5 Best Books of 2015

The 5 Best Books I Read in 2015

  1. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
  2. Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas
  3. Paper Towns by John Green
  4. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
  5. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

blog.jpg

Red Queen generated a lot of buzz this year, so naturally, I had to check it out. It’s a debut novel and I was curious to see why it was insanely popular in YA circles. I’m still reading it, but it’s really good so far. It tells the story of an underclass girl, a “Red”, navigating the oppressive upper class of her society, the “Silvers”. There’s a love triangle between her and two brothers, the princes, but trust me, it’s not your typical love triangle: it’s much more interesting. Mare, the protagonist, is tough and likeable, and I really enjoy reading from her point of view. If you’re wondering whether Red Queen is really as good as everybody seems to say it is, rest assured that yes, it is.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

blog2.jpg

I’ll admit I slept on this wonderful series for too long. I finally got around to reading the first book, Throne of Glass, and I’m ecstatic I did. It’s similar to the Hunger Games and Game of Thrones, with a kick ass heroine I adore.  Celaena, the protagonist, is clever, feisty, and tough as nails. She’s in a love triangle between a prince and the captain of the guard, and I can see her with both of them. That’s good story telling. The plot is immensely fascinating, and follows Celaena as she competes to be the King’s “Champion”.  Filled with suspense and mystery, this book is a must read! It’s a page turner for sure.

Paper Towns by John Green

blog3.jpg

I read Paper Towns because the movie was coming out, and I firmly believe in reading the book before the movie. The story captured me with the idea of loving an idea more than loving an actual person. I was struck by how quotable this book was. One of my favorite quotes is: ‘What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.’ The social commentary is profound and pensive. John Green’s writing ensconced me.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

blog4

What I loved about this book is that the narrator was very relatable. I could really relate to Lara Jean’s sheltered life and her strong crushes. I rooted for her to finally find true love. I really enjoyed the sisterhood between her and her two sisters, Margot and Kitty. I also really liked how Jenny Han infused her Korean culture into the story, as Lara Jean and her sisters were half-Korean, half-white. I can’t wait till I finally get around to reading the sequel, (PS, I Still Love You)!

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

blog5

I’m Nigerian-American, and prefer to be socially aware on issues affecting African-Americans in America. Between the World and Me was so lauded this year, I had to grab a copy. I devoured it. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ writing is so rich, enthralling, and beautiful. His bold take on race in America was a delight to read. I admire his dauntlessness.

Advertisements

Movie Review: The Scorch Trials: Running Nowhere

Movie Poster
Movie Poster

The Scorch Trials

Directed by Wes Ball

Released September 18th, 2015

Genre: Dystopian, Action, Adventure, Young Adult

Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee

Synopsis

Transported to a remote fortified outpost, Thomas and his fellow teenage Gladers find themselves in trouble after uncovering a diabolical plot from the mysterious and powerful organization WCKD. With help from a new ally, the Gladers stage a daring escape into the Scorch, a desolate landscape filled with dangerous obstacles and crawling with the virus-infected Cranks. The Gladers only hope may be to find the Right Hand, a group of resistance fighters who can help them battle WCKD.

IMDB Score: 7.2/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 62%

My Thoughts

I was super excited to watch the Scorch Trials this weekend it opens because I’d watched the Maze Runner last year and absolutely loved it. It had been a thrill ride from start to finish and I thought that the action/adventure was fascinating and ethereal. Naturally, I was highly anticipating the sequel, expecting it to be bigger and bolder than the last movie.

What I Liked

The cinematography was stellar. I felt like the entire movie fit an overall aesthetic of poignant desolation. The camera focus was sharp as knives and the silhouettes made on the desert landscape were outstandingly artsy. I got chills whenever more than one character turned their heads at the same time, because it was done with such synchronicity and meaning. I felt that the visuals were excellent and I was overall blown away by them.n It certainly had a darker atmosphere than the first movie.

scorch4

Game of Thrones’ own Nathalie Emmanuel played such a BAMF (bad ass mother fucker) character, Harriet, in the movie. She was fierce, audacious, and exuded impassioned leadership. It was a delight to watch her instill awe in Thomas’s group and commandeer an army. It was such a far cry from her more gentle character on GoT, and I really enjoyed it.

scorch6

My heart leaped with a multitude of intense emotion, from terror to despair to elation. I actually got teary eyed when that tragic event occurred, and I could feel my heart leaping out of my chest with a surge of horror as Thomas’s crew was attacked by zombies. I like movies that make me feel greatly, and The Scorch Trials did succeed in that way.

scorch8

Brenda was pretty boss! She was totally self-assured and plucky, and I like her impetus. Her cool demeanor intrigued me. I think that she held her own very well and was very daring and dauntless.

