Since You’e Been Gone – Morgan Matson (Book Review)

I may be a little late to the party but I’ve turned up eventually.

Now for a while, I’ve heard a tonne of people rave about Morgan Matson and Since You’ve Been Gone seems to be THE book of the summer so I finally decided to pick it up and give it a go.18189606

Since You’ve Been Gone follows Emily, known in school for being Sloane’s best friends. Most people know Sloane and they’ve seen Emily at her side but they couldn’t tell you Emily’s name. One summer Sloane and her family gone missing, this isn’t uncommon but this time they’re gone longer than normal. Whenever Sloane and Emily have been apart, Sloane always makes a list for Emily to complete, knowing she won’t actually complete it. This year is different; Emily feels that somehow by finishing the list she will fine Sloane so off she sets on her crazy summer enjoying a list of things she would never have done before such as skinny dipping and stealing.

I didn’t think I would love this book but I was wrong. I originally thought that I would find it to be yet another young adult book (which it is) that focuses around romance but in the end I realised the focus was primarily around friendship and how important that is in life.

While trying to work her way through the list, Emily teams up with the good guy around school, Frank, his best friend and school joker Collins and a girl from the pizzeria she works next door to, Dawn. Although it becomes evident pretty early on that Frank will be a love interest, the story doesn’t focus solely on this. I loved Emily’s relationship with Collins, someone she never normally would have struck up a friendship with yet someone who was willing to accept her into their group without any questions asked.

Collins was a character that I generally loved and quite honestly I would have loved to see a little more of him. He’s that person we all know at school who acts silly and makes fun of everything around him because it’s his only way to feel confident. When he meets Dawn, he acts differently because it’s someone he genuinely likes and he’s terrified she’ll reject him. Collins felt so real to me because at that age, I knew a lot of boys like that and Matson paints a perfect picture of a teenage boy.

The romantic aspect of the book was done well in my opinion, I liked the fact that it was a little more serious than your typical YA love triangle and instead the issue with the romance was the fact that the love interest is in a committed relationship throughout the story. I liked that this posed a question as to if it’s ok to be attracted to someone who you know is off limits and I found it interesting to read how Emily dealt with the situation and how she struggled with her feelings.

Family life played a huge role in the book as it does with a lot of young adult; it was nice to see that there was more than one role portrayed within the book. We had Emily’s family who may be a little strange but there’s no doubt they love each other and although her parents can sometimes be in their own world, it’s clear that they will focus on their children if needed. Next we have Sloane’s family, her parents generally neglect her and leave her to do her own thing. Her parents obviously love her but they don’t seem to be around a lot and they’re not very responsible so Sloane becomes extremely independent. Last we get to see Frank’s parents, a couple who are very successful but who hate each other and are in the middle of a divorce. They’re often seen in public with smiles on their faces playing the happy family but anyone who sees them at home will know the truth. I thought this was interesting to show three very different relationships and to show how all them can be normal and how with good friends who you can confide in, it’s easier to deal with parents who are not always there.

Overall I really enjoyed the book, I read it pretty quickly, I enjoyed the writing style and story and it’s certainly a book I would recommend as a light summer read.

 

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Stranger Things (2016) Review

I have done my best to give you an idea of what this is about without giving away the plot and the ending, as Stranger Things is best enjoyed spoiler free.

I just want to get this out of the way. Netflix is bringing about a new golden age of television on the internet. As it doesn’t rely on selling advertising space in order to make money, Netflix allows its shows more freedom to express themselves and they can afford to take more chances of smaller projects that might have been missed by short sighted executives who need to make a quota.

One of these projects was Stranger Things. It has become somewhat of a hit amongst Netflix subscribers. With it’s powerful and evocative story line, characters and 80s charm.

dungeonsThe story begins with a group of four boys playing Dungeons and Dragons when it’s home-time for the friends of twelve year old Mike who have come round to play. When he arrives home and there is no one around one of the group, Will appears to be attacked and consequently goes missing. The day afterwards a mysterious girl with a shaven head and telekinetic powers appears, kick starting a slow descent into the mysterious goings on surrounding the town of Hawkins, Indiana.

