Tuesday, 28 May 2013

London events for book lovers

This week it seems like all the literary world is talking about Book Expo America. But New York isn't the only place that holds events for book lovers. Here are a couple of different ones coming up in London...

London Literature Festival at Southbank Centre
This is a long-running event (it doesn't finish until September 8), and there's something going on for everyone at the London Literature Festival - poetry, fiction, talks, debates.

Among the highlights is an event on June 4, when the festival hosts the Women's Prize for Fiction Shortlist Readings. Now in its 18th year, the Women's Prize for Fiction, formerly known as the Orange Prize for Fiction, was set up to celebrate excellence, originality and accessibility in writing by women throughout the world. The June 4 events sees the six shortlisted authors reading and discussing their work.

The Women's Prize for Fiction shortlist:

Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies
Barbara Kingsolver, Flight Behaviour
Kate Atkinson, Life After Life
A.M. Homes, May We Be Forgiven
Zadie Smith, NW
Maria Semple, Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Poems on the Underground
Literature isn't to be confined to lecture halls and hushed grand libraries, and Poems on the Underground is a great example of what literature should be - accessible to all.

The next set of poems go live next month, so keep an eye out on Tube trains across the London Underground network, and make sure to note down your favourite poems (and let me know which you like).

Books NOT Books
We all know there is so much more to the world of books than just words on a page, and the Books NOT Books exhibition, hosted by the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association (ABA) explores that.

Held in the National Exhibition Hall at Olympia in west London from June 13 to June 15, Books NOT Books shows the book in a variety of different forms - books as art, books as boxes, books as anything-other-than-books – whether it is a handbag, pin box or biscuit tin.

What book-related events are you looking forward to?

Sunday, 26 May 2013

The Sunday Post (#9)

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It's a chance to share news, a post to recap the past week on your blog, showcase books and things we received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead.

Reviews this week on Girl!Reporter
The Hit by Melvin Burgess
A Family Daughter by Maile Meloy

Non-book stuff this week on Girl!Reporter 
Game of Thrones recap/review: Second Sons

Coming up next week on Girl!Reporter
So I had a car accident last week, and am a bit sore, and a bit sleepy from the tablets I'm taking, which isn't conducive to reading. Therefore, once again, it's a surprise week ahead.

What's new with you?

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Book review: A Family Daughter by Maile Meloy

Traditional stories have a beginning, a middle and an end, and while A Family Daughter is supposedly about a traditional family, the telling is not so safe.

For a start, it features the same characters as author Maile Meloy's first novel Liars and Saints, except they have completely different fates in A Family Daughter.

It's the summer of 1979, and seven-year-old Abby is ill with chicken pox. What happens that summer will affect her life, and the lives of all her family for years to come.

A Family Daughter doesn't have a traditional narrative - there's no problem presented that needs to be solved, no life dream the protagonist needs to take steps to complete, no quest to go on.

Instead, it's a story about life, and love, and family. It's almost a collection of the everyday happenings of family life, with events linked together by their effect on other events and other people.

The story follows Abby through college, into adult life. The reader travels with Abby from her home in California, to university, to Argentina, back to California. And as we travel to these places, we get to know more of the people she interacts with.

It has some soapy elements, in particular with scenes involving the beautiful and flighty Saffron, but I enjoyed these slightly tabloid-esque moments in the novel.

This is a beautifully crafted book which flows from one chapter to the next, even though they can be set hundreds of miles apart and feature a completely different set of characters. But the emotion that runs through the whole book is constant, and what happens to every character, even the ones introduced in the last third of the book, matter.

A Family Daughter raises questions about truth, and fiction - as Abby writes a book about her family life that's not quite her family life - and what happens when lines blur between the two, and what can be trusted and what can't.

An irresistible read, A Family Daughter shows how every person in your life leaves a shadow, no matter how brief the encounter with them.

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (#5)

Harry Potter moment of the week is a meme started by Uncorked Thoughts. The aim of this meme is to share with fellow bloggers a character, spell, chapter, object, quote etc. from the books/films/J. K. Rowling herself or anything Potter related.

This week's topic is...well, there isn't one. It's a free week, so I can pick absolutely anything I like.

What to pick, what to pick...Quidditch.

