Code Name Verity

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Blurb:

Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

A Michael L. Printz Award Honor book that was called “a fiendishly-plotted mind game of a novel” in The New York TimesCode Name Verity is a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other.

Review:

This book. This book was so good y’all. At first I was a little apprehensive to read it, because I will be honest with you – I am a complete pansy when it comes to reading books where the outcome isn’t assured. It takes me a while to psych myself up for books with plot twists, but I am so so glad that I read Verity.

The book opens with the chilling announcement that Queenie (a civilian ambassador) has sold her country’s secrets for the return of her clothes. From there it turns into a harrowing account of life under her German interrogators and how Queenie struggles to adapt to her new surroundings. I don’t really want to give away much (which makes this review so hard to write, because this book is filled with twists and turns, keeping you on the edge of your seat every minute you read) but I’ll just say this; a new and compelling view into the minds of those who actually suffered under torture during WW2. It flips between Queenie’s life under the germans and her recollections of her best friend Maddie.

The relationship between Queenie and Maddie is one of the greatest parts of this book, and it was so refreshing to read a female driven action and suspense story. I also loved that their relationship was the core of book, as strong female relationships are incredibly important. The memories that Queenie has of her best friend makes the book equal parts melancholy and up-lifting. The descriptions that Queenie gives us are uncompromising and at times extremely uncomfortable, which adds to the impact of the story. I would sincerely recommend this book to anyone looking for a suspenseful and riveting read. You might want to keep some tissues nearby though.

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Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

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WOO! I just finished my spring break, and was lucky enough to do a TON of reading over the last couple of days. I’m back at college now, so you can expect a full post on what I did over break and a few more book reviews. This is one of my new favorites – alone with Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. 100% give both of these lovely books a try.

Blurb: January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

Review:

You know how there are books that you just fall in love with? That you can read over and over again? This book is one of them. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is one of my favorites, and whenever someone asks me for book recommendations I immediately point to this one. It’s just such a charming story.

The book is told through the correspondence between Juliet and the citizens of Guernsey. It’s set immediately after WW2, which I found particularly interesting (as many books are set during) and it was an insight into the rebuilding of London and the lives of people immediately after the tragedy. The story follows what happened to the citizens of Guernsey during the German occupation – as the only British territory to fall under Hitler’s hands. Every person that Juliet writes too manages to inject humor and warmth into the suffering that every person experienced. They don’t shirk away from anything, but their humane approach and love of life help make Juliet and the reader fall in love with them.

At it’s core, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a story about loving books and reading and the hope it can inspire. Juliet and Dawsey first begin their correspondence after he receives an old book of her. From there, the story unwinds. I’m an absolute sucker for quiet happy stories, and found families are ALWAYS my jam. Therefore, it’s not surprising that I loved this book.

The one sticking point that I have with this novel is its relative inaccuracy of 1940’s letter writing. Some of the language choices rings far more modern, but since I wasn’t unduly concerned with it, I don’t let it bother me. The characters are all fantastic and its just such a lovely read. A guaranteed feel good with just enough punch to keep it from getting overly saccharine.

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Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)

Review: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson.

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Blurb:

When Jenny Lawson was little, all she ever wanted was to fit in. That dream was cut short by her fantastically unbalanced father and a morbidly eccentric childhood. It did, however, open up an opportunity for Lawson to find the humor in the strange shame-spiral that is her life, and we are all the better for it.

In the irreverent Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson’s long-suffering husband and sweet daughter help her uncover the surprising discovery that the most terribly human moments—the ones we want to pretend never happened—are the very same moments that make us the people we are today. For every intellectual misfit who thought they were the only ones to think the things that Lawson dares to say out loud, this is a poignant and hysterical look at the dark, disturbing, yet wonderful moments of our lives.

Goodreads Score: 3.92/5

Amyliabedelia score : 4/5

Review:

Okay, Jenny Lawson is one seriously funny lady. If you are looking for a book to escape the stress of college then this is a good one. There were moments reading this book when I was full on ugly laughing – doubled over and snorting and everything. Chronicling the events of her life (beginning with her childhood in Wall, Texas) all through her marriage and children, Lawson manages to treat everything in her life with a degree of irreverent humor and general attitude of ‘Whattaya gonna do?’. Sure, there were moments when I was reading this that I went ‘Okay, that is…messed up, to say the least’ but it didn’t matter, because I was far too busy giggling over the absurdity of what had happened to care. Fun fact: trying to stay quiet because it’s 2 AM and your roommates are sleeping is not as easy as it sounds.

