You need to watch Sense8

You need to watch Sense8

Today is the last day of June, a day which also sadly marks the end of Pride Month. As is my habit when something comes to an end, my mind wondered back to the beginning of June and on all the things that have happened this month. I remembered that, on the 1st of June, Netflix announced the cancellation of Sense8, my favourite TV show of theirs. I was very angry. As were millions of fans around the world – the Sense8 fandom spent Pride attempting to bring back the show and reminding everyone why it is so amazing, by sharing the best moments from it (if you don’t believe me, just go on Tumblr).

This made me decide to dedicate the last blog post of Pride Month to one of the most diverse and inclusive shows on Netflix. I am simply doing what all Sense8 fans have been doing this June – telling you why it’s so brilliant and why you should watch it immediately.

In a nutshell, Sense8 is about eight strangers who are emotionally and mentally connected to each other, being able to share their knowledge and language – something they discover as a result of experiencing the same vision at the beginning of season 1. The rest of the first season deals with the sensates coming to terms with their connection while also trying to live their normal lives, while season 2 delves deeper into the implications of being a sensate and shows the numerous ways they help each other on a daily basis.

Sci-fi isn’t usually my thing, and at a first glance, the whole idea for the show sounds pretty complicated and “meh”.  But every Buzzfeed quiz and “what to watch based on your zodiac”-type post pointed me to Sense8. It was actually freaky. Since destiny wanted me to watch it (not to mention loads of my friends), I pressed play on episode one and did just that. Now, I had been warned it would take a while for me to get into it, and that was nothing new – it does usually take one or two episodes to get into a new show; you need to get used to the dynamic between characters, the world they live in, etc. But with this show…it took half of season 1, I was so unsure of what I felt towards the whole thing. It did make me really curious, if only to see if I will ever like it as much as everyone liked it.

I loved it.

I was addicted to it by the second half of the season. Just hooked, I am telling you. When I finally understood what the deals was with their connection, and got the hang of the pace of the show, pieced together the plot…that was it for me. “Slowly, and then all at once.” This is the perfect way to explain my growing love for the show.

You will love it, too – I promise you.

Sense8 is pretty much a twenty-four-hour long movie, broken down into episodes, and unlike other shows that I have seen before, the pilot doesn’t just explain everything. Instead, it leaves you asking the same questions as the characters (namely, “what the hell is going on?”). This establishes a great foundation for the relationship between viewers and the characters. The way the story is told really helps build up that relationship as well – each episode is told from one of the characters’ point of view. As a result, we never know more than them, which I find helps me put myself in a character’s shoes much more easily, and therefore emphasise more with them. As this show is very heavily focused on its characters and the bond between them, this storytelling choice seems very fitting for the show.

Speaking of characters, it is impossible not to fall in love with them. I am completely honest when I say that I do not have a favourite out of the eight protagonists; I have the same passionate love for all of them. They are very diverse – they all come from different corners of the Earth, are of different races, identify as different sexualities, speak different languages, know different things. There’s Capheus Onyango(also known as Van Damme), a Nairobi bus driver; Niomi Marks, a trans woman hacktivist and blogger from San Francisco; Lito Rodriguez, a gay Mexican actor; Sun Bak, a badass kickboxer who is also the daughter of a powerful Seoul businessman; Kala Dandekar, a pharmacist and devout Hindu based in Mumbai; Wolfgang Bogdanow, a Berlin locksmith and safe-cracker; Riley Blue, an Icelandic DJ living in London; and Will Gorski, a Chicago police officer.

They are very unique, yet have been so carefully written, and are so well-rounded, you would truly expect to meet them on the street. One of the reasons why just happens to be that some characters are inspired by real people. Niomi is inspired by Lana Wachowski herself, one of the writers of the show. Niomi’s girlfriend, Amanita, is inspired by Wachowski’s wife. And while not being the alter ego of anybody, Wolgang’s difficult relationship with his father is inspired by the equally difficult relationship between J. Michael Straczynski (the other writer) and his own father.

