Category Archives: Book Review

Film Review: The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

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Film Review: The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

Introduction: As I have already written up the book review, I’m not going to bore us all by repeating what’s already been said. To find out the background of the story, you can read the post here:

The Fault In Our Stars – Book Review

But as far as being true to the story goes. I was pretty impressed with this. I’d only finished the book a few days before watching it and I got what I was expecting. My only disappointment was the lack of confetti in in Amsterdam! I was a little concerned about the authenticity in relation to this beautiful city, but I think they did a fairly good job.

The Actors:

I have to admit, this is not how I envisaged the characters in my mind at all, especially Willem DeFoe as Peter van Houten! But I went along with it as I think they did stay pretty true to the voice that came through in the book. Also, I did struggle a bit to get my head round the fact that I’d just watched the divergent series in which the actors who play Hazel and Augustus were brother and sister as Tris and Caleb and were now lovers!

Hazel: Looked far too healthy to pass as a girl terminally ill with this type of cancer, though I suppose this hits a lot of moral nerves and perhaps tackles some much needed addressing of stereotypes. Came across as more annoying and at times, unnecessarily sarcastic, than I imagined. Quite withdrawn and sometimes the words and the feelings being portrayed didn’t quite add up for me.

Augustus: Definitely not how I envisaged him, I would not have picked this actor to play him. I find him a bit too cutesy and preppy boy looking rather than ‘athlete with sex appeal’ which is what I had in my head. I despised the cigarette thing even more than in the book – it and he, I found very irritating to watch. I think the arrogance came across well. I think some aspects of the reality of Gus’s deterioration were missed.

Peter van Houten: Not what I imagined at all, this actor would have been among the last I would have picked to play this character, for one he is very slim and I had visions of a swollen, bloated, red-faced drunk and this actor is quite the opposite. Also, I couldn’t get over his ‘Americanness’ his attempt at playing a Dutchman I just didn’t feel was authentic at all. However, he is a very good actor and what I did find authentic about him, which came across even more so than in the book, was the genuineness of the tragedy he’d suffered from regards to his daughters’ death, also of cancer. Here there was some genuine indication of the impact that bereavement can have if one doesn’t grieve and the long-lasting trauma it can cause.

As an aspiring YA author with a particular interest and focus on mental health in young adult fiction I felt that in both the book and the film, this issue was somewhat overlooked. Yes – Green and the directors tackled the ‘in your face’ heartbreak of the impending doom of the situation Gus and Hazel face and completely romanticised the teenage dream in to a heartfelt love story, this I get, but I think that ultimately opportunities to address some hard-hitting truths about the impact of terminal illness on the sufferer, carers, and loved ones were missed. I am yet to read them but I have heard there are a few YA fiction authors who have nailed mental health issues. And yes, I understand this book is not about mental health, it’s about terminal illness – cancer to be exact, but I think that fundamentally mental health is always going to be an issue that needs to be addressed where terminal cancer is concerned.

Rating:

3/5

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Book Review: The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry

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Book Review: The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry

Introduction

Waterstones ‘book of the year’ 2016, The Essex Serpent comes highly appraised by several renowned authors and literary professionals, including Jessie Burton. Set in the 1890s between Essex and London, it portrays the life of Cora, a palaeontology enthusiast, who finds herself in Essex through circumstance: where she is more than intrigued by the local legend that is the Essex serpent.

Author

The Essex Serpent is the second novel written by Sarah Perry. Born in Essex, she has a PhD in creative writing and won the East Anglian Book of The Year award in 2014, along with several other nominations.

Main characters

Character One

Cora Seaborne – tomboy, strong female character before her time ‘modernist’. Palaeontology enthusiast.

Character Two

William Ransome – vicar and farmer. Typical hard outer and soft inner type who dotes on his family.

Character Three

Francis Seaborne – Cora’s son. Autistic? Peculiar tendencies.

Character Four

Martha – Cora’s companion – a very strong and feisty female character with opinions, an active and vocal socialist.

