discussion · lgbt

My Sexuality In Fiction

While it may be hard for many to believe, I didn’t hear the term “bisexual” until I was fifteen. Up to that point I was very aware of my attraction to men and women so I didn’t fit into the gay or lesbian categories. It was the introduction of a character in the TV show One Tree Hill who later announced their bisexuality that helped me realise a big part of my identity. That label has stuck with me ever since and after facing several years of feeling like it’s a part of myself that was “not relevant to discuss” I’ve started to become more open about it.

After seeing the film trailer for The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones I decided to buy the book as I always like reading the source material prior to watching an adaptation. This was the first time that I saw a bisexual character in fiction. Of course there are probably hundreds of books featuring bisexual characters that were released prior to City of Bones but this just happened to be the first book I came across. It had a monumental impact on me. In the pages of this vast urban fantasy world, there was a character openly declaring their bisexuality and that was that. It wasn’t made a big deal of and it was through following Magnus Bane in this world Cassandra Clare has created that I started to think that maybe my own sexuality didn’t need to be a big deal either.

I had the opportunity to meet Cassandra Clare on the UK book tour for The Iron Trial in 2014 and thank her but I completely bottled it and got into such a starstruck state that I asked her about something else instead and completely forgot to even say hello to Holly Black. Thankfully, another opportunity came around last year when Cassandra Clare did a UK book tour for Lady Midnight; Another book featuring a bisexual character.

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The picture above shows the exact moment when I started to share part of my story with an author who has made me feel validated. Looking back on this snapshot of time and seeing how happy Cassandra looks just made it matter even more to me. She went on to explain why she felt it was so important to include bisexual characters in her books and listed all of the ones she’s included. While they are all male characters, I was so overwhelmed at what she’d said and just how many are included in the Shadowhunter world that it was only until later that I started to question why most of the bisexual characters I had come across, in other media forms including books, seemed to mainly be men.

While the LGBT genre in Young Adult boasts about the diversity it holds, there isn’t much outside of the discovering-your-identity gay and lesbian stories. (Note: I want to make the point that I am no way discrediting or saying there should be less of one type of representation to make way for another.) Earlier this year I picked up the new release from Becky Albertalli called The Upside of Unrequited and it was brilliant as expected but came with quite a shock.

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The protagonist has two mothers in the book but it is late revealed that one of them is bisexual. I broke down crying. This wasn’t just a character close to my age mentioning her bisexuality. This a grown married woman with children stating the fact. It showed that, despite what people try to tell me, my sexual identity is not a phase and it is possible to be wife and a mother as well as being bisexual. I will champion this book for the rest of my days.

Another book I experienced this year was a debut called Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green. While a book about a boy discovering he’s gay, it encouraged me to make a video over on my booktube channel talking about coming out and how important the treatment of bisexuality is to me. Simon actually watched this video too.
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Naturally, this response made me cry too but also has been a big motivator for me. I never really thought that what I was starting to do constitutes as “brave.” As I mentioned, I’ve become more vocal about my sexuality and the representation of it on books and not been afraid to call out bad representation when I come across it, regardless of how popular the book and author are. It’s also encouraged me to “write the change I want to see” and I have plans for a bisexuality driven YA book which I hope makes it out into the world one day.

I can only hope that slowly there is more of an inclusion of bisexuality in books.

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

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adaptations · discussion

Movie Announcement | The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give was always going to be big. Given the current political situation and an ever growing push for diverse books in Young Adult, when Angie Thomas burst onto the scene with her debut, it got people talking. The book crashed onto the New York Times Bestseller list in the top spot and, several months later, still remains on the list.

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The story is about a teenage girl called Starr who witnesses her best friend get shot by a police officer. In the media frenzy and outrage from the community that follows, it is down to Starr to stand up, seek justice, and more importantly make her voice heard.

So let’s get into the current casting:

Starr Carter played by Amandla Stenberg 

 

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Amandla Stenberg was the first actor to be cast for this film. In fact, they were cast in the lead role before the book was even released. Which shows how much Fox believes in the source material. When I first saw them as Rue in The Hunger Games I could never have predicted that they would be a child actor that goes on to have a real career in acting. But with their recent role as Madeline in Everything Everything, it seems that Amandla may well be someone to watch. I have to admit, when the news broke that they would be taking on the lead role I did a fist-pump. I cannot wait to see them bring this character to life.

Lisa Carter played by Regina Hall

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Taking on the role of mama Carter is Regina Hall, most known for her role of Brenda in the Scary Movie franchise. For the moment I don’t really have an opinion on this announcement as I haven’t seen any of her TV or film work. But I really hope she does the character justice.

