Friday, 18 November 2011

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN - PART 1

Okay, so apologies if this review comes out kind of weird and garbled, I went to see "Breaking Dawn - Part 1" at midnight last night and haven't quite bounced back yet. I know, I'm a disgrace to student-kind.

The film is actually pretty good. Surprisingly good, in fact. The book is rubbish, I'm not afraid to say it (and to those of you who think they're all rubbish, "Breaking Dawn" is the worst) but they've done well considering the material they had to work with. Unlike the other films, which were unintentionally hilarious because they were so bad, this one's deliberately funny. Very funny in places. Sure, there's an absolutely awful bit with the wolves, but I can't even think about that without giggling.

The story's not bad, considering in an hour and fifty minutes not a lot actually happens. And it doesn't feel long, I think it's the shortest of the films (but don't hold me to that, the DVDs are upstairs and I can't be bothered to run and check).

And, most importantly, Robert Pattinson finally looks vaguely attractive in the film. I mean, sure, he wasn't bad-looking in the first one, but he looked ridiculous in "New Moon" and "Eclipse". In this one, however, he hasn't been dunked in a vat of white paint and his eyes don't look stupid. It's just a shame they couldn't give the same contacts to the other vampires, who still look fairly ridiculous.

If you didn't like the other films, you're not going to like this one, but I was really quite impressed. Oh, and there's an extra little bit partway into the credits, which is definitely worth staying for.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

It's Britney, Bitch

This week, a childhood dream was realised. I saw Britney Spears in concert. Oh, yes, I am that cool.

It was her "Femme Fatale" tour, and we'd have preferred a greatest hits tour, to be honest, but it was still brilliant, and she did as many old songs as new ones. Okay, I don't know that for certain in terms of exact numbers, but I wasn't bored listening to dozens of tracks I didn't know. It was funny, though, that her cover of Rihanna's "S&M" got the best reaction any song had had by that point.

And thanks to Imogen McCarthy for these photos - I left my camera in Winchester!















Monday, 17 October 2011

What began as a really interesting post about writing became...

...something else entirely.

So, I was thinking - oh, I don't know, twenty seconds ago? - that it was about time I did a post about writing, since that's the actual point of this blog and I'm actually quite bored but can't go to bed yet because if I do I'll get eleven hours sleep and be therefore unable to function in the morning. (Nobody tell me I could get up earlier, it's just not going to happen).

There was a slight flaw to this plan, however. This week, my laptop died. It's very sad, because it was a beautiful laptop and just perfect in every way, so I'm using a stealthily-acquired laptop instead to write this. Okay, I borrowed my mum's, but stealthily-acquired just sounds so much more interesting. I had a point. Oh, yes, my list of writing topics that I wanted to write about and some of the stuff I was going to say about them are on my other laptop. Problem.

They're also on my back-up drive, (yes, I have a back-up drive and yes, I keep it in a super safe place because I'm that paranoid) but that would require me to get up and I'm not sure I want to leave the warmth of my duvet and venture across the icy room.

So, instead of a brilliant and interesting and thought-provoking blog post about writing (one day I'll actually manage one of those) how about an excerpt from something I've been working on instead? Now, be warned, this is a very first draft so be constructive rather than just flat out rude, okay?

. . .

The music pounded, the bright lights pulsed, the air in the packed auditorium was thick with excitement. It was almost time for the show of the year. The anticipation surrounding it had built to an astonishing level since it had been announced just two weeks before. The whole world was watching. There were cameras everywhere, already broadcasting images of the rich and famous to the rest of the world. Models, designers, actors and musicians, as well as anyone else who had managed to get their hands on a ticket to the most prestigious event of the year.

The music changed suddenly, the pulsing lights now static, waiting. All eyes were on the catwalk. All around the world, waiting. She appeared, stepping out of the bright white light, dressed all in black. It swirled around her as she walked, her long chestnut hair spilling over one shoulder, her famous smile in place. It wasn’t the cold, forced smile of most models; her dark eyes glimmered as though she was laughing. She reached the end of the catwalk and stood for a moment, all eyes on her, enraptured. The music as loud, too loud. Loud enough to mask the gunshot. She fell backwards, the smile not quite gone from her face. Confusion. Was it a stunt? Was it a part of the show? And then they saw the blood. And then the screaming started. The cameras kept rolling, broadcasting every moment to the world as panic took over. Tears and blood and screams. And Dana. Lying on the catwalk. Surrounded by people but completely alone. Dana. Dead.

Monday, 10 October 2011

CRAZY. STUPID. LOVE

A week ago today, I went to see "Crazy. Stupid. Love." starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Julianne Moore, Steve Carell and a bunch of people you've almost definitely never heard of. From the trailers, I guess I was expecting a slightly more grown-up rom-com, and I was prepared to go and see it even though it had Steve Carell in it.

Basically, Julianne Moore slept with Kevin Bacon and now wants a divorce from Steve Carell. He is, naturally, rather depressed about this, and starts spending a bunch of time at the bar where Ryan Gosling goes to pick up women. Sick of hearing Carell whine about his wife, he decides he's going to help him fix his life. Cue a makeover and a master class in picking up women. I know it probably sounds dire, but it's very entertaining and then...well, I don't want to tell you the rest and spoil it for you.

I was pleasantly surprised, though. It was much better than I thought it would be. It was funny and at times genuinely moving (I saw it late at night, so exhaustion may have played a part with the latter) and pretty much anything you could want from a film. There's even a sort-of car chase and sort-of fight scene.

If I had one complaint, it would be that it's a tiny bit long, but I'm not sure what could be cut in order to fix that. And there was a part when Carell wonders why Gosling is helping him sort his life out, and it occurred to me that he'd been in the same position and that someone had helped him through it, and he was now paying it forward, but that didn't happen. And I was glad. It was too obvious, too cliche, and the film actually manages not to stray into cliche territory.

So, to sum up, go and see it. It's really good, and if you weren't that impressed by the trailer and absolutely loathe Steve Carell (like me) you should try to see it anyway. It's worth it.

30 Days of Books Meme (Part 5)

At least, I think this is part five. Oh, well. So, in case you've forgotten or you're new, I'm doing the 30 Days of Books Meme but cheating and doing it in instalments of three because I can. I'm not sure, however, that I can spell instalments. Is it one L or two? Anyway, for full details of the Meme, click the tab-y thing-y on the right.

Day 13 - Your favourite writer
This was not a tricky one. It simply has to go to Neil Gaiman. I'm sure you're all sick of hearing me talk about him, but I don't care. Buy his books. They're exciting, intriguing, interesting, funny, moving and about a hundred other things, but most of all, they're beautifully written. Unfortunately, they're all at home in Reading and I'm at uni in Winchester, otherwise I'd sit here and quote some passages to you to prove my point. As it is, you'll just have to take my word for it and go buy his books. I would particularly recommend, to anyone who has a basic knowledge of London...


