Big Little Lies HBO TV Series – Review Without Pity

Big Little Lies is an book-to-TV adaptation made for the HBO network which in Australia is exclusive only to Foxtel or Apple iTunes. If you haven’t read the book or watched the TV show, you should probably read this review of the book first.

I would like to start this review by saying that on a whole I enjoyed this TV series. I binge-watched it on my day off work a week ago and I enjoyed it after I got through the first episode where Nicole Kidman has noisy/violent/weird sex with Alexander Skarsgaard. It is also important to note that I enjoy watching Real Housewives of Sydney and I have been known to dabble in an episode of the Kardashians or other such spin offs.

In addition, I think Game of Thrones is boring, so… my recommendation should really come to you with a grain of salt or little-to-zero trust.

Disclaimer aside; I would like to say that the casting was strange.

I can’t really take Reese Witherspoon all that seriously since I’ve seen her bend and snap and act like a giant bimbo in the movie about her chihauha and pink clothes blond hair and law, or whatever it was. Or that one movie where Selma Hyak and her brother Ryan Phillipe got it on. She was cast as Madeline, the most highly strung of the three mothers. In the book Madeline comes across as about as old as Nicole Kidman — a bit of a wise mother-bear who takes Jane under her wing. She is slightly annoying at times, but is overall a very likeable.

little

Reese Witherspoon as Madeline made me want to shove a fork in my eye. How’s that for irony!? (C’mon, you have to be able to see what I did there). She was rude, obnoxious, reactive, spoiled, selfish and had absolutely no self-awareness. She played a comical version of the serious Madeline from the book — a little annoying.

Aaaaand Nicole Kidman — choose an accent and stick to it, woman — you’re either pretending to be American or you’re Australian. She plays the role of Celeste. Celeste is painted out to be a young and effortlessly beautiful woman. I’m not saying that Nicole Kidman is not beautiful, because she is… in that same kind of way that Tilda Swinton is. Her husband Perry is played by Alexander Skarsgaard who’s last performance I can remember was in True Blood where I saw his naked arse more times than I’ve seen my own. So, you have two very fair people having very very pasty white, violent, weird, loud, is-she-in-pain-is-she-enjoying-this sex.

Together their scenes caused so much glare that I picked up new radio signals.

little

Weird match. Oh, and also, she played a cougar.

Shailene Woodley played Jane and I have nothing snarky to say about that, she was probably a perfect pick.

The guy that played Madeline’s husband was a guy who I have only ever seen playing obnoxious comical characters in Will Ferral movies, so there is that.

The show itself was very good and while it may not have been minute-by-minute accurate to the book, it was still quite enjoyable. Madeline’s daughter Chloe was played by a cute little girl who had a lot of attitude. The character was precocious and I would probably take an instant dislike to her if she existed in real life.

Ziggy, Jane’s daughter was adorable and he played his role very, very well.

The opening credits of the show are weird and comical with all the women dressed up as different versions of Audrey Hepburns — it seemed like it was the opening for a satire show.

little

My biggest annoyance was the way it ended. I won’t spoil anything, but the ending was completely rewritten. A revelation occurred that changed the way the truth came out. The way it was written in the book made much, much more sense than the way it played out on the show. I believe if you have watched the show for the first time and aren’t paying complete and utter full attention, you won’t pick up the realisation that registers with one of the characters and for me that was the entire crux of the book.

What I think was the best thing about the entire TV show is actually the sound track. To download/buy/stream, the soundtrack comprises of about 12 mediocre songs, when if you search a couple of articles that last all the songs by order of episode, you can put together a very, very cool sound track.

That’s what I did!

I still recommend this show — but I recommend the book first. I’m not the sort of person that cant disassociate one from the other, but I feel like if you read the book you can get the broader picture of the story but still enjoy them both.

Under Rose Tainted Skies – Louise Gornall

Under Rose-Tainted SkiesUnder Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Under Rose Tainted Skies is a unfiltered look at a life consumed by the rigours of mental health issues.

