Book Recommendations

If you haven’t noticed, my borrowed book club has recently hit a wall. The next book I intended to read was Jandy Nelson’s The Sky is Everywhere. I couldn’t get into it. I even tried to read it on the train, the place I’m most productive, and I found myself distracted. The words rolled past my eyes and didn’t register in my head. I apologise to the ever-present Katie, who lent me that book, because I can’t write more than this about it. Since I should get past this slump, I’m writing a post of recommendations. These are the books I would borrow to you.

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

tkmb.jpgPerhaps an obvious choice, but this is my favourite book. I was twelve and I was awkward and I was in an English class with only one person I talked to. One day, the teacher looked at us and told us that we weren’t going to read the recommended book for our ability, instead she’d let us read a classic. Every word is still in her voice, and every word told me that I was capable.

My emotional attachment to this book isn’t what makes it great. It’s a classic that’s readable, real and emotional. It’s a refreshing break from Bronte, but falls into the same category. It’s a seasonal novel: every word pulls you into the childish nostalgia of muggy Maycomb summers. Its comments on racial injustice are pertinent as ever, and do not ignore America’s shameful history. Atticus Finch is a wonderful literary hero – he’s an understanding father, he’s accepting and he has strong morals.

Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife

A recurring theme in this post: I studied this collection of poems. As I had to know everything about fortysomething of her poems for an exam, Carol Ann Duffy was once my mortal enemy. However, we reached her World’s Wife poems, suddenly it was hard to deny her genius. Each poem is the voice of a woman behind her more famous male counterpart: Queen Kong, Mrs. Midas and Mrs. Lazarus. It’s a funny feminist triumph.

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Each character has a very distinctive voice, affected by the consequences of the man who defines her. Mrs. Midas sounds like she’s gossiping over brunch as she rambles about her difficult life, whilst Mrs. Darwin is short and smart. It’s so clever, it subverts the idea of history so well. It’s a very quick read, and her poems have so many different meanings that every reader gains something totally different from her writing. Borrow this book and tell me what you think it means, because I’m sure we’d have different things to say.

George Orwell’s 1984

This was required reading for my journalism course last year, and I regret not reading it sooner. In a world where the dystopian novel has been used too many times to count, where every trope is old by now, this novel takes it back to the basics. It has every dystopian trope – the forbidden love affair, the unsuspecting protagonist and of course the overbearing dictatorship. It’s less enjoyable because it’s been done so many times by now, and honestly the ending isn’t even that good.

The reason I would recommend this novel is for its pertinence. In January of 2017, following Kellyanne Conway’s use of the term “alternative facts”, 1984 flew off the shelves, selling out on Amazon. It is vital that we read this today, especially the essay at the end of the novel. Orwell creates a society who are controlled by language – the meanings of words are stripped and replaced with Newspeak. It’s something we need to understand in today’s world, because what a certain American President defines as fake news, is not what fake news is. He stops us from listening to each other. We can’t let a leader redefine the fundamental part of society – communication.

Let me know if you’ve read any, or if I’ve convinced you to borrow them! I would love to hear what you thought.

Nostalgia Goggles: Spyro 2

I spend a fair amount of time playing older video games. Partly because new games are expensive, and partly because nostalgia and I get on like a house on fire. In this series, I’ll test out some games I have fond memories of, and see how they hold up compared to today’s sequels or alternatives. I’m European, so the names will be different sometimes. Some are nineties, some may be from 2009, because games age quickly, okay?

It’s summer, and summer always makes me feel like a little kid again. My brother and I went to my grandparents’ house for lunch, and sitting there eating burger’s in her dining room, I could’ve been seven again. I wanted to be sat in the front room, arguing with my brother because he wouldn’t let me play the SNES. Since this has happened and I haven’t made a blog post in some time, I thought I’d start a new feature.

Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer (Ripto’s Rage)

This game inspired this feature on my blog. A few years ago, a week before my GCSE exams began, I rescued my brother’s Playstation 2 from being thrown away, along with a couple of games. One of which, was Spyro 2 for the Playstation 1. Naturally, my friend and I played it for seven hours straight rather than revising for our maths exam. I recently revisited the game with Miriam again, so read on if you’d like to know how that went. I grew up playing this game because my brother stepped on the original Spyro The Dragon, so only the first ten minutes would play. Still, it’s often regarded as being better than its predecessor, as it had a ground-breaking-for-the-time flying mechanic and a ridiculous amount of unique NPCs with complete voice acting.

