‘A Christmas Carol’ (2009) by Robert Lee Zemeckis – a movie review

By Beatrice Cargnelutti

Аs the Christmas season has begun, among the several tales defined as ‘timeless’, it is impossible not to mention Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ (1843). Its storyline reaches the soul and warms the heart, and because of its strong impact on the public, it has been adapted into numerous films. This review is on Disney’s animated movie adaptation of 2009, ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Robert Lee Zemeckis.

The plot of the novel the movie is based on is a known to most “evergreen”, but in a nutshell: the old miser and heartless usurer Ebenezer Scrooge, after being visited by three Spirits of Christmas, understands the true essence of Christmas and the importance of doing good to others.

Disturbing and dark, this version of the original novel is not characterized by the usual Christmas idyllic mood, being entirely permeated by the gruesome, with features of a horror film. Victorian London is where the events take place, twisting and stretching its setting to reflect the macabre atmosphere. Therefore, many viewers probably could feel it as being too frightening for a Christmas movie, especially if animated and aimed at a younger audience. But the extreme fidelity to the novel with which the characters and dialogues are portrayed makes it a very successful work, suitable for viewers of all ages, from children who are entering the literary world for the first time to adults nostalgic to see a new adaptation of a classic.

In fact, the movie captures in some ways the essence of Dickens as he merrily exaggerates. He often begins with brave young heroes, surrounding them with a sequence of characters and caricatures. In this case the main character is the caricature himself of the story as Ebenezer Scrooge’s thinness, stooping and bitterness are preponderantly accentuated and emphasized.

In a twinkling part of casting, Jim Carrey animates Scrooge taking on the archetypal role of the latter, serving up a really grumpy and emotional old type, not offering a foregone cartoonish performance at all.

Zemeckis’ film is rich of innumerable details; the soundtrack is touching and overwhelming, the tone is convincing, and the pacing pleasant. The balanced rhythm alternates between the strenuous slowness of some scenes and an intriguing virtuosic dynamism, guiding the viewer through extremely diverse sequences without overly clashing with each other. The film does not fail in the intent it sets out to perpetuate.

The use of the technique of Performance Capture translated into 3-D animation provides a sensational visual experience, with an extremely realistic representation of the different characters, some of whom are performed by the same actor. In fact, Carrey played not only the role of Scrooge but also of all three Christmas ghosts and Gary Oldman acted as Bob Cratchit, Marley and Tiny Tim. The actors are there beneath the performance-capture animation; it is possible to recognize their expressions, but in general the Zemeckis characters don’t resemble their originals excessively, as their facial features are effectively modified and adapted to the characters they perform.

“A Christmas Carol” is a famous classic that is re-proposed countless times each year at this festive season through its many different film adaptations. The 2009 version is one of the most recent and successful, faithfully evoking the atmosphere of Dickens’ novel, allowing the spectators to cathartically identify with the story and make them feel the pure spirit of Christmas.


‘Conversations with Friends’ (2017) by Sally Rooney – Book Review

By Lily Brown – I finally got around to reading Sally Rooney’s debut novel Conversations with Friends last month. I had read Normal People in 2019 for a book club meeting and…

By Lily Brown

I finally got around to reading Sally Rooney’s debut novel Conversations with Friends last month. I had read Normal People in 2019 for a book club meeting and loved it, my appreciation for the characters growing deeper when watching the excellent adaptation by the BBC last year. I didn’t know whether I wanted to risk reading Conversations with Friends and risk it not living up to the same level of perfection. 

Disclaimer: Although not detailed in the review, this book deals with sensitive topics such as self harm. This review will also contains spoilers.

Conversations with Friends centres on Frances, a 21-year-old student, and her friend and ex-girlfriend, Bobbi who end up befriending Melissa, a journalist writing a profile on their performance poetry. The plot progresses when Frances and Melissa’s actor husband Nick, become involved in an affair which continues during a holiday they all take to France together. I find Rooney’s writing style compelling, her books taking me only days to read whereas others would take weeks. While I didn’t quite connect with the characters of Frances, Bobbi, Nick and Melissa in the same way I did with Marianne and Connell, the way that their lives became entangled was interesting even if some of the plot points seemed improbable at times. As with Normal People, I found the inclusion of the university setting to be an interesting addition to the novel, with Frances using the library as a space for introspection. 

Front cover image of ‘Conversations with Friends’ by Sarah Rooney (2017)

I’ve read some criticism of Rooney’s work with reviewers saying that they find her characters unlikeable and, therefore, the books unenjoyable. However, I feel that the way Rooney is able to depict real characters complete with flaws who are also able to identify these flaws in themselves is an admirable complexity. There are times when the characters might do or say something which they regret or behave in ways that they later wish to rectify. While not exactly pretty, these moments make up parts of all of our lives and it is valuable to see them represented among the book’s pages. It also makes it harder to fit the characters into particular boxes with none of the characters fitting the hero or villain tropes perfectly. 

While it would be easy to feel sorry for Melissa, Rooney reveals that she too, has been unfaithful in the past and Bobbi tells Frances that she and Melissa shared a kiss. Bobbi is portrayed as an overbearing figure at times, dominating conversations and alienating others with her opinions. As narrator, it is Frances’ thoughts and feelings we receive the most access to and her attitudes to various aspects of her life can seem confusing and misguided at times. When people ask her about future career options she responds ambivalently as though she doesn’t regard these considerations as urgent or pressing in any way. This is in stark contrast to other characters including Philip who works with Frances as an intern at a literary agency during the summer. 

Another thing that I find striking is Rooney’s interweaving of important topics into her writing. There are mentions of self-harming, alcohol abuse and chronic illnesses among others in Conversations with Friends, and while some of these topics are dealt with in more depth than others their appearance in the novel may help readers to feel that they are not alone when going through similar situations. I found Frances’ endometriosis diagnosis particularly moving as she reckons with the implications of potentially not being able to have children, highlighted by her meeting Nick’s beloved niece. Endometriosis can go undiagnosed for years so I think it is very useful to include it here, to raise awareness of this long-term condition and the effects that it can have on people. 

Many of these issues have no conclusion. Frances’ relationship with her father continues to worsen and his health deteriorates towards the end of the novel. The ending of the novel also leaves open a number of possibilities for Frances, Bobbi, Melissa and Nick. Frances has started getting closer to Bobbi again, although Bobbi makes it clear that she is not her girlfriend, and in the very last words of the novel Frances makes an impulsive decision to reunite with Nick. This ending indicates that nothing is final, that relationships we thought were over can be reignited and that we can move past the mistakes that we make, to make more, different mistakes while we continue to find our way. 

Images: Featured image by Emily Rudolph on Unsplash. Body image credited within caption.

‘Journey To The Centre Of The Earth’ (1864) by Jules Verne – Book Review

By Soyeenka Mishra – Journey to the Centre of the Earth was a journey indeed, a fabulous adventure; a classic piece of Sci-Fi lit straight from the 1860s. It wasn’t exactly what I expected…

By Soyeenka Mishra

“As long as the heart beats, as long as body and soul keep together, I cannot admit that any creature endowed with a will has need to despair of life.”

Journey to the Centre of the Earth was a journey indeed, a fabulous adventure; a classic piece of Sci-Fi lit straight from the 1860s. It wasn’t exactly what I expected it to be (thanks to prior knowledge of the well-known movie franchise), but don’t worry – that’s a good thing. When it wasn’t being a rollercoaster of astonishing discoveries and mortal perils, it served as a great source of fun, for I loved the underhanded humour evident in particular points.

