Film Review – Black Panther

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5 Stars

At a Glance                                          

Plot: 5 / 5

Pacing: 5 / 5

Setting: 5 / 5

Character Development: 5 / 5

Diversity/Representation: 5 / 5

“Marvel Studios’ ‘Black Panther’ follows T’Challa who, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda’ returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king. But when a powerful old enemy reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king and Black Panther is tested when he is drawn into a formidable conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people and their way of life.”

Marvel’s phenomenally received almost all-black blockbuster Black Panther is set to release on DVD in the UK on the 15th of May 2018. As Marvel’s Infinity War continues its reign on the box office standing as the culmination of the last decade of the MCU’s careful storytelling, Black Panther’s cultural significance cannot be overshadowed.

As of mid-April, Black Panther was the highest grossing film of 2018, the third -highest grosses film ever in the United States, and the 10th highest grossing film of all time. Hailed as a celebration of black cultures, the film, directed by Ryan Coogler (Creed), has been referred to by many critics and fans alike as one of the best films in Marvel’s vast pantheon.

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Film Review: Pacific Rim Uprising

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3,5 Stars

At a Glance                                          

Plot: 4 / 5

Pacing: 5 / 5

Setting: 4 / 5

Character Development: 3 / 5

Diversity/Representation: 3 / 5

“Jake Pentecost is a once-promising Jaeger pilot whose legendary father gave his life to secure humanity’s victory against the monstrous Kaiju. Jake has since abandoned his training only to become caught up in a criminal underworld. But when an even more unstoppable threat is unleashed to tear through cities and bring the world to its knees, Jake is given one last chance by his estranged sister, Mako Mori, to live up to his father’s legacy.”

The second in a franchise that was a surprising cult hit, Pacific Rim Uprising had a lot to deliver on. Fans of the original praised it for many things, including the representation of a softer kind of masculinity, a condemnation of toxic masculinity, and a subversion of the power dynamics in the relationships between men and women.

While the plot of the original could be considered thin, it still had a strong core following, with the thematic distinctions and subversions being a big part of why hard-core fans loved the film so deeply. Many returning fans were hoping that the sequel would continue some of the trends the first film started, and with director Steven S. DeKnight at the helm, many were hopeful going in.

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Book Review: Sophie Kinsella’s ‘Twenties Girl’

0.5 Star

At a Glance                                          

Plot: 2 / 5

Pacing: 1 / 5

Setting: 1 / 5

Character Development: 2 / 5

Diversity/Representation: 1 / 5

“Lara has always had an overactive imagination. Now she wonders if she is losing her mind. Normal twenty-something girls just don’t get visited by ghosts! But inexplicably, the spirit of Lara’s great aunt Sadie – in the form of a bold, demanding Charleston-dancing girl – has appeared to make one last request: Lara must track down a missing necklace Sadie simply can’t rest without.

Lara’s got enough problems of her own. Her start-up company is floundering, her best friend and business partner has run off to Goa, and she’s just been dumped by the love of her life.

But as Lara spends time with Sadie, life becomes more glamorous and their treasure hunt turns into something intriguing and romantic. Could Sadie’s ghost be the answer to Lara’s problems and can two girls from different times end up learning something special from each other?”

Sophie Kinsella offers up another in a long line of “chick-lit” with Twenties Girl, published in 2009. This book offers something new to her standard formula: a supernatural element.

The novel follows protagonist Lara as she tries to get her life together. Between her awful love life and her failing start-up company, there’s a lot to try to fix, and it doesn’t get any easier when she begins being haunted by Sadie, the ghost of her late great aunt.

Sadie refuses to move on without her necklace, and she won’t let Lara hear the end of it. Lara is forced to help Sadie search for the necklace or she’ll never be able to return to her normal life.

In a novel where drama is mostly lacking, Sadie brightens up the page. It is the mystery of Sadie’s necklace and her past that keeps a reader reading, but only just.

Lara is not the most interesting of protagonists. Unlike Rebecca the Shopaholic, Lara somehow manages to skip right over relatable and into mundane. Of the two focal characters, Lara is clearly the least interesting, and most of the novel’s cast felt more like they were checking the boxes of Kinsella’s favoured tropes and character templates rather than fleshing out characters that distinguish themselves from Kinsella’s pre-established canon.

Sadie is the only one who breaks from this formula. She is the one pushing Lara out of her comfort zone to experience life in a way she never has before. It’s not always welcome advice, but the bond that grows between the two of them over the course of the novel is rather sweet. While the novel can be dull and thus difficult to get through at times, there is a moment near the very end that is rather touching and wonderful.