Norah has OCD and agoraphobia. This book chronicles her daily struggles and turmoils of dealing with invisible medical issues.

This book resonated with me for two main reasons:

This is not an overly-dramatic, tragedy-on-top-of-tragedy style novel.

Mental health issues aren’t always caused by a specific trauma or event that you can connect right back to the first time you encounter anxiety (not saying it doesn’t, but its not even nearly always the case). I hate to read books where 62 thousand awful things have happened to the main character that has led them to the point where they’re dealing with issues only when the author can be bothered delving in to them.

In Under Rose Tainted Skies, Norah’s initial mental health issues were not brought on by some kind of tragedy. Even during the small positive moments that run through her subconscious, she is ruled by her illnesses. They never fleet far from the story and are written so acutely and finely that I found myself crying within the first few pages. I have never read myself so accurately before.

“I stand at the top of the stairs, close my eyes and try to make my mind go blank.

Don’t go back. Don’t go back. You don’t need to go back.”

and then,

I march back to my room, push the book in to its rightful position and then hate myself.”

I have written, in great detail, what my brain goes through on a very, very tough day — but maybe the passage written above is probably jus the tl;dr version.

It is very hard to find some kind of ‘entertainment’ medium that I find relatable to what I’m going through so when I come across it, I take hold and clutch it close to my chest and treasure it. Maybe it’s the whole misery-loves-company thing or maybe its the relief of finally being understood — either way, Under Rose Tainted Skies hits that chord with perfect precision. Louise Gornall is genius.

And, I’m not talking like, one of those flimsy Apple Fake Geniuses either…

the other main reason I loved Under Rose Tainted Skies so much;

Norah, the character of this book is not saved by a boy/man. 

I read one book about agoraphobia and anxiety recently (I won’t mention titles, you can read it and work it out if you like) and I wrote what I felt like, was a very kind review when I actually wanted to convey sheer irritation.

Boys cannot solve our fucking world of mental health illness. If anything, they generally bumble for the right thing to say and end up making it worse – much less, teenage boys. In the other book I read a boy came along and pretty much resolved the main character’s entire worldly issues including the deeper issue (the mother) as a subplot.

rose

The boy that comes in to Norah’s life doesn’t serve as her saviour. He serves as her friend; someone to speak to, someone to inspire her to take very tiny baby steps toward recovery. Luke is awkward, Luke says a couple of stupid things and he even does a couple of stupid things — but at least it’s realistic and Norah doesn’t suddenly seem to shed her OCD or agoraphobia the second she sets her sights on him.

Even touching hands with Luke for the first time proves to be traumatic and true to someone who suffers all of the issues that encumber Norah.

Impressively, Luke isn’t a means to an end of Norah’s mental health issues, he is helpful in terms of showing her that she is still worthy of being loved and proves to her that not everybody is going to label her or judge her for what she is going through.

I think what I loved the best about this story is that perhaps recovery is possible for some; but usually not for everyone and this story holds true to that. Norah does not magically get better. There is no skipping to the future to see her running outdoors with Luke to fly a kite or some shit, but the reader is left with a tiny grain of hope that the main character is taking all the positive steps forward to get along with life and cope with her illnesses the very best that she can.

This is what we all hope to be able to do when we feel debilitated by our very, very bad days — to just be able to cope.

Under Rose Tainted Skies is going to get a five out of five for me. Louise Gornall is my new hero.

View all my reviews

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (Review)

fangirl

FangirlFangirl by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, well, well, its only taken me an entire year, but I’ve finally finished “Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell.

So many of my book-blogging friends have sworn by this novel and have given it absolutely rave reviews. Besides Fangirl, I have also read Attachments by Rainbow Rowell and again I was pretty disappointed by how unrealistic the story was.

CONTROVERSIAL REVIEW ALERT!
Truthfully, I wanted to love Fangirl. The blurb was everything about a book that appealed to me but I started to read it and it just … bored me. I know, I know, its incredibly controversial because there are so many fangirls of Rainbow Rowell out there. She’s apparently a trend-setter in the YA book world. I just … don’t get it.

