Reviews

‘Now Is Good’ Film Review

 nowisgoodNow Is Good is an inspiring film about a teenager fighting Leukemia, you will definitely be reaching for the tissues.

Based on the novel Before I Die by Jenny Downham, this film may be packed full of clichés, but I think I can make an exception for this film. I read the book over a year ago and no book has ever affected me in the same way since.  A story that will make you feel enlightened with tears of joy and tears of sadness. The story follows Tessa (Dakota Fanning) a seventeen year old girl who makes up a bucket list of things to do before she dies. Refusing anymore treatment, Tessa decides to love every single moment of the life she has left. Making her way through her list she finds something that isn’t on the original list – love. The handsome next door neighbor Adam is exactly what Tessa needs to fill her last months with joyous moments. She realizes that the little things in life are more important, like talking to your brother, holding your father’s hand or simple lying next to the one you love.

I felt so connected to the characters in the book and expected to feel the same way with the film. However,  I felt that the film lacked the same connection. This often happens when books are adapted into films. However, the moments in the book that made me cry translated perfectly to screen. Each character has their own way with dealing with Tessa’s illness. Her father is ‘cancer obsessed’, seeking an answer to try and take all of her pain away. Her mother is quite a selfish character, too wrapped up in her own life to care about her daughter. When Tessa needs her mother the most she pulls through but I still disliked her character.

What I loved about the main character Tessa is her attitude. She doesn’t let cancer change who she is. She is witty, confident and optimistic for the most part. Knowing what was coming didn’t affect the way I watched this film. Sometimes it isn’t the ending that needs to be a surprise, it’s the moments leading up to it. Even though this film was heartbreaking, I felt a sense of joy when it ended. The film is uplifting and makes you realize how short life really is.  A true gem. I would definitely watch it again.

Rating – 5 Stars

Poems

White Butterfly

whitebutterfly

Elegant symbol
catches the light.

Ready to soar.
Wings expanding.

Flooded with freedom.
Any place is home.

Partners with blue
Friends with green.

One second to
admire her beauty.

One minute later
you remember her.

The white queen
of nature.

Restricted creature,
that blossomed one day.

The white queen
of the sky.

Playful, she seeks
she hides.

Playful, she
disappears.

Leaving a lasting
trail of beauty.

Writer's Life

Alterations And Preparations

CHECK

So it’s almost August and I wanted a lot more of my novel written than just 3,000 words. I’m a bit disappointed in myself for not sticking to my goal of at least 6,000 words by the end of July.  However, I have been busy working at Female First and the days that I don’t go to the office I am starting my third year preparations for university.  I have managed to list the ideas I have for each of my classes this year. For the first time we are studying Screen writing and our biggest assignment is to write a short film or TV pilot episode script. I have an idea already set up but I am yet to begin writing it because I don’t have the knowledge of how a script for screen is presented. I am sure this is what I will be learning in my final year but at least I have a solid idea written out in my journal. I have titled it ‘One Step Closer’, it will be a TV pilot episode of a drama about children living in a care home. I have some character profiles and I know some of scenes that will take place in the first episode.

I am making good progress with my third year preparations, I just wish I had made more progress with my novel for my dissertation. I know where I am going with my novel it’s just finding the time and the motivation to write it. As for fiction next year, I have a few story ideas drafted in my journal. One of them is a story about a little girl that goes missing and the story is told in three points of view, the mother’s, the child and the kidnapper. I have a title because I usually start with a title when I am writing and it will be called The Girl In Red.

Although I have only written 3,000 words I am already deciding to make alterations to my novel. At the moment it is in first person, present tense. I want to keep it in first person because I believe it to be the best way to tell the story but I am going to re-write it in past tense to see which I prefer. Better doing it now with 3,000 words than 30,000 words. I have far too many distractions to do it. It’s frustrating. It’s Sunday tomorrow. I have nothing to do. I might go to the gym for an hour but that’s it. So I am going to write. I am going to re-write the 3,000 words I have and change it to past tense. Then I will decide which is better. Saying I am going to write and actually writing are two very different things. I need to stop this laziness and get something written. If not, I’m sure I will regret the heavy dissertation workload that I will be bombarded with in September.

