RENEGADES - by Marissa Meyer

RENEGADES - Marissa Meyer
Published: 2017 by Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 556
Genres: Young adult / adventure / romance / science fiction
Triggers/Content Advisory: Very mild sci-fi violence
Format: ARC paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
Secret Identities. Extraordinary Powers. She wants vengeance. He wants justice. The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies—humans with extraordinary abilities—who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone...except the villains they once overthrew. Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice—and in Nova. But Nova's allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.

I am a huge fan of The Lunar Chronicles. But I didn't enjoy Heartless, which made me nervous to pick up this book. It can be a bit hit-and-hiss with Marissa Meyer.
I buddy read this book with the amazing Uma @ Books.Bags.Burgers. Please go check out her review HERE!

I officially love Meyer's writing. It's simple, but it's warm, clever, and personal. Her dialogue is excellent, too; it's always the highlight for me.
I love the world building. I'm a big fan of superheroes, so this world is definitely for me. The action sequences are terrific, as well, and every scene is incredibly vivid and alive. You really become a part of the action. The imagery is superb.

But the plot is weak. It is extremely slow, with lots of boring scenes, and back story and the world's history continually bog it down. I feel like this is one of those stories where the back story would actually a better story than the present story. The plot points and motivations also don't make proper sense - the plot isn't strong enough, and that goes right down to its framework. On top of that, the ending is totally unsatisfying. It doesn't resolve properly and leaves too many questions unanswered. That annoys me.

"There's no rule that says you have to be a prodigy to be a hero," she insisted. "If people wanted to stand up for themselves or protect their loved ones or do what they believe in their hearts is the right thing to do, then they would do it. If they wanted to be heroic, they would find ways to be heroic, even without supernatural powers.”

The secondary characters are brilliant. Meyer makes everyone distinct in her trademark style with plenty of quirks and sharp traits, and personalities are vibrant, three-dimensional, and compelling. I especially love Max and Ingrid's characters - they're awesome.
But the two leads, Nova and Adrian, are boring. They are so cliche. Their motivations are incredibly weak, the direction Nova takes on her quest for justice is rather illogical, and Adrian has no character development. Compared to the secondary characters, these two are cardboard cutouts. And their romance isn't shippable, either; there's not even one spark of chemistry between them.

Renegades is disappointing. The plot is too slow, too weak, and the lead characters are dull. But the dialogue and secondary characters come close to redeeming the book. 

Romanticised Abuse: The Phantom of the Opera

Our goal is to raise awareness and draw attention to romanticised abuse in films, book, etc, in order to fight it.

- Join us. Design your own header (or use mine)  and start posting.
- Share examples of romanticised abuse you've seen in books or films. 
- Please link to my blog as the original creator.

(This post will make a LOT more sense if you've watched the movie, musical, or read the book of The Phantom of the Opera).

A few years ago I was an absolute phanatic. I adored the musical, although not so much the movie, and was obsessed with the songs, characters, and story. I still adore the musical, but until recently the story hadn't raised any red flags for me. Now, I've began to see the story's disturbing - and frankly blatant - romanisation of an abusive relationship. 

To give some background...

Story premise from IMDB: "A young soprano becomes the obsession of a disfigured musical genius who lives beneath the Paris Opéra House".

Erik's past: Without a doubt, Erik suffered as a child. He was horrifically abused, and since then has been emotionally unstable and physically as well as psychologically scarred. I am heartbroken for him. He needs help. But having a past like that does not excuse his behaviour towards Christine, and yet that's what this story essentially does. 

Stalking / Erik frequently invades Christine's privacy by coming into her bedroom and preying on her there. He also follows her almost everywhere she goes: when she and Raoul are on the rooftop of the Opera House, he tails them and hides from sight so he can observe and hear them (even though Christine has explicitly brought them there so Erik can't follow them; the idea terrifies her).

Another example of Erik's stalking would be when Christine goes to visit her father's grave. In the movie, Erik disguises as her carriage driver so he can secretly accompany her, and in the musical and book he hides in the graveyard while she pays her respects to her father's grave. That is a graphic intrusion of her implicit desire for privacy.

Manipulation / Erik plays with Christine's mind. To make things worse, he uses her love for her fiancée and takes advantage of her gentle nature by threatening to harm her fiancée and members of the Opera company if she doesn't go to him or do his bidding. Towards the end of the story, he demands she play the title role in the darkly sexual play he's written, or else he'll hurt those she loves. At the end of the story, Erik even threatens to murder Christine's fiancée unless she agrees to marry him instead.

Physical abuse / Erik is constantly violent with Christine. When she's overcome with curiosity and rips off his mask, he grabs her and throws her to the ground in a fit of rage. Towards the end of the story when he takes her to his lair, he relentlessly shakes her and throws her around. In the climax of the musical, he violently drags her to the cellars and then - in one version I watched - he actually flings her to the ground, falls on top of her, and pins her down as he screams in her face. It's horrific.