Day 14 - Your favourite book by your favourite writer
"Neverwhere" follows Richard Mayhew, a stunningly average guy who helps a girl named Door and then finds himself disappearing from our world. He falls through the cracks and discovers a whole world in the city that he has never noticed before.

It's a fascinating read, a sort of adventure/quest story but with more depth than you might expect, fascinating characters and it's bursting with humour. I actually laughed out loud at it. A lot. If you don't know London, specifically the tube lines and stations, parts of it won't mean much to you, but I don't think it would detract too much from your enjoyment of it. To be honest, Croup and Vandemar are so brilliant that you might not even notice the references passing you by.

It was difficult to choose between this book and "Stardust," (he's written loads of other great books, but those two are definitely my favourites) but "Neverwhere" wins because it's a fair bit longer than "Stardust," meaning there's more to enjoy. (Don't let that put you off, "Stardust" is really, really short).


Day 15 - Favourite male character
[BEWARE, HERE THERE BE SPOILERS]
I don't know why I said that in a pirate-y way (in my head at least) because the character isn't a pirate at all. As far as I know.

You've probably noticed my love for Harry Potter, I might've mentioned it once or twice, but the hero isn't my favourite character. Heroes are boring. In fact, my favourite character from the series has always been Severus Snape. I always thought there was more to him than just disliking Harry, who, let's face it, was pretty annoying at times. And then in Deathly Hallows, I was rewarded with what is possibly my favourite chapter ever written. Okay, that's a broad claim, one that I can't really back up, but he's a fascinating character. I'll be honest, I always find villains much more interesting than heroes. Harry was good because he was. Voldemort was evil because he was. Snape, on the other hand, was much more complicated than either of them, and I love that. I like a good, complicated character. Flawed characters are much better than perfect ones, I love it when a writer has a character do something that is completely unexpected, but at the same time stays true to the character. And Snape, well, Snape's pretty awesome, really.

Hey, look at that, no spoilers.

Monday, 19 September 2011

TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY

Hm. This is a tricky one. I was really looking forward to seeing "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," even though it features the God-awful Colin Firth alongside brilliant actors like Gary Oldman, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch and the wonderful Tom Hardy. I'd been talking about it for weeks, desperate to see it and actually expecting not to get a chance to.

So, when we went yesterday, I had high expectations and I was a little...disappointed isn't quite the right word, but it wasn't what I was expecting. For those that don't know, the film, based on the novel by John le Carre, concerns a recently retired MI5 (or MI6, I wasn't 100% sure) agent, George Smiley (Oldman) who is brought back in to discover the identity of a mole for the Russians. The fact that it's set during the 70s might put off younger viewers, (which is probably a good thing) but knowledge of the Cold War isn't essential to understanding the film.

My problem was that, although I wasn't expecting a thriller with lots of explosions and swearing and running about (if you want that, try the Bourne films), I did expect there to be more tension in the film, which just seems to hum along nicely while never really fleshing out any of the one-dimensional characters. It's interesting and there are great scenes, there just seemed to be a lot of nothing-ness in between those scenes. Perhaps I'm being unfair, a whole novel that became a six-hour BBC series in the 70s is bound to lose a lot when it is condensed into just a couple of hours. It always happens when a book becomes a film, but I do feel like the film was missing some depth, maybe.

The acting was good, as you would expect from such a stellar cast (Firth excluded), and the script was simple enough to follow and complex enough to be interesting, and there was actually a lot more humour in it than I expected. Not laugh-out-loud humour, but it was amusing. Kudos to Benedict Cumberbatch, though, who has the standout performance of the film in my opinion. I've never seen him produce anything less than an excellent performance (his turn as Frankenstein was particularly impressive) and I hope that people might start to take a bit more notice of him after this.

So, to sum up, it's definitely worth a watch even though it didn't live up to my expectations. I don't know, maybe my enjoyment was dampened by the other people in the cinema, which was packed. You can all look forward to another blog entry about why I love going to the cinema despite the fact that it is, 99% of the time, a thoroughly miserable experience.

COWBOYS AND ALIENS

I know, I know, I'm useless. I actually saw "Cowboys and Aliens" about three weeks ago, and am finally writing my review of it, even though I don't think it's still on at the cinema and therefore when I give it a glowing review and make you all want to see it, you won't be able to.

So, anyway, "Cowboys and Aliens" is one of those films, like "Snakes on a Plane" that is basically what it says on the tin. A group of cowboys/regular people in the Wild West are being plagued by aliens (can't say much more without giving everything away) and it seems that only Daniel Craig (who had another name in the film that may have been Jake Somebody-or-other-but-pronounced-stupidly) can help.

He woke up in the desert with no memory of, well, anything and a weird sci-fi-ish cuff on his wrist. He goes into town and argues with Harrison Ford's son, then Harrison Ford, and makes eyes at Olivia Wilde...so far, so predictable.

But then, the movie gets going. And it's brilliant. I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting much. FYI, anyone else who's only interested because they heard Daniel Craig gets his shirt off, you're better off spending a few quid on a copy of "Casino Royale" and playing the scene with the blue speedos over and over again...

Sorry, got a little distracted there. My point being that I wasn't expecting much of the film, but was really impressed by it. It's engrossing, and there's a reason why the aliens are attacking these people - A REASON THAT ACTUALLY MAKES SENSE. And no, they're not after Unobtainium. The end fight scene is a little long for my liking, how many times can you see an alien get shot with a pistol? Other than that, though, it was engrossing. For me, anyway.

I have never seen so many people get up during a film to go out and use the toilet. Seriously, there was no point during the film when every single person with a ticket was in there watching it. And I can't understand why that was. I think the problem might be, like with "Super 8" a few weeks ago, that it was targeted at the wrong audience. Sure, there's action and it's a sci-fi film, but at the same time it's quite talk-y and subtle and a Western. I think a few people went in with expectations of a real action adventure movie, and were a bit disappointed by what they found. I, however, went in expecting absolute nonsense, and really enjoyed the film. I would highly recommend it.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Announcements

Today I have a few announcements that you may or may not be interested in, but you'll never know until you read them:

1 - I am completely useless and should have updated this blog as these things happened.

2 - I'm living in Winchester again (yay, I think) but my internet is shit. I'm starting to think it may be my laptop, since I'm having the same problem here as I was at home, so if anyone wants to buy me a new laptop my birthday's coming up. The reason I'm announcing this here is so that I have an excuse I can refer people to when they ask why I'm updating. Dodgy internet connection, perfect.

