The Clasp by Sloane Crosley These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

Best of 2013: Music

Monday, December 30, 2013

Last year I said it was getting harder to make these lists - and it is in general -  but actually, music wise, things weren't too bad this year. So, without further ado, here's a selection of my favourite musical bits and bobs from 2013. Oh and I was going to do a books and celebrity 'best of' thing but you know what, I've had enough of 2013. So, after this, we will look to Wednesday and dwell on this year no longer. It is decided. It is done.

Albums


I got Spotify Premium this year, so I've been able to listen to loads more music on the go, which has been nice, although they've mainly been film and musical soundtracks. However, there were some disappointing offerings from some of the bigger names (*Ahem* Justin, Jay-Z, and Kanye I'm looking at you). Nevertheless, there were some good'uns around. Speaking of Kanye, whilst I wasn't a fan of the album as a whole, New Slaves and Black Skinhead are excellent tracks. Yes, he rants a lot (and I'm glad he's taken a vow of silence because I was starting to fear for his health, way too stressed out) but if you really listen to the lyrics...he kind of has a point.


Settle - Disclosure

Unorthodox Jukebox - Bruno Mars

Overgrown - James Blake

AM - Arctic Monkeys

True Romance - Charli XCX

Same Trailer Different Park - Kacey Musgraves

Nothing Was The Same - Drake

Modern Vampires of the City - Vampire Weekend

Beyoncé - Beyoncé

Yours Truly - Ariana Grande


Notable mentions: Matangi - M.I.A; Home - Rudimental; My Name Is - Pusha T; Secondhand Rapture - MS MR; Body Music - AlunaGeorge (ermmm, and I think Aluna is my new favourite name too) 

Songs

I used to write them all out but now I'll just put the playlist up. Even if you don't have Spotify, you can still read the track list (I think - let me know if you can't). 

What were your favourite musical moments of 2013?

The Fallback

I was watching one of those Hollywood Reporter roundtables with comedy actresses (which was styled wonderfully) and towards the end, they were asked the usual "What would you do if you were not acting?" question. Three of the actresses pretty much said they could not imagine doing anything else. Acting was, is, and always will be the dream job. Kristen Bell said she never had a fallback plan because she knew she would use it if given the option. Zosia Mamet also claimed her dad said the same thing and she also wondered why anyone would give just 70 per cent of themselves to an endeavour.  It got me thinking...should we encourage fallback plans?

Firstly, I suppose it is easier to say you shouldn't have a plan b if you're already successful. When you're already living the dream, surely it's difficult to remember what it was really like when you were just starting out - we all wear those rose coloured glasses. Even I do it and I've barely started. However,  judging by their ages, I'm guessing most of those actresses - and most of the people dishing out this kind of advice - were lucky enough to escape this ruthless and exploitative internship culture. Except maybe Zosia but her circumstances aren't exactly typical. If you're 28 and one day realise you've never held down a 'proper' job with a real salary and *gasp* benefits, surely you need to consider a fallback plan? Or should you just keep on keeping on? When does 'life' win? You know, getting a house, starting a family and all that jazz. Will we, the forever intern/temp/freelancer generation, have to forego these things in the name of The Dream? I should've prefaced this by saying I'm really only addressing creative careers. You lawyers and doctors and teachers are alright - you have the blueprint, you just need to follow it. And you get a decent salary. And you're actually helping the world in some way - good gracious, I'm jealous of you! 

Then again, for someone like Zosia Mamet who grew up in a creative environment with artistic parents...well, of course she wouldn't need a fallback plan. If we all had a renowned playwright for a father and an actress for a mother, we'd probably assume we could make it in The Arts too. I'm not talking about nepotism (which I'm all for by the way. If you can't help your own family and friends, who can you help?!) but rather the fact that she's seen that it's achievable - artistic success would have always been tangible for her. In the same way that if you're from a family of teachers, you too wouldn't think it would be impossible to become a teacher.