I flipping love Quidditch. From Harry's first lesson with Oliver Wood, to the Quidditch World Cup, to Ron winning the cup, every moment of Quidditch in the books is wonderful.

I particularly love the Quidditch World Cup in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Not only is it a great insight into the social lives of magical folk, it's also a wonderful way to bring many, many characters together, properly introduce us to Cedric Diggory (we didn't see much of him in Prisoner of Azkaban), it's a riot of colour and sound, and it shows us how magic does, or doesn't, fit into the Muggle world. It's also full of some really funny bits (the Leprechauns and the Veelas), and some great description that is very amusing.
They trudged up the misty field between long rows of tents. Most looked almost ordinary; their owners had clearly tried to make them as Muggle-like as possible, but had slipped up by adding chimneys, or bell-pulls, or weather-vanes. However, here and there was a tent so obviously magical that Harry could hardly be surprised that Mr Roberts was getting suspicious. Halfway up the field stood an extravagant confection of striped silk like a miniature palace, with several live peacocks tethered at the entrance. A little further on they passed a tent that had three floors and several turrets; and a short way beyond that was a tent which had a front garden attached, complete with birdbath, sundial and fountain.
And, of course, the Quidditch World Cup also introduces us to the Death Eaters and really starts the rollercoaster journey that won't finish until the end of the series.

Rowling takes the best elements of a lot of sports, and then adds in brooms and lots of outrageous rules, and creates a game that most of us would love to play.

In fact, there is an International Quidditch Association (IQA), which actually exists and where you can play a version of Quidditch in real life. Amazing. I wish my university had had a Quidditch team, maybe I'd have been interested in sport then.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (#7) - Top Ten Favorite Book Covers Of Books I've Read

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish, where the writers, like me, are particularly fond of lists. 

This week's topic is...Top Ten Favorite Book Covers Of Books I've Read.
I'm not really one to judge a book by its cover, so this is a really difficult topic (I say that with every topic, don't I?!).

1. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
While I think the book isn't amazingly written, I do love the cover of Twilight, and in face all of its sequels. Minimalist but striking.

2. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling A lot of people say the American covers have better illustrations, but I'll always have a special place in my heart for the very first book's British edition, since that was how I got into the series.

3. The Land of Stories - The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer Gorgeous, gorgeous cover from illustrator Brandon Dorman, who has also done the illustrations for Colfer's second novel, and they're just as gorgeous from the previews.

4. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

I quite like simple designs on book covers, and this, with just three colours, really works for me.

5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
There are many different covers for The Hunger Games, but this is the edition I own, and I'm a fan of it.

6. The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton One of my favourite books from childhood, and still a cover I love.

7. Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black
Just a beautiful cover, and I love the font used for the title.

8. The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
I love shoes, therefore I love the covers of all of Weisberger's books!

9. Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Obviously, the West End/Broadway posters are much more famous now than the book cover, but I have to go back to where it began. Plus, my edition has green page edges.

10. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
One of my favourite books, and another minimalist cover that I love.

What book covers do you love?

Monday, 20 May 2013

Game of Thrones recap/review: Second Sons

The Bear and the Maiden Fair recap/review

This is, I'm predicting, the calm before the storm. A relatively sedate episode, we didn't see some of our key characters, includiing Jaime Lannister and Robb Stark (first sons). I predict they'll be back next week, and it won't all be pretty. Instead, in Second Sons, we were introduced to the band of fighters who go by that name, as well as spent time with second sons including Tyrion and Stannis.

King's Landing
King's Landing was the site of much of the action of this episode, although it was light on action and heavy on setting up characters for future falls (I think).

Sansa gets ready for her wedding to Tyrion, who pays her a visit before the ceremony, reminding her he won't hurt her and that she shouldn't be afraid. It's a sweet moment, and well worth remembering that Tyrion has always treated Sansa well and stood up for her, even against Joffrey.

Speaking of Joffrey, he decides to walk Sansa down the aisle, and then takes away Tyrion's step stool, making the moment Tyrion has to place a cloak around Sansa's shoulder very, very awkward. As the guests titter and Tywin looks at them disapprovingly, Tyrion finally manages to get the deed done, and lo, Tyrion and Sansa are wed.

The rest of the celebrations go about as well as can be expected, which is to say not well at all.

