reviewed by naomi

I just finished re-reading the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik, a.k.a., this is your Napoleonic Wars on dragons. The series is part Patrick O'Brian, part Jane Austen, part Anne McCaffrey, and entirely a good time. Beginning with His Majesty’s Dragon, the series spans nine books, seven seas, and six continents. Despite its size, the series is a quick, breezy read which I can not recommend highly enough.

Reasons to read:

  • Dragons
  • Will Laurence. This sea captain turned aviator is very much a gentleman of his age, with all that entails. His main character arc consists of confronting his unconscious biases and privileges and learning to become a better man.
  • Temeraire. This giant, flying math-nerd can sink a ship with a single roar. He loves Laurence and shiny things and is here for the dragon revolution.
  • Kick-ass lady characters and, equally important, well-rounded female characters who don’t swing a sword but are none-the-less awesome in their own right.
  • Dragons. They have human-level intelligence, but with a distinctly in-human flair. Half of the humor of the series comes from the dragon’s inability to grasp certain human concepts like modesty and the art of whispering.
  • The portrayal of characters of color and non-European powers. Colonialism gets its ass kicked.
  • Gay people.
  • Tight, well written action and fight sequences. 
  • Dragons

Reasons not to read:

  • You don’t like dragons
  • You hate fun
2

“The question of whether power is bound to corrupt forms a central theme of Naomi Alderman’s fascinating new novel, The Power,” says our reviewer Michael Schaub. 

For the vast majority of recorded history, men have held power over women, treating them as lesser human beings, even objects that can be used or destroyed at will. Alderman’s book asks an intriguing question: What if that power structure were reversed?

Check out his full review here.

– Petra

Deathnote: The Los Angeles BB Murder Case

The Los Angeles BB Murder Case is set about two years before the events of the original Deathnote series. It follows, for the most part, characters that we’ve already met in the original Deathnote series which means there isn’t a lot of set up for said characters and we jump into the story almost immediately. That’s pretty much a quick introduction so I’ll just get into it.

Okay, first thing I wanted to mention is how smart Nisio Isin is. He came up with such a ridiculously complicated yet simultaneously understandable plot, and I don’t know about you but I never could have come up with anything like this in a million years. I also loved the fact that it isn’t just told straight from Naomi or L’s point of view, but that Mello is the one narrating the story. This meant that we got some insight into Wammy’s house and the way it’s run as well as some backstory on Beyond Birthday.
The book isn’t just an optional add on in my opinion, but a relatively essential piece of the story. It gave us a little lore about the Deathnote universe such as; why L uses the name ‘Ryuzaki’, the fact that humans can be born with Shinigami eyes that cost them nothing and, the one that I found particularly interesting, was that there was a World War III. This piece of information explained how and why Wammy’s house was founded and how L got there.
There is a lot more that I want to say, but this is getting pretty long so I’ll end it by saying, all in all this book was very well done and if nothing else a very fun read. It’s really short and doesn’t take much time to read so if you’re a fan of Deathnote and haven’t read this already then I strongly recommend you do.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

Rating: 10/10

This is only the second 10/10 rating I have ever given on this blog about a book, and it is undeniably well deserved. Previously when reading other book reviews, I never understood how a book could be ‘breathtaking’ and deemed it an altogether ridiculous phrase to describe a book. Until I read 'The Power’.

I think the best thing about this book and what made it so spectacular, was the fact that I knew nothing about the storyline and bought it based on the fact that I had just finished reading Margaret Atwood’s 'The Handmaids Tale’ when this one popped up as 'like The Hunger Games and The Handmaids Tale combined’ and knew that I had to get my hands on a copy.

To try and preserve the 'surprise’ if you like, I’ll try to make my summary of the plot as general as possible, but enough to convince you that this book is an absolute masterpiece. The narrative follows a society much like today’s, but where women discover that they have all the power, and almost overnight men are cast out and realise that their power has been diminished to nothing. The novel flicks between four different characters, all located across the world in varying countries, documenting the spread of power and rise of women - Tunde, Margot, Roxy and Allie. These four characters all experience different situations and use the power to both their advantage, but sometimes to their detriment.

I can’t stress enough how thrilling and gripping this book is, because I was absolutely spellbound by it. I read it in a day and a half and couldn’t put it down, because at the end of every chapter you are left on a cliffhanger that leaves you gasping for answers and closure.

This novel is so powerful and articulated; it highlights certain elements of our society that are dark and evil, and it is so interesting to see circumstances that some women face reversed and transferred onto men. An utterly incredible novel that I know I am going to be raving about for years to come and recommending it to everyone that I meet - this is definitely a copy that is going to be on my bookshelf until I’m an old woman, and one that I know I will read and re-read for years to come.