However, in spite of all that, I kind of agree with Zosia in that you should give 100 per cent of yourself if you want to achieve success in some way, shape, or form. So, ladies and gentleman, we're stuck between a rock and a hard place. A back up plan is sometimes, oftentimes, necessary for regular Jane's and Joe's but you also need to give all of yourself. How do you give all of yourself to your second choice? Or third or fourth? Well, the truth is, I don't know. I'm currently trying to do this myself and it's not easy. In fact, I skipped the follow your dream part and fell into plan B because in all honesty, I don't have a passion. Not yet anyway - I'm sure I'll find it at some point, so put those tissues away. After all, look at these guys. So, I guess the main thing to take away from all of this is, you might need to activate plan B but you should try and find happiness in the small things that come with plan B and perhaps try and get back to The Dream. 

What do you think? Fallback plans, yay or nay?  

Best of 2013: Film

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Well, I got an Odeon points card as I said I would last year. Bit of a waste of time because I only went to the cinema a few times this year! I missed all the big blockbusters during the spring and summer, so I'm kind of just catching up as the DVD's are released. I've definitely been more into television this year but you'll know this if you've ever read any of my posts. 

Film

Lincoln

Zero Dark Thirty 

Warm Bodies

Wreck-It Ralph

Identity Thief

Iron Man 3

Elysium

The Crash Reel

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Frozen

Notable mentions: American Hustle; Oz: The Great and Powerful; How I Live Now; Now You See Me

Yes, you're reading correctly, Les Miserables did not make the list. I've made peace with it over Christmas, as I've realised I enjoy dipping in and out whilst it's on the movie channel. However, in the cinema, I found it a little too long for my liking. Also, can we just talk about the big blockbusters? I found Star Trek Into Darkness a little tiring too. For some reason, it didn't have the fun and easiness of the first one. The Great Gatsby just didn't work for me - really, really, really disliked the soundtrack and found it distracting. It looked great though. Speaking of looking great and not much else...Man of Steel. What was up with that?! It was like a really long prologue - nothing happened! All style, no substance, which was a shame because the cast was excellent, as was the score; I just wish they had something to work with. 

Score or Soundtrack


Frozen - Score by Christophe Beck, Soundtrack by Various
From the first note to the very last, this was a lively, engaging, touching, beautiful score and soundtrack. An instant Disney classic. There were echoes of Wicked, which I loved and I'm sure people will be singing 'Do You Want To Build A Snowman?' for many Christmases to come. Oh and yay for Christophe Beck! I will find the sheet music to Jazz It Up from Charlie Bartlett one day...


American Hustle - Score by Danny Elfman, Soundtrack by Various (music supervisor Susan Jacobs)
The soundtrack really elevated the film and helped with the pacing. I definitely felt like doing a bit of seat dancing in the cinema, so as soon as I got home, I plugged into the soundtrack. There's an interesting piece on The Huffington Post with Susan Jacobs about how and why each piece was chosen.


Zero Dark Thirty by Alexandre Desplat
I already talked about this score here. Definitely one of the most atmospheric scores of the year. 

Man of Steel by Hans Zimmer
Whilst I had reservations about the film, the score was brilliant! It belonged to a completely different film and I'm sad that the film wasn't better because coupled with this score it could've been something special. I love the echoes of John Williams' iconic Superman theme but I also love that Hans Zimmer didn't bring it back. This is definitely the score for a modern day Superman film. It's much brighter than the Nolan Batman scores but in a similar vein. Some people probably complained that it was too loud but come on...it's Hans Zimmer! What did you expect?


The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Soundtrack by Various
I wasn't that keen on the score (although I do love the Capitol/ President Snow/ official stuff theme that crops up every now and then). The companion soundtrack was excellent though, making it two years in a row for The Hunger Games. I spoke about it here but Elastic Heart and Atlas are still the standout tracks for me. Atlas is perfect, perfect, perfect for Katniss.


Now tell me, what were your favourite films and soundtracks this year? 

YA Superlative Blogfest 2013 - Day Four - Best In Show

Thursday, December 19, 2013


For more information or to join in, please visit the brilliant hosts of the YA Superlative Blogfest: Katy UppermanTracey NeithercottAlison Miller, and Jessica Love




My favourite colours and I love the font. Simple but effective. 


