“A Posion Apple” BOOK REVIEW

TITLE: A Poison Apple
AUTHOR: Michel Laub

 

This was only a short book and acted as a series of short snippets of a life that has not been well lived. There are some pretty heavy meditations on life and loss and effectively detail how the narrator has struggled to get over the relationship with his first girlfriend, Valeria. This reflective novel shows how intense and passionate the emotions of young people can be and how those memories can take hold as we grow older.

Suicide is a common theme within the novel and the narrator seems borderline-obsessed with the suicide of Kurt Cobain in 1994. The young couple were both massive fans of Nirvana and like with the ending of his relationship, this seems to have stuck with him in his older age. The narrative jumps around quite a lot, which I guess is indicative of the way thoughts and memories work. He is constantly switching thoughts and presents memories slightly out of order, leaving the novel feeling a little disjointed. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, but I can appreciate how it could disturb the reading experience.

Despite its jumpy nature, a story did eventually build up over the course of the novel. Similar to other Latin American novels I’ve read (The Tunnel by Sabato, Son of Man by Roa Bastos as two examples) the novel is quite dark, melancholy and meditative. The novel is mainly set in Laub’s home town of Porto Alegre and I always enjoy reading novels that are set in unfamiliar places to me, but feel authentic.

On the whole I did enjoy the novel, despite its slightly disjointed narrative approach. It was a quick read and the small chapters were easily digestible and made the narrative flow, even if the story didn’t fit chapter-to-chapter.

P.S. My music choice for this post is “How You Feeling?” by Superfruit from their new album Future Friends – I absolutely love it!

 

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Review of “Mister Creecher” by Chris Priestley

I borrowed “Mister Creecher” from the library. I’d previously enjoyed Priestley’s Tales of Terror series of books, so decided to give this one a go. It incorporated a lot of classical literary references (mainly from Frankenstein and Oliver Twist) but you didn’t need to get these references to enjoy the book. Being aware of these references just added a layer to the story.

The book was essentially about the forming relationship between street urchin and a ‘monster’. The friendship begins in dubious circumstances but grows into a strong friendship that has to face a lot of tests along the way. Themes of power and control, as well as trust and loyalty underpin much of the story, as we see the extent that men and ‘monsters’ will go to obtain love and power.

One of my favourite aspects of the novel was the light and shade in the main two characters. Billy, the boy, was by not a fully good character, but was not fully evil either. He was a very human character, with very human flaws. It was interesting to compare this to Creecher (the ‘monster’) and draws the age old question of what actually makes a monster monstrous? Priestley’s novel suggests that it is impossible to say, as there is light and dark in everyone. Creecher makes this point at various parts of the story.

All in all, the novel was an interesting take on two classic literary characters, both before and after their original stories. You did not need to know these references though, as the story was strong, independent of its sources. It’s a novel exploring the lighter and darker sides of humanity and the backdrop of pre-Victorian London/England fits the story just right. A well-crafted interesting read, the characters feel very human and there is a decidedly unpleasant twist towards the end.

P.S. My music choice for this post is Lana Del Rey’s new song with The Weeknd – ‘Lust for Life’. It’s the title song of her upcoming album and I’m really excited for it! Enjoy 🙂

Review of “Butter” by Erin Jade Lange

I’ve recently read a number of YA books and after my brother recommended it, I decided to read “Butter”. I found the concept quite interesting but felt like it could easily become very clichéd. However, I felt that it really worked and was gripped by the story. Lange’s writing style was easily accessible and I read the whole thing in just 2 days!

Essentially, the book is about an extremely overweight schoolboy who decides that he has had enough of dealing with his weight issues. However, a disturbing twist sees him making the decision to eat himself to an early grave, as opposed to trying to lose weight. The book deals with a number of themes, including: relationships with food, body image, bullying and the differences between online and real-life personas.

I thought that the decision to make the main character male was a refreshing choice and it was an interesting take on the theme of weight issues. The plot went a number of different ways and you were never 100% sure what the main character, Butter, was going to do next. For the most part, he was a relatable character and the issues he was dealing with (mainly how he is perceived by his peers) are accessible to everyone, even if you aren’t excessively overweight.

I also really liked the inclusion of online personas and found it interesting the ways in which Butter hid behind his screen. It was also an interesting exploration of how the real world differs so much from the digital world and again reinforces how easy it is to be deceived online.

On the whole I really enjoyed this book. It’s probably not for everyone but I thought it was an accessible and interesting read. It presents very serious issues with a weirdly comic slant and I found the character of Butter to be mostly likeable and I was rooting for him throughout the book.