Like I said previously, this is only the second 10/10 rating that I have ever given a book on my blog since starting it a year ago, so full ratings are not ones that I give lightly or very often because I make sure that I am critical and honest when I review books, because at the end of the day, the reason people read my reviews is for an honest opinion on a book - so that’s what I give. But if there’s one thing you should take away from this review, it’s that you HAVE to read this book.

Not only is is phenomenally written and very cleverly put together and structured, it highlights hidden and clear injustices within our society that we don’t talk about or consider closely enough - from rape to FGM, Alderman uses this book as a beacon for change by reversing issues that women face onto men and accentuates the importance of tackling these issues among readers.

This novel is wholly deserving of its 10/10 rating and is one that I hope after reading this review, you will go out and get your hands on, because not only does Alderman perfectly create a dystopian world wrapped in satire, she also artfully brings forward the struggles of women around the world. An absolute must read and a book that I will cherish for years to come. Please please please go and read this book!

A Review: UPROOTED

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  Naomi Novik

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

This book was a great YA high fantasy read, filled with thought and depth. The way Naomi Novik crafted folklore and mythology into this world while still bringing fresh and metaphorical depth to it, I just… *clenches fist* It was so, so good. I love that this story was such a nod to her own life, the stories she heard growing up. The imagery was intense and gorgeous, the plot fast paced, and a bit horrifying at times. And oddly enough, humor and romance felt natural to the novel. Rarely enough for me, I have no complaints with this book, other than that the main character’s name just became a jumble of noises in my head everytime I read it.

With everything being a series nowadays, it was a really refreshing change of pace to realize how the hell is everything going to be solved in a hundred more pages?? How can there not be more?? 

10/10 will read again.

Mulholland Drive from A-Z


Critics are quick to label David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001) as a neo-noir (a fitting homage to the noir style that also modernizes its concepts). Classifying Mulholland Drive as such is an oversimplification, however, because it minimizes the importance of the broader, conceptual messages that Lynch was attempting to incorporate into his narrative. Mulholland Drive is, in essence, a cautionary tale about the power of projection and the psyche. The way we daydream and imagine a bright future for ourselves can heavily affect how we lead our lives. How we imagine ourselves in this “ideal future” factors into the decisions we make for ourselves. This film is a commentary on how such idealistic dreams can be broken and how we sometimes must escape from reality to cope with the concrete nature of the world around us.

As this film’s 15th anniversary quickly approaches, I thought it might be fun to analyze the film by segmenting the different aspects into letters of the alphabet, with each section dedicated to a different argument about a specific aspect of the film. These sections orbit around the theme just discussed; that while David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive may possess easily identifiably noir conventions, upon closer interrogation the codes of the noir fall at the wayside in favor of a deeper message about the psychological nature of movies and acting and how an internalized fantasy can manifest itself in psychological torture and mental betrayal.

Keep reading

People Call Me Little

Moonlight

 

Hello there and welcome to another entry to the Diary of an Angry Film Nerd. Hope everyone is doing well, especially since today I’m going to be talking about a pretty serious subject. I was going to start this edition with an apology for any offense that I might cause by my opinions about the next film I am reviewing, but then I thought…this is my opinion and I shouldn’t have to apologize for it since that seems to be the trend right now. This issue is going to cover the recent Oscar winner for Best Picture, Moonlight.

Moonlight is a film that chronicles the life of Chiron, who is played by three different actors (Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders, and Alex Hibbert) representing different ages. Chiron is an African-American male, son of a drug addicted mother (Naomie Harris), and victim to his Liberty City (a low income section of Miami) surroundings. Chiron must come to terms with his environment, no real father figure, and more importantly his sexuality.

I am highly indifferent when it comes to this film because my opinion is so split that I have arguments with myself about how I really feel about this film. Let me first say that my negative opinions of this film has NOTHING to do with Chiron’s ethnicity nor his sexuality…just getting that out of the way right now. I just hate being ridiculed for having a negative opinion about film that just happens to be about race or sexuality when it could just be that I didn’t like how it was represented in a movie. Sorry I’m getting back to the point of this.

Writer/director Barry Jenkins masterfully presents this film with the way he filmed it. There are a lot of great shots of Chiron alone that told a lot of the story you can’t really explain with dialogue. There are also a few camera tricks that Jenkins infuses to the story that were very clever. For example, there is a scene where Chiron is waiting for a train and he is the only thing in the frame that is in focus, indicating that Chiron believes that he is the only one in the world at that moment. Thought that was really impressive.