Opinion

Society Has Killed The True Meaning Of Beauty

amiperfectnow

Society has not only changed the way we look at the world but the way that we look at ourselves. We live in a society driven by advertisements and media. From a young age we are bombarded with images of the media’s perception of beauty. We never learn the real definition of beauty. Instead we have computer generated airbrushed images forced upon us, our TV screens filled with advertisements for beauty products, they persuade us to buy makeup to cover up our natural beauty.  Our perception of beauty has been distorted by the media and it is only going to get worse. The idea of beauty will never be the same, the damage has already been done.

There are thousands of young girls out there right now, flicking through the pages of their favourite Vogue magazine, hoping and wishing to look like the girl on the cover. It’s wrong. At that age you believe that the images on the cover are the definition of perfect. I know this because I used to be one of them. I was obsessed with the idea of looking like the young celebrities that were the same age as me but were twice as beautiful, with airbrushed skin and fully made faces, I, like many other girls believed it was what they actually looked like. Obviously as I grew up and I discovered the truth but it doesn’t stop the influence that the media has had on my self esteem.

Society would probably say that I am not beautiful. They would say that my eyes were too big, my eyebrows were not perfectly shaped and I had too many curves to even consider being a model. But that’s not true. I used to believe these misconceptions about myself. I would loathe myself in the mirror, wishing I looked like the young celebrities and actresses that I admired. Now of course I have become comfortable in my own skin. Yes, my eyes are big but they are also my best feature. My eyebrows might not be perfect but I have grown to accept them and as for my curves, I like them too. It makes me feel like a woman. Being a size zero is nothing to be proud of.  I recently saw a post on my Facebook news feed of a girl showing off that she finally fit back into her size zero jeans. She was perfectly proportioned before but now, her legs look like barbie legs. It’s ridiculous. No one should be striving to be a size zero, it’s  unhealthy. Surprisingly, a large percentage of men actually say that they prefer curvier women. So eat that cookie girls, it isn’t going to make you fat.

Something that also concerns me is the way that women present themselves in today’s society. They not only believe that makeup and fake tan will make them beautiful but they believe that dressing provocatively is the only way to receive male attention. Of course sex sells and the media knows this all too well. Exposing cleavage, pouting at the camera and wearing leotards and hot pants. This is what the women of today think is sexy. It’s a sad realization that the days of women respecting themselves is officially over. What happened to the image of women such as Marilyn Monroe? A classy, curvy and attractive woman that is still admired today for her natural beauty. One of her most famous quotes states that imperfection is beauty. But why is it every woman is constantly reminded of her imperfections? How are we supposed to be powerful, confident women when all we see is negative images of what beauty is and what beauty isn’t?

I believe that everyone is beautiful. I believe that I am beautiful. That isn’t me being conceited. I believe that I am a beautiful person. I may not have the prettiest face or the smoothest skin but I have a beautiful personality. I know this now. It has took me a very long time to accept myself. But what about the women that can’t accept themselves? They fall into a downward spiral of self-loathing and low self esteem. People are surprised by the amount of young girls with eating disorders. Are you really surprised? With images of what beauty ‘should’ look like forced in their faces, how are they ever going to feel comfortable in their own skin? What little girls don’t understand is the girl on the front cover of Vogue that they admire, that has pins for legs has been edited tirelessly on photo shop after the actual shot has been taken.

I am blaming society for poisoning our minds with their toxic image of beauty. Beauty cannot be defined. Everything is beautiful. Everyone is beautiful. The colour of the sky, the way a flower blooms in the spring and the image of a rainbow – all of these things are beautiful. Everybody believes that the world is beautiful but why can we not accept that every person is beautiful too? Tall, short, fat, thin, freckles, dark skin, light skin, curvy, green eyes, blue eyes, brown eyes, ginger hair, blonde hair, black hair – everyone is beautiful. People will call you ugly but it is society that is ugly, not you. I am going to live my life believing that I am beautiful, I don’t care what anyone else thinks because life is too short to believe that you are worthless. Unfortunately, that is how society makes us feel – worthless. Society has killed the true meaning of beauty.

Taylor Swift hit the nail on the head when she said that ‘Beauty is sincerity. There are so many ways that a person can be beautiful.’ Never believe that you are not good enough. Never look in the mirror and say I hate myself, I am ugly or I am worthless – you’re not. You are beautiful. Believe this and you will live a beautiful life. We live in a society that only embraces their vision of beauty but there are many visions of beauty. Like a spectrum of colours we are all different and we all have our own identities. Don’t let society kill your definition of beauty. See the beauty in the little things, see the beauty in other people and most importantly – see the beauty in yourself.