Warning: this review may contain spoilers.

Aesthetic book display by Soyeenka Mishra

Let me briefly mention the characters. The first, of course, is the narrator, Axel Liedenbrock. He is our practical-minded, logical, and pragmatic protagonist. I liked this character a lot, especially because of all the sarcastic remarks, most of which were directed towards his dear old uncle, Prof Liedenbrock. Call me deranged, but I found his perfectly rational concerns about their then-upcoming journey in the beginning of the plot quite absurd. I mean, of course I do understand his reasons, but hey, you’re getting to go on an adventure of a lifetime while we people are stuck here at our homes in this pandemic! Ha, but jokes aside, I loved his character arc; comparing the Axel at the beginning to the one at the ending, one will find staggeringly impressive differences. 

Now comes the star of the book, our very own Prof Otto Liedenbrock, the mineralogy scholar who is just the slightest bit insane (again, most great personalities are, aren’t they?). This guy just blows my mind. A man with immense knowledge (that he isn’t always the keenest to impart to others) and a violent passion for making the discovery of his life. His anger outbursts were hilarious to me, not to mention his ability to speak such a vast multitude of languages.

Our third main character is the quiet eider-gatherer from Iceland, Hans (not of-the-Southern-Isles) who does most of the physical labour among the trio. He speaks whenever absolutely necessary, doing whatever he’s told by his ‘Master,’ Prof Liedenbrock, perfectly, stoically, and efficiently as long as he’s paid weekly without fail. It is implicit that the Liedenbrocks wouldn’t have been successful in their endeavour had it not been for Hans, and it’s chucklesome when you actually process the fact that he literally went to the centre of the earth, facing unimaginable dangers with no questions asked but devoted obedience.

It’s finally time for the plot! What stood out to me the most was the writing. At many points, there was extremely vivid imagery of the surroundings which was exhilarating. The icing on the cake was the plethora of not-really-esoteric-but-still-kinda terms that only ones heavily invested in geology, geography, and the likes, might be familiar with. My favourite part of this book was the fact that Verne had given perfectly plausible scientific phenomena and believable reasons to explain all of his fantastical elements. I always love it when the out-of-the-ordinary things have logical explanations.

Readers completely devoid of scientific curiosity might find the book a tad boring, considering all of the long, excruciating treks that the trio set out on in the duration of their grand escapade. One might grow tired of repeatedly going through lengthy descriptions filled with scientific jargon. But people like yours truly who find exactly that sort of writing quite enjoyable will be pleased to find just how well-detailed the whole journey is.

I’d have loved it if the journey had been longer, though I wouldn’t say I’d choose it for a re-read. I’d suggest picking this book up when you’re looking for a quick Sci-Fi/Fantasy read that will not consume your heart, mind, and soul for all of eternity, unlike certain fantasy series.

Find the raw copy of this review here.

Image: Soyeenka Mishra

‘The Little Prince’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1943) – Book Review

By Soyeenka Mishra – From the looks of it, it appears to just be a children’s book short enough for a bedtime story. But the content inside is enough to blow your mind. The Little Prince…

By Soyeenka Mishra

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

From the looks of it, it appears to just be a children’s book short enough for a bedtime story. But the content inside is enough to blow your mind. The Little Prince, being one of the most popular and widely translated classics of all time, was translated into English by Katherine Woods. This one-hour-read is one of the best reads that I’ve had in awhile; it’s a tangle of valuable life-lessons and morals cleverly and intriguingly disguised as a frolicking adventure.

Warning: this review may contain spoilers.

(Right) 1943 edition of The Little Prince. (Left) Aesthetic book display created by Soyeenka showing a re-printed edition of the book.

The book starts off with a childhood memory of the author from when he was six, when he notices how the ‘grown-ups’ are simply just not wise enough to understand things the way that he does. That mentality sticks with him as he himself transitions into adulthood, and I’d even go as far to say he’s still a child at heart. All of his thoughts towards the grown-ups have a condescending taste to them, and albeit this book probably comes nowhere near the comedy genre, I found things quite humorous at times. The breaking of the fourth wall made the read very comfortable and amusing as well.

“It is much more difficult to judge oneself than to judge others. If you succeed in judging yourself rightly, then you are indeed a man of true wisdom.”

As mentioned in the blurb, “…this book is also a deep reflection on human nature.”  Every page, every chapter, will give you something to think about – something to contemplate on. Heavy on the symbolism, there are numerous gems of lines that’ll make you go “Aha!” as you realise how deeply and truthfully they resonate within you. The main message that the story conveys is to look beyond the surface level, since “what is essential is invisible to the eye.” The key is to go deeper, to read between the lines and use your intuition to sense what the purpose the bigger picture could be serving. It also tells us that we need to move forward no matter what happens. Time heals all wounds, and therefore even though it might take some time, you will get over it, and you have to trudge ahead. 

Rife with illustrations by the author himself, at no point will this book make you feel as if you’re doing some serious heavy reading. It will teach you life lessons as you follow the curious conversations of two unlikely friends: one with a knack for art but only knowing how to draw a boa constrictor from the outside and a boa constrictor from the inside, and another inquisitive soul from another planet who never lets go of his questions, shall they go unanswered.

“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”

I’ll just mention a little about the ending without spoiling it. It is primarily tragic, but in a way, it doesn’t have to be, you know? After the narrator and his Little Prince’s story ends, the former has pondered what would have happened to the latter in these six years that have passed since their journey ended. It is up to the reader to assume if the inevitable truly happened, or if following the flavour of fantasy, the Little Prince truly found his way back home. It’s up to you to believe if the rose lived after all this time, or the missing leather strap of the muzzle led the sheep into eating the flower. But most of all, the readers need to realise how different the outcomes of each possibility would be, how vast and far-reaching the consequences would be. The narrator is still hopeful and on the optimistic side of the sitch, which is why he has asked the reader to be on the lookout for a little man with golden curls who laughs and doesn’t answer questions; to inform him at the earliest if we do since it’d comfort him.

Before diving headfirst into this small but power-packed bundle of classic literature, I’d advise readers to be ready for loads of introspection and rumination, all while reading it from a child’s point of view. Though largely marketed at children with the cartoonish illustrations and the childlike POV of writing, it is meant for the older generation as well. From little kids to adults, perhaps it’ll give you different messages depending on your age and maturity, but in one way or another, I’d say it’ll save you. Me? I was left with the strangest sense of contentment and restless agitation after I finished it, as hours later I still reflect on all of the things that I read.

Find the raw copy of this review here.

Image: Soyeenka Mishra and Wikipedia

‘Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman (2017) – Book Review

By Soyeenka Mishra – I have lots to say about this book, though my feelings are mixed. It’s widely-popular with many, many loving readers, except unfortunately I don’t think that…

By Soyeenka Mishra

“As if a silver in the egg-and-spoon race was some sort of compensation for not understanding how to use an apostrophe.”

Warning: this book deals with topics such as depression. Although not heavily mentioned in the review, please bear this in mind. This review may also contain spoilers.

I have lots to say about this book, though my feelings are mixed. It’s widely-popular with many, many loving readers, except unfortunately I don’t think that I’d be counted under the same. This is the first time, perhaps, that I have taken so long to finish a book. It took me almost an entire week. The plot was densely mysterious from the start, but it took an awfully long time to unfold. I’ll admit that I was ready to call it quits at 25% through, but I trudged on only because of the fact that I hate giving up on a novel.