Psychological abuse / This goes with the Manipulation and Takes Advantage Of Her points. Erik frequently threatens Christine, draws exquisite delight from making her afraid of him, and enjoys the naked horror she feels when she sees his deformed face.

Erik never stops causing Christine emotional distress. In one scene, she becomes absolutely hysterical at the thought of having to face him again, and throughout the story she is driven to the brink of madness trying to determine whether Erik is only in her head or if he's real, and drives herself over the edge trying to guess what he's going to do to her next. It is Erik who is pushing these buttons, and he revels in it. By the end of the story, Christine is scared for life. Her mental state is severely frayed as a result of his control.

Takes away her freedom of choice / In the book, Christine actually agrees to go with Erik the first few times (although only because he's threatened to kill people if she doesn't: "What compels you to go back, Christine?" - "If I do not go back to him, terrible misfortunes may happen!...I know I ought to feel sorry for people who live underground, but he is too horrible!......and if I do not go {back to him} he will come and fetch me with his voice. And he will drag me with him.....And go on his knees before me.... And he will tell me that he loves me!..." -pages 152-153).

But in the movie and musical, Erik hypnotises her with his music and lures her away in a form of dazed subconscious. Throughout the musical and movie, he's hypnotising her to get her to go with him. It's absolutely vile. He's using her for his own perverse gratification.

Takes advantage of her / When Christine visits her father's grave, she is extremely vulnerable and her emotional state is unstable. Erik knows this, and uses weak moments like this to exploit her fears and feed on her vulnerabilities and/or superstitions - Christine's father told her of this guardian angel, this "Angel of Music", and Erik plays on that idea for all it's worth. In the movie, Erik even pretends to be her father!

Jealousy & possessiveness / Erik is obsessed with Christine and wants her to belong to him. He cannot accept that she loves and plans to marry another man, and he takes her engagement as a direct attack on what he believes she and him have together. During one of the first scenes of the musical, he hurls abuse at her fiancé when he's out of earshot, and reprimands Christine for indulging the obviously love-stricken young suitor. Erik simply cannot allow Christine to "belong" to anyone but himself.

Sexual assault / More than once, Erik touches Christine without her permission. In one of the final scenes where Christine is playing the role he wrote for her, Erik takes the place of the male who's singing opposite her (he kills that original singer, just by the way). In that scene, the male character touches the woman's chest, but considering that Erik's wrote it and Christine doesn't know it's actually him touching her, the scene is revolting. If she knew it was him touching her, I doubt she'd be compliant. And back to Erik having wrote that scene and him taking on the male role unbeknownst to anyone else, it's basically like he's purposefully using the chance of having his play performed to fulfil his perverted fantasy with Christine. Gross.

In the final scene of the musical, there is at last some hope of Erik's actions getting the critical attention they deserve. Seeing Erik violently threaten to kill her fiancée, Christine's anger is palpable. Finally, she is seeing everything clearly and without the hypnotism. She screams at him, calls him out for what he's doing, and her fury, desperation, and grief are incredible. It is good to see her that outraged. But the writers still paint Erik as the tragic hero we're supposed to ship with Christine. That's disturbing!
I also don't like how everyone seems to praise Erik for "letting Christine go" in that climactic final scene, when actually he had no right to her in the first place. She was never his!

I still love The Phantom of the Opera because I think it's a beautiful musical and a well written story. But there needs to be more emphasis on the unhealthiness of Erik's relationship with Christine. It's an abusive relationship. As broken as Erik is, to call him a hero and call his connection with Christine romance, is going too far. I'm not denying that they connected through music, but to call that connection a romance? What kind of twisted message is that sending? 

3 Mini Book Reviews

AND I DARKEN - Kiersten White
Published: 2016 by Delacorte Press
Pages: 498.
Genres: Young adult / romance / historical fiction /
Triggers/Content Advisory: Infrequent sexual innuendo / frequent brutal violence
Format: eBook.
Source: Borrowed.

NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets. Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion. But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

Gosh oh gosh. I was expecting to love this book but WOW did I not. At. All.

It's extremely boring and slow. Everything drags and the politics are way too much. I desperately wanted to DNF it, but I have my own stupid policy that I'm not allowed to DNF a book (I just can't stand not finishing something. Lol). The plot is also a mess, and the pacing is totally ridiculous.
I also don't like White's writing style. I'm not saying it's bad, but it's definitely not for me. It gets very repetitive, as well.

However, the history is fascinating. I like the richness of the Ottoman world, and I especially like how creative White is with her gender-swapped retelling.
But it's still not enough to redeem the book.

The characters are boring. I do find Radu and Lada's relationship compelling, but their characters annoy me. I enjoyed watching Lada frequently win against the boys and get in some awesome girl power, but I still find her character irritating.
All the secondary characters are yawn-worthy and easily forgettable.