RIP OFF ALERT!
Firstly — I hated Harry Potter; well, to be fair, I read half of the first book and none of it appealed to me. I was disappointed that the Simon Snow fandom was a blatant Harry Potter rip-off and thus, the fan fiction / book excerpts were incredibly boring and hard for me not to flick past without reading (by halfway, I totally skipped it all, I got the metaphors entirely, I didn’t need to Carry On reading them).

fangirl

‘I LOVE MYSELF’ ALERT
Secondly, Cath was an egotistical snot when it came to her fan fiction which made for an awful misrepresentation of fandom as a whole. I should know. I spent a lot of my teenage-hood and early adulthood being a fangirl of many, many different people/things. I even read a lot of fan fiction. Even the most popular fan fiction of each fandom I bothered reading was not as popular as 20,000 hits per day — the author of these fan fics were not as egotistical and as self-important as Cath — no one ever confused their work as better than the actual author/creators.

fangirl

Fan fiction is about what the fan wants to see happen between characters, or exploring areas of the fandom that the creator/author has not intended for them. It isn’t about doing a better job than the actual creator. In most cases, fan fiction is awful and is written as a hobby. Most of the writing is inherently awful and borderline hilarious (my flirt with fan fiction was usually to call up my best friend and read it to her with ‘all the voices’ until some ridiculous hour of the morning).

THIS FANGIRL IS A FAN ONLY OF HER OWN STORY, ALERT!!
Thirdly, Cath makes is a fangirl of her own writing and not really Simon Snow. Being a fangirl at times in my life, I know that it can be all-consuming. You make online friends, you join forums, you collect things, you don’t just buy shitty ‘witty’ shirts from Etsy. It’s not necessarily about covering your room in posters, but more about loving the actual thing so much. Her fangirl moments consisted of the adulation she received from her fan fiction and used it as personal validation.

I feel like Cath suffered a personality disorder or at the very least a form of social anxiety and obsessive tendencies. You wouldn’t have known she was 18, she could barely function the most menial daily tasks. She chose to petulantly not to turn in her paper because she was better than “real” fiction (which really meant she was too lazy/uncreative to create her own stories yet took pride in ripping off someone elses).

I know Simon and Baz. I know how they think, what they feel. When I’m writing my own stuff, it’s like swimming upstream. Or… falling down a cliff and grabbing at branches as I fall”

Excuse me, while I grab a bucket to puke.

fangirl

 

Lastly, the relationships were annoying. Cath’s sister Wren was a total asshat but Cath was a boring and immature little girl who refused to come back to reality even when life demanded it. Levi was a total cheeseball and Reagan was probably the only honest, redeeming character. At least she pulled no punches and told Cath what she thought and didn’t pander to her every need like everyone else did.

fangirl

Fangirl was boring, predictable and a misrepresentation of fandom in general. But you know what? Anyone who likes a superficial, cheesy coming-of-age love story, then you’ll probably love this.

I, on the other hand, did not.

As I said, I started this book in July 2015, and I’m really just happy that I managed to get through it.  So yeah, go me. Woo.

fangirl

Book Blog and how I came to be…

I don’t always blog about books. If you go through my previous posts, you’ll see a few things about life, my family and my own internal struggles, but predominantly what you’ll read here are posts and reviews about the books that I’m reading.

If you go back on my blog a little over a year ago, you’ll find the few posts I made with my Mum’s returned cancer in her lungs. You’ll read the posts where I alluded to bad news but didn’t confirm it ’til a few posts later. It’s been a long, hard road over the past few years and more tears than I’ll ever allow anyone know.

You’ll also read my struggles with general anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. Some days those issues are triggered harder than others. And generally my OCD symptoms change dependant on what has triggered it.

Quite honestly, there’s not a lot of things that can make me feel normal for a period of time where I can forget the parts of my reality that can sometimes feel overwhelming or upsetting. Sometimes I play play station because it requires all of my undivided attention and other times I binge-watch TV shows until my butt is sore from not moving.

