Wednesday, 17 October 2018

OCEAN'S EIGHT - 2018 action comedy thriller film

Director: Gary Ross.
Cast: Sandra Bullock / Cate Blanchett / Mindy Kaling / Anne Hathaway / Sarah Paulson / Richard Armitage / Rihanna / Helena Bonham Carter / Awkwafina / James Corden.
Score: Daniel Pemberton.
Cinematography: Eigil Bryld.
Content Advisory: PG13 for drugs, mild language, and some suggestive content.
Source: Rented.

Debbie Ocean gathers an all-female crew to attempt an impossible heist at New York City's yearly Met Gala.

I have been ecstatic about this film since the day it was announced. Even when the critics didn't like it, I floated on a cloud of rose-tinted expectation. It just sounded too perfect to fail.

The cinematography is brilliant, atmospheric, and very appropriate to the story and setting it explores. The soundtrack is punchy, and the costumes are absolutely divine. I love how each outfit is so thoughtfully chosen for the character wearing it - considering that the script doesn't give much in terms of character depth and development, the costumes are very much needed. They're colourful, elegant, and speak volumes about the characters' personalities. Each piece is entirely on point.

The script is far from perfect. The writing isn't witty, particularly clever, or humorous, and as for the plot, there's very little tension or thrills. It lacks brilliance and intelligence. I also think that the "con within a con" aspect, which is to be expected from any good heist movie (and works beautifully in Ocean's Eleven), falls flat because it's sloppily implemented and rushed. I was never totally sold on the "big twist", simply because of the way it was executed.

There's also no real threat, or at least there's not enough urgency. It's too casual. Obviously, the worst case scenario is that the characters go to prison, and yet that is never truly felt by anyone, except maybe with the exception of Debbie. The difference with her is that we're given her back story and we can feel sympathy for her because we know where she's coming from. With the rest of the characters, we don't actually see what they have to lose. Thus, the fact that they could be caught doesn't seem like a big deal.

The acting is excellent. Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett are effortlessly slick and smooth, Cate Blanchett is easily my favourite of the cast, and that restaurant scene between Debbie and Lou towards the start of the film is superb; when Blanchett asks "Why do you need to do this?" and Bullock answers 'because it's what I'm good at", I got goosebumps. The script is weak, but it's their delivery of the lines that makes the scene so powerful.

Unfortunately, though, the characters aren't well written. No one is three-dimensional, no one has any real depth, and the characters are pigeon-holed into their roles in the heist.  There's the hacker, the fence, the jeweller, etc etc, and even the hints of backstory and personality we get to see aren't substantial. It's a huge waste; the actresses clearly have the range - now give them something with which to work.

Not even stunning visuals and wonderful female leads can pull off Ocean's Eight. It's a con without thrills, smarts, and urgency, which makes it nothing more than a casual action flick.

Monday, 15 October 2018


Published: February 2018 - Raven Books.
Genres: Mystery / thriller / historical / magical realism
Pages: 512.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Gory descriptions / violence / mild sexual innuendoes.
Format: eARC.
Source: Netgalley.
How do you stop a murder that’s already happened? At a gala party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed--again. She's been murdered hundreds of times, and each day, Aiden Bishop is too late to save her. Doomed to repeat the same day over and over, Aiden's only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle's murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend--but nothing and no one are quite what they seem.

At first I wasn't in love with Turton's writing because the sentence structure felt long-winded and awkward. But as the story continues, it definitely smooths out. Before long I was utterly enamoured with the prose - the vivid details, the excellent dialogue. To give you an example: "The evening meal is lit by candlelabra and beneath their flickering glow lies a graveyard of chicken bones, fish spines, lobster shells and pork fat. The curtains remain undrawn despite the darkness beyond, granting a view toward the forest being whipped by the storm."
It's all incredibly immersive and tangible.

Speaking of which, the story is also so atmospheric. It's Gothic, very dinner-party Agatha-Christie-esque. I wouldn't recommend reading the book in short sessions with many intervals between, because to really get into the story, you need to give yourself time to be immersed.  Then you can truly appreciate the lush, haunting setting, and the beguiling sense of foreboding dripping from each scene. It'll totally absorb you if you give it a chance.