Tyrion gets rip roaring drunk in order to forget about the fact that Sansa is really, really young (ages mean something different in the Seven Kingdoms than they do in our world), and that his real love Shae hates him.

Meanwhile, Joffrey corners Sansa and threatens to rape her (that's what I got from that scene) before saying that she and Tyrion must perform some sort of bedroom ritual, which Tyrion drunkenly refuses i.e. by telling Joffrey he's a little s***. Silence reigns, before Tywin steps in and sends Tyrion and Sansa off to the bedroom.

Where Sansa proceeds to start undressing (after taking a fortifying drink of wine). Thankfully Tyrion stops her. Even in his drunkeness, he's still noble, and tells Sansa he won't sleep with her until she wants him to. And then he falls into a drunken slumber on the chaise lounge.

It's there that Shae wakes him in the morning, her displeasure quickly allayed when she strips the bed and finds it completely clean - there's no sign of Sansa having lost her virginity the night before.

One down, two to go - Cersei and Loras, and Joffrey and Margaery are still to wed. While Sansa and Tyrion are busy being miserable, Cersei and Margaery are locked in a power play, and, much as I hate to say it, Cersei wins this time, threatening to kill Margaery if she calls Cersei sister again. She's not the only Tyrell Cersei bests - Loras is also put in his place by Cersei when he tries to make conversation with her. It seems the Tyrells aren't doing so well this week.

Melisandre returns to Dragonstone, accompanied by Gendry. She introduces him briefly to Stannis before sending him off to make himself comfortable. When Stannis asks why she doesn't just kill Gendry, Melisandre tells him it's better to do it with stealth.

Or, you know, nakedness. Visiting Gendry, Melisandre first gives him wine, before stripping him and starting to have sex with him. It's all a ploy though, and within moments Gendry is tied to the bed, and Melisandre is sticking leeches on him, with one in a really uncomfortable place.

Meanwhile Stannis has freed the Onion Knight (who's been learning to read). Davos Seaworth confronts Stannis, saying he knows the would-be king only freed him so he could provide a balance to Melisandre's madness.

He doesn't succeed in this episode. Stannis and Davos head to Gendry's room, where Melisandre takes the leeches off Gendry (his blood will ruin kings), and Stannis then proceeds to chuck them in the fire. There's one for each usurper (in Stannis's opinion) king - Robb, Joffrey and Balon Greyjoy.

We all know Melisandre's blood-magic has worked before, so it's not looking too good for those Stannis has named.

On the road
Arya wakes up and spots the Hound is still asleep. Taking a big rock, she's about to hit him with it when he tells her that she'd better kill him with that one hit, otherwise he's going to hurt her. It's not the best start to this buddy comedy, and isn't much competition for Tyrion/Bronn or Jaime/Brienne.

Still, it picks up when the two are traversing across the land on a horse, and Arya asks where they're heading. She's sure they're going to King's Landing, but the Hound informs her he's taking her back to Robb and Catelyn, who will no doubt pay him handsomely for Arya's safe return. In that moment, the smallest of smiles appears on Arya's face, as she realises she might just see her brother and mum again. And the Hound puts the pair in the running for funniest twosome on the show by making a quip about how if Arya doesn't try to kill him again they might get to their destination faster.

In her attempt to take Yunkai Daenerys tries to enlist the help of the Second Sons, a mercenary army ruled by two men - Mero and Prendahl na Ghezn - and their sidekick Daario Naharis.

Mero attempts to seduce Daenerys by threatening her, and she offers the trio a deal to fight with her. They head back to their camp, where they do the equivalent of picking straws to work out which of the three will kill Daenerys.

The short straw falls to Daario, who sneaks into Daenerys' tent while she's having a bath, and then reveals he's killed Mero and Prendahl na Ghezn - by dumping their heads on the floor. Nice. Seems he's not just a pretty face.

Daenerys climbs out of the bath, and Daario proceeds to swear allegiance to her, and to her heart.

An interesting point on nudity here. So often the female bodies in Game of Thrones are looked upon as objects of lust. This time, there's an element of that, but Daenerys uses her femininity and her body, and her lack of shame over it, to show how in control she is. She doesn't rush to cover up, instead she uses her body as a symbol of her power.

Somewhere dark and dingy
No Theon Greyjoy this week, but no doubt he's still being horribly tortured.

