A Conclusion Worth Waiting For (Bahubali 2)

Bahubali 2: The Conclusion ★★★★★
(a spoiler-free review)

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I’m going to scrap the usual format I have for my movie reviews and just get straight to it with this one. Bahubali 2: The Conclusion gets a solid five stars on my board. I would give it a million stars if I could because this movie rocked me to my core, and was truly a conclusion worth waiting for. Take Medieval India, historical romance, and an epic fantasy legend executed perfectly through a genius-director – and you get the wonder that is Bahubali.

I watched the first part on a bus journey returning home after my semester exams.  I had been sleep-deprived and couldn’t care less what movie was playing on the overhead screen but when the name S.S. Rajamouli popped up, my interest was piqued. I’d remembered watching another film he’d directed called Magadheera and wanted to see if this would be worth my time. Two years later and I find myself sitting at the edge of my seat in the cinema theatre – a mix of excitement, nervousness, and anticipation for what was to come. It did not disappoint. Continue reading

Beatrice Reviews “American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis

“American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis

★★

 

Patrick Bateman is twenty-six and works on Wall Street; he is handsome, sophisticated, charming and intelligent. He is also a psychopath. Taking us to a head-on collision with America’s greatest dream – and its worst nightmare – American Psycho is a bleak, bitter, black comedy about a world we all recognize but do not wish to confront.

 

 *NOTE: The title of this blog post should really be “Beatrice Critically Analyses ‘American Psycho'” because I feel so dang passionate about this novel that a mere review will not suffice. Having said that, this will consist of some spoilers but I’m assuming most of you have already seen the popular film adaptation considering how long it’s been since it’s release!*

I knew I was putting myself in for a rather…challenging read (for lack of a better word) when I decided to add this to my bookshelf. Having seen trailers and certain scenes of the movie when I was younger and again while surfing Youtube, I was surprised to realize that I hadn’t actually seen the full film. However, before watching it, I decided to read the book first – completely aware of the grotesque violence, graphic sex and other controversial themes it portrayed. Best. Decision. Ever.




I haven’t had much experience reading books in the genre of black comedy, but boy, oh boy, does this one pack a punch, figuratively and literally. If you can’t stomach violence, then you will most likely end up heaving your guts into the nearest bin while reading this. Before I actually start off on my review of this masterpiece of the blackest of comedies, here’s a tiny disclaimer:

 
  • The protagonist of this book is a psychopathic serial killer. If you were expecting leprechauns and rainbows, you won’t be getting any. It’s right there in the title!
  • The violence is explicit. I mean there’s Game of Thrones and then there’s this. I’m talking about some pretty dark stuff here: cannibalism, rape,  prolonged torture, animal abuse, necrophilia. So unless you think you can cope with rather vivid imagery of a deranged man’s experiments with insanity…you should read it anyway. That’s what I did. *wink*
  • Misogyny, racism and homophobia are some of the more serious issues covered in this book. Mainly cause the main character and his immediate social circle are insensitive douchebags whose jokes and conversations center around how ‘high-class’ they are. There were parts where I wanted to rip off my own arm and throw it at them for how horribly sexist/racist the characters get. But, it all serves a purpose in delivering the deeper message of the novel. 
 
And now – to start off with my review/profound-thoughts-and-analysis-of-this-amazing-book.
 
 
 
Bret Easton Ellis is a genius. Granted I haven’t read his other novels to constructively critique his writing, I stand by my opinion that this novel delivers perfectly the message(s) that it was meant to: the artificial and narcissistic world of the 1980s’, deemed as the yuppie era. The characters are obsessed with branded clothing, elite dining and most of all: their own greed. There are several rants where the protagonist goes into excessive detail of describing what he’s wearing, what products he uses and his daily routine – which, honestly, bored me to read but I could see why the writer employed such a technique. 
 

To understand what American Psycho is trying to put across, I had to push aside how utterly appalled I was by certain events in the book and try to level with the thought process of a psychopath. Patrick Bateman, the twenty-something corporate banker is an emotionless killer. He is a product of the system he’s part of, a monster born from a society that feeds off those at the bottom and fuels the greed of those on top. 

