Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Title: Hacksaw Ridgehacksaw_ridge_poster
Year: 2016
Director: Mel Gibson
Genre: Action/War
Category: #38 A movie about war

Hacksaw Ridge is the true story of conscientious objector Desmond Doss during WWII, although the movie centers on Desmond Doss throughout his training as well as war experience it is primarily his actions at the Battle of Okinawa that have caused his fame.

Desmond desperately wanted to serve his country but didn’t want to kill people, in fact he refused to carry a rifle and was trained as a combat medic. Despite being the only one on the battlefront without a weapon he showed a great deal of courage saving many people (including some enemies) following their injuries in the war.

I’ve seen a few war movies including Gallipoli possibly a hundred times because Australian schools just love to make students watch it over and over again. I also somehow ended up watching Full Metal Jacket when I was about 10 or 11 (if you’re thinking that’s a good idea… don’t). There have been a few that I’ve loved and a few that I haven’t enjoyed much but this one I really loved. It’s such a great story and I loved that there was a chance to get to know the characters before they went off to war.

Rating: 4/5 stars


Before You Forget – Julia Lawrinson

Title: Before You Forget9780143574071
Author: Julia Lawrinson
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 235
Category: 50. Read a book set in your country
Format: Paper

OKay, so I’d already read a lot of the well known books that are set in Australia. Or didn’t have much interest in them. But, Australia has always had quite a good young adult market so I thought I’d find something there. Lo and behold I found this little book by one of my favourite authors as a teenager. Now, for any Aussies out there you might habe been expecting a John Marsden or Melina Marchetta book to make this list but I loved both of those authors and have read pretty much everything they’ve written. Don’t worry though, I’m going to reread Tomorrow When the War Began since it’s a favourite of mine.

The first Julia Lawrinson book I read was quite by accident. I found it in my school library and the blurb sounded just like my life so off I went. For the record, that book was Obsession about a teenage girl with an alcoholic mother (I had an alcoholic father) who starts at a new school and develops a crush on a girl a little older than her.

What I’ve always loved about her books and continued to love in this one, is that these books really do reflect what it’s like to be a teenager growing up in Australia (and probably to some extent in other countries).

Before You Forget is the story of a girl starting her last year of high school but her dad is acting really weird and her best friend is acting really weird so she ends up with no one to talk to. Her dad is suffering from early onset alzheimers and her friend is suffering from an eating disorder. There’s lots of awkward little encounters with her family and friends that bring me right back to what it’s like to be seventeen and so excited to finish high school but also terrified of what comes next but also to feel like no one quite understands you. This is a book I wished I could have read when I was in high school.

Rating: 4/5 stars

The X-Files: Devil’s Advocate – Jonathan Maberry

Title: The X-Files: Deveil’s Advocate51rv6ne7xel-_sx328_bo1204203200_
Author: Jonathan Maberry
Genre: Young Adult/Mystery
Pages: 320
Category: 51. Read a book not set in your country, but exists today
Format: Paper

So I’ve been a fan of X-files since I was way too young to be watching it. I’ve seen all the episodes including the movies and the latest season and I’m eagerly awaiting the next season in January. So getting a chance to see a teenage Scully in action was a real treat. Especially since she starts off the book not as a skeptic but a believer. It’s not until the end that we get to see a Scully we’re more familiar with.

This book is honestly a good read even if you didn’t watch the X-Files, it works well as a standalone thought I’ll definitely be looking up the Mulder version. But if you didn’t watch the show or you need a refresher, you’ve got a lovely reminder of teenage Dana Scully at the top, who I just found out was actually played by Gillian Anderson’s younger sister.

Rating: 4/5 stars


Gifted (2017)

Title: Giftedmv5bmjq2ndu3nde0m15bml5banbnxkftztgwmja3otg0mdi-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_
Year: 2017
Director: Marc Webb
Genre: Drama
Category: #24 A philosophical movie

This movie has been on my watch list ever since I heard about it and I’m glad I made the time for it because it’s such a lovely movie. It grapples with the question of what do you do when you’re left to raise someone else’s kid. Is it better to put them ahead in school just because they’re smart or to keep them in a regular class to have a regular childhood? And do you have any kind of moral obligation to do either of those things.

Both the casting and the acting in this film are top notch as well as the interactions between them. It’s really just a cute film to watch and definitely makes me wonder what I would choose to do if it were my kid who was ‘gifted’.

What would you do?

Rating: 4/5 stars

Lion: A Long Way Home – Saroo Brierley

Title: Lion: A Long Way Home 519ouehsfcl-_sx324_bo1204203200_
Author: Saroo Brierley
Genre: Autobiography
Pages: 288
Category: 27. Read a biography whether auto, normal or memoir
Format: Paper

Date Started: May 18th 2017
Date Finished: May 19th 2017

I only heard about this book when the movie was released earlier this year (haven’t seen the movie yet though).

This is the story of Saroo Brierley who became lost as a child in India only to be adopted by an Australian family eventually working to find out who his birth family were.

At first the entire thing seemed completely farfetched to me. How could a six year old possibly become so lost that he couldn’t remember where he was from or who his family was. And even if he did, why were his parents not looking everywhere for him?

It becomes a little more understandable as you keep reading though. But I will let you guys enjoy that for yourselves because this book really is remarkable, as is the story that accompanies it.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Viral – Helen Fitzgerald

Title: Viral32175491
Author: Helen Fitzgerald
Genre: General
Pages: 253
Category: 31. Read a book on paper
Format: Paper

Date Started: September 19th 2017
Date Finished: September 19th 2017

This book is super short and made a great holiday read. Nothing better to do on a huge cruise ship than lay by the pool and read… except of course being in the pool.

