Sunday, 22 July 2018

Weekly What's Up - reading and writing

My holidays end tomorrow and I'm back to school :( Ugh.  

My Camp NaNo writing stalled again this week, so at the moment I doubt I'll be hitting 50k by the end of the month. My novel needs a lot of work and I've realised an unrealistic deadline isn't gonna help reduce my stress.   

Posts of the Week

I reviewed two movies in a mini review post: Tomb Raider and Game Night.

I wrote a very long review of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

I reviewed The Smoke Thieves on Goodreads.

I reviewed These Rebel Waves on Goodreads.

I reviewed Star-Touched Stories on Goodreads.

Currently Reading

Just started Ocean Light, taking it slow with The Favourite Sister, and I'm really enjoying Something in the Water.

For Review

I got this fantastic book from Penguin, and I've already finished reading it ;) Review coming soon!

Around the Blogosphere

Genni reviewed Everless

Lauren reviewed This Mortal Coil

Di reviewed These Rebel Waves

Kariny reviewed Sea Witch

Angela reviewed The Academy

Aneta reviewed Campfire

I wrote a guest post for Rebellious Writing on the topic of romanticised abuse

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

Thursday, 19 July 2018


Director: Martin McDonagh.
Cast: Frances McDormand / Sam Rockwell / Woody Harrelson
Score: Carter Burwell.
Cinematography: Ben Davis.
Content Advisory: R for strong language, violence, and sexual references.
Source: Rented.

A mother personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter's murder when they fail to catch the culprit.

It's won Oscars. It's won Golden Globes. It's received numerous award nominations. It's also sparked intense controversy and fueled fierce social media discourse. It goes without saying that I was very interested to watch this movie.

The soundtrack is a wealth of intelligently chosen musical pieces - although at first they may seem like odd choices, they do actually work. For example, who'd have thought that ABBA's "Chiquitita" would work for a harrowing scene where a building is set on fire and a man gets severely burnt? It's pure genius.
I also love how music isn't always used. Some scenes are better because of it. Silence is powerful, and this film proves it better than most.

The use of colour is amazing. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I love that particular scene where McDormand's character is getting interviewed in front of her billboards, and the red of the boards behind her just immediately ties to the subtle red of her shirt poking out from under her overalls. Or the scene where she's sitting outside talking to Woody Harrelson's character, and the shot isolates her so all you can see is the bright green of the land behind her and the blue of her overalls matching the piercing blue of her eyes. It's scenes like that that make me go "Wow", because I can tell that serious thought has gone into composing that shot. It's cinematic art, really. It's inspiring to watch.

The editing is also incredible. The dialogue is superb. The direction is flawless. Overall, the production of this film is absolutely brilliant.

The actors take on their characters with a shocking authenticity. They suck you right into their world, as if they're gripping you by your throat. They simply command the screen. And no one more than McDormand, who is every inch worthy of her Oscar win.

The characters are all well written. Everyone is three dimensional, everyone is real and human and deeply flawed and hurting, and they all have histories and pains and desires. There's also some top-notch character development. I love how we see the good and bad of every character, and how we watch the characters change and grow and learn. They're far from perfect, but they're human. They're antiheroes we can relate to.

It's breathtaking to watch these characters' personalities lead the plot. It's harsh and at the same time beautifully profound to watch McDormand and the writers encapsulate a woman's - a mother's - rage, and let its ripples loose on a torn up community. It's a rage so tangible and so well handled. It's thought-provoking, and it's relatable.

Relationships also play a big role in this story. There are plenty of messy, complicated dynamics between people, and these relationships are invaluable when it comes to the characters' roundness. They shape the characters, and the writers do an incredible job of showing character through the characters around the character. If that makes sense?

But as good as this movie is, it unfortunately also has its issues. I'm going to list them because it's the best way I can try to explain my thoughts.

- The ending. After an amazing movie, I was expecting an amazing ending. I was expecting to find out who had raped and killed the daughter, and I was expecting justice to be served. But maybe I was missing the point...