If they are this amazing by themselves, I hope you can imagine how extraordinary they are as a group. The dynamic they have together is something that goes beyond the connection they have as sensates. It’s not only that they understand each other so well, it’s also the support they give one another, and the way they help each other out in need. They’re truly friends – because, after all, the connection they have doesn’t necessarily mean they have to like each other, right? Let alone be friends. The secondary characters are just as brilliant. They provide a great support system outside the cluster, and it’s very heart-warming to see how positively people react to the “gift” the “main eight” have. Moreover, they allow for glimpses inside each protagonists’ life outside of the cluster, because sometimes it’s quite easy to forget they’re thousands of miles apart and have very different lifestyles.

The whole cast really becomes a family as the show progresses, not only among themselves, but also for the viewer.

What makes Sense8 even more special is the way it was filmed.

Yes, it can be very confusing plot-wise, but it is visually stunning, and that is because the amazing producers of this show wanted to shoot on location for the whole show. And boy does this method deliver! What’s also great is that, because of the focus on the characters, you don’t just get to see the eight different cities, you get to know them, since you get to experience places that have emotional meanings to the protagonists. (I for one grew attached to the Palace of Westminster in London, even though I knew it really well already, thanks to a scene in season 2. I even went there specifically to recreate that scene. It gave the building more meaning, even though I’ve gone past it hundreds of times before. Sense8 does this kind of thing to you.)

You know how I mentioned diversity before?

The show tackles a lot of very current, very serious issues – culture, gender, sexuality, politics, religion. The idea of empathy is what lies at the core of Sense8. When talking about how the show came about, empathy was the starting point, as Straczynski mentions: “We started out at one point talking about how evolution involves creating ever greater circles of empathy: You belong to your family, then you belong to your tribe, then two tribes link up and now you have empathy for your people on this side of the river, and you’re against the people on the other side of the river… on and on through villages, cities, states and nations… So what if a more literal form of empathy could be triggered in eight individuals around the planet… who suddenly became mentally aware of each other, able to communicate as directly as if they were in the same room.”

The “us vs them” idea can be used to understand the overarching idea of the plot, as the sensates are battling against Whispers and the BPO (the bad guy of the show and his evil organisation), who are after them simply because they are different. The show is very well-loved for the positive portrayal of LGBT characters, and is very sex-positive (the several orgies that are included in the show aren’t there just for the sake of it, although I can guarantee no-one would mind if that were the case; the whole cast is very good-looking). Overall, the show really advocates for acceptance and inclusion.

When I began writing this blog post, this amazing show had been cancelled, never to be continued again, because Netflix, despite being the only ones interested in the show in the beginning, are jerks. However, things are quite different as I am finishing this post – a two-hour special episode has been announced for 2018.

Therefore, go and watch Sense8.

It is a “visual feast” and an “emotional touchstone”, as it has been described online, and if it all seems confusing…just go with it. It will be worth it, I promise. Just as the sensates do, let yourself discover the wonder of this “ability” and the show. Plus, who doesn’t like a TV show with such a great pun for a title?

It’s very binge-able, so consider your weekend sorted. There’s a lot of amazing moments, like Christmas and Pride, that will really get to you, so have some tissues ready as well. Just go and watch it. It will make life better.


Book Review – “More Happy Than Not” by Adam Silvera

Book Review – “More Happy Than Not” by Adam Silvera

Warning! You might stumble upon a few spoilers.

Synopsis: In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again—but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely. 

When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is. 

Why does happiness have to be so hard?

This book is brilliant for a lot of different reasons.

For one, there’s the diversity offered by this novel. I have personally never read a YA novel set in the Bronx before, so just the setting itself got me really excited. The novel never strays from this side of New York City, and Adam Silvera manages to convincingly capture life in urban poverty, where Aaron’s mother works two jobs yet can barely afford the small flat the family live in, and things like a friend owning a desk or their own bed rouse Aaron’s feelings of desire. The group of friends that Aaron spends his time with is made up of people we might not consider even going near at first, such as criminals or school drop-outs, but whom, as the novel goes on, turn out to be more than just their social status.

The novel isn’t just about life in the Bronx, though. It also deals with the difficult subject of depression.