Story

To be honest, it is hard to give a traditional overview of the plot and flow of this book as it doesn’t really have one as far as I can tell. The main focus is the journey of the protagonist, Cora – from a timid wife to an independent widow, which she accomplishes by overcoming a number of challenges and new experiences. To me, Cora’s transformation told through the interactions with several characters – of which I felt there were a few too many, highlights some of the issues prevalent at that time, political, medical, scientific and religious. I believe it to be a good portrayal from my understanding of the time, but then I by no means claim to be a historian of any kind.

Themes

Historical issues of politics, medicine, science, religion, socialism and feminism from the 1890s. A portrayal of the challenges faced by widows and unmarried women, those from backgrounds of poverty and deprivation and the balancing act of newly emerging science with traditional religious beliefs, amongst others that have probably flown over my lesser educated head.

Evaluation

I am attempting a retrospective review of this book, which I read over Christmas 2016. The Essex Serpent is beautifully written with wonderful flowing prose; displaying page after page of beautiful literature. Technically, Perry cannot be faulted in as a wordsmith. However, despite this, I found myself wondering what on Earth had happened between page 1 and 300? Not a lot! Full of colourful characters all described in great intricacy; as far a plot is concerned, not very much happens. I felt that Cora’s voice wasn’t strong enough to be heard above the buzz of all the other characters and became somewhat lost amongst the hype of the Essex serpent gossip. I was disappointed by the final outcome relating to the Essex Serpent and it doesn’t really have an ending per se, it just ends with no conclusions. Perhaps it is the scientist and romanticist in me, but I like a proper ending, preferably a happy, or at least a feel good one. The Essex Serpent just left me feeling unfulfilled. As I had chosen it as a Christmas read for our book club, I was really looking forward to it and found myself rather disappointed, to be honest. It just doesn’t end up going anywhere. When I read, I love to go places, I want the author to really take me there with them and on this occasion that just didn’t happen.

I have approached this review as best as I can based on my limited point of view, but it is just an opinion. For a more in-depth and academic approach to the review of this book, please visit: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jun/16/the-essex-serpent-sarah-perry-review-novel

I am sure this fellow author enjoyed and appreciated the book far more than I ever will, though it is clear his intellectual capacity supersedes my remedial intelligence by far.

Overall, a well-written novel and a great educator in historical issues and an imaginative portrayal of realistic historical fiction (as far as my limited knowledge allows me to tell).

Rating

 

3/5

I hope you enjoyed reading this review and are able to glean at least a spec of usefulness from it. Please leave comments below if you have any suggestions or . . . anything really! Be nice though  . . . it’s my 1st one!

Pursuing Passions

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Pursuing Passions

So, with my job search journey finally over (for now), I have found myself once again with time and energy to pursue my love of The Arts, in particular, creative writing. My too-long-dormant novel has been metaphorically brushed off, printed out and read through. Once again I am picking up a different book every hour and enjoying the dance of different shapes and the meaning that they form across the page. Once again I feel hopeful, ignited, visionary.

Some may be wondering, why am I not writing about the elated success of my return to employment? A good question. And my answer is, I have spent so long dwelling on it that I once again left a part of myself behind. That subject, I want to leave that for another blog post and first and foremost, focus on the real reason I started this blog. Which is to pursue my passions for all things creative! Which I feel that I am once again, now able to do.

So where to re-start? As it were. Something I have been thinking about for a while. Last year, I joined a book club and most recently, I have signed up to the Portsmouth Writers Hub which I intend to attend on a monthly basis with at least a paragraph of a piece of writing for the required subject. What I have really kicked off with though, and something I am most excited about, is I have entered a writing competition! Not only that, but it was free. I found a list of writing competitions via a quick google search and the suggestions of others. I am hoping I will find out the result in due course this coming month.

So back to the book club. I think it would be naive of anyone to think that you can become a good writer without first, becoming a good reader. And that is exactly what I intend to do. As I have been partaking in the reading and reviewing of several books outside of my comfort zone anyway. I thought I may as well publish my thoughts here. So that is my plan, each month (hopefully) I will read a book and write a review for it here; with the aim of focussing my direction for my own writing development. I am also going to publish my reviews on Good Reads A place I have left long forgotten until now. I will probably do some reflective reviewing as a start. I hope at least some of you will find this interesting.