WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (6)

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (6)

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme that is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. The “rules” are simple – answer the 3 questions below:


1. What are you currently reading?

I’m not reading any novels at the minute!

2. What did you recently finish reading?

I recently finished Desperation by Stephen King; this one has taken me longer to get through – not because it’s not an enjoyable novel or a particularly long one, I’ve just been in a bit of a reading slump recently. I also read Humble Pie, Gordon Ramsay’s autobiography.

3. What do you think you’ll read next?

At this rate, as long as I read something I’ll be happy. I was recently gifted Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome, so that will be the next book I try and read.


I apologise for such a short WWW update; hopefully I get out of this reading slump soon!

– Judith

Film Review: Hush

Film Review: Hush
  • Title: Hush
  • Director: Mike Flanagan
  • Released: 2016

I watched Hush the other day, and had so many opinions about it that I just had to write down.

A deaf writer who retreated into the woods to live a solitary life must fight for her life in silence when a masked killer appears at her window.

Hush’s protagonist, Maddie Young (Kate Siegel), is a writer who is both deaf and has vocal paralysis – the after-effects of having meningitis as a teenager. As a result, Maddie’s perspective is one I’ve certainly not seen in film before and poses new problems within this horror scenario: she can’t cry* for help and she can’t hear her attacker approaching. So what does she do?

*A lack of screaming worked strongly in Hush’s favour; it was so refreshing not to have to watch another boring “helpless woman runs through the forest frantically screaming” film.

Maddie is a strong female who, despite a few silly moments**, mostly used logic and common sense to defend herself, avoid her attacker and plan her survival.

**I was screaming at my screen: “Why would you do that?” “No!” “Don’t go there!”

My Photo [Hush 1]

This was most evident in the scene where she has a dialogue with herself, allowing the audience to understand Maddie’s chain of thought even though she is mute. Again, this is a refreshing change from the helpless victim status women in horrors are often awarded.

“If you can’t run, hide, or wait, what does that leave?”

I thought the character of Maddie was developed well; we learn that she has a sense of humour as well as clever, caring and independent  in just a few opening scenes. I found myself genuinely caring about the survival of Maddie and genuinely fearing the murderer who stalked her. This is another positive about Hush; the protagonist feels like a real character, unlike another stereotyped, standard issue horror victim.

A minor spoiler: there is blood and there is gore in this film  – more than I had expected of a film rated 15 – and so I had to hide my face or cover my ears at certain points because of my squeamish nature.

My Photo [Hush 2]

However, the real horror “feel” in Hush was not generated by gore or by screams, but by creating and maintaining tension throughout. The dark colour palette of the film mirrors the dark tone of the story*** and the sound design – a mix of sound and silence to show both what the killer can hear and what Maddie can’t – was well done, and reminded me of Danny’s tricycle from Kubrik’s The Shining. Another intertextual reference was how the killer’s mask echoed Jason’s from the Friday the 13th franchise, and this made for a chilling entrance.

***Although, this darkness creates atmosphere for a horror film, it also makes things quite difficult to see!

Of course, there were a few jumpscares that anyone familiar with the horror genre could have predicted, but even these were well-executed and used few and far between.

I had some problems with Hush however. The Apple product placements were obvious and tedious, future weapons were clumsily foreshadowed at the beginning of the film, and  there were unnecessary close-ups of items (a book blurb, for example) to provide characterising information about Maddie – information we were already given a few scenes prior.

However, despite my grumbles, I really enjoyed watching Hush. Even after the resolution of the film, I still wanted more of the story because I was simply not ready for it to end.

***

Thank you for reading!

Please click ‘Like’ if you enjoyed this post or click ‘Follow’ for more reviews and other book or film themed blog posts.

– Judith

Read and Review: Sharp Objects

Read and Review: Sharp Objects

‘To say this a terrific debut novel is really too mild’ – Stephen King

  • Title: Sharp Objects
  • Author: Gillian Flynn
  • Published: 2006

I first read Sharp Objects after reading Gone Girl, due to the hype the film adaptation generated. Flynn’s writing introduced me to a style of thriller I now seek out by other authors too such as Paula Hawkins, Peter James and of course, more Stephen King.