But the one thing that feels calms me in a failsafe way are books. It requires all of my attention to read and I can suck myself in to an alternate world where I am looking inside other people’s worlds, giving me a reprieve from my own.

This is not to take away the fantastic love and support from my family, friends and partner, but sometimes there is only so much that they can do or say to make me feel any better. If anything, the situation is just as helpless for them as it is to me. I hate bothering people with my devastation and my tears, so I focus my energy on all of the books that I enjoy reading, in reviewing them and working on this blog.

As I’ve written on this site earlier: words are so powerful and when I am not reading, I am writing. In the same essence that writing sucks me in to another world, my own fictional writings make me create a world that I wish I could be a part of or one that helps me cope with the world that I am a part of.

Books are important to me especially at this point in my life. Reality is important too, but books have always been an important escapism in my life and since I’ve always loved blogging, book blogging seems to be mutually exclusive.

I hope stories will continue to take me from my reality just enough to forget for a little while, or at least renew my hopes when I feel hopeless.

blog

Writing a book – Ups, downs and weird silences

So, I’m writing a book.

That feels like the nobbiest thing I’ve ever said. Now we’ve got it all out of the way, I feel like I should share with you what I think of and cringe about each time someone asks me what I’ve been up to and I tell them that I’m working on a novel.

No but really. It feels like the wankiest thing I’ve ever told anyone.

On friday night I stayed up until 2am working on 20 pages and I’m quite proud of what I have written and have made a pretty good dent in what is slowly developing in to something that I’m getting more confident with as time goes by.

The truth is, I studied journalism because I wanted to be a writer. I dabbled in some freelance work until I finally accepted that I find my true joy in fictional writing. I have written many stories and shared them with fiction communities where they have been incredibly well-received. It was confidence building for me.

I struggle with feeling like I’m not good enough to classify myself as a “real” writer, but truthfully for the larger portion of my life I’ve found a lot of happiness sharing my stories with my friends.

I wrote my first “real” (awful) story when I was 11 or 12. I filled 6 notebooks with that story. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t a literary masterpiece, but probably impressive for a 12 yr old. And since I had nothing better to do, I used to write all day long when I was unwell and I used to wait excitedly for my best friend to get home from school and I go to her house and we’d eat two minute noodles and I would narrate my story to her.

She was just as excited to hear as I was excited to share.

So, the thing is: I know how to put words together, but do I know enough about how to do that to expect that people might want to buy it?

I am under no misapprehensions; I am aware that my book will probably be independently released and I will have to source my own editor, put money and time in to it and it may come to a point where it seems like I should throw it in the too-hard basket, but I am committing to pushing through even when I feel like I shouldn’t bother.

First and most importantly, I need to know that it’s good. I’d hate to release something and have someone review it and feel like it’s absolutely unredeemable.

When I share with people that I’m writing a novel, I know what they are thinking. “Oh, one of those cute little projects Jess has going on….” or honestly, I am sure that some people are actually surprised that I can write.

One person commented that it sounded like a “real” book when I shared a paragraph (which made me laugh because something similar is said in the above video).

I have faith in my ability to write – but I am incredibly scared of putting myself out there. Mostly of sharing it with friends and family who know me.

When I was up until 2am last weekend, my boyfriend asked what I was doing. I am still coy about sharing when I am writing cos it feels a bit wanky. I eventually said (with frustration and resolve), “I was working on my story!”

He asked, “Why didn’t you just say that?”

And I replied that I feel like I sound like a giant nob. “Oh, I’m just working on my manuscript.”

We laughed and recalled the video above. Because honestly, that’s how I feel people are thinking of it all.

I’m a wanker and I’m working on a novel.

But its okay because it’s something that I’m proud of having the tenacity to do. I could be one of those people that always say they want to, but never do. Maybe my novel is shit, I don’t know — but there’s only one way to find out…

So, until someone says, THIS SUCKS ASS, JESS, GIVE UP! I’ll keep writing 🙂