bikeWith it’s depiction of a great adventure on bikes, the resourcefulness of youth and having to hide a mysterious new friend from both The Authorities and parents, you can see how Stranger Things is clearly heavily influenced by those great 80s adventure films like The Goonies and E.T. All this comes together to give the whole thing an amazing charm and a sense of nostalgia for that period. It takes the adventure genre and manages to mix in a massive dollop of Stephen King mystery and thrill riding. The set pieces, the clothes, the movie posters, the music. Even the camera and direction style are all period accurate, and they all come together to create one of the best 80s series not made in the 80s.

winonaI must doff my hat to all the actors involved. Winona Ryder makes a triumphant return to form as Joyce, the beleaguered mother of missing child, Will. Her apparent descent into madness after the disappearance of her son was done well, and though to the outside world it may appear that she is simply going mad with grief, we as the audience are given snippets throughout to give her a method to her madness. The young children all give great performances, Finn Wolfhard as Mike and Millie Bobby Brown (who really shaved her head for the role) as Eleven, or ‘El’ for short are especially great managing to keep a sense of innocence despite some of the horrors they have witnessed. David Harbour as the police Chief Jim Hopper also deserves a mention for his performance as a man battling his own demons as he helps to search for Will and unravel the mystery surrounding his disappearance. It is important to note that they have used age appropriate actors of the roles of the pre-teen and teenager characters which is always nice to see. There’s something quite jarring about seeing people who are almost hitting thirty playing an 18 year old.  

Each episode is a chapter of a story, and though it never leaves you in the middle of the action, like Lost it does, it does have a cliffhanger at the end so you’re always begging for more. I watched it over two days, and I really regret starting it when I didn’t have a spare eight hours to watch it all at once. It manages to drip feed you the information perfectly throughout giving you answers or part answers to questions you’ve been gathering in your mind from the start. It always manages to give you just the right amount to get just enough to satisfy your hunger for more but never too much that you feel like you know what’s going to happen before it does. I would say that around episode seven (there are eight all together) there are one or two moments I felt it was running out of steam a little, but then it pulled it right back for the finale, which was 55 minutes of suspense and excellent payoff.

the gangAll the way through there is a sense of foreboding and terror that gives it an edge that makes it hard to tear yourself away from the screen, though it always makes sure to take a break from the tense energy every now then to show kids just being kids and having fun. Which can be a nerve settling release when you’ve just spent the last twenty minutes on the edge of your seat shouting at the screen for the characters to be safe. Which is probably my biggest criticism, it was so tense and nerve wracking at times I found myself getting a little exhausted.

All of this terror giving way to relative calm is beautifully tied together by the music, which is quite possibly my favourite thing about Stranger Things. The synth wave based soundtrack has been lovingly constructed by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein. It serves to really draw you in, and perfectly balancing the soft, gentle moments and the more intense scenes perfectly, it really gets under your skin and is another mark of how Stranger Things is able to effortlessly evoke that 80s feeling.

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80s movies.  Stephen King. Really good kids adventure movies. Really good mystery thriller films. Great acting. Well played out story. Great Directing. Great Writing. Amazing Soundtrack. If you love at least one of these things then you will enjoy Stranger Things and I wholeheartedly recommend you watch it at the first available opportunity.

★★★★★

 

Stardew Valley – PC Review

I don’t have that much of a history with farming games. I’ve tried the odd Harvest Moon game over the years and I am a fan of the Animal Crossing series but there’s never really been a farming game that held my interest for very long. Perhaps the living through the dark days of Farmville on Facebook soured me on the whole concept.

 

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But Stardew Valley is nowhere near as insidious as a crappy Zynga Facebook game, it’s actually one of the most pleasant gaming experiences I’ve had in recent memory.

 

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In Stardew Valley your character starts out working a soul crushing office job for the evil Joja Mega Corporation. Just as your character is at their lowest they remember a letter they received from their grandfather informing you that you’ve inherited the family farm in the picturesque town of Stardew Valley. So you quit your office job and move out in the country to start your new life. You arrive late at night and only have time to chat to the mayor before you turn in. Once you wake up on the first day of spring this is where the game really begins.

 

The first thing you’ll notice is that the farm is a little bit of a dump. The ground is covered in rocks, grass, trees and fallen logs and you’ll have to clear a path so you can actually plant anything there. Luckily you start off with a full set of tools you’ll need which was the first pleasant surprise because usually you have to scrounge around for your tools in Animal Crossing and that’s always the most frustrating part. Every time you crack a rock or chop a tree down you also get resources like stone you can use for building, hay you can feed to your animals or tree sap you can craft into fertiliser.