3 - I completely forgot to announce that the first ever issue of MISSPELLED MAGAZINE went live like eleven days ago (told you I was useless). You can find it on the current issue page of this website: http://www.misspelledmagazine.moonfruit.com and just need to download the PDF file to read it. Please read it, send it to everyone you know and then leave feedback for the editors or contributors either on the current issue page or buy emailing us at misspelledmagazine@gmail.com. We'll make sure your feedback gets to the right people, all writers love to hear how wonderful they are, and some of them can even handle constructive criticism.

4 - In terms of the reviews that basically make up this blog, I do have more in the pipeline. I've been reading boring books for class all summer that I don't really want to write about because I have nothing to say (I made a special exception for "Wolf Hall") but I saw "Cowboys and Aliens" last week and have been meaning to review it. Expect it to be a rubbish review, since I've basically forgotten what happened.

5 - The basketball season has started again! Well, kind of. I went to a friendly match on bank holiday Monday and the first proper game is on Saturday. Actually cannot wait, but might not be able to go. This is the main reason I hate living in Winchester. Sigh. Expect me to be grumpy on weekends for the forseeable future as I check my phone constantly for score updates.

6 - Jumping back to upcoming blogs (I don't know why I've done this silly post instead of reviewing "Cowboys and Aliens" like most normal people would have done) I've been thinking about topics to write about concerning writing (since that was kind of the point of this blog) and some topics I plan to cover sometime before I expire include: dialogue, writing habits, chapter lengths, naming characters and coming up with titles, being a writer and overthinking things. All, some or none of these will be coming to a blog near you soon. Ish.

7 - I thought I'd mention the Reading Festival of Crime Writing, which I believe is taking place in November this year. The creative people amongst you might be interested to know that there is a short story writing competition, the details of which you can find here: http://www.readingfestivalofcrimewriting.org.uk/competition.html. You might even be competing against my entry, should I ever get around to writing it. I was doing so well with the planning, then I reread the page above - he instead of she! So frustrating!

8 - This is not actually an announcement, just a question. Can you be allergic to lavender?

9 - I don't really have anything to say, but 8 announcements is just stupid. I must get to ten.

10 - Oh, I have one. Tomorrow (the 13th) the agent who finally accepted the Harry Potter books but told J.K. Rowling not to give up the day job is speaking somewhere on campus at 7.30pm. I believe it's in the Main Building, room 5, but it's definitely worth checking out.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

30 Days of Books Meme (Part 4)

I thought I hadn't updated in ages, but apparently it's only been about ten days. Weird. Anyway, here are days 10-12 of the 30 Days of Books. You can see details of the full list by clicking the thingy on the right.

Day 10 - Favourite classic book

I have a surprisingly high tolerance for classic books. Well, it surprises me, anyway. I'll be honest, I didn't read "North and South" by Elizabeth Gaskell until after I'd watched the BBC's adaptation. I'll be honest, I only watched the BBC's adaptation because it starred Richard Armitage.

Margaret Hale has lived a comfortable life in the south of England, doing what all relatively well off country girls did in those days - frolic in fields and read books. But then her father, a reverend (I think) decides to leave his parish on philosophical grounds (it's been a long time since I read the book, I'm hoping this is right) and so the entire family relocates to the North. The Grim North. Honestly, the way Margaret reacts is as if she's been handed a one-way ticket to Hell, but she goes along with it and is determined to put on a brave face for her mother. Just as she is starting to truly loathe the North, mill-owner John Thornton appears and makes life a lot more interesting.


It's a great book, but I would probably recommend watching the series first, and not just because of the wonderful Richard Armitage (who by the way does a damn good job of portraying Thornton) but because there's a lot of quite heavy-going political stuff which I think I would have been put off by if I hadn't seen the programme first. It's not overly complicated, but occasionally you might find yourself skimming some of the lengthier political debates and accidentally miss something important.


And I believe Elizabeth Gaskell wrote the novel/s that the series "Cranford" was based on as well, though don't quote me on that because there's a strong chance I've just made it up.



Day 11 - A book you hated
This was a hard one. There are so many. I love books, but I've hated a lot of them, too. However, when I was drawing up this list, the answer became obvious. Regular readers of this blog will have read all about my opinions of the interminable "Wolf Hall" by Hilary Mantel. Irregular readers of this blog can find it by scrolling down the side and choosing the book reviews tag.

I had to read this book for a class, and though I expected to dislike it for that reason alone (I like to pick my own books), I had hope. The Tudors are interesting. That's a fact. How Mantel managed to suck all the life out of such an colourful array of characters astonishes me. What astonishes me more, however, is that she won the Booker Prize for this ghastly piece of sort-of-true-but-really-fiction.






Day 12 - A book you used to love but don't anymore

I picked a series for this one. Because I can. Most people will laugh at me for saying I used to love "The Princess Diaries" books by Meg Cabot, but I doubt any of them have actually read the books. If you've seen the film and hated it, I can tell you that it is definitely one of the worst film adaptation's that I've ever seen. If you've seen the film and loved it, I have to ask what's wrong with you.


Mia is a regular fifteen-year-old high school student, living in New York with her artist mother and fat cat. And that's an actual fat cat, not a metaphorical one. Her somewhat estranged father reveals, after having had an operation that makes having more kids a little tricky, that Mia is in fact the heir to the throne of Genovia.


Okay, so I'll admit that the premise is a bit iffy, and that I hated the diary format at the start, but they're actually very readable books. I think I got as far as number seven before I decided I'd outgrown them and stopped buying them. They're not classic literature, no, but as a fourteen-year-old girl, I loved them, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

I Blame the Parents

Recently, my local Tesco has started using those trollies that you have to put in a pound coin to use. And for those of you wondering, yes, that is how all the best stories start.

Normally, my mum contributes the pound and I somehow end up with it. Sitting in a car park yesterday, as you do, she mentioned this, to which I responded:

"It's my payment for taking the trolley back, pushing it out to the car, and being a fucking delight all the way round the store."

She laughed. A lot. Is it any wonder I am the way that I am with a mother like her?

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

30 Days of Books Meme (Part 3)

Here are days 07-09. For details of the full list, click the tab to the right. If you're interested, and I'm sure you are, my friend Sara is pretending to do this meme as well, although she never updates her blog. You can find her here: http://makemeacuppa.blogspot.com/a.blogspot.com. Tell her I sent you.

Day 07 - Most underrated book
I had a really hard time picking this one, and the next one. So I decided to pick the book that I wish more people would read. It helps that it's a childrens' book, so most adults would never pay much attention to it.

"Coraline" by Neil Gaiman is an intriguing and frankly disturbing tale about a young girl who moves to a new house with her family and finds a tiny door. She goes through it and discovers a world that at first seems a lot like hers, but soon realises that it isn't like her world at all.

