Book Review: The Monkey’s Mask, Dorothy Porter

Goodreads Blurb:
The Monkey’s Mask is a totally unique experience. It’s poetry. It’s a crime thriller. It’s where high art meets low life, passion meets betrayal, and poetry faces profanity on the streets of a harsh modern city. Dorothy Porter’s internationally bestselling verse novel holds you in its grip from the first verse paragraph to the final haunting pages. 

“I want you, trouble,
on the rocks.”

My Thoughts:
Dorothy Porter’s The Monkey’s Mask is one of many novels I probably wouldn’t have picked up at all if it weren’t for my university course, and I am thankful I did, as it is something I’m very glad I’ve read. Porter manages to seamlessly blend the genres of crime thriller and lesbian romance into near three-hundred pages of verse. Yes, you heard me correctly! Verse. This somewhat unusual combination of crime, passion, and poetry makes for an intensely engaging read right to the last line.

The Monkey’s Mask follows the story of Jill Fitzpatrick, an Australian Personal Investigator living in the Blue Mountains. She is brought back to Sydney on a missing persons case, recruited by word of mouth; Mrs Norris’ daughter, Mickey, is missing and she called Jill to try and find her. Jill obliges, and so picks up the trail of the missing student. Pulled into Mickey’s world of poetry and passion, she manages, also, to quite quickly find a love of her own. As Jill gets closer to the truth, she unravels a much deeper plot that just the ‘girl gone missing’ she’d anticipated, and within that learns that love and lust though advertised as near the same are in fact near opposite.

Though this novel can be advertised as a crime thriller, in her choice to write in verse, Porter loses the ability to put as much detail in in terms of the actual mystery. This is substituted with extensive metaphor and an observant, but almost vague internal monologue. This in no way takes away completely from the detective story, in fact, for me, it enhanced the mystery of the whole plot itself. As well as this, the sectioned collections of verse leave way for a much deeper development off character, especially on the part of Jill. It must be noted though that for a lot of the novel, our detective, Jill, is lusting over Diana, one of Mickey’s tutors. This romance makes for some very erotic poems, which somewhat go against the grain of the darker undertones of this novel. None the less, these poems make up the rich intensity of the whole collection, and without them, it is possible the novel would fall quite flat.

The poems themselves are rich with a very emotive and accessible language, in a simple but effective form. So for those who feel they don’t really get poetry, this is for you. Porter’s verse is gritty, raw, and something which will stick with you quite a while after you have closed the book. In doing this, she has created a rich and inviting world of something which for most is very familiar territory. Each section of the novel sets up a different tone and theme, letting each poem push the passage of time and carry you through Jill’s thought processors throughout the case.

One poem which is most memorable for me comes from early in the first section in the novel ‘The New Job’, it is titled, I’m Female. Though short, it hints subtly at Jill’s characterisation, and more than that, sets up the tone and themes of the novel quite beautifully.

“I’m not tough,
droll or stoical.

I droop,
after wine, sex
or intense conversation.

The streets coil around me
when they empty
I’m female
I get scared.”

In writing The Monkey’s Mask, Porter has cleverly toed the line between the genres of crime and romance, and managed to mix them in a way which makes them recognisable as separate, but also something new when seen as one. This is a deeply powerful read for those who aren’t so familiar with poetry and lovers of poetry alike. Despite the lack of undivided focus on the advertised main genre of detective fiction, The Monkey’s Mask is an intense and encapsulating read. Which for me, meant that I was hooked from page one, and unintentionally read it all in one sitting, before diving back in to almost immediately read it again.

