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captivesfilm

Julia Ormond plays Rachel, a dentist who after her marriage breaks up, takes a job in a prison two days a week, providing dental treatment to the inmates. There she meets Philip Chaney (Tim Roth) and an attraction quickly develops. Nearing the end of his sentence, Philip is on day release one day a week and the couple see each other and fall in love. However, such a relationship could be disastrous to both of them if discovered and matters soon get out of hand.

I really enjoyed this film. Tim Roth is one of my favourite actors and with just a look, he can say so much. Julia Ormond is also brilliant as Rachel, displaying a perfect mix of toughness and vulnerability. It’s unusual to see Colin Salmon playing such an unpleasant role, but he has a flair for it!

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Year of release: 1994

Director: Angela Pope

Writer: Frank Deasy

Main cast: Tim Roth, Julia Ormond, Keith Allen, Colin Salmon

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Genre: Drama

Highlights: Likeable characters, great acting

Lowlights: None

Overall: A hidden gem. Watch it if you get chance

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This book has dual time frames told in alternating chapters:

In 1985 in Chicago – and across the United States – AIDS has devastated the gay community. The story starts with a group of friends mourning the AIDS related death of their friend Nico. These chapters are largely told from the point of view of Yale Tishman and through Yale, we witness the ongoing crisis, and it’s effects.

In 2015, Nico’s sister Fiona, now in her early 50s, has gone to Paris to track down her estranged daughter Claire. Through these chapters we learn about the fates of various characters in the earlier timeline, and understand what Fiona went through, watching not only her brother, but so many of their friends die at the hands of a virus which the government at the time seemed largely unbothered about.

This is without question my favourite book that I have read so far this year – and I’d put it into at least my top 10 of all-time favourites. I absolutely adored Yale, and appreciated that Makkai drew so many believable and distinct characters which made up his friendship group and other acquaintances. She does not portray heroes and villains, just incredibly ‘real’ characters, who I felt like I genuinely knew and cared for. I do feel that the early timeline on its own would have made for an interesting and wonderful novel, but the 2015 story added to it, in that we could see what an effect Fiona’s experiences had had on her as an adult.

I could write about this book all day, and good luck to anyone who asks me about it – you’re going to need to set aside a few hours while I wax lyrical! However, I don’t think I could do it justice. It is a beautifully written, heartbreaking, uplifting, thought provoking novel, and I recommend it to literally everyone.

 

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Otilla McGregor needs to sort her life out. She drinks too much, she is in a relationship with her married boss, her sister has severe mental health problems – but she is determined to sort her life out and get herself together.

I listened to this as an audiobook narrated by Colleen Prendergast. It’s told from the point of Otilla, and employs a type of ‘scrapbook’ method to tell her story; this encompasses emails, snapchats, text messages, letters to the Little Book of Happy (makes sense when you’re listening/reading!) and conversation transcripts with her therapist.

The narration was excellent – Prendergast really got under the skin of Otilla and helped make her into a believable and likeable character. The story itself was also interesting and I liked the deviation from conventional narration, although I think this may work better as a physical book rather than an audiobook.

I would say however, that this is NOT a book to listen to if you need cheering up! As mentioned above, Otilla drinks way too much, her love life is a mess, she thinks that she may be to blame for her sister’s mental and emotional problems, her father passed away a few years earlier and she misses him terribly, her mother has her own problems….on top of all this, Otilla’s best friend Grace is an enabler who believes the only reason to give up alcohol is so that when you go back to it, you get drunk quicker and for less money. Otilla works in a cancer care hospital, so even several of the lesser characters have serious problems.

For all this, although at times I did wonder how much more misery could be stuffed into one book, the story did hold my attention throughout. I adored her new potential boyfriend, and really rooted for Otilla.

I’ve heard good things about other books by Annaliese Mackintosh and would certainly read/listen to more of her stories.

 

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The Blurb:

One simple mouth swab is all it takes.

A quick DNA test to find your perfect partner – the one you’re genetically made for.

A decade after scientists discover everyone has a gene they share with just one other person, millions have taken the test, desperate to find true love.

Now, five more people meet their Match. But even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking – and deadlier – than others…

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My thoughts: 

Well…I loved the premise of this book. Slightly dystopian, slightly sci-fi (not heavy sci-fi, so don’t be put off if that is not a genre you like), and fairly believable, I thought there was so much potential. The book follows five people – Mandy, Christopher, Jade, Nick and Ellie – who all find their match. The stories are all completely separate and are told in alternative chapters. The chapters themselves are short and choppy, and almost all of them seemed to end on a cliffhanger of sorts, which had the effect of making me want to read on and find out what happened. Unfortunately this did get a bit tired after a while, and some of the events and dialogue felt like it was out of a wildly melodramatic soap opera. What started out as almost a feasible situation soon turned into the ‘that would never happen’ category. But STILL, I found it compelling enough to read on.

I didn’t think many of the characters were particularly likeable – although Jade was the most sympathetic of the lot. There’s no doubt that John Marrs can think of a good twist, but there were just so many of them. Some of them I certainly didn’t predict though, and that it always a good thing.

For all that irked me, I did want to read the book and never actually got bored – more a case of eye rolling a lot!!

I would probably give something else by this author a try, as I think the initial idea was an excellent one. But one final note – there were so many spelling and grammar mistakes in this book that I can’t help hoping that he has better editors for his future work!

