Who Wants To Live Forever?: Reviewing The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

Hi everyone! I know it has been way too long since I’ve posted last. I’m trying not to neglect this blog but life happens sometimes and, unfortunately, that prevents me from reading. Anyways, I wanted to talk about a novel that I went in knowing nothing about and only picked up because I heard good reviews. Sometimes, you never know what you’re going to find. I will now tell you about Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalists. 

In the summer of 1969, Daniel Gold heard rumors of a woman in his apartment building who could predict the future. Eager to know his fate, he convinces his three siblings to come with him and they each learned what day they would die on. Over the next fifty years, the Gold siblings must deal with this information. The youngest, Simon, runs away to San Francisco with no direction. Klara studies to become a magician, dreaming that she may defy death. Daniel struggles to maintain his career as an Army doctor. The oldest, Varya, studies longevity. As the lives of the Gold siblings unfold, each must learn what it means to live forever and what to do when you know on what day your life will end.

Like I said, I picked up this book with no real expectations and I have to say that I was impressed by what I read. Benjamin’s writing has a surreal and almost magical feeling while the plot itself is very much steeped in reality. The characters are very well fleshed out and dynamic in their own ways. The story does span a large amount of time but Benjamin dedicates plenty of time and detail to each story without making it feel as though it’s dragging on. The novel is part love story, part family drama, part mystery, and part tragedy. Benjamin does an excellent job testing the idea of fate versus free will without getting overly philosophical. There’s still plenty of philosophy but it is woven into the story lines. The Immortalists certainly surprised me in all of the best ways and I would definitely recommend this book to anyone.

Be Strong, Saith My Heart: Reviewing Circe by Madeline Miller

Hello everyone! I am beyond excited to talk to you about Madeline Miller’s sophomore novel. I have reviewed her debut novel, The Song of Achilles. You can check that out on my blog. Anyways, I do absolutely love mythology, in particular Greek mythology. I also enjoy these particular stories that are classic tales retold with a new angle. Novels likes Wicked have shown how popular this trope is and how it is really great when done well. I shall continue on and tell you all about Circe by Madeline Miller. (Quick note: Circe is pronounced as Sir-See.)

During the fall of the Titans, Circe was born to Helios, a god of the sun and a powerful force. From her birth, Circe realized she was different that the other immortals and turns to mortals for comfort. Circe then discovers her true talent: witchcraft. She is banished by Zeus and Helios to a remote island for eternity. There she hones her powers and crosses paths with many icons of mythology, with the most notable being the cunning Odysseus. Circe, however, soon finds herself in danger after angering the gods and Titans alike. Circe must prove her true powers or else lose everything that she loves in this thrilling and vivid story.

I was absolutely hooked on this book from the first page. Circe herself is a relatively lesser known figure in Greek mythology who is only really known for having an affair with Odysseus. Miller, however, saw this character and turned her into a force to be reckoned with. The first thing I wanted to talk about was the mythology backdrop and the godly characters. They felt equally as human as they did divine. The competition between the Olympians and the Titans felt very much like Game of Thrones, which I enjoyed. With that being said, the novel did present a certain harsh reality within the mythical world. Circe herself embodied what it meant to be a survivor, in my opinion. Despite her familial history, she still goes through many struggles with little to no help. The novel certainly carries a feminist message throughout, which I found very empowering. Her voice, thoughts, and feelings are all very strong and honest. Miller certainly proves that even gods struggle but that there is hope through survival and perseverance. You probably know I’m going to highly recommend this novel to you. Circe was an exciting and emotional reading experience that is impossible to put down.

Note: I got the title of this review from The Odyssey. I do actually really enjoy that epic.

Current Favorites: Movie Edition (Part 2)

Hi everyone! I’m getting close to publishing my review of Sleeping Giants but I wanted to do something else in the meanwhile. I mentioned before that I am a huge movie buff and I already posted a list of favorite movies. Most were pretty mainstream but I still felt they were somewhat under appreciated. I decided to do another one in the same vein. So here are some more movies that I love and recommend to you all.

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Pacific Rim – directed by Guillermo Del Toro, 2013

I’m a huge fan of science fiction and Guillermo Del Toro so I couldn’t resist adding another of his movies to a list. I already talked about The Shape of Water but I wanted to talk about this particular movie. Pacific Rim delivers on amazing visuals and classic robot vs. monster action. It’s a delight to watch as it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a fun sci-fi romp. It also stars Idris Elba, who I have a massive crush on. It really is just a fun movie to watch. Sadly, I heard the sequel isn’t that great but at least the first one is good.