The basic idea of this book is that an explicit video of a teenage girl goes viral. She doesn’t remember the night, but she doesn’t have to because it’s all over the internet. She’s too scared to go home, so she doesn’t.

But the video doesn’t seem like something that she would do and her mum becomes suspicious, so does she. But, what can they do? Will the law even prosecute someone for filming and distributing a video of a girl who is clearly too drunk to consent?

Rating: 4/5 stars


Ship Breaker – Paolo Bacigalupi

Title: Ship Breakershipbreaker3-paolobacigalupi
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Genre: Young Adult/Dystopian
Pages: 326
Category: 10. Read a book labelled as young adult
Format: Paper

Date Started: September 5th 2017
Date Finished:  September 13th 2017

Set in the same world as Bacugalupi’s earlier book The Windup Girl, this novel is the first in a series aimed at young adults. Taking us back to America somewhere around New Orleans we get to explore the world of ship breaking through young Nailer’s eyes.

His job is dangerous. He crawls through the innards of big old ships, the kind we’re used to seeing photos of today huge iron ships that haul cargo all over the world. His job is to pull them apart though, just the small bits, copper wiring and such, then the so called heavy crew will come in and pull the ship itself apart.

One day he almost dies but he doesn’t, so he becomes known as Lucky Boy. Then he really does get lucky when a storm shipwrecks one of the new clipper ships just off shore and he is the first one to find it. There’s more wealth than he’s ever seen before. And then he finds something else that changes everything. Maybe he could even get out of this place and make it somewhere better.

Unlike the Bangkok we saw in the Windup Girl, New Orleans is completely underwater aside from the occcasional tip of a high rise building to be seen at low tide. Nailer and everyone he knows survives in tiny huts along the beach and everyone he knows works on the ships. He can only dream of what’s away from there. He dreams about the clipper ships that they see in the distance and wishes he was on one but his little corner of America has been forgotten by the rest of the world.

Rating: 4/5 stars (definitely be reading the other books in the series)

Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie

Title: Murder on the Orient Express853510
Author: Agatha Christie
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 274
Category: 5. Read a book written before 1950
Format: Paper

Date Started: June 24th 2017
Date Finished: June 28th 2017

This is the second of my Agatha Christie books for the year, this is probably one of the most well known Agatha Christie books out there. So well known that it’s getting a brand new movie to be released this year. In fact, that’s the reason I chose this book because I wanted to read it before seeing the movie. Of course, having read the book I’m now wondering about some of their casting choices but we’ll see. Okay, mostly I’m wondering about Michelle Pfeiffer who is playing a character who is described as ‘homely’, a word I never would’ve thought to associate with Pfeiffer. But we’ll see.

At any rate, the famous detective Poirot boards the Orient Express on the way to a job, but someone is murdered on the train and it’s up to him to solve the murder. There aren’t that many people on the train but the victim seems to have rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.

And again there’s a classic Christie twist at the end which is super fun and I won’t spoil it for you.

If you read no other Christie book then definitely read this one.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer

Title: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close233788
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 326
Category: 13. Read a book written after 1949
Format: Paper

Date Started: June 9th 2017
Date Finished: June 17th 2017

This book would probably be an emotional read for lots of people but it was incredibly emotional for me for so many reasons. The book follows the journey of 9 year old Oskar who lost his father in the September 11 terrorist attacks. Oskar is a charming narrator, incredibly intelligent with wide ranging interests and abilities far beyond the regular 9 year old. Though it is never addressed directly in the book the film adaptation apparently explains that Oskar has been diagnosed with Asperger’s which explains many of his unusual behaviors. This is the first aspect that was emotional for me because my fiancee’s brother has also been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder and is only slightly older than Oskar so many of his slightly obsessive interests are familiar to me.

The second reason it’s so emotional is perhaps a little more obvious, when I was a little older than Oskar I also lost someone on September 11. In my case it was not my father but my grandmother and she died from natural causes rather than a terrorist attack. But, it was also one of the biggest events to occur in my young life.

The novel explores both Oskar’s experiences trying to deal with the death of his father as well as his grandparents including the relationship between his grandma who he is very close to  and his grandfather who he has never met. And both stories are just amazing to read for so many reasons. It’s hard to tell you much without spoiling this book for you but I cannot recommend it enough.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Pete’s Dragon (2016)

Title: Pete’s Dragon au_movie_poster_petesdragon_3f223dac
Year: 2016
Director: David Lowery
Genre: Family
Date Watched: June 10th 2017
Category: #39 A movie about animals

I have no idea if I ever saw the animated version of this as a kid but it sounds like just the type of thing I would’ve loved. Either way, I don’t remember seeing it so there will be no comparison of the two here.

I really loved this movie in part because the dragon is really just a giant green dog which is so adorable. I find it kind of hard to believe that a kid could get lost for so long and survive so long with just a dragon for help but at the same time, it’s kind of believable too.

In case you’re wondering what I’m talking about because you’ve never heard anything about this movie. The premise is that a young boy (Pete) is in a car crash in which his parents die and he runs off into the forest  where he comes across a giant green dragon who he befriends and helps him survive. It’s several years later that he is found by adults who obviously want him to join a regular family and go to school like a normal kid. I won’t give away anymore than that.

As much as I loved this movie I’m not sure I would’ve loved it when I was a kid. It was a little slow to get started and a bit more serious than most kids movies you will see. So just keep that in mind if you’re sitting down to watch it with kids. It’s a little dark and probably aimed at kids a little older than the original would’ve been.

Rating: 4/5 stars.