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Sunday, 24 January 2016

Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Release Date: May 6th, 2014
Publisher: Scribner
Rating: YA 15+
Genre/s: Historical Fiction
Pages: 530


From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, he illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, a National Book Award finalist, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times).

"Don't you wan't to be alive before you die?"

This book is nothing short of a lyrical and emotional masterpiece. Doerr's fluid and effortless writing manages to bridge together two stories that are so different and intertwines them to result in a powerful and slow-building crescendo. Even though I have read many World War 2 books, this offered up a perspective and style asimilar to the other novels, and captivated me throughout. The only criticism I have is that at times Doerr's impressive and descriptive prose slowed the pace and made certain sections of the book feel slightly sluggish.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Discussion Post: Book-to-Movie Adaptations

It's difficult to say what makes for a good book-to-movie adaptation. Some may relate it to how accurately it conveys the intricacies of the storyline, but personally I tend to be more concerned with how accurately it transmits the essence of the storyline. As you can probably imagine, this allows for a great deal of subjectivity in my determination of what constitutes a 'good' and 'bad' adaptation, but I thought I'd share my thoughts with you lovely people on this anyway!

5 Best:

The Fault in Our Stars

With a cult classic and universally-loved novel and moreover, story, such as this one, the movie-makers had a tough task ahead of them. I went into the cinema with high hopes and my heart in my mouth, but I left the cinema with wet tissues and ruined mascara – it had surpassed my wildest dreams and expectations! For me, I think the essence of TFiOS is the characters and the crazy, emotional journey they undertake as they deal with their illnesses. I do not know whether it was because of the director of the film or the actors Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, but I thought the characters were depicted pretty well in the film. I'm not saying perfectly, as there were some things that I thought could have been done slightly better, but overall I was impressed. If I had one criticism of the film, it would have been Ansel Elgort's portrayal of Augustus; I just wish Augustus in the film had had a bit more of the cheekiness and confidence I felt Augustus had throughout the entirety of the book. Also, I didn't see the vulnerability of Ansel's Augustus that I had loved in Augustus towards the end of the novel. Lastly, I can't talk about this adaptation without mentioning the amazing soundtrack! Ed Sheeran's 'All of the Stars' was my favourite song, but I just loved the way the different artist's interpreted the story, and all the right songs played in exactly the right moments during the movie, leaving me pleased but also faced with re-living the heartbreak of the novel. I love that I can listen to the entire soundtrack in one sitting and with that alone re-live the novel.

The Kite Runner

What is it with my love for sad, heart-wrenching stories?! The Kite Runner made me cry just as much – IF NOT MORE – than The Fault in Our Stars, and that is saying something. Although the characters were crucial in this adaptation as well, I think a big part of the story was the setting and atmosphere. The movie made me feel like I was sitting in Amir's living room in Kabul. The movie was very cleverly done in my opinion, as even though there were some details that were not exactly as I had envisioned them being depicted, they were done in a way that still allowed me to appreciate them. What's funny is that when I saw the movie, I was left way more distraught than when I had read the book. I think it probably has something to do with the fact that Hassan and Amir were no longer intangible visuals conjured up by my limited imagination, but were right there in front of me on the screen.

The Help

First of all, let me just say that I am a huge fan of both Emma Stone and Viola Davis, so that probably had quite a bit to do with why I enjoyed the movie so much. Yes, there are differences between the book and movie but they are so physical and inconsequential to the message and emotion of the story that I really did not care. So Skeeter in the movie is slightly shorter and slimmer than she is described as in the novel, but so what?! Something that I particularly liked about the movie was that it left me feeling much happier and hopeful than the novel had. And yet it still maintained the same rawness and brutal honesty that was present in the book. 

Harry Potter

I could go on endlessly about my love for both the Harry Potter books and movies, but methinks now is not exactly the right time and place to do so. Anyway, I think this is probably the best or at least the second best adaptation on here, and I'm pretty sure everyone is in agreement over that, so I don't think anything else needs to be said. Best actors, best directors, best script, best story.

Lord of the Rings

If Harry Potter is not my favourite adaptation, Lord of the Rings most certainly is. Lord of the Rings, whether the novels or the movies, is one of the most enthralling, inspiring and just amazing stories I have ever encountered. Of course the movies are not nearly as intricate or detailed as the books (there is only so much you can show of 500+ pages in 2 hours), but I have to give props to Peter Jackson for managing to essentially create and depict the Middle Earth so, so perfectly, beyond even my wildest dreams. From Aragorn, to Frodo, to the elves and the dwarfs... I honestly do not know how the movies could have been done any better, in my opinion. I think that Peter Jackson did a great job of keeping the true nature of the novels whilst also making them more accessible to a wider range of people, allowing many more people to appreciate the masterpiece that is this story.