I loved how mature Alex and Callie were about their relationship and if/how they should proceed in the future. Cath and Levi need no explanation - if there's one thing I've learnt over the past few days, it's that we're all Fangirl fangirls. 

I'm sure Eleanor & Park will win lots of awards next year. I hope Where the Stars Still Shine gets some love too because there's so much packed into this little book. 
  
Most Likely To Make You Miss Your Bedtime  Fangirl
Obviously. 
  
Favourite Finale or End of Series Novel Gallagher Girls - United We Spy by Ally Carter
I'm cheating here - I haven't actually read this yet but I'm sure it's a great end to a brilliant series. I haven't heard anything to suggest otherwise anyway.
  
Romance Most Worthy of an Ice Bath Maise & Evan - Unteachable by Leah Raeder
Flaming nora, I was not prepared for this. Thank goodness it wasn't my train read! 
Loved this book and it was nice to read a YA book with a male POV. 

I didn't realise The Sea of Tranquility was eligible for it or else it would've rivalled Fangirl won EVERYTHING. Anyone who knows me and my reading habits will know I love a good Aussie YA drama and both Raw Blue and Saving Francesca stepped up to the plate.

Book Most Likely to Make a Grown Man Cry Eleanor & Park or The Sea of Tranquility
Most people seem to have shed a few tears for Eleanor & Park, so of course it has to make the list. I don't cry whilst reading very often but The Sea of Tranquility completely tore me apart and I couldn't get it out of my head. Now and then, a book or a film or a song will come along and coincide with everything else going on in your life and completely gut you. 

Most Creative Use of a Love Triangle Fangirl or Flat-Out Matt
Cath-Levi-Reagan-friends-with/out-benefits-reminds-me-of-the-spelling-bit-in-Hot-Chip's-Over and Over. Ok, I'll stop that now. Also, Matt and Julie and Finn in Flat-Out Love and Flat-Out Matt because when you discover what you're meant to discover, even though you probably kind of guessed it in the beginning...wow. Shocker.

Dazzling, sparkling, heartbreaking, hilarious...read more about my thoughts on them here, here, and here.

Most Likely To Make it in Hollywood (or at least the CW) Burn for Burn Trilogy by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian
Dawson's Creek meets Vampire Diaries meets Pretty Little Liars. If that's not a recipe for teen television heaven then I don't know what is. Get on it TV execs! 

YA Superlative Blogfest 2013 - Day Three - Elements of Fiction

Wednesday, December 18, 2013



For more information or to join in, please visit the brilliant hosts of the YA Superlative Blogfest: Katy UppermanTracey NeithercottAlison Miller, and Jessica Love


Most Envy-Inducing Plot/Plot I Wish I'd Thought Of Myself Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Actually, if this was open to adult fiction too, I would've picked Attachments. However, Fangirl is built on a really cool idea too. 

Most Formidable World/The Setting I Definitely Would NOT Want to Visit The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
I shudder just thinking about it. Like I said the other day, I don't read too many sci-fi/dystopian books but this world was pretty scary and awful. 

Well, Wanderlust (Belize), Raw Blue (Australia), and Crazy Rich Asians (Singapore/Hong Kong/China) do not qualify for the blogfest and they're my true most Wanderlust inducing novels read in 2013. I didn't get to go on a summer holiday this year *sniff* so, from the YA books released this year, I think I'd choose the seaside, Maine setting of This Is What Happy Looks Like for my fictional jaunt. I'd like to just rent a house by the sea and read and play board games. Sorry, I've been re-watching too much Dawson's Creek... Oh, I should mention Where The Stars Still Shine too. Next time I go to Florida (hopefully next year), I'd like to visit Tarpon Springs. 
There were some lovely quotes about what music does to you, how it feels to hear your song when you're out, the power of the DJ, and loneliness too. This book was really well written. 
  
Most Dynamic Main Character Maise from Unteachable
A fiery force to be reckoned with. I didn't love the book but Maise's character scorched every page. 
  
