Sunday, 15 July 2018

Weekly What's Up - reading, watching, cooking

I am so ready for next week to come and for this one to be over. My Mum's away for a few days (she gets back tomorrow) and so I've been doing all the household stuff, including cooking, and I am A) tired and B) overwhelmed. I always manage to make more work for myself, and then I get stressed. And when I'm stressed I clean and tidy and then start crying. 

Bleh. Anyway. I just need to chill. Watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S and The Vampire Diaries seems like a good idea right now :) I'm hoping I'll get time this evening. 

Posts of the Week

I reviewed the beautiful film, Lady Bird.

I reviewed a chilling thriller: Paper Ghosts.

Currently Reading

I'm still buddy reading The Cruel Prince with my squad, still slogging through The Smoke Thieves, just started The Favourite Sister, and I'm slowly making my way through a Netgalley ARC of Star-Touched Stories.

For Review

These two books were surprise bookmail, and I'm not sure if I'll actually read them. The Empire of Ashes is the third book in a series and it's too much of an epic fantasy for me. I might try Ocean Light, though.

How has your week been? What are you reading and watching? Do you enjoy cooking? 

Friday, 13 July 2018

PAPER GHOSTS - by Julia Heaberlin

PAPER GHOSTS - Julia Heaberlin
Published: April 2018 - Penguin.
Genres: Adult / thriller / mystery / contemporary
Pages: 368.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Sexual innuendos. Mature themes.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Penguin Random House SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Carl Louis Feldman is an old man who was once a celebrated photographer. That was before he was tried for the murder of a young woman and acquitted. Before his admission to a care home for dementia Now his daughter has come to see him, to take him on a trip. Only she's not his daughter and, if she has her way, he's not coming back . . . Because Carl's past has finally caught up with him. The young woman driving the car is convinced her passenger is guilty, and that he's killed other young women. Including her sister Rachel. Now they're following the trail of his photographs, his clues, his alleged crimes. To see if he remembers any of it. Confesses to any of it. To discover what really happened to Rachel. Has Carl truly forgotten what he did or is he just pretending? Perhaps he's guilty of nothing and she's the liar. Either way in driving him into the Texan wilderness she's taking a terrible risk. For if Carl really is a serial killer, she's alone in the most dangerous place of all . . .

A few months ago I read Black Eyed Susans by Heaberlin and didn't think much of it. But when I saw the synopsis for Paper Ghosts, I couldn't resist. It looked so, so good. And unique.

Heaberlin's writing was the one thing I loved about Black Eyed Susans, and in Paper Ghosts it's equally - if not more - beautiful. The descriptions are palpable with some deliciously unique metaphors and similes (eg: "A faint slice of light spills like bleach..." ); the dialogue is biting and realistic; and Heaberlin's real genius lies in how specific her language is. Her scenes come to life because she takes them in with every sense she has. She delves into the tiny details, and she's vigilant of every necessary prop. The scenes are so fleshed out because she pays attention. It's incredible. It's incredible, without boring you. 

Like her descriptions, Heaberlin's story is concrete. It's tirelessly researched, and again, Heaberlin proves that detail matters. Her story becomes three-dimensional because she digs into the scene. She's has crafted a mesmerising world - she's peeled away the superficial and heightened what we subconsciously know is there, but have never noticed.

If I've learned anything, it's that every lost girl has exactly the same value.

The plot is slow. Don't expect bloodcurdling action or scream worthy twists, because you'll be disappointed. The mystery is breathtakingly clever, but its twists aren't always obvious and its climax isn't horrifying. It's understated. It's severely intelligent, but it's not altogether shocking.
I admit I was bored for a lot of the book. Only around page 200 did I start loving it, and from then on I definitely felt more invested. So yes, it may take a while for you to get into the story, but it doesn't mean you aren't reading quality from start to finish. At the end of it all, you'll probably find yourself deeply appreciating the book. I loved it by the end.