Big Mav played by Russell Hornsby 

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Daddy Carter comes in the form of Russell Hornsby. He’s most known for his roles as Hank in Grimm and Lyons in Fences. I’m a little unsure, since at this point I can only go off his look unless I decide to venture into his previous works, I just pictured the father to be a little older for some reason. But again, both parental figures in the film could really prove me wrong.

Seven Carter played by Lamar Johnson

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And finally, completing the line-up of the Carter family is Lamar Johnson. Yes. Quite simply, yes. In terms of credentials, Lamar is due to play a role in the upcoming X-Men film X-Men: Dark Phoenix so he’s another one worth keeping an eye on! I cannot wait to see him bring one of my favourites from the book to life.

The fact that this book is being turned into movie and definitely going to hit screens -unlike many YA adaptations that end up stuck in the mud – is so important. I feel like this film, given the current state of the world and raw, brutal, honesty of its message will really get people talking. Hopefully, talking about change. Because things really do need to change. And this being put out there in a visual format may finally get the conversation moving in the right direction. And with conversation comes action.

Let me know your thoughts on the casting. Who would you like to see take on the role of Khalil or Starr’s school friends? Are you looking forward to seeing The Hate U Give on the big screen?

 

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adaptations · discussion · young adult

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before | Movie Announcement

Over the past few years, there has been a steady increase of Young Adult books making it onto the big screen. From Everything, Everything to Simon Vs The Homosapiens Agenda, the newest addition to the list is To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, based on the best-selling series by Jenny Han.

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The story follows a girl called Lara Jean who has just started her junior year of High school. Everything is going fine until her box of letters written to her crushes is delivered to their doorsteps.

I have to admit, I have seen the massive love for this trilogy but I haven’t read it myself. (Though that is soon to change due to this announcement!) As a result of this, I can’t speak for the accuracy of the actors cast so please express your opinions! With that being said, let’s get into the casting:

Lana Condor as Lara Jean Covey

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Lana Condor made her debut appearance in X-Men: Apocalypse and is now going to be taking on the lead role in this adaptation. As Jenny Han highlights in her announcement, this is massive news. The casting directors could have easily gone down the white-washing route which happens all too often, but instead they decided to go with a Vietnamese-American actress.
Janel Parrish as Margot Covey

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Probably the most recognisable from the cast announcements, Janel Parrish’s popularity stems from her role in the hit TV series Pretty Little Liars. It’s nice to see moving on to other acting roles.

John Corbett as Dr Covey

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John Corbett is taking on a fatherly role. From a quick look through his roles, it doesn’t seem like he’s made many big-impact appearances.

Noah Centineo as Peter Kavinsky

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There’s another recognisable face in the form of Noah Centineo who’s most known for his role in the Disney Channel Original Film How To Build A Better Boy.

The film is also being directed by Susan Johnson and the screenplay is by Sofia Alvarez, so there’s women taking on roles behind the camera as well!

I’ve made a post in the past about strong female characters and the role of women in both books and film. Since then, we’ve had the likes of Wonder Woman, a female Jedi in Star Wars , and a woman taking on the lead role in Doctor Who for the first time in the show’s history. While these are all monumental achievements, it’s important not to forget about women of different ethnicities getting their representation too.

As I said in the section on Lana Condor, they could have easily white-washed this film and come up with some terrible reason for doing so. But they haven’t. They’ve stayed true to a fundamental part of the character which, from seeing the outpouring of love and support, is already making a huge impact.

And I hope that this film is a success. Not just because it’s loved by so many, but also because if it does well, it really could pave the way for more POC women taking on leading roles in films.

contemporary · discussion · young adult

A response | Zoe Sugg: The Vlogger blamed for teenagers reading more…

… is what the headline for the new article  from The Guardian should say.

Like anyone with a social media account, I am very much aware who Zoella is but I have never been a “fan” or watcher of her videos. When her debut Girl Online was announced, I was impressed that she was one of the first vloggers to write a book that was actually a work of fiction and not an autobiography of her life; these feelings quickly changed when I heard that it was ghostwritten, but I’m not writing this to express my thoughts on that.

Over the past few years there have been streams of articles attacking Young Adult fiction. From Variety’s article about the film adaptation of Me Before You (in which the writer disregards the ages of the protagonists and goes on to say “this is another squeaky-clean YA tearjerker built around a princess too good for words, another saintly love story submerged in youthful doom”) to Slate’s article in which the writer says that adults who read teenage fiction should be “embarrassed”, I am getting really really really tired of this “anti-young adult”narrative.

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If we put aside the fact the main article is just a very bitter rant  about Zoella herself rather than her books – which are mentioned in a total of  less than 5 sentences – this is yet another attack on young people and what they choose to read.