Beyond the Wall
Yes, I know this usually comes at the beginning of my recaps, and it'll be back there next week, but since the episode closed beyond the Wall, I thought I'd put it at the end.

Samwell Tarly and Gilly are still making their way to the Wall, and find shelter in an abandoned hut, where Samwell attempts in vain to make a fire, while persuading Gilly to give her baby a name. He cycles through various names, balking at Gilly's suggestion of Craster - in her sheltered world Gilly never got the chance to learn many boys' names, and is unaware of the etiquette with forenames and surnames.

There are a few really important things about Gilly and Samwell's scenes together, even though they may be brief. 

Gender has always been a really important part of Game of Thrones, and the show constantly throws traditional gender roles and imbalance out of the window, even though its characters live in a very traditional world in some ways.

Here, we see Gilly going from a weak woman under the control of an overtly "manly" man (Craster) to taking on some of the traditional male qualities in her relationship with Samwell (lighter of fire, less sentimental about names). Meanwhile Samwell takes on more traditionally female roles and behaviours (showing deep affection for the baby, letting Gilly guide him on obtaining warmth and shelter). It's a role reversal that continues the Games of Thrones tradition of strong women, but it's a slightly tampered down version of that tradition. 

We do see Samwell briefly take on the "manly" role of being a fighter (although we've seen female fighters including Arya and Daenerys so this is not a purely male domain) when he kills the White Walker. Soon, though, Samwell is back to acting less traditionally masculine, as his solution after killing the White Walker is to run away.

Samwell also brings up the importance of names, arguing that giving the baby a name will make him easier to refer to. Names carry a lot of weight in the Seven Kingdoms. People are referred to by their family names more often than not, and just a name can tell you a lot about a person - a Lannister is out for themselves, a Stark is noble, a Baratheon a fighter are just some of the roles associated with certain names. And of course, your lineage is also dictated by your name, just ask Jon Snow. 

Usually, names are bestowed through the family line, but here, Gilly and Samwell get to choose the baby's name from scratch. Samwell is determined not to name the baby anything bad (or to curse him with the name of the father), so throws out suggestions of Craster and of using his own father's name.

What's in a name? That's what Shakespeare once asked. Characters in Game of Thrones would probably say: "A heck of a lot."

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Book review: The Hit by Melvin Burgess

Back when I was in secondary school, around year eight (aged 12 or 13), I read an amazing book called Junk, by Melvin Burgess.

I told everyone I knew about it, and I'm pretty sure I even did a presentation on it for English class.

Fast forward and the other day while perusing the shelves of my local library, I spotted The Hit by the same author. Just like Junk, it's minimalist, brightly coloured cover drew me in, and its story kept me there.

There's a new drug out, called Death. You take it, and you get one amazing week to live, and after that, you die. Megastar Jimmy Earle takes the drug and dies on stage at a concert, sparking a revolution in the streets.

Meanwhile, a teenage boy called Adam, who was at Jimmy's concert, pops a pill after his brother dies and he thinks his girlfriend has dumped him. Taking the pill might seem great at first, but Adam discovers that he has more reason to live than die.

The Hit is dystopian fiction, but there's none of your hunger games or oxygen-starved societies, this is dystopian fiction that actually has more than a touch of reality to it. Sure, we don't have a pill that makes you feel superhuman for a week and then makes you drop dead, but there are many other ideas Burgess explores that are relevant to contemporary Britain, and probably to the wider world. Some of what he presents in The Hit doesn't seem like it's a world away.

In The Hit Death was invented to give people with long-term health conditions the chance to have one fantastic week before they died - putting control in the hands of people who want to die before they get too ill. The right-to-die argument has been rumbling on in British courtrooms for a while now. In fact, last week, as I was reading this book there was a case at the High Court.

The Hit also references the riots of 2011, which took over London and spread to other cities. They were prompted by a dissatisfaction with the state, among other things, and Burgess takes this and moves it one step further. The Hit features a rebel group called The Zealots, who bill themselves as a group trying to free the people from the government and restore equality - Burgess's Britain features a very poor poor, and a very rich rich. The Zealots can be seen as terrrorists, but the saying 'one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter' rings true in The Hit.

At its core, though, The Hit is a book about life and love. How much does life matter? What, or who, would you give your life up for? Are there things more important than life? How should you live life?

