Book Review: Haunting The Deep (Adriana Mather)

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Plot: Samantha Mather knew her family’s connection to the infamous Salem Witch Trials might pose obstacles to an active social life. But having survived one curse, she never thought she’d find herself at the center of a new one. 

This time, Sam is having recurring dreams about the Titanic . . . where she’s been walking the deck with first-class passengers, like her aunt and uncle. Meanwhile, in Sam’s waking life, strange missives from the Titanic have been finding their way to her, along with haunting visions of people who went down with the ship. 

Ultimately, Sam and the Descendants, along with some help from heartthrob Elijah, must unravel who is behind the spell that is drawing her ever further into the dream ship . . . and closer to sharing the same grim fate as its ghostly passengers

*Slight spoilers*

There are so many reasons for disliking a novel. It could be that it is poorly written, it could be the main characters are reprehensible. It may be too far out of your usual genres. It could be too drawn out, or simply too unrealistic. With me, it can also be because I was in a bad average weekly mood*. Did I have to send too many “as per my last email” emails? Perhaps wearing my socks that sneak into my shoes that I can never throw away? Things like that influence my love and dedication towards finishing a book. I admit that I was mostly grumpy reading the first part of the book. I went on holiday, read some stupidly silly Nora Roberts, and returned refreshed and willing to finish Haunting the Deep. I finished up with a better opinion of it than I had in the beginning.

After the amazing reading experience of How To Hang A Witch, the first book in this series, I was so ready to return to Salem, Sam, and hopefully a lot more of Elijah. Elijah makes an appearance, though not as often as I would have preferred. Jaxon with the unfortunate X is still present, and he continues with forcing himself to be the third part of a love triangle that only he created – Sam is clearly not interested in him. He’s the master of the friendzone, and while I do feel some sympathy, he has some moments in this book where he really started to work on everyone’s nerves.

The Salem Sisters or Circle or whatever they are named returns as well and generally makes Sam’s life easier by not leading a witch hunt on her or by being general bitches. It’s quite a turnaround, but they are more her friends than anything else this time around.

Our main protagonist, the heroine Sam, at times seems to have regressed emotionally. Her responses are all drama, meltdowns and despair. I get why she wouldn’t be her old self right now – being nearly submitted to death by strangulation by your own stepmother, having a comatose father, falling in-love with a ghost and having a town believe you are an evil witch all in the space of one year would upset even the hardiest of folk. Then when all seems to recover, waking up on a sinking ship with no recollection of your true self and waking up to remember all that, well I get it. However, her coping mechanisms seems to be more broken than the Titanic in this book and I hope if there are more of these novels she becomes a bit tougher.

Haunting The Deep takes place in two of the coolest historical places – Salem and on the Titanic. The Mather family seems to have some truly interesting historical events in their family history – they have been in some crazy times. Although being on the Titanic is no-one’s idea of having fun, it does pose interesting history to the reader. And, readers of this blog, as Sam finds herself increasingly trapped on the Titanic with the clock ticking towards doomsday, we have to ask ourselves, can she and her friends survive AGAIN?

I liked that Sam was more settled into Salem in this book, even though her father is so against the town and any magic. The Descendants are a whole lot more pleasant, and while it takes away some of the Mean Girls vibe of the first novel, it was nice for Sam to have friends that understood her. They really need to find a way to make Elijah more solid (as in, not ghost), at some stage, because it seems that the world is deprived of much beauty and a sarcastic personality if only Sam can see him.

This book is worth reading if you enjoyed the first – it is an easy read and the characters are still entertaining. I will definitely revisit the pair at a stage, and I would be so happy if a third book can be released in the series. Now, onward with my gigantic reading list!

Rating: 7/10

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Book Review: The Seven Sisters (Lucinda Riley)

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Plot: Maia D’Apliese and her five sisters gather together at their childhood home, “Atlantis”—a fabulous, secluded castle situated on the shores of Lake Geneva—having been told that their beloved father, who adopted them all as babies, has died. Each of them is handed a tantalizing clue to her true heritage—a clue which takes Maia across the world to a crumbling mansion in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Once there, she begins to put together the pieces of her story and its beginnings.