Sharp Objects is the shortest of Flynn’s three novels, but is by far my favourite. I’ve only owned a copy of Sharp Objects for a few years and yet I’ve already reread it around 4 or 5 times.*

*Rereading novels is incredibly rare for me.

Sharp Objects is about a journalist called Camille Preaker, who is tasked with returning to the town where she grew up to uncover the mystery behind the murder of two young girls. Camille has barely spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother in years, but on returning to the town, finds herself reliving the psychological scars of her past in order to uncover the truth about the girls’ murders.

Warning: Sharp Objects, as one may be able to discern from the title and some book covers, deals with sensitive issues such as self-harm, abuse, and emotionally manipulative behaviour. If these are issues that may distress you, this is probably not the book for you.

I thought the pacing was good; on the shorter side, at 321 pages long, it means time is used efficiently. Flynn doesn’t write unnecessarily lengthy scenes and what is included adds to the story – both Camille’s own journey of recovery as well as the murder mystery.

I love the build-up and climax of this book, and every discovery Camille made was thrilling to me – even when I reread the novel now, I still get excited when the crucial plot points are revealed.

Furthermore, I empathise with the plight of Camille: a journalist struggling with the use of self-harm as a coping mechanism to combat the traumas placed on her as a child. I want to be a “proper” writer or journalist someday, and although I was never traumatised as a child, I understand the mindset of someone who uses self-injury to cope.

However, speaking of journalism, I wasn’t keen on the extracts of Camille’s articles included within the book. Flynn worked as a feature-writer for more than 15 years, and was still working as a journalist while writing Sharp Objects. Yet to me, when journalistic pieces are added into a novel, it never reads quite right because the two forms are so jarringly different.

Overall, I thoroughly liked the intriguing and disturbing story of Sharp Objects, the complex female characters and the topics the book draws attention to. If you liked Gone Girl, and want to be chilled by Flynn some more, I recommend Sharp Objects!

If you enjoyed this review, please click ‘Like’ and don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more book reviews.

– Judith

Opinion Piece: Thoughts on IT (2017)

Opinion Piece: Thoughts on IT (2017)

the blog from another world

The following article was written by Judith from ReadandReview2016.

This is the second part of another collaborative series with Patrick, from The Blog From Another World, about Stephen King’s IT. With the upcoming release of a new film adaptation of the iconic horror, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for us to discuss the trailer. You can read our first blog post, about the book and original film, here.

I thought, as trailers go, it looks quite well-made. A number of shots are incredibly similar to the original film. Whilst some may claim this is unoriginal, to me, this suggests the film will be fairly similar in terms of plot, improved upon with a better budget, better casting, and a better utilisation of horror conventions.

Patrick said, “I thought the trailer looked decent. It had lots of mood and seems to have a big enough budget to…

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From One Blogger To Another: IT Discussion With The Blog From Another World

From One Blogger To Another: IT Discussion With The Blog From Another World

This is the first part of another collaborative series with Patrick, from The Blog From Another World. Stephen King is one of my favourite authors, and he wrote one of Patrick’s favourite novels, Carrie. With the upcoming release of a new film adaptation of the iconic horror, IT, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for us to discuss both the book and original film.

In case you are unaware of the plot of IT, here is a brief synopsis, courtesy of Wikipedia: ‘The story follows the exploits of seven children as they are terrorized by the eponymous being, which exploits the fears and phobias of its victims in order to disguise itself while hunting its prey. “It” primarily appears in the form of a clown in order to attract its preferred prey of young children.’

Patrick said, “What I loved about the book when I read it was the detail. King puts a lot of effort into his character development.” I also loved IT’s length – King provides brilliant detail of the characters’ lives as the plot switches from the perspectives of Bill, Ben, Bev, Richie, Ed, Mike, and Stan as both children and adults.

“The novel deals with the passage of time and the impact that traumatic childhood events have on our adulthood.” Patrick explained, “For this reason, I think the dual time period narrative is very fresh and gives the story a real weight which certain other King novels are missing.”

This style of narration submerges the reader and effectively conveys just how terrorizing It is to each character. IT cemented my positive opinions about Stephen King; he writes thrilling and / or scary material incredibly well – be it in the simple description of a child’s feelings, or about the many forms It takes. Whilst not every passage contains a ‘scare’, enough detail is always given to put the reader on edge.