The characters, including the unnamed heroine (we only learn her name towards the end of the story) are unreliable. This makes for fantastic suspense and unsettling company. Carl is a messed-up creep, but there's something mysterious about him. The heroine is a woman burdened by her sister's disappearance, but she's also rather unhinged. I ended up loving her and her arc.

Paper Ghosts is as sinister as the title implies. It's a slow, unique, and steadily disturbing thriller with unnerving characters, exquisitely penned  by an extremely talented author.  

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

LADY BIRD (film) is darkly humourous and heartfelt

LADY BIRD - 2017
Director: Greta Gerwig.
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, and Timothée Chalamet.
Score: Jon Brion.
Cinematography: Sam Levy.
Content Advisory: R for language, sexual content, and brief graphic nudity.
Source: Rented.

In 2002, an artistically inclined seventeen-year-old girl comes of age in Sacramento, California.

I've wanted to see this movie ever since the Oscar season. It's received numerous accolades, including a Best Actress nomination for Ronan and a Best Director nomination for Gerwig, and the critics have loved it. It looks so well done.

Firstly, let me just squeal from the rooftops that I cannot wait to see Gerwig write and direct more films. I'm literally ecstatic to see her future work. Apparently she's going to remake Little Women with Meryl Streep, Emma Stone, Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet, and I can just imagine how breathtaking it will be. Because it will be. That story was made for Gerwig to turn into a film. She'll do an impeccable job. Of course she will.
But let's talk Lady Bird.

Gerwig's writing is phenomenal. Her wit, the dry humour married with tragedy, the achingly beautiful realism infused into her script, is sublime. Her dialogue's often a bit on the nose, but I think that's the point (and it works). She's a exceptional writer, and she's an equally outstanding as a director, too. There's so much of her own life and her own heart in this movie and it clearly shows. It's a labour of love and passion.

The soundtrack is splendid. The production and sets are gorgeous, and the cinematography perfectly establishes what Gerwig admits to wanting: every shot to be "like a photograph...framed and a memory." And that's how the scenes look; meticulously constructed frames awash in a very specific aesthetic. They're like captured memories. They make the film feel intimate - personal. If you're interested, you can even read this fascinating article where Gerwig, her cinematographer, and her colourist discuss in-depth the film's look. I found it amazing and inspiring. 
I love the devilish humour. As much as this is a painful look at the turbulence of adolescence, it's also a story bubbling with offbeat humour that stems effortlessly from its realistic characters and aided by the actors' comic timing. It's genuine, and it's frequently outrageous. It's heartwarming.

The pacing is tight, and I was invested and entertained throughout the movie. For a while I did feel like the plot lacked direction, but it soon becomes clear that this is a tale following a teenage girl's transition from home to university and her relationships with the people in her life during that time, most notably her relationship with her mother. But although coming-of-age films are nothing knew, Gerwig keeps this one fresh and amazingly unique with her own careful interpretation. She taps into the messes of a teenage girl's life from her friendships, her romantic attachments, and her family dynamics, and tends to each aspect deeply and carefully. It's a story so well told that it feels like nothing you've seen before. And as a teenage girl myself, I found myself relating a lot to Lady Bird's turbulent emotions and relationships. It's a stunning story, brilliantly conveyed.

The acting is inevitably excellent when you have a cast like this. Laurie Metcalf steals every scene she's in, but then so does Timothée Chalamet with his profound screen presence. There is just so much weight to their performances. Both actors were easily the highlights for me, although obviously Saoirse Ronan is brilliant as well, and every actor and actress acts with an equal combination of heart and skill. The characters are so well-nuanced, themselves.

Lady Bird is an extraordinary debut from Gerwig, and easily establishes her as a directorial force with which to be reckoned. The story comes straight from the heart, and explores the different kinds of relationships in a teenage girl's life with wit, sensitivity, and candour. It's a love story in more ways than one. It's a work of art.   

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Weekly What's Up - events, Netflix, reading

I'm back at blogging and loving it! I'm also actually taking my own advice and slowing it down a tad, which is working great so far. Yay!  