For all the issues I had with this book and the pacing of the narrative, that moment near the end was beautifully written, and I’m glad I stuck with the book in order to get there to read it. Unfortunately, this moment was the only moment in which I genuinely enjoyed what I was reading.

Kinsella books done right are a joy. They are fun, funny, and easy to read. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying that, and I myself do on many an occasion.  In this case however, I’d say that this was arguably not Kinsella at her best.

For those who are hoping to read the book for themselves, however, it’s available for purchase HERE.

Personal Catch Up, 15 February 2018

So I was out the back of my wordpress, clearing some things up, scheduling some things, and I found a post in my drafts. It was drafted March 2017: almost exactly a year ago. I would have trashed it, but I got reading, and, surprise surprise, a lot of the themes are very similar to what I wanted to cover today, which is interesting. Considering the year I’ve had, I’d go as far as counting it as a victory, honestly. So let’s talk. Let’s talk about how going forward may not be as scary as it seems.

I graduated from my MA in December. It was… an experience. Most definitely a rewarding one, but it was definitely difficult. The learning through the year was hard enough, but I loved it. Academics had always been something I’ve found a lot of enjoyment in; I like how it challenges you and how it makes you think about things in a way you haven’t necessarily done so before.

In March last year I was feeling pretty zen about things. A lot of this was because I was generally in a good place mentally. When I wrote the draft post back then, I just had my dissertation left to work on—I didn’t know how much of a strain that last leg of my MA would take on me, because it did hit me pretty hard. Aside from the academics, I had a lot of other stuff going on outside of university, so I ended up getting pretty sick again, which sucked. I probably could have taken it a little easier on myself, but hindsight’s a bitch. Still, after all the struggles, I’ve come to a place where I’m okay again. Nothing is forever.

So the educational chapter in my life is over for now. I wrote half a novel, something I’m now working on finishing up. I met great people and I followed my passions. I did my best. I learned so much. I grew as a person and as a writer. It took me a few months after leaving to kind of screw my head on straight again, but here I am. Coming to this point has made me a little nostalgic, I have to admit.

I’ve learned a hell of a lot the past four years. Thankfully I’ve grown as a writer and as a person. As a person, I can say that I’m better at doing things that are in my own interest. I am better at knowing my limits rather than pushing myself to the breaking point again time and again. I’ve become more proactive in my approach to things, I’ve found a way to channel my ambitions, and I’ve gained a confidence and a self-belief in my abilities. It’s nice to go out in the world and not feel completely out of my depth 100% of the time. Now it’s only like 80 to 95% of the time. But it’s getting better. It’s progress.

And as a writer, well. Let’s all take a moment to be thankful for the growth there.

Four years ago I submitted a creative piece somewhere that non-ironically used this line, OK. Brace yourself. BRACE. There was a point in my life where I believed wholeheartedly that this was good writing. The sentence:  “You can feel it, the heavy fingers of light cooking your skin and briefly you wonder if this is what a cake feels like in the oven.”

Yup. It’s real, guys. I’ve been laughing so hard I’ve been wheezing for the past three hours. Incredible. I’m really glad I can laugh about this today, because damn was that awful. I keep cringing just thinking about it. WHAT WAS I THINKING???

Embarrassment aside, that excerpt basically summarises exactly what I’m rambling about in this post right here. Time passes, and you grow, and you change, and things happen, and nothing is forever. It’s all about perspective.

Things that seem like a massive deal at the time might not be as significant when you look back on them, or their significance might be marked in a way that you might only recognise in hindsight. Undergrad!Hadiyah thought comparing the sunlight on skin to cake in the oven was PEAK LITERARY™ prose, but looking back on it, present!me wants to die. I still had to write that sentence on the road to my MA though. Without it, and others like it, I wouldn’t have paved the road to what it slowly becoming my first novel. Cool, right?

So I’m trying to look at things like that now. I’m not going to lie—depression kind of makes it hard to be positive. There are days, sometimes weeks, when it feels damn near impossible. But I’m putting my therapy and everything to use, and I feel like I’m at a place right now where I can look at things in this way.

See, I came to a realisation. What’s this epiphany, you ask? To put it simply… I feel like I’ve got this. ‘This’ meaning ‘life’. I think I understand it a little better now. It doesn’t scare me like it used to, because I know that I know what I’m talking about. Every day that passes I feel like less of an impostor who managed to get to my position by chance, and more like the person I’ve worked hard to become.