 

This makes even the most mundane tasks fun because there’s an extremely satisfying pop sound every time you pick something up, it just feels so good. Speaking of sound the music in this game is great, every season has a slightly different theme but they’re all relaxing and very easy to get stuck in your head. One of the spring songs is so catchy I miss it when it changes to summer but it just gives me something to look forward to when spring comes back.

 

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Daily Grind

 

Once you get into a bit of routine most of your days will consist of getting up and watering/harvesting your crops then selling them so you can expand your farming operations. There isn’t really a set goal in the game, you’re pretty much free to make money however you want. You get some quests that will slowly introduce you to some of the different mechanics like building a coop for chickens or encouraging you to explore the landscape.

 

One of the things you’ll want to explore is an abandoned mine on the outside of the town. This is where you can get ores which you’ll need to upgrade your tools and to build some of the more complicated farm buildings and machines. You can find precious stones here too that you can donate to the museum for rewards or sell for some extra cash. This is also where the game becomes more of an rpg. There are monsters down there which you’ll need to take out before you can mine in peace and you can also equip your character with armor and better swords to make it easier. The deeper you go down in the mine the better the potential rewards can be so any items that speed up your spelunking adventures really help.

 

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Time Enough at Last

 

Almost every action you take in the game slowly drains your stamina meter, this means you won’t always be able to do everything you need to do in one day. Your character also can’t stay up past 2 am which I found out the hard way while exploring the mine. If you exhaust this meter or stay up too late all that happens is you wake up in the doctor’s office but they do charge you about 500 gold which at the start can be a bit steep.

 

You can easily use half of your energy just watering your plants in the morning so you really have to plan before you head off into the mines. You can take food with you to top yourself up but you don’t want to be eating too many crops either. Sometimes it can be a lot to think about but there aren’t really any strict time limits, you can keep playing forever because the year just loops.

 

One thing you do have to watch out for is the seasons because you’re spring crops will instantly fail if you haven’t harvested them when summer comes along. I got caught out by this on my first summer but it’s the kind of thing you’ll only mess up once. The game has a bit of a harsh learning curve at times, I do think they could have included some more tutorials as there can be a lot of trial and error when you first start out. There have been a few times when I’ve had to consult the Wikia just to figure out the basic game mechanics which I don’t particularly mind but it might put new gamers off.

 

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Rancho Relaxo

 

The main thing that keeps me coming back to Stardew Valley is that it’s one of the most relaxing games I’ve ever played. Granted there can be a sense of urgency when you’re delving deep into the mines and it get’s a bit late but even then there isn’t much of a penalty if you mess anything up. The game lets you do everything on your own time which is great if you haven’t got the chance to play for hours on end. It also borders on addictive at times, I always find myself wanting to just do one more day which can often turn into about 20 more.

 

On it’s surface Stardew Valley seems like a simple game but there’s immense depth to be uncovered if you’re willing. It’s all the more impressive when you learn that this game was all made by 1 person (Developer Eric Barone). I really can’t recommend this game enough, its PC specs are so low almost any PC can run it and at the time of writing it was £10.99 on Steam so it’s definitely value for money.

 

★★★★★

Vacation (2015) Review

In 1983 Clark Griswold took his family on a road trip they would never forget, and they were going to enjoy it. Whether they liked it or not. Clark’s desperation to provide an unforgettable experience for his kid and bring the family together provided many laughs and many sequels.

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Hello Griswolds!

The movie was a bit of a hit and there is a sense of fond memories surrounding it. So naturally it needed to be remade for a whole new generation to enjoy it, because as we all know you need to re-make it or it ceases to exist. Or the makers just wanted to jump on the nostalgia bandwagon and unnecessarily remake something to make a quick buck. Having watched this failed fart of a movie, I  strongly suspect it was the latter.

This time round it is Rusty (Ed Helm) who is the desperate patriarch trying to provide his family with an unforgettable holiday they’ll fondly remember for years to come. For those of you with keen memories you might remember him as the son from the original round of movies, making this more than just a straight remake. It’s sort of a reboot, or sequel of some sorts. I suspect the term ‘updated for modern audiences’ and ‘edgy’ was used in the pitch.

