Posted in review, young adult

The Extinction Trials – S.M.Wilson

“She’d come for the food, but it wasn’t the rewards that called to her now. It was a chance to see a different land and its awe-inspiring creatures.”

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Blurb: “Betrayal. Sacrifice. Survival. Welcome to the Extinction Trials.In Stormchaser and Lincoln’s ruined world, the only way to survive is to risk everything. To face a contest more dangerous than anyone can imagine. And they will do anything to win.”

It’s not often that I pick up a book knowing very little about it. It’s also rare that publicity pitches such as “if you liked this then you’ll like this” really grip me because I feel it’s setting yourself for disappointment. But The Extinction Trials blasted these feelings out of the water: all I needed to hear was “The Hunger Games meets Jurassic Park” for me to know that I had to read this book.

The Extinction Trials is set in a world of two continents: Earthasia inhabited by humans and Piloria inhabited by Dinosaurs. Overpopulation is an issue the human race is struggling to deal with. There’s a lack of basic needs for survival such as health care and laws in place to discourage reproduction. Every year, trials take place where applicants are sent to the dinosaur continent for various reasons such as finding sustainable food sources. In a last ditch attempt, the government is looking to possibly make Piloria their new home.

The story is told through dual perspectives, Stormchaser and Lincoln which initially threw me, but as the plot progressed made a lot of sense. The Extinction Trials tackles the idea of how far an individual is willing to go for the ones they love; what lengths will you go to when you’re truly desperate to survive? It’s for that reason that having multiple perspectives was a perfect choice because it showed the different character motivations and their reasons for choosing to sign up to the trials. Stormchaser has nothing to lose and just wants decent food, while Lincoln would do anything to get his sister the health care she needs.

Everything about this book is seemless and each plot element just flows so perfectly into the next that almost forgot that I was just reading a combination of letters on a page. The world that S.M.Wilson has created is so vivid that I could picture every snippet of information she provided. It’s the kind of creation that I would love to see in a visual format.

The Extinction Trials is an adrenaline filled thrill ride with an ending that left me begging for more.

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Posted in Audiobook Of The Month, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized

Audiobook Of The Month | When They Call You A Terrorist

If you’re wondering “but wait, Charlotte, you’ve already posted your audiobook of the month!” Then you are absolutely right. It turns out that I should stop pushing myself to try other genres out when I know I don’t like them. So I refunded The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet and set about finding a new book to replace it. I listen to a weekly book podcast called Mostly Lit and the guest on one of their episodes was Patrisse Khan-Cullors who is the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement. She talked in great detail about a lot of things in the episode and mentioned her book, When They Call You A Terrorist and read a passage from it.

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I’ve come to learn that the best way to consume non-fiction is by listening to the audiobook because the reader is able to hear the story, and when it comes to listening to something as personal as someone’s life, it can make all of the difference.

As you can tell from the title, When They Call You A Terrorist documents the lives of Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele and the movement in which the individuals would go on to be labelled “terrorists.”

I am 11% into the audiobook, down to the fact I’ve exchanged my credit so late in the month. But it is only short so it’s likely I’ll get it finished before my credit renews.

The most terrifying thing about this book so far is that Patrisse reels off names and places so easily: names like Trayvon Martin and Ferguson. But each of those names and places she refers to further illustrate the points she makes of systematic racism, is not just a name/place or a statistic. Every single one of them refers to a person who lost their life, and a community that was left reeling, and yet those left behind are made to feel like they are the ones in the wrong.

It’s hard-hitting, emotional, but I feel one of the most important books I will read this year.

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Posted in adaptations, discussion

Losing Characters To Adaptations

I have always been the person to read the book before seeing the film. Regardless of whether it’s something I’ve heard of before like Harry Potter or something entirely new like Divergent,I always have to pay a visit to the original material. I love comparing the two as my Book-To-movie segment on this blog will verify. While hard to stomach at times, everyone has different interpretations when they read the same story. As we seem to have entered a new phase of book adaptations called -only by me- the “YA Contemporary era” with Everything, Everything and  Love, Simon on the big screen, and The Hate U Give and To All The Boys I’ve loved Before soon to follow suit, it’s left me thinking once again about the power of adaptations.