IF BIRDS FLY BACK - Carlie Sorosiak
Published: 2017 - by Macmillan Children's Books
Pages: 352.
Genres: Young adult / romance / contemporary /
Triggers/Content Advisory: Mild sexual innuendos.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Won.
Linny has been living life in black and white since her sister Grace ran away, and she's scared that Grace might never come back. When Linny witnesses the return to Miami of a cult movie star long presumed dead, she is certain it's a sign. Surely Álvaro Herrera, of all people, can tell her why people come back - and how to bring her sister home? Sebastian has come to Miami seeking his father, a man whose name he's only just learned. An aspiring astrophysicist, he can tell Linny how many galaxies there are, how much plutonium weighs and how likely she is to be struck by a meteorite. But none of the theories he knows are enough to answer his own questions about why his father abandoned him, and why it left him in pieces. As Sebastian and Linny converge around the mystery of Álvaro's disappearance - and return - their planets start to collide. Linny's life is about to become technicolor, but finding the answers to her questions might mean losing everything that matters.

This story is so cute. It's deeper than your average contemporary, and incredibly original and creative.  The dialogue is fun, the characters quirky, eccentric, and unique, and their relationships complicated. I love how friendship and family are as much themes as is the romance. It's great.
The humour is brilliant. The characters are so sassy and sarcastic, it's absolutely delightful and at the same time outrageous. I love it.

My only criticisms are that the plot frequently takes very unrealistic turns, and I struggled to lose myself in the story. It lacks that "spark" that makes contemporaries the kind of books you just want to rush back to and continue reading.  For example, there are scenes where I know I'd usually be crying, but for some reason, in this book, I didn't. I wasn't even close to crying.
I miss that connection.


Published: 2011 - by Hodder & Stoughton 
Pages: 418.
Genres: Young adult / romance / fantasy / paranormal 
Triggers/Content Advisory: Sexual innuendos / Fantasy violence 
Format: Paperback.
Source: Library. 
"Errand requiring immediate attention. Come. The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. 'He never says please', she sighed, but she gathered up her things. When Brimstone called, she always came." In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she's a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in 'Elsewhere', she has never understood Brimstone's dark work - buying teeth from hunters and murderers - nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn't whole. Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

At the start, I liked it. But then Akiva came into the plot and things went downhill.

I like the prose - it's stunning - but the more I read, the more it got repetitive and melodramatic. Thus by the end I wasn't so keen on it. The plot is quite slow, too, and I was bored for a lot of the time. The pacing is also extremely uneven.
The story is very imaginative and weird. I like that, but it also gets confusing. At the end of the book I had so many questions and not once did the book answer them. I think there are a lot of loopholes (which, thanks brain, I can't recall at this very moment BUT THERE ARE SOME, I KNOW) and that annoys me.

Th characters are interesting, but severely underdeveloped. Akiva is boring as heck, and Karou's potential is wasted because she's flat. BUT I FREAKIN' LOVE ZUANNA. I COULD READ A WHOLE BOOK ABOUT ZUANNA. She's so funny, sassy, and full of personality, and her conversations with Karou are ABSOLUTE GOLD. If the book was about their friendship then YES I'D READ IT. But Karou's romance with Akiva is flippin' boring. 

Hope you enjoyed these reviews! Have you read these books? What did you think of them? 

Weekly Round-Up: SCHOOL and writing

It was a pretty good week! I'm enjoying most aspects of school, and I've been steadily outlining my WIP. And watching tons of F.R.I.E.N.D.S ;) Of course. 

Posts of the week: 
Book Review: BORN A CRIME
Film Review: DUNKIRK

Currently Reading


For Review

This looks like such a fun little novel, and IT GETS BONUS POINTS FOR FEATURING A PHOTO OF LOKI. YES <3

I'm thinking I should probably watch the movie first, though...

Around the Blogosphere

Deanna talks about The assassination of Padme's character

Lauren shares a review & Giveaway for 'Say You'll Remember Me'

Aneta reviews The Fire Queen

Brittany reviews Reign of the Fallen

Erica reviews The Woman in Cabin 10

Greg talks about Your Personality and Your Blog

Entertainment News

2018 Oscar Nominations have been announced!
It's pretty much what I think most people expected, except for the inevitable few snubs and surprises. I'm personally furious that Jessica Chastain didn't get a Best Actress nom for Molly's Game, and that Emma Stone didn't get a nom for Battle of the Sexes. Chastian deserved a nomination so badly, and it annoys the heck outta me.
But on the positive side Greta Gerwig got nominated for Best Director for Lady Bird, which makes her the first female director nominee in years and the fifth female nominee in that category of all time. Rachel Morrison also made history by being the first woman cinematographer to be nominated.

I can't wait for the Oscars!

Coming Up...

