Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Hollow City - Ransom Riggs // Book Review

Hollow City
Ransom Riggs

It was always a given that I'd pick this book up, so it made sense to start reading it straight away when I'd picked it up in Blackwell's. I don't actually do that very often these days, given that I'm almost always in the middle of reading something whenever I buy books, but I just couldn't help myself with this one – not to mention the empty slot beside the first book on my shelf, just calling to be filled.

It's hard to write much of a review about the plot of this book without giving too much away for someone who hasn't read the first book yet. For anyone who isn't familiar with the series thus far (the third book comes out in September; I'm not sure if it's just going to be a trilogy or if it'll go on past that), it's about a group of children who have 'peculiar' powers and abilities. I won't explain who the girl on the cover is, as that's a bit of a spoiler, but she is an example of a peculiar child who Miss Peregrine's children meet in this book. 

The series follows Jacob Portman, who is trying to come to terms with his grandfather's death at the hands of a strange monster that no one else but he and his grandfather could see, ultimately leading him to Miss Peregrine's Home (in the first book). We go on the journey of discovery with him; not just of all the peculiars that he didn't know about, but on his own path of discovery about who he really is. 

One of the most delightful things about Riggs's books is how he utilises vintage photographs in order to illustrate different scenes (although in an interview in the back of my edition, he does say that he had to alter a few of his scenes to better fit the photograph he'd chosen – as it's not always possible to find a 'perfect' photograph). There aren't too many, either, but a nice balance scattered through the book.

Those are just a few examples I picked out at random. They aren't my favourites – because there were a few photographs in there that were truly brilliant – but I still enjoyed looking at all of them. The only thing I would say is that I am tempted to go back at some point and just look at the photographs independently of the story and really take them in; a lot of the time while I was reading I was too caught up in the story to linger for long on a photograph or two, especially when the narrative itself tended to explain what the picture showed anyway.

Since I don't want to give too much away, all I'll say is that I'd really recommend that everyone reads it (starting with Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, of course). It's original, at least in my book (I don't read very many YA books anymore, and fantasy type books tend to be a rarer choice for me, so I don't know how it compares to the wider canon) and the photographs are definitely a unique and wonderful touch. At times the story can verge on predictability, but I was completely thrown at some points in the book by some major plot twists, and I'm really excited for the next one – and for the film adaptation, which is apparently going to star Eva Green as Miss Peregrine.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

April Book Haul

I've bought a few new books this month – this post is already kind of out of date as I've got another book on the way, but I can't be bothered waiting around for that one to arrive to do this post, so I'll tack that on to the next post, or it'll have it's own separate post later. Anyway, here we are: these are the books I've been buying lately. 

Nightwood // Djuna Barnes

I can't really remember what drew me to this one, although I do have a bit of a thing for female Modernist writers lately, so I think that was probably what got this book onto the want list. Then, when I was in Blackwells, I saw a really nice new edition of it in the 3 for 2, so I picked it up. I don't really know anything about it aside from that it's a Modernist text, so I'll be going into this one pretty clueless when the time comes!

Hollow City // Ransom Riggs

I picked this up in Blackwells 3 for 2 as well (it was actually the first one I picked up). It's the sequel to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, which I read last year and really enjoyed. I'm a nerd for history and I love visual imagery of history especially, so all the strange vintage photographs are just perfect. I think at times it comes across quite strongly for me that this is a YA book, in that it can be a tiny little bit predictable, but that kind of thing doesn't bother me too much here and is something that I've come to expect with most YA books – but I don't think it should stop anyone reading them. Plus, there's plenty of books from other genres that can be predictable too! There will be a review of this one to come soon, with some more photos of the inside of the book, as I've just finished reading it.

The Blazing World // Siri Hustvedt

Since I'd already picked up two books from the 3 for 2 deal, I was looking for another one and decided I'd probably pick up a book I've never seen or heard of before. As much as that probably doesn't make this book – or the others I've picked in the same way – obscure or anything like that, I like to find books that appeal to me that I don't feel have the same kind of hype around them. The title of the book and its beautiful cover design is what caught my eye while I was browsing. I read Margaret Cavendish's The Blazing World for university in third year, and as much as I didn't love it I did find it interesting and so to see a book with the same title really got me. Having read the blurb, the book seems to be about confronting gender bias in the art world, so hopefully it'll be good!

The Silkworm // Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)

Another sequel! This is the sequel to The Cuckoo's Calling, which was the first Cormoran Strike book and the second non Harry Potter book by JK Rowling. I loved that book, and I've been meaning to pick this up for ages. I sort of regret not getting the hardback to go with my copy of Cuckoo's Calling (which is a hardback) but I also really want to avoid hardbacks when I'm buying ordinary fiction books, as they're expensive and also take up a lot more space on my bookcase, and space is already limited there! I don't think there's much more to say for this one, as I don't really know anything regarding the plot in this one and I'm really just reading it because I enjoyed the first one.

