Friday’s Favourite: Gangster Squad

gangster squad

This weeks “Friday’s Favourite” is Gangster Squad. Let me tell you something, my brother and I never want to see the same film, ever. This causes major stress in our family and usually ends up with one, or both, of us flouncing dramatically from the room in a huff. He likes films along the lines of The Expendables, or anything with Arnold Schwarzenegger in it…and, well, I just don’t. So when we both wanted to see this film I knew that something miraculous had just happened. For this reason alone, it would warrant a place on “Friday’s Favourite”.

Anyway, we went to see it this week and it was SO good. The script was a winner for me, it was speckled with some really clever dialogue and just enough period slang to set the scene but not overkill it. I’ve said previously this is one of my pet peeves in any historical drama, there’s either not enough or too much. Gangster Squad had the perfect amount, in my opinion. There was a perfect balance between action and detail and the gore level was also not as bad as I was expecting. Yes there’s a couple of squeamish scenes, but they are relevant rather than just stuck in so Sean Penn (who is brilliant) can run around killing people. I would actually go as far as to say I was surprised by the restraint from gratuitous gore in this film. Gangster Squad also taught me some things about American history that I didn’t know before, which is always nice. I didn’t realise how “new” L.A was, for example, or that it had Gangsters. I knew about Gangsters (Thanks Bugsy Malone), but I didn’t know they ever got to L.A, so it gets points for that!

roxy

And, the costumes, can we please have a moment of silence to reflect on Emma Stone’s wardrobe in this film! Everything she wore went straight to my mental wish-list. I’ve heard that her red dress, which is in all the promo posters, was based on Jessica Rabbit, and I can totally see it. I just wish I had the occasions and the resources to dress myself like this. The men aren’t too shabby either, there’s something effortlessly stylish about a man in spats hunting down a King Pin, also in spats. Have you seen this film, or are you going to see it? If you have, what did you think? What’s your “Friday’s Favourite” this week?

I’ll leave you with this little treat, which I enjoyed, and seemed appropriate considering the theme of this “Friday’s Favourite”.

gangsters

A Little Love Song- Michelle Magorian (A Rainy Day Read)

a little love song

This books has a bit of a soft, special place in my heart. It’s one of the first books I read where I was really struck by how lovely the romantic story line is. This is a book, as you may guess from the title, that I return to on rainy days, when I want a bit of cheer.

It’s the story of seventeen year old Rose who is sent with her sister to a sleepy seaside town to escape London, and the Second World War. The thing I love about this book is that it ticks so many boxes. Like my last post, it’s a coming of age novel, it’s also a historical fiction and a romance all rolled into to one. This is definitely more of a “Young Adult” novel. However, what makes it different from so many of the other YA novels out there at the moment (apart from its significant lack of vampires), is that the love story Michelle Magorian develops is more of a quiet, slowly developing, and romantic one, rather than the “burning passion of a thousand suns” kind. The thing about Rose is that she has so many other things to learn about herself before she is ready for love, and what’s particularly nice is that Magorian allows her to make plenty of mistakes as she discovers what kind of person she is.

Another thing that really helps make this book good is the quality of the supporting characters and their sub-plots. Through them Magorian manages to show how displaced many women were by the second world war, but also that it was a time that really gave women the chance to do more with their lives.  Ultimately, I think the thing that keeps me returning to “A Little Love Song” is  the sweetness of the relationship between Rose and Alec, it’s one of those fictional relationships that I secretly wish I could have myself, especially because Alec runs a bookshop! So next time you’re stuck inside on a rainy day, why don’t you give “A Little Love Song” a try? I think you’ll be glad you did!

An Abundance of Katherines- John Green

an abundance of katherines

What is it that makes us choose a book do you think? It’s quite an important decision really, if you get it right, think of the hours, days, weeks, of joy you will get out of it. If it’s wrong, well let’s not dwell on that! If you are anything like me, then you’ll like to think you make this decision solely on the contents of the book, its pedigree, its life-changing message, and a whole list of other reasons that make you feel a lot more profound than you actually are. Maybe this doesn’t sound familiar to you and if not I salute you. I really do, because in reality, my decisions on what books I buy usually go more along the lines of; “Ooh! That looks pretty!” I’m a sucker for packaging, which is why penguin’s new cloth bound classics are right up my street, it’s a classic…but it’s pretty! See where I’m going with this? With “An Abundance of Katherines”, however, my reasoning was even more simplistic. It went a little like this;

“THAT BOOK HAS MY NAME ON IT!”

For anyone who hasn’t got a name with approximately 45630 different spellings, this might not mean anything to you. As a Katherine, not a Kathryn, Katharine or even a Catherine, however, it was enough to grab my attention. I didn’t even stop to read the blurb, I ran (ok that maybe an exaggeration) to the till and bought the book, hastily explaining to the cashier that it had my name on it, and that was why I was buying it.

That was a long preamble, but now we’ll get down to business.