Honestly, I've been back and forth about this ending ever since I watched it. The way the film ends is this: Mildred and Dixon team up to go kill a suspected rapist, not the one who killed Mildred's daughter but who is definitely guilty of some crime involving another girl. While driving, however, they both admit to each other that they're not sure they'll be able to follow through. The film leaves us with that - with no conclusive answers, no justice, and no solutions.

My first reaction was one of fury. I didn't want to be left hanging, and I wanted to know who had raped and killed that poor girl. I wanted to know who he was and I wanted justice.  But since then, I've been thinking about the ending more and more. I've read articles, and I've read what the movie's writer has to say of how he ended his film: “It was about not wrapping up the story with a bow, not finding the solution and that person getting his comeuppance and all of that, because the story is more about change than it is about solutions.” 
He has a point. The characters in this movie do terrible things and they often aren't punished. Yet the movie never excuses this, never says that it's okay. The characters are people who deserve justice, but unfortunately, at this stage, we don't see them getting it. Solutions aren't given.
Looking at where Mildred and Dixon are at the end of the movie is quite astonishing; the two sworn enemies are actually talking, they're actually teaming up, and Dixon shows that he has a heart after all. As far as character goes, we're seeing incredible development. And maybe that's what the ending is about. It's about the characters finding a kind of peace within a terrible situation and it's about them changing.

On one hand, I respect how it ended and I can totally see what the writer was trying to do. On the other hand, it is still a movie, and a movie tells a story. A story has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and a story should follow through on the promises it's made to an audience. The way this movie leaves it, the story is incomplete. We still don't know who killed the daughter, and we don't know what the two main characters are going to do about it. Is it satisfying? No. But have the characters growth and changed, while the world's still trash around them? Yes. 

-  Unrealistic no consequences. In the film, Dixon beats a man and tosses him out of a window. He also punches a woman in the face. In both cases, his actions are exposed to a gathered crowd, including the police chief. Another scene in the movie has Mildred setting fire to the police building, which so happens to have Dixon inside of it (he survives, but is badly burned). In this case, the police chief asks Mildred and another man on the scene - not in so many words -  if they were involved. They give a weak excuse. And that's that. The chief doesn't push it further.

Now that's just plain unrealistic. Dixon beating a man and hitting a woman is assault, and yet he's not even arrested. The worst thing that happens is that he's fired from his job as a cop. That's it. But he beats these two people up in front of witnesses and the incident is totally glossed over! That is not realistic! Putting aside the fact that yes, we would've liked to have seen him arrested (again, the movie isn't so much about solutions, so while it never excuses the bad behaviour, it doesn't always punish it), it's unrealistic because there's no reason why the police chief didn't arrest him. We're not even given a reason why he might've been let off. Same with Mildred's setting fire to the building. Any good police chief would not have let her weak alibi slide, he would've pressed further. But in this instance, he doesn't! I can look past the fact that their actions should've been punished, but I find it hard to look past the fact they weren't. If that makes sense? Within the story, the no-consequences just isn't sold well.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is an intense, gritty drama that hooks you from its opening scene. It's fueled by well rounded characters and topical issues, and is brilliantly written and stunningly presented. 
But the ending is inconclusive. There are also a number of small issues that take away from the otherwise solid story.

Monday, 16 July 2018

2 Mini Film Reviews: TOMB RAIDER and GAME NIGHT

Director: Roar Uthaug.
Cast: Alicia Vikander / Dominic West / Kristen Scott Thomas / Daniel Wu /
Score: Junkie XL.
Cinematography: George Richmond.
Content Advisory: PG 13 for sequences of violence and action.
Source: Rented.

Lara Croft, the fiercely independent daughter of a missing adventurer, must push herself beyond her limits when she discovers the island where her father disappeared.

Want to watch an entertaining action movie? Watch this film. It's a terrific action flick, gorgeously shot, and with a tight, fast-paced plot. The dialogue is good - although predictable -, the action scenes are incredible, and Alicia Vikander is everything. She's exceptional.  She gives us a more vulnerable, relatable, human Lara Croft to root for, and her acting is simply perfect. 