Most Jaw-Dropping Ending Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Well, you all know why...I'm sure I'm not the only one
  
Best Performance in a Supporting Role Celeste from Flat-Out Matt by Jessica Park 
I love this character so much. I hope Jessica Park releases a companion novel just about Celeste - she obviously loves Celeste too.

YA Superlative Blogfest 2013 - Day Two - Popularity Contest

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


For more information or to join in, please visit the brilliant hosts of the YA Superlative Blogfest: Katy UppermanTracey NeithercottAlison Miller, and Jessica Love


Most Likely to Become a Rock Star Elise from This Song Will Save Your Life 
Well, she kind of already is a superstar DJ so maybe this is cheating but still...

Most Likely to Start a Riot  Maise from Unteachable
If there was ever a follow up, I'm sure we'd find Maise and her relentless quest to live life to the fullest  would probably be causing some trouble in her new town. 

Biggest Flirt Luke from The Moon and More and Lucy from The Lucy Variations
Luke was one of those genial people who do not always know they're flirting, which often gets them into trouble. On the other hand, Lucy knew what she was doing but she craved attention. 
  
Fashion King and Queen  Toby and his bow ties from The Beginning of Everything and Lillia from Fire with Fire  
I love the name Toby so perhaps I'm a little biased. Plus he got the hipster nod of approval at the silent disco flash mob, which seals the deal for sure. Princess Lillia and her preppy cool wardrobe is by far and away the most stylish lady. 
  
Girl You'd Most Want For Your BFF Kat from Perfect Scoundrels
The teenage, female version of Danny Ocean? Of course she'd be my BFF. 
  
Boy You Wish You'd Dated in High School Ezra Faulkner from The Beginning of Everything
Prince charming, prince charming, ridicule is nothing to be scared of...Definitely one of the most charming and witty male characters I've read this year. 
  
Most Likely to Become President Celeste from Flat-Out Matt
Celeste 'I do not use contractions' Watkins could have also stolen the title of 'Quirkiest Character', however I think this title is most befitting such a formidable supporting character. 
  
Villain You Love to Hate Rennie from Fire with Fire
Rennie's not really a villain - just a little misunderstood with a lot of misplaced anger. 

Favourite Parental Figure Arthur from Fangirl
I couldn't help but picture Matthew Perry as the twins' dad in Fangirl and it helped add even more zing to Arthur's one liners. 

Coolest Nerd Cather from Fangirl
Cather is obsessed with Simon Snow and writing her Simon Snow fan fiction. I don't think I came across another character as nerdy or cool as Cather this year.

    YA Superlative Blogfest 2013 - Day One - Head of the Class

    Monday, December 16, 2013


    For more information or to join in, please visit the brilliant hosts of the YA Superlative Blogfest: Katy Upperman, Tracey Neithercott, Alison Miller, and Jessica Love

    I've never participated in the YA Superlative Blogfest before so please bear with me. Even though I smashed my Goodreads challenge goal (ok, perhaps 'smashed' is going too far), I still didn't read too many books published in 2013 and of those class of 2013 reads, not so many were YA. So, there will be repeats and I certainly will not be able to fill every category but I'm going to give it a go. Ready?



    Favourite Dystopian The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
    Creepy (for me anyway, I don't tend to read much sci-fi/dystopian stuff) but an interesting take on an alien invasion. I really liked Cassie and the other narrators and I think it will be an excellent film when it finally gets made. 

    Favourite Contemporary Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell 
    I'm not even going to start on this one because I'll go on forever - I loved it so, soooo much!
      
    Favourite Action/Adventure  Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter  
    I really like this series, maybe even more than Gallagher Girls, and this was a more grown up, emotional but necessary instalment. Kat is one of my favourite YA series girls. 
    Vibrant characters, really lively story, well structured and well paced. I had no complaints with this one. 
      
    Intense, chilling and thrilling. I think the dark and mysterious tone was heightened by my James Blake soundtrack. 
      
    Favourite Romance How to Love by Katie Cotugno
    Sweet and full of heart. There was something more to this than your usual second chances story. 
    One lighthearted, one quite dark but both had their fair share of family issues.



    When I Grow Up I Want To Be...