I am always weary when it comes to mental health in novels. There are too many ways in which it could go wrong (see the review for All The Brilliant Places and Thirteen Reasons Why, which I dislike too much to comment on). But this book does it well, and it is thanks to Aaron’s narration. Silvera has really managed to make his narrative voice very realistic. It’s through the progression of days that we get a clear sense of the difficult journey he’s going through, the suicide of his father and his l own failed attempt never leaving his mind for long. Despite this undertone of dark emotion, Aaron is quite the quirky guy. I really love the way he engages with those around him.

And it doesn’t stop with depression, the novel also tackles the process of coming out – it does this through the wider topic of self-acceptance.

I really love the relationship that Aaron and Genevieve have (their “Trade Dates” is a really interesting idea that should actually become a thing in relationships, I am telling you). She is his rock, and yet I love that she is not simply reduced to that. In fact, it’s the other way around; Aaron is the one who, I feel, identifies himself through the label of “Genevieve’s boyfriend”. And it’s something that I felt he does with everyone around him in the first part of the novel, before he starts questioning his feelings for Thomas. Funny Thomas should come up, because he is the boy onto whom Aaron projects his fears regarding himself. Aaron assumes Thomas is gay very early on, and then keeps quiet about it because he knows his friends would not approve if they found out, yet it becomes increasingly clear as the narrative progresses that he is fearing for himself, not for Thomas. Which is why Aaron can’t accept Thomas’s confession that he is straight and accuses him of denying his sexuality. The comic book Aaron was working on is another fascinating insight into Aaron’s journey of acknowledging his sexuality. Aaron says: “If I were faced with Sun Warden’s decision – whether or not to save his girlfriend or best friend from a dragon – I’m sorry to change my mind, but Thomas would fall away without me moving a muscle. And I would make that choice without a doubt because the bottom line is that Genevieve is my girlfriend and I’m her boyfriend, and Thomas and I are just friends and that’s that.” He is clearly fighting himself.

The plot twist that happens towards the end of the novel was anything but that for me.

There are so many moments scattered throughout the novel where things either don’t make sense, so you know something is up, or it’s easy to guess that something will happen. However, this isn’t what ruined the latter part of the book for me. The ending was something I did not see coming, and sadly, not in a good way. The positive message conveyed at the end contrasts with how sad it is, which you could say achieves the effect of making it more poignant, but I felt like the whole ending was just…wrong. Also, while the last few pages leave us with amazing quotes, such as “If there’s happiness tucked away in my tragedies, I’ll find it no matter what. If the blind can find joy in music, and the deaf can discover it with colours, I will do my best to always find the sun in the darkness because my life isn’t one sad ending – it’s a series of endless happy beginnings,” it also left me extremely confused about the overarching message of the novel.

There’s also the sci-fi side to the book.

The Leteo Institute, which allows people to erase memories. It can be seen as a metaphor for the dreaded conversion centres/ therapy, and the fact that it ultimately fails to make Aaron’s wish come true clearly adds to the comparison. The existence of the Institute really troubled me as I was reading the book, mainly because it seemed to promise an easy escape when life got too hard, and surely dealing with the bad stuff that life throws at you is ultimately what makes you grow as a person, so this was taking it all away (and where would that leave the emotional growth of the characters). Silvera seems to be aware of such worries the reader might have, since the latter part of the novel pretty much gives you the answer. The Leteo Institute, while actually being put to one side for most of the novel, plays a really big part in the ending, and as you know by now, that left me baffled. As a consequence, I am not too keen on this whole Leteo Institute side of the story.

I didn’t like this book when I first read it, I must confess.