Aesthetic book arrangement by Soyeenka Mishra

Eleanor Oliphant, who wasn’t, in fact, completely fine (I know, right? Took me by utter surprise as well), initially came off as a very snobby and posh woman who looked down upon people. My very first impression of her was, “OMG, she’s the Karen of Karens!”. Eleanor is quite prejudiced throughout the book (but she does make an active effort to do something about it towards the latter half) and is quite knowledgeable.

She was just a little girl at heart who had been forced to grow too quickly, and even at the age of thirty, she hadn’t experienced half of the joys of life people half her age have felt long since. I liked the way that the author portrayed Eleanor’s depression. While there have been many variants and unique experiences of it published, I hadn’t read such a… physical description of it anywhere before, for lack of a better word. She had a very dark past, one she bore victory scars for. 

I really liked Eleanor’s way of speaking, too. Her way of viewing life. She didn’t understand the logic behind senseless social norms, and spoke her mind (often in a way that I perceived as funny). She enjoyed a good book and loved her cat (I totally love Raymond for getting her a cat, a black one at that!). While the snob inside her was only her witch of a mother’s voice, I liked who she was as a person. She had a very particular way for everything, and some might even describe her as eccentric. Nevertheless, you will eventually warm up to her at the end. If her personality doesn’t get to you, the puns definitely will!

In this book, the male love interest isn’t physically flawless and desirable at first glance, which is something I haven’t read of in many books (something that needs rectification ASAP), so that was a nice change. Raymond Gibbons made himself likeable to readers with the help of his personality alone, which is a commendable feat. Like Eleanor, there are some habits of him that are not improbably undesirable and noxious, but he’s a great man at heart, which is all that matters in the end.

This book had some very ‘real-life’ problems that were dealt with very logically (not the whole my-lover-cured-my-depression storyline) and tactically. Eleanor’s journey in therapy was a fruitful one and I’m proud of all the way she has come. That being said, there’s the problem of relating to the character, which I didn’t. I mean, for me, this time it wasn’t me putting myself in her shoes and living her life; it was just me reading her story, the story of Eleanor Oliphant. Perhaps it was because she wasn’t a feelingsy person, but I wasn’t completely absorbed in the book. I didn’t feel very… connected, if you will. It took me a painstakingly long time to make it till the end just because I wasn’t engrossed in the story enough. All in all, I’ll say it’s definitely a nice book with good writing, but I wouldn’t be picking it up for a re-read any time soon; as I say, I didn’t vibe with it.

Find the raw copy of this review here.

Image: Soyeenka Mishra

‘Caraval’ by Stephanie Garber (2016) – Book Review

By Soyeenka Mishra – I hadn’t immersed myself in a good fantasy book for an uncharacteristically long while. What better way to delve back into your favourite genre than a high…

By Soyeenka Mishra

“Every person has the power to change their fate if they are brave enough for what they desire more than anything.”

I hadn’t immersed myself in a good fantasy book for an uncharacteristically long while. What better way to delve back into your favourite genre than a high fantasy trilogy? There was plenty of hype about this series, but that wasn’t primarily what made me pick it up. It was the synopsis – the setting and plot were unlike anything that I had ever read before. The foundation of the entire world wasn’t set on classic fantasy tropes; it was a wholly unique concept. Being the curious cat that I am, I couldn’t resist the pull of all the great things that it promised. Now that I’ve finished the first book, I’ll say that reading it is definitely a great decision.

Warning: this review may contain spoilers.

Aesthetic book display created by Soyeenka Mishra

It all started with a series of letters. The initial pages of the series may lull you into a false sense of security but I’ll take it upon myself to advise you against relaxing while reading this book. Things happen at breakneck speed so you will miss important information if you don’t devote undivided attention to every line.

My first impressions of some of the characters were way off the mark and I couldn’t be gladder. Almost all of them were important to the plot in one way or another, too. I loved the delicate world-building; the way that even a seemingly-insignificant event had a major role in progressing the plot.

Another thing that I loved is how us readers get to know as much information as our protagonist, Scarlett Dragna. She twice gets a warning to not get too carried away by the magic of the Caraval (a magical game), but she falls in too deeply. 

The catch is, though, that she’s not the only one. Readers get caught up in the maddening tangled web that is the Caraval as well. It’s like a splash of cold water on your face when all the big reveals are done at the end. I did manage to predict a few things that were later revealed, but that doesn’t mean that the story as a whole is predictable. 

The biggest selling point for me was the fact that, although you may solve some mysteries, you’ll realise that you never really got answers about the important questions you had from the beginning. It shouldn’t be a good thing but it is, because that gives us something to look forward to in the second book. 

Perhaps, for the first time in a review, I’m refraining from elaborating on all of the major characters. Hell, I didn’t even go into the details about Scarlett’s personality. I guess I feel that I still have to witness the full spectrum of their personas, since I’m only one-third into the series.

Now, I’m not all praises for this book (though mostly I am). There were certain scenes that felt… dry to me? I won’t specify which ones but I felt like the emotional toll that scenes of such likeness should wrench out of me wasn’t really felt. I wanted things to unfold more dramatically, and I wanted more time in between betrayals and the truth-reveals to process what had happened. I found the ending to be slightly underwhelming, but the epilogue does promise more turbulent times to come. So, with hopes of something better arriving, I end my two-penny worth here.

Find the raw copy of this review here.

Image: Soyeenka Mishra

‘After’ (2019) – Film Review

By Ciéra Cree – Initially, to be honest, I didn’t intend to write a review about this film. For a while it seemed like it was going to unfold into a typical story similar to countless…

By Ciéra Cree

Initially, to be honest, I didn’t intend to write a review about this film. For a while it seemed like it was going to unfold into a typical story similar to countless others of its theme – a girl moving away to college and falling for the wrong kind of boy – but, evidently, it amounted to something more since I am here writing this for you today.

Originally published in 2014 as a YA romance novel by American author Anna Todd, the book obtained its film adaptation in 2019, more precisely on the 12th of April, after seeing significant success. There are numerous other books in the ‘After’ series including ‘After We Collided’ (2014), ‘After We Fell’ (2014), ‘After Ever Happy’ (2015) and ‘Before’ (2015) but, to my knowledge, there currently stands as only being the one film from the selection available on Netflix.

Warning: this review contains light spoilers.

With Josephine Langford taking on the lead role of Tessa Young, a freshman and only child of a single “overprotective” mother, ‘After’ offers viewers a vicarious slice of student life through the eyes and experiences of our young female lead. Tessa is reserved yet simultaneously outspoken; she would much rather be alone reading a book than be dragged along to an alcohol-abundant party by her year-older roommates Steph (Khadijha Red Thunder) and Tristan (Pia Mia) but at the same time she knows how to stand up for herself when she really wants to.

Pictured: Tessa & Steph together at a house party.

Throughout the story we see these two sides of her emerge at differing moments – for instance, in a game of truth or dare she refuses to answer the truth or go through with the dare alternative, walking away from the game altogether to suit herself however, on other occasions, we can see that she caves into doing or going places for the sake of fitting in.

It makes sense that Tessa would want to fit in after moving to a new state away from everything that she knows but as the film progresses we learn more both about her character as well as her true desires. She has been with her boyfriend since highschool but, upon moving away, you could question whether this is because he makes her happy or because she doesn’t know of anything else. I liked Noah (Dylan Arnold) immediately; he seemed kind, thoughtful and good to her, but after she moved away to college and met Hardin (Hero Fiennes Tiffin) she opened up further to the world as well as within herself.