    Tuesday, December 10, 2013

    Every now and then I'm going to write about some people who inspire me and are going places. This week I'd like to talk about:

    November Reads Round Up - Part One

    Monday, December 9, 2013

    These will most likely be the last book reviews for this year. I think I'm going to do some re-reading this December, starting with Dash & Lily's Book of Dares, to get me in the Christmas spirit. A million and one thanks to anyone and everyone who has read one, two, a few, or all of my reviews. Ok, here it goes...


    How To Love by Katie Cotugno

    WHAT'S THE DEAL? Reena's first love was her longtime friend Sawyer. Despite their issues and differing plans for the future, they were sure they'd be together forever. Then Sawyer disappeared and Reena realised she was pregnant. Flash forward two years and Sawyer's back and ready to pick things up right where he left them. Understandably, Reena is not so sure. Remembering everything that happened before, Reena has to weigh up the pros and cons of letting her guard down again. 

    ANY GOOD? I love the name Serena but always associate it with either Ms Van der Woodsen or Ms Williams. However, Reena Montero will now have to be added to that list - such an interesting voice. I felt she was a bit Joey Potteresque (in a good way). I'm not sure if she was ever described as half smiling but I could definitely picture her doing it. 

    This wasn't really what I was expecting. It had all the familiar YA devices (although is this considered YA?) like triangles, will they/won't they etc but there was a maturity to this story that is often lacking in these types of stories. It was a quiet book starting out with a slither of hope that grows into a great beam - clouds, silver linings and all that jazz. Speaking of jazz, I'm not much of a fan but I really liked that it was featured in this book, as it helped add that layer of maturity. 

    I liked that Sawyer wasn't perfect but also wasn't 'dangerous' - he was just someone who was a little messed up in his teens but got his act together, like most people. I'm not sure if his parents were all that bad or if it was in his head in a 'they just don't understand me' teenage, end of the world kind of way - perhaps this could've been explored more. 

    Overall, a small but hearty debut from Katie Cotugno with a wonderful cover. 

    ADD TO BASKET? If you love your YA contemps or NA's with an actual story (oh no she di'n't). Thank you Kari for the recommendation!


    The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
    Goodreads

    WHAT'S THE DEAL? Lucy was a child prodigy in the classical music world, dazzling audiences with her extraordinary piano playing until one day, after a family tragedy, she walks off the stage and stops playing for good. Lucy returns to regular life and tries to acclimate whilst her brother takes up the mantle she put down. However, Gus's new piano teacher, Will, throws a spanner in the works by getting inside Lucy's head. Will she come to terms with what happened and play again? Is Will just her brother's teacher or more than that?

    ANY GOOD? Like the other Sara Zarr books I've read, this was a slow burner. Everything is carefully knitted together until finally, at the end, you see the great tapestry and have an Oprah 'a-ha' moment.

    I really liked Lucy's character (brilliant last name too - Beck-Moreau). A lot of people will dislike Lucy, she's not spunky and fun and 'likeable' but I think she's exactly what a former child prodigy would be like if yanked out of the scene before they'd fully ripened. She's a performer through and through and she can't turn it off.

    I vaguely remember people talking about the trend of pupils and teachers and inappropriate relationships - is this a trend or am I imagining it? Anyway, I'm currently reading Unteachable and if we're using that as a yard stick, Lucy and Will's relationship might as well be renamed Will and Grace. There wasn't anything terribly inappropriate in this story. Perhaps Will could've behaved a little differently BUT Lucy's not sixteen going on seventeen, she's sixteen going on thirty as a result of her upbringing. Her softer side showed in her relationship with Gus - who was absolutely adorable! The family drama was interesting - lots of secrets and the great unsaid, as with the other Sara Zarr books I've read.

    I loved the music and made a Spotify playlist of the songs in the back. I won't give away any of the songs though as they're part of the story. The Lucy Variations was a delicate but thoughtful novel. It will not be everyone's cup of tea but I enjoyed it very much.

    ADD TO BASKET? If you're a piano player or love classical music or if you liked Sara Zarr's other books. 