Those questions, and more, affect the two protagonists in the book, Adam and his girlfriend Lizzie. They're both interesting characters, because half the time you're fearing for their lives and urging them to get out of dangerous situations, and half the time you want to slap them silly for being so stupid or selfish. Still, Adam and Lizzie are compelling because of this contrast, and ultimately, whatever they do, they are redeemed at the end of their journey in The Hit.

Just like with Junk, Burgess has created (with the help of Brandon Robshaw and Joe Chislett who submitted the original idea for The Hit) a compelling, thought-provoking novel for contemporary Britain that's not afraid to shy away from tough issues.

The Sunday Post (#8)

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It's a chance to share news, a post to recap the past week on your blog, showcase books and things we received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead.

Reviews this week on Girl!Reporter
Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Stacking the Shelves (#7)

Non-book stuff this week on Girl!Reporter 
Game of Thrones recap/review: The Bear and the Maiden Fair
Broadchurch DVD review
The Great Gatsby film review

Coming up next week on Girl!Reporter
A surprise week ahead, since I'm not sure what I'll finish reading

What's new with you?

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Stacking the Shelves (#7)

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews, and it's all about sharing the books you've added to your shelves, be they physical or virtual, sent to you for review, bought, or borrowed from the library.

I didn't add much to bookshelves this week, but what I did add was quality.

For review
The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway - this is an epic (500+ pages) story of time travel and love. I'm really looking forward to reading it.

I went to a preview screening of The Great Gatsby, and everyone was given gorgeous film cover editions of the book.

What did you add to your shelves this week?

Friday, 17 May 2013

DVD review: Broadchurch

Broadchurch follows events in a small community after a boy is found murdered on a beach.
Is there anyone left who doesn't know who the killer in Broadchurch was? Well, it's for you that the DVD box set of the critically acclaimed ITV drama has been created.

Somehow, I missed the fuss over Broadchurch until the day of the final episode, where I couldn't switch on the TV or radio, glance at my Twitter feed or look at a newspaper without reading speculation about whodunnit.

And so, determined to not just join in at the last episode, I somehow kept myself spoiler free, which meant I came to the box set without any idea of what I was about to see, but with incredibly high expectations.

In a small town in Dorset called Broadchurch, a young boy is found dead on the beach. Called in to investigate is ornery detective Alec Hardy (David Tennant), known for failing to convict a child murderer in a nearby town. He is assisted by Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman), the local girl turned friendly police officer whose promotion he took.

David Tennant and Olivia Colman play the police officers investigating the case.
As the pair try to solve the crime, suspicion is turned on everyone in the village, secrets are revealed, and lives are ruined left, right and centre.

Broadchurch isn't the height of sophistication - the identity of the murderer or murderers isn't as big a shock as you expect - but it is the height of great storytelling.

At the forefront of that is Chris Chibnall's script, which tightly binds together a number of different stories, some in ways you didn't see coming.

That is paired with top-notch acting, namely from Tennant and Colman, who are stunning in the lead roles. Tennant plays the efficient, damaged Alec Hardy with restraint, while Colman's Ellie is a lesson in likeability paired with steely-eyed determination to see justice done in her community.

And the supporting cast are brilliant too - Andrew Buchan and Jodie Whittaker are heartbreaking as the parents of murdered Danny Latimer, whose pain can be felt in every word they say and in those they don't. Pauline Quirke, Arthur Darvill, Will Mellor and more all help to build a well-rounded world.

It's that world that is convincing, and that makes Broadchurch the addictive drama it is. If you can keep from finding out who killed Danny Latimer, then settle in for a marathon weekend of Broadchurch viewing - you won't want to stop until you get to the end.

•Broadchurch is out on DVD on May 20.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (#4)

Harry Potter moment of the week is a meme started by Uncorked Thoughts. The aim of this meme is to share with fellow bloggers a character, spell, chapter, object, quote etc. from the books/films/J. K. Rowling herself or anything Potter related.

This week's topic is...favourite film in the Harry Potter series.

This is a tough one, and not for the reasons you think. It's because I haven't seen all of the films yet. I'm in the process of a Great Harry Potter Rewatch, but it's taken me months and months and months, and so far I've only watched five of the six films I've seen before - I still haven't seen The Deathly Hallows.