It's a fantastic book, the first of his that I ever read, and it isn't just for children. I was actually scared by it, and I can't honestly say that about very many books. You'll never be able to look at buttons in the same way again.

You might have heard of the film, which was a stop-motion animation (I think) with Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher doing the voices. The film wasn't that impressive, but the book is brilliant.

Day 08 - Most overrated book
This one was easier once I thought about it. "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown is, to the best of my knowledge, one of the most raved about books of recent years. And I have no idea why. Admittedly, I found it quite a difficult read because the plot relies heavily on certain paintings, most of which I had never seen, meaning that half the time I wasn't 100% sure of what was happening. It isn't particularly well-written either, and this is something that a lot of critics agree with me on, so I think it deserves the title of Most Overrated Book.

A close second, however, was "Atonement" by Ian McEwan. Now, I don't actually know if this is overrated, I don't really know what anyone else thinks of it, but I bought the book after seeing the film and loving it. I expected the book to be better because, let's face it, the book is almost always better than the film (I wanted to say always, but knew someone would leave a comment that proved me wrong). The book is dire. It's interminable. I think I actually skipped the whole section when one character is off in Europe fighting in the war. Just an awful, awful book. And "Saturday," the other one of his that I've read, is even worse.

Day 09 - A book you thought you wouldn't like but ended up loving
This one was pretty easy. I hate books that I have to read for school/university. It's probably because I expect to hate them because someone else has picked them, because someone has decided they are worthy of being studied, or even because I dread picking the story apart until there's nothing left but facts that you can't enjoy. Whatever the reason is, I expected to hate "Wuthering Heights" by Emily Bronte. And I loved it.


Well, love is a strong word. For those that don't know, the book is split into two parts, with the second part occuring about sixteen years after the first and concerning the surviving characters of the first part and their various awful offspring. The first part is excellent, I don't think I can fault it in anyway, I even quite like the highly criticised opening narrated by Lockwood instead of Nelly, who tells the rest of the story. The second part isn't so good. In fact, I don't think it's good at all. I always felt it was unnecessary, and kind of tainted the first part. And to be honest, I don't think the second part even makes that much sense. I don't want to spoil it for you, but why would one character be so eager to see two other characters get married, when said character could marry one of them for his or herself? (I take spoilers very seriously).


Thursday, 25 August 2011

30 Days of Books Meme (Part 2)

Here are days 4-6. For the full meme, click the tab on the right.


Day 04 - Favourite book of your favourite series

I caused myself a bit of a problem with this one by picking "Harry Potter" as my favourite series, how can you pick just one to be your favourite? I had it narrowed down to "Order of the Phoenix," "Half Blood Prince," and "Deathly Hallows." After that, it was really process of elimination. I don't particularly like the first half of "Deathly Hallows" even though the second half contains my favourite chapter of the whole book, so that had to go. And then I realised that the film of "Half Blood Prince" made me more angry than any of the others, so on some level that meant that the book was my favourite. It makes sense in my head.


Day 05 - A book that makes you happy

I decided to pick the book that makes me laugh the most. "The More the Merrier" by Anne Fine is essentially a children's Christmas book, and I read it every year. And every year, it makes me laugh out loud. Often hysterically.


At Christmas, everyone comes together at Ralph's house for Christmas; assorted aunts and uncles and cousins, crazy great aunt Ida, and evil Granny who is happy to part with her cash when she thinks it's going to an organisation that teaches parents how best to beat their children. It's a madhouse, and I think most people can relate to it. Is there anyone who actually likes being crammed into a house with their extended family at Christmas? I didn't think so. I can't find my copy of the book, otherwise I'd share some of the funniest lines with you, so you'll just have to go buy a copy and see how funny it is for yourself.


Day 06 - A book that makes you sad

Similarly to day 05, I decided with this one to pick the book that always makes me cry. There are lots of books that make me cry, but "Troy" by Adele Geras really upsets me. Every time.

It's not the book that the Brad Pitt film was based on (actually, I don't think that was based on a book at all) and it follows two serving girls in the final days of Troy. Marpessa and Xanthe are twin sisters, but who are nothing alike, but both suffer greatly in this book. The fact that Marpessa can see and speak to the gods is a little irritating, but I can overlook that because the rest is so beautifully written. It's an excellent book, and if you don't cry at some point, you have a heart of stone.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

Okay, so I'm not 100% sure whether these are apes or monkeys or even children dressed up, but they're all I've got so deal with it.

So, I went to see "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" on Tuesday.

And I have no complaints. It was really very good.

Okay, I have two complaints. The first being the fact that there are two "of the"s in the title, which is just wrong, which I imagine is why so many people are referring to the film as simply "Planet of the Apes." My other complaint is a bit of a [SPOILER] so here is your [SPOILER ALERT]. The ape talks. Not all the way through, just at the end, but that really bugged me, because I'm pretty sure animals don't communicate in the same way that we do because their vocal chords etc. just aren't capable of doing so. Not because they aren't intelligent enough to communicate like we do.

But other than that, I thought it was an excellent film. I actually cried at one point, but I thought the balance between the moving emotional stuff and the action was good. After seeing the trailer, I was worried that the interesting emotional stuff would be the first ten minutes and then it would all be mindless action, but I felt the balance was pretty much perfect.

James Franco was good, Freida Pinto was underused, and I think Tom Felton could do with a couple more voice-coaching lessons before he can convincingly pull off an American accent, but it was a lot better than many Americans I've heard doing British accents.

And don't leave as soon as the credits start - there's an interesting bit that follows. Although if you're desperate for the loo, like I was, just watch that little bit and then you can go. There's nothing else after it.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

30 Days of Books Meme (Part 1)

This post is my first instalment in the 30 Days of Books Meme. And yes, I Googled Meme because I didn't know what it was. I know you're supposed to post one book a day for thirty days, but I'm not going to do that, I'm going to do three per post sporadically. Because I can. So, here are days 1-3. For the full meme, click the tab on the right for details.


DAY 01 - The best book you read last year
I read some really good books last year, but the best has to be either "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman, who is fantastic by the way, or "Good Omens" by Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. "American Gods" just edges out the other one because "Good Omens" got a little bit dull in the middle, when they had to get all of the characters to the same place at the same time and it dragged a bit.

"American Gods" follows Shadow Griffin as he is released from prison and becomes entangled in the web of Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a former god. I won't tell you anymore, mainly because I don't remember the rest all that clearly (it fits with Gaiman's beautiful and sometimes manic style) and I don't want to give away the bits I do remember, because they're definitely spoilers. It's a brilliant book, maybe not his best, but still excellent. And I particularly enjoyed it because I read it while I was in America, and he happens to mention the town I was living in.