The plot is uninspired, but Tomb Raider is still a fun, exciting reboot led by an amazing actress.

Directors: John Francis Daley / Jonathan Goldstein
Cast: Rachel McAdams / Jason Bateman /
Score: Cliff Martinez
Cinematography: Barry Peterson
Content Advisory: R for language, sexual references, and some violence.
Source: Rented.

A group of friends who meet regularly for game nights find themselves entangled in a real-life mystery when the shady brother of one of them is seemingly kidnapped by dangerous gangsters.

What a waste of time. I read that premise, was instantly obsessed, but after watching just a few minutes of this film I was furious. I'm furious because it's a missed opportunity. It could have been amazing.
It wasn't. 

The good things: 
1: Rachel McAdams. She's not great, but she's better than the rest of the cast and her outfits are amazing. They've dressed her so well. She looks fantastic.  
2: Billy Magnussen. His part is small, but he plays the dumb, hot-headed blonde young guy so well. His lines actually made me laugh. 

The bad things: 
- SO DARN UNREALISTIC. Like sure, I'm not saying that there can't be over-the-top moments, but you gotta sell it. You have to find that balance and make it work. Instead, this plot is totally far-fetched, ludicrous, and without a hint of realism. You can't even suspend disbelief because the writers aren't giving you a reason to care; their writing and characters are too poor. 
- Comedy? Not so much. I never laughed. I get that humour is subjective, but still - I laugh pretty easily in comedies, and this gave me nothing. Maybe it's also a matter of having the wrong actors, actors who can't do comedy, trying to do comedy? Ugh I dunno. All I know is that the plot's stupid, the acting's weak, and the funnies aren't there. It's dumb and silly and the writing's pathetic. 
- Characters? Please. They're hardly characters. To enjoy the game, you have to know the players, and not one of these characters is well established and developed. The plot and the "humour" are being forced onto flat characters, which also gives the comedy nothing to work of off. Overall, it's a mess of weak characters and bad writing.   

I can imagine how amazing this film could have been. The premise has so much potential! But unfortunately, it flops big time.  

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.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

UNRAVEL ME (Shatter Me #2) - by Tahereh Mafi

UNRAVEL ME - Tahereh Mafi
Published: 2013 - Harper Collins.
Genres: Young adult / romance / fantasy / futuristic
Pages: 461.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Mild fantasy violence. The occasional sexual scene.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Penguin Random House SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

It should have taken Juliette a single touch to kill Warner. But his mysterious immunity to her deadly power has left her shaken, wondering why her ultimate defense mechanism failed against the person she most needs protection from. She and Adam were able to escape Warner’s clutches and join up with a group of rebels, many of whom have powers of their own. Juliette will finally be able to actively fight against The Reestablishment and try to fix her broken world. And perhaps these new allies can help her shed light on the secret behind Adam’s—and Warner’s—immunity to her killer skin.

There seems to be common reason why people love this series so much: WARNER. He's apparently amazing and apparently no one can resist him. I was skeptical going into this novel for that very reason.

Mafi's writing is very specific. Her style is her style and you can tell it's hers immediately. She writes well, with some gorgeous descriptions, rich sensory details, and strong atmosphere. But again, I often found her language too melodramatic and too purple. It's totally subjective - I like it and I appreciate her skill, but sometimes it's just too flowery for my taste. I also don't like how she'll describe one emotion or one experience in about fifty different ways; it's not concise, and it seems pretty pointless. Personally, I don't warm to that style of writing.

But the humour is sublime. I don't remember there being much humour in the first book, but thanks to Kenji's character, we get a lot of laughs and wit in this sequel. The humour's on point. And comic relief is actually needed in what is otherwise a rather dark, depressing tale.