“My personality is sketchy, and unformed, my heartlessness goes deep and is persistent. My conscience, my pity, my hopes disappeared a long time ago.”

He is completely aware of his own psychotic tendencies. It made me think a lot; a crazy person wouldn’t know they’re crazy, right? But Patrick admits to this several times through out the novel, directly to the reader and people around him as if in a confessional tone.

 

 

He puts on a mask every morning of being this superior, perfect person much like everyone around him does and yet on the inside…he’s the complete opposite.

 

I think it’s Patrick’s search for meaning, a plea to break from this trap of materialism that pushes him to do what he does. He inflicts pain on others in order to try and feel something but fails. He becomes the very image of a monster that society deems he can’t possibly be and by doing so is actually the most human of them all.

 

Written in the first person point of view, it’s easy for the reader to understand where exactly Patrick is coming from, that is if he/she doesn’t give up on what several people before me have called a rather ‘mundane’ narrative style. The book starts off rather…mellow – depicting Patrick’s high-end life with his posh, white-walled apartment (symbolism yay!) and shallow social circles of pompous, overly obnoxious friends. It delves into much more violent, and disturbing themes as Patrick starts to ‘lose his cool’ and breaks free, more frequently, from his facade of the prim and elite business-man.

He does this, of course, by killing people. His co-workers, and fellow ‘yuppies’ that he’s utterly disgusted with, a lot of women, the homeless, gay, and even a child at one point. I was disgusted by the extents he goes to to make himself try and feel something but in the end he is nothing more than a sick, troubled killer. Nevertheless, the writing is done so brilliantly that it induced me to feel pity for this man who acknowledges he is nothing more than plastic in a mass of faceless people.

 

Does this mean I like him? No. Does this make him any less despicable? No, it does not. The various and disgustingly creative ways in which he tortures and kills his victims is proof enough to show that Patrick Bateman is a repulsive human being. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t understand why he does what he does, what pushes him to do it.

The writer goes into a lot of detail in describing the murders to make the readers feel sick and completely acknowledge the kind of person Patrick really is, despite his outer mask. The smell of rotting flesh, the taste of his victims, and the struggle that they put up is elaborately illustrated. The reader, along with Patrick, will get completely immersed in the act of murder by making it as real as it possibly can be.

 

 

And yet, after every murder, he slips back into being none other than the ‘Bateman’ everyone else identifies him as. As the novel progresses, it becomes harder and harder for him to separate the line between these two identities.

 

I think what struck me the hardest wasn’t the disturbing acts that Patrick commits but the complete negligence that people show when he openly admits it to them. There are several instances through out the novel where Patrick lets out his true self; admitting to his colleagues, his fiance, his dry-cleaner that he is insane. Yet, they turn a blind eye – passing it off as a joke, mishearing him, and continue living in blissful ignorance. The setting plays an important role in understanding that; seeing as the story takes place in New York’s Wall Street – the central hub of narcissism.

“Everyone looks familiar, everyone looks the same.”

People are too obsessed, too taken with themselves to even pay notice to the disappearances and complete psychotic tendencies of those around them. Hell, they can’t even recognize their own friends – once again proving how ‘faceless’ money can make people become.

 

The whole book is just a masterfully written allegory, pointing to the consumerist culture of corporate America. Brand names, business cards, and the ability to make reservations at upscale restaurants become the yard-stick of measuring how worthy people are of being considered…well, people. The characters are incredibly homophobic, and racist and the writer makes it a point of contrasting the void between the rich and the poor through out the book.

 

Patrick, himself, is the embodiment of what a capitalist society can produce. His cannibalistic traits can be linked to consumerism, his work in mergers and acquisitions relating to the immense strength of corporate powerhouses to take over, and dominate others.

As a writer, the fact that this book was able to gauge a strong reaction from me, the reader, just goes to show how brilliantly the book is written. Others don’t quite appreciate the stark violence presented but it’s done to make us live the reality, or really, the absence of a meaningful reality in the lives of the rich. And just when I started getting used to, or in a sense de-sensitized to the violence the book, the writer just throws another, unimaginable act in my face, forcing me to confront just how horrible this American psycho really is. This book is another testimony to the fact that we should never judge someone by their outer appearance or what their position in society might place them to be.