The Rosie Effect // Graeme Simsion

The last sequel this time, to Simsion's novel The Rosie Project, about an autistic man who is looking for love and a wife. I really liked The Rosie Project, so I'm interested in seeing where the story goes next for Don and Rosie. In particular, one of my goals (I shouldn't say "this year" as it's going to be a constant goal) is to try to read books about people and subjects that I'm not familiar with. As much as fiction isn't really an authority on something like autism or, say, Nigerian culture, I still want to widen my reading and stop just reading about the same kinds of people and cultures every time I pick up a book.

The Secret History // Donna Tartt

I'm not sure with this one... I read The Goldfinch last year and I really wasn't that into it. I think the length combined with my mood/reading attitude at the time probably contributed to how disinterested I was in it; I think really what would have made it better for me is if it had been more condensed and less angsty-teen-boy (see also, my frustration with Catcher in the Rye). I think all the stuff about art and furniture also bored me a bit because it wasn't really what I cared about. However, the plot of this one seemed intriguing, and I thought I'd at least give it a try – although I'll wait until I'm at the right reading attitude and I probably won't read it solidly either, but I want to give it a chance as I've heard quite a lot of praise for it. After all, sometimes you can love one book by an author and not care for another one that they wrote, so we'll see.

The Autograph Man // Zadie Smith

I think Zadie Smith is one of my favourite authors. White Teeth was one of my favourites, both by her and in general; I enjoyed On Beauty and NW as well, although neither of them quite knocked White Teeth off the top spot. Anyway, I got this one second hand through abebooks as I'm working on reading all of her work now (which is much more achievable than with other authors I like!) so this seemed a good next step, although I do wonder how it'll compare given that for a while I didn't even know about this book (I picked up On Beauty on sale in WHSmiths, and White Teeth in a charity shop, and I'm sure that was after I'd heard a bit of hype about NW). This is another one that I don't know a whole lot about, aside from the basics that I've gathered from the blurb, so time will tell!

That's all the books I've bought this month! Aside from the one that's on the way, I don't think I'll be buying any more until I've finished university on May 8th, but I definitely don't have any shortage of unread books!


Tuesday, 14 April 2015

By Reason of Insanity (Louis Theroux)

I've been pretty busy lately and not had much of a chance to blog – I've finally handed in my dissertation, but I've been studying for my exams as well. However, I have recently been watching some Louis Theroux documentaries with the boyfriend, and our most recent watch was the two parter, By Reason of Insanity. To sum up, it's about people who've been declared NGRI (not guilty by reason of insanity) and throughout the two episodes he speaks to different patients and staff about life in the hospital and what it all means for the patients.

I'd definitely recommend watching it; it's tough going emotionally and is by no means 'fun' to watch, but it does give an incredible insight into how certain mental illnesses manifest, how treatment works, and how mental illness can be connected as it is to criminal actions (although, of course, mental illness doesn't make everyone a criminal). I think it probably does a lot to humanise mentally ill criminals, compared to the way that these people might have been reported on in the media; you can see that they aren't evil, just unwell people who all seem to want to get better and who regret their actions for the most part.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

March Favourites | Gone Girl, Archer + Essie

The past month has been a weird one, between the pressures of university work (which is still ongoing – bring on May 9th!) and moving house, so it's hard to really come up with what my favourite things were in March. However, I did take considerable refuge in the (small) screen this past month, watching a bit too much TV and a few films. 

So, my favourite films this month were Big Hero 6 and Gone Girl – two completely different films, I know! Baymax was definitely my favourite thing about the film, he's just so adorable and funny and I really wish I had a Baymax of my own now, especially to help me through my last semester of university and all the stress that comes with it. I think one of the things that really made Big Hero 6 work for me was that it had its serious moments too and was definitely emotional... I cried a minimum of three times watching it. As for Gone Girl... well, I read the book a couple of years ago and I liked it, but it didn't wow me at the time. I've changed a lot since then though, and really come to love it retrospectively. The film didn't disappoint – Rosamund Pike is incredible, as is David Fincher as a director. I won't go much more into the film as I would rather everyone just watched it themselves!

As for TV, my boyfriend and I have been working our way through series six of Archer – we had no idea Archer had come back so we had plenty to catch up on. I love the show and I had in fact been missing it not long before we realised there were all those new episodes waiting for us. I'm really loving the dynamic between Lana and Sterling so far, now that they have baby Abijean. I also binged on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt this month and loved it... that one might end up on my favourites list again in the future because I think I might end up marathoning the series again at some point!

There's not much in the way of beauty favourites for March; I don't really wear make up to uni and that's pretty much where I spend most of my time when I'm not at home or my boyfriend's house, so I've not really touched make up this month. The only really beauty products I've been into this month have been nail polishes.

The one I'm wearing right now is Essie's Cocktail Bling. I wanted something that was lighter and more 'spring' appropriate (even if the weather is still pretending it's winter!) without it being too colourful for my otherwise dark appearance (I'm still living mostly in monochrome aside from the odd splash of grey or navy). Cocktail Bling is one of those weird nail colours which changes depending on the light between being a soft blue shade to the more grey toned colour in that picture above, but either way it works brilliantly with what I'm wearing right now and is a bit of a change from the usual red shades that I've been wearing all winter.