This is where I become indifferent, so please hang with me. I enjoyed the performances of Harris and Oscar winner Mahershala Ali, who plays a role model for young Chiron. However, I didn’t really think they were award winning performances. Harris plays the same drug addicted figure that a lot of characters in a lot of movies struggle to love yet the audience somehow feels sympathy for. As far as Ali goes, he was in the film for less than 10 minutes and for me never really had a lasting impact. By the middle of the second act, I had forgotten that he was a part of the story. As far as the lead goes, I found that I connected more with teenaged Chiron played by Ashton Sanders. Sanders to me displayed the most emotion and struggle than any of the other actors. Young Hibbert had very little dialogue and played the quiet kid like any other young actor has or ever will and Trevante Rhodes was the less sympathetic version of Chiron. You know what I take that back, I don’t think it was Rhodes but the age representation that Rhodes is playing. I just would have thought after the conclusion of the second act and the revelations that come out of it that Chiron would be placed on a different path; however he seems to have just made the most stereotypical path that could have been displayed. I unfortunately just never connected to Chiron and in saying that it is not because I’m White or heterosexual, but because I really never felt empathy for him. As far as the story goes, I think that it needs to be told, however the way it is told through this film just seems lacking in depth.

I don’t think that my position on this movie would be any different if I watched this film before the Oscars, however I maybe did expect a little more, story-wise, seeing how it did win for Best Picture. To me Best Pictures need to be impactful like American Beauty or even last year’s winner Spotlight. I just fear that Moonlight won these awards for all the wrong reasons. My fear is that this film won due to the social uproar that has been swirling around our world recently and not because of its merits as a film. Both racial equality and homosexual equality is a very hot topic right now and because this movie involves both that is why I fear it won. IF my fears are true, than the Oscars have become more of a political arena than the actual political party races come every November.

I know it sounds like I didn’t like this film; I actually thought it was good just not great. Technically I thought it was wonderful and the supporting cast was good…I just can’t get on board with it being a Best Picture winner. This is not me saying that I thought one film deserved to win over another, but I personally think that Moonlight won due to social influence and not how good of a film as a whole it is.

Worth Your Time (just maybe lower your Best Picture expectations)

Honestly, after reading this novel a couple of months ago, I didn’t really know what to say. It left me feeling exceptionally underwhelmed. I felt that it had so much potential, but ultimately (for me) fell flat. Championing a kind of white-feeling feminism, I feel that it did not engage too well with the intersectionalities between race, gender and class, despite having the perfect premise to do so. Whilst Alderman’s writing was decent and action-packed (she propels the reader through her text at breakneck speed), I felt that the narrative relied perhaps a little too heavily on shock value. Many of the points Alderman tried to make were a little too obvious, as if assuming her audience would be unable to understand what she was trying to say if she didn’t signpost constantly.

I can understand the hype that surrounds The Power, but it leaves a bit of a sour taste in my mouth that this novel is being hailed the next great feminist text of 2017, when marginalised voices (particularly queer people and people of colour, especially the intersection of the two) continue to remain underrepresented in publishing, and in fact almost every industry, or misrepresented by white, straight, cis voices. 

If you don’t want a man dead, don’t bludgeon him over the head repeatedly. 

Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik [5 stars]

This was the first book I read by Naomi Novik, and I just completely fell in love with her writing. As a fairytale retelling, Novik manages to capture the language and magic of the original story - the narrative strongly reminded me of some of the stories I’ve read by the Grimm Brothers - while still creating a book which is wholly unique. There is powerful world-building, and the magic and plot are beautifully woven together with vivid description into a compelling story. Uprooted is also surprisingly funny for a story so embedded in fantasy. The characters are clumsy, sarcastic and utterly charming, and you can’t help but fall in love with them. This book has romance, strong female friendships and adventure, and I cannot recommend reading it enough.
MOONLIGHT

(2016, Barry Jenkins)

Two years ago, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood was one of the major talking points of the year in film – a breathtaking journey that showed the coming of age of its main character over the course of 12 years. It was easy to see why it drew the acclaim that it did, yet at the same time centering a story around the experience of growing up as a straight white male in America gave off a slight whiff of been there done that. The technique was impressive, but we’ve seen that story told time and again over the decades in film. Something that we haven’t seen nearly as frequently, if at all really, is an equally affecting and intimate portrait of the existence of a gay black man portrayed on screen. Barry Jenkins is here to start to redress that balance with Moonlight, his first film in eight years, after his debut feature Medicine for Melancholy. Chronicling the transition from adolescent to teenager to adulthood, Jenkins casts three different actors (Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes) to depict Chiron, a man who spends his whole life struggling to find acceptance as he grows up in a rough neighborhood in Miami.

Forging a relationship with local drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali), who becomes a father figure to make up for the absence of one, and his affectionate partner Teresa (Janelle Monae) isn’t enough to save Chiron from the beatings at school that he receives for being different, the difficulty reconciling why it’s so hard for him to fit in, or the troubles he faces at home with his unstable addict mother Paula (Naomie Harris). It’s a very specific story, beautifully told with a style from Jenkins that resembles a form of meditative cinematic poetry, yet the greatest strength of Moonlight is that it never feels like a film that shuts off those outside of this particular experience. Rather, Jenkins builds a bridge of understanding that draws natural empathy for the struggles that someone living this life endures while also bringing forth universal themes that we can all relate to. I’m certainly not someone who has had to live with the difficulties that Chiron faces, but I was constantly finding moments and ideas throughout the film that spoke to my own experience, from the themes of loneliness and feeling like you don’t belong, to the ease with which you can slip back into the comfort of an old relationship, even after all of the terrible things that happened to drive you apart from that person.