Eighty years earlier in Rio’s Belle Epoque of the 1920s, Izabela Bonifacio’s father has aspirations for his daughter to marry into the aristocracy. Meanwhile, architect Heitor da Silva Costa is devising plans for an enormous statue, to be called Christ the Redeemer, and will soon travel to Paris to find the right sculptor to complete his vision. Izabela—passionate and longing to see the world—convinces her father to allow her to accompany him and his family to Europe before she is married. There, at Paul Landowski’s studio and in the heady, vibrant cafes of Montparnasse, she meets ambitious young sculptor Laurent Brouilly, and knows at once that her life will never be the same again.

I initially started this review with: My review of the Seven Sisters won’t be the most extensive review I have ever written – ha, when I finally got going the going got long. It’s has been a while since I read The Seven Sisters, and only being nearly done with the second novel (and being more impressed), made me review the first.

I read through most of the book in a few days and then took about two weeks to read the last two hundred pages. Yup, the book is big enough for phrases like “last two hundred pages” to be thrown around. I was at that stage probably at 60% of the book, which gives you some indication of its size. It’s a bit too long, and I truly think that I would have enjoyed the book as a shorter novel more.

The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley starts when an enigmatic tycoon, named Pa Salt by his 6 adopted daughters, passes away under murky circumstances. Following his death, which occurs in the early pages of this book, he leaves each of his daughters with a set of coordinates and some information for them to hunt down their true roots. There is obviously something underfoot – The Seven Sisters should be, well Seven, and as they are only six daughters, there is a seventh missing daughter. I have some theories that are beginning to form on this, but we will see. He seems to also have chosen his daughters particularly well, as each daughter has an impressive lineage in her history despite her early orphanage.

Falling back into 1920, we meet Bel, a beautiful society queen who is barely of age. Her engagement to a wealthy, older society gentleman is of no surprise. The combination of her beauty, her father’s wealth, and Gustavo’s social status promises the elevation of her and her family into the elite social class in Brazil. Despite her father’s great success with his coffee plantations, the society still looks down on them because of their Italian heritage, and this will change with Gustavo’s status. There seems to be at least friendship in their relationship, but the youthful Bel wishes for some adventure before settling into her life as a married woman. This wish is granted when she can travel to Paris with Hector Da Silva, the architect in charge of the mammoth construction of the Christo, and his family. There Bel finds love in the arms of a penniless (but naturally) gorgeous apprentice but is mature enough to return to her home country and wed, knowing the dishonor that will befall her parents should she refuse.

Fast forward a few months, and Bel, married albeit unhappily to the now alcoholic Hector, is shocked when the beautiful Laurent shows up in Brazil. Because Bel is Catholic, and it is 1920, their now sexual relationship sans protection leads to a pregnancy, and Bel must decide her fate – run away with Laurent and bring shame on her deeply traditional family, or will she stay in a loveless marriage and pretend the child is Hector’s?

This part of the novel teaches life lessons like: if you made your bed you will lie in it, and makes you thankful that you are not a woman in the 1920’s. Also, don’t cheat on your husband, even if he is shitty. I really liked Bel, in fact much more so than her modern-day counterpart Maia, because she was vivacious, sweet and mostly kind. I won’t spoil her decision, and I am not sure if I agreed with her choice, but it remained hers to make.

Fast forward 90 years, Maia D’Apliese is motivated to explore her heritage when an old lover shows up close to their estate and wishes to meet with her. Maia has no such desire and sets off to Brazil where she meets up with the (also handsome) author she’s been assisting with translations of his novels. As a historian, he is interested in her history and aids her in her research. As neither of them are ugly, they soon have a little bit of chemistry going on.