I inhaled this book. Like, started this book on Friday evening and finished it around 10 am Saturday morning, kind of inhaled. You may have heard of John Green because of his novel “The Fault in Our Stars” but I highly recommend you try this book over that one. It’s not as heavy, but it still grapples with important coming of age problems like “Do I matter?” The story centres around Colin, an “anagram-happy, washed-up child prodigy” and his best friend Hassan, who are in that awkward stage between finishing school and making the next step in their lives. You know, the “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman” stage Britney warbled about…minus the cheesiness, and sweeping Grand Canyon shots. Both boys take off on a road trip, of undetermined destination, to help Colin get over being dumped by the 19th Katherine he’s dated, and in the process “find themselves”. It’s kind of like every teenage film you’ve ever seen, only in book form, and well written.britney

This book was funny, touching, quirky and all that you want in a coming of age type of book. It’s full of quotable lines, and as I read I found myself feeling that it would really translate well into a film. In Colin, I think Green created just the right mix of self absorption and little boy lost, to really get across the difference between being a child, and not being one any more, and how hard the transition can feel sometimes. Colin seemed like an exaggerated version of every teenager (in that he’s a child prodigy) but he’s still faced with the same problem of what comes next. It’s a modern day “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, if you will.  I feel an honourable mention must also be made to Hassan whose humorous one-liners really keep the novel going, he was complex enough to warrant his own book I think.

ferris

So, maybe it was serendipity that lead me to this book. Maybe books with the name Katherine on are just better than other books, who knows! But I’m glad I bumped this one to the top of my to-read pile.

Friday’s Favourite: SNOW!

Friday's Favourite: Snow

Usually Snow would not feature in my Friday’s favourite list at all, unless it was my list of favourite pet peeves, or favourite things to complain about. If that was the case then it would be up there with moths, people who walk slow, and people who write in books (you know who you are!) Read more

Practically Perfect- Katie fforde

practically perfect

This book was recommended to me recently as a nice, light-hearted, novel to read before bed. I’d never read any Katie FForde before, but I hadn’t heard anything bad so I thought I’d give it a go. The concept is quite interesting; Anna is a newly qualified interior designer who has bought a ramshackle cottage so she can renovate it for a profit. There is also a suitable obstacle between Anna and Rob, the love interest, in that he’s a buildings inspector who is constantly stalling her renovation work because of his rules and regulations. The build up of their relationship is pleasant and I was pleased with the way they interact with each other.

The thing is, this book was just slow. It seemed like too much time was devoted to really ordinary events; like characters drinking tea or Anna reminding the reader she has no shower or bath, and not enough to creating plot twists. Perhaps it’s just me, but I found myself losing focus in the middle little bit. Unfortunately this just made me concentrate on the  irksome bits more. For example, the way Fforde constantly describes Anna as scruffy. I got that she was supposed to be a bit careless of her appearance, because she was in the middle of decorating a house, but didn’t like how much emphasis was placed on this. It was as if the only way to prove she was good at her job was to make her totally unfeminine- almost manly. Maybe that’s a little picky and maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I found myself really noticing it every time it came up. In reality this is such a small flaw that I wouldn’t usually have mentioned it, but it helps make my point, there just wasn’t enough substance to Practically Perfect.

In the end, I suppose this novel was everything that I was told it would be, a nice, light-hearted, bedtime read and I definitely didn’t hate it…I just didn’t love it. Since I finished, I’ve been told that it’s not Katie Fforde’s best work, so I’ll probably give her the benefit of the doubt on this one. If you have read it, what did you think? Did I miss something? Have you read any Katie Fforde, if so what books would you recommend?

Mrs Dalloway- Virginia Woolf

mrs dalloway

One of the best things about studying English was the number of books I would never have read without “required reading lists” that have since become some of my favourites. Mrs Dalloway is one of those books! When I first saw it on the syllabus I was a little daunted, I’d heard that it was quite experimental and that Virginia Woolf’s writing style was about as deep as the mid-Atlantic. Left to my own devices this would have probably languished on my to-read list for years, if not indefinitely, as it was I had a week to read it and so I took the plunge.

What first struck me was how different the structure, or rather lack of structure was. Reading Virginia Woolf is like waking up inside somebody else’s brain- still retaining some sense of yourself but completely surrounded by another persons thoughts and feelings, ranging from the mundane to the complex. So what is it even about? I will applaud the person who can sum it up properly, because I’ve been sitting for ages trying to work out what to write! At it’s most basic, the novel follows the progress of one day as Clarissa Dalloway prepares for a party- you can’t imagine how long it’s taken me to reduce the book to this small sentence that still doesn’t seem to be right. It’s funny how the best books do that to you isn’t it? Somehow the traditional plot takes a backseat and leaves space for Woolf’s beautiful writing to take the prize. It’s not a story in the traditional sense of beginning, middle and end and there’s not really a character you could definitively point to and say there’s the main character. The more I read, the more I thought of Mrs Dalloway as Woolf’s way of processing the way she saw the world. It’s hard to describe how surreal this experience is. There are no chapters in Mrs Dalloway, so there never felt like there was a natural pause. The result of this was that when I prized myself away from the pages I felt almost dazed (in a good way) as the real world came back into focus!

I could keep talking about this book for ages, but in the end I can’t really do much better than encourage you to read it for yourself and if you have read it to plead with you to talk to me about it!

Seriously, please read Mrs Dalloway, then come back here and tell me what you thought!