I know what I want for my future. I’m taking the steps to make it happen. I’m focusing more on the journey than on a fear of failure. I never would have thought that I could get there even a year ago, but now I’m just plain excited. I cannot wait to make a positive contribution to the world. You wouldn’t guess the number of internships and jobs I’ve applied to over the course of the last few months, but I promise you, it’s a lot.

Not all of those applications went well. The Harper Collins Video Interview Grad Scheme was probably the worst interview I’ve had in my life. If you’re wondering, it basically comprised of me being on film and blanking out so completely that I just stared unblinkingly right into the camera for 2 minutes. That application was SO BAD I’d expect Harper Collins to use it as a “what not to do” warning for next time’s applicants because damn. It really was that bad.

But even though that interview went awfully, I took what I learned and moved on. Mistakes can be useful sometimes. I honestly believe that the cringe-worthy experience taught me something that I can use to my advantage if I’m ever in situation that’s similar to that one.

Not bad, right?

For now I’ve got a part-time job as a librarian! It’s actually perfect, and I love it. It’s a fantastic way for me to get used to working again after my struggles with my mental health, and I’m planning to stay there for a nice long while to build up my *strength* or whatever you want to call it. My battle with mental health is still a prevalent issue, but I’m learning to manage it, and I’m confident that I’ll be able to work full time in a career job somewhere in the arts one day.

I’m continuing my work with YA Shot, of course, and we’re preparing for the festival in April.

I’m still working on my first novel.

I’m joined a small D&D group, and we’ll be having our first session soon.

I’m also in a small book club with a few of my friends.

And that’s all for now!

Film Review: Justice League

3,5 Stars

At a Glance                                          

Plot: 2 / 5

Pacing: 3 / 5

Setting: 3 / 5

Character Development: 3 / 5

Diversity/Representation: 4 / 5

“Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists newfound ally Diana Prince to face an even greater threat. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to recruit a team to stand against this newly awakened enemy. Despite the formation of an unprecedented league of heroes — Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash — it may be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.”

To say my heart didn’t sink when early reviews poured in almost universally panning Justice League would be lying. The movie had been heavily anticipated by a massive fan-base following its initial theatrical trailer release, even more so, particularly after the unexpected but much welcomed success of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman (2017).

Wonder Woman’s brilliance stood apart from all other entries that the DCEU had offered up thus far. It had delivered where Man of Steel and Suicide Squad had failed, and expanded on the most impressive and enigmatic character in Batman vs Superman. DC’s cinematic universe did not have the stellar reputation Marvel had in the lead-up to their ensemble film, so the pressure was on.

Just like Joss Whedon’s Avengers six years previously, Justice League had the weight of a franchise on its shoulders. The Justice League, like the Avengers, are an iconic staple in comic book culture. A bad enough misstep on this movie and the DCEU’s future would be over before it had the chance to even properly begin.

So when early reviews came in slating it, of course I was devastated. But I decided to go in with an open mind, because I really, really wanted this film to work.

I’m glad I did so.

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The Importance of Fanfiction

Alright, alright, alright, alright. I’m wrapping up my final couple of assignments; all I have left to work on over the course of the next few months is my dissertation. Yeah, I’ve been busy. So I wanted to share some of what I’ve been working on over the past few months.

So, everyone who knows me knows about my love affair with the awesome hobby fanfiction. It’s been such a big part of my life. Harry Potter and Naruto dragged me into fandom online well over a decade ago. Just recently I finished a research project on the changing face of publishing. It should come as no surprise to anyone that a significant portion of that research was centred on fanfiction. I’ve decided to share some of that with you! Behold… fanfiction continuing its path to academic legitimacy!

Below is an excerpt of an essay I wrote earlier this year, along with the cited sources~

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MARCH 2017 Publishing Internships!

Hi guys, I’m back!

The focus of today’s post is internships. I’ve been applying to… lots of them. A lot of you guys who are in the same boat as me will probably agree that finding internships in the field you want can be hard, and finding paid stuff can be next to impossible. Unpaid internships are great and all for experience, but for many people they just aren’t the realistic option unless they have a nice little nest egg of cash tucked away. If you’re a student like me, who thinks that £8 in your bank account means you’re minted (gross sobbing), it’s just not feasible to take unpaid work.

After plenty of searching far and wide, I’ve found quite a few that could be really helpful to all those looking. With the arts as competitive as it is, why am I letting you guys know about these opportunities, you ask?

Below are some of the internship opportunities/grad schemes I’ve come across recently. It’s a resource I wish I’d had when I was looking. Most of these are PAID internships in and around the London area where I am based. Those which are unpaid are noted as such!

