Sunday, 15 February 2015

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler

I know that this doesn’t technically fall into any of the categories I set myself for my book challenge (see list here), but I don’t want to limit my reading and if I fancy something else I will just read it! We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is something I have wanted to read since it came out really, but one of those that I just didn’t get round to. My parents had both read it and enjoyed it, several of my friends had read and enjoyed it and I had seen lots of book bloggers I follow loving it.
I’m planning to keep this review short and sweet as it is going to be difficult to write about without giving things away! SO here is what I thought about it:

In a nutshell: A word of warning, don’t look up anything to do with this book before you read it – this will be spoiler free but a lot of reviews I have seen, in my opinion, completely ruin it. All I will say in terms of the story is that it centres round a girl called Rosemary who has had a very strange upbringing. She starts the story in the middle, flips back and forth and remembers and misremembers parts of her childhood. What follows is an interesting, original and genuinely thought provoking novel, but not one that I am completely blown away by.

Would you recommend this book? Yes I would. Not my favourite book I have ever read but I really enjoyed it nonetheless.

How quickly did you read it?  This took barely any time at all to read. It has really short chapters in a lot of cases so I was able to read a chapter or two on my commute to and from work which was great.

Why did you choose to read this book? As I said above, it had been recommended by lots of people, nominated for a few prizes and my dad had a copy which I borrowed. I also knew absolutely nothing about the story which I think is a really good thing anyway, but particularly with this book.

Favourite aspect of the book?  Honestly – the “twist”. I don’t think it gives anything away to say that there were lots of elements of the book which I didn’t see coming AT all. I know that lots of people like reading reviews of books before they buy them but I think the book is a lot more thought provoking if you go into it knowing nothing of the story (which is why I have chosen not to provide much about the plot in this review).

Anything you didn’t like? There was nothing I really disliked in particular, but I don’t think it has been the best book I have read so far in 2015. I enjoyed it and I couldn’t put it down once I got into it, but I probably won’t re-read it anytime soon.

Any additional thoughts?  This has been a book that I have enjoyed discussing as much, if not more than, I enjoyed reading it. It has certainly made me think about certain issues a lot more than I ever did before.

Overall this is one of those books that everyone seems to have read and have a strong opinion on and I would recommend reading so that you can decide for yourself.

I realise this has been a bit of a strange review as I haven’t actually said too much about the book but, I genuinely think that the more you know about this book before you begin, the less you will enjoy it. I think it would have ruined my enjoyment had I known anything about it before I read it, as the fact that the direction I thought it was going turned out to be completely wrong forced me to think about the book a lot more once the “twist” had happened. You will just have to take my word for it that it is a good read that isn’t too hard going and is really interesting to discuss and look up afterwards!

Beth x

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Alfred Hitchcock – The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

Continuing with my pledge to watch more classic cinema and more Hitchcock films I watched the 1956 remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much (see my full list of challenges here). This marks my 7th Hitchcock film in total. Here is what I thought about it:

Features: An incredibly weird and out of place scene in a taxidermist’s, the song Que Sera Sera, Jimmy Stewart being Jimmy Stewart, some cultural insensitivity in Morocco and a really tense scene in the Royal Albert Hall.

Plot Summary: The McKenna family are on holiday in Morocco when they unexpectedly become involved in an assassination plot.

Thoughts: This wasn’t actually a film I knew too much about before watching. I had heard of it and knew it starred Jimmy Stewart, but it doesn’t have the same amazing reputation of some of the other Hitchcock films out there. Actually, I was pleasantly surprised by this film! I found it really enjoyable, and where others have found the first half hour to be somewhat slow, I thought it built up the tension really well as I knew something was about to go wrong but wasn’t sure of what.
I was actually pretty surprised when I looked up other reviews of the film on the likes of IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, once I had watched it, as people seemed to be slating it. I have to admit, I haven’t seen the original Hitchcock version from 1934, so I don’t feel outraged at the changes as some people seem to be. But even so, in my opinion, as a stand-alone film, if you haven’t seen the original/aren’t fiercely loyal to the original, this is a fun watch. Granted, not the best film I have ever seen, but not bad either. Probably a 7/10 I would say.
I know I mentioned it above but there is one scene I have to quickly point out. A scene in a taxidermy shop that had absolutely no relation to the rest of the plot! Jimmy Stewart walks in, gets in an argument and then has a fight with someone, crashing in to stuffed animals as he does so. I found it absolutely hilarious to look back on when the film finished and I realised it really did have no bearing on the rest of the plot.

Cameo: Hitchcock’s cameo here can be seen while the family watch some street performers in the market place. He has his back to the screen on the left side of the crowd and stands with his hands in his pockets. This is at about 25 minutes in if you’re looking to spot it. There he is on the left of this image!

Note: I had no idea that “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)” by Doris Day was from this film until I watched it and looked it up afterwards. It actually won the Academy Award for Best Song in 1957. You learn something new every day – I think that’s a good bit of trivia!

I will continue to watch and review Hitchcock’s films when I watch them! The next Hitchcock film I review will be Rope so look out for that.

Beth x

PS. Apologies for the delay in posting this – I have been busy with work this week and struggled to find time to write this up! x