When I was a kid:

I was obsessed with finding every one of the secrets, and collecting the orbs not because I wanted 100% completion, but because I genuinely wanted to help the characters. However, one level in particular always stood out as my least favourite: Fracture Hills. Unskippable cutscenes, annoying bagpipe music, the undefeatable Earthshapers and some unrewarding, frustrating orb quests. One of my fondest memories of this game is the orb quest of retrieving the professors pencil, as it involves trading different objects by interacting with different parts of the level. I remember thinking for ages about the logical thing to do to progress in the game. However, I never finished the game as summer probably ended with the disc lost to my grandparents’ front room

Now:

Fracture Hills is still horrible – I didn’t even finish it because I can’t do it. Some of the game is tricky and frustrating. Miriam and I were screaming at each other and snatching the controller at times. I’m not sure how I got to the final homeworld, because it took us hours. The challenging but fun aspect is sort of gone, it’s just frustrating and all I had any drive to do was to beat the game. The orb quests are still fun bonuses, but the enemies, bosses and your first trip through the level are quite easy. The pencil quest was easy, because I’m an adult. Still pretty fun to pass the time though. I finished the game, and the ending is way more rewarding than most games because you get a funfair bonus level. The characters are still memorable, and some of the game is kinda-sorta funny? It’s a pretty charming platformer that I was desperate to beat and find every gem, which is something lost to the nineties.

Bonus: Miriam’s Review

Stressful as fuck. However, I appreciate the game’s simplicity – you don’t have to spend ages in a tutorial. It’s all on instinct you just know what you’re doing and you don’t really have to care about a plotline that makes sense. Because you’re a fucking purple dragon.” – She played the game with me and one time she made me stay in school when I was sick just so that she wouldn’t be alone.

Compared To Spyro Today:

My little cousins play Skylanders, but is that really Spyro? This game can be more directly compared with the recent Legend of Spyro series. The Legend games had a complex plot, lore and a less ‘excuse me, princess’ protagonist. But I question whether the game needed this direction? Sure, there’s no nineties mascot war and there’s less call for mainstream platformers, but Spyro never needed to be an RPG. It lost its fun aspect when it became open-world. It needs levels with secret areas and bonus quests, scattered gems and enemies that don’t respawn. In the new Spyro games, you lose that drive to collect everything and complete everything. I don’t need a deep plotline to be invested, because yes, you’re a fucking purple dragon.

 

Verdict:

The 90s versions hold up way better than the more recent games.

 

I’d love to hear about your video game nostalgia in the comments!

Melodrama: In Depth

Lorde is my absolute favourite artist. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve wandered to other artists: Lana Del Rey’s melancholy, Frank Turner’s hopeless romance, Tacocat’s Seattle pop. Yet there’s something about Lorde’s music that I relate to so terribly well. 

Pure Heroine released when I was fifteen. I listened non-stop for months on end. I decided that A World Alone would be played at my wedding, that on my birthday every year I’d tweet the lyrics “Today is my birthday and I’m riding hiiiigh”, Ribs made my crushes unbearable. Whilst not much of that has changed, I’ve grown a lot since 2013. As has Lorde. 

She’s a year and a half older than me, which makes her music all the more relatable. She writes it at one age, and by the time it’s released I’ve reached that age. Even in Melodrama the lyric “I’m nineteen and I’m on fire” reminds me that we have shared experiences, that I’m part of her L-O-V-E-L-E-S-S generation. All that said, Lorde’s new album does not tug at me the way Pure Heroine did. 

Lorde sung her dissatisfaction at the music industry’s praise of drugs, something to which she didn’t relate. Come Melodrama, she’s grown up at a faster pace: under fame’s limelight in the way she protested in Yellow Flicker Beat, she’s changed. Perfect Places is hallucinogenic, in The Louvre love is slipped under a tongue. It’s different, a shift that has perhaps strained my relationship with Melodrama. 

Green Light is Lorde’s introduction of a new era. The childlike wonder she had at love in Pure Heroine is gone, she’s been hurt but she’s found herself again. Like Royals, Green Light found chart success. It’s a brilliant summer dance track with somewhat of a twist on the norm. Lorde’s raspy tone has not been forgotten: it reappears as she sings “hope they bite you” with an over-the-top angsty air of violence. 