I wanted to, so badly, and, to be honest, I think that might have been the problem. I have only heard good things about this book, and I ended up seeing only the negative, because in my mind I was sceptical about the hype surrounding this book. Therefore, things suddenly seemed stereotypical and clichéic and annoying. Everything you have read in this review until now is still completely honest, though. It took me a while to realise that I might have been judging the book too hard. Sure, I found it annoying that Aaron seemed to love his girlfriend mostly because she put up with him. Yet thinking about it, he had just gone through the traumatic experience of his father’s suicide. I think all of us would be grateful to have someone who stays, no matter how ugly the process of coping with the aftermath of such an event is. And yes, I found Aaron’s revelation that he is into guys quite the cliché, especially since Aaron didn’t seem to consider the fact that he might be bisexual, he just went ahead and called himself a “dude-liker” (I am aware that the ending might kind of explain why he unconsciously jumps directly to the “gay” label, but for me that still isn’t a good enough reason). Later I realised that it was something I could identify with, because I was myself only aware of homosexuality and heterosexuality in the beginning, before I realised there could be a “middle ground”, let alone a whole spectrum.

This book is quite a journey, for the characters themselves and for the reader (or so it was for me). Silvera deserves to be proud of this debut novel, he manages to tackle some incredibly complex issues with a lot of honesty and emotion. I am not 100% in love with this book, there are things like the ending which I just can’t get behind, but it is still a book I would recommend, especially if you’re looking for class diversity and sci-fi, all with a lovely sprinkle of LGBT.


Book Review – “The Price of Salt”/”Carol” by Patricia Highsmith

Book Review – “The Price of Salt”/”Carol” by Patricia Highsmith

Synopsis: The Price of Salt is the story of Therese Belivet, a stage designer trapped in a department-store day job, whose salvation arrives one day in the form of Carol Aird, an alluring suburban housewife in the throes of a divorce. They fall in love and set out across the United States, pursued by a private investigator who eventually blackmails Carol into a choice between her daughter and her lover.

Say hello to one of my all-time favourite books!

I don’t even know where to begin, I have so many feelings and thoughts about this, so let me start by telling you that this novel was loved from the moment it first came out in 1952. It wasn’t called Carol back then, but The Price of Salt, and Patricia Highsmith published it under a pseudonym, Claire Morgan, because she claims she didn’t want to be known as a “lesbian-book writer”, but the lesbians loved it anyway. Why?

Because this was the first novel where the gay couple had a shot at happiness at the end of the story.

Sure, it can be argued that the ending of Highsmith’s novel isn’t all that happy, and we don’t really know what’s in store for Carol and Therese, but they don’t die, or go depressed and crazy, or have to try to lead a “normal” life. And even today, that is a big thing. Because the “bury your gays” trope is still there, and still annoyingly popular, so novels like this one are paperback pieces of hope for the LGBT community looking for better representation. Right from the start, Highsmith was praised for writing a story that lesbian women could identify with, and while we no longer live in the 1950s, having your sexuality held against you, as happens in the case of Carol, is something that many of us still have to deal with today. Not to mention figuring out the nature of your feelings for someone of your own gender for the first time, which is what Therese has to go through in the first half of the novel.

And Highsmith did something else, too. She changed the way lesbian women were viewed in society by going against the stereotypical portrayal, where one of the women in the relationship was expected to be visibly butch.

(Does anyone else’s mind wonder to one of the most annoying things lesbian couples get asked, “which one of you wears the pants/is the man in the relationship”? It makes me both happy to see how such a great book is still relevant today, yet this also saddens me, because after 60 years, it shows that not that much has changed regarding the LGBT community.)

I love the way she breaks this stereotype, too, because Highsmith doesn’t just simply make Carol sophisticated and then expects us to be impressed that her character isn’t butch, but she shows how ingrained this idea of the butch lesbian was in society by having Therese herself be amazed by Carol’s appearance: “She had heard about girls falling in love, and she knew what kind of people they were and what they looked like. Neither she nor Carol looked like that. Yet the way she felt about Carol passed all the tests for love and fitted all the descriptions.”