I am twenty-three years old and I read a decent range of genres and age ranges but I primarily read YA and I am also working on books within this age group that I hope one day will join the shelves. I choose to mainly read Young Adult, quite simply, because I enjoy it. There’s such a fantastic pool of variety – including  important themes -within this category that just isn’t explored outside of it. I adored reading during my school years and was advanced for my age but that didn’t stop me reading whatever I wanted. I was bullied quite a lot for actually wanting to read outside of a classroom and if I’d experienced that and seen articles online saying that one of my favourite authors was the reason so many teenagers were essentially dumb for reading “below their level” it’s highly likely I would have bowed to peer pressure and stopped reading altogether. This narrative is incredibly harmful. 

I worked as a Christmas Temp at Waterstones and in my short time there I saw just how well loved she is when parents would bring her books to the counter and tell me how their daughter has finally started reading because of these books, how their daughter stays up reading them. One time when a girl who came to the counter to buy the 3rd book, she asked if I’d read them and I said I hadn’t, she demanded that I buy them when I finished work. She was so animated when she talked about those books. To blame a single writer for the reason teen literacy is declining is an insult not just to her, to fellow authors and aspiring writers of the category, but to her readers. Who has the right to label something “less” or even “simple” just because it’s popular? These people are the first to include Harry Potter as an alternative in their arguments which is actually 9-12 fiction. Though, no one seemed to attack adults for reading them when they were being released.

Quite simply, rather than looking for a single person to blame (unsurprisingly a vlogger which all seem to be the subject of media-based attacks recently), or rather the reason why this is happening. Try to find ways to encourage young people to read rather than attacking the one person who may have made them pick up a book in the first place.

No matter what your thoughts are on Zoella, she is the voice of a new generation. Much like Harry Potter and Twilight in the past, she is getting people reading.

And frankly, that is more important than anything else.

 

discussion · fantasy

The Importance of Hermione Granger

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In honour of the release of additional Harry Potter material in the form of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, it seems only fitting to talk about how much this series has shaped my life. However, that could take years to fully explain so for now you will have to accept this rather shortened version.

I first discovered the Harry Potter books when I was 7/8 years old. I was wandering around the giant metal crates of books as the Scholastic book fair was at my primary school. My mum had always pushed me towards reading: if I wanted a toy she would make me wait a week and if I still wanted it then I could have it. If it was a book, I could have it right away. She sent me to school that day with money to go to the book fair and get whatever I want. That day when I eagerly scanned the shelves of the various containers, I came across a book called Harry Potter and the chamber of secrets. At the time I wasn’t aware this was the second book and I devoured it. I found out that there were in fact three books out at that point and my first read through went 2nd book, 3rd book, 1st book and then 4-7.

There’s no way I can really encapsulate how much this series meant to me, not only growing up, but even now. It gave that escapism I needed as a child and I was just in awe of this world that I was thrown into. I followed this small orphan boy into a world of magic and wonder, facing something so much bigger than him. I pictured myself fighting alongside them, defending them where needed. I saw myself sat in black robes lined with yellow at the Hufflepuff table in the Great Hall. I had found a place where I belonged. My mum would let me read one chapter a night before bed and then take the book off me and read it herself. We always had 2 bookmarks in our copy of the most recent book because she would take it to work with her and I’d get it when I got home from school. My most prominent childhood memory is sitting in class and my teacher declaring that our reading hour had started. Every single child in that room pulled out a copy of Harry potter and the Order of the Phoenix and began reading. Including my teacher.

Naturally, I adore the movies but there’s so much magic that you don’t get in those compared to the books and every year I find myself coming back to those books, even if it is only one of them. This series was by no means the first I read as a child, but it was the first that really stuck with me. When we went on holidays where we took the car (like getting the ferry across to France) I would demand we listen to the Harry potter audiobooks and I’d sit in the back reading the book along with the soothing tones of Stephen Fry.

When the final book came out, I stared at it for the first two days. We had two copies of the book at that point so mum was well into her copy, but I was terrified of the adventure ending, of parting away with the characters that had been the only real friends I ever had. One night, at 4am, mum came running into my room because I was hysterically crying; Fred Weasley had just died. At that time, I didn’t realise that they would continue walking alongside me to this day. At twenty years old, I was having fights with university friends about which Hogwarts house was superior, my university had both a Harry Potter and a Quidditch society. Some of the best people in my life right now became my friends because of our love for this story. At nearly twenty three, my car keys are attached to a Hufflepuff crest keychain. When I went to the Harry Potter worlds in Universal and the Harry Potter studios, I cried.