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More recently, I saw the adaptation of Becky Albertalli’s best selling novel Simon Vs The Homosapiens Agenda. Despite having read it back in 2015, I revisited it so that I could do a book-to-movie talk. When talking to a friend after seeing it, I mentioned that when Nick Robinson was cast in the staring role, I was a bit put out as, after all, he didn’t LOOK like Simon to me. My friend said that she didn’t think Logan Miller was the right person to play Martin. However, to me I thought it was a perfect casting.

Reader, it was like I had  a sudden epiphany. I realized that the reason I always feel I have to read the book first is that an adaptation is someone else’s interpretation of the source material. Stories are streamlined, events are changed because films have a much tighter time constraint than its paper counterpart. As for characters, reading that book before seeing the film, if it’s one you truly love is the last time to see those characters in your own way before the film essentially taints your own perspective.

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I remember when I started reading the Harry Potter books and I cried when I saw Daniel Radcliffe in the lead role. (Yes my mum had a lot to deal with and admittedly I was eight at the time) Now whenever I re-read the books, I always picture him as Harry. The film actors now occupy the pages. Peter Pan has me imagining Jeremy Sumpter as the boy who will never grow up and captain hook as an amalgamation of Jason Isaacs and the Disney cartoon.

The only exceptions tend to be when I’ve seen the trailer so already picture the actors as the characters. Examples for this include The Maze Runner, Divergent and City of Bones. When I joined the fandom for the latter I was instantly asked what I thought of Jamie Bower as Jace and was met with screeches when I said that he was “Jace to me.” Apparently it was a sore subject for a lot of book fans.

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Looking back, I can’t help but feel like I had a little bit of magic stolen from me. But then again,without some of those films, I may not have discovered characters.
and worlds I loved so deeply.

But there’s nothing wrong with wanting to picture them my way… one last time… right?

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Posted in contemporary, Historical Fiction, review

How To Stop Time – Matt Haig

“All we can ever be is faithful to our memories of reality, rather than the reality itself, which is something closely related but never exactly the same.”

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Blurb: “Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. From Elizabethan England to Jazz-Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen a lot, and now craves an ordinary life.”

There are some books where words are just not enough; books that defy every possible descriptor you could place upon them because it gives you a feeling so deep in the pit of your stomach that you simply cannot shake. Dear reader, this is one of those books.

Tom has lived for over 400 years and therefore has been around for some significant points throughout history: he has lived through the plague, survived the witch trials, performed on stage with Shakespeare, and had drinks with F.Scott Fitzgerald (you can imagine how much I squealed at that point).

As part of a society, Tom is given a new life every eight years and his current placement finds him back in London as a History teacher. This aspect was brilliantly clever as it allows the reader to be taken back through time to various points Tom is teaching about. There was just something about it that centred the universe and made everything feel more real. He walks down the familiar streets of London being constantly reminded of the wife he outlived and his daughter, born with the same genetic condition, so is out in there world but he doesn’t know where.

Fundamentally this is a story about identity: What do we become when everyone good about our lives become memories? Who are we if we outlive our loved ones? Who are we outside of our connection to others?

The writing is mesmerising and beautiful, complete with passages that force you sit back and contemplate so many things about life. It created this sense of yearning right in every part of me for something that I’m not quite sure what it is, and I don’t think I’ll ever find out.

How To Stop Time is a book that will stay with me for a very long time and has made it onto my list of favourite books of all time in the process.

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Posted in poetry, review

The Princess Saves Herself In This One – Amanda Lovelace

“Ah, life- the thing that happens to us while we’re off somewhere else blowing on dandelions & wishing ourselves into the pages of our favorite fairy tales.”

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Blurb: “A poetry collection divided into four different parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, & you. the princess, the damsel, & the queen piece together the life of the author in three stages, while you serves as a note to the reader & all of humankind. Explores life & all of its love, loss, grief, healing, empowerment, & inspirations.”

Winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Poetry 2016, This Princess Saves Herself In This One is a poetry collection that I’m sure you’ve heard about before. Originally self-published and picked up a year later by Andrew Mcmeel Publishing, is an autobiographic insight into Amanda Lovelace’s life.