The plot is weak. There's a lot more character interaction and dialogue than there is plot action and external movement, which is fine I guess, but also a bit disappointing. However, Mafi does deliver some truly divine plot twists which help keep things interesting. Those totally took me by surprise. They're brilliant.
I'm still eager for more of the world. It's quite limited in Shatter Me, and I'd hoped the author would expand on it in the sequel. Unfortunately, it could still use some fleshing out. We get to see more of the civilians and the rebel base, etc, but the scope remains rather cramped. I almost want a "satellite view", if that makes sense. I want more big picture stuff.

“Loneliness is a strange sort of thing. It creeps on you, quiet and still, sits by your side in the dark, strokes by your hair as you sleep. It wraps itself around your bones, squeezing so tight you almost can't breathe. It leaves lies in your heart, lies next to you at night, leaches the light out of every corner. It's a constant companion, clasping your hand only to yank you down when you're struggling to stand up. You wake up in the morning and wonder who you are. You fail to fall asleep at night and tremble in your skin. You doubt you doubt you doubt.
 do I
don't I
should I
why won't I
And even when you're ready to let go. When you're ready to break free. When you're ready to be brand-new.
Loneliness is an old friend stand beside you in the mirror, looking you in the eye, challenging you to live your life without it. You can't find the words to fight yourself, to fight the words screaming that you're not enough never enough never ever enough. Loneliness is a bitter, wretched companion.
 Sometimes it just won't let go.”

I love Juliette and I love her arc. She's still fragile, still intensely vulnerable, but I simply adore how selfish she can be and how she can make so many bad choices. It makes her human, which is why I love her flaws. I also like how the other characters aren't afraid to call her out for being selfish or for doing something stupid; she's never put on a pedestal, which is refreshing.

I officially love Adam's character. He was rather flat in Shatter Me, but in Unravel Me he's really rounded out and become more three-dimensional. He's tortured and moody, but he's also honourable and passionate and beautiful. Adam's a great character.

Then here's Warner. And I'm sorry to say I do not understand all the fuss about him. Yes, he is a well written, compelling character and yes he's an awesome psychotic villain, but please please please for goodness sake, he's better as a villain, not a love interest! I hate how it's blatantly obvious that the author ships him and Juliette and wants them to be together. I hate how Warner's getting so much page time and commandeering Adam's place as Juliette's love interest. It's just frustrating, because I think he's better written as a villain than as Juliette's bad boy lover. Sigh :(

I luuuuuv the romance between Adam and Juliette. I wasn't convinced by their relationship in the previous novel because it was so extremely underdeveloped, but now that we're in Book 2 it's easier to be swept along with them. And swept along I was. They have so much chemistry, their sexual tension is unbelievable, and the angst is palpable. I only wish, wish, wish, wish Mafi was rooting for them - unfortunately, it looks like Warner and Juliette are gonna be endgame. Which sucks. 

Unravel Me suffers from second book syndrome, meaning there isn't much of a plot. But it's still an enjoyable, emotional story, and I thoroughly liked it. If only Warner and Juliette weren't taking over the ship...  

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Romanticised Abuse: THE KISSING BOOTH (film)

Our goal is to raise awareness and draw attention to romanticised abuse in films, books, etc, in order to fight it
- Join me! Start posting whenever you want.
- Share examples of romanticised abuse you've seen in books or films - doesn't even have to be a whole book or film; simply one scene is enough, if there's an instance of romanticised abuse in it.
- Please link to my blog as the original creator.
- This is not only about romanticised abusive relationships. It is also about romanticised sexual assault, rape, and harassment.
- Please consider the following statement a trigger warning: this blog series explores and draws attention to themes of abuse in fiction. I will discuss sexual assault, abusive relationships, and rape. I will infrequently explore those topics in depth as the fictional example requires it. Please read on with care. These subjects could be triggering.

The Kissing Booth is a Netflix film, a supposedly fluffy contemporary based off a Wattpad novel, and it's been getting a lot of buzz recently. I'm not a big rom-com fan so I wasn't planning to watch it, but after seeing tweets posted by author Susan Dennard, I decided to give it a try.