Pictured: Tessa & Hardin swimming in a private lake.

I appreciate how this film, although simple, carries a lot of messages. Of course there will have been many which I have missed from this first viewing but one of the predominant ones that I caught would be the importance of living a life which is truly your own, for yourself. Despite the rollercoaster of highs and lows that Tessa faces once Hardin and college develop to be a new norm, her old life becomes cast in shadow and displayed to those watching in a fresh light when they connect. Before we saw this girl as someone smart with a nice boyfriend and a helpful mum, seemingly living a perfect life, but in time we realise that she isn’t living a life that is perfect in her eyes, but rather in her mothers. 

‘After’ is the birth of a young lady into the start of a future which is truly under her own agency and control. It talks to us about living, not just being alive and going through the motions of what others believe that is best for us, and it talks about love blossoming from places that are reluctant and unexpected.

We learn about Hardin who, at first glance, comes across as a somewhat arrogant jock but beyond his exterior he holds tenderness, a poetic quirky nature and remnants of pain. In the process of watching this film, likewise to how Hardin self reflects, viewers can also learn a bit about themselves too due to its many thought provoking subtopics including honesty, forgiveness and change.

Pictured: Tessa & her mother at home.

Overall I enjoyed how this film encouraged me to think, admittedly more than most of the film itself. The events were rather predictable and I struggled to click into the narrative until around half way through when it picked up and got more interesting. Although, that being said, it isn’t something that I regret taking the time to see. Tessa’s innocent demeanour colliding with that of Hardin who was notoriously deemed as a complicated “bad boy” was intriguing to see play out, especially towards the end. And the way that additional information was detailed about her mother during a conversation with Hardin was insightful and it helped me to piece together why Tessa’s previous life had been moulded in the way that it had been.

Images: Screenshots from the film by Ciéra Cree

‘Mogul Mowgli’ (2020) – Film Review

By Jasmine King – Bassam Tariq’s Mogul Mowgli follows Zed (Riz Ahmed), a popular British-Pakistani rapper whose ambition is to perform on his first international tour. After…

By Jasmine King

Bassam Tariq’s Mogul Mowgli follows Zed (Riz Ahmed), a popular British-Pakistani rapper whose ambition is to perform on his first international tour. After spending time performing gigs in New York, Zed flies back to the UK to visit his family, whom he hasn’t seen for a couple of years. During this time, however, he is suddenly plagued by a disease leaving his debut tour in limbo.

Mogul Mowgli opens with a bang! As Ahmed takes us back to his MC roots (Riz MC), the eruption of energy transferred to us via the performance is extraordinary. Tariq’s style of documentary filmmaking is evident in the film’s scenes, in particular when Zed is captured reminiscing upon the mixtapes that he created as a youngster in his family home. Archived footage of Ahmed as a young boy accompanies this particular moment, assisting in illustrating his ever-present passion for music to viewers.

The film tackles identity issues through rising conflict as friends imply that Zed isn’t proud of his Pakistani roots. They often label him as a “sellout” and one can remark that the way he changed his name from ‘Zaheer’ to ‘Zed’ is an indication of the struggles faced in Britain as a Pakistani descendent. To change his name in order to fit into society more comfortably, despite the fact that the lyrics of his songs seem to, in actuality, indicate holding pride towards his heritage, illustrates this further.

We see him returning to his roots throughout the story, attending prayer at a Mosque and rediscovering who he truly is.

Upon Zed falling ill, the film does a great job of capturing the real and raw scenes of his ongoing treatment. From the highs of family and friends coming together in solidarity, to the lows portraying the struggles in his surrounding relationship with his parents, Ahmed, Tariq and the supporting cast are to be commended for their tremendous efforts on and off the screen.

Mogul Mowgli teaches us the importance of self-acceptance and overcoming our deepest trials while simultaneously acknowledging the struggles that those in similar positions to Zed face on a day-to-day basis. Zed’s characterisation is captured thoughtfully, which will never go unappreciated, and neither shall his journey. This film is more than worthy of a watch!

Images: Taken from IMDB

‘A Map for Wrecked Girls by Jessica Taylor’ (2017) – Book Review

By Soyeenka Mishra – I had originally bought the hardcover version of this book on a whim since it was on discount, and I can safely say that it was a good decision. The cover art is…

By Soyeenka Mishra

“For the first time, I was afraid we’d die on this shore.”

I had originally bought the hardcover version of this book on a whim since it was on discount, and I can safely say that it was a good decision.  The cover art is absolutely gorgeous and the serene blue coloration was a delightful surprise. Overall, I liked the book. I can’t say that I absolutely loved it, but it wasn’t awful. I’m happy to have read it. I have my complaints about certain traits of the characters, but the plot was way better than in some other novels that I’ve previously read, and I loved the writing style and character arcs.

Warning: this review will contain spoilers.

The plot was definitely a gripping one; one which kept you on your toes, guessing what the next twist was going to be. It was so unpredictable that I couldn’t just put it down (it was yet another all-nighter read). The characters weren’t unnaturally perfect, and they had their flaws, a lot of them, in fact– I liked that a lot.

Let’s talk about the writing. I specifically loved the writing itself more than anything else. The alternate chapters– one from the past, one in the present? That really doesn’t work for some plots, but this book undoubtedly nailed it. The suspense kept you going as you rushed to learn what happens next. Other than that, I loved the bits when the main characters were on the island, which is pretty much more than half of the book. The imagery was lovely, and the details were so profound that they felt as if they were taking you to the island itself. Well, all books transport you to their world (provided that you are capable of imagining it) but this one didn’t just do that; it made you see all the tiniest minutiae that made up its world, the scenes, the natural beauty of an untouched land, the threat of nature. And there was never a point where it felt as if surviving in the way that the novel portrays was impractical or illogical; it was perfectly believable.

The cover of ‘A Map For Wrecked Girls’ arranged artistically by Soyeenka.

Half of the book took me longer than usual to read because of the sheer hatred I had towards Henri. She wasn’t entirely a bad person, but except in a mere few instances, her actions borne out of spite, in my opinion, weren’t justified. The author did an awesome job of casting her in that light. I do understand why she did some things, owing to the family problems and her own issues, but the extent to which she went to do her own bidding was unwarranted.  She had many toxic tendencies in the past but I’m more than happy that she changed for the better in the end. 

What she did at the end was a good deed– a great deed, in fact – but unfortunately, she didn’t redeem herself in my eyes; I’m just not a very forgiving person. I mean, the ending would have taken a turn for the worse (for some time at least) had she not intervened, but she still has a long way to go before I grow fond of her, or even just have neutral feelings for her. Her logic was seriously screwed up, and she needs to continue getting help.

Emma. Emmalyn Jones. Or simply Jones, as Alex called her. For most of the plot, her character was very frustrating to me. She stood in the shadow of her sister for so long that she didn’t know what else to do. Her following Henri around like a lost puppy, getting manipulated by her, defending her even when she kept acting irrationally: all of it was annoying and increasingly disappointing. She did step up eventually and became her own person but she needed to do it earlier. However, that being said, I did enjoy the character development, watching her shed her inhibitions one by one as the story progressed.

What Em did out of impulsiveness and misplaced jealousy was the most horrible thing. Yes, Henri’s actions needed to be shed light on, I admit, but Emma’s way of doing it was just so, so wrong. Poor Gavin Flynn was collaterally damaged; his entire life and career left ruined forever due to one little lie which Emma thought wouldn’t bring on any serious consequences. All the pretense she had done earlier, tiny little lies here and there to Henri– all of those came back to bite her, which was a good lesson that she had to learn the hard way.

