Hello, everyone! As you know if you’ve read my blog, I’m a big fan of the author Lisa See and have reviewed a few of her books on the site. Recently I read her newest novel, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, and was disappointed at the drop in quality. Even though all of See’s tropes are present, Tea Girl lacks her other novels’ greatest asset: a compelling protagonist. See writes fantastic female characters who suffer from hardship, betrayal, and restrictive cultures, but in this novel, she gets caught up in a net of her own favorite gimmicks. After the brutality of the Taiping rebellion in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, the tragedy of the Manchu invasion in Peony in Love, and the horror of the Mao regime in the Shanghai Girls duology, the hardships of a girl in 1990s China pale in comparison. But See is a sucker for suffering, and her insistency on emphasizing the plight of protagonist Li-Yan just makes it that much more obvious how See has seem to run out of catastrophes.
Horror movies have a habit of reflecting society’s darkest fears. Invasion of the Body Snatchers had its heroes fighting a futile battle against communists in the guise of soulless aliens, while films like The Strangers and Funny Games explore the average American’s helplessness against a new generation of adolescents whose apathy can cross the line into sociopathic violence. When considering which horror movies best exemplify America’s greatest fear from the 2010s to the present, I could point to films such as Unfriended, The Den, Friend Request, Dark Summer, and #Horror, which all paint the dangers of social media as this generation’s biggest epidemic. And while these films point to a grave societal problem, I think I’ve found a film that encapsulates modern America’s deepest fear: the American healthcare system. The film responsible is Would You Rather, a mediocre horror movie that seems oblivious to its true source of scares. Sometimes the best societal commentary is accidental.
Hello, everyone! I watched Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread twice last week. The first viewing left be impressed but emotionally unmoved, the second viewing left me more impressed, but still unmoved. But I was at last able to grasp the themes from the film that eluded me on first viewing, so I must say, if you watch Phantom Thread once, you’re going to need to watch it again, since it’s a quiet, ethereal, and somewhat vague film that deserves to be appreciated. If you like films with the pacing and beauty of a slow waltz, you’ll probably love this film. If you’re expecting a movie about the intricacies of the world of 1950s haute couture, prepare to be disappointed. Phantom Thread isn’t a film about fashion, but a film about artistry and control. As a backdrop, however, you could do worse than a 2 hour movie filled with the stunning Vicky Krieps swanning around in ball gowns.
Hello, everyone! I haven’t done a My Month in Books in basically a year and a half. So much has changed since my last Month in Books – I completed 1.5 years of college, I withdrew from that college, and now I’m in the midst of transferring to a different college to finish my studies. But even through all that tumult, my love of books remains the same. Here’s what’s been on my shelf the past month.
Hello, everyone! With the frenzy surrounding the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, I’d like to add my contribution to the discussion of under-appreciated female powerhouses by reviewing Anita Amirrezvani’s Equal of the Sun, a historical novel about Pari Khan Khanoom, a Safavid princess in 1500s Iran. In her debut novel The Blood of Flowers (my review here), Amirrezvani brought the world of 17th century Iran to life through her story of an anonymous female carpet maker who is forced to enter into a shameful temporary marriage. She explored the everyday powerlessness faced by Persian women, but also highlighted the craftsmanship of female artisans who to this day remain anonymous. In her second novel Equal of the Sun, Amirrezvani goes back in time to the rule of Shah Tahmasp I and the cut-throat power struggle that ensued after his death. Her novel takes the themes of her first book and probes them further, showing us the rise and fall of a princess who is destined to be a ruler, but prohibited by her sex. Exhilarating and penned with exquisite prose, Amirrezvani paints a novel of a royal court and a nation in turmoil, which upon further examination, isn’t so different from the political struggles Americans and other countries around the globe face today.
Hello, everyone! Praise be, I’m getting back into the swing of things with semi-weekly blog posts. That means I have my shit together, guys. What a day to be me. Anyway, today I’m reviewing the new Netflix original horror movie Before I Wake, directed by Mike Flanagan (Hush, Ouija: Origin of Evil) and starring Jacob Tremblay (child star and precocious devil) and Kate Bosworth (moonlights as a mannequin). The film started off semi-promisingly, then slowly unravelled into a sappy, gooey mess with a stack of unanswered questions. From the director of Hush, my favorite home invasion movie, and Ouija, which had a gruesome, unsettling ending, I expected a lot more than Before I Wake‘s tepid scares and cheesy resolution.
Hello, everyone! I write this book review from the safety of my bunker in the icy Siberia that was once the United States. Florida, rest in peace. Today, I’m reviewing another Tana French novel, The Secret Place. If you read my review of her other book, The Trespasser, you might think I’m just gonna bash this book. But never fear, a rare event occurred when I read this book: my opinion on an author actually changed. When it comes to directors, I am lenient, but with authors I tend to judge harshly. The Secret Place is not a murder mystery of unparalleled quality, but it’s a capital G good book. And that’s enough to change my mind. So what’s the difference between French’s work with The Trespasser and The Secret Place? The latter isn’t trash.
Hello, everyone! A new movie review, just in time for a new year! Today I watched Julia Ducournau’s horror Raw, a 100 minute gut-punch of blood, guts, and sisterhood. One of those things is not like the others, but Raw never lets its twisted premise come unravelled. Did I enjoy Raw? Yes. Did I also find it disgusting? Yes, yes, and yes. But who says those qualities are mutually exclusive? Sometimes the best films are the ones that are so hard to watch, you can’t turn away.
Hello, everyone! Another day, another book review, another book about people whose last name is Day. That book is Dark Places, Gillian Flynn’s second novel between Sharp Places and Gone Girl. I’m a big of fan of Flynn’s other two novels, but while Dark Places kept me entertained and contains some fantastic, insightful writing, it wasn’t as successful an effort as Flynn’s other works. So, what are the best parts of Dark Places and what are the worst?
Hello, everyone! Today I want to discuss one of my favorite novels, Lisa See’s Peony in Love. If you read my last review on The Blood of Flowers, you might think that I have a thing for historical fiction about female artists and I can’t say you’re wrong 🙂 I also wrote another review on Lisa See’s Shanghai Girls duology which you can read here. Peony in Love was the first Lisa See novel I ever read, and her insightful glimpse into the intersection between femininity and traditional Chinese culture led me to read and love many of her other novels. But while See’s other novels focus more on the realistic trials of women in China, Peony in Love dares to go beyond, diving into 16th century Chinese opera and the Chinese afterlife. She also challenges the traditional role and value of women in traditional China without rendering judgment. With so many ideas to balance, See’s novel might have become unwieldy, but she manages to write a thoughtful novel with delicate prose.