Trigger warnings: child abuse, partner abuse, sexual assault, eating disorders, self-harm, alcoholism, death, suicide, cancer and grief.

I often find it hard to review poetry because it’s something so personal; the lives of the writer pouring themselves on the pages with imagery and metaphors. This book reads almost like a diary at points that the thoughts and feelings expressed were meant for no one else to see and that created this bond. It felt like I was connected to the writer and she laid out the story arc of her life before me.

In terms of the triggers listed above, the big chunk of them are littered among the “Princess” section which chronicles an abusive family relationship and mental illness. “The Damsel” section is also quite heavy reading as the story shifts to a girl who makes herself someone who needs to be saved.  My personal favourite is “The Queen” in which the girl decides to save herself (hence the title) and starts to fight back, finally realising that she is worthy of so much more than she believed before and that she can indeed pick herself back up. Universally, from other reviews, the final section “you” is the most popular with many praising it for the feminist themes. “You” is a call to arms where the attention shifts to the reader, addressing them directly. The poems in this section  are a reminder to the reader to take care of themselves, bestowing the writer’s wisdom and everything she’s learnt. The latter two sections were definitely my favourites and ones I will no doubt revisit in the future.

However, it’s hard not to notice the mixed reviews with many sarcastically writing their reviews in the forms of some poems in the book while others flat out criticise the form, saying it is quite simply not poetry. I can understand where these points of view come from as a lot of the poems are more one sentence statements than many would consider poetry, and I did flick through a lot of the shorter ones without much thought.

This is a collection I would pick up again in a heartbeat and happily analyse the poems in a different way since I discovered after-the-fact that this collection is about Amanda Lovelace’s life.

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Posted in adaptations, discussion

Book To Movie Talk | Love, Simon

“You get to exhale now, Simon.”

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*This post contains mild spoilers*

Love, Simon is an adaptation of the bestselling novel Simon Vs The Homo sapiens Agenda, written by Becky Albertalli. When I read the book, I instantly fell in love with it and held the story close to my bisexual heart, having related so much to a lot of Simon’s narrative. Naturally, like many readers, I was over the moon to hear that it had been picked up for a movie and secretly prayed that it would eventually make its way onto the big screen. (Given there are many instances of rights being bought and things never happening)

It’s a coming-of-age and, well, coming out story of a gay teenage boy called Simon Spier who is threatened to be outed by a school bully, armed with screenshots of private emails between Simon and the mysterious Blue.

This film is so important for many reasons that you’ve probably already heard about a million times. To be “that adult”, if I’d seen this film when I was a confused 13 year old girl, maybe my own story would be different  But anyway, back to the film. I liked that it emphasised that no one comes out once. There’s always going to be friends you have yet to tell, new people in your life and every time is met with the same hesitation; Simon even uses the “I’m still me” line. Every scene is met with the same intake of breath as he waits to hear their response and I felt it so deeply.

I was unsure about Nick Robinson as Simon when the casting was announced, but I didn’t need to worry at all. Simply put: he is Simon. I was completely invested in his portrayal from every little smile when reading his emails, to every laugh and cry. The “that was supposed to be my thing” scene hit me like a ton of bricks. You could just feel the pure rage oozing from the character and the following sequence left me quietly sobbing into my popcorn. Katherine Langford, known for 13 Reasons Why, was another stand out for me. Leah is a quiet force in the overall drama of the story but Katherine managed to capture the essence of her character: feeling lost, overwhelmed with the possibilities open to her. But when she gets her big moment, my god she shines.

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I loved the contrast between the first and second halves of the film. The former felt slightly darker and like there was a restraint to Simon and the interactions he had with his friends. As Simon’s mother (played by Jennifer Garner) points out: it feels like he’s holding his breath. In comparison, the latter feels much brighter, Simon smiles more, he feels closer to his family and friends. After his first coming out scene, when he finally lets go of that breath, his character moves in a different direction and it’s beautiful to watch.

I also really like how Blue’s email sequences were littered with a different person each time, alternating with whoever Simon suspected to be Blue based on little things he dissected from the emails. It kept it interesting and tried to give a face to the person behind the emails before it’s eventually revealed.