The plot is brilliant. There are a ton of twists, many layers to the story, and the author is a genius. However, it is confusing.  You really have to concentrate and you can't afford to switch off - even  for a second. I tried my best, but by the end I was still a bit bewildered by the actual mystery. It's a lot to take it and a lot to retain from start to finish. 

 What does a child who has everything want?" 
More, like everyone else. 

❝ Every man is in a cage of his own making."

 What kind of mind makes theatre of murder?

The cast is big, but everyone is vivid, colourful, and extremely compelling. They're all hiding something, and they're all anti-heroes and anti-heroines wearing metaphorical masks. It's sublime.

Initially, I was concerned that the protagonist changing persons every few chapters wouldn't work, but the author handles it so well by fleshing out each personality and making their point of views distinct. In the hands of someone else, it could have been a train wreck. But Turton handles it thoughtfully and carefully.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a mesmerising Agatha Christie-type mystery.  It might take you a while to get into it, but if you stick with it for long periods of time, you'll soon be drawn into the spellbinding world of these illusive characters. 

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Weekly What's Up - The One With All The Productivity

As usual, I'm writing this post on Friday, and right now I am so so happy that the week's over! I'm exhausted - writing has sapped my energy and staying up past midnight every night hasn't helped either. But at the same time, I feel like I've accomplished a fair bit this week. I have done so much outlining and work on my WIP (which includes a heck ton of re-outlining and fixing stuff as well) and I've even gotten back into bookstagram photo-taking. Hopefully that lasts! Ha.

Because of all the writing, I've hardly read anything and I've barely watched Netflix. It actually feels good :)

Posts of the Week

Currently Reading

I'm buddy-reading Spinning Silver with Di, but otherwise I've hardly touched a book this week.

Around the Blogosphere

How was your week? What are you reading and watching? 

Friday, 12 October 2018

FLOORED - a novel by 7 YA authors

FLOORED - Holly Bourne, Sara Barnard, Tanya Byrne, Non Pratt, Melinda Salisbury, Lisa Williamson, and Eleanor Wood.
Published: July 2018 - Macmillan's Children's Books.
Genres: Young adult / contemporary / drama.
Pages: 320.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Bad language / sexual innuendoes / some explicit sexual content.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
When they got in the lift, they were strangers (though didn't that guy used to be on TV?): Sasha, who is desperately trying to deliver a parcel; Hugo, who knows he's the best-looking guy in the lift and is eyeing up Velvet, who knows what that look means when you hear her name and it doesn't match the way she looks, or the way she talks; Dawson, who was on TV, but isn't as good-looking as he was a few years ago and is desperately hoping no one recognizes him; Kaitlyn, who's losing her sight but won't admit it, and who used to have a poster of Dawson on her bedroom wall, and Joe, who shouldn't be here at all, but who wants to be here the most.

And one more person, who will bring them together again on the same day every year.

I love the concept. But the book is strange, and in a way that's neither bad nor good.

So I don't know which author wrote which chapter or which character, but I admit the writing comes across very similar in each character's voice/chapter. I think it easily could've been from one author.  In terms of quality, the style also isn't bad - just pretty average. Basically, the writing isn't unique. It doesn't leave much of an impression.

The premise is fantastic, but the story is only sporadically entertaining. Occasionally interesting, but also bland and frequently boring. The theme (what I imagine is the theme?: that family isn't who you're born with, it's who you choose to spend time with, etc etc) often comes across very forced and cheesy. And maybe that's because we don't get to see much development of relationships, only the "end result", so to speak? We see the characters once a year, and their journey in that past year is summarised, rather than shown. We see their whatsapp chats, their heart emojis and support for each other, but maybe because we don't see the continual, steady growth of those relationships, they feel superficial? I don't know. It's hard to explain ;)

BUT. The story does improve as you keep reading. The ending is also sublime; it couldn't be more perfect. So I guess that does kind of redeem what's come before.

“Maybe disappointment does lie in the gulf between what you would do for someone and what they will do for you, but she knows then, in that moment, as she's looking out of the rain-speckled window at the black, black sky, that she needs to stop focusing on what she's willing to do for other people and start focusing on what she's willing to do for herself.”

"We've all changed loads, you know. Everything's changed loads. Maybe I do have a hero complex. Maybe that's my job, in our crew: the hero. And Velvet's our conscience. Sash is our heart. Joe is our rock. You're our bruiser. And Hugo is...Hugo is Hugo." 