The story kicks of with Rusty flying a plane for an economy airline. A small child excitedly asks if he is a pilot when on the way to the toilet, which results in Rusty accidentally sexually assaulting the child’s mother during some turbulence. This provides the movies first of many ‘Really?!’ moments. Seriously, this is the 21st Century surly we have moved past the ‘accidentally on purpose feeling a woman’s breasts’. It’s a joke that feels like it belongs in a bawdy 1960s hospital, not in a film released in 2015. This scene pretty much sets up the tone for the rest of the movie, and I can promise you it only gets worse from here on in. Better buckle up because the pilot has put on the safety belt sign. 

borhtersAfter his little jaunt Rusty returns home to his wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate) and two kids James, (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins). We see James, the older child being bullied by his younger brother Kevin. A running joke that doesn’t work. The writers were obviously so pleased at coming up with what they thought was a subversive idea of having the younger brother bullying the older one, that they failed to realise they would need to make the jokes funny. Or give it a decent conclusion where they learn to get along or at least have some sort of mutual respect in the end. Instead throughout we get treated to some very dull swearing and highly unimaginative name calling that relies heavily on sexism. As a result of this pathetic bantering neither of the boys feel like real people. In fact none of them feel like they are real people.

Part of the charm of the original was Clark felt like he could be real. Yes he was a bit over the top and on occasion you wondered how social services had never been called to their house. At the end of the day though he was a Dad who just wanted to spend some time with his kids, and even though they were American they all felt they could be your next door neighbours or your school chums or your work mate. This pile of one dimensional caricatures flailing about in poop and vomit are not people you want anywhere near you.

Once Rusty discovers that his family hates the annual vacation a log log cabin in Cheboygan he decides to surprise them all with a road trip to Wally World! Just like he did with his dad. The next day he comes home with a bizarre looking car, (there is a length and unfunny sequence showing just how bizarre it is)  and with trepidation the rest of the family join Rusty on a trip to Wally World.

The only real sequence Christina Applegate gets to try and stretch her comedic wings is the first stop. At her old sorority house. They are doing the annual chug Run for Asperger’s, (which provides at least two jokes around the mis-pronunciation of Ass Burgers, yes it sinks that low) which involves chugging a pitcher of beer and then attempting a Total Wipeout-esque obstacle course. Debbie gets challenged to do the chug run for the first time in twenty years, when the current sisters discover she is the famous Debby Does Anything. She gets knocked off almost immediately and proceeds to  vomit everywhere. It fell as flat as she did. There is no joke here. It’s just a woman vomiting. 

I’m not averse to gross out humour, I was raised on a diet of Farley Brothers and Adam Sandler comedies. I can handle gross humour, but there needs to be a joke to go with it. This appears to be being gross just for the sake of seeing a woman vomiting.

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Raw Sewage is actually a better, and more accurate title for the movie.

After this there are scenes involving them bathing in raw sewage, Chris Hemsworth’s enormous penis, Rusty bursting through a cow, and some dangerous rapids. Each and every one more horrible than the next making you slink further and further into your seat in the hope that if you reach the ground it will just stop or turn out to be some kind of hideous dream. 

None of it works, none of it is funny. The gross out humour isn’t humour, it’s just gross. The basic plot sort of works, it’s just a series of skits loosely tied together with the vague premise of a road trip. 

_DSC6085.DNGThe one saving grace that provided a couple of laughs was the cameos. Maybe it’s because I have a soft spot for Kaitlin Olson and Charlie Day from their work in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but their separate cameos were some of the very few times I laughed during the 1hr 35min running time. Though when they’re gone you’re left wondering what they were doing in such a garbage heap of a movie. Maybe they lost a bet or owed a favour, or maybe they just needed the money. 

The other great cameo that provided a much needed comic relief in this festering cesspool of unfunny jokes is the man himself, Clark Griswold! That’s right Chevy chase and Beverly D’Angelo make an appearance to reprise their old roles and show these young whippersnappers how it’s done. Clark and Ellen are living conveniently close to Wally World making a perfect pit stop for Rusty and co to drop by before their final destination.

I know Chevy Chase has courted controversy in the past for his behaviour, and he might not be everyone’s favourite comedian of all time ever, but I have a soft spot for him thanks to his appearances in the video for You can Call Me Al (One of my favourite songs) and as Pierce in the sitcom Community. I got more laughs out of the five or ten minutes he was on screen then I did for the rest of the movie combined.