Now it’s Alex’s turn to be discussed. Alex Roth, cousin of Casey Roth. He was a brave fella who didn’t deal with grief in a wholly unhealthy manner and he stuck to his morals (with a few exceptions). The mysterious and, simultaneously, suspicious aura of his character caused me to feel somewhat distanced and wary of him initially but, at the same time, I admired the way that he saw things for what they were.

When he revealed his secrets, it wasn’t totally surprising since I was expecting something along the lines of what came out. Alex made a lot of bad decisions in his life that ultimately lead to Casey’s death, but he paid for his mistakes. When the authorities took him away and the Joneses couldn’t do anything, it was a very hopeless moment since I couldn’t think for the life of me how he would get out safely without any charges. Things worked out pretty well in the end which I am terrifically impressed by and grateful for as well. He went through a lot of pain and grief throughout the story, and it made me feel really bad for him… he didn’t deserve so much agony, especially considering his past.

I would recommend this book to you if you’re tired of your daily lives and want to escape onto an unknown island for amazing, dangerous, and thrilling adventures with a bunch of teenagers who try their best to stay alive with nothing in their arsenal but a couple of things. Be prepared to be filled with questions for the better part of the book as well as some self-discovery and a little bit of romance (some fluff, some not) on this snazzy escapade.

Find the raw copy of this review here.

Images: Soyeenka Mishra and Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash

‘The Perks Of Being A Wallflower’ by Stephen Chbosky (1999) – Book Review

By Ciéra Cree – Due to university work and other personal endeavours, I have been placing far less time aside for leisurely reading and engrossing myself within the minds and hearts of…

By Ciéra Cree

‘So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there.’

Due to university work and other personal endeavours, I have been placing far less time aside for leisurely reading and engrossing myself within the minds and hearts of fictional characters. Honestly it’s something that I have missed, more so than I initially thought as highlighted by the completion of this book.

‘The Perks Of Being A Wallflower’ spent the last few months sitting among many other unread novels at home while I was off and away to study. A lovely friend of mine gave me a copy as a belated Christmas present after recommending it to me some time prior and I can safely say that the recommendation did not disappoint.

Warning: this review will contain slight spoilers.

A few noteworthy aspects of the book that took my fancy off-the-bat before delving into the narrative itself. I really appreciated the way that the book was split into four tangible sections of roughly equal length as opposed to being split into chapters. The first three segments are around fifty pages with the final chunk summing to somewhere close to seventy, plus a short epilogue. To me, as a reader, I found that these divisions functioned well as natural resting points within the story. I read the book in four sittings and, to anyone with that kind of time and dedication, I would totally encourage it. However, if that pace is too intense, rest assured that Chbosky has provided a more digestible method for you to consume his literature.

An artistic arrangement of ‘The Perks Of Being A Wallflower’ (1999).

The story itself is written as a series of letters addressed to a ‘dear friend’ so, if one prefers, the book can be read letter by letter instead of in four sections. There’s something that I find undeniably intriguing about books written in the format of letters, especially in the instance of this particular one. Who is the “friend”? And why is Charlie, the main character, even writing these letters in the first place?

Charlie is a highschool student with an evident introverted nature and a trail of internal struggles. On the surface I feel that a person could quickly judge Charlie as a bit of an outcast but the way that the book presents his mind to us through not only using it to illustrate his own perceptions, but also as a lens into the worlds of others, is truly remarkable. As a wallflower, he sees the intricacies and emotional details that others would often miss, and he will always question the ‘why’. Why are things a certain way and, on the contrary, why can’t they be another way?

To be honest the book itself isn’t the most meaty as it’s predominantly an exploration of addiction struggles, relationships and the mundane, but the enticing part for me was the way that we saw everything through an enhanced vision. I have never felt the way that I felt after reading this book. Something about it seemed to take me off guard, and the more that I read it the more that it made me think. It made me want to pick it up and start all over again. The pacing of the letters comprising the lives of Charlie and his friends was steady and the book as a whole wasn’t overly difficult to read but the way that it held a delayed impact is exceptionally clever and unexpected.

Our doors are opened to the opportunity to learn about Charlie’s heart and the people that he valued and held the closest in his life such as his passed Aunt Helen, his friend Patrick and his unrequited crush, Sam. We see their flaws, their smiles and their love of blasting handmade mixtapes that leave them ‘feeling infinite’ together in the back of Sam’s speeding pickup truck as it flies under their favourite bridge into the city. 

And we also see their pain, as well as the ways that they band together.

This book makes you think, and then think again. Who is Charlie? Why is this story being told? And, of course, who are these letters being addressed to? I have my theories about who I think it could be but I’ll leave that up to your speculation. 

Images: Ciéra Cree and Annie Spratt on Unsplash

‘All The Bright Places’ (2020) – Film Review

By Ciéra Cree – Over the lockdown period caused as a result of COVID-19, I gradually noticed myself making time to watch films. The title ‘All The Bright Places’, similarly to…

By Ciéra Cree

Over the lockdown period caused as a result of COVID-19, I gradually noticed myself making time to watch films. The title ‘All The Bright Places’, similarly to the instance of what happened when I stumbled across ‘To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before’ on Netflix, seemed somehow familiar so I decided to hit play.

At this point the only things which I knew about the film were that it was under two hours long and that one of its subgenres was romance. Now, however, I know a bit more; the story was initially published in 2015 in the form of a novel by Jennifer Niven, for instance, and it won awards including Goodreads Choice Awards Best Young Adult Fiction. 

Warning: this review contains spoilers.

Disclaimer: although not overtly detailed within the review, this film deals with topics such as depression and suicide.

‘All The Bright Places’ tells the story of a young student, Violet Markey (Elle Fanning), and the internal struggles that she faces. Within moments of starting the film, a viewer can detect her introverted nature and that she seems to be a person that does all that she can to maintain the division of her internal dialogue merging with that of her external world. She is quiet, glum and irritable; opening up to others is far from her forte. 

Pictured: Violet & Finch standing in one of the “surprise wander” locations.

To those who don’t know her, Violet’s nature may seem rather cold and although throughout the scenes we learn that she does indeed have friends, she tends to attempt to outcast herself regardless – that is, until she meets Finch.

Theodore Finch (Justice Smith), in my opinion, was a great portrayal and the film really wouldn’t have been the same without him. Yes, I suppose it’s easy to say considering that he’s one of the two mains in the script, but his multidimensional characterisation provided such a beautiful addition to the plot.

Finch met Violet on what would have been her belated sister’s nineteenth birthday. He was out on a run around the streets when he came across her standing on a ledge where the car crash that tied her siblings fate occurred. Despite being in a bad way, she still urged him to go home.

On the surface to some viewers this story as a whole could be broken down very simply: a young girl is grieving the death of her sister, she meets a boy and the boy makes her feel happy. On one hand this deconstruction isn’t untrue but if you’re looking for something a bit deeper then I encourage you to stay tuned.

Pictured: A medium close-up on Violet’s expression in the car.

The camerawork used during shots of Violet when she speaks to Finch is thoughtful and, on this end, it definitely didn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated. For example, when she is opening up to Finch in his car on the way to visit one of their many future “bright places”, the focus lingers on her face for what would normally be an uncomfortable amount of time. We are sutured into a medium close-up, as if we are positioned beside her, while we wait to see if she can muster up the words to describe how she feels. In a sense those shots, to me, shared somewhat of a resemblance to that of ones which in horror utilise psychoacoustics in order to create anticipation or suspended disbelief. Especially since Violet showed blatant understandable fear about entering the vehicle, the line delays worked well to throw a viewers thoughts around, in turn assisting to anchor their attention onto what she did go on to say.

