Book Review: Love, Hate and Other Filters – Samira Ahmed

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Torn between the life her parents want for her, a job as a successful lawyer and a ‘suitable’ husband and her dreams to attend NYU to pursue a career in filmmaking, Maya thinks these are her biggest problems. That is until a terrorist attack completely shatters her world, sharing the same last name as the suspect is enough for her to face anger, hatred and violence all because of her religion.

This is Ahmed’s debut novel and if this is just the start, I can’t wait to see what comes next. An own voices novel, Ahmed makes 17-year-old Maya come alive within a few pages, presenting the struggle and expectations of a first-generation American. From the very first chapter, we see Maya fed up with the idea of a ‘perfect Indian daughter’, instead, she captures the world through a camera lens with hopes and dreams of making this a career.

This wasn’t a typical rebellious teenager character. You can see and feel the frustrations of trying to balance the two worlds. While she loves her parents and her Indian heritage, she was brought up as an American and struggles to balance the two. Particularly when her parents arrange for her to meet ‘suitable’ Kareem, a potential match, while she’s finally getting her crush to notice her at the same time. What’s a girl to do?

While a large chunk of the novel is taken up by love interests, there are serious undertones even before the disruption of the terrorist attack on Maya’s life. Luckily, Maya has people around her who can and will support her dreams of working behind the camera. I loved the relationship between Maya and her Aunt Hinda because it showed another perspective, it didn’t make Maya’s parents the only Indian characters and therefore a stereotype. The relationship between the two was incredibly special and moving.

I feel the need to point out that I am not Muslim, I am a white woman, so I feel that my experience of this book may be different to those who have lived it. That said, Ahmed tackles Islamaphobia head-on in this novel and I can only applaud her. It is something that so many will shy away from and pretend it doesn’t happen in today’s society. In that, the novel makes you think, it made me upset and angry that this is happening to innocent people, that Maya and her family face cruelty and hate because of another person’s actions.

As I was reading, I was worried about what the ending would be. I didn’t want this to be a formulaic ending and I’m pleased by what Ahmed did with the character. That is all I can say without spoiling the ending or rest of the plot, but it was worth mentioning.

Overall I gave this 5 stars. I really enjoyed the novel and can definitely see it becoming a bestseller. This should be handed out in schools as a tool to talk about Islamophobia and the impact it has on young people as well as discussions about culture. The only thing I would change is I’d like to have heard more about Maya’s filming and passion but that’s all!

Thank you to Netgalley, Hot Key Books and Samira Ahmed for this in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday Seven: Films I Can’t Wait to See

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We’re now in the last quarter of the year (how it’s come around so quickly I have no idea) and while I’m sad that the days are getting shorter and rainy days are becoming more frequent, I’m also excited because that means that curling up in the dark of a cinema instead of being outside isn’t frowned upon. So here are 7 films that are still to come this year that I’ll be picking up a ticket for.

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Bridget Jones’s Baby 

16th September 

I’ve loved Bridget Jones for years so hearing that she was going to come back and it wasn’t going to be based on the latest book made me stupidly happy. I have plans to go on my birthday weekend to see what Bridget’s got herself  into this time.

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The Girl on The Train 

7th October 

I saw the trailer for this and while it’s spoilt some things about the book, which I intend to read before seeing it, I was hooked. I can’t wait to see one Emily Blunt in this kind of role.

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The Light Between Oceans 

4th November 

I loved this in novel form and I’m both excited and nervous to see how it comes across in a movie. It’s a beautiful and heartbreaking story with Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) playing the female lead.

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Rogue One 

16th December 

This story is set before A New Hope and after seeing what Disney have done with The Force Awakens I have high hopes that they can pull this off too. It’s all about how the Rebels got hold of the plans for the Death Star. *please be good, please be good, please be good*

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Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them 

18th November 

Harry Potter and Eddie Redmayne combined? Sold.

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Doctor Strange 

28th October 

Marvel knows how to make a good movie. While I wasn’t crazy about the Doctor Strange comic book I read, I have seen the trailer and it appears to have the Marvel charm. This is going to be a definite watch.

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A United Kingdom 

25th November 

I don’t know too much about this film but the trailer looked breathtaking a story of love against the odds as the Prince of Botswana marries a young white woman in the 1940s.

What else should I be booking a ticket for? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: Room – Emma Donoghue

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“Scared is what you’re feeling. Brave is what you’re doing.”

Five year old Jack lives with his mother in ‘Room’, they play there, sleep there and learn there. Jack has never known the outside but his mother plans to make sure that he does soon. After being kidnapped Jack’s mother, simply named ‘Ma’, was imprisoned by her captor and rapist, she becomes pregnant with his child, which is is forced to bring up in the small room. For the first five years of his life, Jack has no idea that there is an outside, thinking that the TV is magical and there is nothing else. Until one day Ma makes a plan to escape, but she needs Jack’s help.