For Chiron, that person is Kevin, a close friend who is also played by three different actors (Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome, Andre Holland) through each of the different time periods that Moonlight traces. Every actor excels in this remarkable ensemble, to a point where it’s almost disingenuous to really point to anyone as being the standout of the cast, but the film really hits its high point in the final section, almost exclusively devoted to one night between the two men years after they had gone off their own ways. Seeing them come back together, after so long apart with such different experiences, speaks tremendously to the power of what Jenkins gets across in his film, and the chemistry between Rhodes and Holland is positively electric. As is the case with the rest of Moonlight, there’s no pomp to Jenkins’ portrayal of this encounter, none of the exploitative poverty porn that can seep into films rooted in these kind of communities, nor any showboating from the director or his cast that would feel disingenuous in a film as quiet and unassuming as this. Jenkins simply lets this story exist in a way that feels organic, never drawing attention to itself, but always feeling potent and made from a place of deep understanding. It’s wonderful to see a film depicting this kind of experience being embraced as wholly as Moonlight has been, and one can only hope that it will open doors for opportunities to see a wider range of experiences portrayed in film moving forward.

B

Uprooted by Noami Novik

My Rating: 5/5

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley.”

Forget everything you think you know about folklore and enter Novik’s realm of dark fantasy in this stunning debut full of lush and terrifying fiction. Uprooted is easily a unique masterpiece with plots and characters unlike any others in its genre. I started off reading this book as one would begin a thrilling but harrowing task. I’m never one to be put off by the size of a book, however at first glance Uprooted seems like a monstrosity of small fonts and lengthy pages, something that can make any reader feel threatened.

Do NOT let this fool you, for once I began to invest my time into the chapters, the pace quickened so much so that I devoured two-hundred pages over the course of a few hours (which for me, and my ADD, was remarkable)! In a strange way, I felt that the book was almost too good for my brain to keep up with everything…if that even makes sense. I like to thoroughly take in every detail of any story, and Novik is a wordsmith goddesses, so of course I was bit overwhelmed by my own sheer exuberance. There’s enough space between her phrases to leave room to the imagination, a feat that I respect when it comes to how an author writes his/her story. But in my case, I was just so excited to read the book that I wound up thinking about reading the book…instead of actually reading the book…(*insert face-palm*). Nevertheless, this piece of fiction is exceptionally crafted and brimming with strong protagonists. This is all I want in an epic fantasy, and I have a feeling you will want it too.

“It comes, I suppose,” I said thoughtfully, speaking to the air, “of spending too much time alone indoors, and forgetting that living things don’t always stay where you put them.”

We start off our journey with Agnieszka, a young peasant living in the quant village of Dvernik which borders the deadly, malevolent Wood. Her dearest friend, Kasia, emits strong beauty and bravery―qualities of which the Dragon sees fit enough for a new servant. The Dragon is an immortal wizard who protects the villagers against the dark magic of the Wood, yet each decade he takes the most promising girl to live with and serve him for the next ten years of her life. He des not harm the girls, and each one never returns to their meager lifestyle in the valley once they are put back into the world―instead going off to greater cities pluming wealth and prosperity. Kasia has known since she was a child that she is more than likely to be chosen by the Dragon. Agnieskza has known as well, and the thought of losing her aquatinted-sister is maddening. Until the day of the harvest comes, and the Dragon does not choose Kasia.

*It is now three-o’clock in the morning and I just finished Uprooted after binging the book for the previous forty-eight hours. My head is still spinning. That was without a doubt one of the best books I’ve ever read.

The plot was enchanting with all its twists and turns, especially considering the abstract idea of the antagonist―and I only say idea because this antagonist was not a person, rather it was a forest more eerie than the one found in Snow White. The Wood, as it is known amongst the characters, is a giant shadow of land that lurks within reach of the village inhabitance, constantly picking off children and others who wander too close. It spreads like disease and can corrupt those who’ve never even been to the outer reaches of the valley, simply by plaguing someone and sending them back without seemingly any traces of evil. Novak has created such a compelling image of darkness, and it is all the more ingenious because this wickedness does not reside within a single person. The antagonist is not governed by what most living antagonists are contrived of―no, this antagonist is literally Mother Nature in full fury.

To defeat such a villain, Agnieskza must learn quickly of who she was destined to be, and with the begrudging help of her mentor, the Dragon. The most shocking of all the subplots was undeniably the stories that came from the Wood and it’s origin. You’ll meet characters so wonderfully crafted, and they’ll tear your heart to pieces. This is not your average folktale. It’s so, so much more.