The idea of Melodrama being a concept album is introduced in Green Light, but by at Sober the concept is a little more audible. It’s about that person you’re not sure you like or even if they like you, but once you’re somewhere and you’re dancing and you’re drunk, all those doubts are gone. Lorde’s relatability is one of her best attributes, Sober is certainly an example of that. Although, to me the song feels too much like the full swing of a party to be so early in the album.

Homemade Dynamite is difficult, as it feels so similar to Sober. It’s another song about this being our place to do what we want, a recurring theme in the album. This song was apparently supposed to be a single but its release coincided with the horrible tragedy in Manchester earlier this year, so it was pulled. It’s history could put you off, or its in your face ‘singleness’. It sounds like a single, it’s repetitive, it’s catchy, it should have been but for good reason it is not. The one thing that saves Homemade Dynamite for me, is the verse:

Might get your friend to drive / But he can hardly see / We’ll end up painted on the road / Red and chrome, all the broken glass sparkling / I guess we’re partying

It encapsulates everything there is to love about Melodrama. It’s a narrowly avoided deadly decision, by a young person who isn’t thinking straight. When the consequences are considered, it’s not the idea of injury, it’s a spectacle: it’s the colours of what would happen, like art. Glass like a disco ball. A romanticised scene like the death of James Dean. It’s Melodrama. It’s taking every stupid little thing we do when we’re young and making it something bigger that ourselves. 

The Louvre is my favourite song. It’s purely Lorde but the concept isn’t lost. It’s dramatic and different, about a love so cherished that she thinks its artistic brilliance should sit alongside the Mona Lisa. Well, not exactly alongside it, at the back, but who cares? It’s still The Louvre. Lorde’s artistic obsession comes through so well in this song that I cannot stop listening. She’s explicit about the bad things this relationship made her do: ignoring her friends, feeling that she and her lover were superior. It’s both melodramatic and real, because sometimes you love someone so much that it feels like a masterpiece, but on the outside you’re just a bit extra. 

Lorde says that while some songs on her album are set at the peak of the party, others are when you’re drunkenly staring in the mirror, feeling insecure. Liability fits the latter description. Someone’s brought her insecurities to the surface: she’s too much for some people. This idea is presented in The Louvre, but Liability is when being melodramatic turns sour – it’s the other side of the coin. But it’s not all bad, the overall message is positive. She learns to dance with herself, to love herself more than others claimed they did. 

Hard Feelings/Loveless should not be one track. I’m sorry. They’re such juxtapositions that they work on the same track from an artistic point of view. They’re the two feelings during a breakup. The former is clinging to a failing relationship, the latter is the relief of being yourself again. Somehow I never feel in the mood to listen to both of these, it’d be like putting 400 Lux and Team on the same track. On the other hand, I love both songs individually. Hard Feelings is raw and heartbreaking, the slow burn of getting over someone. Loveless is dancing your pain away without a care once they’re gone. 

Sober II (Melodrama) isn’t a song I think about a lot. It presents the album’s theme quite tidily in a three minute song, one which is quite repetitive. The raspy “We told you this was melodrama” is fantastic. It’s a taunt, bringing Lorde’s classic witchyness back through audio. It’s threatening and over-the-top, exactly how late-teenage drama feels. Yet it’s an incomplete song, an interlude. I’m not a fan of pt. 2 of songs, unfortunately. 

Arguably, the most Lorde song on the album is Writer In the Dark. It’s quirky and complex. Her voice is tangible, her breaths are cool on the back of your neck. The song rushes through different emotions: violent anger, a painful cry, a calm realisation. It’s perfect, it’s what Lorde has always been: a strange take on the normal. Yet this song feels disconnected from the album’s concept. Does it fit into the idea of a house party? I question whether the album would’ve been better without a concept at all. 

Supercut could have been sung by anyone, but Lorde made it her own. It’s all our imperfections in a relationship, imagining things the way we wish we’d done them, not the way we had. Memories that plague us, not because they’re sad, but because they could’ve been so much happier. Who’d have thought this would make a decent dance song? It’s simple, but maybe it should be. 

I don’t like interlude tracks. Liability (Reprise) makes me feel a bit cheated. Though it may be those insecurities from Liability creeping back, weaker though no less persuasive. I’m not sure the song needed a revisit, Liability is so perfect that I think it’s reprise undermines that. It has nice sounds, I’ll give it that. 