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What you’ll look like five minutes in.

This is a truly terrible movie filled with ill-timed and disgusting jokes that land as well the pilot from Airplane! There is really very little enjoyment here for anyone, there isn’t even an element of ‘so bad it’s good’ to it. Just avoid it at all costs.

☆☆☆☆

 

Mid-Year Wrap Up

So we’re over half way through the year and I’m not even half way through my reading goal of 50 books. By now I should be on book 26/27 but instead I’m only on book 24 ao I thought I’d share with you the books I’ve read so far this year.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love you –Jenny Han15749186

This series follows a girl called Lola-Jean who has loved a few boys in her life but never told any of them. Instead she writes them a love letter which she addresses but never sends, choosing to hide them in a hat box instead.  One day she realises her letters have been posted and she now needs to confront each guy. This is a great read and I enjoyed the second book more than the first, a third book is to be released, I only hope it doesn’t ruin the series so far.

Everything, Everything – Nicola Yoonbook_cover.jpg

Maddy is allergic to everything, hence the book’s title. She lives an isolated life with her mother and her nurse, Carla, being the only people she has any interaction with. Maddy is happy with this life until she spots a new guy moving in next door. Olly also has his share of problems at home and strikes up a friendship with Maddy by sending messages through their windows and later progressing to online messaging. Maddy is soon begins to wonder what life could be like outside her own home and realises she has to take a chance in order to live a little. I didn’t hate this book but I didn’t love it either… It was good, I’ll leave it at that.

Only Ever Yours – Louise O’Neilldownload

In a world were only men are born naturally; women are now created and trained in the arts of pleasing men. When a woman graduates, they will become a companion, concubine or teacher and most of the girls are aiming to become a companion. Freida and her best friend Isabel have always been two of the top rated girls in school and are sure they’ll go on to become companions. In the final year however, Isabel does the worst thing she can possibly do and puts on weight. Soon Freida realises she has to decide if her friendship is worth saving and she now needs to become the perfect woman all by herself. I loved this book, it was insightful and clever.

Full review here.

Almost Famous Women – Megan Mayhew Bergman51bqo1NSzFL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

A collection of short stories about women who were almost famous, some of the women are related to famous people and some are notorious women from throughout the ages. The stories are brilliant and inspiring, they shed some light on how women can do anything than a man can do and often they can do it better.

Disclaimer – Renée Knightdownload (2)

Disclaimer follows two protagonists, first we have Catherine, a prestigious documentary maker who one day finds a book on her nightstand and after a few chapters she realises that it is about herself. The book tells of her worst memory and time that she thought she had passed. Our second protagonist is Stephen, the author of the book and a man who holds a grudge. This book was great, it was full of twists and each chapter ending made me want to read more.

Full review here.

Quidditch Through the Ages – J.K. Rowling51V-oMWTcOL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

I’m sure we’re all familiar with the Harry Potter series by now, it feels like not a week does by without mentioning my favourite book series. Quidditch Through the Ages is a book which is read within the book series (book inception) and was brought to life for Comic Relief. The book tells us the history of the game of Quidditch and explains a lot of the rules.

Down the Rabbit Hole – Juan Pablo Villalobosdownload (5)

This book follows Tochtli, a child of a famous drug baron, who is living the life of luxury. He lives in a house big enough that he describes it as a palace, he has his own zoo and he has no need to leave the house; everything he needs is brought to him. He does however, have a house which often has hit men and prostitutes passing through. Tochtli’s only want is to have a pygmy hippopotamus to add to his zoo. This book is tiny and can be read in a matter of hours or possibly less depending on how fast a reader you are but it’s brilliant.

Lorali – Laura Dockrill24910026

On his sixteenth birthday, Rory is sitting by the beach when a storm hits and he has to run for shelter. He realises that he’s not alone in the shelter when he comes across Lorali, a naked girl who he instantly feels he needs to protect. It soon becomes apparent that there is more to Lorali than first meets the eye, she is actually a mermaid who rejected her life under the sea but a number of people turn up at the same time as she does and it seems that they’re determined to bring Lorali back home. I was a tad disappointed with this one, I thought I would love a book about mermaids but I got bored after about 10 pages.

Meet Me In Paris – Juliette Sobanetimg_2253

Juliette’s memoirs follow her post-divorce w
hen she meets a good looking man (still married) who she begins an affair with. It’s an honest telling of life after your world changes and how with good friends and strong will, you can get through anything. I thought this was great, it was nice to see a story that is real and unashamed.