Elle and Lee have been best friends since they were kids. When they were six years-old, they made up a set of rules - a friendship pact.
Years later, they’re teenagers, and Elle finds herself crushing on Lee’s older brother. Thing is, she’s in danger of breaking Rule #9: "Relatives are off-limits.” How can Elle follow her heart if by doing so she risks losing both boys?

Sexism/Objectification Of Women:

This movie is sexist. The writers also take every single opportunity to depict the female characters as sexual objects, mention their breasts, or slut shame. Guys are running around shirtless, sure, and Noah gets his two moments of slow-mo, but when a female character (in this case, Elle) takes off her shirt and shows her underwear, it's an event. She's the one who gets most of the slow motion and graphic camera angles; she's the one whose body gets the most emphasis. The female characters' bodies are objectified way more than any of the guys'. Elle gets opportunity after opportunity to strip off her shirt and parade around in her bra, be it because she's covered in paint, at the beach, or drunk at a party. And whether it's a male character slapping her butt, telling her "since when did you get boobs?", or another male character telling her that "no boobs are worth this" {referring to another male character's threats if anyone dates her), the perspective is leeringly male. Dare we forget women have boobs we can gawk at because hey, that's what they're there for right? It’s perverse.

The plot begins when at the start of the film, Elle walks into school wearing a tiny skirt (her school pants ripped, and apparently – and conveniently for the story – the skirt is her only alternative). Not only does this situation scream PLOT DEVICE and FEMALE OBJECTIFICATION, but it’s just one of many scenes where Elle’s body is on display for no reason other than to get a rise out of the male characters. When she walks into school in the skirt, she receives catcalls from every guy around her; in another scene, when she accidentally stumbles into the guys' bathroom wearing only shorts and a bra, the response is perverted hoots, not to mention an altercation with her love interest (Noah) whereas he demands she leave (not a bad call) and instead she struts provocatively around the boys in her underwear solely to annoy Noah; when in a later scene she gets drunk at a party and proceeds to take off her shirt, we see the male characters ' responses and they barely know how to control their lust.

According to this film, boys are unable to do anything but drool and catcall when a girl’s showing skin. It’s the old “boys will be boys” - we ladies are just expected to deal. Not only is it offensive to the decent guys out there, but it's cold hard objectification of female bodies. How many times do we need to scream "WOMEN AREN'T SEXUAL BEINGS THERE FOR MALE GRATIFICATION" before the perspective changes?

Control of the heroine: 

There is so much alpha male possessiveness in this story. You could even say that the film entirely revolves around two boys controlling Elle. Noah’s her love interest, Lee’s her best friend, and the main conflict is Elle feeling guilty over the fact she’s breaking a rule she made with Lee when they were six years-old: “Relatives are off-limits”. Essentially, she can’t fall for his older brother. But considering that Elle’s own little sibling is about five years-old himself and Lee’s happily dating someone else, it’s hard to imagine why the rule even exists other than for Lee to keep Elle for himself. It’s selfish. It’s also rather twisted.

Halfway through the film, we finally get to the Kissing Booth scene. Stuff happens, blah blah blah, and Elle ends up kissing Noah (bet you didn’t see that one coming...). Elle is mortified – and turned on, let’s be honest – and she proceeds to tell Lee that she kissed his brother. He crudely remarks, "Just don't end up grinding coochies with my brother or I'll literally never talk to you again." But again, considering that Lee is not in love with Elle himself (although that reason wouldn't be valid, either, at least it would make some sense) why does this rule even exist?! Why the fuss? Lee might as well admit: “I don’t want my brother to have you. You’re mine.”

Naturally, the film’s conflict comes to a head when Lee discovers that his brother and Elle are dating. He hits the roof. He tells Elle: "You know, my whole life Noah has gotten everything that he has ever wanted. The only thing that I had that he didn't was you. And now he has that too."
Possessive much? She's not his! She's not an object! But apparently Lee thinks so, and the film okays that.

Much like Noah (who I'll discuss in a moment) Lee treats Elle like property he believes he has a right to.

Sexual Assault:

In one of the initial scenes of the film, Elle and Lee arrive at their school. Elle is wearing a short skirt because her school pants ripped and she has nothing else to wear, and one of the school boys (Tuppen) slaps her butt.