Day 02 - A book you've read more than three times


There are literally dozens of books that I could put under this heading. When I like a book, I tend to read it more than once. I think you get something new from it every time you read it. So, with so many to choose from, I picked the book that I seem to read at least every six months.


"Beauty" by Robin McKinley is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Last semester, we read what felt like thousands of retellings of fairytales. This one wasn't on the list, and I really think it should have been. It's a wonderful book, even if the ending is a bit crap. No, wait, very crap, but I've always had issues with the fact that the Beast becomes a handsome prince. It undermines the whole point of the story. Anyway, it's really good right up until the end, and it's a bit different to other versions that I've read. For a start, Beauty isn't beautiful. She's just an ordinary girl who gets caught up in a messy fairytale and manages the best she can with the situation. Also, it's not a modernisation. Modernisations of fairytales just don't work. And that's not an opinion, that would be a fact.

Day 03 - Your favourite series


Okay, this one's going to "Harry Potter." How can it not? I don't really think I need to explain the appeal of this incredible series. If you don't get it now, I don't think you ever will. Although I will say that if you've seen the films and not read the books, READ THEM. And maybe leave a comment telling me if you understood the films, because I really don't think they can make sense to anyone who hasn't read the books.

So, because I picked the obvious option of "Harry Potter," I'll list my top three series for you.
1 - "Harry Potter", obviously

2 - "Uglies" by Scott Westerfeld - the first three are brilliant, the fourth is going a bit far.

3 - "Pure Dead..." by Debi Gliori - yes, it's for children, but it's worth a read. So funny.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Playing With Other People's Toys

This week I took my first foray into fanfiction. Or made it. Do you take or make a foray? Seriously, this is going to bug me.

I've never really been interested in fanfiction before. I never saw the point in reading something that was bound to be rubbish compared to the original, and as someone who wants to be a published author someday, it kind of bothered me that people could just take your characters and twist them to suit what they wanted.

Take the book I was forced to read a couple of years ago for Critical Reading. "Wide Sargasso Sea" by an author that I will not name because I object to the existence of this book, essentially tells the story of Mad Bertha from "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Brontë. It's an incredibly dull book, which was my first objection to it, but then I realised that this woman is making money using characters that aren't hers. Storylines that aren't hers. And I object to that strongly.

Online fanfiction, however, I have mixed feelings about. On the one hand, yes, people are using other people's characters and creating whole new backgrounds or futures or whatever for them. But they aren't making money from it. They're doing it out of their love for the characters and the original text, the original author should be flattered. I know I would be.

I still didn't really see the point of it, though. Why read a Harry Potter fanfiction piece when I can just read Harry Potter?

And then I stumbled upon a story (not using StumbleUpon) and started reading. I don't really know why I did, but I was hooked. It's really well-written, it's a believable premise, and the writer has been very true to the characters. I'll admit that she slips in a few places, but that's to be expected I think, and otherwise it's really very good.

I sat and consumed the story in a matter of days, and it's not a short story. There are 42 chapters. The average chapter is about 4500 words, which is around 9 A4 pages single-spaced. So it's quite an undertaking, especially since it's on a screen not on the page and that makes it much harder to read (because the website's formatting isn't exactly reader-friendly). And then it hit me.

I believe I've discovered the problem with fanfiction - it's unreliable.

And I don't mean in the sense that it deviates from the canon and can find Hermione falling in love with Snape (there is an ASTONISHING amount of these stories online). I mean that many of these stories are written as serials, with the author posting chapters as they write them. I just reached chapter 42 of a work of fanfiction, and discovered that it wasn't finished. Reading the comments, it would appear that between chapters 37 and 38, the author took a year long break. A year. This story has been in production for more than 6 years. And that is the problem with fanfiction. I have no way of knowing when I can finish reading it, and it is incredibly frustrating. All the more so because the writer left the last chapter on a cliffhanger.

Two months ago.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

SUPER 8

Today I went to see Super 8. I don't have a picture because I'm lazy and crabby, but I'm sure I'll put one up soon.

First off, this film is not for kids. It may be rated 12A, and the cast may be primarily kids, BUT DO NOT TAKE YOUR CHILDREN TO SEE IT. Especially if said children are stupid little brats who will talk ALL THE WAY THROUGH and be completely unable to sit still.

Seriously, though, I don't think a lot of kids would understand it. I had to pay attention to follow it in places (and apparently I missed a crucial piece of information whilst fantasising about reaching out and strangling a small child) but it was a really good film.

I liked JJ Abrams last film, (I think it was his last) the new Star Trek, but I was a little put off by the fact that the film stars Dakota Fanning's younger sister Elle. I'm not a Fanning fan, but she was pretty good in the film, I have to admit.

It's funny, too, which I didn't expect. And although you can see the ending coming from several miles away (the middle, in fact) it's still quite a good ending, it works. It fits. It's not exactly a groundbreaking ending, or indeed something new from Spielberg (who acted as producer on this one) but it does work, and I guess I have to give them credit for that.

I only really had one issue with the film (after someone explained to me about that crucial piece of information I missed) and I should probably do a [SPOILER ALERT] now. So, if you haven't seen the film, or didn't work out from the trailer basically what's going on in the film, don't read any further. They fell into the trap of revealing the alien/monster/whatever. And once you've seen it, it's not scary anymore. The film isn't terrifying, it certainly made me jump, but it loses something once you've seen the monster. And there really wasn't much need to show it at all.

So, to sum up, kids should be banned from cinemas, it's not a kids film, and it's pretty damn good. I'm going to have to see it again now, though. At midnight. When all the kids are out setting fire to cars and buildings. Because obviously, not one person over the age of twenty-five is joining in with the rioting. Not even when the riots go on until 3am.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Introducing the World's Best Sister

Yes, I'm talking about myself. Since my useless and frankly unappreciative siblings refuse to acknowledge my sheer awesomeness, I thought I'd do it myself. I am awesome.

My parents are away for a few days, meaning I'm responsible for feeding my little brother. Well, my younger brother, he's six-foot-four. He's also seventeen and should be capable of feeding himself, but that's a story for another time. So, since I'm at home for the summer because I can't afford to pay my rent in Winchester and my parents will give me FREE FOOD, I'm in charge of the kitchen.

And today, I discovered that I am a bonfide domestic goddess. My conversation with my brother about dinner went a little something like this:

ME: What do you want for tea? Pizza or sausages? Bearing in mind that pizza will be a lot easier for me since I don't know how long it takes to cook sausages and since you can't have just sausages for tea, I can either put the sausages and chips in together and we can have charcoal instead of chips. Or I can put the chips in later, and we'll have burnt sausages because the chips won't be cooked yet.

THE BOY: Pizza, then.


And do you know what I made him for tea? I made him the pizza that he so desperately craved. See? Awesome sister.