As a song to close the album, Perfect Places is stellar. It’s all about intoxication, those places we go to pretend everything’s good, to dance our troubles away. It’s those places we are with our friends and we’re dancing together and we’re lost together and we love each other. It’s quieting the stress we’re feeling by doing these silly little things “blow my brains out to the radio“. Lorde ends the album in a similar way to Pure Heroine, by speaking in a raspy voice. She asks a question, it’s an answer she’s still searching for. If you immediately listen to Green Light after this, it becomes apparent that she’s doing her makeup in someone else’s car, heading to the party to find the answer. The album’s feel changes, Melodrama is a question: “What the fuck are perfect places anyway?

Borrowed Book Club – Everything, Everything

Borrowed Book Club started because my friends and I often pass books around to each other. I love to think about which of my friends my current book would suit, and I love that they sometimes think of me when they read a passage. Here is a review, exactly 250 words, about a book that was borrowed to me. Everything, Everything was given to be months ago by Katie, who should really have her books back by now.

I didn’t love this book. With glowing recommendations from more than one friend, I had very high expectations for Nicola Yoon’s first novel. Unfortunately (as with We Were Liars), the twist left me underwhelmed. I spent my time hoping that I hadn’t worked out the ending. This twist was a cop-out, an improbably hopeful ending that only happens in books. Perhaps we are supposed to figure it out before protagonist Maddy, even if so, it’s not effective. The twist is one for a tense thriller, not a melodramatic love story. This left me thinking that the love story may have been unnecessary. Another weak point is the plot’s reliance on the ‘sick girl’ trope. It’s overused, especially in YA, and I’m over it.

However, Everything, Everything does have its strengths. Where the plot may be lacking, the writing excels. The book is set out as a catalogue of Maddy’s thoughts – including simple yet beautiful illustrations and book reviews so short they rival my own. This form of writing feels original and prevents the creeping disinterest that comes with long chapters. Maddy is a fantastic character, and she’s rare – a genuinely believable YA heroine. It would be easy to read this in one sitting, but it took me some time to get through it. Perhaps I can only recommend when not to read this book: if at this moment someone you know is faced with a rare illness, the ending of this novel will give you no hope of their escape.

Borrowed Book Club: Carol

Borrowed Book Club started because my friends and I often pass books around to each other. I love to think about which of my friends my current book would suit, and I love that they sometimes think of me when they read a passage. Here is a review, exactly 250 words, about a book that was borrowed to me. Carol resides on Ffion’s artistically organised bookshelf. She is the Mulder to my Scully.

Carol is novel about falling in love. It’s almost impossible not to read it through a vintage lens, with its vignette burns and autumnal tones of brown and red. Told from the moment shop girl Therese sets her eyes upon Carol, an older woman with a daughter and a failing marriage. It’s cinematic, it’s beautiful, and it’s dramatic. Just like falling in love. Therese is irrational, endearingly obsessive and adorable. There is a part of the novel where she hopes that, as she and Carol drive through a tunnel, it will collapse on them and they’ll be together forever. This is a nonchalant thought, just one of many over-the-top passages that make Carol a little funny. It doesn’t feel like a typical, taboo story focused on anything forbidden. Therese and Carol love each other, this story is nothing more.

Most of the novel consists of a road trip, set in lonely 1950s America, where neither of these women should feel the way they do about each other. Despite all their obstacles – the time, Carol’s husband, and a certain twist near the end – this novel is praised for giving a queer couple a happy ending, something of which today’s literature and media seems incapable. Written in 1952 under a pseudonym by Patricia Highsmith, an author who is more commonly known for her psychological thrillers, Carol is as gripping as any thriller. Their romance is exciting and unprecedented, worthy of a 2015 Oscar-nominated film. And it passes the Bechdel test right away.

ICYMI Review: S-Town

In case you missed this podcast from March of 2017, here’s a review of it to urge you not to forget to watch it.