That's sexual assault. Sexual. Assault.

Except no one takes it seriously. It’s merely a plot device. Lee and Noah both try to defend Elle and of course there are fisticuffs, but the emphasis here is not that Elle’s been assaulted, it’s that Noah has come to her rescue and is beating the guy up.
Next come a sequence of scenes between the students and the principle (summary: the issue isn't properly resolved, and Elle is basically blamed for wearing the skirt - forget the guy who touched her, it's the girl's fault you guys) and the teens get detention. In detention, Elle warms up to Tuppen and accepts his offer for a date after he delivers a pathetic apology. Noah watches on angrily. The whole incident then becomes a standing joke as the guy puts on a short skirt himself and Elle joins in the laughter. It’s also worth noticing that she’s agreeing to go on a date with the guy who assaulted her. SAY WUT???

Sexual assault serves two purposes in this story, and neither are remotely appropriate: 1) It's a plot device to get two characters romantically involved - Noah "defends Elle's honour" and gets into a fight because he's oh so protective of her and now we're supposed to love him for it, and 2) It's a treated like a joke - there are no serious consequences, and it's literally laughed off.

Contrary to what this film will have us believe, sexual assault is not a joke. Neither is it an opportunity for the hero to get a pat on the back for 'saving' the heroine.

Abusive Relationship:

Noah and Elle are the star-crossed lovers we're supposed to ship here. Unfortunately, their relationship is anything but romantic.

Anger issues: Noah has anger issues. Right from the start of the film, Elle mentions how he's constantly getting into fights, and throughout the movie, time and time again, Noah ends up punching someone. Elle getting hit-on becomes an excuse for Noah to pummel her attacker. Yet, time and time again, we're supposed to think it's hot because he's only doing it to protect Elle. He's coming to her rescue. He's justified in beating up a guy, right?
I don't think so. While the seriousness of Noah's fits of fury is disguised behind him constantly coming to Elle's rescue, it doesn't alleviate how wrong - and frightening - his actions are. Noah even attacks his own brother out of rage, and completely ignores Elle when she screams at him to stop. The same happens in the school parking lot when he attacks the guy who touched her butt, and she screams repeatedly for him to stop. But of course he doesn’t. His anger is all he can think about and he doesn’t care for her opinion. When he and Elle are leaving the beach later on in the movie and she's refusing to go with him because she's angry at him, Noah slams his fist down on the car and shouts at her - twice - to "Just get in the car!"
It's frightening. It's classic abusive behaviour. And when Elle should just keep walking away, she turns around and gets in the car.

It gets worse. Towards the end of the movie, Lee walks in on Noah and Elle and sees the cut on Elle's face that she sustained during a fall in the garage. He immediately accuses his brother of hitting her. Noah is outraged, asks Lee how he can think that, and Lee responds: "I wouldn't put it past you!"
Let. That. Sink. In. Noah's own brother thinks him capable of hitting a woman. Not only is that pretty hectic for a rom-com, but it's just another red flag in this unhealthy relationship. It’s incredibly disturbing, especially coming from Lee.

There's anger, and there's constantly getting into physical fights because of your anger. Noah needs therapy, and Elle should stay the heck away. Instead, the movie repeatedly makes excuses for Noah's actions.

Manipulation/Victim-blaming: Noah takes every opportunity to blame Elle for the situations she gets into. It's always her fault; Noah always takes the moral high-ground. When Elle wakes up after a party and remembers how she made a spectacle of herself, Noah tells her "I told you not to come to the party." When she stumbles into the guys' bathroom at school in only shorts and a bra, Noah says "This is exactly what I was talking about." He follows up with: "Put your shirt on and get out." And then: "I told you to stop messing around." Apparently, he thinks Elle is an irresponsible kid who can't handle herself. He's relentlessly condescending. It's extremely insulting to Elle's character, and all of Elle's tepid "You're not the boss of me!" speeches have no real effect because Noah simply dismisses them. After all, he's older, he's a guy, and he knows better. Riiiiiight...