There are too many points of view. It also doesn't help that the chapters are short, hardly giving you time to get in a character's head. The characters' voices aren't distinct, either (although maybe with the exception of Hugo) and no one's personality is clear and vivid from their first POV chapter, which is obviously the critical time.  By the end, I did have a clearer idea of who everyone was (I even liked one character: Sasha) and I definitely warmed up to them, but they still aren't memorable or strong. Their personalities don't leap off the page.

Floored is somewhere between average and great.  It's not unpleasant to read, but it isn't amazing, either. I think it would have been so much stronger if the characters had been more individualistic from the start.   

Wednesday, 10 October 2018


Today I wanted to write a post about mental health - specifically mental illness - because it's International Mental Health Day. It's been a hard post to write, and I've deleted and altered and rewritten a number of times. I've also been back and forth about whether I should actually post it.

In the end, here it is.

Mental illness is still considered by many to be a stigmatic subject (although definitely not as much as it used to be). Personally, I often feel silly and embarrassed talking about my anxiety, because it shows a vulnerability with which I'm extremely uncomfortable. Worse, some people just assume you're overreacting, and worse still, some are unable to comprehend how difficult some things might be for you because they've never ever felt the same way. You might feel stupid, like there's something wrong with you, and you begin to wonder if maybe it is all inside your head, that maybe you are being silly and overreacting. Too often, I feel like that. And so let me tell anyone who's listening: YOU ARE NOT SILLY AND YOU ARE NOT OVERREACTING. You are brave. You are strong.

It's unsettling to share your experiences, especially on the Internet, because you're surrounded by judgement. Yet, I think it's important we do. We need to show that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.  The more people talk about it, the more we can help each other. That's why I think it's so important that people are given the opportunities and support to be vulnerable, to share their stories, that there's mental health rep in books and films, and that people are believed and supported and valued through their personal struggles.
It's also easy to think that you shouldn't share your story because your anxiety or your mental illness might seem so insignificant compared to someone else's; to the detailed testimony you read online from a blogger or see on Instagram or Twitter. But honestly, I believe that kind of thinking is toxic. It's not a competition. No story is too small. It takes a lot to share your story, and I believe it's important that people realise we are not doing this for attention. You, your experiences, have value. Whether you share them or not is entirely up to you, but it is not something you should ever feel guilty or embarrassed about.

Talking about my anxiety and depression is difficult. It's extremely personal. I have an anxiety disorder and suffer from moderate depression. I over think every little thing and stress to the point of feeling physically sick; my limbs sometimes jerk involuntarily if I'm anxious; and I burst into tears and hyperventilate and get panic attacks when I'm extremely anxious. I worry about the future, I worry about failing at everything I ever do, I worry about writing and blogging and eating and relationships, I worry about my identity and my capabilities, or lack thereof.  There's nothing romantic or idealistic about it. It's scary, it's overwhelming, and often I lack the motivation to climb out of the pit I'm in. It's a twisting, writhing mess inside of me. It's suffocating. I hate feeling helpless, and I hate that feeling of inevitability. I often feel stupid. I hate myself for stressing, for feeling so low, for having a panic attack about something that appears so simple and so easy for other people. I'd give anything to turn it off.

I know that things could be so much worse for me. Of course they could! I am so, so grateful that I'm not facing what some other people are facing. But I think it's important that these experiences are shared, regardless of apparent severity. Because that's what this is about. It's about throwing off the stigma of mental illness.

The wonderful thing about having a Lord Jesus is knowing He's in control. However dark it is inside your head, however overwhelming life and relationships and the world may be, He is there. That doesn't mean I don't worry, that everything is immediately alright, but it does mean I have hope and that I can - with His help - hand my worries over to Him. It is not easy, but it's not impossible. And it makes such a difference when I do. That encourages me.

Below are some particular Bible verses I find comforting. I hope you do too.

Psalm 46:1-3 
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.”

Matthew 11:28-30 
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Psalm 34:17-20 
"The righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. "

Isaiah 41:10
"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." 

Getting professional help and taking medication is nothing to be ashamed of. I hope mental illness continues to be talked about, so that people are supported and understood through what they're dealing with. 

Sending love and hugs <3