This coming week I'll be doing three mini reviews (And I Darken, If Birds Fly Back, and Daughter of Smoke and Bone), another Romanticised Abuse post, reviewing Renegades, and a Monthly Wrap-Up.

How're you doing? How's school or work? What are you currently reading?


Published: 2017 by Random House Children's Books
Pages: 364.
Genres: Young adult / adventure / romance / science fiction / contemporary
Triggers/Content Advisory: Infrequent, mild violence.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Bought.
Daughter of immortals. Princess Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mortal. Diana will soon learn that she has rescued no ordinary girl, and that with this single brave act, she may have doomed the world. Daughter of death. Alia Keralis just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted by people who think her very existence could spark a world war. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery. Together. Two girls will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. Tested beyond the bounds of their abilities, Diana and Alia must find a way to unleash hidden strengths and forge an unlikely alliance. Because if they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

I love Wonder Woman. I love Leigh Bardugo. Wanna guess what I thought of this book?

From the first paragraph I was literally head over heels in love. Leigh's writing, her sentence structure, is absolutely flawless. Her dialogue is rich, witty, full of incredible humour, and you can instantly tell which character's speaking when. It's just perfect.
My only "criticism" is that the witty dialogue gets a tiny bit too much at times. The characters are constantly snapping back and forth, and however entertaining those exchanges are, they aren't entirely realistic in a battle scene. It's a bit overdone.

The twists on Diana's original story are fantastic. I adore how Leigh makes it her own while still keeping the important elements we die-hard fans know and love.
The story isn't packed with action, but it's never boring. It's very character-driven, and I enjoyed the characters' interactions just as much as I did the infrequent battles and physical fighting. I know a lot of reviewers have criticised how slow they apparently found the story, but I honestly don't see it; yes, there're a lot of "quieter" moments and not a ton of physical fighting, but it's no less entertaining or gripping. My heart was pumping whether it was an amazing, adrenaline-fueled fight, or simply the characters sparring with each other. Leigh's writing is masterful, so even the quieter scenes are stunning to read. At least I think so.

“Sisters in battle, I am shield and blade to you. As I breathe, your enemies will know no sanctuary. While I live, your cause is mine.”

“I am done being careful. I am done being quiet. Let them see me angry. Let them hear me wail at the top of my lungs.”

“When had she stopped being a child? The first time a guy whistled at her out of a car window when she was walking to school? The moment she started wondering how she looked when she ran, what jiggled or bounced, instead of the pace she was setting? The first time she'd kept from raising her hand because she didn't want to seem too smart or too eager? No one had sung? No one had told her how much she would lose until the time for grieving was long over.”

The characters are mind-blowingly good. The cast is so amazingly diverse - different cultures, different sexualities, different colours - and everyone is vivid, three-dimensional, and effortlessly real. It's brilliant. I love how every charatcer Bardugo writes, no matter the size of their role in the story, comes alive.
I also relate a lot to Alia. There are moments towards the end of the book that just make me want shout: "Wow! That's just so me!" Her vulnerabilities and fears are similar to mine (although obviously I'm not a catalyst for world doom) and it's both chilling and awe-inspiring to see how intensely Bardugo is able to dig into human nature.

The relationships are excellent. The female friendships, especially, are utter perfection and so empowering. Alia and Diana are #goals. There's also plenty of #girlssupportinggirls and all that majestic stuff. Speaking of which....
THE FEMINISM MAKES MY LITTLE FEMINIST HEART SO IMMENSELY HAPPY. Bardugo writes feminism into her books, into her female characters, so naturally, and for most of the book I was simply giddy from all the girl power flowing from the pages. It's INCREDIBLY empowering.

Wonder Woman Warbringer is a masterpiece in writing, character, plot, and theme. It's bursting with inspiring heroines, beautiful friendships, and is one of the most empowering books I've read this year  
Leigh Bardugo is a wonder woman. I think this is her best work since Six of Crows


DUNKIRK (film) is a missed opportunity

DUNKIRK - 2017
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Mark Rylance / Kenneth Branagh / Fionn Whitehead / Tom Hardy / Jack Lowden
Score: Hans Zimmer
Cinematographer: Hoyte Van Hoytema
Content Advisory: PG 13 for intense war experiences and some language.
Source: Rented.

Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German Army, and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

I've heard nothing but praise and Oscar buzz for this film. Because of that, and despite never watching a war movie before now, I decided to give this one a try.

The scenes take your breath away. Literally. The bleak colour palette of blues, greys, and occasionally browns, somehow manages to come across radiant, and the use of colour is stunning. The sets are beautiful, the scenography spectacular, and overall it's an atmospheric, darkly mesmerising sight to behold. One that seems to immerse you in the action taking place, as well. And that's also thanks to brilliant direction from Nolan.
The cinematography is naturally flawless. Every shot is incredible. You're swept away whether it's into the fire-lit waters or the damp sand of the beach under the overcast sky. It's haunting and it's almost tangible.
The score is excellent. The amazing Hans Zimmer presents another breathtaking range of musical numbers, and they're the perfect, poignant touch to every scene. The music truly is soul-stirring. Not to mention the sound editing is impeccable - it's crisp and keenly aware of every movement on screen.