Really, one second they might be like this, just seemingly in love with themselves (we all know people like that):

And the next, they might be running after you butt-naked..with a chain-saw:

However, American Psycho stays true to its comedy – I laughed a whole lot, despite wanting to stuff my head under a pillow and never come out again several times. There are recurring comedic lines, like the whole video-tape excuse that Patrick uses to get out of a situation he really doesn’t want to be in (convenient enough for him, really). It’s the way the line is delivered each time that floored me.

 

 

 

Like, really, Patrick? Is that what you’re going to go with?

It took me a while to get the book out of my head. I started to look at things differently and question how different my reality might be from someone else. In a sea of people, there are guaranteed to be a few Patrick Bateman’s lurking around, visibly sane but really on the edge of breaking apart.  The theme of identity crisis is something I adored about this book. The feeling of waking up and staring at yourself in the mirror, wondering if the reflection looking back at you is really who you are or just a manifestation of what the world forces you to be is something I could personally relate to.

 

Eventually, the shock-effect of the violence fades out to an element that goes well with the dark humor of the novel. The fact that Ellis is able to mock and make a satire of the yuppie culture and, simultaneously, bring out the startling flaws of a capitalist-reigned world is what made me fall in love with the message of this book.

 

In the end, Patrick Bateman’s confession amounts to nothing. There is no path of salvation – he has no one to connect to, no one that will understand him and he simply doesn’t feel guilt but rather, a warped sense of his own identity that stifles him so much so that he admits the truth. The whole truth. And of course, no one acknowledges it.

I think this is what makes American Psycho the classic masterpiece of black comedy. As someone studying business and aiming to go into the field myself, I was able to understand the themes and implications of a superficial, fabricated reality such as the one presented in the novel.

Is money really worth it? Must one sacrifice their humanity to experience the pleasures of material gain? Is it necessary to conform and be a mere cog in the corporate wheel to feel ‘worthy’?
How much is too much?

Beatrice Reviews “Our Last Summer: A Personal Memoir” by Ajay Peter Manuel

“Our Last Summer: A Personal Memoir” by Ajay Peter Manuel

★★

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Life is an adventure to embark upon. Having traveled around the world, my life has been full of separations, and new beginnings. Time flows incessantly, no matter what happens around us. The last six years of my life describe a unique journey from high school in Sudan to a university in Canada. The experience enabled me to learn the importance of family, friends, and love- along with the need to live life without regrets. My story begins with my struggles as an eleventh grader at Khartoum American School in Sudan, revealing the raw emotions of my first infatuation with a girl, her rejection, and my subsequent efforts to move on without her. Nothing could have prepared me then for the sequence of events that were to unfold in my life that summer, and the few years that followed. It all began when I found a friend in Tina. Our Last Summer offers a poignant glimpse into a young man’s coming-of-age journey through laughter, tears, betrayal, infatuation, and love as he cherishes the memories of his past, learns to live in the present, and happily anticipates his future.

 

One of the reading challenges on the list is to read a memoir and I figured – hey! It just so happens that my brother has a published book which is a memoir – why not read that? And so I did.

Our Last Summer is the journey of a teenager’s transition into adulthood through his various experiences through friendship, family, and love. We delve into the writer’s past as he reminisces of his time in high school that helped him to become the person he is today. As the blurb above suggests, this ranges from many things that we can all relate to on some level – relationships with people that have opened our eyes to what true friendship is about, our first experience with ‘crushing’ on someone and finding the will to have your heart move on from the hurt of a betrayal. Our Last Summer has something to offer everyone, especially to those who too are fond of their years in high school.

Life always presents us with hurdles and reality doesn’t come without its share of regrets, but you can always make one hell of a nice story about it.

The memoir, of course, employs the narrative voice of a first person point of view. We slip into the shoes and mindset of the writer as he shares his story with us. The ‘characters’, in this case are not fictional, but actual people. If at all, it only makes it easier to relate to them.

