilled fantasies.

The same cannot be said of The Dream Thieves, the sequel to The Raven Boys. The Raven Boys was good enough, but The Dream Thieves surpassed it by leagues and leagues and left it dwindling behind like one of those coal ravaged cities old Dombey mourned over. It was brilliant and sparky and had me on the verge of falling off my seat (well, bed) with excitement at 6am in the morning. When I turned the last page my heart sank in pitiful desolation because I had no idea when the third book was going to be released, and I felt as though I couldn’t brave this taunting anonymity. I still do not know when it will be released, which is very daunting, considering that I gave up on reading Inheritance because the gap between it and Brisingr was too long.

This book started off being very confusing but as I have learnt from Maggie Stiefvater, her confusion is just a pathway to glorious clarity. So whenever I didn’t understand anything, I just carried on reading. Sure enough, my befuddlement lifted and my curiosity was satiated in a most beautiful manner.

Maggie explored her characters in greater depth in her sequel. Suddenly they all had separate lives, and feelings, and opinions which clashed, as opinions are wont to do. They all suddenly made so much sense. You started off the book thinking, gosh what a rambling mess this all is, and finished it thinking, DAYUM, MAGGIE, YOU SORCERESS.

So anyway, yes I fully recommend this book. One hundred percent. I am very hard to please, you see. Roll on book the third!

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The Raven Boys

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You know what made this book so great for me? The prologue. Was it a prologue? The dead, the church, the path? Whatever it was, it was a beautiful, fascinating, magnificent start and it surged in my veins, readying me for something great.

I have been reading quite a lot of dystopia recently and lots of it was, quite frankly, despicably written. There was a severe want for great writers to pen the already great ideas down. Perhaps those writers WERE great writers, but they lacked proper editing, or perhaps they didn’t edit at all.

I was preparing myself for another shoddy fantasy, when I turned the page of the second chapter.

I thought, alright Lenny, benefit of the doubt and whatnot.

I can smell coffee right now and it is making me hunger for it.

This book has caught me in its traps. I am currently reading the sequel (The Dream Thieves) but I am trying my best to take it slow, because the third one isn’t out yet, and I cannot be sitting around hankering after a piece of literature that hasn’t even been written yet, probably! It’s too heartbreaking!

Alright, enough rambling. There are no spoilers in here so do not worry. The book is about a daughter of a psychic. The girl is called Blue. Now how about that for a nice, pretty, unique name? Her fate appears to be crossed with four school boys, who go to Aglionby Academy, an all boys’ school reputed to be full of snobs and rich snotty nosed lads. This isn’t exactly a love story. It is a fascinating tale of one boy’s hunt for a vast treasure (of the spirit kind, not the gold kind), and the dubiousness of whether he will find it before his time (as predicted by the mother of Blue, and her other odd psychic family members) runs out. It is also the tale of the secrets of the boy (Gansey)’s three friends, Noel, Ronan and Adam. Everybody is entwined with a magic of their own; a secret, a history, a ghost.

It was my first book by Maggie Stiefvater, and it is definitely not my last. I have embarked upon the thrilling ride that is this Maggie, and I have discovered some amazing writings by her. The Scorpio Races is one such example. I simply cannot wait to read more!

Under the Never Sky – A Pretentious Review

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Warning to all humans.

This review is packed with spoilers. Completely littered.

Under the Never Sky was a book that I put off reading for as long as I could. I had it on my phone, and as a result, it lacked a blurb. So obviously I was going to have to plunge into this completely blindfolded (this is why I prefer real books).

The first chapter started off in an artful manner. Veronica Rossi (who I kept confusing with Veronica Roth, but I am now pretty sure they are not the same human) dropped us right in the middle of an action about to surge with tragedy. You knew it hung with doom because she opened with it. There was no escaping what the humans were about to do, because they were all so terrified. This in itself was premise enough for me to carry on reading.

The majority of humans who wrote reviews on this book complained that it was too slow and took ages to get into. I didn’t find that this was the case, although I can see how people would think it was, because the constant switch between the perspectives of the two main characters made the general plot seem slowed down, although the switches carried on with the plot more than anything!