The story is gripping and it's never boring. But all the same, I have big issues with the plot.
Firstly, it's extremely loose. There are little pockets of things happening all over the place with certain subplots and characters, but that's the thing: they're all over the place. The way the writers have written the script - some characters under the water one moment, some waiting on the beach, others crashing planes - you can't place any of the incidents on a timeline. Everything mixes and overlaps. The days and nights blend together into a bleak blur of general catastrophe. Nothing holds together. And the pacing is muddy. The writers have obviously tried to zoom in on a particular number of characters for a personal touch, but with everything pooling together you can't even appreciate or connect to the subplots (weak as they are) or the characters' individual experiences. Everything's thrown together - nothing is in a cohesive, logical order.

I also feel like the movie presents a rather limited view of the whole historic event. The whole Dunkirk rescue in this film is very much minimilised, and that scene when the boats arrive from England is a bit of a, well, disappointment. There's only a scattering of boats shown in this film, while in real life there were so many more. It's not historically accurate, we're only getting a cramped glimpse of the magnificent rescue mission, and frankly I just feel like the story falls apart under such restrictions.

The cast is very good. Kenneth Brannagh has perhaps one too many melodramatic stares into the distance, but otherwise he's inevitably solid. Harry Styles gets his few moments, and he's not actually terrible. The rest of the cast holds up well too.
But the characters are weak. There's a clear-cut little cast the story follows, but we never get to hear of their back stories or see anything of their personalities. They're flat. You can't connect to anyone.

I'm only rating this movie 4 instead of 3.5 because of the stunning production design. 
Dunkirk is an atmospheric, riveting, gorgeously visual film with a haunting score, strong cast, and excellent cinematography. But the writers skimp drastically on plot and character. 

BORN A CRIME - by Trevor Noah

Published: 2016 - Pan Mamcillan
Pages: 342.
Genres: Nonfiction / memoir / autobiography
Triggers/Content Advisory: Mature themes / bad language
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
Trevor Noah’s path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show in New York began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of his relationship with his fearless, rebellious and fervently religious mother – his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life. The eighteen personal essays collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic and deeply affecting. Whether being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping or simply trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his world with an incisive wit and an unflinching honesty.

As a South African and Trevor Noah fan, I was so excited to read this book. I'd heard amazing things about it.

I love Noah's writing style. He simply and frankly says what he thinks. It's easy to read, and every now and then you'll find yourself smiling at his dry humour and wit.
The story is incredibly entertaining. It's fast paced with a variety of equally shocking and hilarious experiences, and Noah is a superb storyteller. I loved reading about his life, although a number of his stories saddened me, as well; not every tale is cheerful and lighthearted.
But I love the warmth and hope coursing throughout his story. Some of Noah's experiences are downright horrifying and tragic, but without making light of those experiences, he somehow manages to uplift and entertain you at the same time. It's not a gloomy book - it's an uplifting one. I like that.

Born A Crime and other stories is an entertaining melting pot of eccentricity and unfailing hope. Noah's warm writing style makes the book easy to read, but while I found his stories interesting and fun, there wasn't much else I got from the book. 

Romanticised Abuse: F.R.I.E.N.D.S

Our goal is to raise awareness and draw attention to romanticised abuse in films, book, etc, in order to fight it
- Join us! Design your own header (or use mine)  and start posting - once a week, two times a week, whenever
- Share examples of romanticised abuse you've seen in books or films - doesn't even have to be a whole book or film; simple one scene is enough, if there's an instance of romanticised abuse in it
- Keep the post short. Just a few paragraphs.

This is not just about romanticised abusive relationships. It is about romanticised sexual assault and harassment, as well. 
- Please link to my blog as the original creator.

F.R.I.E.N.D.S is a dated show. Y'all know that. It definitely has its issues, and unfortunately for the era it was made in, those issues wouldn't really have been issues when it was made. Does that make it OK?
Nope. Because frankly everyone should know better.

My post today is about a drawn out incident of sexual assault on the show. While thankfully the other characters never like this guy and generally consider him to be a jerk, the show and the characters do not handle and respond to his inappropriate actions appropriately. The sexual assault is extremely downplayed. It is inexcusable.