Maia’s adventure is not that amazing, and to be honest she irritated me just a bit. She is overly dramatic and her responses to any event is exclamation marks and distress. She’s also mostly the reason I ended up stalling finishing the book – the woman loves to be dramatic. It is also in her sections where the author’s writing, which is overly descriptive at the best of times, became overbearing. I wish most modern novelists could understand that they don’t have to go JRR Tolkien on us all the time (or attempt to), because they aren’t sitting with the greatest novel of our time nor do they have his literary finesse (and I am looking at all of them with this, not only this author).

However, the book isn’t all bad. I enjoyed how involved the Rio community was with the construction of the Christo, it seemed everyone had a crucial role. The book is also just about interesting enough to continue into the second book, which I am relieved to say is much more interesting and the main character, who also has flaws, isn’t nearly as grating as Maia.

I have respect for the author for the research these books had to require, and how she aligns each daughter’s story. The second book is already much better than the first, and it seems like there won’t be any issues with plot holes later in the series.

I would refer this to people who have lots of time for reading, who are patient people, and like long and epic stories which isn’t fantasy based.

Rating: 6.5/10

Movie Review: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

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Plot: After the devastating events of Avengers: Infinity War (2018), the universe is in ruins. With the help of remaining allies, the Avengers assemble once more in order to undo Thanos’ actions and restore order to the universe

After 10 incredible years of the MCU, it seems that every single moment has led up to this film. Fan or not, you have probably heard of the staggering success of this film the last weekend – 1.2 billion dollars within one weekend. It is absolutely insane, yet no one seems overly surprised. I am not. I got my ticket for the first release in South-Africa. I get grumpy with spoilers but I don’t have meltdowns, yet I suspected I would have one if someone spoiled this form me. I will keep this review as spoiler free as possible, because if you have eagerly awaited each of these films as I have, you deserve to have it unspoiled for you.

Overwhelmed, emotional, shaken, surprised. That is pretty much how I felt. It became inevitable with the lead up to this film not to ask if a major superhero would die, but which one would. I will tell you that whatever happens feels completely right for that character, like they were always written for it. It is sad, but it feels like the perfect ending.

There are two character developments which feels… weird, even for Marvel. The one I will literally never be able to unsee but the actor involved handled it with charm and comedic ability. But still. It felt like a personal attack on the most beautiful character. The other one was quite hilarious but showed good character development. I am sorry, I am not really making any sense, am I?

It is a mammoth film, with a running time of three hours and 1 minute. It is a feat that I in particular didn’t feel that the film was drawn out, it is written well enough and is entertaining enough that the film runs without ever feeling that unnecessary time was wasted.

What worked well in this film is that the focus was very much on the original 5 superheroes. The Avengers crew has become way too large over the last couple of years and Avengers: Infinity War’s ensemble cast was large enough to host a high-school reunion of a really robust year. I don’t think it is too much of a spoiler to mention that when the rest of the avengers return, it is worth it and at the exact right moment. It is also really beautiful with the focus on one character’s reaction specifically, and you will have to have been dead inside for a thousand years not to be touched by it.

I will probably return with another review once the spoilers are out everywhere. Further than that, it was good and powerful and I enjoyed it. It has been a wild ride, and a beautiful one.

Love you 3000 😉

Rating: 7.5/10

Movie Review: Aquaman (2018)

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Plot: Arthur Curry, the human-born heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, goes on a quest to prevent a war between the worlds of ocean and land.

April is such an exciting month! Avengers Endgame AND Game of Thrones! Yup, I’ve seen the first episode, and it was good, I just can’t see myself reviewing per episode on here. Since I am SO ready for Endgame, I thought I would do a quick post on the only superhero movie I have seen that I haven’t put on here yet, Aquaman (although not even in the same universe, ha).

I saw this in the cinema in December 2018. It got some good reviews and reached the billion dollar club (The club which is not so elite anymore, but anyway). Some people thought this was a great film, and that’s okay. For me it was merely decent and while better than some of the other DC flicks, it still left much to be desired.