We all have that extremely close friend who we think of as a brother or sister. We’ve also had our share of first crushes and infatuations that later had us going: ‘what had gotten into my mind?’ Reading this book, I was able to connect to the various personalities I came across, bearing in mind my own experiences and friends that I’ve had as well.

I also loved the style in which the memoir was written. First and foremost, each chapter started off with a small quote that kind of foreshadows what the chapter will be covering. I found that each quote tied in nicely with the chapter while reading, in a way enhancing the message that Ajay Peter Manuel is trying to get through and at the same time, posing questions to the reader.

Be it success, joy, failure, or disappointment, a man who lives freely should be able to accept the reality of such experiences; even when all is lost, continue to live with hope and dream to strive for the best.

Our Last Summer isn’t only explored through chapters narrating the events of his high school life but the writer also includes poetry, lyrics, and journal entries to bring forth the raw emotions he was feeling at the time. The poems and songs were beautifully written to fit into the mood the chapter brings forth, and delving into his journal entries was a good change from the narration, giving us a more personal insight. I also loved the bits and pieces of light humor and jokes that pop up in the novel from time to time.

She said, “I hate you!” Three words—and she might as well have killed me then.

The only possible drawback I could say there was to this novel is the pacing. Some may find that the pacing of the story is slow, and at certain parts it did seem to drag on. But also, I have to keep in mind that this piece is a memoir. I can see that Ajay Peter Manuel is simply trying to paint a full picture in the minds of the readers and to explore the spectrum of emotions he feels to help take us back on this journey with him.

Our Last Summer is a wondrous blend of poetry and prose, that not only shares the story of the writer himself but a story we have all lived, or will live, at some point in this miracle called life. Through his journey, we recount our own and it’s a melancholic and bittersweet read. Having putting the book down, I felt lighter, happier and had my own walk down memory lane (as cliche as that sounds).

In life, when you bring people together, share your lives together, indulging in their emotions as they do in yours, you risk changing things and losing control. It’s all chaos – until you look back and realize that the only thing you can do is record time as it passes so that even when everything around us is in motion, we still have the permanence of memories.

Ajay Peter Manuel not only invites us to revisit the memories he formed as a budding young man in high school, but reminds us of the beauty of forming our own.

Beatrice Reviews “I’ll Give You the Sun” by Jandy Nelson (Novel)

“I’ll Give You the Sun” by Jandy Nelson
★★

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Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah’s story to tell. The later years are Jude’s. What the twins don’t realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

This radiant novel from the acclaimed, award-winning author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once.

 

Just before I had started to read this book, I had realized how much I’d been dishing out 5*s for different books and decided it was time to get serious and not give away that rating so easily. So when I started reading, I tried to keep that thought in mind and put on my micro-vision specs, determined to find at least one flaw with this book. The more I read, the more desperate I grew. I ended up fighting a battle in my mind as I gave I’ll Give You the Sun 5*s and adding it to my ‘all time favourites’ shelf on Goodreads because it is a literary masterpiece. 

Continue reading

Beatrice Reviews “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part 1)” (Movie)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part 1) ★★★★☆

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The worldwide phenomenon of The Hunger Games continues to set the world on fire with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, which finds Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) in District 13 after she literally shatters the games forever. Under the leadership of President Coin (Julianne Moore) and the advice of her trusted friends, Katniss spreads her wings as she fights to save Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and a nation moved by her courage. Rotten Tomatoes

The Hunger Games movie franchise is a hugely successful one, right next to Harry Potter and (regrettably) Twilight. I used to stand strongly in my opinion that a movie adaptation can never beat the original novel(s) it’s based upon. Well, feel free to go ahead and laugh in my face because this film proved me very, very wrong.

I prefer to watch movies in the comfort of my home, with my own bucket of popcorn and snacks that aren’t ridiculously over-priced than going to the cinema. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part I) was one of the most (if not the most) anticipated movie of 2014, and I just couldn’t wait either! I queued up with my friends at the cinemas to watch it and boy, am I glad I had. Continue reading