Book Review: Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Why Not Me Mindy KalingTitle: Why Not Me?

Author: Mindy Kaling

Series/Standalone: Standalone

Genre (s): Autobiography

Over the past few months, I’ve been moaning in reviews such as this, complaining that I haven’t had the time or opportunity to read let alone write reviews on them. I put this down to the type of material I was reading; for instance, focusing too much on “chick-lits” rather than exploring alternative genres. Which is why I chose an autobiography to ease me back into my reading schedule. And it appears non-fiction (ironically) worked its magic.

Why Not Me? Is an anthology of essays by actress and scriptwriter, Mindy Kaling, as she navigating her way through career success and downfalls, glamour, relationships and body image issues. As The Office alumni and executive producer of comedy The Mindy Project, I expected the book to be a little funny, if not hilarious and as Kaling shares her anecdotes, there are definitely laugh out moments, although they may not be the most obvious, there’s a subtly to her humour, making it an even more appealing read.

I found her honesty when she discusses being snubbed for an Emmy, or her odd complex of wanting to be liked by everyone extremely refreshing. Whilst one would assume that she’s exactly like her characters Kelly Kapoor and Mindy Lahari, in a number of chapters she admits to her superficiality , much like her characters Kelly Kapoor and Mindy Lahari, however, its clear the memoir is written by a highly intelligent, analytical and funny individual, and not the vapid “LA-type” woman that Kaling so often comes across.

Kaling also delves into her more creative side, offering a chapter on her “alternative life” which is told in epistolary form, offering a glimpse into what her life would have been like if she had not moved to LA but instead became a Latin teacher. Unsurprisingly, the whole story ends up being a rom-com, again demonstrating her obsession with the genre.

It’s an interesting memoir, with Kaling concluding that it acts as an expose. Despite thoroughly enjoying reading the biography, I couldn’t help but think that is most definitely NOT an expose. Whilst Kaling seemingly bares all, there are still certain topics she tends to avoid delving too deeply into, including breaking into showbiz as a young, inexperienced minority. Having said all that, this is the perfect “chick-lit” for all those avoiding the genre, but still wishing to get sense of romance and humour. 

The bug’s verdict: 7.0/10

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Book Review: Girl Online by Zoe Sugg AKA Zoella

Title: Girl OnlineGirl Online By Zoe Sugg

Author: Zoe Sugg aka Zoella

Series/Standalone: Standalone

Genre(s): Chick-Lit, YA

We now live in a world where everything is based online (ironic considering where I’m posting this?). This rapid expansion of technology and the ominous place we now refer to as the “internet”, means that our generation and the generations to come will live in a world where their whole lives are documented digitally rather than print. Which is why it is so refreshing to see the process reversed in Youtuber, Zoe Sugg’s debut novel, Girl Online

As some of you may know, Zoe, or more famously known as bubbly Zoella, has since been the subject of much controversy; whilst Zoe had claimed to have written the novel, it has since been revealed that she in fact used a ghost writer. Whilst ghost writing is far from uncommon, it comes as shock as to Zoella’s established fan-base who were buying into a novel because of who they thought wrote it, not just because their name is slapped on the front cover. This information certainly didn’t stop Girl Online from breaking the record for the highest first week sales for a debut author since records began.

Despite all of this, I bought the book (albeit before I found out Zoe only created the characters and didn’t actually do much of the writing). And to be quite honest, I found this novel thoroughly entertaining. So what exactly is it about? Girl Online centres around clumsy and accident prone, Penny who finds solace in her anonymous blogs where she updates her readers on her anxiety and disastrous teenage life. After a humiliating event which triggers her anxiety, Penny jets off to New York with her parents and best friend in order to escape from her so-called “friends”. There, she meets Noah, who helps her through her situation yet he too seems to hiding something, making Penny question her relationship with him.