Additionally Finch’s persistence is a strong element of the film to explore. Why did Violet, a girl whom he previously did not know, and her happiness mean so much to him? And, in relation to this, what spark did he see in her that no one else had?

Pictured: Finch spacing out in a cafe while accompanied by Violet & her friends.

I adore the way that this film holds a polysemic nature, as well as the fact that deeper meanings can be deciphered. No lie, as a watch it has made me think, which I believe is something that art should aspire to do. The tale caused me to ponder the impact of selflessness and how easy it is for people to assume that others have it easier than themselves. It’s nothing new when I say that there is no way that we can know what others are going through but the ways in which the film, largely through Finch, chooses to emphasise Violet’s good qualities and focus on the light that she holds within is so tender and inspiring.

From how she dressed and spoke to her sense of humour and facial expressions, Violet very much felt like her own person in this film as opposed to someone who was only seen as sad and struggling. And Finch; from beginning to end his quirky mannerisms, upbeat tempo and infectious desire for spontaneity remained evident, which is all the more powerful once we eventually learn why and what he is willing to go through to place warmth in someone else’s heart.

Images: Screenshots from the film by Ciéra Cree

‘The Rescue’ by Nicholas Sparks (2008) – Book Review

By Soyeenka Mishra – This is going to be short and sweet, like the book itself. The story is set in a small town, Edenton, in North Carolina where everyone lives like a small family…

By Soyeenka Mishra

Warning: this review will contain spoilers.

This is going to be short and sweet, like the book itself. The story is set in a small town, Edenton, in North Carolina where everyone lives like a small family (I’ve read a pretty decent amount of stories set in such an environment and they always have this warm feeling to them). Denise isn’t overly worried when she finds herself stuck in a storm; but it all hits the fan when she meets with an accident and comes around only to find that her four year old son is missing. Hours later when everyone is simply on the verge of giving up, Taylor McAden swoops in and tracks him down at last. As mother and son recover from the incident, they bond with the McAdens which blooms into something beautiful. But Taylor’s past won’t let them live in peace for long.

Let’s talk about the plot itself. It took me a little while to relate to the protagonists. I mean it wasn’t exactly hard, but my usual reading consists of fantastical teenagers with magical powers, not single mothers and firemen in their thirties. But their problems were realistic and, in turn, the plot was realistic as well. It almost didn’t feel like fiction. I loved how Sparks portrayed the development of Kyle, who has problems with understanding words and participating in speech. It brought tears to my eyes when he finally walked up to Denise and said, “I wuff you.” I fell in love with his way of talking, all of the sounds that he made when he tried to speak, and they were adorable together. Most of the time I find small children in books annoying (for good reason, or not), but Kyle was a good lad, I liked him.

An artistic arrangement of ‘The Rescue’ (2008)

To discuss Taylor and Denise’s relationship, well, it was a valid one? I mean, not that there have been many ‘invalid’ fictional relationships, but the way that Denise put so many thoughts before opening up to Taylor, the way she would always put Kyle before herself, the way she almost didn’t forgive Taylor for breaking Kyle’s heart, how she knew when to speak out– all of those things were what normal people would do in normal situations. Normal is pretty underrated, in my opinion. I’ve seen so many unusual choices made by characters in the past, so at this point anything realistic and normal feels relatively weird. I’m likely not explaining this properly, but that’s just how I felt. 

And my heart goes out to Taylor: living with immense guilt since childhood, so much grief and trauma hidden away in his heart. It was very saddening to see how he never let himself be truly happy because of his past issues. I didn’t like that Mitch had to die to make Taylor realise how much he was holding himself back, but it had to be done (it reminds me of Rose in relation to Jack’s death in Titanic). It was hard witnessing just how drastically Melissa’s life had to change, especially due to the fact that Mitch was going to retire in a couple of months. Deaths like those always take me by surprise in novels, although I appreciate how they can serve as a point of foreshadowing for the events of other characters that haven’t yet unfolded.

Like most books by Nicholas Sparks, this book managed to somehow still carry peaceful vibes that encourage you to relax and enjoy the story.  Once I got into it, it was like a breeze. Sure, there were ups and downs, the conflicts, the good parts, and all that jazz; but never did the pace seem hurried. That was the best part: there was no intrinsic need to devour the book in one sitting. No ‘I need to finish this book tonight or I’ll actually die’ feelings. And that’s not exactly a bad thing. I mean sure, some people wouldn’t want that from a book, but after reading large amounts of fantasy series’ that made me feel breathless by the speed I was going through them, this book was a very welcome respite from that. 

This is the type of book that one would read while reclining on a chair in the patio facing the beach on a cool afternoon, sipping jus de fruit as a deliciously cool breeze kisses the back of their neck. You’ll feel this sense of calm after finishing it, and then you can have a quiet dinner while soft music plays in the background… or just get started on another book as soon you’ve had enough time to process this one– whatever floats your boat. Lastly but not the least, I’ll say I do recommend this book for the times when you want some light reading; something lazy and relaxing without feeling a sense of urgency, but definitely not if you’re craving some adrenaline.

The raw version of this review can be found here.

Image: Soyeenka Mishra and Ergita Sela on Unsplash

‘To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before’ (2018/2020) – Film 1 & 2 Review

By Ciéra Cree – We all have those days where we wake up and can a) instantly tell that we are going to get very little done or b) where we can tell that our minds just need a day…

By Ciéra Cree

We all have those days where we wake up and can a) instantly tell that we are going to get very little done or b) where we can tell that our minds just need a day off. On this particular day, despite my best efforts of hoping to be a bit productive, I could sense that my head didn’t want to cooperate. 

I’m not a person who tends to watch a lot of Netflix, which may come as a surprise considering that I’m soon to be entering my second year of Media BA (Hons). But something in me decided to have a random browse through their “originals” section. There were numerous enticing titles but when I saw ‘To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before’ my brain instantly made a connection. It must have been months prior but on a piece of paper, which is now goodness knows where, I made a list of shows and films that I would like to check out sometime in the future. This film was definitely one of the ones on it, so I hit play.

Warning: this review contains heavy spoilers.

Cast from left to right: “Josh Sanderson”, “Margot”, “Lara”, “Kitty” & “Peter Kavinsky”.

Based off of the 2014 book of the same name by Jenny Han, ‘To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before’ tells the story of sixteen-year-old highschool introvert Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor). Lara lived at home with her father (John Corbett), her older sister Margot (Janel Parrish) and her eleven-year-old younger sister Kitty (Anna Cathcart) before Margot moved away to Scotland to start university. After Margot leaves, Lara is left feeling even more isolated than before both within her general life as well as among the grief of losing their mother, so little sister Kitty decides that it is her duty to step in.

Although Lara was shy and had never had a boyfriend, it didn’t mean that she had never had a crush! Hidden away in a teal hat box, she kept an assortment of letters addressed to, as the film title suggests, all of the boys she had ever loved before. In total there were five: one for her neighbour Josh Sanderson (Israel Broussard) who happened to be Margot’s ex-boyfriend, one for “Kenny from Camp” (Edward Kewin), one for Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo), one for John Ambrose McClaren (Jordan Burtchett) and one to a boy called Lucas (Trezzo Mahoro). These letters were all handwritten and included the addresses of the boys, despite not being stamped.