Pennywise the Clown, the most common form of It, is certainly a fantastic monster. Patrick said, “As an idea, he is terrifying, and sticks in my mind even now.”

“A great horror monster often makes more of an impression that the heroes, and Pennywise is no different. Norman Bates, Michael Myers, Jason, even Darth Vader – these characters are cultural icons more beloved than the lead characters in their respective films.”

However, no book is perfect. Patrick commented, “IT has an overabundance of the clichés which feature heavily in most King novels.” Examples of this include one-dimensional bullies, an alcoholic writer, and a disappointing resolution.

Despite my love of King, the more of his novels I read, the more I see these tropes reappearing – in particularly the English teacher / author who struggles with alcohol. Another significant example of this character type is Jack Nicholson from The Shining. Whilst this is drawn from King’s own experiences (and we are so often encouraged to write about what we know), I can understand why a repetitive reuse of these tropes would come to grate on readers.

IT was adapted into at TV miniseries in 1990, starring Tim Currey as Pennywise the Clown. It was made, at the height of, as dubbed by Patrick, “the Stephen King adaptation craze”.

I thought the film was alright. Visually, the appearance of Curry’s Pennywise was exactly what I had envisaged as I read the book, and I liked the fact there was an adaptation of such a good novel available.

However, for me, Curry’s actual performance often flip-flopped between mildly scary and pantomimic.

IT suffers from a lot of the problems which plagues the miniseries – too much time to fill, and not enough money to make it really frightening.” Patrick explained, “A lot of the performances are very goofy, especially Tim Curry as Pennywise. He’s just so flamboyant and crazy that he doesn’t really scare me.” He continued, “IT hasn’t aged well and some of it is unwittingly hilarious – I’m looking at you Talking Head!”

Finally, Patrick summarised his thoughts on the book and film with a phrase that every book lover longs to hear: “If you want the unadulterated IT experience, read the book.”

***

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this article, please give it a ‘Like.

You can read the second blog post in this collaborative series with The Blog from Another World tomorrow, in which we discuss the trailer of the new film adaptation.

– Judith and Patrick

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (5)

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (5)

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme that is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. The “rules” are simple – answer the 3 questions below:


1. What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Humble Pie, the autobiography of famous TV chef Gordon Ramsay, and Desperation, yet another Stephen King on my bookshelf I want to read. I haven’t got very far in Desperation yet because I only started it the other day.

2. What did you recently finish reading?

This lets me catch up with the last WWW post, in which I had a giant list of books I wanted to tackle as exam revision.

I gave up on Tess of the D’Urbervilles (by which I mean, I never re-read it at all and just watched the very good BBC adaptation instead). I finally finished Shooting History by Jon Snow, and it was such a tough autobiography to get through. Certain parts were incredibly dense and, dare I say it, dull.

I also read Devil In The Countryside and Being Simon Haines – both of which new books by new authors I was given to review, as well as Lost In A Good Book by Jasper Fforde – the second in the Thursday Next series, following on from The Eyre Affair.

3. What do you think you’ll read next?

Lots of books, hopefully! I have the summer to read now and I have some classic novels on my list, as well as some more Stephen King novels.


What are you currently reading?

– Judith

Read and Review [+ Film Review]: The Shining

Read and Review [+ Film Review]: The Shining

Book Review

The Shining (1977) is a paranormal horror by Stephen King. When Jack Nicholson becomes caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, he moves his wife Wendy and five-year-old son Danny there as well. Although just a small boy, Danny has unusual psychic abilities – known as having a ‘shine’. As winter approaches and numerous blizzards cut the Nicholson family off from the outside world, the hotel appears to have a life of its own, causing dangerously scary visions and voices to play inside their heads. It looks, as The Shining’s book cover says, as if the hotel itself is ‘beginning to shine’.

King himself critiques The Shining – a skill I think all writers should posses – in his introduction, and comments that:

‘The result [of Jack’s character] wasn’t perfect, and there is a cocky quality to some of The Shining’s prose that has come to grate on me in later years, but I still like the book enormously’

I liked The Shining enormously too; Jack became a scarier and scarier antagonistic force, motivated not just by supernatural beings but by the haunting memories of his own abusive upbringing. The animal-shaped hedges seem to come to life, moving behind their backs, hunting the family so they can’t escape.*

*This reminds me of my favourite Dr Who villains, The Weeping Angels.