But the best thing by far were the characters and the relationships held between each of them. For starters, Agnieszka is not written as some beautiful damsel with a fate that will make or break the becomings of the universe― she’s simply a peasant girl who cannot go ten minutes without ripping her skirts or getting dirt in her hair. Her bravery, cunningness, compassion, and humorous whit are what makes her character so compelling. I fell in love with her, and that’s not very common for me and the main protagonists because I usually find some flaws that cannot be cast aside to be unnoticed. Raw and so wildly foreign, Agnieszka is all I’ve ever wanted in a strong heroine.

What makes her even better is the relationship she shares with her dearest friend, Kasia. I cannot begin to express how pleased I was that Novik didn’t touch upon two jealous friends who bicker over boys and beauty. I’m so disgusted with the trope of girls unnecessarily loathing one another, and this book was such an overwhelming breath of fresh air that their sisterly friendship actually did bring me to tears on a few occasions. Also, Kasia wasn’t left behind in the grand scheme of the books commencement. I won’t tell you what becomes of her because that would involve spoilers, but it’s pretty freaking awesome. Kasia is a courageously loyal friend, and a sharp sword when needed be.

The Dragon, much like Agnieszka, is not the average brooding male protagonist you might have expected. He’s refined and well-spoken, but also incredibly sarcastic and exasperated with the nonsense he has to put up with. Wizards, especially those who’ve been lingering for more than a century, have grown cold to the ways of endearment. The Dragon cares about the health and safety of his people, and those outside of his borders, but that doesn’t mean he wishes to tether himself to them in fear of being hurt through their inevitable deaths.

What I love most about him is how he treats everyone else around him, even those who we’d consider enemies. He’s not malicious or hot-headed, in fact he’s quite the opposite. The Dragon (and you will find out his true name int he book!) is very wise and very alone. Agnieszka enters his realm of brick towers and barriers and forces them all down in a heartbreakingly, amusing adventure full of bickering, snipping and name calling. I’m a sucker for platonic friendships, but I’m downright obsessed with those friendships that flourish into platonic romances (which then harvest into something even more beautiful as time goes on). So to surmise, Uprooted, although not heavily focusing on romance of any sort, enraptures all I want in a perfectly imperfect OTP (One True Pairing).

This story, although making my heart swell, was nonetheless dark and complicated. I don’t know if I’d truly classify this one as YA because there are moments where violence and explicit content are used as the foremost points of development. Perhaps it’s better as a NA novel? Regardless, I wouldn’t mind the rating at all so long as some of these entities don’t disturb you. I’m not quite certain what thrilled me the most; the romance, the battles, or the Wood. Every aspect of this novel was carefully delivered with an underlying tone of bitter darkness that halfway reminded me of tree rot or moss…not that I’m being nostalgic or anything (I totally am). I’ve studied forestry for a while and the organic diction and prose of this story had me swooning. The setting was delightful, and the writing style was one of the best I’ve ever come across. It kept me engaged from prologue to epilogue.

But for all the emphasis I put on the world-building and characters, one of the best things about this story was truly the aesthetic of wizardry and witches. I didn’t know I’d be reading about witches, specifically ones arranged so whimsically. The spell-language, as the Dragon called it, is lyrical even though my tongue tripped over the strange words more than a few times. The magic is so vividly described that it makes you feel as though you can brew the potions and cast the spells as well. This book presented a look inside the makings of wizards in such a new and darkly romantic angle, and I couldn’t have been more pleased.

Uprooted is brilliant beyond words, an old artwork that had been lost but newly found and restored to life. It was everything I had hoped it would be and MORE. I’m proud to say that Naomi Novik is now one of my favorite authors and I can’t wait to see what else she’ll gift us in the future. I recommend this book to everyone! It deserves all of the stars, the moon, and the planets.

And, like all the books I love madly, I made a playlist for Uprooted which you can listen to HERE. I hope it inspires you to read the book, or if you have read it already then I hope it delights you!

TRACKLIST:
Willow Tree March- The Paper Kites, From The Woods- James Vincent McMorrow, My Lair- Bear’s Den, What The Water Gave Me- Florence and The Machine, English House- Fleet Foxes, You’re a Wolf- Sea Wolf, Garden- Cold Weather Company, Stubborn Beast- Bear’s Den, April- Nick Mulvey, Anchor- NOVO AMOR, Coins in A Fountain- Passenger, Autumn Tree- Milo Greene, St. Clarity- The Paper Kites, Magnolia- Wilsen, Blood (Mree Cover)- The Middle East, Weather- NOVO AMOR, Bodywieght- Annie Eve, Switzerland- Daughter, Goat- French for Rabbits, Fairytales and Firesides- Passenger, I Follow Rivers (Marika Hackman Cover)- Lykke Li

Read on Goodreads

Lies My Girlfriend Told Me by Julie Anne Peters

3 Stars
Reviewed by Naomi

Official Synopsis:When Alix’s charismatic girlfriend, Swanee, dies from sudden cardiac arrest, Alix is overcome with despair. As she searches Swanee’s room for mementos of their relationship, she finds Swanee’s cell phone, pinging with dozens of texts sent from a mysterious contact, L.T. The most recent text reads: “Please tell me what I did. Please, Swan. Te amo. I love you.”