4 Worst:

Beautiful Creatures

When I read Beautiful Creatures, I would never have even thought to compare it to Twilight. However, after watching the movie it almost felt like I had stumbled into the wrong theatre. The relationship between Ethan and Lena (essentially the heart of the books) which had been so profound and authentic in the books was turned into a gushy, superficial teen romance. I couldn't seem to find the spark and fire that I had felt in the books, which was a real shame. Also... the actors? When I first saw who they had decided to cast to play Ethan and Lena I did not know whether to cry or laugh, but the terror of the movie was definitely no laughing matter.

City of Ember

The City of Ember was never my favourite story, as there are so many better Dystopian novels, so the movie would have had to have been spectacular to have impressed me. In fact, I didn't even make it past the first book in the series, so my dislike of the movie was kind of inevitable. But it's not just that I didn't like the movie because I didn't particularly enjoy the story – it was more that the movie and book were two different, yet similarly mediocre stories.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

My feelings towards this adaptation are so SPLIT because on one hand, there were aspects of the movie I enjoyed and saw the book in, but on the other hand... the events of the movie were depicted unimpressively and were clumsily done. And don't even get me started on the casting of Jace... I do not know what the directors were thinking. Do they even read the books before deciding who to cast?! I'm seriously wondering. Still, I think that for someone who has not read the books, the movie would probably be an interesting and entertaining experience.  

A Series of Unfortunate Events

These books were a huge part of my childhood. So I am extremely thankful that I saw the movies long after I finished the books and read the books before I saw the movie. My first clue of the disappointment that was the movie should have been that they were trying to fit 13 books into one two-hour movie, but I was foolishly optimistic. Again, the movie  honestly felt like a totally different story, just with a few similar events along the way. Surprisingly, Jim Carrey as Count Olaf worked, but unfortunately, nothing else in the movie quite did. Even though the books are technically classified as children’s literature, I always thought that they contained a lot of deep, dark subject matter. Looking back, the books seemed to teeter on the edge of children’s literature and perhaps even a sub-genre within YA literature, but the movies were just so childish and meaningless compared to the books. Some things are better left to the imagination, and it turned out that my imagination was much more capable than the movie-makers in this instance.

My OCD is flaring up right now and I apologise to my fellow sufferers, but I just couldn’t think of one last ‘bad’ adaptation to make the lists 5 and 5. So far, I have had a pretty positive experience with book-to-movie adaptations, and the fact that I found it hard to limit myself to only 5 good adaptations is testament to that. More and more adaptations are coming up especially in the YA genre, and even though this causes a lot of anxiety and jitters for me going into the cinema, most of the time I leave surprisingly pleased. Keep doing what you’re doing adaptors, because it seems to be working! 

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling [Audiobook]

Release Date: November 1st, 2011
Publisher: Crown Archetype
Rating: YA 18+
Genre/s: Autobiography, Comedy
Pages: 222

Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?” 
Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!
In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.

This is my first review of an audiobook, and I am so happy that it is of this amazing, hilarious, and heart-felt autobiography by Mindy Kaling! For those of you who are not familiar with Mindy, she was a writer (and actress) of the sitcom The Office (one of my absolute favourite shows), and is the star of her own TV show: The Mindy Project. Since I am a huge fan of both shows, it of course follows that I adore Mindy and her sense of humour. However, going into this book I wasn't sure if her sense of humour would translate to her autobiography, but it so did! I loved getting to experience this book by listening to Mindy narrate it – it made it all the more personal and hilarious.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (40)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. It's to spotlight upcoming releases I can't wait to get my hands on!

                                                     This week's WoW pick is...
Soundless by Richelle Mead
From Richelle Mead, the #1 internationally bestselling author of Vampire Academy and Bloodlines, comes a breathtaking new fantasy steeped in Chinese folklore.

For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village, where rocky terrain and frequent avalanches prevent residents from self-sustaining. Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.

When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink and many go hungry. Fei’s home, the people she loves, and her entire existence is plunged into crisis, under threat of darkness and starvation.

But soon Fei is awoken in the night by a searing noise, and sound becomes her weapon.

Richelle Mead takes readers on a triumphant journey from the peak of Fei’s jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiugo, where a startling truth and an unlikely romance will change her life forever...

Release Date: November 10th, 2015

I am absolutely fascinated by all kinds of ethnic folklore stories, so I hope that this book teaches me a little bit more about Chinese folklore. I have heard great things about Mead's Vampire Academy series, and I hope her fantasy-writing skills carry on to this. I love how different Soundless seems from any other YA book I've read or heard of in terms of a setting and premise, so it already has points for uniqueness in my book!