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I love Jason Momoa – he’s marketable, funny, beautiful and impressively big. I am not convinced he’s the best actor on the planet, but at this stage he doesn’t need to be. He chooses this big and gruff roles because it actually looks like that is who he is as a person. He does fine with Stephen Curry, and even though there are moments where he isn’t utterly convincing, he does remain one entertaining man. And even if he was terrible, you still get to see a really big and attractive man wet and built for two hours and 22 minutes. The love story between him and Mera (Amber Heard) felt really forced and unnecessary. A couple of superhero films have done really well by now without some romantic entanglement, and I think this would have survived without that as well.

Nicole Kidman plays Arthur Curry’s mom and the Queen of Atlantis. She’s named Atlanna, just so that no one gets confused who she really is. It’s a role far beneath her acting abilities and she navigates the sea without much issue. If you can believe that she mothered Momoa’s genetics, you can believe anything.

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Patrick Wilson plays Curry’s half-brother King Orm. He’s a terrible leader in this movie and also has dealing with the pirates Curry tackles in the beginning of the film. Other than Wilson’s deeply upsetting hairstyle, he does a decent (if one layered) villain. This is a nice setup for a second movie to begin with, which I am sure after a billion dollars no one will hesitate to commit to.

At the core, this origin story is nothing new. The release was well timed, in time for the relaxed holiday viewers. The last battle will leave you feeling exhausted because it is just so stupid and long. It’s really not that bad, just cheesy and silly. I definitely won’t commit to a second viewing, but that isn’t because of the quality – I rarely feel that superhero movies need to be watched twice.

Rating: 6/10

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Movie Review: A Star Is Born (2018)

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Plot: A musician helps a young singer find fame as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral

Some people are born with a whole lot of talent. Like, sickening amounts. Two such humans, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, decided to collaborate in a project we never knew we needed quite this much. They are a powerhouse combination as Ally, the down-to-earth-but-wildly-talented Italian American girl who meets Jackson Maine (Cooper), where he stumbles into a burlesque bar one night while she’s performing. Jack, a country megastar is an alcoholic and on a slow medical decline due to his ever growing hearing impairment. Ally seemingly stabilizes him for a while, and as her star continues to shine Jackson’s doesn’t really grow dimmer so much as that his out of control problems rips their life into chaos.

Let’s first focus on the directorial debut of Bradley Cooper. He is a great actor, but might I say he is an even better director? There are strokes of genius moments – focusing on Jackson instead of on Ally while she performs, giving him as the actor enough time to show the feelings the character is experiencing while Ally changes some of his previous ideas. It’s beautiful and touching and inspired. The movie is also incredibly real feel to it, never shying away from the sweaty looks while artists are onstage that makes them so undeniably human – there is one particular scene where Ally is performing one of her new songs to a large crowd and she is sweaty and messy and very human. I am not too great at chatting about why I believe a director is great, but can I finally also add that the colors and use of lighting in this film is really good.

As an actor, Cooper undertook 18 months of vocal training to perfect Jackson’s gravelly country drawl. He also performs all the songs himself and sang live in all the shots in the film. Like I said, sickeningly talented. There is also a heartbreaking raw desperation to Jackson – sad and lonely and dealing with an idolization of a father who was anything but great. It’s impossible not to be touched by scenes where he describes how he was treated by the father he idolizes, and it is clear that his problems started

There is nothing particularly fresh about how the story is told, and even the ending is slightly darker than the usual route, it still remains a well visited topic. A Star Is Born is unique because, in my opinion, the following reasons:

  • Lady Gaga is not only a phenomenal performer with one of the best voices of our time. She is more than a passable actress. Cooper chose well to have her in this role and the movie couldn’t possibly have enjoyed this level of success with a less convincing performer. I will be honest and say that I never cared for her crazy theatrics on stage, but as this form? I can become a major fan.
  • The chemistry between Cooper and Gaga is off the charts. I hope they make more films together because they work seamlessly as a pair and were utterly convincing as a pair, so much so that there are STILL rumors about their off screen affair, which didn’t happen, because, ya know, maybe Bradley just isn’t the cheating type. However, it creates a tense and powerful atmosphere in this movie and the combination of the two makes you truly want it to work for Ally and Jackson
  • I had some moments rolling my eyes because the notion that only women who have poor self esteems and dress “down-to-earth” are worth noticing is played with a bit in here – let me just say that a woman can dress in a piece of meat and still be just as talented as Ally in ASIB (quite literally for Gaga), and still have the same amount of talent worth noticing.