Shocked and betrayed, Alix learns that Swanee has been leading a double life–secretly dating a girl named Liana the entire time she’s been with Alix. Alix texts Liana from Swanee’s phone, pretending to be Swanee in order to gather information before finally meeting face-to-face to break the news.

Brought together by Swanee’s lies, Alix and Liana become closer than they’d thought possible. But Alix is still hiding the truth from Liana. Alix knows what it feels like to be lied to–but will coming clean to Liana mean losing her, too? 

Alix loves Swanee. Everyone knows it. Love is the reason she abandoned her best friend. Love is the reason she breaks rules and is in a rocky relationship with her parents. Their love is real. It doesn’t matter what anyone says. It’s forever. Well, it was supposed to be forever and then Swanee died. 

Swanee’s death does a lot to Alix, because suddenly she’s alone. No clubs, no after school activities and no friends. Swanee was everything and in a blink of an eye, Alix lost everything. So, when a text comes into Swanee’s phone from mysterious LT claiming to love Swanee forever, Alix loses it. She has to know who this LT is. She becomes obsesses. She does the unthinkable and texts LT as Swanee. But, she knows that’s not good enough. She has to know more. So, she goes and meets LT and it changes her entire world forever.

I’m torn about this book. It’s a love story and I honestly don’t think it should have been, because it’s just stronger as a coming of age novel. Alix does what many of us do when we’re young. She loses herself completely in her first love. When that love is taken away she can’t function and when she realized that her love had secrets, devastating, world shattering secrets, she has to learn to rebuild herself.

I wish that she could have rebuilt herself alone. I wish that she could have clung to her family and friendship, over love. And, considering who her new love interest is, I just couldn’t buy it. 

I feel Julie Anne Peters wanted to tell young people that their first love isn’t everything. That they shouldn’t get all caught up in romance and lose themselves in the relationship, but then Alix just loses herself in yet another friendship. The message is confusing and really undermines the progress Alix makes in the wake of Swanee’s death.

I will say that the lgbt aspect of the book is done well. Because, it’s just a normal teen relationship. The fact that they’re lesbians, that they’re young gay women doesn’t shake the world. Their love is normal, because all love is normal. Swanee could have been named Jake and it would have been the same exact story. Love is love and I think this novel is really good at highlighting this.

At the end of the day this book isn’t awful. My own preferences on what I wish the story was, is why it’s only a 3, but I think many of you will really enjoy it.

For more info: Goodreads page and author website. 

still casually ruining lives with Uprooted by Naomi Novik. READ IT READ IT READ IT If you like any of the following:

  • folk/fairy tales
  • Howl’s Moving Castle
  • stubborn characters who don’t wait around but stomp around
  • and make decisions for better or worse
  • a trilogy’s worth of events happening in a standalone 
  • female friendships!!
  • village/nature witches
  • cold/uppity/prim wizards
  • the book jacket summary (even though it’s only like a tenth of the book)
  • breathing
4

Nick Knight’s newly released images, taken backstage at Alexander McQueen’s Black show back in London in 2004, offer an ultra-high definition view at McQueen’s garments. The charismatic photos had been taken minutes before the spectacle’s beginning. The show itself, consisted of McQueen’s most iconic and most celebrated designs and sets, with models like Naomi Campbell, Lily Cole and Kate Moss adorning pieces from Voss, The Golden Shower, Supercalifragilistic and The Overlook amongst many others.

rpdr 8 ep. 5 SNETCH GAY-me ruview

I apologize for not ruviewing last week, Spring break had me so busy but now the review is back and nasty as ever. who knew bob the drag queen would have a centric episode. who knew ru had such horrific judgement. who knew derrick would for once not be in the bottom. who knew robbie was so clueless. who knew eliminations were so highkey rigged.

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Moonlight (2016)
Movie Review by: Will Whalen

Moonlight is the story of a young black man who has a particularly troubled home life and deals with own struggles such as dealing with his sexuality and finding his place in life. This film takes place over three chapters of his life as a young boy, a teenager, and an adult. Moonlight stars Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Janelle Monae and 3 separate actors that play our main character of Chiron or AKA Little and Black.

Before today, I literally had no idea what this movie was about. I haven’t seen a trailer or anything before I saw this and drove two hours away from where I live, to see this film by myself just based off hype. Because where I live, typically, we don’t get films like these. Let me just say, it was worth every bit of the drive and I don’t regret it a bit.