The incident goes like this: Phoebe, one of the FRIENDS, is a masseuse. One day, Paolo, who is the boyfriend of Phoebe's friend Rachel, comes in for a massage and she proceeds to give him one. But it doesn't go as planned. Suddenly, Paolo begins groping Phoebe, specifically her butt, and runs his hands over her thighs and legs. It is completely inappropriate. Phoebe is disturbed by the incident, and tells Rachel what he did. Thankfully, Rachel sees Paolo's actions as horrific, and she breaks up with him. Later in the series, in episode 1 (I think?) of series 2, Rachel hooks up with Paolo again and they have a one-night-stand, which she admittedly regrets. In the scene afterwards where all their friends are gathered in the lounge/kitchen, Paolo goes up to Phoebe and touches her butt again. Phoebe says "stop touching my ass!" and the laugh tracks come on as she hastily moves away from him. Rachel then makes Paolo leave because she realises the one-night-stand was a mistake.

In the rest of the show, Paolo hasn't shown up again. Yay.
But the show's handling of the sexual assault on Phoebe highlights four troubling points.

1: The focus is on Rachel - Forget how Phoebe's feeling; Rachel is the one the writers and everyone else cares about. Sure, learning that your boyfriend hit on someone else (the show says hit-on, but it was so much more than hit-on - he violently groped a woman's body) is obviously going to be a shock, but it is not worse than what the assault victim/survivor is feeling. The attention should be on Phoebe, but instead the writers focus on Rachel, who, to put it blatantly, is actually more concerned about how she's been betrayed rather than what has happened to her good friend.
The assault should be about Paolo and Phoebe. The writers should pay attention to Phoebe's feelings and Paolo's actions - not for cheating on Rachel, but for touching Phoebe. That should be the sole concern, rightly addressed and reprimanded. By the time I'd watched these disgusting scenes, I honestly did not care about Rachel. It was Phoebe I felt for. It was Phoebe I believe the writers should've treated better. And it was Paolo they needed to be harder on.

2: Sexual assault is there for laughs - Paolo gropes Phoebe twice and guess what we hear? Laugh tracks. Because obviously, we're supposed to laugh here. It's supposed to be funny and we should be saying "oh look!! Paolo's dating Rachel's and yet he's groping Phoebe HAHAHAHA".
That. Makes. Me. Sick. Sexual assault is not a joke, and if you're writing it into a comedy and throwing laughs at it, what the hell - excuse my language - are you thinking? Is sexually assaulting a woman funny to you? Is a guy pawing at a girl's butt without her consent funny to you? That is exactly the kind of toxic, misogynistic idea we have thrown in our faces every day, and that is rape culture.

3: It's a plot device - The whole incident of Paolo touching Phoebe without her consent is there because 1) it's supposed provide humour and 2) It gives Rachel a valid reason to stop dating him and be single again, which aids her relationship subplot with Ross. The sexual assault is not there because the writers want to draw attention to its horror, show the progression of Phoebe's emotional response to it, and get Paolo the punishment he deserves - no. It's there because it serves as a device to help the story along - specifically Rachel's story. And that kind of writing is disgusting.

4: Normalisation of sexual assault - By dismissing the incident and focusing on Rachel and the apparent "humour" of the situation, the show is essentially saying "He touched her without her consent but let's not call it sexual assault and guys touching girls without their content happens everyday so let's move on. No biggie."
That mindset is revolting. Sexual assault can and does happen everyday, but that does not mean that its wrongness should ever become......well, less wrong. Just because a serial killer kills ten people and not one, should the horror of the killings lose its impact? Of course not! We should be as disgusted and angered by it as we are the first time it happens. I can promise you that even if F.R.I.E.N.D.S included a hundred incidents of sexual assault I would still hate every single one with the same vehemence (and yes, I'd stop watching the show too).
In this case, the writers are dismissing Phoebe and Paolo's situation and moving on without so much as a nod to Phoebe's state and admitting that Paolo's behaviour needs to be dealt with (preferably in a courtroom). They are normalising the whole incident. It's shocking.

F.R.I.E.N.D.S is a comedy. It's supposed to be a feel-good, lighthearted comedy. But writing in scenes of sexual assault for laughs, with no intention of focusing on the victim's response and how she's affected by it, and missing the whole point of what the attacker did by instead focusing on his relationship with someone other than the woman he assaulted, is horrifying.
That is not comedy. That is not good writing. That is romanticised sexual assault. That is normalisation of sexual assault.

Bad Boys

Weekly Round-Up: Back to school tomorrow...

I start school tomorrow. Sigh. But I have had a long holiday, so I guess it'll be good for me to be extra productive again.
I've also started outlining for a new WIP. Hopefully, I'll be able to make time during the week to work on that, too.

Posts of the week: 
Romanticised Abuse: Bad Boys
Book Review: EVERLESS
To moments in Film/TV that made me cry

Currently Reading

Yes, I am still reading And I Darken. *sigh* I've also started Daughter of Smoke of Bone (got it from the library) which is...interesting. 