What I Didn’t Like

So. Much. Running. I feel like the whole movie was just about Thomas, Newt, Teresa, Minho, and the rest of the gang just running away from the “bad guys” and being chased and shot at and attacked. Running from WCKD, running from zombies (too many zombies!), running from what ever attacker was there. It became ingratiating. Like Thomas said “I’m tired of running.” I’m tired of you running too, Thomas.

scorch9

I didn’t feel like there was any real point to this movie. I left the movie theater not even sure if I knew if there was a plot to it. A lot of random crap just happened to Thomas et al and I didn’t understand the premise of it. The first movie very clearly showed that the objective was to find the way out of the maze, and the objective was reached by them leaving the maze at the end of the movie. It seemed like for the sequel, horrible stuff was just thrown at our heroes and we were left with more questions than answers. It was more a of an awkward in-between movie, and I hope the mystery will be truly solved in the third (and final) movie.

scorch10

I didn’t like how Newt didn’t talk that much in this movie. I adore the actor, Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Nanny McPhee, Phineas and Ferb, Game of Thrones) and I wanted his character to be more important in the Scorch Trials, like he was in the Maze Runner. He kind of faded to the wayside in this movie, even though he was still Thomas’s right hand man. Plus, I really love his British accent, so I sorely missed hearing it a lot in the movie. I have a soft spot for Newt, which the Scorch Trials didn’t really deliver on.

scorch12

Teresa was just kind of there. Her character didn’t add any value to the plot until the horrific twist at the end, which appeared to have come out of nowhere. She was more of just an accessory to Thomas.

Verdict

The Scorch Trials was very aesthetically pleasing and showcased brazen female characters. It was fun to watch three Game of Thrones actors in one movie (Nathalie Emmanuel, Thomas Sangster, and Aidan Gillen). I think it was really thrilling to watch and it kept me on the edge of my seat. I thought that was excellent direction by Wes Ball in terms of visuals. Yet, it seemed pointless and meaningless, and I was left dissatisfied and disappointed.

7.5/10

Thomas
Thomas

scorch11scorch7scorch5

An Ode To Natural Black Hair (a poem of appreciation by me)

originally posted on my poetry blog wildcharismaandwanderlust.wordpress.com

natural hair

An Ode to Natural Black Hair

It looked like the devil’s hay,

A blazing inferno,

An untamable mane.

Bristly and dry,

A whorl of defiance,

Gravity wrangled.

Multiple snakes coiled,

Springing to life,

A tentacled being.

It looked like earth,

And weeds,

And the full richness of life.

A crown of fortitude,

A halo of ingenuity,

An afro of fiery glory.

Or just hair.

Book Review: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver (Delirium, #2)

pandemonium

Title: Pandemonium

Author: Lauren Oliver

Published: February 28th, 2012

Publisher: HarperCollins

Genre: Young-adult fiction, Romance novel, Utopian and Dystopian fiction

Read: July – August 2015

Source: Purchased from Barnes and Noble

Where To Find It: Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Goodreads

Synopsis

I’m pushing aside
the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana
and my old school,
push,
push,
push,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame.

Lauren Oliver delivers an electrifying follow-up to her acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Delirium. This riveting, brilliant novel crackles with the fire of fierce defiance, forbidden romance, and the sparks of a revolution about to ignite.

My Thoughts

I read Delirium a couple years ago and really loved it. I picked up Pandemonium a while ago, started it, got bored of it, and dropped it. This summer, I decided to pick it up again and give it another shot.

What I Liked

Lena kicked ass! I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by her being a kick-ass heroine being able to fight for herself deftly. She used her brains adeptly as well with clever thinking to get herself out of tricky situations. She definitely developed a lot as a character, from being a naive product of her society to being fierce and independent.

I never thought I could see Lena with another guy after how cute she and Alex were together, but when Julian came into the picture, I really liked the idea of Lena getting together with him. I love star crossed lovers, and Lena + Julian was no exception. I loved how they started out as enemies, then grew to trust each other. I swooned when he shared things about himself and his childhood with her. I felt like their romance was really smooth and really rooted for them to fall for each other. I especially liked how Lena ended up saving him. They’re too cute together and I ship them so hard!

I found her dynamic with the leader of her “Wild” gang, Raven, to be pretty interesting. Raven is very hardened and fiercely independent, and she really influenced Lena to be “stronger”, yet they also brushed against each other the wrong way over their ideological differences over the revolution. I found that to be an intriguing relationship.