Like I said, I had no idea what I was going into before seeing this today and was floored upon watching this. This is a type of film that doesn’t really get a lot of light shown on the subject and when it does get done, it is almost never done with such emotion and such fantastically done filmmaking. Just a forewarning, this a heartbreaking and emotional gut punch of a film and to me, is a really important one, in many ways than just its subject matter. Although, that does have a lot to do with it because it really shows that hard truth and brutal truth of life and how it feels to be outcasted and alone and doesn’t hold back.

Moonlight comes from A24 which is a studio that has continuously delivered many great films and several favorites of mine this year alone. This is directed and written by Barry Jenkins and might I say, fantastically done in both categories of direction and writing. The directing however, is what I will praise most. With many long tracking shots and stand still frames that crafted and made a scene launch into a visually stunning and much more impacting film. You could tell that a lot of thought went into each frame such as themes to do with color or placement of someone in a frame. However the tracking shots were fantastic and one of my favorite things to be done in films and to see it done so often and so well, was great.. The lighting in this film was also done wonderfully and conveyed a lot of meaning. There was one scene in particular that reminded me of a scene that would be in a Nicolas Winding Refn film.

The performances in this film were fantastic across the board with a terrific child performance and probably one of the best of the year. Every actor that portrayed our main character, did a remarkable job maintaining this character across three different time periods of his life. If it weren’t for the fact that he is portrayed by three different actors, it would be on grounds for an Oscar nomination. A really great and grounded performance that is also given by Mahershala Ali that really hit deep for me. With three different parts, it always stays grounded and real, and never once strays away from the characters and always stays focused on what it’s trying to say and never feels preachy.

The first two acts of this are brilliant and are on a whole other level. With intense and heart pulling stuff but once it gets to its final act, it slows way down and that’s probably the biggest problem and maybe even the only problem with this film. That being said, it doesn’t ever get bad one bit. This third act is still fantastic but it seems to pull you out of the ride a bit and throw you off. After experiencing what was previously experienced, it just becomes a much slowly paced conclusion. I feel like maybe upon a second viewing, it would be less of a problem but if it weren’t for that, I’d say this is about as perfect of a movie as it can be. This is a gut punching and absolute heartbreaking film that is bound to make you feel angry, sad, make you cringe and even make you squeeze a tear or seven out and more often to watch, isn’t easy to watch.

That being said, it’s a fantastic, visually stunning, important, and among the most notable films of 2016 and one that should not be missed. Check this out if you can because it is masterful.

I’m going to give Moonlight...

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Review: Temeraire by Naomi Novik

Genre: Fantasy / (sort of) alternate history

When Captain Will Laurence’s ship the HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes the precious cargo, everything changes - for they have captured a dragon’s egg. In the war with France, where Napoleon’s forces have more skilled and agile dragons, every new egg counts. So when the baby dragon Temeraire hatches and immediately imprints on Laurence, the force of this unbreakable bond forces him to leave his naval career and become part of England’s Aerial Corps - the more liberal, raucous section of the army where dragon and human rider live and fight side by side.

Things I liked about this book:

  • The concept. Temeraire is basically how to train your dragon meets the Napoleonic wars. If you like Austen-like issues of manners and conduct, historical battles, but also everything dragons and fantasy, then I would definitely recommend this book. This unique level of conceptualisation also extends to the worldbuilding - because dragons and their trainers are inseparable, this means that the Aerial Corps are less bound by social constraints such as marriage or heritage, because they cannot let these things get in the way of their dragon. This means that lower social groups, such as the working class and women are allowed to be dragon riders, and that these people are less bound by hierarchy and social convention. Novik has managed to create a small bubble in 19th Century society where sexism and classism are still profoundly felt, but also utterly irrelevant.
  • The relationship between Laurence and Temeraire. Did you watch How to Train Your Dragon, where Toothless’ unbridled love and devotion for Hiccup made you squee with feelz? Now imagine that Toothless could talk. Temeraire is an intelligent, kind and fiercely loyal human-like animal in his own right, and the way that he and Laurence interact is at many moments funny and heart warming.
  • Laurence’s character. I don’t normally go in for male narrators (not for any particular reason, mainly just that female protagonists tend to guarantee a more female cast), but Laurence was really interesting as a focal perspective. For one thing, other than ideas of honour and nobility, Laurence is utterly normal. While Temeraire is a bit of a super-special snowflake, Laurence is just an ordinary man, yanked out of one life he was perfectly happy with and into another. It was nice to have a fantasy book in which the protagonist is not overwhelmingly powerful, but instead draws power from those around him.

Things I didn’t like about this book:

  • ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. READ IT. READ IT NOW!


OVERALL RATING: 5/5

Selma

5 Stars
Directed by: Ava DuVernay
Written by: Paul Webb
Starring: David Oyelowo, Carmed Ejojo, Tim Roth,

Review by Naomi


When Selma was released, I had many discussions with my friends about it. Did we need another civil rights movie? Did we need to keep being reminded of the past? Do we need to see more brutality against people of color? All good questions. I for one love historical films. I think they are important. Especially projects like 12 Years A Slave, A Normal a Heart,  Lincoln, Brokeback Mountain and , because I believe that we should never forget. Never. Not for a second.