Mainly, it's because I love the books so much, and I generally feel that the films haven't lived up to the world that was created by Rowling in my mind. However, when I think of them related but mostly apart from the books, I actually quite like some of the films.

Therefore, my pick is (and this could change after I eventually watch The Deathly Hallows)...Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

For me, Goblet of Fire is when the films reached a real turning point, although popular opinion has it that Prisoner of Azkaban is when they turned dark. I disagree, Prisoner of Azkaban was forcibly dark, Goblet of Fire was dark because of what happened in it, and the way it was handled.

Goblet of Fire is the first time we see Voldemort in the flesh, it's the first time an innocent gets killed in front of us in present time.

The film is wonderfully acted, both the new additions such as Ralph Fiennes and David Tennant, and the regular cast, who I felt the cast came into their own in Goblet of Fire. It's full of bleak moments, but also funny ones, and the balance is just right.

What's your favourite Harry Potter film?

Book review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer


The sequel to Cinder, Marissa Meyer's Scarlet carries on the retelling of fairytale tradition by introducing us to some non-familiar familiar characters, and upping the stakes for the ones we already know.

The titular Scarlet is, of course, based on Red Riding Hood. Only transported to France, working in her grandmother's grocery business and fiercely independent.

When we meet Scarlet, her grandmother has been missing for almost two weeks, and the police aren't bothered enough to try and find her.

Scarlet takes matters in her own hands, and joins up with Wolf, a lean, mean street fighter who tells Scarlet her grandmother is in Paris. So off they go.

Running alongside Scarlet's narrative is the continuation of Cinder's story. When readers left Cinder, she wasn't exactly in the best place. In Scarlet she breaks out of jail and goes on the run, accompanied by Carswell Thorne, a soldier in the American military who's wanted all over the place for various crimes.

As a tertiary story, we see how Emperor Kai is coping with Cinder on the run and Lunar Queen Levana seriously hacked off. Hacked off enough to start an offensive against Earth.

As in Cinder, Meyer creates brilliant characters. I already liked Kai and Cinder, and I like them even more in this book as the pair struggle against forces in their lives they have no control over. Kai was slightly sidelined, so it was a little harder to relate to him in this book, as his appearances are few and far between.

Iko is also back, in a slightly different form, and continuing to be the human friend and confidant Cinder needs, despite not being human at all.

But it's with the new characters that Meyer truly shines. Thorne is a perfect sidekick - funny, witty and someone who really grounds Cinder. The pair have a great love-hate relationship, and despite his criminal background, you know from the moment Cinder and Thorne meet that he's going to be a loyal friend.

Scarlet is instantly someone you want to be - she's tough, she stands up for what she believes in, and she shows no fear. But there's more to her than the fighter, and Meyer shows that in the way Scarlet's relationship with and feelings for Wolf develop.

Ah, Wolf. What can I say about him? Not a lot, without spoiling the heck out of everything. Needless to say, he is and isn't the wolf from the Little Red Riding Hood fairytale.

I could easily picture everything from Scarlet's home to the mean streets of Paris to Thorne's ship in my mind because of Meyer's talent for building worlds. This helps, because the action of Scarlet takes place over just a few short days, so there's a lot crammed in. 

Meyer's good at balancing out the louder moments with quieter ones, and although Cinder and Scarlet are brought together in an explosive way, it's the quiet finale that really grabs at you.

Film review: The Great Gatsby

For a legion of schoolgirls, and I'll include myself in this, who fell half in love with Leonardo DiCaprio almost two decades ago as he charmed Juliet, there's still something of the Romeo about him in his latest film, The Great Gatsby

As the titular Gatsby, the boyish smiles and bright blue eyes really work, and lend themselves to the character's hopeful yet delusional air

 A riot of colour and sound, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby tries to put the great into every moment.

The subtlety of F Scott Fitzgerald’s original novel is missing from the film, but this is a Luhrmann production after all - spectacle, not subtlety, is half the point. Sounds and colours and zooming camera shots smack you in the face at every turn, at times drawing attention away from the characters.

It’s the 1920s and Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) moves to a small house in West Egg, opposite his cousin Daisy’s (Carey Mulligan). Next door to Nick lives Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), renowned across New York for being a complete mystery and for his huge parties.