Book Review: The Word Exchange, Alena Greadon

IMG_0778Goodreads Blurb:

In the not-so-distant future, the forecasted “death of print” has become a reality. Bookstores, libraries, newspapers, and magazines are things of the past, and we spend our time glued to handheld devices called Memes that not only keep us in constant communication but also have become so intuitive that they hail us cabs before we leave our offices, order takeout at the first growl of a hungry stomach, and even create and sell language itself in a marketplace called the Word Exchange.
Anana Johnson works with her father, Doug, at the North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL), where Doug is hard at work on the last edition that will ever be printed. Doug is a staunchly anti-Meme, anti-tech intellectual who fondly remembers the days when people used email (everything now is text or videoconference) to communicate—or even actually spoke to one another, for that matter. One evening, Doug disappears from the NADEL offices, leaving a single written clue: ALICE. It’s a code word he devised to signal if he ever fell into harm’s way. And thus begins Anana’s journey down the proverbial rabbit hole . . .

My Thoughts:

My sister gave me this book for Christmas, I admit though, that I found it in a local book shop pre-Christmas and Ev was at a loss of what to give me so here we are! The blurb instantly grabbed my interest. No that I’ve finished the book wasn’t really what I expected however Alena Graedon’s The Book exchange did not disappoint at all.

The book follows the story of Anana, she works with her father, Doug, at the North American Dictionary of the English language, in a world where books, libraries and newspapers are a thing of the past. They are working on the last edition to ever be printed, that is until one night when Doug disappears all together leaving a one word clue: ALICE. A code he devised with his Anana in case he ever got into harms way. This sends Anana with her friend and colleague Bart on a journey to find him. They find more than they bargain for though and get tied up in a series of events which could mean the destruction of society as they knew it.

The Word Exchange is set in the point of view of Anana, it reads almost like a recount of events rather than ‘in the present time’ story, throughout there are a number of chapters which read like diary entries of the character Bart. This way of story telling, to me, was very effective. The style of writing made it seem all the more real and helped me to connect with the two main characters.

The premiss for the story being a future on earth where books and reading have become nearly unheard was something that, as a book lover, really hit home with me, and in all honesty, scared me a little to. Especially as I read on to discover the Meme, a device used in it’s most basic function as a phone, but then it is so much more than that. With the ability to do mostly everything, including calling a taxi if the owner so wants. The devices left humanity in an almost impersonal interactions, with only a few main characters not using them, including Bart and Doug. What seemed to shock me the most though was the fact of how real this situation could become in our world, and how perfectly Graedon has twisted something that is so normal in our lives and made them bad.

I have seriously loved every moment I’ve spent reading The Book Exchange, there is the perfect combination of suspense with cliff hangers broken up by the differing points of view, with a balance of plot twists where I found my self having to close the book on my hand, hoping the characters would change their minds. When I finished I literally just sat for a bit, and I was grinning from ear to ear! Quite literally!

I definitely recommend this as it is a very, very good read, it was gripping until the end and I got completely and utterly immersed in that world. Though it’s not the most relaxing read, it was all very exciting with a very intricate story line from two points of view. Which for me was perfect, I’d much prefer to be on the edge of my seat than everything be perfect and relaxed, so if you’re anything like me in that sense then you should definitely give The Word Exchange a read!

Thanks for reading!
Anna x

Film Review – The Maze Runner

maze_runner_ver2I actually saw this before reading The Maze Runner by James Dashner (my review here), also wait until I had actually read the book. So when I did watch it I had no idea about the movie at all, apart from the fact that it had a Maze, Dylan O’Brien and the guy who was in not just one but two of my favourite childhood (well one was childhood anyway) movies (Thomas Brodie-Sangster – Nanny McPhee and Love Actually). I left the cinema wiping away tears and in a slight amount of shock, I had not expected the ending I’d just seen and reading James Dashner’s Maze Runner Trilogy had just hit the top of my to-do list.

To say I loved this film is probably an understatement, having read the book now, I could see that the casting was pretty much perfect, and the fact that Dylan O’Brien – one of my favourite actors and Tomas Brodie-Sangster – a childhood favourite were starring, along with a couple of other actors who I now love as well made it so much better.

