Humans – ITV

It was introducedto us via strange, creepy ads and has now reached its climax, it’s finale, with the promise of another series.

This new series is, to be honest, almost too like I, Robot but it does have it’s differences. It’s a Sci-Fi drama with hints of distopia as we venture into a world full of robot servants. However, some of these robots – “Synths” as they’re known – were created to feel emotions and pain the same way we do, which is where the problems all lie.

The main family is the Hawkins family, the mother and father of which are the favourite, yet controversial, lovers from Mr Selfridge: Amanda Abbington (who plays Miss Mardle) and Tom Goodman-Hill (Mr Grove). Once again, they work beautifully together and I thought it was genius bringing them together agian in a totally warped version of a period drama…with the “period” being in the future and all that.

The Hawkins family, despite Laura’s (the mum’s) objections, opt of rone of these Synths and decide to call her Anita. Anita does as she says, makes breakfast, makes the parent’s somewhat redundant and unintentionally rubs in the daughter’s face that she has no career prospects etc. etc. but there’s something odd about Anita…she doesn’t behave like other Synths, nor does she “share” with other Synths and they can’t figure out why. As a viewer, you alreay know that Anita/Mia was ripped away from the family of sentient Synths and was resold with Mia essentially trapped inside Anita.

I’ll be honest, the first episode didn’t really thrill me, I wasn’t imediately hooked. I thought it was all a bit “yeah, we’ve done this before – robots have feelings and dreams and secrets and they’re going to take over the world blah blah blah” but I was wrong! Not totally wrong, I must admit, as it is a bit I, Robot-esque but that’s no reason to avoid it because it does eventually stray from that predictable path. There are actaully some real twists – both human and robotic! I actually can’t wait for the new series now.

Also, it has to be said, theres quite a few well-known actors in it! I’ve already mentioned Amanda Abbington and Tom Goodman-Hill but there’s also the man who played Merlin. He doesn’t have the odd little neck scarf thing but he does have the same, odd way of speaking. There are some more people that my mum recognised but I’m afraid I don’t knw them at all. I honestly think this show would be good for most ages, unless they’re very young because there is some violence and brothel work amongst the PG content. There’s some light swearing but not in your face at all, whcih is always nice.

If you’ve seen it, please let me know what you think!

Happy watching,

Carenza x

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Go Set a Watchman – The Wonderful Harper Lee

Okay, so I’m not amongst the first to review this much anticipated book but I’m here and I’m so excited.

First of all though, a brief history…(for those of you who don’t already know the tale)
This book was written before To Kill a Mockingbird but is set twenty years later. Having read the manuscript, Lee’s publishers decided that the flashbacks in the novel and the focal points on young Jean Louise’s psyche were much more compelling and, therefore, decided that they deserved an entirely separate novel…and aren’t we glad they did? Anyway, after a long time of lying lost amongst a pile of papers, Go Set a Watchman appeared in all its glory as an essential read to be partnered with the American Classic that is To Kill a Mockingbird.

Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humour and effortless precision – a profoundly affecting work of art.”

This book, unlike its sister novel, is not written strictly from Scout’s perspective. That is to say, it is not written in the first person. However, it is written mainly from the perspective of her surroundings and we get to hear a great deal of what she has to say in her head so it’s close enough for me!

First of all, for those of you who have learned to love Scout for her colour-blind, father-worshipping, I-can-solve-any-problem-with-my-fists-and-a-good-pair-of-dungaress ways, you will not be disappointed. She has grown up to be both adventurous and set in her ways and I think it’s lovely seeing where her life headed.

“[This novel] not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context and new meaning to a classic.”

We begin the novel on a train heading to Maycomb, all the way from New York. (Maybe this is just me but I don’t think it was made abundantly clear as to what Miss Finch was doing living in New York but it’s quite nice to see she escaped Maycomb.) We soon discover that she hasn’t changed much and is still a feisty non-conformatist as she puts on her “Maycomb clothes” just to annoy her corset bound Aunt.

Anyway, the flashbacks on which Mockingbird was based are as lovely as to be expected. There are still scenes of Jem, Scout and Dill embarrassing the neighbours with there shockingly in depth plays and crude acts of childishness, along with little snippets of information about where there lives took them. However, as Jean Louise is now 26 – not just 6 – we also hear of later events in her teens where she deals with her first period and false bosoms.