We love conspiracy theories. The rise of YouTube conspiracy theory videos is upon us, and it’s created a thirst for mystery, which may be quenched by Brian Reed’s gripping and grim account of life in the rural American South. In 2012, the staff of podcast This American Life were alerted to an alleged cover up of a young boy’s murder in Woodstock, Alabama. It is not a surprise that such a premise was taken on to be produced as a podcast – a new genre of true crime documentary has emerged since Netflix’s Making A Murderer. We want a mystery where we have to work out the answer. S-Town could have quite easily taken this approach, but it didn’t. It’s not about the distrustful establishment or a gruesome murder mystery, but about the man who contacted This American Life’s staff: John B. McLemore.

 

McLemore initially appears unlikable, rude and hysterical. He raves about every potential disaster currently facing the humanity, depressing himself with hopeless statistics. Throughout the first episode, one question looms over the audience: is he a conspiracy theorist desperately seeking attention? As Reed investigates the alleged murder of Dylan Nicols, he quickly discovers that not only is there no cover up, but Nicols is alive and well. The podcast could have ended then and there on episode two with no apparent mystery, but even after this deception, McLemore keeps in touch with Reed. They email for three years. Reed’s connection to McLemore grows, as does the audience’s. The mystery returns when a very real tragedy faces Woodstock: McLemore’s suicide. Reed’s reaction is harrowing and raw, shown in the audio of the moment he is told of McLemore’s fate. It’s difficult not to catch the lump in his throat.

 

The following five episodes focus on the life of John B. McLemore and those who are left to deal with his loss. More and more people come forward with their stories about McLemore, creating more mysteries. He was once a kind, funny man with many friends. He repaired antique clocks, making him one of America’s best horologists. His life was one simply weighed down by the bounds of an inescapable, intolerant small town. More than a mystery, McLemore becomes a protagonist. Though he is a real man who once lives, he seems to go through dramatic character development, once we learn others’ views of him. Reed contacts a list of people McLemore wanted contacted as soon as he died, and some of them seem as though they’re talking about a different man altogether. The podcast is a journey through his life, uncovering what led to his untimely demise.

 

The people of Woodstock are unforgettable: the troublemaker saved by McLemore, the ailing mother, the apparent money-grabbing relatives. They seem like characters, each serving a different role in McLemore’s story, with a different perspective on who this man was. Reed’s conversations with these people allow us to understand them and their intentions. By the end, no one is black and white. No one seems completely bad or completely good. However, this understanding solves no mysteries. The most intriguing, if not cliché of which, is the rumour of John B. McLemore’s gold. He owned a great deal of land, and many people in the town believe it is buried somewhere in those acres. Although the mysteries keep appearing, McLemore’s sad fate has an unexpected kind of resolution in the final episode, which is worth the time spent on the series.

 

The lack of visuals could be off-putting for some, especially as found footage is a staple of the documentary genre. Yet the podcast incorporates hours of audio from the others involved in the story. We hear exactly how McLemore and Woodstock sound and feel. It is a candid window into the town. The conversations included involve the audience even more, as though we are searching through hours of audio for clues; we are the detectives. Emotions are presented: despair, anger, deafening silence. All 7 episodes are around an hour a piece, and are perfect for binge-listening while you do anything else – cooking, cleaning or as background noise for that writing. Although, you might want to save yourself a day to listen to it. Once you turn on the first episode, you won’t be able to stop.

Four Thoughts Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming

Here is a review of Spider-Man: Homecoming in the form of four in-depth thoughts – a movie I would describe as the high school movie of the summer. Sure, it’s Marvel’s superheroes, but it’s such a teen movie! Come on, there’s even a nod to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Zendaya’s Michelle

Michelle is a witty, makeup-free, socially-aware bookworm – but shockingly, this doesn’t mean she needs a Cinderella moment, she’s perfect already. This might be a statement, but I firmly believe she’s the new Hermione Granger that we, and little girls everywhere, need. Her appearance in the film is understated, but each is memorable; from poking deadpan fun at Peter Parker, to her casual outpourings of intelligence, to her desire to stage a protest while she visits Washington. She doesn’t fall into the category of a ‘love interest’ – she’s not some quirky, awkward, nerdy girl. Michelle is her own character, an independent, free-thinking, headstrong role model for viewers. By far, her most fantastic scene is her refusal to admire the Washington Monument, due to it being built by slaves – the matter-of-fact, understated way she presents this revelation leaves her teacher speechless. Zendaya’s socially-conscious attitude has absolutely been carried over to her character, and I could not think of a better person to present this character. If this hasn’t sold Michelle to you, still get excited, because Michelle reveals something in her final scene which will have fans begging for that sequel right this second.