As an adaption, after reading the book I could pick changes that Wes Ball (Director) had made, some I thought worked, and other bit’s I missed and wish they could have kept.These ended up being little things such as Newt not calling Thomas ‘Tommy’ and the lack of the telepathic talking between Thomas and Tereasa, which to the normal movie goer wouldn’t have made much difference, but as a huge fan of the books and of the Newt/Thomas relationship I really wished the nickname had stuck. There are a couple of changes though with the ending, such as Gally’s supposed death and the way in which Chuck died which didn’t give both characters the ending I felt they needed, which the original story had.Also, as I have now finished reading the trilogy, I am not sure how these changes will fit in in the long run, and how they will effect events in the next two movie sequels.

All nitpicking aside I really do recommend this film,  I think that the Ball has done an amazing job with  direction and all the actors do an amazing job. The whole thing is done really well and all the known CGI is highly believable. The soundtrack is awesome, and I’ve  been listening to it non-stop since it came out. My favourite tracks being: The Maze runner, Chat with Chuck, and Finale.

What did you think? And if you haven’t seen it then are you planning to?I think it is really worth it!

Thanks for reading,
Anna x

Book Review: The Maze Runner, James Dashner

the maze runner

Goodreads Blurb:

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.


My Thoughts:

I made a personal boo-boo so to speak with this book, and saw the movie first – it didn’t exactly ruin the book for me, as there are many differences between the two, but I always like to read the book first so I can create my own image of the characters in my head.

The Maze Runner, by James Dashner, is the first in the Maze Runner Trilogy. A friend reccomended I read these, and seeing as the same friend had recommended I read the Hunger Games Trilogy which I absolutely loved, I took her advice with Dashner’s trilogy as well.

James Dashner has created a unique world in The Maze Runner, a story set in a post-apocalyptic world where the organisation WICKED is running experiments to try and find a cure for The Flare. A group of boys who call themselves Gladers, are sent into the center of a giant maze with no memory of their previous lives and what has happened to the earth. With no other choice they build new lives in ‘The Glade’, while trying to piece together what they were doing there and find a way out of the Maze. This is the world Thomas get’s thrown into, and from the moment he does, things begin to change.

From the first page I was hooked, as the reader you start off just as confused as the main character, Thomas, who is introduced hurtling upwards in an enclosed metal cage towards what you eventually are told is ‘The Glade’. This is an interesting change, as the reader you usually know more than the protagonist from the get go, but being just as in the dark about what was happening as Thomas is, keeps you asking questions which don’t get answered until much later on in the story. You take the full journey with Thomas, meeting the other characters and learning about the crazy situation he’s been thrown into gives an insight into the happenings of the story which can rarely be matched. For me, this is what really gripped me, the unusual beginning which set off a domino effect of questions which just have to be answered.

The main thing I absolutely loved though about this novel is that there was little to no romantic plot – the main relationships are the strong friendships which the boys have made through their adverse situation. They have built their own world, with jobs, leaders and rules to keep the place running smoothly and keep everyone safe. ‘The Box’ had been sent up every month with new supplies and they used what they were given, they didn’t mope, they used what they had to survive, building a family in the process.They develop their own language tropes, something which, though it feels odd to read at the start, seems normal quite soon into the novel, and brings another interesting and amusing change to the writing.

The friendships which Thomas makes with Chuck, Mihno and Newt are three which are completely true despite the forced circumstances. There is not just loyalty and love, but also an unspoken trust between the boys which makes them seem like brothers rather than just friends. It is these friendships, and the banter between them which almost helps you to forget the looming threat the maze brings, but then made the climactic part of the novel even more exciting and heartbreaking for me.

I absolutely loved The Maze Runner, and I would definitely recommend it, no question. If you love a great dystopian-future/post-apocalyptic novel which a good ounce of friendship, brotherhood and a plot which grips you to the very last page and beyond then this is the book for you!

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a good week!
Anna x