Copies of Room are everywhere right now, after Brie Larson’s oscar win, the film of Room has become a phenomenon. As with many great films though, a beautifully written novel is behind it. I read Donoghue’s novel a few years ago after it was recommended by a friend, I was absolutely blown away by it. The novel is an emotional read, there is no way around it but it also captures a world that hasn’t been considered before, the life of a child raised in captivity. The entire novel is seen through Jack’s eyes, as he tries to understand first that there is a world outside of the four walls he knows and then he has to try and navigate that world.

After their escape, which I read in a blur because I was so worried for little Jack through the whole part of the novel, both Jack and Ma need to adjust to a new world that they don’t know. Although we only see Jack’s perspective, Donoghue has also captured the effect that it has on Ma, after being away for so long. I think it’s more devastating because it is being seen through the eyes of her son, the only person she’s had in her life for years, as she tried to come to terms with what has happened to her and what will happen next. Donoghue is honest in the rehabilitation of these women and the hardships they face trying to go back into a society that has changed so much since they were last a part of it.

The plot mirrors some of the experiences of the big cases that have come out in the media where young women were imprisoned and gave birth to the children of their captors, although little is known of those children. The fact that Donoghue has gone from this angle is not only incredible in its own right, but even more so because she appears to have done such a good job of trying to imagine what must go through these children’s minds. There is also the issue of how these children are received, while Ma clearly loves her son deeply and does not associate him with her captor, it is understandable that others may struggle with the child being ‘the child of the captor’ as well as the victim. All of these subjects are dealt with in a respectful way and appear to have had a lot of research.

Of course I gave this book 5 stars *****. Donoghue is a truly magnificent writer with an inspiring talent. The way that the story is told is absolutely phenomenal, not only do Jack and Ma come to life, we really care for them and their recovery. I would definitely recommend reading the book before seeing the film, because no matter how many awards it has won, it wouldn’t have been possible without Donoghue’s magnificent storytelling.

Chloe Metzger

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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After weeks of having Star Wars constantly on the brain today I got to put on my new jumper and head into a galaxy far, far, away. Yes, I got to go and see Star Wars: The Force Awakens today with Ali after booking what seems like a lifetime ago. I’ll say now this WILL NOT have spoilers, because I think that’s cruel to all the people who haven’t seen it yet. That and someone ruined a big plot point for me on Twitter and I have a special hatred for them that will last a lifetime.

Did I like the movie? Yes, of course I did. I was apprehensive before going in and kept reminding myself that this was a new film, new characters and just to enjoy it for that but as soon as the music started I had a chill down my spine and squealed. Of course it’s common knowledge that the original heroes are back and of course they were incredible (there’s no question about that) but I need to focus on the new trio.

Rey, Finn and Poe are going to be incredible through the next set of films, I’m calling it now. All three actors were absolutely phenomenal and were working with an incredible script that made you fall into the story seamlessly. The boys both had a brilliant on screen dynamic and really gelled I felt but it’s Daisy Ridley that I have to give a special mention to. She’s had minimal acting experience but there is no way that you would know, her performance of Rey was flawless and I’ve fallen in love with both Daisy’s character and her acting.

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The only thing I’m still not sure about as I write this is how I feel about our new Dark Side. Despite all the promo Captain Phasma didn’t seem to be that much of a big deal to me, she looked cool but I don’t know how vital she is to the story. Additionally I’m not 100% on Kylo Ren as a villain at this point, I have a feeling that as the movies continue our new villain will be one of the greatest but I’m just not feeling it yet.

So I’ve left the theatre feeling a spectrum of emotions and my overwhelming feeling is that I need to see it again as soon as possible. The Star Wars franchise is very much back and I’m already obsessed over theories for the next film. Only a year and a half to go!

Book Review: STAR WARS SPECIAL

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Tomorrow I will finally be able to see Star Wars after picking up these amazing books and devouring them in the last month they were a great build up. Each novel follows one of the trio on a different adventure set between movies. Smuggler’s Run follow’s Han on a rescue mission across the galaxy, The Weapons of a Jedi shows Luke on his training to become a Jedi and in Moving Target, Leia continues to try and thwart the Empire.

As much as I’m excited to see the new movies and get to know Rey, Fin and Poe the original heroes will always have a place in my heart and so following them on these new adventures (which apparently also have hints in about the new movies) was brilliant. It also takes you right back into the world and the ways of the characters. I will say that each of the characters has been incredibly well written to match the movies.

While the books are marketed at children and young adults there is absolutely no reason that an adult wouldn’t enjoy these. They’re fast paced, exciting and can also leave you guessing while enjoying some of the traits of your favourite characters. That said, I felt like the Leia book especially showed a side to her which didn’t come across in the movies.