But being a relevant lesbian story is not the only thing that makes this novel so amazing. After all, as Highsmith is not simply a lesbian-book writer. She states that she planned the novel while having a fever, and while this might not actually have anything to do with the writing itself, “feverish” is definitely the word I would use to describe it. The writing is packed with details and action, and is just as intense as the plot itself. The story is gripping from the first sentence, and then it keeps you hooked like an addict, until your eyes are hurting and the words are swimming on the page and it’s so late you can no longer make out reality from fantasy. The novel provides a very intense reading experience, even if the writing style can be described as conversational (because, even though it may be packed with detail, it flows just as easily as a conversation). It really works, though, the seemingly laid back style with the intensity that it nevertheless depicts. It really brings the character’s feelings into a better perspective, allowing us to experience the confusion, disorientation and even obsession they might have felt, too – especially Therese, who has to deal with thoughts and emotions that are very new to her.

I have to admit that, as nuanced and well-rounded as the characters are, they are not always the most lovable. Although Carol seems amazing when looking at her through Therese’s eyes, I often found myself in a love-hate relationship regarding her while reading the book. There are times when she is simply cold and cruel. Therese herself isn’t that much better, she seems heartless towards people at times, especially towards her boyfriend. Yet it’s both of them, together, that I love the most. The moments they share together, when they can be themselves and joke or reveal secrets about their lives. Such moments, which might not be the ones where the two protagonists fell in love with each other, are the ones where I fell in love with them.

I greatly love the road trip setting that most of the novel offers. This feeling might have been fuelled by Kerouac’s On The Road, which I read prior to my first reading of this book, but it is on this trip that Therese matures in the way she loves Carol and the way she views the world. And it is this trip that reveals what it was like to be a lesbian woman in the 1950s, which are perceived as having been very restrictive times. However, from this novel alone, we can see that the times weren’t as we depict it today. Not only were people aware of homosexuality, but you could also find accepting communities, most clearly shown through Carol and Abby’s friendship, as well as through the interaction between the actress and Therese, whom she meets towards the end of the novel. Also, as the road trip shows, two women could share the same bed at a hotel and not draw attention to themselves, the possibility of them living together also being implied.

The road trip section of the novel also makes Highsmith’s talent for writing thrillers felt, from the gun in the suitcase all the way to the detective that follows them. And don’t you think a road trip to … nowhere, really, is a great metaphor for their relationship? They have no idea where they’ll end up, they have no guidance, not even a map like they do for the trip, and you could read even deeper into this and say that the detective following them is the views and expectations of society (ok, so I might be stretching it a bit here, but it could work, right?).

I will always be grateful to Highsmith for defying the norm and paving the way towards a more positive representation, not only for lesbian women but for the whole LGBT community. It is for this reason, and for her amazing writing, that her novel will surely win the hearts of many generations to come, too.




The Rebirth of the Rainbow

The Rebirth of the Rainbow

Rebirths can be terrifying.

They require the understanding that you have reached a point of no return, where “worse” is the only thing that lies ahead, and the acceptance that you have gone too far in this no man’s land of “bad” to take any further steps. They require the courage to accept the severity of the situation and to realise that, by allowing yourseldf a do-over, you are not giving up in the face of hardship, but getting rid of dead weight, stepping away from things that no longer bring you joy and fulfillment and growth.

Rebirths are positive. And necessary.

This blog is one of the things I am most proud of. It may not be much, it may not be big or popular, but it was born out of sincere joy, passion and excitement. I had started blogs before, and had given up on them, but I knew this one was going to be different. And it has been. Every post has been thoroughly thought out and then written with great care, but something happened along the way. Even though I was still writing about things I loved and wanted to share with the world, the words didn’t feel honest anymore. I spent too much time editing them, polishing them to the closest version of perfect I could muster.

I thought I couldn’t let cracks or vulenrabilty show. Because that was weakness.

No one wants to see weakness, do they?

But is an objective voice that uses words such as “love” and “enjoy”, or even “despise” and “hate” really any better? I now realise the answer is no. So what if there will be mistakes in these posts? Or if they get too chatty, or turn into rambles, or completely miss the point? That’s how I am, and not only do I want this blog to be something that I enjoy, I want it to be a reflection of myself.

So I am starting again.