    Christmas is here, bringing good cheer

    Sunday, December 8, 2013

    I saw this article on Hellogiggles about the best Christmas songs and I also heard Leona Lewis's new Christmas song which is brilliant, so I just had to put in my two pence. Here are my favourite Christmas songs and Christmas carols. What are your favourites?
    • Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney - This song always reminds me of being a child and the Christmas decorations that looked like this
    • Happy Xmas (War is Over) by John Lennon - Again, reminds me of my childhood. It's a sad one  but I can't imagine Christmas without it.
    • Do They Know It's Christmas? by Band Aid (1984 version) - Again, I cannot imagine Christmas without this. I lost count of the number of times we had to sing it at school!
    • Millenium Prayer by Cliff Richard - Good old Cliff reminding us what Christmas is about. We sang this at school.
    • Feliz Navidad by Jose Feliciano - A new entry really. Last Christmas Eve eve we were in Amsterdam and this was playing in a rather dodgy, unironicaly retro diner we visited for breakfast. It was the kind of scene where had it been a movie there would've been a shoot out or something halfway through the song. 
    • Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Andy Williams - Reminds me of the Christmases we spent in the States, which were brilliant (except for the lack of roast potatoes at Christmas dinner. American friends, why do you not like roast potatoes?) Oh and of course - Ellen's Twelve Days of Giveaways!
    • Last Christmas by Wham! - This should be on everybody's list. You just have to do the little shoulder shuffle dance whilst it's on. 
    • Carol of the Bells - I love this when it is done properly (like in Home Alone) but sometimes it can be too frenetic verging on hysterical. I like the Bird and the Bee version too.
    • Winter Wonderland by Various - Obviously. 
    • Little Drummer Boy - For the "rum pa pa pum" bits. I loved singing this. 
    • Stop the Cavalry by Jona Lewie - Another childhood one with a "da da dum dum" bit. 
    • O Holy Night - My favourite carol ever. Also in Home Alone - can you guess my favourite Christmas film?

    Not Judging Amy

    Monday, December 2, 2013



    Have you watched any of The Hollywood Reporter's Roundtable series this year? I always enjoy watching these and I haven't been disappointed this year. The actors gave a decent interview - Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto were the most charming and had the best anecdotes. Also great to see Michael B. Jordan there. The directors were rather odd and eccentric but interesting nonetheless - would you expect anything else from directors? However, the actresses roundtable was the most interesting. It seemed like they pulled the veil back a teensy bit more than the others. 

    First of all, how lovely to see such diversity! Makes a change and also makes for a more three dimensional interview in my opinion. You could tell Oprah wanted to ask more questions but for the most part she seemed pretty much in awe of her fellow seat mates. I've grown up watching Oprah and she's been a true inspiration - an excellent role model - so it was great to see this side of her too. That is, the side where you can see her actively learning rather than doing the teaching. 

    Julia was fairly quiet but she still oozed 'movie star'. Again, when I was growing up, if someone asked me to name a movie star I would probably have said Julia Roberts. 

    Emma Thompson was a RIOT. She's so sharp and witty - Oprah even noted that Emma is the guest you want at your dinner party. She also - quite rightly - brought the interview down to Earth a few times too. She has a very British point of view. I think over here actors and actresses are still thought of as actors and actresses, not movie stars, if that makes sense? There's no sense of Hollywood and all that glitters. You're respected more for how often you tread the boards rather than how much your last film grossed. It's quite normal to walk into HMV and see Bill Nighy browsing the DVD's or see James McAvoy popping to a cash point and not get mobbed by fans or paparzzi, despite what the Daily Mail might have you believe. 

    Oh and Lupita...bless. You know when you see any up and coming actor or sports star and they just win your heart? You just want all good things for them? That's how I feel about Lupita. So very eloquent and humble, how can you not love her?

    Octavia brought some realness to the table. She spoke of her struggle to make it and avoiding stereotypical roles. I like Octavia Spencer. You think she's one way and then she moves in another direction. I look forward to her next few films - although I'm still waiting for Fruitvale Station to be released here- and, of course, Murder She Wrote! 