In all honesty, this novel is riddled with all sorts of clichés that I have mentioned I DESPISE in the past. For instance, the clumsy, ditzy protagonist who we feel for or the gorgeous (yet completely unrealistic) love interest.  What actually sets this novel apart from any other in its genre is the inclusion of Penny’s anxiety and panic attacks. As someone who has suffered from panic attacks in the past (and probably will do in the future), I found it thoroughly interesting to see it portrayed in such an honest light and its bound to help plenty of insecure girls and boys out there! My only other complaint would have to be that the ending of the novel was completely rushed. Any development of the story for secondary characters was swept under the rug which was a real shame.

This novel is completely light, lovely and a great escapism! With another novel on the way later this year, it will be interesting to see if Zoe has more of an input or continues to use a ghost writer.

The Bug’s Verdict

8/10 – Highly Recommended

Ps. Just in case you’re interested, here are some interesting articles regarding the Zoe Sugg ghost writing debate!

Defending Zoella: 10 reasons not to hate on Zoe Sugg – (The Guardian)

A teenage boy writes: why I’m let down by Zoella  (The Guardian)

Why so many are angry with YouTube star Zoe Sugg for using a ghostwriter (Washington Post)

 

Flashback Friday: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald Book Review 

Title: The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby Book Review

Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald

Year Published: 1925

Series/Standalone: Standalone

Genre(s): Modernist, Jazz Age

Since completing university, I realised I’ve   abandoned classic literature in favour of some more generic or commercial novel. So to encourage or force myself to continue reading classic novels, plays and poetry, I’ve decided to take part in a meme known as “Flashback Friday”. On the last Friday of every month, I will upload a book review of an older or classic novel. Last month’s choice was Jane Austen’s Persuasion (Which you can read here). Since we’re in the party season and less than a week away to the New Year, I thought I would write a review of a novel that features some of the most extravagant party scenes; The Great Gatsby

 I first picked this up when I was sixteen as it was a set text in my English A levels. Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed it back then, it frustrates me that I didn’t appreciate it as much as I do now. In truth, The Great Gatsby made me completely change the way in which I read books, or indeed, any piece of literature and is one of the reasons I chose to pursue an English degree. When I opened this to reread it a flood of nostalgia hit me like a yellow car (wink wink if you got that reference).

Set in 1920’s America during the decadent Jazz age. Nick Carraway, protagonist and narrator of the story moves to New York to pursue a business in the bonds market (an allusion to the crash and depression of ‘29). He meets up with his second cousin, Daisy Buchanan, her brutal husband, Tom Buchanan and their friend, Jordan Baker. All the while, Nick hears of his enigmatic neighbour, Gatsby who throws outrageous and decadent parties. Nick finally meets Gatsby and discovers that Gatsby and Daisy were previously lovers until Gatsby had to leave for the Great War and Daisy married Tom. The parties are just a ruse and a way to gain Daisy’s attention and Gatsby befriends Nick in order to reunite with Daisy and rekindle the romance from the past.

What I love so much about this book is that it’s a mere nine chapters and manages to pack so much into those chapters. Every time I read it, I find something that I never realised was there before, or make a new connection, or read it with a different perspective. Fitzgerald is such an incredible writer and manages to make the reader sympathise with unlikeable characters but also make us relate to the novel. Let’s face it, who isn’t over an ex? Or pursuing a dream? The novel is bursting through the seams, and encapsulates themes such as obsessive love, pursuit of the past, tragedy, recklessness, nihilism. So if you’re interested in being challenged but also just want to sit down and enjoy a classic, then this is just the novel you need to read. I urge anyone who has not read this book to just give it a chance! I assure, you will NOT be disappointed.

The Bug’s Verdict 10/10!!