I lover Lauren Oliver’s writing style. Her descriptive language is impeccable and her at times poetic style is so beautiful. The narrative voice of Lena was pretty enthralling.

What I Didn’t Like

Lena’s attitude towards Julian at first. It was so unnecessarily rude and hostile to me. I didn’t get her animosity towards him. It kind of made me want to shake her a little and I found it really annoying.

Some parts of the book really dragged on and were quite uninteresting, particularly earlier on during the Then parts. It got better when the Then parts got shorter, though.

I sometimes didn’t like Raven because of how emotionless she seemed to be. I gradually got to understand why her character was so hardened though. She was a good leader, yet highly flawed. Her strength derived from stamping down feelings of care about others, which, although wise in their situation, I didn’t like.

The Twist

I did not see that coming. The revelation was really infuriating to me, yet somehow ingenious. It was actually a brilliant twist, no matter how maddening it was.

The Ending

Lauren Oliver really gave us readers the illusion of a happy ending. I felt so elated that Lena and Julian could be happy and free together. It was so intensely disrupted by the return of a very important person from Lena’s past, who she’d spent much of the book pining for. I’m kind of sad that Lena and Julian didn’t get much time together to be a blissful couple, but still ecstatic to read what happens next with Lena juggling two people she’s grown to care about dearly.

Favorite Quotes

“I wonder if this is how people always get close: They heal each other’s wounds; they repair the broken skin.”

“We have picked each other, and the rest of the world can go to hell.”

pandemonium quoe

Rating: 3.5/5

Film Review: Far From the Madding Crowd: Endearing Feminist Romance

far from the madding crowd6

I have a confession to make: I really, really, really love Period Dramas. There’s just something about history that I’m so transfixed by: the fashion, the scenery, the old customs. It’s enchanting to me.

When I heard about Far From the Madding Crowd, I was thrilled. It wasn’t just that it was a period drama. I was drawn to the heroine’s description as headstrong and independent. Bathsheba Everdene (played by the dainty Carey Mulligan) was a woman who could take care of herself in a society that dictates that women be taken care of. I couldn’t wait to watch that unfold onscreen, being a feminist and all.

Hollywood starlet Carey Mulligan during the filming of an adaptation of the novel Far from the Madding Crowd in Sherborne, Dorset. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 20, 2013. Some scenes from the adaptation of the classic Thomas Hardy novel are being filmed in part of the town which has been transformed to fit the Victorian setting of the film. Photo credit should read: Tim Ireland/PA Wire
Hollywood starlet Carey Mulligan during the filming of an adaptation of the novel Far from the Madding Crowd in Sherborne, Dorset. Photo credit: Tim Ireland/PA Wire

There was also the not one, not two, but THREE (yes, three!) love interests for one heroine. The hopeless romantic that I am, I was almost giddy with excitement.

So how did Far From the Madding Crowd fare?

I found the background music heavenly, enamored with the violin and piano sounds.

All the main characters were just so pretty and handsome. There was a lot of really good eye-candy with such a beautiful cast. All three love interests (played by Matthias Schoenartes, Tom Sturridge, and Michael Sheen) were exceptionally dashing, charming, and disarming in their own different ways.

far from the madding crowd2far from the madding crowd4far from the madding crowd7

I was overjoyed to watch a feminist lead character. She was independent, the boss, owned property, and didn’t need “things” from a man to marry him. I admired her self-sufficiency and strength greatly.

The scenery was so gorgeous: rollicking hills, luscious green pastures, and tranquil bodies of water. Being an artsy person, I was really enchanted by the interior designs – artful with grandeur. I love really stately interior designs in my period dramas, and was blown away by the elegance in Far From the Madding Crowd.

far from the madding crowd3

I was especially enamored with the moving romance at the center of the movie. It was long-lasting and touching with a beautiful ending of endearing passion and love. The sexual tension was drawn out for maximum effect. Bathsheba Everdene finally got with the one man who’d stuck with her through thick and thin. It was so sweet. The secondary romance was a tragic love pulling at my heartstrings, which hit me deep.

A particular quote stood out to me, spoken by Bathsheba, my feminist heroine: “It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in a language chiefly made by men to express theirs.” So thought provoking.

far from the madding crowd

I’d give Far From the Madding Crowd a 10/10. It is a magnificently directed film with a very aesthetically pleasing cinematography. I feel like it told a great love story and really enjoyed the feminist values. I’d certainly recommend it to anyone who loves period dramas, strong female leads, and heartwarming romance.