Going to see Selma, I went to see a civil rights movie. I went to see a film directed by the first woman of color to be nominated in the director category of the golden globes. I went in for politics.

The moment the film begins it becomes so much more than that. This movie is a masterpiece. A film as brilliant as its story. I immediately researched all of Ava D’s movies, because this woman with three films under her belt is a master filmmaker.

She knows exactly where to place her camera. How much to show and how much to withhold. She knows exactly when to leave a scene and when to keep us in a physical space until the tension has grown so high you lose your breath. The fear so strong it’s as if you are standing behind these characters, as if a police man’s club is about to come directly at your head.

From a filmmaker and cinephile perspective this is one of the best directed films of 2014. Just artistic and action packed and emotional. It pulls your emotions out of you as if you are a puppet on a string. It’s that powerful. You can not fight against it. You simply feel. And yet the film is enjoyable. Through the tears and the anger there is joy. There is the presence of the strength of the human spirit.

This film tells the story of the struggle for the right to vote. Black Americans technically had the legal right to vote, but not the physical and personal right to vote. Especially in George Wallace’ Alabama.

The name George Wallace has always given me the angry churning in the pit of my stomach that Hitler, Castro, Stalin and Kony give me. A devil who is responsible for the death and persecution of innocent people.

And, he in many ways is the main villain of this film. Sure, there are the sheriffs and guards and majors and police officers with their guns and dogs and water hoses and tear gas. But, he is the captain of the ship and Eli Roth plays this man with this sort of indolent charm that shows the reason he was elected governor. The disregard for black lives that illustrates the very idea that people like George Wallace absolutely believe in the superiority of white skin.

One thing that this film demonstrates expertly is that the civil rights movement is not just a black thing. It is an American movement. This isn’t a black film , it is an American film.

This is proved by the white characters who are featured in the film. They are not on the edges, they don’t just stare and shout slurs in the streets. We see them in their homes, we see them with their families and in their churches. And we see when they decide to risk their lives in Selma, Alabama and join their black brothers and sisters in the fight for equality. We see them be beaten and killed for their beliefs. This is something that we forget. And we shouldn’t. There are moments when the Baptist MLK stands with Catholic priests, Jewish leaders and walk arm and arm toward waiting armed soldiers and police officers.

Martin Luther King Jr. is the hardest person in the history of the world to play. I will not argue this point as it is true. We know that voice. I know it better than I know the voices of my friends, my family, etc. Ever had a moment where you go “who is this?” When you hear a voice on the other end of a line. If MLK spoke you would know him.

We know his voice. We know his face and we know his dream. He is one of the most beloved people in world history. Unless you are racist, what could you possibly dislike about the guy who led the civil rights movement for 13 years? (Led, not was the movement. A distinction most people forget.)

That being said, David Oyelowo was Martin Luther King. It’s not the kind of performance that you are not aware that you are not actually looking at MLK, because that is quite frankly impossible. No, it’s the kind of performance where you are aware it’s a performance and you just don’t care. His performance is beautiful. He encompasses the legend as well as the man. You are looking at the leader, the noble prize winner, the man who sits across from presidents and tells him what black Americans need and want for the first time in history. David Oyelowo is all of that. He is also a man. A man who struggles. A man who falters. A man who fails. And a man who feels the weight of his responsibility to a people and to the world.

For the first time, I actually thought “how difficult it must have been for him.” When I think of MLK I think of a man standing in America’s capital giving the greatest speech ever written and inspiring the world with words. I am a pacifist. I believe in the power of words and he is my hero, because he is the prime example that words are the strongest weapon there is.

That’s what I always think about, but after “Selma” I think, how heavy the crown must have been for that man. He walked into a room and he was either a beacon of hope or the bullseye for hate. He had to live his life just so, in order to be above criticism. Because if people lost respect for him, they lost respect for the movement.

This film also shines the light on the power of Malcolm X. People often wonder what he did for the movement. Well, despite galvanizing young black people to respect themselves, to be more, to be tough, and to be proud. Malcolm X was the antithesis of MLK. To be frank, white people feared him. If MLK’s vision failed then people would turn to Malcolm and the world as we knew it would be over. He was the devil, so that MLK could be the angel. MLK’s voice was heard because white lawmen understood that if he was not heard then Malcolm’s would be. By being the militant, MLK could be above approach. Also, Malcolm X was just one badass motherfucker.

There is so much I want to say about this film. Like, the amazing blocking of the action sequenxes. Or, the costumes which were both elegant and authentic. Or, the perfect pacing. Or, the music, but I will let you experience all of that for yourself.

This movie is not basic. It is not civil rights film by numbers and it is not simple. This is complex with brilliant storytelling and a well written script. The dialogue is so magnificent I had sentences running through my mind hours later.

See this film.

Written by Naomi