Flashback Friday: Persuasion by Jane Austen Book Review

Persuasion Book ReviewTitle: Persuasion

Author: Jane Austen

Year Published: 1817

Series/Standalone: Standalone

Genre: Classic Literature, Romance, Romantic,

Since completing university, I’ve realised I’ve   abandoned classic literature in favour of some more generic or commercial novel. So to encourage or force myself to continue reading classic novels, plays and poetry, I’ve decided to take part in a meme known as “Flashback Friday”. On the last Friday of every month, I will upload a book review of an older or classic novel. This month’s choice is Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

Persuasion, is perhaps, one of Austen’s lesser known novels. Written whilst she was on her death bed, the story focuses on the out of bloom and often quiet character, Anne, who at 27 has been written off as unmarriageable material. Anne however, at the tender age of 19 had fallen in love with Frederick Wentworth, a young man of little wealth and small social standing. When he proposed however, Anne was persuaded by her good friend Lady Russel, to refuse him. Now, almost eight years later, Frederick Wentworth has returned and proudly wears the title “Captain” with an equally honourable wealth. Anne must now painfully endure being constantly in his seemingly cold company as he courts her one of her cousins.

With every word, we, as the reader feel every ounce of pain Anne feels as she re-encounters, every pounding heartbeat. The beauty of Austen’s writing is that she manages to convey every emotion her protagonist feels, purely through her skill as a writer. In the hands of any other, this novel could be considered boring or conventional. Yet Austen manages to keep her reader on a rollercoaster of emotion, emotions you would feel if you were reading perhaps a murder mystery or thriller. Yet this is no thriller. This is an emotional piece of art.

Persuasion has the disadvantage of being one of the least polished of Austen’s novels as she never had the chance to meticulously revise her writing as she had with her other novels such as Sense and Sensibility or Pride and Prejudice. Despite this, her distinctive wit and irony never fails to shine through her writing through secondary characters such as Sir Walter, Anne’s vain father or her attention-seeking younger sister, Mary, making this novel to be one of the most charming she ever wrote.

I urge everyone and anyone to read this beautiful, timeless novel. I assure you, you will not be disappointed!

The Bug’s Verdict: 10/1o!!

Lit-to-Flick: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014) Movie Review

Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth in action as Katniss Everdeen and Gale Hawthorne

Yes, I am one of those people who HAS to go watch the movie on the day it comes out in theatres. So of course, I wasted no time in rushing to book tickets for the latest instalment of The Hunger Games.

Let’s recap slightly, in the last movie Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) was sent back in the arena to fight a battle to the death. However, this time her opponents weren’t innocent children, but calculated, skilled killers, victors from the previous games. Unknown to Katniss and her fellow tribute, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) , a select number of victors were plotting to get her out of the arena in order to use her as a symbol of the revolution. This in turn would unite the Districts as one against the Capitol. Whilst Katniss was saved , Peeta was taken hostage by President Snow (Donald Sutherland). In this instalment, Katniss becomes the Mockingjay, while attempting to understand how and why Snow is using Peeta. Meanwhile, the unrest that had been brewing in the other Districts has turned to all out war.

As always, I’m going to sing the praises of such a stellar cast. Lawrence as Katniss continues to shine in the lead role  and manages to perfectly balance vulnerability and tenacity needed. Hutcherson has always been typecast as the “good guy”, yet he managed to step out of his comfort zone and show off his versatility as he portrayed Peeta as a tragically broken and erratic character. The late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who this movie is dedicated to also reminds us of what a great talent the film industry has lost.  But it’s the addition of Julianne Moore as Alma Coin, President of  District 13, that truly made me appreciate her talent as she added depth and gravity to a character that was merely a sketch on a page.

It’s a relief knowing Francis Lawrence has returned to direct this movie and the next as special effects and cinematography were consistent throughout. Lawrence also makes the audience much more aware of Panem and the districts of a whole this time; In previous movies,  we only got glimpses into other districts from Katniss’ perspective, yet this time there appears to be more of the geography of the nation as a whole, to demonstrate the extent of the war and the tragic consequences it holds.

Ultimately, this IS a war movie, and clearly demonstrates how people suffer in war, how they fight in it and how they survive it. One of the most attractive elements of The Hunger Games’ series is it’s political undertones and at times, this dystopian YA movie cleverly comments on the effects the media plays in our everyday lives. In the movie, both the rebels and the Capitol use media coverage and propaganda videos (or propo’s) to influence the outcome of the war. In one particularly poignant scene Katniss is filmed singing a song called “The Hanging Tree” which begins as her singing alone and builds up as people from the districts begin to sing along. Soon her voice becomes lost within the voices of the rebels.  This incredibly effective scene ties together two key themes; rebellion within the society, and what, ironically, unifies those that rebel .