Obviously the book isn’t perfect. There are moments where the stream of consciousness style Lawson invokes gets tiresome and babbly. There’s also a weird chapter where Lawson writes imaginary post it notes to her husband, which I found boring and unnecessary.  Despite this however, Lawson manages to deliver an account of her life that is hilarious. While I wish she had spent more time on her childhood, which was probably the funniest part of the book for me, Lawson also manages to tactfully acknowledge her social anxiety, depression and rheumatoid arthritis in a way that managed to add some punch to the book. I wish that she had taken a step back with the jokes during those moments though. Yes, laughter is a good way to ease the pain – and Lawson is certainly good at invoking the giggles – but there were times when levity wasn’t required.

That being said, this book is a definite read again for me. I spent most of the days after reading Let’s Pretend This Never Happened remembering stories from Lawson’s life and attracting weird looks because I was giggling to myself. If you’re looking for a book to cheer you up, then this is definitely a good one to go to. Just make sure that you don’t drink a lot of water beforehand.

Pacific Rim

PACIFIC RIMthDirector: Guillermo Del Toro

Actors: Charlie Hunnam

Idris Elba

Rinko Kikuchi

Charlie Day

Rob Kazinsky

Max Martini

Ron Perlman

Genre: Action & Adventure

Run Time: 132 minutes

Rotten Tomatoes: 71%

Amyliabedelia Grade: A+

Plot Summary: A ragtag band of humans band together in the year 2025 to fight legions of monstrous creatures rising from the sea. Using massive piloted robots to combat the alien threat, earth’s survivors take the fight to the invading alien force lurking in the depth of the Pacific Ocean. Nearly defenseless in the face of the relentless enemy, the forces of mankind have no choice but to turn to two unlikely heroes – a washed up former pilot and an untested trainee – who now stand as earth’s final hope against the mounting apocalypse.

Review

ARE YOU READY TO CANCEL THE APOCALYPSE?

As my friends can attest, I love this movie. LOVE. This. Movie. If I could see this movie all day everyday I probably would, but since I am a ‘functioning’ person, I cannot. But why? The plot is dumb. ‘It’s just Godzilla vs. Transformers’ my friends complain to me. ‘Hush up’, I snap back, ‘and prepare to listen’.

In the future massive alien beasts called the Kaiju have emerged from a rift in the ocean floor, sending humanity into a mad scramble to survive. Their solution? Giant robots piloted by two people whose minds are linked together. These giant robots – called Jaegers – engage the Kaiju directly, preventing them from making it to land. Over time however the Kaiju have become more evolved, and it’s becoming harder and harder to push the invaders back. In a last ditch effort to save the world, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) recruits veteran Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnan) to pilot one of the last remaining Jaegers in the world. That’s right – humanity’s solution is literally to fight aliens with the power of friendship.

Pacific Rim’s fight sequences and overinflated technology is undoubtedly one of the biggest draws to this movie. The visuals are stunning, and each fight between Jaeger and Kaiju amps up the ante, unleashing new moves for each one. While I enjoy watching robots and aliens pummel the crap out of each other, I love Pacific Rim because of the emotions behind it, silly as that may sound.

The ‘hero’ of the story is Raleigh Becket, who loses his brother in the films exposition and gives up Jaeger piloting as a result. This is doubly traumatic – jaeger pilots have to link on every level, physical and emotional. Raleigh believes that he has lost his co-pilot, and quickly fades into obscurity to work on the wall, a bureaucratic response to the Kaiju invasion (hint: it doesn’t work). While his backstory is super predictable I was pleasantly surprised by Raleigh’s character. When he is introduced to Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) his future co-pilot, he treats her with respect and deference. It is so REFRESHING to see such a humble, well-characterized ‘hero’ of an action film. Usually they just do whatever they want to do, spewing misogyny and getting the girl anyway. This doesn’t happen here! Mako and Raleigh’s relationship is far more friend/friend or mentor/student than girlfriend/boyfriend. Let me repeat that: HE RESPECTS HER. THEY ARE FRIENDS AND COWORKERS AND DON’T END UP TOGETHER. But such a thing is typical for Pacific Rim, which at its core is about relationships.