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Directed by the Russo Brothers, 2014

I already mentioned one Marvel movie in my previous list and I didn’t think I would mention another one as most of you are more than aware of the MCU. I, however, cannot fail to mention how much I adored this movie and I will even go so far as to argue that it is one of the best Marvel movies or at least it is one of the best sequels. The action sequences in this movie are so well done and I loved the emotional stakes this movie brought. This movie also introduced two of the best MCU characters: Bucky Barnes as the Winter Soldier and Sam Wilson as the Falcon. This movie is just so wonderfully composed. It has a perfect balance between action and emotion. Also the cast is just wonderful. MCU is really great at casting in general. If you haven’t seen this one yet, I cannot stress enough how good this movie is.

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Heathers – Directed by Michael Lehmann, 1988

Now, it’s time to take a sharp left turn from sci-fi/action to dark teen comedy. I have never been a fan of teen movies and that includes the slew of movies that the 1980s produced but Heathers changed my mind. Winona Ryder is probably more relatable in 2018 than she was in 1988. I enjoy the dark, twisted humor in the movie. It definitely bends the classic teen genre in more ways than one. I also enjoy the “girls with guns” trope in this movie. I don’t think it is for everyone but it is still a good movie for anyone with a sick sense of humor. It’s also incredibly quotable. (Note: I know that this isn’t the original poster for the movie but I liked it better. Also the musical adaptation is really great.)

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Call Me By Your Name – Directed by Luca Guadagnino, 2017

Let’s get into some romance, shall we? When the Oscar buzz was going around, I heard this movie come up a lot. I was very bored one Friday night and decided to see if I could find it. I was very glad that I was able to watch this sweet and unconventional romance. The movie has a very intimate vibe that fits the beautiful aesthetic of the Mediterranean. Timothee Chalamet deserves recognition for his wonderful performance. The relationship between the two main characters is touching and understanding. I know a lot of people have gripes about the age difference in the relationship but it is in no way portrayed in a creepy Lolita-type way. This is a wonderful story about two men uncovering the truths about themselves through each other. I should note that this is based on a novel that I would love to read one day.

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The Imitation Game – Directed by Morten Tyldum, 2014

I still remember seeing this one in theaters because it was the only one available that particular night. The theatre was super busy so my mom, sister, and I decided we might as well see this one because we all love Benedict Cumberbatch. Anyways, I ended up becoming incredibly invested in this movie, which is about mathematical genius Alan Turing and his struggle to crack the German Enigma code in order to help the British forces during WWII. If you don’t know who Alan Turing is, he essentially paved the way for artificial intelligence. Sadly, his life was tormented as was on the autism spectrum and he was a gay man during a time when you could go to jail for that. This movie is more about humanity than it is machines, which makes it so enjoyable to watch. It is dramatic and heart-breaking. Cumberbatch and Knightley both give award worthy performances. I would recommend this movie to the history buffs out there.

Current Favorites: Movie Edition

Hi everyone! I currently don’t have any new books to read and a sprained ankle. But you know what I do have? I have passion for movies. I’m actually currently taking a class called Hollywood Heroines: Women in Film for my senior seminar. This got me thinking and I wanted to share with you some of my favorite mainstream and/or indie films. While I do have a ton of movies I love, I’m just going to talk about five more recent films I’ve seen that struck me in a particular manner. I hope you enjoy this list. Let me know if you have seen any of these and what you thought about them.

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The Shape of Water – (Directed by Guillermo Del Toro, 2017)

A good majority of you readers have probably heard of this movie as it has been picking up plenty of award show buzz. If you haven’t, then I will give you a quick synopsis.

A young mute woman named Elisa works as a cleaning lady at a secret government lab. When she encounters a mysterious humanoid fish creature who is being studied, she and the creature form an intimate bond. Elisa decides she must save him from the sinister government agency who have bigger plans.

Now I am a huge fan of Guillermo Del Toro’s work. I was certainly interested by the bizarre and intriguing premise. Also, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I had read a lot about the sex scenes in this movie. Regardless, it is still a fairy tale-like and romantic movie with plenty of beautiful visuals. With a balance between the otherworldly and the realistic, The Shape of Water is certainly an experience that the viewer can lose themselves in with its romance and fantasy.

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Colossal – Directed by Nacho Vigalondo, 2016

I stumbled across this movie after reading a review in Entertainment Weekly. It sounded interesting but I didn’t think I would get around to watching it. I ended up getting a hold of it and decided to watch it on a whim. I certainly didn’t regret it.

Gloria, an unemployed party girl, is kicked out her apartment by her exhausted boyfriend and decides to return to her hometown. Once she returns home, a monster appears in Seoul, South Korea. Gloria begins to realize that she is more connected to this phenomenon than she thought.

I know that a lot of people are not fans of Anne Hathaway but I have a feeling you might change your mind. She portrays probably the most messy and realistic character I’ve seen. The movie does an excellent job reworking the classic monster movie. It’s a nice balance of dark comedy, drama, and sci-fi. Give this one a try if you get a chance.