    However, the standout for me was Amy Adams. Amy was my Lupita from when I first saw her on the Oscar red carpet back when she was nominated for Junebug. She gave her interview to whoever it was back then (remember when Debbie Matenopolous used to do the red carpet and it wasn't all about Ryan Seacrest? It was much better). I've been rooting for her ever since and it seems everyone else has been too because she's nominated ALL THE TIME yet still hasn't won the Oscar. I haven't seen American Hustle  but can it really beat out Lupita or Julia or Meryl - depending on which category she's canvassing for?! Anyway, Amy endeared herself to me yet again in this interview when she talked about not taking any breaks because she didn't start working until she was thirty. I love stories like her's. I think they need to be told more these days because it seems as though we've got a skewered view being fed to kids these days about success. When you have the Kim's and NeNe's and all the others turning into celebrities overnight there's a danger that kids will think that's how it works. You see it on X Factor or America's Next Top Model and all those other talent shows - contestants assuming they'll just make it and then falling apart when they're cut after the first round. You see it in the real world when new graduates go for their dream job, don't get it straight away - or it turns out to be different to what they expected - and so they give up/lash out/ get disproportionately upset. Heck, isn't Girls based on this? I never saw season 2 but in season 1, Hannah thought the world owed her something because in her eyes she was a gifted writer. She may well be a gifted writer but she's got to blimmin' earn her stripes first! 

    Anyway, back to Amy. Amy (and Octavia to a certain extent) is the perfect example of the oldie but goodie - hard work pays off in the end. I hope this year she'll reap the rewards - goodness knows she's overdue! If you haven't seen it yet, do take a look. You won't be disappointed. 

    YA Book Club: Allegiant by Veronica Roth [Contains Spoilers]

    Monday, November 18, 2013

    THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS. THERE'S NO WAY TO TALK ABOUT IT PROPERLY WITHOUT TALKING ABOUT THAT. 


    Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books 
    Format: Kindle e-book
    Rating: 3/5

    Synopsis from Goodreads:
    The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

    But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love. 
     
    Oh dear. I really don't want to write this review but I said (in my head) I would do YA Book Club this month and I like to think I'm a woman of my word. I'd been putting off reading Allegiant anyway because I've been craving good old contemporary YA a lot these days (a craving that was substantially satisfied by Fangirl but I need more!) I also heard about - but tried to avoid - the furore that occured when the book was releasd and people disagreed with the ending. However, I finally dove back into Veronica Roth's world this week and settled down, ready to find out how it all ends. 

    My first thought was: dual narration, hmmm ok then. I started to doubt myself thinking it had been a long time since I read Insurgent, maybe that was dual narration too. I checked and was glad to realise I was not going mad because it was not. I usually love dual narration - and I'm not even that hard on writers who make their characters sound similar because hey, they're one step ahead of me being published and all. However, my first thought here was: I don't care what Four thinks. Not in a horrible way - I think he's a great character - it's just, this is Tris' story, isn't it? I found her character to be riveting in Divergent - maybe a little bit iffy in Insurgent - but nonetheless a wonderful, strong, female protagonist. However, with the introduction of Four's voice, Tris' voice became diluted. Her whole character slipped away into the shadows and by the end you could tell she just had nowhere to go, which is why Veronica had to do what she did. Tris died when Four started talking to us. 

    Now onto the story as a whole. The world was set up really nicely in Divergent. It was different to the other books I was reading at the time. I even got a little Harry Potter like and sorted myself into a faction (Candor). Overall, the first book was on point, the second book was a little messy but still engaging. However, this one just seemed to flail and then flatline. There was so much potential, so much build up, and then like a firework from your local corner shop (unless you're from East London) it just fizzles out. It got too darn complicated. Too many serums, too many worlds within worlds, too many characters. There was also too much romance. Maybe I don't remember the previous books very well but it always seemed that Tris and Tobias had their thing but that was just filler to the greater story arc. However, this time they went full on Edward and Bella and I just wasn't feeling it. 