This blog post is title “the importance of Hermione Granger” because she was the first time I saw myself as a character in a book. Of course I’d read many books with characters who loved reading but Hermione Granger didn’t just love reading, she loved learning too. She didn’t just have a fascination for the magical subjects of Hogwarts (as she’d lived 11 years of her life in a non-magical world) but she even loved Muggle Studies; a topic about something she already knew probably more of than the teachers did. She is made fun of throughout the books for being the one with her hand always in the air to answer questions, always doing her homework on time and demanding that Harry and Ron start revising for their exams. Her knowledge saves Harry and Ron’s lives countless times. Out of all the things she could use a time turner for in the third book (minus the obvious plot point) she uses it to attend more classes than is physically possible to do without manipulating time. In Deathly Hallows she fills her bag with over ten books just in case there might be any useful information in them that could help further down the line: something that Harry doesn’t even think of when he originally plans to go alone.

My point is she loved reading and she loved learning but more importantly she never changed. She could’ve so easily shrunk inside herself and contained the things that made her such a remarkable character but she never hid her love for either of those things. She showed me that devotion to something you love is important and you should never ever be afraid to passionate about the things that mean the most to you.
For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

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discussion · young adult

The Damaging Stigmas Around YA Fiction

*Trigger warnings: Mentions of eating disorders, rape, other mental illnesses and racial discrimination*

If you’re a frequent reader (or writer) of Young Adult fiction then you have most likely seen the endless stigmas around it. Young Adult is often viewed as a sort of stepping stone – a pit stop before inevitably moving on to the vast world of Adult Fiction. Contrary to this belief, there are many adults who obviously write within this genre, but there are also many adults that read it too. For example, I am twenty-two years old and I both read and write within the genre.

My reason for doing another kind of discussion post here is due to the recent article for The Guardian, written by Anthony McGowan titled Most YA Fiction Is Grown-Up in Disguise. As you can tell, it was yet another article discounting the validity of a rather important reading area. This not the first and certainly won’t be the last in a long line of obnoxious articles about an aspect someone doesn’t really understand. In 2014, Ruth Graham wrote a piece titled  Against YA in which she used the sub heading “Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children” and  (again as you can tell) she discusses how you should only read about the people of your own age as they tend to be more realistic and about “more important things.” Very recently another article surfaced about the adaptation of Jojo Moyes novel “Me Before You” in which the headline was Me before You: how to build a YA movie that rules however the problem here is that the novel is categorised as Adult Romance and the protagonist is in her late twenties making it fall outside the range it chooses to attack. A fact that is even mentioned within the actual viewpoint Owen Gleiberman lays out:

“The film’s central characters may be 26 and 31 years old, but at heart this is another squeaky clean YA tearjerker built around  a princess too good for words, another saintly love story submerged in youthful doom.”

There is a common misconception that books are written for a certain audience. Which, in this case, is not true. Young Adult fiction isn’t written for young adults, it’s written about them.  This is a point I want to stress in response to McGowan’s comment within his article where he says :

“I’d content that at least some of these books appeal to me, as an adult, because they are not teenage books at all.”

No, it means that despite these books being about teenagers, you have been able to relate and heaven forbid, actually enjoy them regardless of what your age is.

There also comes a point where these comments are very damaging not just to the genre itself, but the people who read it. There are many statistics showing that most young people stop reading in their teens and with things like this surfacing every so often it’s no surprise why many may feel discouraged. In my teens I found solace in seeing my personal problems reflected in characters in YA books. I know that many teenage bloggers also feel the same. McGowan has the nerve in his article to label YA as a “lazy, disheartening mush of false problems, fake solutions, idealised romance, second-rate fantasy, tired dystopias…” Given that there are a large amounts of books  coming out tackling various mental illnesses such as eating disorders in “paperweight” ,  anxiety in Holly’s Bourne’s “Am I Normal?” series and very serious topics such as rape in Louise O’Neill’s “Asking For It”and most recently scenes of Islamophobia in Kim Slater’s “A Seven Letter Word” I would hardly call any of these “false problems.” Just because they are happening to teenagers and you may have not gone through it at that point in your life, doesn’t in any way lessen the fact of their existence. I personally think it’s disgusting and an insult to those who may find solace seeing characters go through similar situations to themselves. By making such comments you are discounting the valid feelings of young people and in a world where there’s already so much stigma around mental illness and the lack of support out there for young people facing these things, it just makes me livid that someone could make such throw away comments in an article on The Guardian website.

I could go on and on about the reasons these things are wrong. But the only thing I will say to round this discussion up is that no one is forcing you to read YA. If you don’t like it, or you feel it has issues you can’t get past such as it being “disheartening mush” then quite simply do not read it.

 

discussion · review

Book To Movie Talk | The Book Thief

*not spoiler free*

 

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The Book thief is based off the historical fiction novel of the same name by Markus Zusak and is without a doubt one of the greatest books I have ever read.