For Review

GUYS!! I GOT AN E-ARC OF SHADOWSONG!! I'm so freaking excited. I also got the autobiography of Trevor Noah, which I've already finished ;)

Around the Blogosphere

Heather reviews Stalking Jack the Ripper

Poem Fanatic reviews Origin

Amber Elise reviews The Hazel Wood

Greg reviews The Birthday Girl

Entertainment News

An excellent article about Jessica Chastain, her most recent role in Molly's Game, and her fight for women's equality. 


Coming Up...

This week, I'll be reviewing Dunkirk (movie), Wonder Woman Warbringer, and Born A Crime.

Did you have a great week? What did you do? What are you currently reading? 

Top Moments in Film/TV that made me cry

I cry a lot in movies and TV shows. Whether it's a wedding or a funeral or a pet bunny getting run over by a car (kidding. That never happened. And I totally wouldn't cry over that. #sorrynotsorry. No offense to bunny-owners) the tears come fast. I get so invested that it takes very little to get me bawling.
Obviously, books have almost the same effect. But I do cry less easily in books. I definitely have sobbed over a few bookish deaths, etc (Finnick's death, anyone?) but it's less of a thing. 

This post is a list of some of the TV shows and movie moments that have - and occasionally still do - made me cry. And by cry, I don't mean a single tear slipping melodramatically down my cheek, I mean sobbed. This list is of The Moments. The "my life is ending why why why such tragedy my chest aches my lungs hurt I can't freakin' breathe" moments. 

And I could choose more moments, but you gotta stop somewhere right? 

Rose and Ten's separation // Doctor Who season 2 // 
My poor babies. This isn't actually a death, but to be fair they got separated for all eternity - although not quite cos they reunited later and Ten basically cut himself in half so Rose got the human half to supposedly live with forevermore and okay my argument's crumbling here BUT IT STILL COIUNTS BECAUSE THE MOMENT OF SEPARATION WAS TOUGH. I sobbed my guts out. They were going to be together, but then Rose got sucked into the parallel universe and it was bye byes. The situation then became even more heartbreaking when Ten "called" her and the "connection" cut off before he could say he loved her. LIKE JUST RIP OUT THE REST OF MY SOUL WHY DON'T YA
And if their goodbyes don't tear you up, then the shot of David Tennant standing alone in the Tardis with a single tear running down his cheek and his mouth open to say "I love you", definitely will.
If it still doesn't, then you're heartless. 

Kate's death // White Collar season 1 // 
I honestly did not know how to cope when this happened. I'm kinda over it now (lol that sounds so dumb) but during my obsession with the TV series I struggled for a while (#nolife). For those of you who don't know: When Neal got out of prison, Kate had supposedly been kidnapped - I say supposedly because until the very end it was never confirmed whether she was actually working with the bad guys or not (I hold to the assumption she wasn't because it makes her good and perfect and the perfect soulmate for Neal #biasedlogic, although in retrospect they had literally no chemistry so great shipping, Amy). So anyway, when Neal finally caught up with her, she agreed to escape with him and start a new life. But then the plane blew up. With her on it. Neal's reaction was beyond painful, and lasted a whole other series while he embarked on a quest for revenge (#convenientwriting). But the thing that hurts me so much about their story, is that we'll never know whether Kate was playing him the whole time or whether she was just a victim. The real tragedy is the unknown - and that she died before they could resolve things.
Poor Neal. My baby. 

Sybil's death // Downton Abbey season 3 // 
Oh my shattered heart. Sybil's death was the first major movie moment I remember sobbing at. It's a heartbreaking story: Tom and Sybil returned to Downton with her pregnant with their first child, but when the labour started there were huge complications. Her wealthy family consulted a pompous, high class doctor who'd been brought in for the occasion, and when the birth reached a "do this now or she dies" moment, he suggested one solution, the local village doctor another way. Sybil's husband, pressured by her family, went with the rich doctor's opinion, and to everyone's joy Sybil and her little girl survived the birth. The joy was short lived. During the night, the family were awakened by screaming, and gathered helplessly around Sybil's bedside as she tossed and writhed screaming "my head! My head!". It was a result of eclampsia. A result of the misguided doctor's judgement. She died, with her husband and family clutching at her. It was extremely traumatic, and made worse by the fact that Sybil was my favourite character on the series and she and Tom my favourite couple. It totally tore me up. (And don't ask why, but in later years I've rewatched her death three times. Sobbed every time.) 

Kili's death // The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies // This broke everything I had. Unlike basically the whole universe and devoted fandom, I actually loved Kili and Tauriel's romance, and was heartbroken with the way he died: stabbed right in front of her. It was torturous. (But I do think the writers should've had her kill that stupid Orc for revenge, not had Legolas do it. It would've been more satisfying.) (FYI: This image is of Tauriel. I couldn't find one of dead Kili.)