Another example of Noah’s messed up attitude is when he refers to Elle as “woman”. I honestly couldn’t believe my ears when I heard it. But sure enough, twice in the film, Noah actually calls Elle “woman”. The first time is when he lends her his shirt, demands for it back, and when she starts to take it off, he says "- woman I was kidding!" When later on in the movie Elle's driving recklessly, Noah yells "- woman pull the car over!" Now if that had been me in Elle's place (heaven forbid) I would've socked him in the jaw. Don’t you dare call me “woman”. I'm sure you ladies know what I'm talking about, too. When a guy calls you "woman", it's rarely - if ever - a compliment. It’s just wrong.

Possessiveness/Control: Noah, much like his brother Lee, wants to control Elle. He makes no secret of it. At first we have this predictable push and pull where she repeatedly tells him "you can't tell me what to do! Stop controlling me!" and while that's all nice and well had she then walked away and forgot about him, the movie romanticises Noah's behaviour and gets Elle to soften and let him in. All her rebelliousness is mere cute feistiness that Noah eventually smothers with his good looks and charm.

The controlling is horrific. When Elle is stood-up on a date, the guy who stood her up comes to tell her that he was forced to stand her up because Noah had threatened him and every other guy who was interested in her and warned them not to date her. Noah did that because he believes he knows better. Elle is rightly outraged, but when she confronts Noah and tells him that this is the end of him controlling her, he replies: "We'll see about that", and smirks. Later on in the film, when Elle tells him – again - to stop the controlling, he retorts "You're cute when you're bossy."
It keeps getting worse.
There’s a party at Noah and Lee’s house towards the start of the movie, and Noah tells Elle that she can't go (I can’t remember his reason). She still goes, obviously, but gets really, really drunk and takes her dress off – embarrassing herself. Noah ends up taking her back to his house after she passes out, and lies her down in his bed. Come morning, Elle wakes up in a panic, thinking they've slept together. She's relieved to still be in her underwear, although she's wearing Noah's shirt. Then Noah walks into the bedroom, wearing only a towel.
Red flags abound. Firstly, he took her back to his house - why not her own?! Screw her dad finding out she'd been drinking; Noah should've taken her to her home. Taking her back to his house was certainly not his call. It's completely inexcusable. Secondly, why the heck is she even in his bed?! Even if he did sleep somewhere else (he did) taking her to his house and putting her in his own bed in his bedroom while she’s unconscious is so, so, so, so wildly inappropriate!

There's a difference between protectiveness and possessiveness and Noah crosses the line.

The Kissing Booth is filmed through a grotesque misogynistic lens and romanticises not only sexual assault, but the toxic relationships between two teenage boys and a girl. It’s not a fun, fluffy rom-com – it’s a deeply disturbing story of abuse. And keeping that in mind, when Netflix's Ted Sarandos calls it "one of the most watched movies in the US and maybe even in the world", we should be even more alarmed.

← Rhysand and Feyre in ACOTAR

Sunday, 1 July 2018

I'm baaaaaaack! / giveaway winner! / announcements!

I'm back!! I'm back!! I loved the break and I'm glad I took it, but I'm looking forward to reading and reviewing and blogging again.

The day after I started my hiatus I wanted to blog ;) Lol. Seriously. But after a few days I started to enjoy the break. It turned out well. But I have realised that I need to go easy when it comes to posting, so I don't get overwhelmed and stressed again. From now on I'll only be posting when I actually want to or when I actually have something to post about (the way it should be...). I'll only post on Tuesday if I have a WIP Diaries or Romanticised Abuse topic to share - I'm not gonna force myself to find one, just to have something to post on Tuesday. I'm going to try and slow down. That way I think I'll enjoy blogging more.

I'm so excited to be back, guys! I've missed you and all your blogs.

Giveaway Winner! 

The news you've all been waiting for..... the winner of a book of his/her choice worth $12 from Book Depository or Wordery is.....Genni!!