Overall, this film definitely deserves the hype it got. and even though heartbreaking, I can commit to watching it again. It was THAT good.

Let me know if you saw it and loved it!

Rating: 8/10rev-1-ASIB-15481r_High_Res_JPEG

Movie Review: Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

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Plot: The story of the legendary rock band Queen and lead singer Freddie Mercury, leading up to their famous performance at Live Aid (1985)

Wow. I went to see this in cinema in December and never got around to reviewing it. It simply needs a spot on this blog because even though I never got around to posting a top 10 films for 2018, this would have ranked high up.

Let’s focus a few seconds on the performance that made this film – Rami Malek’s portrayal of Freddie Mercury. Malek has always embraced oddball roles with vigor and has no trouble taking on a human legend full of eccentricity like Mercury. The two sides of Mercury is explored – his crazy media and onstage persona and him as a loner and intensely private. Malek handles both with aplomb. He switches seamlessly between the two sides of Mercury and seems truly lost in his performances on stage.  I doubt anyone else could have given such a convincing performance. He deserved his Oscar, and he deserves all the praise being thrown his way for his work.

I liked that the movie focused on the band and how they developed, grew and thrived to become one of the greatest bands of all time. It could have gone without a few fabrications, such as a breakup by the band. I know there was some uproar online about the numerous factual inaccuracies in the film, but Bohemian Rhapsody is still one of the strongest films to walk out of 2018.

The other performances are stellar as well, although I would have enjoyed more time with the other band members on screen. I still don’t accept that Gwilym Lee portrayed Brian May – he looks so much like the real deal in the film that I won’t accept that they didn’t just dye the real Brian May’s hair brown again. Anyway, he obviously does a convincing job to portray the amazing guitarist. Joseph Mazello plays John Deacon and Ben Hardy Roger Taylor, and I think the only thing that could have made the movie better was more in-band conversations. Lucy Boynton plays Mercury’s female love interest Mary Austin, and yup, you guessed it, a fine job too. Allen Leech plays a villainous manager that corrupts Mercury and derails his life, and it was quite upsetting seeing my favorite Tom Branson behaving in such a manner.

I have been a Queen fan for a big part of my life. Their music is just so alive and interesting and original. I probably sound so much older than what I am when I say that they just don’t produce music like this anymore – the originality seems to have gone down the drain in lieu for bum shorts and gangster lyrics. It was an amazing to listen to all the songs in cinema and know every single word. There is also the incredible Live Aid performance reenacted in the movie, which made me re-watch the actual performance countless times.

Freddy Mercury succumbed to aids-related illness in 1991. His death continues to be one of the greatest losses in the music industry, with such an incredible talent gone forever. With the medical advancements we currently enjoy, he could have fought the progression of the disease for many years and continued to thrive. This film manages to capture the genius and essence of who he was. If you haven’t sat down to watch this yet, I really suggest you do.

Rating: 8/10

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Movie Review: Captain Marvel (2019)

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Plot: Carol Danvers becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races.

There’s that friendly rivalry between Marvel and DC, which actually just ends up benefiting them both. Fans of either side usually flock to cinemas either way, because if you love your superheroes, you love your superheroes. DC took a tentative step forward by bringing forth the fantastic Wonder Woman, which did great despite the internet trolls. Never one to lie down, Marvel countered with the equally great Black Panther, who also did great despite internet trolling racists. If we need a friendly rivalry to promote inclusion of women and people of color in films, then I am happy to have it. Marvel subsequently added more pew to their pew-pews by bringing forth Carol Danvers, potentially their strongest hero (ine), managing to include a female led film in their repertoire and also some much needed help to the depleted Avengers crew.