Do we all remember the Tom Robinson case? Well, even that is alluded to in Lee’s tightly bound Maycomb imaginings. As these novels are set in the South of the US, race is always going to be a big issue. Jean Louise, a “color-blind” young lady, doesn’t see it as an issue but faces bouts of hypocrisy and sickness as she witnesses Maycomb and all that she knew turn to dust. In very few days, Lee sends Scout on a moral rollercoaster and us on an emotional one. If, like me and many others, you developed a rather unhealthy admiration for the characters surrounding Scout then prepare to face the ones surrounding Jean Louise.

“I did not want my world disturbed, but I wanted to crush the man who’s trying to preserve it for me.”

What is most amazing, if think, about these two novels is that the stories are so tightly woven. I know one was based on the other but they were never intended to be published as a pair, which is why I’m surprised that they link so perfectly. Although there aren’t as many direct links between the two as we may have liked, it’s the subtle connections that baffle me most. It’s as though the fictitious world we grew to love remained the same, untouched, and almost so factual that it became as real to Lee as Poirot and Marple did to Christie. All I can say is that authors’ minds are incredible and I wouldn’t mind having one myself. Imagine it: containing entirely different people, towns, even different worlds in your head and being able to create stories with them and make people fall in love with them. I would love to have that ability but I don’t and it can’t be forced…I’ve tried.

If I had one negative thing to say about Go Set a Watchman, it would be this: some of the references to American history and culture are just too obscure for British folk like me. I do not speak for all Brits as I’m sure many of you out there will understand her subtle remarks but, honestly, a lot of them escape me and I don’t feel like looking up every name I don’t recognise to understand a book. Maybe one day it will become clearer as I become older and wiser but, for now, the first half of the book loses me a bit. Even when I tried to look up obscure allusions I wasn’t even sure what to look for. Damn it, Lee. Why do you have to be so politically witty?! I still loved it though.

As can always be expected of Jean Louise Finch, there is a great deal of sarcasm and snobbery from her as she is placed amongst the racially ignorant and several rants about how people are just people and shouldn’t be treated as anything less or anything more. Nowadays, we can all say with confidence that Scout is right and that her point could not be more valid but woah was she radical! It’s clear that Scout is Lee’s advocate and, even though her views are more commonly agreed with now, Jean Louise – together with Lee – is still a breath of fresh air.

Maycomb has become a place dear to many people’s hearts and this book solidifies that feeling for me. It’s nice to have an unexpected “How They Got On” finale. My friend once wrote something along the lines of “does Scout’s life end when we turn the last page?” Well, no. Not now!

Happy reading,
Carenza x

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The Kabul Beauty School – Deborah Rodriguez

I started this blog with a review of Rodriguez’s first book, The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, so I have decided to restart it with a review of her second. Following a long build up and eventual season of A-Level exams which essentially determine where I’m headed in life, I can finally get back to reading my own books, watching Netflix and reviewing my finds (yes, I would also like to start reviewing TV shows and films and such like).

Anyway, back to Debbie’s turbulent times in Afghanistan:

Unlike her first book, which was an incredible novel full of twists, turns and tears, this wonderful book is a rather frank and elaborate description of her own Afghan experiences. I don’t know for certain how she managed to record all that happened there but it’s very thorough! It does make me slightly doubt whether or not it’s all entirely true but it still makes for a fantastic read.

The story is told by Debbie so obviously it revolves around her own experiences as she struggles to open up a Beauty School for Afghan women so that they can make a living for themselves. One of the most amazing things about both of Rodriguez’s books (that I have read) is that you can learn so much from them! I mean, I put that with an exclamation mark as though it was an exciting learning process but it’s actually incredibly sad to hear about these girls’ stories. And I’m not saying “girls” in a derogatory way either because a lot of the stories we hear about are those of how young women (the youngest being only fifteen!) are abused and oppressed as bargaining tools, baby makers and punching bags. It’s horribly unjust but there is some hope and some small signs of progress shown in this book.

Another lovely aspect to this book is the addition of coloured photographs of her time there. These show the wonderful array of colours and people of Afghanistan and evidence of the glorious work that Debbie helped make possible, despite the many obstacles she had to face. These obstacles range from the basic troubles such as money and logistics to the more delicate issues such as ethical conflicts and cultural confusions.

When I was younger (not by much, probably like three years ago) I didn’t really understand why Afghanistan was in such a mess. It was on the news nearly every day that some terrorist attempt had been made or somebody had been killed, kidnapped or tortured etc. etc. etc. every day. Relentless. Heartless. There was all this news and actually no explanation as to why it was all happening. This was really confusing and pretty frustrating. I tried to care about these people losing everything but I couldn’t understand what they were upset or angry about to cause them all to fight so hard and jeopardise or victimise the lives of the innocent. However, now, although it’s still very confusing, I understand it all a lot better with the help of this book, The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini because they all take a personal and informative approach to their stories and provide a little more clarity. In fact, these books are one of the reasons I have chosen to become a Digital Advocate for the World Humanitarian Summit, further information on which will be shared soon.