 

 

PS. My song choice for this post is another one from my birthday albums. It’s a track called ‘Arrow’ by Rag ‘n’ Bone Man. I like the effects in the song & I think it’s a hidden jam of his debut album. Hope you enjoy it too! 🙂

 

Getting Back On Track…

So, it’s been a while, but I’d not realised how long. Over 2 months have passed and I’ve really let this blog fall by the wayside…

However, I’m still writing reviews to post up & I’ve started doing a little bit more creative writing too, which is great. There’s still a lot to do, but the intent is there and I just need to get back into the habit of things. I’ve recently discovered that is so much easier to break habits that make/keep them and it’s so easy to just sit back and leave it to the next day. I’ve now got a small back catalogue of posts, so hopefully if I keep ahead of it I can post more regularly. I fully intend to stick to my initial goal of 3 posts a week (Monday, Thursday & Friday) but this may well drop to 2 or 1. The key is to keep writing and keep pushing forward with it.

Recently, I’ve been reading a few teen/young adult books from the library, so that’ll probably be the next few reviews. I’ve also finished the Blue Exorcist anime series (which was amazing!) and finally watched my first Studio Ghibli film, so they will probably feature in upcoming posts. There’s so much I want to read and watch, and there’s so much to do. I end up doing nothing though, so this is something to work on.

Apologies for the waffle in this post, but I just wanted to post something to get the ball rolling again. A new post will be up on Saturday and hopefully I’ll be able to keep up with this blog moving forward. 🙂

My song choice for the week is ‘Hard Times’ by Paramore, which is off their latest album (that I got for my birthday). Different kind of sound but I really like it. Hope you do too! 🙂

I Finally Watched Home Alone…

So, I have a confession to make… I’ve never seen Home Alone…

Well up until last Saturday anyway. A lot of people were pretty shocked I’d never seen it before and when it came up in work just before Christmas I was told to watch it straightaway. Three months later and I finally have!

I’ve never been great at watching non-animated films (still “real people films” in my head!) and there are a lot of ‘classics’ I’ve never seen. It’s not necessarily I don’t want to watch these films. It’s more the fact that when I do get round to putting a film on (which isn’t very often) I’m much more likely to opt for something animated, explaining why I’ve seen certain films (Coraline and Brother Bear are two that spring to mind) countless times over.

So at the grand old age of 22, I decided to finally watch this classic Christmas film for the first time, on a Saturday night towards the end of March… Either super late or ridiculously early, depending on how you look at it. But you know, the  timing doesn’t really matter to me. The other year we watched It’s A Wonderful Life (also for the first time) towards the end of January. We used to start writing our Christmas lists in July. And being perfectly honest I would quite happily watch films like The Grinch at any point throughout the year. It’s never an inappropriate time for Christmas films, music or festivities, just saying!

Here are 5 initial thoughts I had on the film:

1 ~ I enjoyed it on the whole. There were funny moments, heart-warming bits and a happy resolution which is always nice in a film, particularly a festive one

2 ~ As a character, I actually found Kevin really irritating. I did feel sorry for him at points but on the whole he really got on my nerves, although not as much as his older brother Buzz!

3 ~ The attempted house robbery was cleverly put together and amusing but why wasn’t it mentioned at all afterwards? I thought there’d be some big “Kevin’s A Hero” bit at the end or something, but guess I was wrong!

4 ~ It is worth worthing, just maybe not all it’s hyped up to be. Sorry for any mega fans out there. Over the years, it’s just been built up and it would be difficult for it to live up to such high expectation.

5 ~ I am considering watched the second one, maybe in another three months time?! Home Alone 2 in June sounds perfect! 😛

6 ~ Final point: the house is so nice! I know there’s about 15 of them living there, but still it’s enormous.

 

P.S. Christmas related post = Christmas music! I decided to go for one of my favourites: Kelly Clarkson’s version of ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’. Ignore the time of year and just enjoy!

Ally Condie’s “Matched” series

I recently finished a YA series written by Ally Condie. I found out about the series when putting together a teen book display called “Teens in Peril” at work. I wanted to create a display of “books like The Hunger Games” and after exhausting the library’s stock of Hunger Games, Divergent and Maze Runner books, I had to widen my scope a little bit. I found a number of titles online and ordered copies into the library to create the display. (I was going to post a photo of it, but couldn’t find the photo I’d thought I’d saved – first world problems!!)

I found the first book in this series interesting and decided to give it ago after the display was finished. As it turns out, I really enjoyed the series. It’s a dystopian trilogy that focuses on the workings of the “society” – a government force that controls all aspects of its citizens’ lives. The controls that are placed on the inhabitants of the society are somewhat reminiscent of Orwell’s 1984. All forms of creativity and choice have been removed and every aspect of your life, from birth to death, is carefully detailed and controlled by the higher forces. The society ultimately ensures a safe and secure life, but at the cost of your individual freedoms. The scenarios and ironically the choices that are made by the citizens do seem plausible and I think this is one of the things that make dystopian novels so disturbing. I found this with The Hunger Games as well, as the concepts are somewhat farfetched but simultaneously not a million miles away from our own reality.