The story is narrated by death and follows Liesel Meminger, a nine year old girl, in Germany during World War 2. After her brother dies, Liesel arrives at her foster parents finding it even harder to adjust to her new surroundings. Exposed to the Nazi regime, Liesel is threatened with the possibility of losing the innocence of her childhood. Until a Jew called Max shows up and seeks refuge in their basement. Hans teaches Liesel how to read in secret as the Nazis are burning anything that may be considered communist. So she must steal them.

The book moves at a slow pace and is very long. It has an overwhelming and phenomenal narrative with a use of metaphors that really put things into perspective and made me feel for these characters in a way that I can’t put into words and don’t think I ever will. I don’t think I’ll ever come across a book like this again in my lifetime. So naturally, I had my expectations for the adaptation.

Here’s a breakdown of the “main” cast:

Liesel Meminger played by Sophie Nelisse

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Rudy Steiner played by Nico Liersch

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Rosa Hubermann played by Emily Watson

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Max Vandenburg played by Ben Schnetzer

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Hans Hubermann played by Geoffrey Rush

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“One small fact: you are going to die.”
This starting line really hits you hard with a truth many of us try to avoid. Like in the book, we follow the train but miss out the colour element. Death does not talk about the brother’s soul (despite talking about others later on in the film) or the colour, in fact, the voiceover focuses entirely on Liesel and his unexpected “interest” in her that leads him to keep coming back to watch her throughout her life.

The true beauty of this story lies in the narration and I feared that this may be lost in an on-screen adaptation. And I was right. Death was voiced by Roger Allam and it just felt too Americanised and that the delivery was off. It didn’t have the same impact as the written word. However, there were exceptions such as “I’ve seen so many men over the years who think they’re running at other young men. They are not. They are running at me” which are kept in and showcase in a way the terror of what these characters are about to face.

I feel as if the only way an adaptation could fully satisfy me is if the acting was done in silence and the book narrated over the top.

To me, the casting of Hans Huberman was the most important. He is fundamental to Liesel’s transition into a new home. While Rosa is cruel and unloving, Hans is welcoming and warm, offering Liesel a hand to help her out of the car when she first arrives. When Hans discovers she has a book and it turns out she stole it, he doesn’t hit and scorn her like Rosa would, he teaches her to read. When I saw that Geoffrey Rush was taking on the role, I was more than happy. He portrayed Hans like I read him in the book.

Another fundamental character is Max Vandenburg because he and Liesel are so similar in terms of their situations: both had to leave their families, both are trapped in the same house, on this street. But in a world where Liesel is being told from all angles that communists are bad and Jews are evil, he opens her to a different perspective. Ben Schnetzer does a fantastic job and really solidifies their relationship on screen in the jokes he makes with her and the time they spend together.

There are so many scenes in this film that stands out to name a few:

The contrast of the choir song about freedom while Nazis are beating people on the ground and destroying a bookstore:

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The library scene at the Herman house when Liesel explores the shelves in awe. The score music, composed by John Williams really shines here, encapsulating the feeling of exploring wonderment for the first time. The way this is shot is so beautiful too. I love the lighting:

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A scene in the basement with Hans, Rosa, Liesel and Max where they’ve brought snow in, made a snowman and they’re all sat together while Hans plays a Christmas song on his accordion. It just reflects, to me, a willingness to keep things normal despite fear:

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When Hans cries in the kitchen saying “I’ve ruined us.” It’s a fleeting scene but holds a lot of depth. The performances from both Geoffrey and Emily shows just how dangerous doing something as simple as standing up for someone could potentially lead to bad things. This is also when you start to really see the breakdown of Rosa’s character. Again, unlike scolding him and mistreating him for his terrible choice of action, instead she holds him and cries with him

And finally, the scene where Rosa cries over the accordion. This scene is just so utterly moving and powerful. A simple object as an accordion, something that is normally always connected to Hans is on its own. The way Rosa holds this then sits and breaks down in tears shows that she isn’t the soulless woman we may have been tricked into believing she is. I think this short moment may be my favourite of the whole film. It also breaks my heart in a follow-up scene when Liesel returns to find Rosa lying on the bed asleep.

 

I realise that I have focused primarily on Rosa, Max and Hans in this review and that’s because they are the ones that hold this film together. Nico as Rudy looks the part but doesn’t bring the cutesy charm that I felt came through in the book and his friendship with Liesel appears more like acquaintance on screen, and Sophie as Liesel leaves a lot to be desired. As this film is very slow paced and relies heavily on character development and arcs (as the action doesn’t happen until the last half an hour of the film) having engaging characters is very important and the film Liesel just fell very flat for me.