It is not a grand rebirth, but it is still an important one. It might only be the presentation, with shades of pink and purple dominating the blog now (my happy colours), and a slight shift in the style of future posts, yet this is a subtler type of rebranding. It’s all about being true to yourself. Honesty. With all the good and the bad that accompanies it. Still talking about the things that matter to me – books, movies, TV shows, school, LGBT related topics, mental health  – but getting rid of all the excessive editing that comes from over thinking. Just typing up words that resonate with me, and might do so with others, too.

Just like a phoenix can rise again from its ashes, so must we from our past.



March Favourites – the Unicorn edition

March Favourites – the Unicorn edition

The first month of spring has come and gone way too fast, I hope no-one blinked and missed it. March was great, even if it felt so short, and there are many things that I really loved and now I’m excited to share with you!

Favourite Movies

  • Beauty and the Beast – I have been waiting for this movie for months, and now it is finally out! Naturally, I went and saw it multiple times, and it has slowly taken over my life/ my Tumblr account. It is, without a doubt, one of the best movies of 2017 and best Disney live-action adaptation. The acting is amazing (and how could it not be, when it stars Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Sir Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson), the cinematography is flawless and the soundtrack will stay with you forever – it includes all the favourites from the old soundtrack and blesses us with two original songs (and who hasn’t been listening to “Evermore” non-stop since it came out? That song is my personal favourite). It left me in tears; if you haven’t seen it – what are you waiting for?
  • By The Sea – I am a big fan of Angelina Jolie, and I was really excited when I heard about a movie written and co-directed by her. It sadly did not live up to my expectations. The story drags on for longer than it should – the movie could be cut by half and it would be much more captivating; the beginning and end are all you need to watch to make sense of the plot, the middle is just filler. The pace is really slow, and while there is intrigue, it takes too long for it to be explained, which does eventually become boring. The characters have so much potential, but they don’t get explored as much as they should. It’s got amazing cinematography, which does save it slightly, and the acting is brilliant (hence why it is on this list), so at least you can be distracted by Angelina Jolie looking amazing.

Favourite TV Shows

  • Shadowhunters – It’s been a long time coming for me to finally feature this amazing show on my monthly favourites. It has amazing characters and showcases so much diversity. You also have all your fantasy favourites – vampires, warlocks, werewolves and angels (well, technically, half-angels). It’s based off Cassandra Clare’s book series The Mortal Instruments, but I feel like the TV show adds so much more to them. It also manages to strike the right balance between awesome fight scenes and touching moments (which will bring you to tears, I guarantee it). After you fall in love with the characters, I also recommend looking up the cast and falling in love with them too, because the producers chose such amazing actors to star in this show, giving us all yet another reason to love it.
  • New Girl – All the shows I have been watching lately (I’ve had quite a few to catch up with) have been making me very emotional and sad, and I was in dire need for something uplifting and happy. This show has delivered just that. The characters are so easy to fall in love with, the episodes are short, so you can  watch them even if you don’t have a full hour to do so, and there are so many celebrity appearances! It also has a really catchy theme song that you will not be able to stop humming.
  • iZombie – Had you asked me what I thought of this show while watching the first season, I would have told you it’s a great and feel-good, with a quirky human – zombie duo who help the local police solve murders. Now, as I am patiently waiting for season 3, I can tell you that the show is way better than that.  While you may come for the unique twist on the classic zombies – taking on the personality of the brain they have consumed – is part of what makes the show so great, it is the characters themselves, which are so lovable,  that you stay.

Favourite Music

  • Glass Animals – I know I go on and on in these posts about Summer Well Festival, but it is a really good excuse to keep listening to the same band for as long as possible before someone around me gets annoyed, and they are bringing really good bands this year. Glass Animals are a band that I have been listening to  for a while now, mostly while working, but thanks to the festival I have now seriously started paying attention to their music, and it’s very different from what I normally listen to, so it’s very refreshing.
  • Beauty and The Beast soundtrack – I have been obsessed with this soundtrack for the last few weeks. I know all the words, I know the instrumentals, I can act out each song just like in the movie. It’s become the soundtrack that can brighten my mood, however low I’m feeling, and it’s personally so rare for me to find something like this, that I have just let it steal into my melancholy heart.