My Camp NaNo project is,'s stalling. Day 2 my whole plot kinda unraveled, and now I'm having to start outlining again and rework everything. So I've put Camp NaNo on hold for now and while I'll hopefully be able to do some writing before the end of the month, I doubt it'll be 50k. Oh well :(  

I read so much this week and watched a lot of Netflix. I'm currently on Season 6 of TVD, and also watching the recently released season 2 of Anne with An "E". I didn't love season 1, but season 2 is a lot more exciting :) 

Posts of the Week

I wrote a Romanticised Abuse post about The Kissing Booth, which is a new Netflix film.

I reviewed Unravel Me, the second book in the Shatter Me series.

I reviewed an exciting YA thriller: Small Spaces.

Currently Reading

I'm buddy reading The Cruel Prince (eBook) with my squad, buddy reading These Rebel Waves (eBook) with Di, and I've just started The Smoke Thieves (paperback).

I went to some publishing presentations! 

I went to two publishing presentations this week and had an amazing time! I got three thrillers, one Middle Grade, and one YA novel. See below:

Around the Blogosphere

Heather reviews An Enchantment of Ravens

Lauren shares a post for the blog tour of The Last Time I Lied

Genni reviews Hunted

Di reviews Sea Witch

Kyra talks about Bookworm Problems

How has your week been? What are you reading and watching? If you're doing Camp NaNo, how's it going? 

Saturday, 7 July 2018

SMALL SPACES - by Sarah Epstein

SMALL SPACES - Sarah Epstein
Published: April 2018 - Walker Books.
Genres: Young adult / thriller / contemporary
Pages: 378.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Occasional violence. Child abuse. Mental illness.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tash Carmody has been traumatised since childhood, when she witnessed her gruesome imaginary friend Sparrow lure young Mallory Fisher away from a carnival. At the time nobody believed Tash, and she has since come to accept that Sparrow wasn’t real. Now fifteen and mute, Mallory’s never spoken about the week she went missing. As disturbing memories resurface, Tash starts to see Sparrow again. And she realises Mallory is the key to unlocking the truth about a dark secret connecting them. Does Sparrow exist after all? Or is Tash more dangerous to others than she thinks?

YA thrillers are finally becoming more of a thing, but I'm still desperate for more of them. And if you're also a fan, then this little book HAS to be on your TBR.

The writing is simple, decent for a debut, and very easy to read. That's one of the reasons this book works so well - it's fast-paced, easy to flip through, and it's the kind of book you can read in a day (I did). The only big issue I have with the writing is the dialogue; it's too info-dumpy at times, and very bland and devoid of character personality.

The plot is WOW. Heck is it clever. The mystery is so intricate, the clues and red herrings so meticulously strewn throughout the story, and the suspense and excitement are a constant build to a terrifying finale. It's so brilliantly crafted - it messes with your mind, makes you afraid to be alone, and it keeps you guessing. From the outside, it may look like a harmless little thriller, but when you start reading you'll realise just how psychologically manipulative the book really is.

We don’t pick and choose what to be afraid of. Our fears pick us.

Fear. Aching loneliness. The worry of being misunderstood. I realise now it's what we all have in common, regardless of our circumstances. We all share the fundamental need to be heard, to know we matter. It's what tethers us to one another and reminds us we are never truly alone. 

The characters are clearly defined individuals who narrowly avoid becoming stereotypes. They're not amazingly drawn, but you know who's who and you can enjoy the beautiful relationships and friendships between some of them without falling in love with them. There's enough to make you like the characters, but I wouldn't say any of them are particularly memorable or vivid. They're simply there, and they work for the short, twisty tale they're in. Personally, the main teenage characters (Tash, Sadie, Mallory, and Morgan) all felt like young kids in need of a hug. I found them lovable. Tash, especially, suffers so much, and I felt so sorry for her.

Small Spaces is an intelligently plotted and suspenseful psychological thriller. The writing and characters aren't especially brilliant, but they work for the story. If you're a fan of YA thrillers and want to have your head messed with in all the best ways, don't miss this book.