To me, as a viewer, this already raised some questions. Why would Lara address all of these letters despite never intending to send them? Or perhaps she would tell people that she never intended to even though she secretly wanted to? The fact that she addressed the one to her neighbour as well seemed rather peculiar, considering that he only lived next door. Her letters were not anonymous either so mailing it to Josh would have made very little difference.

Maybe it was more about the sentiment behind it; the idea of mailing someone a love letter the old fashioned way could have appealed to her passionate nature? Part of me is still left to wonder how she happened to have all of the boys addresses too. Some were more understandable because, of course, she would know the address of her neighbour and the boys whom she was friends with. But, for instance, in the case of John Ambrose, they met at a conference once years ago and that was the extent of their interactions. 

Technicalities aside for a moment, Kitty posted off all five of the letters behind her sister’s back with the aim of finding her a boyfriend. As a character I really like Kitty. She is blunt and funny and speaks in a matter-of-fact sort of way which comes across as simultaneously charming as well as somewhat sassy. She doesn’t seem to think into the consequences of her actions, only bearing the end goal in mind, which is inspiring but also helps to remind viewers that she is still an eleven-year-old irrespective of her intelligence.

Needless to say that when Lara starts being approached by the boys, due to the mail, she is confused and in a state of panic. Initially she is unsure of how they were leaked so she attempts to merely dismiss them. But when the reality hits that one of the five letters was sent to her sister’s ex-boyfriend she knows that she has to do something, fast. 

So what does she do? She makes a pact with Peter, one of the five recipients, to pretend to date in order for her to seem uninterested in Josh and to make Peter’s ex, Genevieve (Emilija Baranac), jealous so that she’ll take him back.

Pictured: Peter & Lara.

From that point onward I felt that the romance element was relatively predictable. I could tell that Lara, at least, would end up falling for Peter, since she had never dated someone before and that was her first feeling of closeness. It’s the follow up film, ‘To All The Boys: PS. I Still Love You’ (2020) which, for me, took the films to a deeper level.

In the second film Lara and Peter, by that point, are actually dating. She seems noticeably happier, as echoed by the remarks of her family, but when another figure from her past makes a sudden reappearance she begins to question everyone and everything. John Ambrose, one of her past letter recipients, just so happened to sign up to volunteer at the same work experience placement as her and she is beyond shocked, since believing that his letter must have gotten lost mid departure. 

Pictured: John Ambrose & Lara tidying a room at their volunteering placement.

This film explores Lara as a person more extensively than the first which is something that I really appreciated. It delves into her hopelessly romantic heart and her desire to find something beautiful, as well as the ways that the mind can misinterpret and distort the beauty which is already in front of us. She begins to see Peter differently and convinces herself that he doesn’t want her – only Genevieve. 

Genevieve isn’t overly likeable but towards the end of this sequel seeing a softer side to her was highly impactful. Throughout the films she consistently acted hostile towards Lara, usually unwarranted, and we assume that it’s because there is jealousy between them over Peter. An element of that may be true but when it becomes apparent to Lara that Genevieve isn’t as harsh as she seems to be the truth of where her feelings should lie about the pair of them reveals itself.

Overall I liked these films; they were heartwarming, sweet and easy to watch. The second one, in my opinion, was better than the first although in order to properly digest it you need to have watched the one prior. 

From an analytical level there were some parts such as addressing the neighbours letter, John Ambrose magically happening to volunteer at the same placement as the main character and the way that Lara would go to sleep and wake up in false eyelashes which potentially lacked some attention to detail or came across as unrealistic but on the whole they were enjoyable. There were touches of thoughtful detail within the films such as when viewers could hear Lara’s thoughts that I wished were explored further but I can see the appeal for simplicity when portraying content in a genre like this.

(Sidenote: I definitely smiled when discovering that Ross Butler was a part of the cast for film two!).

A third film, ‘To All the Boys: Always and Forever, Lara Jean’, is estimated for release late this year.

Images: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images and Bettina Strauss/Netflix

‘The Memory Book’ by Lara Avery (2016) – Book Review

By Soyeenka Mishra – I finished this book and my thoughts are still muddled, but I’ll try my best to write something about it…

By Soyeenka Mishra

“Ignore the conditions, acknowledge the desire.”

I finished this book and my thoughts are still muddled, but I’ll try my best to write something about it that’s straight from the heart. 

Warning: this review will contain spoilers.

I’ll start by first describing the book itself. When I initially picked it up, I carefully removed the jacket and placed it back on my shelf because if there had been a single crease or fold across it I would have immediately died. The entirely white hardback was so utterly beautiful that I was afraid it would get dirty by the time I’d be done with it (thankfully it’s still clean). The lustrous title on the spine, the feel of it, the inclusion of select pages which were almost entirely blank except for a few words: all of it had me in love before I had even begun to suture myself into the story. It just looked so pristine, so pure, so untouched; all the things that one associates with the colour white.

“Small talk, among many other things, makes me want to punch a hole in the wall.”

I liked Sammie from the very beginning. Samantha Agatha McCoy was a curious soul trapped in a mortal body, with a desire to be extraordinary. In the first half of the plot we got to witness how she was when her Niemann-Pick Type C, or NPC, symptoms hadn’t worsened, and I related to her a lot. The ways that her thoughts would rampantly go when she was excited or nervous, her wording, her reactions, the slightest feeling of superiority which she held: I could see a little of myself in all of them. She was this dorky girl who loved to read fantasy books and drink gallons of chocolate milk in one sitting. Every new page had something different, something fresh, which was why there was never a point in the story when it felt like it was dragging. All the wishful thinking, building castles in the air and imagining endless conversations with her hopeless crush, believing she’d go into a ‘psychedelic reverie’ if she ever had to talk to him… it was all very endearing (also, relatable, anyone?). 

She was awkward in social situations too and it was at this point that, with the other described aspects of her persona, I decided my kindred spirit had been found. And boy, as a side note, she does not mince her words, or beat around the bush. It was a delight every time when she blurted out words that people would normally pore over a million times before daring to so much as whisper out loud.

An artistic arrangement of ‘The Memory Book’ (2016).

In regards to her NPC struggles, I must say, I had never heard about that specific disease before. I am glad that, through this book, I vicariously had the opportunity to learn about its details and impact on a person’s life. There were many esoteric terms that left me confused to begin with but after researching them and taking the time to process their meanings alongside the descriptions provided by Avery in the novel, I truly feel that I have walked away with the knowledge of something thoughtful and new.

I can’t keep pushing off the inevitable any longer. I’ll lay it down bare: it was not a very good experience reading about the latter part of Sammie’s life. It was sad to see how she was in pain and how her condition was gradually deteriorating over time. As a reader I somewhat saw it coming, but that didn’t make it any easier to digest. It was especially hard to read through it, knowing that she was so optimistic at heart and that her dreams and ambitions of attending university would never have the chance to unfold. But towards the end, I liked how she came to the realisation that she was content with how her life was lived. This book had a proper character arc, and I loved it.

“I’ve got the social skills of… of a Neanderthal.”

Let’s talk about Cooper Francis Lind. Coop was Sammie’s childhood friend from whom she’d drifted apart in the last four years, but swiftly reconnected with due to an odd series of events. I shipped Coop and Sam from the moment he was introduced in the book. I mean Stuart Shah was okay and all, but hey, I just sniffed the chemistry of the former couple from another world away. There were times when I didn’t like Coop very much, but that doesn’t matter, because eventually he grew on me undeniably. I loved how he was always there for her, unlike Stu. I’m in no way comparing both the guys, but Coop had always been better for her. Also, it’s no secret that I’m a sucker for second-chance romances and the loved-you-since-we-were-kids trope. I was so excited when Coop finally admitted his feelings that I almost squealed out loud; it was just amazing.