All of these got 4-5* reviews on my Goodreads account they’ve been very well written and more than anything got me so excited for the new movies. If you like these there are also more tie-ins being released over the next year, including one that will be released tomorrow about Rey, Finn and Poe (find it here).

Remember to check back in tomorrow to see what I thought of The Force Awakens!!!

Paper Towns Advanced Screening!

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Tonight Summer and I were lucky enough to go to an advanced screening of Paper Towns at my local cinema. I’m a huge fan of John Green, he’s one of my all time favourite writers and last year’s film The Fault in Our Stars is possibly my all time favourite film as well as a book that left me speechless. To say that I was excited for tonight was an understatement.

I have to say that the film doesn’t disappoint. When I heard that Cara Delevinge was playing Margo I have to admit I was a little sceptical, it was wasn’t how I saw Margo in my head. I was completely wrong because Cara just acts so well as Margo, there are moments here and there where her British accent slips up but I think that’s only because we got to see the Q&A footage before seeing the movie (where she sounds very British). I don’t know, now I’ve seen it she’s won me over and will forever be the most amazing Margo. As for Quentin, or Q, John Green was right when he said that he Nat Wolff was born to play him. He expresses the good guy/ awkward/ hopelessly in love guy that we all know and love from the book.

The film made me and the rest of the audience laugh, a lot. It also had a much more diverse audience than TFIOS did when it came out. There were such a mix of people, I was really surprised! Also, my sister has never read Paper Towns and she didn’t feel like she didn’t understand it or missed anything out, so don’t feel like you need to have read the book to enjoy. Oh and if you did enjoy TFIOS look out for an awesome cameo!

The best thing is that although I knew what was going to happen, I still had shivers up my spine, I still wanted to know about the mystery of Margo. It takes a very special film to make you forget what you’ve already read and get lost all over again. I was disappointed that the Seaworld scene wasn’t in the movie, it was my favourite part of the book so I was a little let down and there was one change towards the end that I wished was the same as the book. It wasn’t bad at all, just different. That said I fully accept that it can’t be exactly the same as the book.

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Summer and I waiting to go in, with giant slushies of course

There’s something about Green’s books when they are turned into films that sparks this feeling inside me. With TFIOS it was the feeling of wanting and needing to love, love no matter what because you never know how long you’re going to get. Paper Towns just reminded me to keep doing what I want to do, not to slip into that life of doing what you’re supposed to do when you’re supposed to do it, to embrace and crave some extraordinary things.

Would I recommend seeing Paper Towns?  Yes. It’s not overtaken TFIOS as my favourite movie, but it has made me want to go back and read the novel and in fact appreciate the novel more. It’s so funny and just takes you along for the ride, oh and Radar and Ben are PERFECT. The chemistry between the trio was amazing, sometimes you forgot that you weren’t watching three best friends. As with the relationship between Cara and Natt, it was in a word, perfect. As soon as it hits general release, go and watch, if you’re a John Green fan, you won’t be disappointed. Similarly if you want to have a girl crush over Cara’s eyebrows this is also a film for you!

Why Professor Stephen Hawking has become one of my heroes

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I’ll start this by saying that I’m absolutely hopeless at science, the only part of it I was good at was Biology, not Physics. With the release of The Theory of Everything, I took to the cinema with my friend Amy, intrigued by the story of Stephen and his Wife. I left with more than just a love for a film, but a new person to admire grately. I’d known that Stephen Hawking was one of the greatest minds on the planet for a long time, who didn’t? That said, as someone who was absolutely terrible at physics at school I never took a deep interest, until the film came out.

I watched this film and fell in love with Stephen’s determination and intelligence. I also marvelled at his then wife, Jane, who in her own right is incredibly intelligent. I watched the two of them and something awoke within me. Although not on the same level, I’ve battled with my own medical issues which time and time again have made people tell me that things I wanted weren’t possible. I read as much as I could about Stephen’s life and ambitions and used it as fuel to add to my own academic ambitions.

I’ve found myself getting angry at my body for not doing what it should and stressing out about the wheelchair, tonight I had a change of heart. I’ve spent all day either asleep or in bed with an hour here or there to eat. I ended up watching the BBC’s Dara ÓBirain meets Stephen Hawking and it made me think again, not just in terms of academics. Stephen’s had a whole life in a wheelchair, his movement and speech taken away from him and he still cracks jokes, smiles and it’s never taken away from his intelligence. I look at this as inspiration and it keeps me going while I have to use my own wheelchair.

Professor Stephen Hawking is perhaps one of the most intelligent men in the world, but there is more than that he also possibly the most persistent. He didn’t simply take his diagnoses and accept it and because of that he’s still here today. So as the above quote says, I’ll adapt to the changes my back brace/ wheelchair bring and I won’t give up.

Image from Pinterest