Having said all that, where this movie does fail is in the pacing. Whilst the first two instalments were filled to the brim with adrenaline pumping moments, this seemed to be lacking in this movie.  Considering this is a war movie, you would’ve thought there would be more action. However, when there is action it is packed with both energy and raw emotion that make them particularly effective and convey the damages of war such as loss of life. There are also many scenes that have been added that go beyond Katniss’ perspective. Some of which work and some of which don’t and disrupt the flow of the actual plot.

Harry Potter, The Twilight Series and The Hobbit have all undergone the split in two movies treatment (or three in The Hobbit’s case). In each of these instances, I never truly believed that the split was a decision made for creative reasons and was just merely a scheme for Hollywood executives to pocket more money. However, this is one instance where I DO believe the decision was made to allow more time and development of the plot of the movie and perhaps this will be evident in the second part. However, this has affected the story of the first part because that’s exactly what it feels like; a PART. It does not feel like it is a whole film; as a result it lacks plot and character development.

All in all, I can’t quiet say that this movie was entirely satisfying or fulfilling. But that perhaps is the intention; To keep us thirsty until the final instalment next year…

The Bug’s Verdict: 8/10

Based on: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Screenplay by: Danny Strong and Peter Craig

Directed by: Francis Lawrence

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Stanley Tucci, Sam Claflin, Donald Sutherland and more!

Most Anticipated Moments of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

It’s now less than two weeks away from the highly anticipated, third and penultimate instalment of the Hunger Games series with <i>Mockingjay Part 1 </i>being released on November 20th here in the UK. If you remember in the previous movie, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) were once again thrust in an arena, forced to fight to the death until one victor was left standing. All the while, rebellion brewed in the districts. In this episode of the saga, we see that the rebellion has turned into a full out war. Like last year I thought I would share my most anticipated scenes to see translated onto the big screen.

***WARNING. HERE BE SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the book and do not want to know what happens DO NOT read any further***

District 12 Destroyed

If you remember the last movie that ended on a gut-wrenching cliffhanger when Gale ominously tells Katniss “District 12 is gone”. In what I presume will be the opening scene of this movie, Katniss will actually get to see her home destroyed. This is sure to be an emotional scene as miserable and drab District 12 was, this was where Katniss had cultivated a system of survival for her family alongside Gale(Liam Hemsworth). It’ll also be interesting to see if the movie will show the District being bombed via flashbacks or perhaps it will be explained to us what happened in the devastating attack.

Katniss in the Ruins of District 12

There’s been next to no rain to disturb the piles of ash left by the attack. They shift here and therein reaction to my footsteps. No breeze to scatter them. I keep my eyes on what I fremember as the road, because when I landed in the Meadow, I wasn’t careful and I walked right into a rock. Only it wasn’t a rock-it was someone’s skull

District 13

In contrast to the ruins of District 12, is District 13. This district hasn’t been mentioned too much in the movies so hopefully they’ll get around explaining just how District 13 was able to remain hidden saftely away from the Capitol for all these years. It’ll be interesting to see how this futuristic community which has thrived will be presented in contrast to the grimness of the other districts and the novelty of the Capitol. Not only that, but it’ll be interesting to see the introduction of one of the key characters, President Coin played by Julianne Moore who is sure to cause a storm in the events of the war.

District 13 and Coin Mockingjay

[In District 13] there were more than enough clean, white living apartments, plenty of clothing and three meals a day.

Peeta as the Capitol’s Puppet

In the same way Katniss is the symbol of the Mockingjay for the rebel cause, Peeta is also being used as a puppet by the Capitol. By manipulating, torturing him through the use of “tracker-jacker” venom they alter his memories and psychology, using him as a mouthpiece to spout their dogma, the consequences of which are irreversible. And let’s face it, up until now, Peeta had been a fairly boring character, so it’ll be fun seeing Josh Hutcherson really use those acting skills he’s acquired over the years for a meatier role.