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Year of first publication: 2016

Genre: Sci-fi, dystopian fiction, drama

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emma

This was always going to be an interesting read for me in one sense or another. This books is a new version of Jane Austen’s Emma (a modernisation of each Austen novel was written for a Harper Collins series and this was the third of that series). Emma is not only my favourite Austen novel, but quite possibly my favourite novel of all time by any writer. I’m always intrigued by book and film remakes/reboots/reimaginings/retellings or the numerous other re-whatevers that are around so I sorted of looked forward to reading this, while also approaching with some trepidation.

Anyway…to condense the storyline for anyone who is not familiar, Emma Woodhouse is a privileged young lady who gets pleasure from trying to organise her friends lives and relationships, and fancies herself as an expert matchmaker. However, her meddling is about to result in a few life lessons learned for Emma…

Honestly, having finished this book I am  not sure WHAT to make of it. I definitely didn’t hate it – McCall Smith has a gentle and genteel style of writing, which makes it easy reading, and this book more or less stays true to the original storyline. However, it never really sits well in the modern age. The characters still seem stuck in the original era, but whereas in Austen’s novel, there is sparkling wit and humour, and Emma seems quite a modern young lady, here she seems old-fashioned and something of a snob. Austen wrote that Emma was a heroine who nobody except herself would like (I actually love Emma’s character, flaws and all) and McCall Smith seems to have actually created this very Emma. There is nothing particularly warm about her, nothing to make the reader understand her or root for her, and attempts to remind us that it is set in the current day – mentions of modern technology, modern transport etc – do seem awkwardly shoehorned in, just to remind us that this is indeed a modern retelling. Thus, even if you take this as a novel on it’s own merits and try to block out thoughts of the original, it still doesn’t quite work.

I would have liked more Knightley in this one – he barely features – and less padding at the beginning; at almost 100 pages in and Harriet Smith still doesn’t warrant a mention!

So overall an interesting experience. I’m not disappointed that I read it, but I wouldn’t really recommend it to Austen lovers, unless like me, you’re curious to see how the story sits in a modern setting.

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If you knew your future…would you want to change it?

Jess Mount logs onto Facebook one day, and is horrified to see tributes to her posted from 18 months in the future, suggesting that she has died. Is there some kind of magic at work? It is an evil prank, or is Jess losing her mind? As she falls into a whirlwind romance with a new boyfriend, she hurtles towards her seemingly unstoppable fate and wonders if she can do something to change it. But when her timeline shows her that she has a child and she falls in love with her future son, she wonders if she even wants to change the future…

I thought this book had a really interesting premise and started out well. I would definitely say that the writing flowed well and made it an easy read despite some of the subject matter. However, I started to get annoyed with Jess quite early on, especially as all the important plot points were so clearly signposted and there were so many obvious things she could have done, but didn’t even think about (if and when you read this book, that sentence will make so much more sense!) I’m not sure that we ever really got to know Jess or her new boyfriend Lee, which made it harder to empathise with her. The story is told mainly from Jess’s point of view, with the occasional chapter written from the point of view of Lee’s mom Angela (who I couldn’t stand). There were also the Facebook posts and private messages, which somehow didn’t work for me; it was clear that they were there to fill in details for the reader, which meant that people said things that simply did not ring true. Intermittently, there were chapters from 2008 – eight years before the book is set – which take place just after Jess’s mother passed away, and I’m not sure what these added to the plot or if they were even necessary.

Most annoying to me was the fact that the Facebook posts were never explained. This just felt like laziness on the part of the author, and the ending was so quick that it felt rushed out.

I wouldn’t say I hated this book – I’d probably try another book by the same author – but I don’t feel that it lived up to it’s early promise.

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Listened to as an audiobook narrated by Napoleon Ryan.

Andrew Sumner is having a run of bad luck, but he believes that it is at an end when he meets the beautiful and captivating Charlie. The two of them begin a very intense relationship and are smitten with each other, but Charlie’s irrational jealousy causes problems between them. When things start going missing from Andrew’s flat, and his friends start being attacked – or worse – he starts to wonder if Charlie could be behind it…could the woman he loves really be a murderer….?

I am really in two minds about this book. There was a LOT that annoyed me, and that was before I even got to the ridiculous ending. First of all, there were continuity errors (I guess that is what you would call them; certainly if this was a film that is what they would be). For example near the beginning of the story, two characters go into a cafe in a railway station to have a chat, but halfway through it becomes a pub. In another part, two characters decide to get drunk on two bottles of gin which somehow turn into vodka. Okay, these things don’t impact on the story, but they annoy me and I feel that if I noticed them without looking, any half decent editor should have done as well.

Additionally, Andrew as a protagonist was just…blah. I couldn’t understand why any woman would become obsessed with him, although there’s no accounting for taste. More than anything he just seemed unbelievably stupid for putting up with so much of Charlie’s irrational behaviour, and largely (it seemed) because she was adventurous in bed. The ending was the biggest let-down. I don’t mind a good twist, but this was so mad as to be just plain stupid, and asked the reader to discount everything that had gone beforehand.

As a narrator Napoleon Ryan was fine when he was being Andrew – and as the book is narrated by Andrew, that was most of the time. But female voices are NOT his forte. In particular, Charlie’s voice just made her sound like a caricature out of a bad sitcom.

Yet – despite all this, I did find that the story rattled along at a good pace, and at one point I even found myself wanting to extend a long run so I could see how one particular subplot played out. So I do believe that Mark Edwards is capable of creating solid tension and mystery, even if his way of resolving things seemed to have come completely out of left field.

Would I listen to or read another book by this author? Well yes, I probably would. But I liken this one to eating junk food. It’s pretty enjoyable at the time but even while you’re consuming it, you know it’s not really that great, so it’s not something I would probably recommend to a friend.

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