The last week of June marked 100 days of lockdown in the UK. My work isn’t due to open our offices until September and cautiously at that. Though I am definitely more on the hermit side of the scale, cabin fever has definitely set in and I look forward to a change of scenery in what I hope will be a safer world than today.
I have managed to neglect my wrap ups throughout this period (and, um, February too…whoops) so here is a mega one! (But yes, each mini review is 100 words, as per usual.)
Side note: please excuse the bare post this time, internet and Chrome issues aside, the WordPress app apparently does not allow you to upload images anymore!
The Reading Corner
An American Marriage – Tayari Jones
A book club book, and not one I would regularly pick up but a really nuanced story that explores relationships, race and reflects the unfair justice system in America. This book tells the story of a black man, Roy, who is falsely accused of a crime and imprisoned and specifically how it affects his relationship with his wife, Celestial through the following five years. Told in part through letters, in part through the view points of Roy, Celestial and Celestial’s best friend, this is a look into love and how the American justice system can steal years of your life.
A Conjuring of Light – V.E. Scwhab
It’s been about a year since I read A Darker Shade of Magic and I finally got round to reading the final book in this series. I enjoyed it for the most part, it was engaging, Schwab’s writing is so beautiful and it injected some adventure back into the series. It also remedied a big frustration I had with book two: namely Lila falling into the ‘not like other girls’ trap. However the ending felt a smaller than the build up, Holland’s backstory felt a bit gratuitous and I’m only a tiny bit bitter that we never see Black London.
They Both Die at the End – Adam Silvera
Set in a world where Deathcast calls you up the day you are going to die, this book was more heartwarming than grim. It follows the last 24 hours of two Latino boys, Mateo and Rufus, as the Last Friend App brings them together. This book is an interesting thought experiment and it plays with the idea of fate and self-fulfilling prophecy. Technology was integral to this book and cleverly included, although if you are looking for a real exploration of Deathcast itself you won’t find it. A beautiful story of friendship, romance and living each day to the fullest.
Six of Crows & Crooked Kingdom – Leigh Bardugo
I reread Six of Crows in order to prep for Crooked Kingdom and friends, both were a thrill to read. These are heist books, and although it feels odd to read about a heist because so much of it is in the (often visual) reveal, Bardugo pulls them off perfectly. The fictional world of Ketterdam and an alternative Europe featuring its own set of magic, history and prejudice is refreshing and the worldbuilding is fantastic. I love the characters, the found family has a lot of heart and there is nuance with each of the team. It’s twisty and exciting.
The Hunger Games Trilogy and The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – Suzanne Collins
I fell in love with The Hunger Games again this summer. The Hunger Games is a great start to the series, it sets up an excellent world and establishes Katniss’ emotional core. It only falls short in that gladiatorial battle royales aren’t that interesting to me. Catching Fire remains my favourite due to its deeper exploration of Panem, politics and of President Snow (plus, Finnick Odair obviously). Mockingjay is still a bit of a slog but the ending is perfect. The prequel was a compelling read but really didn’t live up to the rest of the books in this world.
Battle Royale – Koushun Takami
After reading The Hunger Games, my book club picked this as a companion book as it has drawn inevitable comparisons. This book is nothing like the Hunger Games beyond the initial premise (which is surprisingly similar). This is a pulpy book that is far too long. Takami thought of the idea of schoolchildren being forced to kill each other and then fitted that idea into a world where it might happen. Desensitisation to the numerous, explicit deaths happens quickly and it is very repetitive. I don’t feel like this book has much to say and the female characters are terrible.
The Princess Bride – William Goldman
This is one of my favourite books, though I have only read it twice. It’s one from my list of lockdown approved reading and it is definitely a balm for all of this *vaguely gestures towards the outside world*. This book doesn’t take itself too seriously, the writing style fun and it is the definition of a classic romance and adventure story. This book pokes fun of itself, but there’s genuine heart here too from the gentle giant Fezzik to the romance between Buttercup and Wesley. It’s an excellent book and I would recommend to everyone, a much-needed light-hearted read.
Across The Nightingale Floor – Lian Hearn
Another book club pick, one set in a fictionalised version of Japan (though the author seems to deny it). This story follows Takeo, a boy from a mountainous village who finds himself mixed up in the politic games of his country as well as discovering his own secret powers. This book didn’t make a huge impression on me. I didn’t enjoy the distant narrative voice and I wasn’t very invested in the plot till about a third of the way through. Ultimately, not too exciting and I wouldn’t continue the series. Plus, I am keen to prioritise own voices stories.
The Home Cinema
P.S. I Still Love You
The sequel to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, this film continues the story and takes a look at what happens after the final kiss. In this film, Lara Jean’s insecurities come out as she realises that all her firsts with the more experienced Peter are obviously not his firsts. Then, the final recipient of her love letters turns up and adds another complication to the mix. Although this looks at some interesting developments on their relationship and we don’t stop after the ‘happily ever after’ kiss, it just doesn’t have the same hook that the first film did.
Studio Ghibli: My Neighbour Totoro, Laputa: Castle in the Sky and Tales from Earthsea
I wrote a blog post basically gushing about Studio Ghibli films a couple of months ago and they really are the calm, beautiful things needed at times like this. I finally watched My Neighbour Totoro which is a delightful little story about a pair of sisters who discover the local spirit Totoro. Laputa is based loosely on the floating island from Gulliver’s travels and features sky pirates – need I say more? Finally, I watched the loose adaptation of Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea series and I think it’s the first time I have been genuinely bored during a Ghibli film.
I have mixed feelings about this because whilst it has a solid story on paper the ending is a CGI battle of meh-ness, the script falls flat and I didn’t feel any chemistry between Chris Pine and Gal Gadot. Wonder Woman herself, makes this film. I love that she fights when she needs to, she’s strong but also deeply empathetic and emotional. I really enjoyed watching Gal Gadot fight in this film, her physique is amazing and though clichéd I can see her being a role model for little girls (and, um also me). Looking forward to Wonder Woman 1984.
After reading the book, I finally watched The Martian and this is a really good film adaptation. There is a certain atmosphere and feeling of loneliness of being the only man on mans that hammers home with so much more impact when told visually. The film is much faster paced too as we see what Mark cannot: what NASA and his fellow astronauts are up to. What I preferred in the book, was Mark’s humour. Here it is sardonic, which works, but the book feels lighter. The film also lacks Mark explaining the science behind his survival which I missed.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
This was a rogue one, I am not a comedy film person but this is surprisingly brilliant?It has a solid storyline, empathetic and sweet protagonists and, importantly, it doesn’t make fun of Eurovision itself. The contest is treated with respect, and written having watched and understood it and European culture. I really liked how wholesome the characters are, the humour is not at the expense of anyone and the songs are excellent. Props to the songwriters who managed to capture the Eurovision sound so well (I *will* be singing Jaja Ding ding forever). Also Rachel McAdams is fantastic in this.
Skipping over tv this time because I’ve been having internet/Chrome problems every time I try to write this and having been trying to post this for a week! However a few highlights would be Season 2 of Sex Education, the first season of Never Have I Ever and of course the big rewatch of my favourite comedy: Community, which came back to Netflix near the end of month 1 of lockdown and really helped a girl out.
How was your June? And how are you doing? Let’s chat in the comments!