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Arrival – Directed by Dennis Villenueve, 2016

This one is pretty well-known for being snubbed severely during the 2016 movie awards seasons. At first, I didn’t think much of it until I was given the opportunity to watch this movie. Afterwards, I also became angry that this movie got snubbed. I also don’t really remember what the movie was up against. Regardless, here’s the premise:

Twelve stranger spacecrafts land on Earth and no one can figure out why they are here. Linguistics professor Louise Brooks is recruited to figure out a way to communicate with the inhabitants of the space crafts. Soon, she discovers a message that no one was expecting.

This one isn’t your typical alien invasion movie. There isn’t any horror to be found, nor is it overly preachy about the self-destructive nature of humanity or something like that. Instead, this movie focuses on creating an understanding between humans and aliens. What if the aliens have something important to say? Why is language so important? Arrival explores these various themes with its excellent story telling. (There is also a really good plot twist at the end that I won’t spoil.)

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The Accountant – Directed by Gavin O’Connor, 2016

I’m a fan of action movies but they tend to get repetitive over the years. When I find one that stands out, I get excited. I do realize that Ben Affleck has been rather controversial recently so I don’t mean to promote him too much but, just hear me out about this movie.

Math savant Christian Wolff has made a career on cooking the books for crime families, mobs, and terrorists organizations. When the US Treasury closes in on him, he must undo the damage he’s done and save a new friend.

I have to give this movie props for having a unique main character. Christian has high-functioning autism and I felt that Affleck portrayed it in a realistic manner. It does somewhat perpetuate the myth that people with autism tend to be savants but it is not unrealistic by any means. It’s refreshing to see a protagonist who breaks the classic “Macho Man” role. If you are a fan of John Wick, then you will definitely like this movie. It is clever, action packed, and stands out in the action genre. I recommend you give this one a chance.

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Logan – Directed by James Mangold, 2017

I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t a huge superhero fan. I love MCU and all of the DC tv shows. The DC movies have yet to completely win me over but Wonder Woman was fantastic. Anyways, I was definitely sad to see Hugh Jackman retire Wolverine but I was at least glad that they gave him and Sir Patrick Stewart such an amazing exit. This movie is currently getting some much deserved Oscar buzz.

In the near future, an aging and reluctant Wolverine is charged with taking care of Professor X, who is going senile. Their quite lives are quickly upended when a young mutant arrives with dark forces following close behind.

The first thing I love about this movie was that they made it R-rated which was perfect for the character of Wolverine. This movie has some great Easter eggs for X-Men fans and give the perfect finale for such iconic characters. It’s touching, violent, and profound. Logan is an experience for any comic book fan as it takes the genre in a different direction that doesn’t rely on heavy special effects or anything too convoluted. (Not that I have a problem with that.)

Spiraling Out of Control: Reviewing Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

So I’ve pretty much recovered from my cold just in time to run through a gauntlet of midterms starting on Monday. I decided to finish the book so I wouldn’t have any distractions while studying. I mean, I’ll find distraction anyway but my urge to finish this book will not be one of them. Just a note for all of you have not finished the book, I promise to not spoil it. In fact, all of my reviews have been spoiler free but I can happily do some spoiler discussions on my blog if you are interested. For now, I will give you my review of Turtles All the Way Down, John Green’s latest literary venture.

Aza Holmes is trapped in her own mind with her recurring thoughts of bacterial microbes. When a local billionaire, Russell Pickett, goes missing, she finds herself thrust into a world outside of her worries. Along with her best friend and famous Star Wars fan-fiction author, Daisy Ramirez, Aza sets out to find out what happened to Pickett and bring his son, Davis, closure. Green’s latest novel is a journey of self-relization, over-thinking, and coming to terms with the world on a micro and macro scale.

I’m a bit biased because I’ve been a John Green fan since high school but I have to say that this book struck a cord with me that the other books have not. Aza is a chronic over thinker and so am I. Though she deals with OCD whereas I deal with anxiety, I still understood where she was coming from. Green uses his signature wit and philosophy to create a narrative about dealing with the uncontrollable. He isn’t afraid to tackle any kind of illness, mental or physical, and how it affects teens. The plot summary on the book makes it sound like a road trip kind of story but it’s more of an internal journey about finding how to cope with your problems, knowing that they may never leave you. That may sound depressing but I promise that the novel is way more hopeful than that. John Green fans will certainly not be disappointed by his latest endeavors and new readers will understand Green more through this novel. Turtles All the Way Down is a step forward in teen literature in its own honest and remarkable way.