Full review here.

Shopaholic to the Rescue – Sophia Kinsella9780812987706

This is book eight in the Shopaholic series. This time Becky’s father has gone missing and he has taken Suze’s husband Tarkie with him. Becky, along with her family and friends, go on a mission across America to ensure their loved ones are ok. I think this series needs to just finish now and I’m sort of tired of hearing about Becky doing something stupid and affecting her whole family in the process. This book was better than the last few but still not half as good as when the series started

Dark Places – Gillian FlynnDark-Places-Gillian-Flynn.jpg

When Libby is a child, her mother and sisters are murdered. Libby hides throughout the whole situation but acts as a witness, at age seven, to give evidence against her brother who she thinks she heard killing the rest of her family. Twenty-Five years later and Libby is no longer able to survive on the charity money given to her as a child so she seeks other ways to get money. She comes across the Kill Club, a group who are interested in serial killers and where she realises that she might have been wrong about how her family died. I still can’t tell you how I feel about this book, it was great but disturbing.

Full review here.

The Moth Catcher – Anne Cleeves61pxu1qZLEL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_

The book series which the UK TV show, Vera, is based on. This is the seventh book in the series but the only one I’ve ever read. Each book has its own story so I don’t feel it’s essential to read them all before starting this one. This book sees two bodies being found in a small town not far from Newcastle. The victims seem connected but their bodies were found apart. Vera must get to the bottom of the murders and work out who the killer was. I’ve honestly forgot who the killer was already but I enjoyed the book, it wasn’t full of suspense but seeing as I’m from Newcastle, it was great to read about places close by.

The Harry Potter Series – Books 5-7 – J.K. Rowlingdownload (3)

I’m sure I don’t need to explain these books. I re-read 1-4 last year and finished my re-read this year. I loved them. As I always do.

My five favourite things about Harry Potter.

Game of Thrones- Books 1 and 2 – George R.R. Martin9780007448036

Again, I don’t feel like I need to explain this series and even if I did, I don’t know how I would. Way too much happens in these books to really explain. I hope to finish the rest of the books by the end of the year but I’m listening to audio book versions of them and at 40+ hours per book, I’m not sure if I will.

A Court of Mist and Fury – Sarah J. Massdownload (2)

The second book in the ACOTAR series, this book sees Feyre, newly turned fae and living with the fae who she believes to be the love of her life, Tamlin. Tamlin however keeps Feyre locked up and wont allow her to leave the safety of their estate in fear she will get hurt. Move aside Tamlin and allow Rhys to enter. Rhys rescues Feyre and allows her to become part of his close-knit court where she learns to use her newfound fae skills and fight for herself. I completely loved this book, along with the rest of the world, I thought it was great.

Full review here.

All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerrdownload (3)

Like Disclaimer, this book has two protagonists, Marie-Laure and Warner. Marie-Laure goes blind at a young ages but lives with her father who takes her with him every day when he goes to work at Paris’ Natural History Museum. As WWII progresses they realise they must leave Paris and with them they take a beautiful diamond which they plan to keep safe for the museum. Warner is an orphan who has a great skill at fixing radios. He eventually becomes part of the Hitler youth and progresses to be one of the best soldiers on field. Marie-Laure and Werner eventually meet and the book follows their childhood to show how this happens. I honestly didn’t feel anything for his book, it was well written but none of the characters felt real to me.

Full review here.

The Paris Effect – K.S.R. Burns26089265

I had to check Goodreads to check what this book was about despite the fact that I only finished it a matter of weeks ago… It follows Amy who clearly has an eating disorder and who has just recently lost her best friend. She’s not completely happy in her marriage so when he husband goes away for a week on business, she leaves for Paris. I just didn’t care for this book. Amy never seemed to get over her eating problem and I don’t feel like it was ever explained that her eating disorder was a bad thing. I love Paris but this book just didn’t give me what I needed.

Sold – Patricia McComerick201114.jpg

Lakshmi is thirteen and lives in the mountains of Nepal with her mother and step-father. Lakshmi enjoys school and looking after her goat but she can’t deny that her family have money issues. To rectify this, her step-father decides to sell Lakshmi to what she believes will be a rich family within the city where she will be a maid. It soon becomes apparent that she will not be a maid and she will actually be a prostitute, living a life she is desperate to escape. This was a brilliant book and a must read for anyone. It’s insightful and intelligent and at times it broke my heart.