As someone who has volunteered in archives, I found the inclusion of “archivists” quite clever. These somewhat mysterious beings run the society’s underground, allowing trades & bargains for important historical items. It shows the power of records and artefacts and the lengths that people are prepared to go to get what they need. I also found the conception of Cassia’s ‘gallery’ to be really important, despite only playing a small part in the actual plot of the series. I thought it was important because it shows how people can still be creative and individual in incredibly limited and uncreative surroundings. Poetry also plays a crucial role, as it is the initial subversion of societal regulations that we see in the text. I also found it quite interesting that Condie blurred the lines between society and rising. This reminds us how little we can really trust our governments and ruling forces, as different groups can often be exactly the same thing, just dressed up slightly differently.

My one personal critique of the series was that so much time was expended on the complex love triangle between the three title characters. I understand that this was an important, and being brutally honest, a pivotal plot point. However, I would have liked to have learned a little bit more about the society and to have some other plot points explored in more detail. I wish the focus of the main characters wasn’t always so romantically driven, although this is just personal preference and I understand the importance of untangling this particular point of the series. For other readers who, like me, aren’t massively keen on romance, I still think the books are worth reading, as the concepts, ideas and characters in the series are great. Just be prepared for romance being an important plot point!

On the whole, I found the series really enjoyable and thought that the idea behind the novel was pretty creative and clever. It raises a lot of questions about choice and control and the following two novels, Crossed and Reached conclude the story well.

Also apologies for no photos. The ones I took were all really poor quality and the books are now back with the library and checked out to someone else! So, hope the book jackets are alright!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. My song for this post is Ariana Grande & Leon Thomas’ cover of Rihanna & Drake’s Take Care. Rediscovered this earlier in the week and I’d forgotten how much I love it!

A Weekend of Concerts

Long time no see!

So over the weekend I went to see two very different concerts and thought I’d do a quick review of both shows…

Friday 10th March 2017

Act: Against The Current | Support Act: Hunger | Location: Liverpool 02 Academy

I went to see this show with my brothers. I’d listened listened to the band’s debut album, In Our Bones, although I didn’t know it inside out. After waiting outside for over an hour, we eventually made our way in and we were quite close to the stage. It was very crowded and very warm but the venue was absolutely buzzing.

The support act were an Austrian band called Hunger, who put on a good show. I’d never heard of them before but their strong melody-led songs and the enthusiasm of the band members (particularly the lead singer) soon had the crowd on their side and they put on a good set. As well, we got to meet the band afterwards and got a free signed poster and a photo, which was a nice touch!

When Against the Current came out, the venue erupted! From their opening number, Blood Like Gasoline, it was clear that this was going to be driven by vocal power and sheer energy. The lead singer, Chrissy Costanza, was like a fire cracker bouncing round the stage. Her energy was infectious and the band slipped seamlessly from track to track. Some slower moments came from the emotive Chasing Ghosts and the title track In Our Bones, whilst the energy was kept alive by the likes of Running With The Wild Things and Young & Relentless.

I liked the fact that the band had placed a small stand for Chrissy to stand on, as it meant more people were able to see. This was clearly a band on the rise and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, despite not knowing all the tracks, which can only be a good thing! I’d definitely go and see them again as the energy in the room was electric!

 

 

Sunday 12th March 2017

Act: Laura Marling | Support Act: Ethan Johns | Location: Manchester Albert Hall

I had already seen Laura Marling back in 2012, also in Manchester with one of my friends, and we both went back for this show. It was in support of her recent album Semper Femima, which I’d listened to just under half of before the show, as it had only come out on the 10th March.

Ethan Johns and his band did a good job at opening – not my favourite support act I’ve seen, but he was alright. Laura came on to massive applause, as she opened the show with recent single Soothing before going on to play several of her new songs with her backing band.

She then did a solo set, which I thought was a nice touch and the response when she started playing tracks from her second album was incredible. I particularly loved her performance of Daisy, a new track to me as I didn’t get the deluxe version of Short Movie.  However, the biggest response from the crowd came from Sophia. Now backed with the band, the song continued to grow and most of the people around me were tapping their feet, whilst some of the standing crowd were dancing along.

A personal highlight came when she played Darkness Descends, one of my favourite tracks of hers, and she closed the show with the well chosen Rambling Man. She seemed much more confident on stage this time around and it was a great show!

 

So anyway, I had an absolutely fantastic weekend, filled with 2 very different types of concerts. It’s reminded how much I enjoy seeing music played live, and I’m looking forward to seeing Amy MacDonald & Newton Faulkner in a few weeks time!!

 

P.S. It’s going to be song overload today, but I thought I’d include another track down here as well as the two up above! I’ve chosen a song I’ve been semi-obsessed with over the past few weeks. I really love the song and the video as well so I hope you like it to! 🙂