Book Reviews

‘The Weight Of Silence’ By Heather Gudenkauf Book Review

weightsilenceThe Weight of Silence
By Heather Gudenkauf
MIRA Books (2009)
373 pages

‘A thrilling novel filled with lyrical prose and heart wrenching plot twists.’

RATING – 4.5/5 stars

Seven-year-old Calli Clark is sweet, gentle, a dreamer who suffers from selective mutism brought on by tragedy that pulled her deep into silence as a toddler. Calli’s mother, Antonia, tried to be the best mother she could within the confines of marriage to a mostly absent, often angry husband. Now, though she denies that her husband could be involved in the possible abductions, she fears her decision to stay in her marriage has cost her more than her daughter’s voice. Petra Gregory is Calli’s best friend, her soul mate and her voice. But neither Petra nor Calli has been heard from since their disappearance was discovered. Desperate to find his child, Martin Gregory is forced to confront a side of himself he did not know existed beneath his intellectual, professorial demeanor. Now these families are tied by the question of what happened to their children. And the answer is trapped in the silence of unspoken family secrets.

The Weight of Silence was sitting on the dusty shelf of my nearest charity shop, unloved and used I decided to give it a chance. Judging by the title, the blurb and the image on the front of the book I knew I was in for some heavy content and that’s exactly what I got. The base of the story is about two little girls that are missing, throughout the book you also feel lost, scared and slightly helpless. I think it is the author’s job to create characters that are not just likeable but well rounded. Readers are investing their time into these characters, they need to feel for these characters and I believe that the author was successful in achieving this. I really loved the narrative of this novel, I felt that the best way to tell this story was through each character and it worked perfectly. I was a little skeptical at first when I realized that the novel was built up of small, short character diaries but I don’t usually like that type of narrative but it definitely worked on this occasion. The story is told in alternating viewpoints from Antonia, Martin, Calli, Petra, Deputy Sheriff Louis, and Ben, Calli’s brother. The story has a mysterious aura from start to finish and towards the end of the novel I could feel my heart beating fast, I was right there with the characters (I was that engrossed in the narrative.) The themes of the novel are fear, confusion, guilt and forgiveness. I really liked the fact that the woods is the core of the story, even when the girls are found the author returns to the woods at the end in Calli’s epilogue – which I thought was a nice touch.

Cleverly, the author caught me off guard towards the end of the book. Usually with mystery-based stories that have a whodunit scenario, the reader usually guesses about three quarters of the way through. As a reader, I thought I had it all figured out until I was side-wiped by the real suspect, who was barely a secondary character throughout the novel – very clever indeed! Gudenkauf’s writing style is clear, crisp and concise. The prose is almost lyrical, with plenty of juicy descriptions to enlighten the experience for the reader. Something I did notice was that some of the character views were in third person and some were in first person, although this must have been difficult for the author whilst writing, trying to keep a continuity throughout the novel, it actually worked overall. If there was one minor set back it was the pace during the novel. Sometimes I felt that the story was dragging, then it would speed up and then it would drag again.  Of course I was a happier reader when I was reading the fast paced segments but I also know as a writer myself how important the slow bits are for the story to progress.

Heather Gudenkauf does an amazing job of ratcheting up the suspense in the first chapter and keeping you on the edge of your seat all the way through to the end. I would have read this book in one sitting if I’d had enough time, but unfortunately my day job got in the way of my reading. It’s really a race against time as the families and sheriff try to find the girls. I really loved the sweet relationship between Calli and Petra,  it is very sweet and they definitely have a special connection. Petra met Calli after she’d already gone mute, and still she befriended her. This shows that Gudenkauf doesn’t just scratch the surface with her characters, she creates profound characters that have multiple layers to their personalities. A nice touch to the story is the moral that Petra saved Calli from obscurity by being her voice and in return Calli found Petra just in time.

One of my favourite passages in the novel was in the Epilogue at the end, narrated in first person by the main character Calli, it’s six year later and she reflects back. She talks about ‘finding’ her voice again. I think the imagery is especially strong on this passage:

I have never thought of it as ‘finding’ my voice because it wasn’t really lost. It was more like a bottle with a cork pushed deeply into the opening. I picture it that way often, my voice like some sweet-smelling perfume, sitting in some expensive-looking bottle with a beautifully curved handle, tall and slender, made of glass as blue as the bodies of the dragonflies I see down in Willow Creek Woods. My voice was just waiting for the right moment to be let go from that bottle. No, it was never lost; I just needed permission to use it again. It took me such a long time to figure out that I was the only one who could grant that permission, no one else. I wish my mother would understand this. She still blames herself for everything, and isn’t that a heavy weight to carry around?