So, I thought this was great. I am stealing an opinion from a friend here, but as I quite agree I will tell you about it – the only (small) thing about Wonder Woman was that they included a whole lot of Pantene-esque scenes with Gal Gadot’s beautiful hair everywhere, highlighting just how beautiful she is. Carol Danvers is a straightforward fighter and her strength is highlighted by how completely bad-ass she is. I personally think that Brie Larson is just gorgeous, but the film never really focuses on her looks but more on what she is able to do.

Brie Larson is fantastic in this! There were some negative feedback about her not smiling enough in the film – who the hell has time for smiling anyway when you are saving earth and discovering where you come from?! That said, if you are only open to watching this film and not sitting in your mother’s basement and spreading hateful comments on the internet, you will notice that Carol Danvers has a whole lot of emotion flitting across her face – humor, sarcasm, kindness, empathy, and yes, even a smile or two. Larson is a phenomenal actress with a few impressive movies behind her name, and she certainly does not deserve any negative feedback for this role. I also seriously loved how they depicted the relationship between her and co-pilot and best friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) – we need more of this on screen, the true female friendships that inspire greatness, loyalty and courage. The same can be said for the respect and honor between the two trainee pilots and Dr. Wendy Lawson (Annette Benning), who I was surprised and happy to see in this even if she could manage a role like this blindfolded and tap dancing.

Samuel L. Jackson gets significant screen-time to link Carol to the Avengers, and man, he was a treat as always. It is great CGI to make him appear like his 1995 self, and the chemistry between him and Larson is great – it seems like they are true friends. It also provides some backstory on Nick Fury, which is something we all wanted – like why does he have that eye-patch? When exactly did he begin the Avengers initiative? All these interesting questions are answered and more.

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There has been so much talk of this movie by now you don’t need me to tell you that there is a highly entertaining cat in this film, or that Jude Law is gorgeous as Yon-Rogg, and that Ben Mendelsohn does a good job as Talos. What you need to do is go watch this in cinema and help Captain Marvel march towards a billion dollars, to prove that the world is inclusive and awesome.

Have you seen this? Let me know your thoughts!

Rating: 8/10

Movie Review: Captain Fantastic (2016)

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Plot: In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and enter the world, challenging his idea of what it means to be a parent.

I have only had the pleasure to find a handful of films that had the power to make me consider whether my beliefs need to be reevaluated, managed to be ingenious and non-offensive and maintain originality. I also need to listen when the entire world tells me to go watch a movie because I will like it. Finally sitting down to watch Captain Fantastic was a rewarding experience and something I will gladly do again.

It’s an easy way to go with this review, but let me tell you, Captain Fantastic, is, well, friggin Fantastic. Viggo Mortensen, also known as Lord Aragorn and King of My Heart*, plays Ben Cash, a survivalist living with his 6 children and wife Leslie in the Washington wilderness. Following Leslie’s suicide, Ben decides to take his children to her funeral, inciting the wrath of his father in law, who does not agree with how his grand children are being raised.

The movie was ready with answers to all the questions I could think of. The first is naturally the presumption that survivalists are ill-informed and uneducated. Leslie was an attorney before she and Ben moved to the Wilderness. Ben’s youngest daughter is more capable of reciting and understanding the Bill of Rights than the teenager of his sister. They are taught to think critically and not only to parrot information, but to understand and dissect facts. They are well fed and although their lifestyle is unorthodox, they are taken care of. Ben doesn’t abuse his children – physically or through the neglect so accidentally bestowed upon children in modern society.

Ben also tells his children the truth. He doesn’t hide it that their mother committed suicide, and meets his and their grief face on. He doesn’t lie about sex or make it a taboo subject – it is just another topic in their household. While I can’t really see myself being quite that open to young children, I do like that it didn’t turn into this sneaky taboo thing our Western society makes it to be.

Then there is also literally everyone else in the movie, who believes Ben is either insane or just plain wrong. And are they wrong? They are all acting out of concern and clearly love Ben and his children. Ben’s father in law (played by Frank Langella) is the most vocal about it and even though he serves as the “antagonist”, he’s clearly not a bad man and wants the best for his grand kids who he so clearly adores.