 

The Lack of Tony Stark

Initially, I was worried that this film would be Iron Man 4 Featuring Spider-Man. Though Iron Man’s first film drew $585.2 million at the box office, setting the MCU up and giving us the absolute pleasure it is today, I want to call time on Tony. It’s an unpopular opinion, but Tony Stark is boring compared to most of the MCU’s new recruits, and Iron Man 3 was a careless money-grab with a very bare plot. Thankfully, Spider-Man: Homecoming feels grounded, it’s chocked-full of easter eggs and its characters are lovable. Tony Stark makes a few comical appearances in a mentor-like role. This was absolutely perfect. By keeping him a little more low-key, Peter Parker had more room to develop as a character, rather than feeding an already successful member of the franchise.

 

Spider-Man As a Kind-Hearted Superhero

Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is not motivated by personal demons, a tragic lab accident or fame. He is motivated by his desire to help others. Whether it’s giving an elderly woman directions, or saving the life of someone who has tried to kill him, he always tries to do the right thing. This incarnation of Peter Parker is a great role model for young boys, as he goes against the toxic-masculinity which is so often expected of young men today. He isn’t afraid to be emotional. Peter also has a great relationship with his friends, and he’s a proud geek. Peter should be here to teach kids that working hard at school will get you somewhere, and no one should be afraid of their intelligence. Not only is he smart, Peter is a total geek. He gets excited over building a Lego Death Star, and wears some geeky t-shirts I could only wish to own. Peter also chooses to be grounded, he does not wish to be recognised for his good deeds and he eventually decides to continue being Queens’ resident superhero who helps out as best he can. First and foremost, Peter wants to protect those he loves, and everybody else in the world, apparently. He is a breath of fresh air, a new breed of superhero that we all needed.

 

Racial Diversity

The MCU has been overwhelmingly white for too long. A problem across the film industry is the lack of non-white characters. Marvel is attempting to correct their failures in this department, and whilst we still haven’t had a female led Marvel movie, this film makes strides in racial diversity. In an attempt to reflect Queens as New York’s most diverse area, many characters of different cultural backgrounds appear in both minor and major parts. Jacob Batalon’s Ned is of Filipino descent, but most importantly, he is hilarious. Yet, Ned is not mocked for his status as the geeky best friend: most of his jokes actually come from his relatability, so don’t be surprised when he gains fan-favourite status. Model Laura Harrier is Liz, she’s Molly Ringwald’s Princess, the love interest – but here’s the clincher, she’s smart! Instead of a blonde cheerleader, the popular girl gets to be a smart black woman. Harrier’s Liz and Zendaya’s Michelle are both very important characters for the film industry right now, as neither have been forced into stereotypically black roles. They are not hot-headed racist caricatures. Both girls get to be smart, funny and desirable in prominent roles. The film industry needs to take note – roles can’t be racially typecast today. Though there are leaps and bounds to be made, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a good starting point.

Borrowed Book Club: All The Bright Places

Borrowed Book Club started because my friends and I often pass books around to each other. I love to think about which of my friends my current book would suit, and I love that they sometimes think of me when they read a passage. Here is a review, exactly 250 words, about a book that was borrowed to me. All The Bright Places was presented to me by Lowri, who has endured every feeling I’ve ever had regarding a TV series or movie. This is her fault for letting me sit next to her in our high school science lessons.

All The Bright Places is often compared to The Fault in Our Stars – as is almost every sad YA novel out there. The difference with this book? It’s everything TFIOS should have been. It’s heartfelt, it’s less pretentious, and the focus is on friendship. The couple doesn’t meet and fall instantly in love, instead they support and sincerely understand each other. They are believable. Whereas Augustus Waters is a caricature, somehow wise beyond his years, Finch is genuinely mysterious. The pair are trapped in small town Indiana, but as they explore the surrounding area for a school project, they find that their sleepy town may be interesting after all. Read this book if you’re an adventurer at heart, but you need to open your eyes to what’s around you.

Jennifer Niven’s first YA novel comes with a warning: All The Bright Places deals with grief and bipolar disorder as central themes. I shared this book with a friend who thought that the love interest’s struggle only romanticises mental health issues. This is a complex argument. Everyone’s experience with mental illness is unique to them, where some will empathise, others will criticise. No one novel can get mental illness exactly right, and perhaps it is a device we use too often. However, Niven does not perpetuate the myth that love is a magic cure for mental illness and includes a short essay at the end of the book elaborating on bipolar disorder. She shows an understanding I find difficult to criticise.