The Weight Of Silence has been my favourite book this year, so far. An enthralling page-turner with characters that you can’t help but sympathise with. Beautiful lyrical prose and a satisfying ending – what more could a reader want!

Poems

Writing Manifesto

writers-block
Staring at the white, hoping for
words. Hoping for salvation.
Wanting to give up. Breathe in
and out and close your eyes – relax.

Stand up and go for a walk, let
the blood flow around your body,
let it feed your mind. Let time
give you the power, let time
give you strength.

Remember that every thought
is important. Just write anything.

Sit back down with freshly peeled eyes.
You can do it. A few words, a phrase,
a fragment of a poem or a
stream of consciousness.

Remember that writing is a muscle.
It needs to be exercised daily.
Overusing the muscle can cause
injury. Not using the muscle
enough  can cause a build up
of negative energy of
‘I can’t do this.’

You can. You can do this.
Just write. Write anything.

Think of your words as reps, your
paragraphs as sets, your pages as
daily workouts. Writing is good
for your health.

 Think of your laptop as
the key to your imagination.
Explore the web for inspiration
but warning: this may cause
procrastination. You might
take a step backwards.

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz these
letters are your best friends, use them.
In any form that you like. You are in
control. Let your subconscious mind
open up to the possibilities of a blank page.

When you see the black and white bouncing
off the page – you will feel childlike once more.
Creating places, spaces – whatever your heart
desires. Just write. Don’t even think about it.

Mark Twain once said, Show, don’t tell.
But it is okay to tell all in a first draft.
This brings hope to the senseless mind.
This creates a story before your eyes.

Go back now and cut words, remember
that words don’t bleed. Words don’t have
feelings – so no attachments. Just cut.

Feel proud. Don’t discourage yourself.
Just re-write.. re-write and re-write
some more. Until the words bond with
the image of your imagination.

Opinion

Love

love

 Love is stronger than momentary hate.

Love can do extraordinary things to a person. No one in this world is perfect, we all have our flaws and insecurities and we all have our own demons and selfish desires. But love changes you. When you fall in love you see perfection, no matter how hard you try to hate that person you just can’t. You may feel hate for a moment, you might feel angry or hurt or guilty but love soon bounces back like an elastic band. It’s like your heart is too invested in the love it feels it can no longer feel the opposite emotion.

I am a very fortunate person because I have experienced love, I am still experiencing love. It confuses me, even now. All it takes is one second, for your heart to be left open. For the right person, the right moment. You breathe in, you breathe out and you’re in love. It’s that simple. Well, that’s how it happened for me anyway but maybe love is different for everyone.

No one knows if they are ready for love, it just happens. In fairy tales and films we don’t see the darker side of love. I am not talking about the opposite emotion hate, I am talking about the other emotions that come with love. Guilt, jealousy, paranoia and fear – just to name a few. Love is something that I am fortunate to have though. Despite the downsides to falling in love and the downsides to being in a relationship, I am lucky.

A lot of people go through their entire lives searching for love, searching for that one person that makes them feel whole. Love can be dangerous because there is always that worry in the back of your mind – what if I lose that person? What if I get my heartbroken? Well, that’s just a risk you take. There are a lot of risks you have to take to accept love into your life.

Forgiveness is just another part of love, for a relationship to work you must have trust and forgiveness. If you have neither then be sure to have your heart smashed into a million little fragments because the love will definitely not last. Like a pyramid, forgiveness and trust have to support love to keep it in the air. I am a very forgiving person and I believe that everyone makes mistakes and sometimes you have to accept those flaws in a person. I love this wonderful person. He is smart, kind, funny and charming. Everything I have ever wanted and he makes me feel safe and loved.

However, I don’t like it when we fight, the heat rises, words are sharp and fists fly but that rarely ever happens. But when it does it could ruin everything that we have in an instant. I am willing to stay with the one I love because even though there are those times, where tears are shed and unforgivable actions occur – I love him. And love is stronger than the momentary hate you feel in that moment. Love is stronger than everything. If you believe with all of your heart and soul that going with your heart is the best thing – then go with your heart. I have always gone with my heart and it has only lead me down the right path – which is happiness.