Favourite Reads

  • Jazz by Toni Morrison – This book is so clever in so many ways. It makes you think it’s gonna be all about the 1920s, its music and the issue of race, and while it is precisely about those things, it’s not in the way you could ever have imagined. The music is the text, and the issue of what it meant to be a coloured person in the “roaring 20s” is told through a narrative that is as changing as the music depicted by the title. Each character takes a turn to tell their part of the story, being sometimes interrupted by an ominiscient narrator, leaving you with a feeling of distrust towards the authenticity of what is being said. It’s very innovative and compelling, and the anticipation of the next character in charge of narrating creates a suspense that is unexpected from a book such as this.
  • The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien – This is a collection of short stories about the Vietnam war. But unlike any other book about the war, O’Brien’s manages to stand out through the commentary about storytelling and writing, being very self-aware of its fictionality, but at the same time of its truth. My favourite quote is “I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth”. He also writes that “In many cases a true war story cannot be believed”, and this quote perfectly summarises the whole book; I was never sure what I believed while reading it, if the stories were real or not, but they brought out the reality of the war and how it must have felt to be part of it, which is precisely O’Brien’s point. It’s a great read that messes with your head and makes you think.


Review – “All The Bright Places” by Jennifer Niven

Review – “All The Bright Places” by Jennifer Niven

Synopsis: An exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die. Theodore Finch is fascinated by death. Every day he thinks of ways he might die, but every day he also searches for—and manages to find—something to keep him here, and alive, and awake. Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her small Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s death. When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school—six stories above the ground—it’s unclear who saves whom. And when the unlikely pair teams up on a class project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, they go, as Finch says, where the road takes them: the grand, the small, the bizarre, the beautiful, the ugly, the surprising—just like life. Soon it’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a bold, funny, live-out-loud guy, who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet forgets to count away the days and starts living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. This is a heart-wrenching, unflinching story of love shared, life lived, and two teens who find one another while standing on the edge.

This book was one that was constantly brought to my attention every time I seemed to completely forget about it, so in the end I finally decided to read it.

I have never been too keen on the book being advertised as the next The Fault in Our Stars, not because I have something with John Green, but because it ultimately uses the novel’s senstive subject matter of mental illness as a way of promoting the story, thus risking turining it into a sensational topic. But the general consensus among those who have read it is that it is worthwile, so I decided to look beyond what is, in my opinion, a questionable marketing strategy.

The novel has a very strong, gripping opening – the first line really sticks with you. It is a bit clichéic for me, but it did make me want to read on, even if only for the sake of seeing if the clichés continue. As the synopsis says, the book opens with the main characters meeting on the bell tower of their high school, which throws the reader right in the thick of the action.

The story follows Violet and Theodore Finch, who take turns being narrators, and who are both in a really bad place when we first meet them on that bell tower. The friendship that unfolds between them shows readers how two very different people can come together in the best of ways, even if they are brought together by an unfortunate situation.

I took an immediate liking to Finch. Beyond the synopsis description of him being a guy who constantly comes up with ways to kill himself, he is complex and rich – a very well rounded character, with whom it’s really easy to engage. He manages to encompass the contradictions that take over when you suffer from depression – his constant need to stay alive, while being unable to stop himself from thinking about the ways other people have commited suicide. Violet is similarly having a hard time coming to terms with her sister having passed away, and the way she has retreated in her shell as a result of it is something that I really appreciate, because it feels like such a realistic reaction to such a traumatic event. I love the way their love doesn’t just happen, but progresses from friendship, and the way their journey across Indiana to discover their state also turns into a journey of self-discovery. I am also a huge fan of the fact that they use Virginia Woolf quotes.

However, as much as I loved the characters and their journey, there are a few things which I was not pleased with. Firstly, while for the most part, the book is hopeful regarding mental illness, the ending throws that away (it is also pretty predictable thanks to the structure of the book). Moreover, recovering from mental illness is, in my opinion, treated problematically in the novel. There is no mention of any medication that might help, Finch’s mental illness remains undiagnosed and therapists are portrayed in a pretty negative light. So, while the book seems helpful to someone who knows people that are struggling with mental illness, it does not do too much for those who are suffering from it.