Remember that the internships/grad opportunities on this list are generally time-sensitive. I think I’ll try to post something like this every couple of months with new opportunities to keep it relevant to those looking, but for now, here’s what I’ve got! As of positing on 27th March 2017, all internships are still open.

Good luck on your job hunting, everyone! May the odds be in our favour!

 

PAID &/OR EXPENSES COVERED:

  • Anything from Creative Access. Targeted at those who fall into BAME categories, CA provide access to a whole range paths in the creative industry. Internships and job opportunities vary in length, but there’s plenty of really interesting stuff to explore. All paid, but amount depend on the company you apply to. [rolling deadlines as new jobs/internships become available]

 

  • HarperCollins Grad Scheme. A chance to work with one of the most influential publishers in the world. An 18 month opportunity across multiple departments that could set you up for the rest of your career. Competitive salary. [deadline to apply 14 April 2017)

 

  • YA Shot. A great opportunity to get involved in an internship that is perfect for those looking to network. Focused around young adult literature and inspiring a love of the arts in children and young people, I can tell you from personal experience that YA Shot are brilliant. Interns are contracted for long periods but your schedule is actually pretty light and they assign you mentors and real responsibilities. Only your expenses are paid because it’s still very much a young organisation, but most of the work you do for the company is from home anyway. [applications opening soon]

 

 

 

UNPAID:

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

  • SAVE THE STUDENT. Comprehensive list of upcoming grad schemes and their deadlines. VERY useful.

 

  • There’s an app called Debut. Download it. Use it. It’s targeted specifically at students and graduates and it’s so easy you use.

 

 

  • Guardian Graduate Jobs. Wide selection of jobs in the publishing or media sector. [rolling deadlines as new jobs/internships become available]

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

3,5 Stars

At a Glance                                          

Plot: 3 / 5

Pacing: 3 / 5

Setting: 3 / 5

Character Development: 3 / 5

Diversity/Representation: 2 / 5

“When Siddalee Walker, oldest daughter of Vivi Abbott Walker, Ya-Ya extraordinaire, is interviewed in the New York Times about a hit play she’s directed, her mother gets described as a “tap-dancing child abuser.” Enraged, Vivi disowns Sidda. Devastated, Sidda begs forgiveness, and postpones her upcoming wedding. All looks bleak until the Ya-Yas step in and convince Vivi to send Sidda a scrapbook of their girlhood mementos, called “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.” As Sidda struggles to analyze her mother, she comes face to face with the tangled beauty of imperfect love, and the fact that forgiveness, more than understanding, is often what the heart longs for.”

Published in 1996 by Rebecca Wells, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood is seen as one of the definitive books focused around female friendships. Classed as ‘chick-lit’, Wells’ novel focuses on the relationships between southern women across generations, centring on Siddalee Walker, daughter of Vivi Walker of the Ya-Yas, a close-knit friendship group that has spanned decades.

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Film Review: Hidden Figures

5 Stars

At a Glance                                          

Plot: 5 / 5

Pacing: 5 / 5

Setting: 4 / 5

Character Development: 5 / 5

Diversity/Representation: 5 / 5

“The story of a team of African-American women mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the US space program.”

One of 2016s most successful films, the academy nominated Hidden Figures tells the story of three extraordinary black women and their contributions to one of mankind’s greatest achievements: sending John Glenn, the first American astronaut into orbit around the earth.

Based on true events and the struggles of African-American ‘Human Computers’ Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Hensen), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), Hidden Figures aims to highlight the often overlooked role of women of colour in key historical moments.

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The State of Diversity in Publishing, 2017

A few months ago I was doing research for an essay for one of the modules on my MA. I was both surprised and horrified to run into a particularly harrowing statistic in the article Publishing Seeks to Address Industry’s Lack of Diversity by Sarah Shaffi. The quote in question is this:

“Statistics, partly compiled by The Bookseller, show that of the thousands of titles published in 2016 in the UK, only a small minority—fewer than 100—were by British authors of a non-white background.”

Sounds pretty bad, right? To add a further layer of dimension, I’m going to give you another morsel of information.

In 2014, The Guardian reported that the UK publishes more books per capita than any other country in the world. The information they were relaying was based on a report conducted by the International Publishers Association (IPA), and said that the UK publishes roughly 20 new titles an hour. That’s around 480 books a day, roughly 3360 books a week, or close to 200,000 new books a year.

So nearly 200,000 books a year published by the UK, and less than 100 were by British authors of a non-white background.

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