Whilst the narrative perspective did often change, (in true King style) because the Overlook Hotel is so isolated, the narrative mostly alternated between the only three tangible characters: Jack, Danny and Wendy. I thought these provided a much deeper insight to the thought processes of each character which is especially beneficial in a psychological novel about the powers of the mind as well as problems of the mind.

Although Hallorann’s involvement, particularly at the beginning of the novel, was useful at providing the reader with explanatory information about ‘shining’ abilities, he felt very much like an outsider and at times he felt like just a plot device.

 My one main criticism is a minor one.

In his last few pages, King uses the adverb ‘suddenly’ three times in the space of three sentences. If I recall correctly, he asserted in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000) that ‘suddenly’ is quite a lazy way of describing a given event. Maybe he formed that opinion upon reflection of The Shining, or maybe he included them purposefully for effect. Either way, I had trouble taking that last passage completely seriously, because of the way multiple ‘suddenlys’ were included. It’s quite a petty criticism, but I’m an English student and writer, so I can’t help but notice language or grammar that bothers me.

Overall, I quite liked The Shining, and would definitely recommend.

Film Review

I recently watched the 1980s film adaptation directed by Stanley Kubrick – a film, interestingly, King can’t stand! After watching it, I had lots of initial thoughts I just had to write down:

Negatives

1) As an adaptation of the novel, it is seriously lacking. Whilst an adaptation is not limited to religiously following every page of the source material, I would expect the core plot to be as similar as possible. However, Kubrick departs from this; there were multiple blatant changes or omissions from the book, which I felt detracted from the narrative of the film. For example, King’s Jack descends into insanity by mixing the the grisly and ghostly past of the Overlook Hotel with his struggles with alcoholism and abuse, whereas Kubrick’s Jack is introduced to the audience in a way that suggests he is already unhinged.

2) Wendy (played by Shelley Duvall) is such a pathetic character. She does nothing but scream or cry, and it was just tiring to watch. King refer to her as ‘one of the most misogynistic characters ever put on film […] that’s not the woman that I wrote about’. (IndieWire).

3) The ending left me unsatisfied, mainly because it was so different to King’s ending, and there was no clear resolution. However, this might also have its benefits: it raises lots of questions for the audience, mainly questions about what (and who) is real and what (and who) is purely hallucination. As my friend Florence commented, ‘The fact it raises so many questions is why I love it so much.’*

*Florence’s favourite film happens to be The Shining.

Positives

1) The musical score was brilliant; the tension was consistent throughout, by the raising or lowering of volume and the use of string instruments. The level of tension, even when there were no sudden movements or “jump scares”, was refreshing in comparison to modern horror, where the format seems to be nothing more than building up tension until the next “jump scare”.

2) Although King wasn’t overwhelmed by Jack Nicholson’s performance as Jack Torrance, I thought he was superb. He looked and sounded like a convincing, raging psychopathic and he was by far the best casting choice.  I may be somewhat biased in this opinion as, before reading The Shining, I had seen a few clips – like the infamous “Here’s Johnny” scene – and so even when reading the book, it was Nicholson I pictured.

3) Some of the cinematography was stunning. One example of this are the tracking shots used to follow Danny’s tricycle around the hotel. The transitions are smoothly executed, and incredible attention to detail is given to the sounds of his tricycle. We hear him cycle over wood flooring noisily, he passes over a rug (suddenly making it eerily quiet), then he cycles back over the flooring. A second example is when (minor spoiler here) Jack is trapped in the pantry. The audience are left looking up at Jack, as he fights against the door; we see his nostrils flare, his eyes widen, and his muscles work to free himself – all while he looms over the camera in a domineering stance. Clever film techniques such as these are a Media Studies student’s dream (a dream I left behind at A Level sadly) and The Shining is certainly a well-crafted film.

My Photo [The Shining]
A still taken from the film.

Approaching the film with an analytical and psychological thriller perspective, I think The Shining is fascinating and for that reason I enjoyed it. However, as an adaptation dubbed the ‘scariest horror film ever’ (The Independent) and based on a fantastic novel, for me, The Shining falls short.

Thank you for reading!

Please click ‘Like’ if you enjoyed this post or click ‘Follow’ for more reviews and other book or film themed blog posts.

– Judith