The film overall feels quite flat as a lot of the grit and darkness has been stripped away to create a smooth finish and it just feels too light. After all, this is – in a sense – a war film, while we know from history that Germany wasn’t attacked until the end of the war, the people who lived in Germany at the time didn’t know that would be the case, and so you would expect there to be tension and fear. But alas, there isn’t.

The ending to this story is perfect and surprisingly I enjoy both versions. I love the panning shot around the modern room as the voiceover tells us what became of Liesel. There’s annoying product placement in the way of a mac computer and I wish that wasn’t there. It would have been much nicer just to see the collection of photographs as Death brings us to the end of this story.

And I just adore the last line:

 

“I am haunted by humans.”
For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

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For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings

book tag · discussion · fantasy

Throne Of Glass Tag

This tag was created byAlexaLovesBook and Soobsessedwith and when I saw it was Throne of Glass themed I HAD to do it!

Lysandra – a book with a cover change you loved

 

 

Ironically my choice for this one is the book this tag is based off. Throne of Glass definitely has one of the best cover re-designs I’ve seen. I didn’t know there was a different cover until I saw it in one of jessethereader’svideos. I’m not a fan of books with models/real people on the cover. It just puts me off a bit. The new cover is simple, white and the drawing of Celaena is just so badass.
Abraxos – a book that’s better on the inside than it looks on the outside

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It’s not hard to ignore that the first edition cover of The Great Gatsby is well… not nice. I’m taking this topic in the sense of the book cover is awful, but the story inside is truly wonderful. There’s rich people, lavish parties, secrets and lies. I Love it so darn much.

Erilea – a series with great world building

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The world that immediately came to mind is that of the Darker Shade of Magic series.  In this book there are four different Londons: Grey London which lacks magic and is ruled by a mad king, Red London were magic is revered in a flourishing empire, White London ruled by whoever murders their way to power, and Black London… which no one mentions. The description of each of these realms is so rich and beautiful. I felt like I was walking through them while reading this book.

Rifthold – a book that combines genres

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Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is told through the medium of prose and creepy old photographs. It takes the basic things that make something horror-esque and combines it with magical fantasy elements. I didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did because horror just isn’t for me. But this book is too good not to miss.

 

Damaris – a book based on/inspired by a myth or legend

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Hear me out on this one… Yes I have mentioned before on this blog that I’m not a fan of Percy Jackson, nor do I intend to finish the series BUT I have read The Lightning Thief and this was the first (and only) thing to come to mind when I looked at this question.

Kaltain Rompier – a book with an unexpected twist

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The last book I read that really made me gasp, splutter and drop it was A Grimm Warning which is the third book in The Land Of Stories series. Seriously, this ending nearly killed me. I need to get on to the fourth book pronto!
Assassin’s Keep – a book with an unreliable narrator

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I brought this up with a group of people a while ago and they disagreed with me however, I find that the protagonist – Charlie – is unreliable. The story is told through letters he writes to someone unknown (it reads like he’s writing the letters to you) talking about aspects of his life, mainly his internal struggles. Some of the things he chooses to and not to tell just makes me doubt whether I can trust him.

Asterin Blackbeak – a book that’s got squad goals

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Ultimate squad goals award goes to the shadowhunters of The Mortal Instruments universe. They just make a really cool badass team with the occasional help of warlock Magnus Bane.

 

Terrasen – a book that feels like home

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Harry Potter has been such a monumental part of my life. I grew up reading these books. I followed the characters from children to adulthood as I went through the process myself. Even though I hated school, the idea of Hogwarts (even with the workload) just fills me with warmth and happiness in a world where I can use Accio to get me things when I’m too lazy to move. Whenever I pick up any of the books and re-read them, I feel like I’m going home and returning to old, well-loved friends.

 

Aelin Ashryver Galathynius – a book with the power to destroy you

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Allegiant – the final book in the Divergent Trilogy – utterly ruined me. This was the most I’ve cried reading a book next to Harry Potter. I think this is probably my favourite in the trilogy because even though the ending is so bittersweet, it feels like the right ending for this book.

 

Manon Blackbeak – a book that intimidated you

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This is without a doubt one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. And I doubt I will find anything in my lifetime that tops it. This is the story of a German girl called Liesel who steals books… and the narrator of her adventures is death. You read that right, death. However, this book is huge. I am quite a quick reader but it took me a good month to get through this one.

 

Ronan Whitehorn – a book that makes you swoon

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I had to sit and think really hard for this one. I guess I’m just cold and heartless as I resorted to scrolling through my read list on Goodreads in the hopes of finding a suggestion. Then I came across Eleanor & Park. This book is so cute and the relationship formed between Eleanor and Park is adorable.