Everything Affects Everything: Reviewing Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

I was actually required to read this book for the Young Adult Literature class I’m currently taking. I was a bit skeptical about this book going in. I had heard mixed reviews about this novel so I was a bit hesitant to read it. It’s certainly a difficult book to read and review. Suicide is never a topic that comes up with ease. Most of the time, people have to pull the word out of themselves in order to talk about it. But it is something that needs to be talked about so now I will give you my review of Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher’s debut novel.

Clay Jensen’s life had just returned to normal when a package shows up that changes everything he knows. It contains tapes that were made by his deceased classmate, Hannah Baker, who tragically took her own life not too long ago. Clay decides to embark on a journey around his town with Hannah guiding him in order to learn why the reasons why she took her life. Asher’s unique and haunting narration provides an impactful look at teen suicide and how it affects others.

Like I said, I was skeptical about this novel going in but I now have a better understanding of it. Asher’s writing is breath-taking and suspenseful as he helps the reader (and Clay) understand how even small actions can have a huge impact on people’s lives. Hannah and Clay are unnervingly relatable as they both struggle with the consequences of their actions. Asher isn’t afraid to reveal the toxic environments that teenagers face as they struggle through high school. Thirteen Reasons Why is a hard pill to swallow but it’s worth it in order to understand the importance of being kind to others.

Note: I have not watched the Netflix series but I haven’t heard good reviews about it. If you have watched it, I would like to know what you think and how it compares to the book.

A New Kind of Ghost Story: Reviewing Rooms by Lauren Oliver

Ever since I was young, I have found ghost stories fascinating. No matter how far fetched they are, I still want to hear them. After a while, though, they begin to sound similar and the tropes wear out. Hollywood is still continuing to wring out as many horror movies focused on ghosts. The “creepypasta” phenomenon has swept through the Internet in a swift and it is hard to find something unique. Lauren Oliver, the author of the Delirium trilogy and Before I Fall, offers a fresh take on the idea of a ghost story. The ghosts, in this case, are not malevolent but sarcastic and friendly, while the living are the ones dealing with problems much darker than any haunted house.

Rooms is told from the perspective of two of the previous owners of the small ranch house in which the story takes place. Alice, the first deceased owner of the house, is as quiet and reserved in death as she was in life while Sandra, the second deceased former owner, is opinionated, stubborn, and talkative. Together, the two inhabit the house and reflect on their lives and deaths. When the current owner of the house dies, the two ghosts watch with anticipation as the estranged family comes back to deal with his death.   Secrets are revealed and relationships are further strained. The tension of the family drama and the backstories of Sandra and Alice make for an emotional and haunting (pun intended) read.

I love this particular novel for its unique story telling and intriguing characters. The tone offers a refreshing mix of realism and surrealism. It is definitely far from a horror story but more of a family drama. The story lines of the living and the dead are wonderfully interconnected through Oliver’s carefully thought out narratives. This novel provides chills and will keep you turning the pages in anticipation. Lauren Oliver’s Rooms is a unique, dark, and beautiful ghost story.

Beauty is Terror: Reviewing The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Note: This is all simply my opinion but I hope you find it helpful nonetheless. I am avoiding spoilers, as well.

The Secret History was the first novel by Donna Tartt I had read. I decided to pick it up again after finally finishing a rather generic but well written crime novel. (I had gotten that book for free so I couldn’t complain too much.) The Secret History, which was Tartt’s first novel, is elegant, cynical, dark, and gripping, It is told through the eyes of Richard Papen, who is reflecting on his years at Hampden College in New England (Connecticut, to be specific.) Richard moved from a boring life in California to start over at Hampden. While he is there, he is drawn to a private and elite professor who teaches a small group of secretive students about the intricacies of Greek and Latin. Richard soon finds himself in over his head in a world of murder, drugs, sex, ancient Greek rituals, and the private lives of upper class.

This novel is particularly unique in its writing style. Tartt, in Richard’s voice, describes rather mundane college happenings in a way that is Shakespearian. Richard, who is simply trying to reinvent himself, is relatable for anyone who has ever wished to get away from their hometown. Also, like other college students, he learns that looks are deceiving. While his experiences are a little more extreme than the average college students’, it is still easy to understand what he is going through. Tartt does an excellent job crafting characters who are complex, dangerous, and painfully human. Hubris is the word that comes to mind when describing the downfalls of the cast of characters in this novel. Anyone familiar with Greek tragedies can recognize the trademarks that Tartt weaves into her novel.

You don’t have to necessarily be interested in Homer or know Latin to enjoy this novel. While these drew me into the novel in the first place, anyone who is interested in dramas or thrillers will definitely enjoy Tartt’s novel. I highly recommend this book for those seeking an intelligent and well-crafted novel that keeps you wanting more. It’s combination of realism and drama is compelling and hard to stop reading. The Secret History is an engaging novel with a depth and eloquence that few can capture.

(Also for more images of Greek statues in modern clothing, check out this link: )