Film Review: Girl in Progress: A Coming of Age Story

This is my coming-of-age blog post.

girl-in-progress

Girl In Progress

Released: August 2012

Watched: July 2015

IMDB Rating: 5.6/10

Synopsis

Grace (Eva Mendes) is a single mom who is often too busy juggling her job, bills and two love interests (Matthew Modine, Eugenio Derbez) to pay much attention to her daughter, Ansiedad (Cierra Ramirez). Inspired by the coming-of-age stories her English teacher (Patricia Arquette) introduces in class, Ansiedad decides to skip adolescence and jump-start her life without her mother. But, when the misguided plan unravels, Ansiedad and Grace must both learn that growing up means acting your age.

My Thoughts

I had the enlightening experience of watching Girl in Progress with my mother, as the film itself is very much a mother-daughter tale.

It tells the “coming-of-age” story of Ansiedad (Cierra Ramirez), a Latina girl who is in a hurry to grow up so that she can leave her oft neglectful mother, Grace (Eva Mendez). She learns about coming of age stories in her English class, in which she reads about how teenagers “grow up” and become “mature” through life experiences, hardships, and life lessons. In an entirely impressionable and naive move, Ansiedad proceeds to manufacture her own real-life coming of age story through sheer will and planning.

Meanwhile, her mother, Grace, is a waitress and a maid, who is involved with a married-with-kids white man. With all her work and her affair-ing, mother Grace simply fails to pay attention to Ansiedad and her needs as a child. As a result, Ansiedad’s behavior becomes a cry for help.

Ansiedad grows through a whole plan of becoming a good-girl-gone-bad, with her end goal of leaving via bus to New York. It was all very silly and childish. She ends up alienating her best friend and getting bad grades (on purpose!) while hanging out with the so-called “bad girls” and seeking a “bad boy” to lose her virginity to, which she planned to be her final step towards coming of age.

Ansiedad goes off the rails, losing her best friend and only stopping her deflowering at the last minute, when she realizes how much she doesn’t really want to. Meanwhile, her mother deals with being let go by her lover’s shrewd wife and said lover’s claims that he would leave his life for her. That was obviously a lie, he was never going to leave his wife for her, my mother and I both agreed.

Everything rights itself in the end as Ansiedad and Grace get to hash things out when Grace dumps her duplicious lover and stops Ansiedad from leaving at the nick of time. Ansiedad lets out her suppressed emotions of rage and abandonment at her mother, and they finally make up in a touching mother-daughter moment. Ansiedad also patches things up with her best friend movingly.

This movie was often times over the top, over dramatic, and even downright ridiculous, but I took away a very essential message from it in the importance of family, and appreciating your loved ones, the people who are really there for you no matter what.

Rating: 7/10

On that note, I’m ready to give myself up to adulthood. If you’re reading this, it’s too late for adolescent me because she’s a grown up now. This is scheduled to be published the moment I turn 18. So long, childhood. It’s been real.

Review: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Admittedly, I read this classic for my English class, American Literature, my junior year. Yet, I felt the pressing need to talk about this riveting book as it completely captured my imagination. This holiday, I watched the modern remake of the movie based on the Great Gatsby, and it seems necessary to compare and contrast the two: The Book, and The Movie starring the striking Leonardo diCaprio.

THE BOOK

The narrator is an impressionable, analytical, judgmental young man who recently moved to the East to find glamor and adventure. He represents the young souls in all of us, eager for romance and excitement, yet judgmental of the people caught up in that lifestyle. He is the outsider, watching the lives of other people unfurl around him in New York City. Our narrator, Nick Carraway, is the voice of the readers themselves.

The main character of the story is actually the enigmatic Jay Gatsby, one of the nouveau-riche of West Egg, thrower of lavish parties and owner of a vast amount of wealth. No one could figure out where exactly the wealth came from, which intensified the mystery encompassing Gatsby. Nick Carraway is the next door neighbor who watches the parties from afar until he is invited by Gatsby himself. He is thrown into the prodigality of the Jazz Age: 1920’s America, where the only concern is having fun dancing and drinking.

On the other end is West Egg of the wealthy people of old money, inherited wealth. Here we are introduced by Nick to Tom and Daisy Buchanan. Tom is your typical Alpha male douchebag who peaked in high school/college, while Daisy can best be described as a delicate flower, ditzy and romantic.

The epic romance unfurls as Nick discovers that Daisy and Gatsby used to be lovers until they were tragically separated when Gatsby went off to war. Daisy, as a rich young and beautiful socialite, was pressured into marrying a wealthy man (Tom) by her mother. What really got me was how Gatsby had purposely gotten a mansion right opposite Daisy’s in order to be secretly near her. He threw all those parties just to get her attention, hoping that she would stop by sometime, but she never did. That was literally the cutest thing I had ever read.