 

Chaol Westall – a book that challenged you to see things differently

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I bought a copy of this book along with the new, recently recovered Which Pet Should I Get? Purely because there was a line from Oh The Places You’ll Go that helped me get through high school: “You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself any direction you choose.” I knew this quote but had never actually read the book.

As a recent university graduate who is back in her hometown, living with her parents, not exactly doing or being where she wants to in life, I feel a bit stuck. Reading this book helped get things into perspective for me and made me see that sometimes being stagnant is all part of the journey and just because I’m in this position now, doesn’t mean I will be forever.

 

Fleetfoot – a book that you received as a gift

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This books was given to me as a git by my wonderful writer friend Jenny.  It’s an Alice In Wonderland spin-off kind of thing. I am still yet to read it but look how gorgeous this cover is!

 

Eye of Elena – A book you found right when you needed it

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I discovered this book at a really difficult time in my life and without it, I truly don’t know where I would have ended up. It gave me the courage and the strength to keep going on, when all I wanted to do was give up.

 

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

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For my videos, check out my Youtube

For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings

 

 

discussion

A Conversation With Rod Duncan

 Rod Duncan is a Leicester based author, screenwriter and Creative Writing university lecturer. He has been nominated for the Philip K. Dick and East Midlands book awards. During my time at De Montfort University, I had the pleasure of being taught by Rod who told many stories from his path to being published, to The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter – the first book in The Fall Of The Gas-Lit Empire. Now on the release of the third book in the series, The Custodian of Marvels, Rod answered a few of my burning questions.

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With the release of your new book, The Custodian of Marvels, finally here how are you feeling?

Although there is more of the adventure to come, this book brings the story to a significant moment.  So I am really excited about it.  I’m so happy that it’s finally out there and people are going to be reading it.
When you started writing the series, what was the first aspect to jump out at you? (for example, a character, plot idea)

I began with the city of Leicester and the many traces of the Victorians who built it. That started a story. But I only knew it was going to be a novel when I discovered the voice of Elizabeth, the protagonist. And then, as I began to understand who she was and where she came from, I realised it was going to be a whole series of books.
At the States of Independence festival last March, you did a talk on Steampunk which has become a sort of identifier for this series. Did steampunk act as an inspiration or has it just been associated with your work?

Some people have called the novels steampunk and some say they are ‘gas-lit fiction’. Others say they are crime fiction and other others say they’re alternate history!  I see all those labels as influences, but I never felt constrained by them.  The story had a life of its own and, to a certain extent, I followed to see where it would take me.

Which character was the most interesting for you to write?

I have to be interested in all my characters. That is the only way I can write them.  Often there are things about them that I know but never get to tell the readers.  A few of those secrets are revealed in The Custodian of Marvels. I’m very interested to see how the readers react to those revelations.

 

Did you struggle writing any of the books and if so, which one?

The most difficult was The Custodian of Marvels – because there were plot strands from the previous two novels that needed to be woven together. And there is a heist element to the story – which is technically intricate to plot. But I think it is the strongest book of the three. I’m really delighted with the way it all worked out.

 

Are there any books that got you into writing?

Listening to the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on BBC Radio 4 was the first time I really became aware of authorship. I remember thinking – Wow! Someone wrote this. Someone created it out of their imagination. That was very inspiring. But I didn’t at the time think I could write anything.  I’m dyslexic and writing was very difficult for me back then.  But later, after the word processor came along and I did start to write,  I remembered that moment and it felt significant to me.

 

How do you handle rejection/negativity on your work?

I wrote several novels before I had my first one published. So I did go through the whole  rejection thing. It was difficult. But I always felt compelled to go back and write another one.

I’ve been lucky with reviews of my books. Most people have been very positive. But it’s important to not get fixated on trying to please everyone.  I write the kind of novel I would like to read and happily there are people out there who have similar tastes. But if someone hates it, that’s fine. It wasn’t meant for them.

 

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Never say: ‘I want to be a writer’. If you feel compelled to write, then you are one already. Accept it. Other people might judge you not a ‘real’ writer until you win a prize or get a publication deal. But the day before you get that big break you’ll be just the same writer as you are the day after.

It’s fair enough to say: ‘I want to get published’.  But don’t let the goal make you miserable. So long as each new thing you write is a little bit better than the last, be happy. And if you keep that up then the other stuff will follow.

We’re all on the same journey.

 

Finally, and most importantly, what can readers expect from The Custodian of Marvels?

You can expect the return of some characters from The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter – both friends and enemies. There will be a heist and secrets will be revealed about the origin of the Gas-Lit Empire. And there’ll be a lot more besides – but I don’t want to spoil it for you.