Peeta is tortured mockingjay

Peeta’s physical transformation shocks me. The healthy clear-eyed boy […] has lost at least fifteen pound and developed a nervous tremor in his hands. They’ve still got him groomed.

Katniss Agrees to be the Mockingjay

After seeing how Peeta has been manipulated and knowing he is even alive, Katniss finally agrees to actively become a rebel leader by becoming the Mockinjay symbol, with a few conditions. What’s so great about this scene is that up until this point, Katniss had been largely uninvolved with actively contributing to the war effort. Her conditions that she demands from President Coin also remind us how strong and influential Katniss can actually be.

Katniss is the Mockingjay

My arms rise slightly-as if recalling the black-and-white wings Cinna gave me-then come to rest at my sides.

“I’m going to be the Mockingjay”

Katniss and Gale

In the last movie instalments, Gale took a back seat and Hemsworth barely even had any screen time. However, this is sure to change in this movie as Gale becomes integrated within the war effort and we see him interact more with Katniss. Whilst we’ve only had hints at their (complicated) romantic situation, this time, we will hopefully get more of a sense of where that relationship is heading and how they’ve had to redefine in light of their recent circumstances.

Katniss and Gale in Mockingjay

I reached forward and press my lips against his. We taste of heat, ashes and misery. It’s a surprising flavour for such a gentle kiss.

Finnick Odair

Whilst in the last instalment Finnick (Sam Claflin) was portrayed as a sex symbol yet also a great warrior, this time we see a completely different side. We’ll probably see Finnick dealing with the consequences of re-entering the arena and being not only physically unstable, but emotionally after hearing the love of his life, Annie Cresta has been taken hostage by the Capitol. What’s so great about Katniss’ relationship with Finnick is that she can finally find someone to confide in who has experienced exactly what she is going through. This then develops in a deep rooted friendship, something that Gale cannot even comprehend.

Katniss and Finnick in Mockingjay

I had to forgive Finnick for his role in the conspiracy that landed me here. He, at least has some idea of what I’m going through. And it takes too much energy to stay angry with someone who cries so much.

Katniss and Gale fight in District 8

As she finally accepts her position as the face of the rebellion, Katniss also becomes more involved with the war and the action that is going on in the districts. This scene will be great as we finally see what it is truly like for other districts to fight. Not only that, but when a surprise attack occurs during Katniss’ visit to District 8, it forces her and Gale to use their hunting to skills to fend off the Capitol soldiers. As they fight together and are able to anticipate each other’s moves, we see how genuinely compatible they are for each other. This is sure to be a thrilling, action-packed scene.

Katniss and Gale Fight Mockingjay

This time it’s Gale who throws himself over me to provide one more layer of protection from the bombing.

“If We Burn, You Burn With Us”

Right after one of her battles with the Capitol, Katniss is so infuriated by what she has just witnessed, she screams at the camera’s delivering a passionate message to Snow. This act of defiance ends up being sparking propaganda videos that help win the war but also reminds us of Katniss’s power and how instrumental she is in sparking hope in the war against a corrupted system.

Katniss Fire is Catching

“Fire is catching!” I am shouting now, determined that he will not miss a word “And if we burn, you burn with us!”

Ending?

Obviously, one of the moments I’m looking forward to seeing is how Mockingjay will end as the book has been split in half. But where exactly will it end and will it end on a cliff-hanger like its predecessor. Perhaps just after Peeta’s rescue? Or Finnick’s and Annie’s wedding? I guess, we’ll just have to wait and see…

So there are my top moments I’m looking forward to.  There were SO many to choose from. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing Katniss and Haymitch interacting, Julianne Morre in action and of course the late Phillip-Seymore Hoffman in one of his final roles. What are you most looking forward to about Mockingjay when it comes to theatres?