Gwen's death // The Amazing Spiderman 2 // 
This literally destroyed me. Out of this list, it takes the tissues. Not only were Emma Stone and Andrew an OTP in real life (they've since broken up but we're not talking about that because #nothealedyet) but their relationship as Spidey and Gwen was so well written and well developed. Their chemistry won everyone over. They were absolute magic together, and have since been cited as the only thing the Amazing Spiderman films had going for them.                      
Then Gwen dies. Yes, I knew it was coming and yes the writers tried to ease us into it by dropping huge hints throughout the film that she wouldn't make it, but it still hurt like heck. The way she dangles, then the spider thread snaps, then Spidey swoops down with another thread and implicitly kills her, is absolute dark perfection. It's perfection because it's a beautifully crafted scene and because the acting is so up there, but it's dark because it's as raw and real and gut-wrenching as it gets. Hearing her neck snap as she hit the ground was just another stab in the heart for me - and then I had to watch Spidey sobbing over her body WHICH TOOK EVERYTHING OUT OF ME, NOT GONNA KID. Gosh it hurt. Still hurts whenever I think about it (like looking at the above image THANKS AMY and my stomach's twisting now so there's that and I'm sad now).
And yet, I have a lot of respect for the writers because in my opinion they wrote a death scene that is cinematic mastery yet to be topped. It was so well-done.
But flip, it's never stopped crushing me. 

Amy and Rory's departure // Doctor Who season 7
This wasn't a death but it sure felt like one. Rory and Amy's relationship was something incredible, a love story definitely better than Twilight and one that, despite only being subplot in the show, always felt like more than that. 
Amy started off as the Eleventh Doctor's single companion, but they were soon joined by Amy's childhood friend, Rory. The two of them clearly had feelings for each other, but the complications, twisted feelings, and turmoil never stopped - even when they finally married. Still, their relationship was brilliant. Through everything, they never stopped loving each other, and their ups and downs frequently made me sob. 
But then came the ultimate heartbreak. 
Long story short, they were all taken to an alternate dimension on earth, and the only way to get home safely was for Rory to die - on the assumption that by doing so he'd break the dimension's power, create a paradox, and wouldn't actually die at all. It was a big risk to take. 
Then Amy climbed up beside him on the rooftop, saying that famous line: "Together or not at all." So amid my sobbing - which made for a rather blurry TV screen, I'll admit - Amy and Rory threw themselves off the building in each other's arms (by this time, Amy - as in me - was sobbing hardcore, and dramatic music and slow motion DID NOT HELP the vibes). 
Turns out they survived, and all the good guys returned to the real world. 
Except it didn't quite work out. One of the Weeping Angels - they're the bad guys - had been sucked back to the real world with them, and it took Rory in a whirling split second, sending him back to the alternate dimension where he'd live for the rest of his life and never be able to leave. 
But Amy wouldn't let him go that easily. Despite the Doctor pleading with her to come back into the Tardis, she wouldn't leave her husband. She let the Weeping Angel suck her back too so she could be with Rory forever. 
They never saw the Doctor again. They did send him a letter later on (how it got to him is complicated - not for this post), and told him how they were happy, but that still didn't make the incident any less heartbreaking. The moment Amy turned to follow her husband, something in Doctor Who died. That show really does know how to crush your heart in the most stunningly dark way possible. It's so beautifully tragic. 
Doctor Who has never been the same without Amy and Rory. 

Allan a dale dies // Robin Hood series 3
Oh my poor, poor Allan. This series was my bae during my Robin Hood obsession stage, and Allan A Dale was my favourite character. 
But then he died. Betrayed by his friends who wouldn't trust him, he was left alone at their camp in the forest while they went to attack Nottingham. Poor Allan was in the woods when he heard someone approaching, and seeing it was the Sheriff (the Sheriff wasn't at Nottingham at the time - long story) he started running to warn his friends. 
Unfortunately for Allan, the Sheriff had arrows. Allan took a few in the back before collapsing in the dirt and leaves of Sherwood forest. He died alone, with his friends believing he was a traitor. 
It was so unfair. My poor little cinnamon roll. 

Honourable mentions
- Laurel's death in Arrow
- Marian's death in Robin Hood
- The ending of Arrival
- Neal's death in Once Upon A Time

OK now I'm feeling very emotional. 

Hope you enjoyed this post! (Although maybe "enjoyed" isn't quite the right word...) 

Have you watched and sobbed at any of these deaths? What other film and TV moments have touched you and forced you to haul out the tissues? Let's chat :) 

P.S. In retrospect, this post sounds kinda sarcastic and light hearted. Which isn't particularly appropriate when you're discussing things that can literally suck your soul right out of your chest.

P.P.S. Yes I know these are all fictional BUT THEY STILL HURT. (And let's be honest, fiction makes us feel more than real life, no? #not) 

P.P.P.S. I might do a Part 2 of this post because I'm always crying. 

P.P.P.P.S. If you're still reading well done. I have absolutely nothing to say to except don't you have something better to do. (If you don't, yay I guess? If you do, #honoured).