The world Rossi has created is a mixture of sci-fi and fantasy, and manages to escape the boring monotonous passages of description, whilst keeping just enough imagery in there to create vivid pictures of what her wonderful world looks like. She has the uncanny ability of folding in her portrayal of the world Aria and Perry live in, with her plotline. It really felt as though I was there, looking at all the scenery flashing before me, as the plot thickened.

Rossi’s style was average, if anything. It will not do to compare her style with other writers, namely because each writer has their own unique style, but I did feel as though her writing wasn’t captivating enough, as the story went on, for me to give it five stars. I rated it 3 stars because it was quite a unique story, and unlike most fantasy/sci-fi these days, it was not predictable. I did feel as though lots of things were fobbed off, however.

SPOILER ALERT.

What bothered me about the book was the lack of actual answers. Rossi didn’t expand on anything she said, for example she described the Aether (brilliant invention, by the way), but she never went into full depth about what exactly the aether was and how it came about, and whether or not it was always there. The concept that it might have been a phenomenon brought about by the latest changes in human living standards seems to be very plausible given that the aether intensifies when it comes near to things made by the Dwellers, such as the suit Aria wore when she was dumped in the Death Shop. Another example is the history of how these ‘Dwellings’ in ‘Pods’ came about. There is frequent talk of a ‘unity’ but nothing else, and it is all very confusing. However there are two other sequels to this story so perhaps this is something Rossi plans on explaining further. At least, this is what I am hoping!

I did like how the lack of answers did not make the book particularly hard to read. I feel as though this was because the plot was closely related to the personal struggles of the characters, and this relates into my previous point. Given that the story is told from the perspectives of two very different people, it would stand to reason that they wouldn’t go into depth about the whole history of their world. It makes sense that they wouldn’t understand much about what had happened to years before to separate their worlds. They were two outcasts, from entirely different lives, cast together and it made sense that their alliance would give them more difficult, first hand problems to deal with, such as their immediate survival, and their adaptations to each other’s very different personalities and ways of thought. I think Rossi did a great job analysing these differences.

Her characters were delightfully well-rounded, which is something that can only be said about a very small number of sci-fi/fantasy novels out there. Most of them focus too deeply on world/plot building and leave out the important characterisation that is vital for bringing about a compelling novel.

SPOILER ALERT.

Despite this, however, I did feel as though there was something severely lacking in the story, to make it less than the wonder it could have been. After pondering on this a while, it came to me. Lots of things were just so unrealistic! For example when the wolves attacked, there just miraculously happened to be a tree house in front of Aria and Perry, which just miraculously happened to be empty, and just magically happened to appear just as Aria’s magically heightened sense of hearing heard the pattering of wolf paws behind them. And they just miraculously managed to get up in time, and then, to make it all seem like a ruse for setting, they just decided to have sex up in a tree despite just having been chased down by a pack of salivating, howling, snapping wolves who were supposed to be waiting at the foot of the tree, but who somehow decided to slink away because Aria howled at them.

The whole situation fell a little thin. It was too good to be true. Lots of these narrow-escapes-from-death littered the novel, making it seem just a little bit like the author lent her hand in far too much. Like how the boy comes and saves them from the cannibals at the last instant. It’s predictable, and banishes all sense of plausibility. This is what prevented me from enjoying the novel as much as I could have.

I did warn y’all about the spoilers.

After reading lots of reviews, I noticed a pattern in people’s reactions to the romance in this book, in that it wasn’t instant and unrealistic, as is so much of the romance in so many dystopian novels. People found this realistic and relatable.

SPOILER ALERT.

The romance between Perry and Aria blossoms naturally. There are the initial feelings of mistrust, anger and fear towards each other, as is natural given that they both come from such different worlds, and are almost completely alien to each other. However I personally that it was slightly overdone, and rather unnecessary. Lots of people commented on how much they enjoyed the fact that the romance did not interfere with the plotline much, and I found that this was true. It was refreshing to be able to focus on an interesting plot without the frequent romantic episodes that scatter most dystopian novels.

There is so much more I want to know about this never sky, and the history of the people in the land, and what happens to them all, so despite the criticism, I will say that I did enjoy reading this book, and cannot wait to read Through the Ever Night.