The movie may be billed as an action film, but it has a huge heart behind it. I watch it and I think of all the important relationships in my life – siblings, friends, family – and all the way that we work together. Sure the characters in Pacific Rim are just that – characters. But they feel so real. They have to struggle to work together, and nothing comes easily for them.

Moving away from the story aspect of Pacific Rim, this movie also deserves recognition for its fantastic shots. As I said before, the visuals are stunning. The Shatterdome (the home base for humanity’s last stand) reminds me of a World War 2 bunker. It’s a refreshing change from all the futuristic movies that I see today, where interiors seem to be composed almost entirely of white chrome. Pacific Rim is a movie based on people’s sweat, tears and blood. Nothing about it is pretty, but it’s such an effective visual piece.

Guillermo Del Toro has often been hailed for his visions and in depth world building. Pacific Rim is no different. We are treated to decades of backstory in twenty minutes, and he considers how finances would work, how popular culture would absorb the jaegers and the ‘celebrity’ of jaeger pilots. It’s amazing the amount of detail that he manages to create in such a short time – Hong Kong’s bone slums, for example, are just a small piece of the movie that has a powerful impact. Del Toro manages to build a world that feels lived in, even if you’ve only seen it in a minute.

Pacific Rim is a movie about people, first and foremost. It’s about humanity deciding to work together to keep out a threat, and they do it in the best of ways – by creating literal soul bonds. That’s awesome. This movie is awesome, and I could probably keep going on and on about how important this movie is to me, but I should stop now. Please, go watch Pacific Rim. If you think it’s just another dumb action movie, that’s fine. But if you think it’s as brilliant as I do, then please drop by my inbox.

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Sometimes Good Things Happen in Fives

I actually can’t believe February is over. Man, this month flew by fast. Every weekend I had something going on – and I’m not complaining!! It was wonderful being able to see friends and family alike, but I am also missing another loved one. My bed. We started off the month with my Mom’s birthday (looking better than ever Mom! XX).

The weather was absolutely beautiful for my parent's - the sunsets even more so.

The weather was absolutely beautiful for my parents – the sunsets even more so.

Then it was time for my own birthday celebrations (fast approaching the end of my teen years – which is a terrifying and cool thought). My lovely friends threw me a surprise party. Which made up for being thrown into a pond in the middle of the night. (Traditions are weird, and very chilly). IMG_1979

Love to all my gorgeous friends!

Love to all my gorgeous friends!

Next up was parent’s weekend!! My parents still reside in HK, so it was absolutely the greatest birthday present to see them during parent’s weekend. We celebrated by touring all the campus (my poor feet) and showing them what life is like for me in college. I was also lucky enough to have two of my best friends visit me. The first popped down from UChicago to perform in a Raas dance competition. If you haven’t heard of Raas, you should absolutely go check it out. I was just in awe watching the incredibly difficult looking moves and the beautiful (and glitzy!) costumes. So. Much. Glitter. Click the video for a small snippet of their performance. They came third but in my opinion should have won. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qUAwy4X6P0&feature=youtu.be Performed in the MOST AMAZING play, Blue Heart Beats. It was such a privilege to be a part of an incredible play and cast. Working with such talented people was definitely intimidating, but inspiring beyond belief. The playwright is currently workshopping it and I am so excited to see it being performed all over the states. It’s an incredibly powerful piece that deserves to be seen.

Unfortunately the weather was gross - but we made the best of it :)

Unfortunately the weather was gross – but we made the best of it 🙂

Finally, my best friend made the trip down to come see me! We spent the weekend together, which resulted in a lot of laughter and memories. We were also lucky enough to go see Hannibal Burress. He’s on one of my favorite shows, Broad City, so I was super pumped to see him live. The act right before him definitely was hard to stomach, but Hannibal was incredibly funny. I’m looking forward to his next album of porcupine songs. I am so glad that she came down to visit, and am looking forward to heading up to her own college. I literally can’t think of a better way to wrap up a perfect month. IMG_1917Whew. Looking back definitely illuminates why I’m feeling so tired (there may be a weekend in soon). However I wouldn’t change it for the world! Seeing so many loved ones and being able to make such incredible memories was worth every yawn I tried to stifle in class today. March is also shaping up to be a crazy month, with Mid-Terms and spring break right around the corner! Much love to everyone who I was able to see and those I wasn’t. IMG_1959

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