I don’t have kids and I don’t plan on having some anytime soon, but I think the majority of parents want the best for their children. This movie explores a far right approach to parenting and is shot well enough with enough consideration to present this insane approach as viable. Viggo Mortensen and the rest of the cast are incredible carriers of this story – the accolade of best actor would have been well bestowed on this nominee at the Oscars. There is depth and knowledge in the way he carries this role and seems to be Ben completely. I also particularly liked George McKay as Bo, because his story was at a critical time where he had to move on to the next phase of his life. His knowledge about everything yet about nothing when it comes to being a real teenager was well played out by the actor, and he also managed to make the situations he finds himself in a bit funny while also highlighting what is wrong with Ben’s parenting approach.

The ending is satisfactory – a little yielding in Ben’s approach to accommodate the needs of his growing children, and yet it still remains in line with what he holds as the truth in his heart. It does show that at the end of all his eccentricity, he loves his children and is willing to do everything for them.

Rating: 9/10

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Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society (Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows)

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Plot: “I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb…

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

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I absolutely LOVED the movie (review here); so much so that it spurred me to start writing on my blog again. Naturally no force on this planet would keep me away from the book, and I got the last copy at my local bookshop – even though at an exorbitant price – seriously, how do they want people to keep on reading when it is so expensive? – I was still willing to fork out the cash because I just had to know.

I do love the romantic notion that one hard copy book can travel across oceans and reach people you would never have come in contact with. It’s part of the fun of buying a second hand book – someone else has read and enjoyed that particular book.

In this case, it leads to a life changing journey for author Juliet Ashton, who herself is still recovering from World War II, travels to Guernsey to meet their illustrious book club and one of it’s intriguing members – Dawsey Adams. He writes to Juliet after finding her details inscribed in one of his second hand books, and their pen-pal relationship develops nicely enough that she decides to embark on the journey that will alter the course of her life.

The one thing that took getting used to is that the book is written entirely as letters. This makes things a bit difficult, and certainly something to get used to, because there’s no “real” interaction between the characters and everything is written after the fact. I did get used to it, but like I said, it took a while.

With any book to movie adaption there will be a few changes. This is no different matter, but none so severe that it makes me like one more or one less. Dawsey Adams is definitely less attractive than the beautiful Michiel Huisman, although his character is just as beautiful in the book as in the movie. Again, Glen Powell and his absurd levels of charm make Mark Reynolds a nicer guy in the movie than he is in the book – he seems a whole lot of toxic in the book. They are also never engaged, as they are in the film.

I don’t want to give away too much for those who are planning to pick up a copy, but if you do I really hope you like it. It is still a testament to the beautiful country of Guernsey and their almost overlooked horrors experienced in the war. I am as a result also quite interested in who Charles Lamb was, the country of Guernsey, and any man who might be similar to Dawsey! 😉

Have you read the book? DO let me know!

Movie Review: The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)

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Plot: In the aftermath of World War II, a writer forms an unexpected bond with the residents of Guernsey Island when she decides to write a book about their experiences during the war.

I may not actually know how to blog anymore, but here goes. But some films deserve to be written about. This movie just deserves to be up here, and for the three still reading this blog, this is for you.

I have been keeping my eye on the release date of the mouthful of a film: The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society in South-Africa for a while, but became quite despondent when I saw just how limited release was planned. Fate intervened, and I got tickets to a special screening of this film. (Lucky me!)

I didn’t know all the deets about the film, but I was excited because it looked like my dormant British heart (I am sure I am 50% British because I love everything about their entertainment culture and history), the location of which I have always been interested in and an interesting mix of cast, I thought would be satisfied. My hopes were not smashed in one of these aspects. It is also good once in a while to completely not know what will happen in a movie.