What are you guys waiting on? I would love to find out and add some more books to my TBR list, so please leave a comment below! :) 

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Review: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Release Date: September 12th, 2000
Publisher: Vintage Books
Rating: YA 18+ 
Genre/s: Romance, Contemporary-Fiction
Pages: 296

This stunning and elegiac novel by the author of the internationally acclaimed Wind-Up Bird Chronicle has sold over 4 million copies in Japan and is now available to American audiences for the first time.  It is sure to be a literary event.

Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before.  Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable.  As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.

A poignant story of one college student's romantic coming-of-age, Norwegian Wood takes us to that distant place of a young man's first, hopeless, and heroic love.

20 pages into Norwegian Wood, I assuredly and perhaps callously labelled it: a love story. And 20 pages later, I realised just how much I had trivialised this thoughtful masterpiece. Norwegian Wood is so much more than just a love story: it's a reflection of life. It deals not only with the big moments, but the little ones, and how much meaning there is in life that people often don't realise. Murakami conveys this profound message through the genuinely real characters and a beautiful yet artless style of story-telling.

It's truly amazing just how much I could relate to and empathise with the characters of this book, given that their stories are set in the 1960s in Japan. One of the things I loved the most about Norwegian Wood is that it managed to rely mostly on seemingly ordinary characters who live fairly normal lives, and yet there was so much meaning Murakami was able to find in them. The best books, the ones that I connect to the most, are not about extraordinary happenings that are larger than life, they are about beautifully ordinary moments and lives, which convey larger truths about life and allow me to gain a deeper understanding of the world. I was especially able to relate to Toru, the main protagonist of the novel. A 19-year-old University student and avid reader with a mundane life and yet such profound and existential insights, I saw much of myself in him.

As much as I would love to accredit the brilliant writing all to Murakami's genius, the translator Jay Rubin surely plays a significant role as well. Either way, the way this book was written and the fact that some of my favourite passages in the book were describing ordinary events such as a walk in the park, getting a morning cup of coffee, or experiencing a sunset, is testament to the ingenious writing. I am so envious of how Murakami is able to write in a straightforward and to-the-point manner that at the same time is so impactful and beautifully descriptive. I also think that this writing style is what contributed to how much I liked Toru and the other characters, who were normal but also very profound.

However, despite Murakami's ability to find beauty in ordinary things, he also dealt with dark issues such as death and suicide, and the danger of isolation. The depiction of Naoko and her mental illness, and the effects of her inability to communicate with others and overcome the barriers of her mental state, made my heart hurt for her. It is one thing to learn about the science behind mental illnesses, but getting to know and reading about a character and her struggles with her mental illness, opened my eyes to how devastatingly crippling it can be for a person. 

This book definitely does not skirt around these dark matters, and Toru acknowledges that 'Death exists, not as the opposite to, but as a part of life'. This is just one line, but captures how honestly Murakami tackles death and suicide. The characters are not idealists, but nor are they cynical defeatists. Instead, they consistently fluctuate between the two opposites, just as people tend to do in real life. This realistic approach extends to other themes of the novel such as romance. Murakami presents with the romance between Toru and Naoko and between him and Midori as subtle and also full of moments of passion and beauty. 

These past few months I've delved into works in translation, both in school and out of, and reading this book was the first time where I forgot about the fact that it was not originally written in English. Murakami's writing style is certainly not for everyone, and I do think that in order to enjoy it you have to be a certain age or just really mature and thoughtful a person. That being said, I found it so refreshingly real and honest and beautiful, and the stories – absolutely mesmerising. 

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (39)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. It's to spotlight upcoming releases I can't wait to get my hands on!

                                                     This week's WoW pick is...
November 9 by Colleen Hoover
Beloved #1 New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover returns with an unforgettable love story between a writer and his unexpected muse.

Fallon meets Ben, an aspiring novelist, the day of her scheduled cross-country move. Their untimely attraction leads them to spend Fallon’s last day in L.A. together, and her eventful life becomes the creative inspiration Ben has always sought for his novel. Over time and amidst the various relationships and tribulations of their own separate lives, they continue to meet on the same date every year. Until one day Fallon becomes unsure if Ben has been telling her the truth or fabricating a perfect reality for the sake of the ultimate plot twist.

Release Date: November 10th, 2015

I am not Hoover's biggest fan as I once was (Hopeless left me with a bitter taste in my mouth), but I can't help but feel excited to read this one! I love stories about writers mainly because of how poetic and sadly tragic they often are. I can't help but be drawn to their ability to think so deeply and thoughtfully, and then express their thoughts so well and with such meaning. Their lives seem more interesting and enhanced and beautiful just because of their ability to romanticise and make even the most ordinary moments profound, so I look forward to getting into this hopefully sweet and beautiful relationship. Fingers crossed this book reminds me to Hoover's great writing once again.

What are you guys waiting on? I would love to find out and add some more books to my TBR list, so please leave a comment below! :) 

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