And now a note for my frankly disappointing siblings - my birthday's coming up soon. Just a thought.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Stalking

I think Blogger is turning me into a bad person. Well, making me worse.

I am obsessed with the stats for my blog, I'm ashamed to admit. I check the stats page more often than I check Facebook, and I check Facebook a lot. My stats tend to be very low, I suspect that my family and a couple of friends are the only people reading my blog, but I am always strangely delighted to see when someone from another country has looked at it. In the past couple of months, I've had people from the US, Japan, Spain, Germany and Denmark read my blog. I like knowing where these people have found my blog, and which posts people are reading. I am becoming obsessive about it. And it worries me a little bit.

What worries me more is how I feel when I read other people's blogs. It makes me feel like a stalker. Now, I don't technically know what stalking someone feels like (contrary to popular opinion) but this is close to how I think it must feel. Some of you might know the feeling from having explored a friend's Facebook page in its entirety. You know, look through all of their photos, read all of the information they've given you, look at every post on their wall. And then you think "what the hell am I doing?" It's like that with blogs. Except, actually, it feels worse, because these people aren't your friends. Well, not necessarily.

I recently found a blog which I love:
http://www.flourishinprogress.com/

I don't actually remember how I found it, it was either a link on another blog I read, or I was flicking through the "next blog" option on Blogger, which I love. It doesn't really matter how I found it, what matters is that I have become obsessed with this blog. I've gone trawling back through old posts, read every word of them and then even read the comments underneath them. But the problem is that this woman doesn't know me. She'll never meet me. And there I am reading every word that she's written. It just struck me that I'm cyber-stalking someone. Well, kind of.

I guess the fact that she's put all these posts out on the internet makes it okay for me to read through it all. It's like she's asking to be stalked. It's like someone changing their clothes with the curtains open and all the lights on. Okay, it's not really like that, but you see what I mean. It feels wrong, somehow, to be reading the blogs of people I don't know.

WOLF HALL

It's taken me nearly a month, but I have finally finished reading "Wolf Hall" by Hilary Mantel. And thank God I have.

It may well be the most boring book I have ever read, and I've read "The Dark Fields" (aka "Limitless") by Alan Glynn. In 650 pages, not one interesting thing actually happens. On a few occasion, interesting events are alluded to, but we don't witness them. We hear them discussed briefly to add context to background characters. I think three times in the book I became hopeful that something interesting was about to happen, only to be thoroughly disappointed.

A little background is probably useful for those of you who haven't read it, especially since you won't guess what it's about from the title, which, as far as I can see, has absolutely nothing to do with the book whatsoever. The book follows Thomas Cromwell's rapid rise in Tudor society as he assists Henry VIII in divorcing Katherine of Aragon and marrying Anne Boleyn instead, which should be interesting. Or so you would think. That period in English history must be one of the most written about, most fictionalised and most sexed-up. I had high hopes. I quite liked "The Other Boleyn Girl" by Phillipa Gregory. I was very disappointed.

I won't sit here and spell out everything that was wrong with it, I will just say that I found it really difficult to follow who was who. Cromwell, the main character, is frequently referred to in the narrative as simply "he," which becomes tricky when he is having a conversation with another man, which is basically all that ever happens in the book. It's also difficult to follow who is who, because their titles and positions change every twenty pages or so. Since they all have the same names (Henry or Thomas, mainly) their titles are all the more important, and I could rarely work out who was actually in a room at any given time.

Finally, I'd like to say something about the title. Wolf Hall is the home of the Seymour family in the book, and as I'm sure most people would know, Henry marries Jane Seymour after he has Anne Boleyn beheaded. And yet, their paths never seem to cross in the book. In fact, at the end, you are left with the distinct impression that it is Cromwell who intends to marry Jane, saying as he does that they have five days free in the summer and that he intends to pay the Seymours a visit.

In summary, it was all very dull, very difficult to read and made absolutely no sense to me. It may be just as boring as "The Dark Fields," but it loses even more points for being more than twice as long.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Misspelled Magazine

Happy Monday!

Okay, I hate Mondays, but today I have good news. Although I've had said good news since last Tuesday, I just haven't had the chance to update. Or I forgot. But being busy is a lot better than forgetting to do something. I had a point.

Oh, yes, my friend Sara and I (if you recall, I shamelessly plugged her blog a few weeks ago, scroll down and you'll find the post) are starting our own online literary magazine, "Misspelled Magazine" which naturally we're very excited about. We haven't released our first issue yet, so please feel free to check out our submissions page and send us your stuff, but the website's up for people to have a look at. I'll update here whenever we have something to update with.

http://misspelledmagazine.moonfruit.com/

Sunday, 24 July 2011

News Coverage

I wasn't going to comment on the death of Amy Winehouse, because I've never been a fan and I've never met her, so I consider myself to be basically unaffected by her death. Sure, it's always sad when someone dies, but it happens. However, I've been quite horrified by the amount of coverage her death is receiving given what has happened in Norway. Why does the (let's face it) probable overdose of a known drug addict warrant more coverage and greater tribute than a horrific massacre that has led to the deaths of over 90 young people? I've come up with two potential reasons, the first is that there is a lot more footage of Amy that people can show, and more celebrities that they can talk to about her, because she's been tabloid fodder for years now. My other possible explanation is that she's British, and the young people killed in Norway were not. Make of that what you will.

That's all I had to say, really.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS

Okay, so after weeks of saying that I would not go and see this film purely because they offended me by casting James McAvoy in one of the lead roles, I finally went to see "X-Men: First Class."

And, I have to say, I'm glad I did.

It's brilliant. I really, really enjoyed it. Sure, it's a little bit long, there are a few sections where I'd have trimmed it, but there was nothing majorly wrong with it. Actually, yes, there is one thing majorly wrong with it, and it is this thing that keeps it from being the best of the series. The first four films feature rather a lot of the wonderful Hugh Jackman, and that is this instalment's only downside. Plus, it has James McAvoy in it, an unforgiveable casting decision (I won't go into it, it's a long story and I'm not sure I could explain it in a way that anybody would understand) but he didn't ruin the film. That's the best I can say for him.

So, this story goes back to the beginning of the X-Men. It's worth noting that originally it was supposed to be an "X-Men: Origins" film, featuring Magneto almost exclusively. I think this is a much better idea. Don't get me wrong, Magneto/Erik was excellent (where has Michael Fassbender been hiding?) but I don't think they could have built an entire film around his background. And if they did, I can't help thinking that it would be incredibly traumatic.

Speaking of which, I wasn't overly impressed with Kevin Bacon's Sebastian Shaw. He started off brilliantly, perfectly sinister, but when he switched from speaking German to speaking English, he lost a lot of his menace, I think. At times, he was a bit of a camp villain, and didn't exude the same darkness as Michael Fassbender, which is a bit of a shame, considering he was supposed to be the big bad guy. I did see on IMDB, however, that they had also considered Colin Firth for the role, and I just can't even picture that. (For future reference, I can't stand Colin Firth, either.)