When phrases like “Move over Darcy, this is Dawsey Adams” makes the round, you must know I will arrive at the scene to form my own opinion. However, this statement is way off base and those who agree with it have certainly never picked up a copy of Pride in Prejudice. Although both men are nearly perfect (and imaginary) depictions of what anyone would hope to find in love, they are dissimilar to each other. I won’t say too much about Mr. Darcy, you can read my lyrical waxing on a number of posts in this blog about his fine character, but Dawsey Adams (by the delightful Michiel Huisman) is straight off delightful from the very beginning. He is pure and wonderful and takes on more than he ever should have by taking care of a little girl, at first glance his own child, while Elizabeth Mackenna (Jessica Brown Findlay) is mysteriously not on the island when writer Juliet Ashton (Lily James) arrives. He is a pure hardworking farmer that has witnessed the ugliest side of war. How must he have felt when he couldn’t join the forces and fight against the Germans due to a medical condition? How powerless when he witnessed the casual cruelty of the Germans occupying Guernsey? When he also had to deal with the fact that not all the German soldiers were evil? So many questions.

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Lily James provides a charming performance as Juliet Ashton and highlights well her underlying trauma of the war, a woman trying to fit herself into a world where she is wildly successful but still managed by all the men in her life, no matter how charming they might be. One of these men is her handsome fiancé Mark Reynolds, an American soldier who has put a very, very sparkly ring on her finger. Mark (Glen Powell), is as perfect as you can hope to find a man – dashing, kind, generous, helpful, and yet the watcher knows for certain the love Juliet and Mark has is just not enough to carry them.

Things I liked:

  • Let’s start with the quoting of one of Jane Eyre’s most infamous passages during the book club meeting Juliet attends – I am currently rereading this gothic romantic masterpiece, and I was extremely impressed that they included it in the movie. The rendition by Isola (Katherine Parkinson) was at once slightly hilarious and touching.
  • On that topic, the character of Isola Pribbly provides just the correct amount of comedy to the film. She was a favorite in the cinema and all her lines, slightly drunk and ever endearing, made me wish I could be friends with such a fantastic woman.
  • The Downton Abbey Flashback! Lily James, Matthew Goode, Jessica Brown Findlay and Penelope Wilton made this a family affair. Whether it was deliberate or not, the combination of these four actors made me more ready for the Downton Abbey movie (hopefully) later this year.
  • Penelope Wilton is a fantastic actress and her grief in losing so many people in the war made more than one person in cinema emotional.
  • Matthew Goode needs more screen time in my life. I firstly loved this character because he was on Juliet’s side, and not some sort of villain as is often the case with agents depicted in movies, but her genuine friend and confidante. He also provides a solid performance.
  • The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society is not only a romantic film, it is a tribute to the land, the people of Guernsey and the aftermath of war, the rebuilding of life and dealing with repercussions long after an event has passed. The romance is indeed secondary, and the true love is indeed for the beautiful tale told.
  • The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society made me remember half-forgotten memories and feelings – I remember reading about the evacuation of the British children to their countryside during the war, I remembered how my sister and I loved to keep flowers in books and parse them. It is shot and directed beautifully and the scenery is as charming as the story itself.
  • The handsome Matthew Goode is Juliet’s agent and close confidante. He is as always endearing and I can see this man being a fantastic friend. I liked that he was on her side – how often is the agent/manager actually an antagonist? It’s exhausting and bad writing. Not all business partners are bad.
  • I can carry on for hours about each character – which I am glad Mark Reynolds wasn’t a bad guy, and how charming Glen Powell was in his depiction. The hypocritical Christianity of Adelaide Addison – such a fantastic job by Bronagh Gallagher – I have rarely seen such a tasteful depiction of the pettiness in which righteous, bored old women can fall into.
  • The chemistry between Lily James and Michiel Huisman – such a slow, burning and quietly increasing vibe. They made this movie by appearing so perfectly compatible.

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I will round it off here, and tell you to just go watch it. If you don’t like it I am not sure we can be friends. I am currently reading the book, and I need the DVD as soon as it is available in South-Africa. If I don’t have it to watch on repeat, I will surely die a slow and lonely death.

On that dramatic farewell, do let me know if you saw this!

Rating: 8.5/10