For those of you who have read my other reviews on the other Afghanistan-based books, I’m afraid you may be sick of hearing about it because I am yet to read Khaled Hosseini’s other two novels, And The Mountains Echoed and The Kite Runner, in the near future. However, for now I would like to highly recommend to you the works of Deborah Rodriguez! They are thrilling, sad and deeply touching. One thing I might say is that I definitely prefer The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul but that may just be because I like coffee a great deal more than I like haircuts and manicures. Having said that, I absolutely admire the work gone into The Kabul Beauty School and am impressed by Debbie’s resilience and ambition.

Permit me a word or two about Twitter as I feel I’m entitled to some small bragging rights on this one. Despite the fact I have a grand total of four Twitter followers on the account linked to this blog, Deborah Rodriguez just so happens to be one of those many, many followers. So, if you would like to follow her example by following me on twitter, I would be very grateful! Now I’m up and running again I could do with just a hint of publicity.

Follow me at @CarenzaReads

Sorry for the long wait!

Happy reading,

Carenza x

Gorgeous cover…but I literally won’t buy a book unless it has a pretty cover. I know, I’m so shallow!!
Deborah here, clearly being left at the mercy of her own students.

 

Starter for Ten – David Nichols

So I read this book a while ago but I really loved it!

Nichols’ writing is very observed, his minute details even go as far as romanticising the  “crescent shaped” sweat marks staining a catsuit. With many, many allusions to 80s music and canonical Literature, this book really appealed to my retro side.

Brian Jackson, a half-orphaned enthusiast if trivial knowledge, is in his first year of Uni and ever so lost. He is determined to get onto the University Challenge team, as fondly watching the show with his late father was one of the things they shared together. So, this kid is ambitious, he’s overcome hardship in his life and is determined to escape his less-than-ideal home situation – which he almost succeeds in doing.

However, on the brink of greatness he begins to fall in love and into disaster. I shan’t spoil it for you but DAMN does he mess things up…or maybe it’s for the better?

I loved this book from the first chapter, and I’m sure plenty of you will do too. However, if you’ve seen the film and NOT read the book, READING THE BOOK! The film is just bloody awful. I love films, I really do, but that was a dreadful interpretation and execution of a fantastic novel.

It’s just wonderful, and funny, and beautiful and I just…just…ugh…love it!

Happy reading,

Carenza x

Is That a Fish in Your Ear? – David Bellos

If you were hoping for an extension/parody of the Hitchhiker’s Guide series, I’m afraid I have disappointed you.

For those of you who may not know (and I apologise to those of you who do for the following explanation): In Douglas Adams’ famous book series, the characters put Babel Fish in their ears in order to understand things in other languages. This idea has been carried out in babelfish.com and babelzine.com, two language/linguistic-based websites…and this book!

Unlike the books I have previously reviewed, this book is nonfictional. It is a very detailed description if the intricacies of different techniques in translation, and things to look out for: eg if a certain piece of dialogue in a film has to remain in English due to the significance of English in that circumstance.
….okay, so out of context that seems positively bizarre! But I promise you, this book is fascinating!

If you are a complete language nut like myself you will love it. It’s very, very well written and quite funny in parts too. As far as I am aware, this is Bellos’ only original book (ignoring those he has translated) but that is a real shame! I love how he writes. This book can be quite hard to grasp at first – and some parts may seem quite dry – but the fantastic way on which Bellos writes these fascinating facts helps that a lot.

I have learned so many amazing facts from this book and, at any opportune moment, I love to share those I remember with anyone willing to listen.

This is definitely for people interested in the art of translation and interpretation – I would never pretend that it would suit everybody, that is simply not the case. I really hope that whoever does find such things interesting will pick up this book and get stuck in!

Happy reading,

Carenza x

 

 

As has become the habit of the images I’ve included recently, I don’t have the book with this cover…I just though it was quite cute!

Wise Children – Angela Carter

Along with Macbeth, The Great Gatsby, and a story I read as a kid about a boy who gradually fell to pieces (I could sort of relate to him being a sufferer of eczema and clumsiness), this is one of the few books I have ever re-read. I am not a massive fan of re-reading books – I find it takes the suspense out of the story…a few paragraphs in and I’ve remembered every twist and turn the book has to offer. However, this book is an exception.