A Series of Unfortunate Events – Books 1 and 2 – Lemony SnicketThe_Bad_Beginning_(UK).png

Another popular book series that I’ve started to read. There’s soon to be a Netflix TV show released and I decided to read the series before the show starts. I like the books but have series concerns about why there are no responsible adults looking after the children. I never read these books as a child so I don’t think I have the same emotional attachment as most do.

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Absolutely Fabulous Review

Hi sweetie darling sweetie! Grab a bottle of bolly and settle into yourself into your favourite designer arm chair, the most fabulous comedy of the year is here.

I’m going to start this review by saying that I love the Ab Fab TV series, growing up it was one of the few shows my mum and I could agree on. The antics of Eddie, Patsy, Saffy and Gran had us in stitches. I even called my guinea pigs Eddie and Patsy I love it that much.

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Eddie (left) and Patsy (right) Pig

You can bet your bottom dollar that I was there, excitedly lining up to get tickets to see the glitzy spectacular with my mum. We grabbed our cocktails, our bolly and a copious amount of chocolate and settled ourselves in for a glittering spectacle.

So bearing all that in mind, I’m saddened to report I was a little disappointed.

The movie starts off with Eddie learning that Kate Moss is looking for a new PR person, with her career in decline Eddie decides she needs to get Kate on her books to give herself the well needed professional boost. Thankfully Patsy is throwing a big glamorous celebrity party, and you’ll never guess who’s RSVP’d! That’s right, the face of modern modelling herself, Kate Moss.

kate moss

So far so good, and the film opens with a great sequence where Eddie and Patsy accidentally end up on a runway as they enter a fashion show a little late and they try and find their seats. These are two inherently funny ladies, who can make you laugh from a single awkward movement or withering look. So it’s sad to see this potential not fully lived up to in other parts of the movie.  

In her haste to beat a rival PR agent for a chance to speak with Kate at the party Eddie knocks Kate from her perch on a wall, throwing her in the Thames.

A shame faced Eddie and Patsy have to go on the run in order to avoid the hounding press, and the murder allegations. So off they fly to the only place they can hide in the comfort and luxury they’ve become accustomed to, the South of France.


edna mole cropThe film is funny, there are plenty of laughs to be had here. However I felt that they just weren’t often or consistent enough for me. It starts of quite strong, and once they hit Cannes in the South of France things start to fall apart a little and become a little too silly in places. Over all, it felt a little like a regular episode stretched into ninety minutes. The side plot involving Patsy sticking on a fake moustache and marrying the richest woman in the world (a little old lady who looks a little like a real life Edna Mole from The Incredibles. I kept expecting her to shout NO CAPES! At any moment) was a little too out there for my tastes, and didn’t really add anything to the plot or the laugh count.  

As I mentioned before Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley are very funny women, it’s in their bones. They have an amazing on screen chemistry fostered by years of working together, and you can tell they were having an absolute blast making the film. Joanna Lumley really shines as Patsy, she really took the opportunity to make the most of being as horrible as possible and is great fun to watch.

saffy
Lots of frowning for Saffy

Almost all of the other characters from the show make an appearance at some point, there’s Saffy (Julia Sawalha) and Gran (June Whitfield), of course. Bubble (Jane Horrocks) pops up with some of her most outlandish outfits yet. I did feel that Saffy (who was always my favourite) got a little sidelined and was left with nothing but shouting insults at Patsy and frowning a lot. Gran is as dotty as ever, though she is good fun.

The slew of celebrity cameos did little for me, they just weren’t funny enough really, and gave the feel that this was a big luvvie love in where all the rich and fabulous all got together to congratulate each other on their own fabulousness. Though I must admit the ones they managed to get were very impressive and it just goes to show how well thought of the show is amongst the celebrity elite.

If you’re a fan of the show you will enjoy it. It is fun watching the characters having a big screen romp, everything is bigger and better and more extravagant than ever.  However, if you’ve never seen or didn’t like the TV show then I think there will be little for you to grasp onto. It does rely on it’s audience already having a knowledge of the characters, their background and relationships with one another. There is a scene where Eddie and Patsy draught in two of their silly friends to swap places with them, though there is no intro for them or any real explanation as to who they are. If I hadn’t seen the show,  I think I would be a little lost.