The film is epic in scale and impressive to watch, and it really is difficult for me to find anything bad to say about it. Those of you that know me will appreciate how rare that is for me, I seem to be able to find fault everywhere, but I really did enjoy this film. I was a little disappointed, though, that there was nothing after the credits.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS - PART 2

Well, that's it - my childhood is officially over. On Thursday night, I went to see "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part Two" at my local Vue (do NOT get me started on their crappy customer service team who told me that there would be no 2D screening when there actually was one) because I just had to see it as soon as it came out. Because it was the end of an era. And I was so ready to be completely devastated.

But weirdly, I wasn't.

"Deathly Hallows" is not my favourite of the books. In fact, I find the first half of the book really quite boring, so I was impressed by the first half of the film. I didn't come out of the cinema bitching about everything they'd done wrong, which was a first. The second half, on the other hand, didn't meet with the same reaction.

It started brilliantly (don't worry, I'm going to avoid spoilers as much as I can. I might refer to things from the book, but I'll try not to give them away to anyone who hasn't read them. Also, if you haven't read the books, read them.) The scenes in Gringotts are wonderful, they're beautifully done and I was very impressed. I wanted to cry when I saw the dragon, that was how involved I was within, say, ten minutes. I was also quite impressed with the way they handled Harry finding the Horcruxes (I won't tell you, but you'll remember that Dumbledore didn't give him enough information in "Half-Blood Prince" to be able to do it.)

So, the film's going along nicely, I'm completely engrossed, and then it hits my favourite part of the books. The part that upset me more than anything else. For those of you who are wondering, it's the part where a pivotal character dies and their history revealed. And it's amazing. It really is, I loved it. I wept. I was trying to cry quietly, because there were only five other people in the room and I was very conscious of how noisy I was being. It's easily the best part of the film. And that's the problem, in my opinion.

After that, nothing comes close to being as upsetting. And I know, it doesn't need to be upsetting, but I thought it would be. And a part of me wanted to come out of the cinema in floods of tears (I can't explain it, I'm afraid.) But after that point, it was...fine. There's a surprising amount of humour, which keeps it from becoming too dark, even when beloved characters are being slaughtered left, right and centre. And as in the book, the scene in King's Cross Station (the one that isn't the epilogue) is an annoying break away from the story, though, mercifully, it has been shortened significantly in the film.

Of course, they've changed things. We knew that from the trailer - "let's finish this the way we started, together" by jumping off a cliff - but, actually, instead of making me furious, I felt the changes worked. Now, I haven't read the book in a long time, but I seem to recall that the climax basically involved Harry walking around in a circle and explaining things. Which, let's face it, would have been pretty dull to watch. The changes they've made have improved the film, they add drama, and I can't complain about them.

This brings us to the epilogue. The epilogue that, if I remember correctly, they went back and reshot because it looked ridiculous. I dread to think what it was like before - it is unintentionally hilarious, and instead of being sad or proud or whatever else I might have felt, I was trying so hard not to laugh. [OKAY, THIS MIGHT BE A SPOILER IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE BOOK, ALTHOUGH I HIGHLY DOUBT ANYONE IN THE WORLD DOESN'T KNOW HOW IT ENDS. EXCEPT MY DAD. I TOLD HIM HARRY DIED AND HE GOT MAD. OOPS. ANYWAY, POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT] The four main characters (I'm counting Ginny in that) don't look any older, clearly they've had their hair done and then put on grown-up-clothes. Draco Malfoy (who I love, who is my favourite character after Snape) looks absolutely ridiculous. But you only see him for a moment, long enough for your brain to register that he looks ridiculous and make you start laughing, but not long enough to figure out why it is. So if anyone's seen it and knows what it might be about him that looks so stupud, please let me know.

So, that's it. The end of an era. The end of the most successful film series of all time ("Deathly Hallows - Part Two" took a record-breaking $95 million on its first day of release alone.) The end of my childhood. And, honestly, the actual ending was a little disappointing. If only those brilliant scenes had been a bit closer to the end of the film, rather than coming in the middle and marking the difference between the first and second halves so clearly.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2

I went to a midnight showing last night, and didn't get home until 3am, so this won't be a full review. I'll do one when I'm less tired and crabby, probably Sunday.

I just wanted to express my utter delight that I was able to see the film in 2D. Despite being told ny Vue customer service that under no circumstances would they be showing the film in 2D at midnight, I arrived and saw it on the board. A quick word with manager Natalie and we had a full refund, two 2D tickets, the best seats possible and an almost empty screening room. I think I was more excited about that than I was about the film, and I was pretty damn excited about the film.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Don't laugh at me but...

...I write about vampires, mostly. Yes, people normally laugh at me about that. Right to my face, in fact. And I don't really understand why. Well, actually. I do.

Edward Cullen has ruined vampires. Okay, that's a bit unfair. I actually like the Twilight books, I think they've got good stories even though the writing is appalling. I've read all four, plus the novella, because the story's pretty good. In my opinion. And this is something that seems to divide people. Twilight is the new Marmite.

It's been incredibly successful, which has led to the market being absolutely flooded with vampire stuff, be it books, films or tv shows. Vampires are popular right now, Twilight's success has made other series popular, like the Charlaine Harris novels. They've been around for years, but only now have they been picked up and turned into the brilliant series "True Blood." You can't walk into a bookshop without being faced with a "dark romance" section.

But, at the same time, vampires have never been less cool. I don't know why it is, since I'm someone who's embraced the current craze, but if you tell people that you write or read about vampires, they automatically label you in a certain way. You're a Twi-hard (a name I object to generally, and don't think I deserve because I'm not actually obsessed with it) and that's it. People will laugh in your face, and you have to defend yourself. So, here goes.

I've been writing about vampires for five, almost six, years now. I started my first vampire novel three whole years before I'd even heard of Twilight (I have been genuinely asked on more than one occasion "Oh, is it based on Twilight?" when I've told someone I write about vampires) and have now written sixteen vampire novels. Which is 94% of the novels I've written (I wrote one sci-fi one about a parasite, but the less said about that the better.)

But why? I think about that a lot, mainly because people ask. They ask lots of stupid questions, don't they? Okay, that's unfair. But I do get asked why I write about vampires, especially since I've written so many now. And the reason I give is that it's like writing about people, except there are no limits. You don't have to worry about what's realistic, what would happen in the real world, how a normal person would react to something. You can create your own mythology, you can set the rules. I think of those things, the not having to know how a real person would react is probably the most important to me. This sounds like attention-seeking, but I'm fairly abnormal. I often find myself unable to understand why the people around me say and do certain things, even when everyone else seems to get it. So I worry that, if I write about normal people in a normal world, it just won't work. Vampires, on the other hand...well, I choose how they would react to things. I have total control, I can do whatever I want. And I love that.