Narrated by Dora, one half of the Chance Sisters’ dance act, this story is incredibly complex. With a rich plethora of dirty laundry, elephants and skeletons to ring out, take out of their rooms and clear out from their closets, the Hazard/Chance family layout is something special and, often, completely unfathomable. However, on the second read, a lot of it was so much clearer and I did, in this unique instance, forget a lot of the plot which made it a lot more interesting to see how the story develops and, once again, it surprised me.

Carter has managed to write paragraphs in this novel which sometimes skim a century’s worth of family history of showbiz, adultery and inappropriate giggles whilst acting on stage.

Wise Children, very loosely based on the story of King Lear, consists of many allusions to Shakespeare and is inspired by all things East and West end of London. Eastend twins Dora and Nora are the illegitimate children of Melchior Hazard (twin brother of the enormous Uncle Perry) and the late Pretty Kitty. The landlady, a helping hand during their lethal birth (on the same day as the birthday of The Bard himself), has chosen to take them on as her own – that lady is the heroic, alcoholic and eccentric Grandma Chance, whose name Dora and Nora make famous in their youth and infamous with age.

Bursting through the roof with twins, both identical and fraternal, most of the characters have a sort of “partner in crime” or an “alter ego”, with tricky circumstances as a consequence. Melchior and Perry are a fine example of twins being un-identical in every manner possible…apart from their promiscuity and tendency of being “less of a man, more a travelling carnival”.

This book is amazing, but definitely for people 18+. I say this mainly due to the fact that there are many, many adult themes and out right sexual references. However, I know somebody who read this when she was 13 and, although she did love it, she didn’t fully understand every bit of genius crammed into this novel and I think that’s a great shame. Having said that, there are a few people my age who couldn’t stand it…I think it needs a maturer mind set to understand this book. I’m basically an old cat lady thriving in an 18-year-old’s body so I think that’s why I love it so much.

So, if you are in your own reminiscent years, or you are old beyond your years like myself, you should love this book just as much as I do! Even if you don’t think you’ll like it, with all it’s controversies and shocking complexity, I really think it’s well worth your time giving it a shot. I won’t lie, not everybody will love it but I certainly do and I know there are many out there who will too!

Happy reading,

Carenza x

Out of all the covers I have seen for this book (and there are LOADS) I have never seen this one…it’s ever so lovely! I am very picky abut book cover though…

Carenza is reading…

Not a review this time (but there are more coming!) – I guess you could call this an update.

Guiltily between necessary Frankenstein readings – for my Literature lessons – I am reading The Rabbit Back Literature Society by (ready for it) Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen. All those umlauts will henceforth require me to refer to him as PJ.

PJ is a Finnish writer, “one of Finland’s best-kept secrets”, and is currently a professor of Literature and Language. Although fantastical books such as this do not usually grab my attention as much as those with a more realistic side to them, I really am enjoying this book!

Ella, the protagonist of this novel (who seems to be a female, fictional representation of PJ with the same job and a very personal feel to her characterisation…but maybe I’m not far enough into the book to be able to make that judgement) is a kind-hearted supply teacher who discovers a problem with a copy of Crime and Punishment – the plot is twisted, people die in ways they shouldn’t have and it’s all a bit too much. So, Ella goes to consult the staff at her place of refuge – Rabbit Back’s Library.

So as not to give too much away (not that I have much information myself as of yet) I will not describe any of the events which follow but, if you care to join me on this strangely enticing adventure, you can buy this book with the following link: http://pushkinpress.com/book/the-rabbit-back-literature-society/

Alternatively, as my Dad did in order to buy me this surprising little gift, you could probably pop down to your local Waterstone’s and get yourself a copy – the lady who highly recommended this book to my dad was infatuated with it, apparently, and I would also recommend this to anyone! It’s quite universal in the adult world of Literture…maybe for teens too? I was never a teen-lit sort of individual so I can’t really make a judgement call on that one I’m afraid. I think that, so long as you’re old enough to enjoy the sarcastic sense of humour, you are absolutely qualified to enjoy this book for the magnificently written piece this is. Although, just something to bear in mind, some of the translation (and I mean a minute amount here) can be slightly difficult to grasp if you are not accustomed to other languages and the difficulties translation can face. As I said, they’re only tiny. But, if you are not comfortable with the sometimes “blocky” nature of parts of this novel’s translation then you may feel put off at times.

Having said that, considering how fluidly most authors write, I always admire the art behind novel translation. And who knows? As I’m applying to do Scandinavian Studies and English Literature at Uni, one day I might experience the pleasure, and arduous task, of translating Scandinavian novels such as this one…

One can only hope.

Happy reading,

Carenza x

I don’t think I could read a book that wasn’t pretty and this one does not dissapoint. (Sorry it’s so pixalated though!)