So Gatsby gets Nick to invite Daisy over to HIS house for tea, so he, Gatsby, could kind of just ‘drop in’ and run into Daisy again. Gatsby was so nervous about it and wanted everything to be perfect for their run-in. On the day, Gatsby is a nervous wreck, and I just found it so adorable, how much he cared about Daisy and what she thought. When Daisy arrives, at first its awkward, but then they start talking to each other like old times, and my heart is literally bursting with joy for them and their young love renewed.

The really sad thing, however, is how Gatsby wants to repeat the past, before he went to war, and fix it by having Daisy tell him she never loved Tom, only him, and by marrying Daisy. It’s also romantic but so tragic because you can;t repeat the past, and it’s heart breaking to see Gatsby get his hopes up. Nick, like us, knows Gatsby can’t fix the past, and tells him so, but Gatsby stubbornly wants to believe that he can.

Gatsby and Daisy become clandestine lovers and Daisy so much as comes to one of Gatsby’s parties with Tom, and sneak off with Gatsby.

It all comes to a head when Gatsby goes over for tea or whatever at the Buchanans’ house, and Tom has already suspected him and Daisy of hating something. The air is steely and tense. Daisy can’t stand it (she can’t cope with difficult situations) and asks if they can go into the city. They go, and Gatsby and Tom start arguing, for goodness sake! Gatsby ends up telling Tom that Daisy never loved him, and only loved him, Gatsby. Daisy echoes Gatsby’s statement, but half-heartedly, which already rang warning bells in my mind. As the fight goes on, Daisy finally admits that she had loved Tom, once, but she loved Gatsby too, and tells Gatsby that he’s asking for too much from her. By this time, I was sick of snivelly, oh-I’m-too-fragile-for-this-I-can’t-handle-it Daisy.

The fight between Tom and Gatsby thickens as Tom reveals what he’s discovered about Gatsby. He’s a bootlegger! That was where he got all his money from! The moment Daisy realizes Gatsby’s not of her social standing, she shrinks away from him, even as he pleads with her and denies everything (lying). Daisy, so typically, practically runs back to Tom to take her away from this HORRIFYING experience and Tom revels in his victory.

To cut the long story short, Gatsby dies for Daisy, it’s all very tragically romantic, and when I was reading it I was literally so surprised because I wasn’t even sure if he was dead or not, but then he was, and it was SO sad. Daisy doesn’t so much as come to the phone when Nick tries to call her, and she doesn’t come for Gatsby’s funeral either.

So I guess the moral of this story is rich girls don’t marry poor guys, which is funny, because that is exactly what happened to the author, Scotty here. Or the moral is that Daisy was a heartbreaking bitch, Tom was an asshole, and Gatsby was a hopeless fool in love.

THE MOVIE

gatsby

I know a lot of people who read the book hated the 2013 adaptation of the movie, but I LOVED it. It blew me away and I was completely enchanted from start to finish.

gatsby6

Tobey Maguire is Nick Carraway, and he was so brilliant at being the wallflower kind of guy, who saw everything but didn’t really do anything. He said direct quotes from the book, poignant observations from Nick in the book and their apt time in the movie. I was so thrilled!

gatsby9gatsby7gatsby8gatsby10

The effects made everything look larger than life, which is exactly how it was meant to be. It was incredible seeing the Buchanan’s house visually represented because I could see now just how lavishly wealthy they were, how huge and magnificent a house they had.The parties were over the top, so amazing, really reinforcing how brilliant they were in the book. They did a GREAT job at that; the ostentatious opulence.

gatsby12gatsby4gatsby2

Joe Edgerton as Tom was perfect. He looked like an asshole, he talked like an asshole, he oozed hateability through every pore. Carey Mulligan as Daisy was flawless. She was just as I imagined her, all delicate and elegant, pale and doe-eyed, with a cute nub for a nose and classy, classic beauty. She was just the right amount of ditzy and shrewd. Gatsby took the cake. Leonardo diCaprio was Gatsby, and my fangirl heart melted. He was dapper, he was charming, he was arrestingly cute, and just pure Gatsby.

gatsby3the great gatsby

I was really happy how they basically followed the book, but with little variations here and there that didn’t take away from the surprise. Sure, it wasn’t always word-for-word like the older adaptation, but really, what did you expect in this modern day? The only thing that I didn’t like was how they didn’t show Daisy’s daughter. Apart from that, the movie was splendid.

gatsby5

Rating: 8/10