As Daisy struggles through her marriage with the womanising, cruel Tom (Joel Edgarton), Gatsby asks Nick to set up a meeting with Daisy, the only woman he’s ever loved.

From the raucous Gatsby parties to the speedy driving scenes to the moment Gatsby and Daisy are reunited in a room full of flowers, everything pops off the screen, especially in 3D.

The saturation of colour and sound, and also the lack of colour and music in the valley of ashes, lends a sense of doom that pervades the film from the moment we see New York. Even as thousands of party-goers are watching fabulous fireworks across the bay in front of Gatsby's house, there's something brewing under the surface, signified by the flashing green light in front of Daisy's house that Gatsby has spent years watching.

But it’s the quieter moments that have more impact, especially after the constant cacophony of fireworks and music (the Jay-Z produced soundtrack actually works in this adaptation). Daisy and Gatsby slow dancing in the foyer, Gatsby’s nerves before seeing Daisy again for the first time, Nick’s quiet contemplation of who Gatsby is - they work better than all the loud moments put together, largely because DiCaprio and Mulligan are good in their roles as the hopeful, charming yet slightly delusional Gatsby and the foolish, selfish Daisy. In quieter moments, you can almost forget the sense of doom that pervades the whole film.

Unfortunately, the quieter moments are far too few, and those subtleties are missing from other characters. I know that Tom is bad because he looks bad, and the sneer he wears on his face tells me he's bad. I know his mistress, Myrtle, is kind of stupid yet much more worldly than Daisy because Isla Fisher imbues her voice with a really, really thick Noo Yawk accent.

The most deeply felt relationship in the film, as it is in the book, is not between Daisy and Gatsby, but between Nick and Gatsby. Maguire’s tone, a sort of rumbling that conveys the admiration, and indeed, love, Nick feels for Gatsby better than the looks on his face do throughout the film.

Beyond the smart clothes of the Jazz Age, Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is not an elegant film, it’s in-your-face and lacks the mystery of the novel, but it’s a 21st century version of a great American tale - short on depth, big on image - for a celebrity loving culture. After all, was there a bigger celebrity than Gatsby?

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (#6) - Top Ten Books Dealing with Tough Subjects

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish, where the writers, like me, are particularly fond of lists.
This week's topic is...Top Ten Books Dealing with Tough Subjects.

This is a really difficult topic, but looking back at my reading history I realised a lot of the books I included I read at a young age, and so were often my first exposure to the difficult subjects they spoke about.

1. Junk by Melvin Burgess
I read this book soon after its release in 1997, and it was really hard hitting and just brilliantly written, dealing with the tough subject of drug addiction.

2. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
One of my favourite books, the issue of school killings isn't as big over here in Britain as it is in America, but this book still caught me. The question of whether people are born bad or made bad was an interesting one, and I was left as conflicted at the end of the book as Kevin's mother.

3. 10 Rillington Place by Ludovic Kennedy
I'm firmly against capital punishment, whatever the crime. This true story about an innocent man hanged for murders his neighbour committed, which I read while at school, only cemented my position on capital punishment.

4. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Jodi Picoult tends to churn books out like a butter factory, but My Sister's Keeper is a brilliant read, and one that poses really difficult questions about organ donation, keeping someone alive when they may not want to live, and family relationships.

5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
While this book is heartbreaking and deals very realistically with cancer, I still found it uplifting at moments, something that shows just how skilled a writer Green is.

6. Wasted: A Memory of Anorexia and Bulimia by Marya Hornbacher
I was quite young when I read this book, probably too young. Hornbacher's experiences of battling eating disorders were tough to read about, but I guess that was the point.

7.  The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
A relatively short book, this was another one I read while I was at school. Every moment of The Virgin Suicides is full of heartbreak and confusion as to why the characters would take the action they did.

8. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
The fact that this book doesn't spell out the despicable things the Nazis did or the horror of the concentration camps makes it all the more sadder.

9. Tully by Paulina Simons
A novel that deals with abuse at the hands of family members, as well as a host of other things, I found this a compelling read.

10. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
On the surface Kazuo Ishiguro's book is about one thing, but what it's actually about is the tough subjects of love, loss, memory, loyalty and what happens when you know you only have a finite amount of time left to live.


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