 

 TheCustodianOfMarvels-144dpi“You’d have to be mad to steal from the feared International Patent office. But that’s what Elizabeth Barnabus is about to do.”

The Custodian of Marvels is out now in the UK on Ebook and audiobook platforms and will be available in  physical form from 11th February. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rod can be found here on Facebook and here on Twitter.

 

discussion · fairytale retelling · fantasy · young adult

Top Books of 2015

So another glorious year of reading is over and while I await new releases with great anticipation. It’s now time for me to reflect on my favourite books I read last year.

Disclaimer: not all of the books listed came out in 2015, some of them I just happened to read in that year. I will state these accordingly. Also, the order the books appear in this post doesn’t reflect the order in which I enjoyed them.

Asking For It by Louise O’Neill (2015)

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This story follows teenager Emma O’Donovan who goes to a house party with her friends. She wakes up on the front porch of her house the following morning with no memory of how she got there or what happened. Until various photos and videos start to make their appearance on the internet. This book is a very difficult read and I won’t lie, it’s not pleasant at times. But this doesn’t mean we should avoid the serious and important topics this book discusses. The quote on the front of the book says “She writes with a scalpel.” That couldn’t be more true.
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E.Schwab (2015)

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In A Darker Shade Of Magic there are four londons: Grey London which is dirty, boring and lacks magic, Red London where life and magic are admired with a flourishing empire, White London which is ruled by whoever murders their way onto the throne, and Black London… which no one speaks of.
Kell is the last of the Travelers – rare magicians with the ability to travel between the various londons. He smuggles items from realm to realm for those who are willing to pay the price. But when he accidently gets accused of treason, the only thing left for him to do is flee.
Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (2015)

 

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Simon is a not-so-openly gay sixteen year old sending emails to his secret lover who goes by the name of Blue. He understands Simon, and Simon has quite a few feelings for the person on the other side of his emails. When the emails fall into the wrong hands, Simon finds himself being blackmailed by one of his classmates: if he doesn’t play wing-man and help this person get with his friend, then the emails will be released to the entire school and not only that, but the privacy of Blue will be destroyed.


Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (2011)

 

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Told through the medium of prose and creepy old photographs, a horrific family tragedy sends Jacob looking for clues on Cairholm Island off the coast from Wales. Here he discovers the abandoned orphanage known as Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children. When chased by a girl who produces fire and a boy who can turn invisible, Jacob finds himself trapped in September 3rd 1940, the day Miss Peregrine’s home was destroyed by a bomb dropped during World War II. And he’s stuck in a time loop where the day restarts just as the bomb hits the home.

Throne Of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (2012)

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After years of being a prisoner in the salt mines of Endovier, eighteen year old assassin Celaena Sardothien is brought before the Crown Prince, Dorian who offers her her freedom. But only if she competes as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. If she wins, she must serve the kingdom for four years and then she will be free. But when a contestant turns up dead, swiftly followed by the death of another, can she find out who is behind the killings before she becomes the next victim?
All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (2015)

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Theodore Finch is fascinated by death and constantly thinking of ways to end his life. Violet Markey is living for the future, counting each pitiful day until graduation. When the pair meet on the ledge of the school’s bell tower they inadvertently save each other.

When paired together on a project, the new duo are sent off to discover “natural wonders” of their state, making some important discoveries about themselves along the way.

 

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (2005)

 

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Tally is an ugly. She cannot wait until she turns sixteen and becomes a pretty: to become part of a world where her only job is to look good and have fun. Tally’s friend, Shay isn’t sure she wants to become a pretty and decides to run away. As Shay’s only friend, Tally is approached by the authorities who offer her a choice: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all.
Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon (2015)

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Everything Everything tells the story of Maddy, a teenager with a rare illness – she’s allergic to everything. She can’t go outside. She has spent her life interacting with only her mother and nurse.

But when a moving truck appears next door and Maddy sets her eyes on Olly, she feels she has to get to know him, no matter what the cost will be.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2014)

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It’s the morning of Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Nick is out buying last-minute presents while his wife is adding the last details to her treasure hunt based on clues linked to aspects of their years together. When Nick returns home to find the home trashed and his wife missing, he calls the police.

But the suspiciously articulated crime scene and disturbing passages in Amy’s diary lead the detectives to wonder, could the husband have killed his wife?
A Court Of Thorns And Roses by Sarah J.Maas

 

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An utterly beautiful Beauty And The Beast retelling following the huntress Feyre who kills a wolf in the woods. Later, a beast-like creature demands retribution and takes her as his prisoner to a magical land she’s only heard about in legends. Feyre learns that her captor isn’t a beast but in fact Tamlin – one of the immortal faeries who once ruled their world.
For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

For my writing adventures follow me on Twitter

For my videos, check out my Youtube

For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings