Thursday, 26 June 2014

May Reads

What did I read in May? I thought that every month I'd do a sum up of that month's reading list and a short review of each book. I'm a bit late with May because I have had so many exciting blog posts to write!

American Psycho
Bret Easton Ellis
Picador 03/12/10 Paper Back
When Ed Wilson at Johnson & Alcock  found out that I had read very little American fiction he threatened to fire me if I didn't read American Psycho as soon as possible. As you can imagine I quickly downloaded the audiobook, borrowed the text from a friend, and watched the movie. 
I absolutely loved this spine tingling book. The audiobook kept me engrossed but my download was an abridged version so I was glad to read the full text. I would actually recommend this to read as an audiobook because some of the chapters are very dense, I found that particularly the chapters on music were hard going for me. I understand the intention behind it, but just in terms of reading pleasure those chapters went way down. The audiobook and movie made these sections a lot more bearable. 
It was pointed out to me that maybe all that dense material was just in an effort to build up the shock factor of horror. I agree, I think it definitely helps.  The main thing to take away from American Psycho is the social commentary on 80’s yuppie New York.  This book disagrees with the idea that people might be able to normalise a serial killer.  On the one hand he has some very strong feelings about Social activism and anti-Semitism; there is outwardly, “something sweet” about him. And on the other, we are introduced to the horrific and dead pan descriptions of his psychopathic blood lusts.
I'm still talking about it and am very glad to have been baptized with fire in American Fiction. Next, Great Gatsby, before my best friend finds out I haven't read it. 

The Bone Season. 
Samantha Shannon
Bloomsbury 20/08/2014 Hard Back
I love my copy of The Bone Season, just as a book it is a work of art. The Bloomsbury production team made some lovely choices, deep rich blues, and embossing, blazing reds of the end papers and gorgeous cover design as well. I've always loved the feel of big hardback books like this one.
I struggled with the story at first, it felt a little clumsy at times, tiny things which made me think that it had been rushed to press. I would have hoped that for a book that has had so much hype built around the whole series that it would be more delicately crafted. That rushed feeling was repeated to me by a few other readers.
It only took a few chapters to hook me into the story though.  I haven’t read an original Fantasy novel like this one for a long time.  I loved the setting, the reimagined cities of Oxford and London was almost like reading utopian steampunk.  While it is largely set in Oxford it is firmly grounded at Seven Dials in London, which is about 100 yards from my office. It still gives me a little thrill when I wander around to imagine clairvoyants picking at my aura.
I am really looking forward to reading the second book in the series, the cliff hanger-ish ending is maddening, driving me into the arms of The Mime Order Book two. I am hoping that the structural and line edits will have a little more attention paid to them in this second book, without the pressure to get the first book out. If not I don’t think I could stick around for all SEVEN of the planned titles. BUT there is a fantastic storyline, maybe I’ll forget the clumsy edits . . .

Gone Girl. 
Gillian Flynn
Phoenix 3/01/2013 Paper Back

I liked Gone Girl, I thought it was a galloping read and I enjoyed the writing style. It is unfortunate that I read Before We Met first so had already read something similar.

My comparison review of Gone Girl and Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse is available here

Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Fault in Our Stars - No Spoilers

Last week I had the privilege to see a preview screening of The Fault in Our Stars.  It is the number one movie in the US as I write and is coming out in the UK today (19th June)!!! I don't think it is possible to live through the summer of 2014 without seeing this film.

It is based on the Y/A novel by John Green and tells the story of Hazel and Augustus who meet at their cancer support group. I read the book last year and cried aggressively on a train when I read it.

 The story is excellent.  The writing is superb (I've read all of his other novels as well). And the experience of physically reading it is memorable to me. So I packed my tissues and headed out after work.

It was the teen writing website Movellas who got me the last minute ticket to see the film. They are the official TFIOS fan fiction partner, and I have to say that the quality of the John Green fan fiction on their site is some of the best fan fiction writing I've read. The screening was at 20th Century Fox on Soho Square which have the most comfortable cinema seats I have ever experienced in my life. In the reception were drinks and food but I noticed that hardly anyone was taking advantage of them. Everyone was too excited, we found seats and settled down. There were no pre-rolls and no one eating pop corn. Basically the dream cinema trip.

What did I think of the film? 9/10 'I was saving my 10'

Inevitably with a book adaptation there are moments where your memory of the text and what is shown on screen spar with each other in your brain. For example, there is a restaurant scene which takes place outside under the trees in the book but is indoors in the film.  The decor of the bedrooms wasn't quite what I expected. Hazel's voice wasn't what I had imagined.Tiny, silly, details. There are some cuts, but again, everything was done very well and they were tiny in the scheme of things.

The casting was really REALLY good, particularly Hazel's parents. I thought Laura Dern was everything I
imagined Hazel's mother to be and she really made that role her own. Willem Dafoe was a surprise cast as Peter Van Hounten, and of course he is a highly talented actor, he did perfectly. The character of Isaac, played by Nat Wolff had potential to be a very hammed character, but I thought he brought the character some serious depth.

There were a couple things that let it down though. Now don't get me wrong. Shailene Woodley did a really good job as Hazel, she looked the part and she suited the role. But when it came to acting as if she was living with lung cancer, it felt like she was just reciting the lines, almost as if the words would be powerful enough to pull her through. It is hard to convincingly portray illnesses or disabilities of any kind anyway but I thought there could have been more effort from her. She seemed to swing between being a totally healthy teenager who was rocking some eccentric oxygen tubing, where standing and having animated conversations, even running is no problem, to being unable to stand or breathe.  It was a tall order and she was just a little too short. Maybe it was because Ansel Elgort was next to her and I believed fully that he had a prosthetic leg.

The other was the soundtrack, which is star studded and had huge media coverage all on its own.  I genuinely didn't even notice the sound track. It was totally silent most of the time. There was one moment when a song played, ended, and then dialogue started. There wasn't much of an overall score for the movie or a cohesive sound or theme.

As we left the building, the security guard had a box of tissues on the counter. Just as well, I cried at the half way point and then pretty much every five minutes until the end. Just like the book. My tiny issues with it are not enough to stop me seeing it again tomorrow!

This film is the next 'The Notebook' so all you boyfriends out there, get used to it, we LOVE The Fault in Our Stars and you MUST watch it with us and bring us doughnuts. Okay? Okay.

THANK YOU Movellas!

Thursday, 12 June 2014

It's Not All Bad

I know that I compare my own successes against my friends, and it is easy for me to lose sight of the positives. It can sometimes feel like I am in a hiatus in my life.  While many of my friends have jobs and are starting out on their career paths, I am in suspended animation, continuously working but staying in the same position. 

I recently turned twenty-three and on top of that, for the past few weeks I have been in an internship where I felt undervalued, unwelcome and therefore consistently apathetic towards what little work I was given.  I do not feel like I learnt anything in the whole six weeks.  It has been a huge factor in this stagnant feeling.

The good news is that I have left.  I have two very exciting internships coming up.  The first is with a digital publishing company that runs a mobile and web app for young writers.  They work very closely with their users and I am looking forward to getting stuck in. The second is with an independent publisher with an established internship program.  I'm glad to be going to a respected indi and I hope that I get to do something really exciting while I'm there.

I also am still applying to jobs most days, and sometimes I get interviews. Getting to interview stage is really good news and it definitely boosts my confidence that I am doing the right thing on paper.  The problem now is that there aren't that many jobs to apply for. Occasionally something will pop up that I can apply to but I need a new strategy.  At the moment I have been waiting for the jobs to come up on job search sites, except for Bloomsbury because I want to work there, so I check it everyday. I'm going to start applying that approach to everywhere I want to work so that I can apply as soon as something comes up.

The other good news is that I won an Emerald Street competition and enjoyed a day of beauty treatments in London AND Last weekend I went to Paris! It really isn't that bad.

UPDATE: I applied to a Bloomsbury Editorial Role in Children's. My favorite department. I didn't make it to the interview shortlist. gutted. really gutted.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Review: Before We Met and Gone Girl

Having recently read both, I believe that Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse are both fantastic and essential reads. They are both galloping suspense thrillers, created by two brilliant minds and they both have that quality that makes you beg other people to read it so that you can talk about it with them.  I'm going to try and explain which I like best and why. It's Before We Met. (Sorry, the suspense was killing me).

Gone Girl was published in 2012 by Crown Publishing (part of RH), it tells the story of Nick and Amy Dunne and their five year marriage that has been steadily going south for nearly two years. When Amy disappears on the afternoon of their fifth anniversary, Nick calls the police. As the case unfolds Nick is the only suspect. It is always the husband, right? The story is co narrated by both Nick and Amy, giving the reader some insight into the developing case from both sides.

Before We Met was published in 2014 by Bloomsbury.  Set in London, with a single narrative voice, this psychological suspense thriller had me on the edge of my seat the whole time. Hannah and Mark are the perfect couple, in a perfect house, in a perfect and newly formed marriage. And then one day Mark doesn't show up at the airport from New York.  Hannah's parents divorced after her Mother's persistent paranoia of infidelity unhinged the marriage, determined not to follow that example, Hannah struggles to remain calm.

One reason I prefer Before We Met could be that I read it first. Which in the case of these two books is probably going to be rare. Gone Girl was a success in 2012 and is still being read and discussed two years later.  Before We Met's paperback only came out this month so most people will have read Gone Girl first. Before We Met was marketed with a quote from Glamour Magazine that if you loved Gone Girl you will love Before We Met. The two are linked forever.

They both look deeply into what it means to be married, and what can happen if you end up being married to someone mentally unstable, and someone very very dangerous. Both Nick (Gone Girl) and Hannah (Before We Met) are damaged in obvious, gender stereotyped ways. Hannah is paranoid, despite her best efforts, that her husband might be having an affair, she hates this suspicion as she sees herself reenacting her mother's (and every archetype woman's) actions.  While Nick's flaw is his very young, very pretty mistress (because he's a weak and male).

But what Before We Met did that Gone Girl didn't do, is that it started from a happy marriage.  Hannah's struggle with her paranoia in the face of normality made my heart thump harder than the scenarios in Gone Girl. While reading Gone Girl, at no point did I think: "Gosh, I hope my boyfriend never frames me for his murder like this."  It is undeniable that Gone Girl's Amazing Amy has a criminal and highly functioning mind. It is an unusual situation to find one's self in. But Before We Met, if you cant get through to your significant other one lunch time or what ever, I instantly thought: "My God. It is happening, it is happening to me.*checks bank balance*"  Before We Met's story is rooted in such placid normality that it made it more real and more effective.

I would definitely recommend both books. But if you want a real thriller that will mess with your mind in a deliciously talented way, it has to be Before We Met.