Borrowed Book Club: We Were Liars

Borrowed Book Club started because my friends and I often pass books around to each other. I love to think about which of my friends my current book would suit, and I love that they sometimes think of me when they read a passage. Here is a review, exactly 250 words, about a book that was borrowed to me. This novel was given to me by Miriam, who once convinced me to eat a whole crème caramel without using my hands.

We Were Liars is a fairly good young adult novel. If you don’t work out the twist ending, the novel must be spectacular. I have friends who felt angry and cheated by the shocking twist at the end, and any book that prompts such a reaction must be impressive. However, YA is usually simple so many people will work out the twist early on – I figured it out on page thirty. This, however, does not spoil the book. I couldn’t put it down after working out the ending as I wanted to know what actions led to this and, ultimately, if I was right. I devoured it in a day. It’s a short, simple, summer read. Set almost exclusively over summers on a private island, the book is perfect for avoiding boredom as you lounge on the beach.

The novel focuses on an entitled, rich, white American family’s perfect façade and a tragedy which befalls them. Good comments are made about racism and class as a character of Indian heritage is added to the family, and isn’t accepted. The use of language in the book makes for impressive characterisation. The narrator’s words are dreamy, unclear and mysterious. It’s murky, as if you’re watching the scenes unfold from beneath the water. A central theme of the novel is greed and its consequences. Suggesting that perhaps we look upon wealth and its outward perfection too favourably – we don’t understand what happens inside that perfect house, which makes the novel somewhat thought provoking.

Baby Driver Review

Movie Rundown is a take on upcoming movies, recent releases and film news. It’s about what’s worth seeing and what’s worth a miss.

Edgar Wright’s first venture into straight-up action is a treat for the eyes and the ears.

Wright is one of my favourite directors, his cornetto trilogy is classic, quotable, and perfectly British – whilst they are predominantly comedy films, they have their fair share of action sequences, never mind if it’s only fighting the blanks in the men’s. I wasn’t sure what the fuss was about with Wright making an action movie, something he had already achieved with his previous comedies, and Scott Pilgrim’s comic fight scenes. Why would Baby Driver be any different?

Baby Driver follows the story of Baby (Ansel Elgort), the young getaway driver of bank-robbery boss Doc (Kevin Spacey). In terms of acting, this film is phenomenal. This is exactly the role Elgort has needed, since his horrific part in The Divergent Series (God rest its soul), he’s successfully broken away from teen heartthrob to a legitimate actor. Spacey is, as always, brilliant. He’s funny, lovable and hate-able. Lily James deserves props, if only for her occasional singing. CJ Jones, as Baby’s foster father, a silent voice of reason on account of being deaf, may be the best of the bunch. By the end, he will have you in tears.

However, acting isn’t the only success of Baby Driver, the music must be commented on. Wright’s previous experience with action-set-to-music comes in the form of Shaun of the Dead’s Don’t Stop Me Now scene. But seriously, this film is as good as that scene is funny. Baby’s need to play music works well with the character’s unique struggle (tinnitus in this case), and is an equally unique take on the post-Guardians of the Galaxy music/movie genre. The bank jobs set to music are extremely satisfying and exciting, if only from an artistic perspective as I may not be the world’s biggest action fan. The music, and the occasional lack of music, set the emotions and tone of every scene so well. This film can’t be missed – nor can its soundtrack!

The film is heartfelt. It may revolve around the exciting, glamorous world of choreographed movie crime, but it is not sugarcoated. Struggles emerge, people are lost. By the film’s third act, no one is safe, and you’re never sure what’s around the corner. Baby Driver was a totally different experience to what I expected, but Wright did not disappoint at all. It’s different to anything he’s done before, because while the film is still funny, it’s predominantly an action movie. Most of the pleasure in this film comes from its adrenaline rush, not its belly-laughs.

This movie was an Odeon Screen Unseen – £5 at your local Odeon to see a movie before general release, but here’s the catch, you don’t know what its going to be. I’ve only seen two bad films in the past two years of going, so I would highly recommend the experience!

Baby Driver is this year’s alternative blockbuster – do yourself a favour and catch it fast.