What really, really bothered me the most, however, is the way no one tries to figure out what is wrong with Finch. His problems are mostly ignored by his friends and family. And while he is actively helping Violet move past the trauma that holds her stuck in the past, no-one is putting in a similar effort for him. He is fighting against his issues by himself. The final part of the book, especially, becomes about Violet rather than Finch and what he has been going through. While I am aware that there is a lot of stigma surrounding mental illness, I did hope that the novel would fight against that in order to show that we should at least try to understand and attempt to help someone who is suffering from it.

Despite this, I really enjoyed the novel, and I am certain that Finch will forever remain on my list of most beloved book characters. I do really recommend this book, especially if you’re a fan of John Green-like novels (yes, the promo is right in this comparison, to some extent). I personally look forward to reading more novels by Jennifer Niver.


How to get through deadlines

How to get through deadlines

I have very strong reactions when “deadline” is mentioned – I get terrible flashbacks of sleepless nights, copious amounts of caffeine, stress and anxiety. I am certain that I am not the only one who feels this way, because deadlines are scary and I have yet to meet someone who associates that word with anything positive. Which is why I feel that it is important to try and learn how to deal with deadlines, since it’s something that no one is going to be able to escape from – hence me writing this blog post. However, I did not want it to be one of those “guides” that you find everywhere on the Internet, with tips like “make sure you sleep enough” or “too much caffeine won’t help you,” because I have never found them useful. Instead, I want to share with you the things that I personally do when deadlines are getting closer that take some of the stress away.

  • Just get started – It might sound very obvious, but getting started is usually the toughest step for me. Seeing all the work piling up, knowing that I am slowly running out of time gets me so scared that I end up putting it off even longer. It’s a vicious cycle, which only ends when I manage to get myself to sit down at my desk and start working.
  • Don’t abandon your work – Just because I get started does not always result in getting my work done. It still feels overwhelming at times, and that’s when I get the strong urge to take a break for a while (this “while” usually turns into a whole day). Which is why l have become a big fan of the Pomodoro Technique – I chose one of the many things I am have to work on, and set a timer for half an hour, in which I only focus on the task at hand. It usually manages to get me going and insures that I do not give up what I started (or, at least ,for half an hour).
  • Avoid distractions – Over the years, I have become a bit too in love with my social media accounts, which I check religiously. This is especially the case when I know I should be focusing on work. My almost impulsive need to check my phone, go on Facebook, or complete that very important Buzzfeed quiz that will tell me what kind of cheese I am according to my astrological sign, is always what turns a 5 minute break into a 15 minute one. I feel like the best way to solve this would be to use one of those boxes with a timed lock so that you can’t get your phone out until the time is up, but since I don’t have such a technological wonder, I have to resort to the old-fashioned technique of leaving my phone in another room, or putting it somewhere out of my reach (which usually means at the back of my closet, because that place is a mess).
  • Take naps – This is by far my favourite thing to do during deadlines. I work best late at night, after dinner. However, I am a huge worrier, and I always feel the need to wake up as early as I can in the morning, to get a head start on the day. This usually means that, by the afternoon, I am falling asleep standing up. Which is why I love naps so much – they allow me to take a break from my work, and get that much-needed rest. No amount of caffeine will ever help me as much as naps do.
  • Don’t forget to eat – I have been told there are two types of people when it comes to eating during stressful situations, those who don’t eat anything, and those who eat everything. I fall into the former category – I tend to forget to leave time for meals when deadlines are looming over my head, and I end up only snacking on sweets and chocolate throughout the day. No one has come out and said it to my face, but I am aware that it is a bad habit. Which is why now, whenever I have to get through stressful periods like deadlines, I begin my day by making time for my meals, and usually setting alarms so I don’t forget. It at least gives me the impression that I am taking care of myself, so I can feel like a proper adult amid all the chaos caused by stress.

While these things might not guarantee you smooth sailing through deadlines, I hope that they at least give you a reassuring feeling that you are not alone when you feel like you are being swallowed up by the amount of work you have to get through. I wish you the best of luck with it!