Congrats Genni!! I'll be emailing you shortly :)

June happenings

So....the main point of my hiatus was to write. I started writing the second draft of my WIP, as planned, but didn't get very far before I realised it needed a lot more work. So I went back to outlining, and actually spent most of the month working on characters, world building, and plot. I outlined, more than I actually wrote. But I made major progress there and I'm happy. I dug a lot deeper with my characters and discovered so much more about them, which was an aspect that sorely needed help.
Now, in July, I'm doing Camp NaNoWriMo, so I hope to actually write the second draft. 

I also watched a ton of Netflix this month ;) Obviously. I'm on season 5 of The Vampire Diaries and so much in love and have so many feelings and GAH it's so freaking good. Hate Damon, hate Delena, hate Jeremy (can the guy just die again already?) but Stefan and Caroline are my baes <3 They're so amazing. I'm in love.

June Bookmail

Bookmail bookmail yay yay yay!! I can't wait to read these books and I'm planning to read a lot of books this July because I'm starved. I barely read anything in June and I am so ready to lose myself in an epic story.

I have big plans for July so wish me luck cos I'm pretty sure I'm being overly-ambitious ;) I'm doing Camp NaNoWriMo (last minute decision, and by last minute I mean the night before), I'm gonna read a million books,  and I plan to watch lots of The Vampire Diaries and rent a few movies, too.

How was your June?! Tell me all the news!  I've missed blog hopping so much, and although it'll take me a while, I plan to visit all your blogs and check out your posts.  

Sunday, 3 June 2018

June Hiatus and International Giveaway!

As I mentioned in my Monthly Wrap-Up, I'm taking a blogging hiatus in June. But...... I have a surprise for you ;) During June I'll be running a giveaway over on my blog, so keep reading and enter it below!



A book of your choice worth $12 from Book Depository or Wordery

- If you're under 18, you must have parents' permission to enter.
- There will be one winner.
- If the winner doesn't respond within 48 hours, another winner will be selected. 

May the odds be ever in your favour, and see you again in July! 

Friday, 1 June 2018

Monthly Wrap-Up: May-June

May is gone! Flip! It's so darn quick people. Seriously.

These last few weeks of May have been so cold and wintery and I am loving it. Hopefully there'll be more of that in June! Otherwise, I think it's going to be a relaxing and at the same time productive month ahead. I'm going to write a lot, spend a lot of time reading the Bible, and towards the end of the month I'll be working at our church's holiday club looking after little kids. It's always crazy, but so rewarding too!

Blog Posts from this month

The WIP Diaries: The CONTORTION trilogy
Blog Tour and Blitz: THE GHOST OF GLENDALE
Romanticised Abuse // Posts So Far......
Blog Tour and Intl Giveaway: MY SWEET FRIEND
The WIP Diaries: JACKIE Aesthetics......
Romanticised Abuse: Rhysand and Feyre in ACOTAR
Female Film Reboots: Yay or Nay?

I loved writing all these posts. My favourite was probably the Female Film Reboots.

Reviews from this month

The Darkest Minds - Alexandra Bracken
Molly's Game (film) - 2017
A Thousand Perfect Notes - C. G. Drews
Ash Princess - Laura Sebastian
Bring Me Back - B.A Paris
Batman Nightwalker - Marie Lu
Shatter Me - Tahereh Mafi
The Astonishing Colour of After - Emily X.R. Pan
To Kill A Kingdom - Alexandra Christo

My favourite read was To Kill A Kingdom, and my least favourite was Bring Me Back, even though I actually read it way back in March ;)

Hiatus Announcement 

I'm going to take a blogging hiatus in June. I haven't had one since I've been blogging, and I feel like a break will do me good. Only it won't be quite a break - I'll be spending the time working on my WIP and hopefully writing a lot :) So I won't be posting, I won't be on social media much, and I probably won't get to blog hop either.

BUT. Be on the lookout because I have a surprise coming your way.....hint hint: did someone say giveaway?...........

Keep an eye out for a post on Sunday! 

Happy June! Did you have a good month? What's on your TBR?