This story didn’t feel like a whole story, if you know what I mean. It’s called The Memory Book, after all, and it was just that. Not a diary, not a journal, not a memoir. Just a memory book, filled with events both good and bad. In the last couple of pages, the sweet words written by Sam’s family and friends really touched my heart. It was a lovely gesture on their part to give her those in her last moments. The last entry in the memory book was Coop’s message, where he says, “You’ve just gone.” It was… I don’t know, bittersweet, of a sort? When I read that line, I had to put the book down and breathe steadily for a couple of minutes; all of their memories… their adventures flashed in front of my eyes. She had found real happiness by that time even though she knew with her health declining that her fate was to come.

I’ll end this by telling you why I recommend the book. It’s amazing and it gives you yet another unique perspective on life. There are so many things that we take for granted, that we think we’ll deal with later but then let slip away from our hands. It reminds you to grab opportunities and make the best of what you’ve got. No matter how great or plain you think your life is; what you make with it is the thing that matters the most. One more thing: the thoughts and words of the teenage protagonist actually felt like a teenager’s, a fact that I loved. There isn’t as much content as the feelings encased in that small amount of words. This book uses comparatively fewer words to describe difficult situations that depict more-than-realistic visuals– another plus point, and an admirable skill of the author. I adored so many things about the book, but listing each and every little thing would take me eons to go through, so I will end here. Happy reading!

The raw version of this review can be found here.

Images: Soyeenka Mishra and Hannah Grace on Unsplash

5 games with their own Outbreaks that you should really Break Out

By Joseph Jones – We all know that the world is going through a… rough patch; sometimes people may want to get away from it and escape into a new world which, of course…

By Joseph Jones

We all know that the world is going through a… rough patch; sometimes people may want to get away from it and escape into a new world which, of course, is a destination often provided by that of video games. In this article I am proposing to you 5 games that relate to our current days on a whole different level. Each listed game, detailed in no particular order, takes on a different approach to its own pandemic, whether in story, gameplay or world building.

Warning: this review will contain spoilers.

1 – Resident Evil 2 (remake)

Game cover image sourced from HERE.

The first game to have made it onto my list is the 2019 remake of ‘Resident Evil 2’. This survival horror game was developed and published by Capcom and it is a remake of the 1996 game of the same name.

The game takes place in ‘Racoon City’ and it offers the possibility to choose between two characters –  Claire Redfield or Leon S. Kennedy – which play in a set of stories that coincide with each other during a sudden zombie outbreak that has completely swallowed the city.

Even though there is an overarching storyline from the first game, Capcom has done a good job of making this game stand alone. It may be a sequel but it’s a separate incident in a new location, involving fresh characters with their own goals. So, even though it’s generally a good idea to start a game from the beginning, this can be played without the knowledge of the previous one while still being a fantastic ride. 

The game is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows.

2 – The Last Of Us

Game cover image sourced from HERE.

Next up is a PlayStation (PS) exclusive title, The Last Of Us’ for the PS3 (or, alternatively, you can play the remastered version on PS4 if you prefer). This 2013 survival horror game was developed by ‘Naughty Dog’ and published with ‘Sony Interactive Entertainment’.

The game is set in The United States after a fungal plague has caused an apocalypse, devastating the country. The narrative follows two survivors, Joel and Ellie, as they try to survive and travel west through the country to find a possible cure to save what’s left of humanity.

‘Naughty Dog’ has done an amazing job with the story; crafting an atmosphere that creates a sense of bleakness and desperation in the face of tragic events beyond our control, whilst simultaneously showcasing that nature prospers, remaining as a blooming point of beauty within the remnants of the world that we have lost.

The game is available on PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 4 (remastered only).

3 – Dishonoured

Game cover image sourced from HERE.

For the next entry we have the 2012 action-adventure stealth game ‘Dishonoured’ by game developer ‘Arkane Studios’ and publisher ‘Bethesda Softworks’.

The story of Dishonoured is set in the plague-infested city of ‘Dunwall’. Your character is ‘Corvo Attano’, the bodyguard of the Empress of the Isles. He is being sent by the Empress across the isles to find help with the plague that festers in her streets. Unfortunately, ‘Corvo’ returns and gives the Empress the devastating news that no one will help. After having the revelation that she and her people are on their own, the Empress is suddenly attacked, and even though ‘Corvo’ fought off the assassins he was unable to save her.  The man is then framed for her murder as well as the kidnapping of her daughter, ‘Princess Emily’.

Whilst he is waiting for his execution, he is visited by a mysterious being who grants him extraordinary powers; from there on he sets out to get revenge, to find ‘Emily’ and to prove his innocence.

The world that the game takes place in is rich in lore and history, and it shows elements of careful craftmanship which truly create complexities. For instance, the game illustrates differences in class, ideologies and even personalities of the city, and each different district consists of selectively chosen architecture.

The city itself was influenced by London and Edenborough, drawing further inspiration from Gothic, Art Nouveau, Victorian, Victorian (Jacobean revival), Industrial and Nazi architecture. On top of that, there are added notes from steampunk, but with the world being maintained on ‘whale-oil’ fans have dubbed the game ‘whalepunk’. There is so much to read in-between the lines, but it doesn’t feel needed or forced upon you, so you can enjoy the game in its simplest form too, as just a classic revenge story with supernatural elements.

The game features a chaotic system that responds to how you conduct yourself on missions and in ‘Dunwall’, the louder and more chaotic you are, the more guards will appear later on. The more citizens become oppressed and the worse the plague gets, the quieter and the more peaceful the city is.

The game is available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

4 – Prototype

Game cover image sourced from HERE.

This next game is the 2009 action-adventure game ‘Prototype’, developed by Radical Entertainment and published by Activision Blizzard.

The game is set in a pandemic-ridden New York City full of mutants and military forces who are out looking for blood. We play as Alex J. Mercer, who suddenly wakes up in what appears to be a morgue inside of a research facility basement. After his escape, he realises that he has no memories and that he’s somehow acquired inhuman abilities, but for some reason he has become New York City’s public enemy number one. Now he needs to figure who he is and what, exactly, he has become.

Overall Prototype is a fun, third person sandbox style game. If blazing around in a chaotic power-trip sounds appealing, then this playthrough could be the one for you.

The game is available on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Xbox 360.

5 – Lone Survivor

Game cover image sourced from HERE.

For the final entry on my list we have ‘Lone survivor’, a 2012 independent survival horror video game by developer Superflat Games and publishers Superflat Games, Curve Digital, and Limited Run Games.

In the game we take control of an unnamed young man wearing a surgical mask. He became isolated in his apartment building after a strange virus decimated his known world and begun turning people into hyper-aggressive mutants.

‘Lone survivor’ was a very fun experience for me; its pixel art contrasted against the horror aspect to create a raw ominous atmosphere and a sense of claustrophobia that I was not expecting. The isolation I experienced in the game was harrowing and as a fan of atmospheric horror in games, I was left feeling more than satisfied.

The game is available on Microsoft Windows, MacOS, Linux, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4 and Wii U.

We may be living in uncertain times right now, but I hope that these recommendations have potentially offered you a game that could help to fill your time.

Images: Main image by Igor Karimov on Unsplash. Individual source information for the game covers can be found in their citations.