    However, when we got into the Evelyn/Marcus storyline, I kind of understood why Veronica Roth wanted to use Tobias' voice. Obviously, he would be the only one who truly understood their drive and motivation to act in such a way. The war of the self always makes for an interesting and rich story, so Tobias' battle with his Marcus vs Evelyn genes - his very own nature vs nurture story- was quite fascinating. It made me think that Veronica Roth had fallen in love with Four's story and therefore had to abandon Tris - it happens to us all, doesn't it? The breakout supporting character who suddenly takes over. Had this been Four's story from the beginning, perhaps it would have been a completely different series. Perhaps it would've been stronger. Perhaps we wouldn't have needed the extra serums and extra people. Tris could have still been in it but the story would be more of an inner battle and a family saga. Overall, I think that's what was lost in Allegiant - a focus. Like shattered glass, all the pieces were there for an EPIC end to a brilliant series but it just needed to be fit together properly with some superglue. 

    So, what will this mean for the film franchise? I can't see a trilogy now, can you? I mean, Shailene Woodley and Theo James don't look like my Tris and Tobias (for those interested, these are my Tris and Four) but that's fine, Jennifer Lawrence didn't look like Katniss but her acting was superb, rendering looks irrelevant. However, adaptations from solid books are often messy affairs, so an adaptation from a messy book probably won't cut it. Not with such cutthroat fans and critics (speaking of said crazy fans, why can't people just chill out? You can dislike a piece of work without threatening the life of the author. Gordon Bennett, get a grip!)  

    So, I hate to say it but I was not down with this series closer at all. It's difficult to end a series - very few can do it well. Remember, Mockingjay? I think that will have the same issues film wise but that's a conversation for another day. Anyway, I will end this review by saying I really admire Veronica Roth, I think she's suuuuuper talented and the overall story is still brilliant but I think the ball was dropped with this one.

    The Crash Reel

    Sunday, November 17, 2013


    For those of us in the UK, Sky Atlantic are showing a series of documentaries - probably HBO documentaries because mostly HBO shows are shown on Sky Atlantic. Anyway, the series launched with The Crash Reel, which is about Kevin Pearce, a former pro-snowboarder, who suffered a horrendous accident just before the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. The documentary chronicles Kevin's early life, the build up to the crash - including Kevin's rivalry with Shaun White- and then his rehabilitation and struggle to accept that he probably would not become an Olympian. 

    I certainly was not prepared for how heartbreaking the documentary would be. Lucy Walker does an excellent job of showing how lovely the Pearce family were, how close the brothers were, and how much fun they had snowboarding and just being boys. As a result, by the time the crash is shown in all its horrific goriness, it's just completely gut wrenching. Then it seems like Kevin is making really good progress and you start thinking perhaps it is one of those miraculous sporting tales. However, once again you're hit in the gut as you realise, along with Kevin, that he's not going to be able to board like before. That he's not even really the same Kevin as before. It's difficult to watch because he seems like such a good person and his family seem like good people too.  I think his brother David - who has his own battle of acceptance to deal with - especially steals the show. What a remarkable young man. In fact, they all are. Overall, the documentary showed what a difference having a strong, supportive, positive family has on rehabilitation and moving on after a life altering accident. 

    Most importantly, this documentary brings to light the important issue of head injuries in sport - particularly extreme sports. I had no idea extreme sports professionals were not covered by insurance. If J Lo can get her bum insured or Gillette can foot the cost of insuring Rihanna's legs, why can't these guys get cover? Sarah Burke's fatal crash was featured in this documentary and was a sobering moment. After her death, her family were still left with her medical bills and many fans and well-wishers donated to cover the cost. This was completely baffling to me (not least of all because I live in a country with a wonderful National Health Service but that debate is for another day). What about her sponsors? How can Gillette fork out to insure Rihanna's legs but certain companies can't protect the wellbeing of those shiling their products? Well, answers are given here but it still doesn't make much sense to me. Then again, I am not a business person, so what do I know?

    The Crash Reel is a brilliantly moving documentary (kudos to Matt Biffa for great music choices). Hopefully this documentary can help raise greater awareness of head injuries and also serve as inspiration for those going through similar experiences. I was definitely inspired and I will be sure to wear a helmet next time I ski because trying to look cool is for fools where your health is concerned - love your brain