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If you’re looking for a bit of fun on a Friday night with the girls, then this will be a good bet. It’s silly and fun and is best enjoyed with cocktails. If you’re looking for something as good or insightful as the TV show then I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed, just like I was.

★★★☆☆

The Visit (2015) Review

I love the found footage genre of horror films. In the days where we are constantly filming everything it gives these movies an unsettling and familiar visual style. But when done badly they can be utterly confusing barf fests that just leave people annoyed at the end of it. Luckily star director M. Night Shyamalan and the producers of Paranormal Activity have made something better than your standard Blair Witch knock off.

 

This review will contain some mild spoilers about plot moments

 

the visit poster

We start the movie being introduced to our main characters, the brother and sister team Becca and Tyler who will be our camera operators for most of the movie. One thing that struck me straight away was that these characters are impossibly quirky for real people. They do have some believable personal moments throughout but a lot of their dialogue just doesn’t seem right for their age. The basic premise is that they are going to stay with their grandparents for a week that they’ve never met before because their mother left home on very bad terms with them.

 

Becca is an aspiring filmmaker and wants to make a documentary so she can finally get the real story on why the family is estranged. She also hopes she can get some closure for her mother and maybe mend some bridges along the way. We get some fun moments during their train journey but we also get the first instance of the movie’s most cringey recurring joke, Tyler’s amateur rapping. I’m all for moments of comedy in horror films, it can provide much needed levity when things get tough to watch but this white kid’s rapping sucks. M. Night clearly thought this was hilarious for some reason because it’s revisited about 4 times.

 

So anyway the kids are greeted at the train station by their grandparents, referred to as Nana and Pop Pop for the rest of the movie. There is a general air of uneasiness at first but the kids put it down to everyone meeting each other for the first time. The kids bake cookies with Nana, get a tour of the house with Pop Pop and eventually settle in for the night. This is when Pop Pop tells the kids the one house rule “Bedtime here is 9:30. It’s probably best if you two shouldn’t come out of your room after that. See you in the morning”.

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What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse

About an hour later Becca decides she can probably sneak down to get some more cookies without disturbing anyone so sets out with her camera. As she starts going downstairs Nana walks into frame and starts projectile vomiting, understandably Becca freaks out and gets the hell out of there. Next morning she speaks to Pop Pop about it who explains is away as a 24 hour stomach bug. This is pretty much the format of the movie, it’s a lot like Paranormal Activity in that way. Each new day there’s a title card so you know how many days the kids have left to endure and most of the scary stuff happens at night. I like this day/night format because I can get all anxious and excited for what crazy stuff is going to happen that night, then you are relieved when you see it’s daytime again.

 

As you can imagine things escalate every night. Nana is extremely creepy, she runs around the house at night naked scratching at the walls and banging doors. I think at first you’re supposed to think she’s possessed but again Pop Pop explains this away as sundowning, which is a form of heightened dementia that sets in once the sun goes down. Deanna Dunagan who plays Nana is really impressive, the way she crawls around and growls with her hair over her face is horrifying and she’s scarily nimble for a 76 year old. It’s the kind of character that you don’t even want to look at but you can’t tear your eyes away because you want to know she’s going to do next.

Nana

What a Twist!

Knowing that this is an M. Night Shyamalan horror movie most people will be on the lookout for a plot twist. Disappointingly I did guess part of the twist while I was watching but it didn’t invalidate the rest of the movie for me, I still wanted to see how it all turned out.

 

This felt like a pretty personal project for M. Night, it has a really small cast of characters and I felt like Becca represented the young filmmaker in him. It also a much smaller movie than he’d been making recently and it has an incredible short cast list. I liked this aspect of it because you got to spend a lot of time with the important people and it gave him more time to linger on interpersonal moments when the movie needed it.

 

This movie really preyed on my fears of old people, it had some genuinely scary and unsettling moments. There were also some fairly disturbing moments involving an adult diaper which I’d like to forget. In contrast to the horror it also had some pretty effective moments of heart and introspection from the kids which work surprisingly well. I liked The Visit way more that I thought I would and while parts of it may have been formulaic I came away satisfied with the ending… until they had Tyler rap again over the credits!

★★★★☆

tyler rap

Tyler’s Rapping: ☆☆☆☆☆