From an adaptation point of view: it’s solid. The best internal narrative bits of the book are littered in voiceovers and all the major plot points are there. There is a big addition to add more drama to the story but it makes sense in the context of the film. The book is a quiet story, and on screen it needed that extra push to keep viewers interested. I was fascinated to see how the emails would be shown and it’s pretty much like in the book: you’re reading them along with Simon which I thought was a nice touch. You really are following Simon on his journey. I don’t feel that Martin was emphasised as much as he was in the book. One of the main points of his character was that he didn’t know/understand that people cared about other people’s sexualities and the result his actions would have. (Not that it excuses his idiot behaviour) In the film it felt like he very much knew what he was doing and trying to take the heat off himself. Which, I guess in its own way, kind of worked. The essence of Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda is in very single frame of this film. If you love the book as much as I did, you’re not going to be disappointed.

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However, this film isn’t without its faults. The “trying to be down with the kids” head teacher is a trope that I’ve never been able to get behind in teenage comedies, and in Love, Simon it really took me out of the film. It was just forced humour that didn’t really work and the most hilarious moments happened in a more natural way; they just felt part of the conversation. The beginning is very disjointed, like we’re rushing to establish Simon and his relationships. The film really finds its feet when Simon sends his first email to Blue and after that it’s plain sailing.

The stand out scene for me was Simon and his mother having a heart to heart after he comes out. It’s heartfelt and beautiful and apparently Nick Robinson didn’t know that Jennifer Garner was going to cry as it wasn’t scripted… which then made him cry in the take. But I mean, who wasn’t crying by that point?

The ending fell to some romantic, teenage cliché but you know what? As Jacques a dit: everyone deserves a good love story.

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Posted in contemporary, review, young adult

Clean – Juno Dawson

“Shit just got really real.”

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Blurb: “When socialite Lexi Volkov almost overdoses, she thinks she’s hit rock bottom. She’s wrong. Rock bottom is when she’s forced into an exclusive rehab facility. From there, the only way is up for Lexi and her fellow inmates, including the mysterious Brady. As she faces her demons, Lexi realises love is the most powerful drug of all…”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Trigger warnings: drug overdose, scenes of drug taking, recovery, relapse, suicide and eating disorders.

The reader first meets Lexi Volkov when she wakes up in the back of her brother’s car on the way to rehab. I really liked how this is where the story began because it was really disorientating and took a while to get used to where the protagonist was and where she was going; it created that same sense of confusion and anxiety that Lexi was feeling.  As a character, Lexi verges on unbearable at times; informing everyone of who her father is, being ignorant to other people’s problems and frequently offering sexual favours just for an extra pill.

If you’re looking for a cute little story that just happens to have drugs on the side, this is not that story. As the tagline says “it’s a difficult business getting clean.” You’ll have noticed that I included trigger warnings at the start of this review and that’s for good reason. This book is graphic: nothing is hinted at by the way scenes are set up; the reader witnesses everything first hand along with Lexi. It’s raw, brutal and –at times- incredibly uncomfortable to have to read. If it was a film, I would have probably covered my face with my hands and turned away. While it’s incredibly discomforting to have to face head-on, these stories need to exist and especially in Young Adult.

Watching Lexi come to terms with her problems and look back over key moments in her life was heart-breaking to watch but just shows the importance of looking at aspects of our own lives with a different lens; to see what other people do when they’re desperately trying to help us with our own problems.

One big apprehension I had going into this was the hint at a possible romance in the synopsis. I’ve spoken quite loudly on my issues with “boy fixes girls problems” stories and I was really praying this book wouldn’t go that way. While I did groan quite frequently as that sub-plot started to build, I liked the turn that it took, showing that all of the characters involved were focused on their recovery first. Having said that, I wasn’t invested in the slightest in the love aspect of the story.

Lexi is obligated to attend both solo and group therapy and it’s in the latter where the story thrives. The reader is introduced to a whole host of characters all with a variety of problems and I liked how the preconceptions of these were broken down and it was made clear that they’re still problems to the individual regardless of whether you understand them or not. It was nice seeing Lexi adapt and slowly start to trust them.

Clean does an utterly brilliant job of showcasing the recovery process in all its ugly glory along with relapses, while also highlighting that slipping up does not mean that you’re a failure, or you won’t ever get…well…clean.

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