So next time someone tells you that they write about vampires, or they like to read about them, don't judge. Don't laugh. They'll have their reasons. And if you're still unconvinced, I'm sure there was a vampire in Harry Potter. I do believe his name was Sanguini, and he appeared on page 374 of the "Half-Blood Prince."

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Illegal Television Downloading/Streaming

Just a quick one today, following an article I read today that didn't have an option to comment on it. Basically, illegal film downloading is up by 33% (which is appalling) but illegal television downloading is up significantly as well. Dr. Price, who led the research, says:

"But we often have to wait one month or two months for those shows to be shown legitimately in the UK,"

which is bollocks. I waited a YEAR for True Blood, and several months for the Big Bang Theory. I honestly don't think people would mind so much if it was just a month or so, but it's not. It's ridiculous. And I don't see why we should have to wait so long to watch on TV content that we can get online. It's all free, isn't it? Not like watching films.

Oh, the article is here, if anyone's interested:
www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/140229865

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Doing the sums

Since you're supposed to learn something every day, I thought I'd share with the world what I learned today:

Doing the sums is bad. It will only make you miserable.

So, as you may or may not know, I'm a student at the moment. I'm also unemployed. And paying rent. And already £800 into my overdraft. I've been worrying about money recently, mainly because nowhere is hiring, and when I do find somewhere hiring, they don't want to hire me. (I know this is supposed to be a blog about writing, but while I'm this down, I can't seem to write, so it's totally relevant.)

And so, I thought, since I was worrying so much, it would be a good idea to sit down and do the sums, work out exactly how much I'm going to spend this year and how much, given the fact that I survive solely on my pitifully low student loan, I'm going be in debt by this time next year. It turned out to not be such a good idea.

As it stands, I will have -£1.364.41 in my account by next July. And this doesn't even take into account my living expenses. This is simply current balance, minus rent, plus student loan. Which is not good. I mean, unless I give up the luxury of eating (which might not be a good idea, given the size of me), I'm screwed. I think I preferred it when I didn't know how bad things were going to be next year.



But hey, you don't care. It's not your problem. Something good...I get to see Harry Potter next week, and I actually can't wait. It is in fact the only thing in the forseeable future that I have to look forward to, especially since I'm also going to have give up going to the cinema. Even if it wasn't ridiculously expensive, I'm sure I couldn't afford it.

You may have noticed that I haven't written anything about the book I'm writing in weeks. I've decided to put Outsiders on the back-burner for now. I can't seem to make any headway with it, I haven't even looked at it in over three weeks. The problem seems to be that I'm very conscious that it's aimed at teenagers. Before, I've always just sat down, written a book and never even thought about who might like to read it. So it's being officially put on hiatus for a while. I'm thinking about re-writing one of my other novels from scratch. I've made three serious edits to it (it lost fifty thousand words in a single edit, then gained twenty thousand, then lost another twelve) and I still can't seem to get the damn thing right. So I think I'm going to make a completely fresh start on it, and try not to think about my target audience. Because if I do, I'm not sure it'll ever get written.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Make me a cuppa ...??

Today I would like to shamelessly plug my friend Sara's blog. She's also studying Creative Writing at the University of Winchester, but she's combining it with something else (I don't know what, I'm a bad friend.) She started her blog for the same reason I did, and has decided to carry on with it. It's very interesting, although her obsessions with drinking tea and Emma Thompson are a bit weird. But I guess weird is good.

You can find her blog here:
http://makemeacuppa.blogspot.com/

Friday, 1 July 2011

GREEN LANTERN

So, yesterday I went to see "Green Lantern", the latest DC comics superhero movie, starring Ryan Reynolds in the lead role, with Blake Lively as his Lois Lane (although she does seem remarkably more intelligent than Lois Lane did, but I've only ever seen the Superman tv show with Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher, and I hate Teri Hatcher).

Now, I don't want anyone reading this to think I just hate all films, but...no, wait, I wrote nice things about "Bridesmaids." I think. Anyway, I don't hate all films, but I was pretty unimpressed with "Green Lantern." No, unimpressed is the wrong word. I was bored. Really bored. I couldn't even enjoy the 'exciting' action sequences because the rest of it had bored me so deeply. And I like superhero movies, I do. Christopher Nolan's Batman series (not technically a superhero, but whatever), "Iron Man," "Spiderman," and even...well, I can't think of any others off the top of my head, but I don't hate the genre. I missed "Thor" but fully intend to see it on DVD, and I'm even going to see "Captain America" (although that may be entirely due to the presence of Richard Armitage.) X-MEN! That's the other series I like, even if they're mutants rather than superheroes.

"Green Lantern" is different to these in a very specific way, which I identified while staring blankly at the screen while a voiceover told me lots of things I couldn't care less about. "Spiderman" begins when Peter Parker gets bitten by the radioactive spider, "Iron Man" begins when Tony Stark is taken captive and builds the special suit, "Batman" begins when Bruce Wayne realises he has lots of money to burn and even more time on his hands. What I'm saying is that the stories in these films starts with the characters' introduction to this new world/idea/whatever. "Green Lantern" doesn't. It has several millenia of backstory to trawl through before Hal Jordan gets a magic ring, and, quite frankly, it is unessential to the story and utterly boring to sit through. My brother disagrees, he thought the film was brilliant and he knew all the backstory crap before he went in (so he should have been even more bored than I was.)

What's interesting, though, is that in direct contrast to the info-dump of superhero-alien-backstory, there is a distinct lack of backstory concerning the human characters in the film, the ones to whom we are presumably supposed to relate. Sure, everyone picked up on the fact that the two leads slept together at some unspecified time in the past, but how did they meet? They keep saying they've known each other since they were children, but how? Why? (Thinking back, Hal's father may have been the star pilot for Lois Lane's dad's plane company, but I don't think it was said outright.) And then they introduce the mini-villain (who is being controlled by the mega-villain), and claim that he's known them both since childhood as well! And at the beginning, Hal goes to his nephew's birthday party, and engages in conversation with three adults who are presumably family members, though they are never identified.

I'm not a Ryan Reynolds fan either. I decided that yesterday. I liked him in "The Proposal," but I think Sandra Bullock's genius must have been rubbing off on him, because I wasn't overly impressed with this one. I also don't believe that those muscles he has when the aliens are studying him (though funnily enough they let him keep his underwear on) are his. I just don't.

I didn't enjoy the film. I think a sequel (which is already being discussed despite a poor box office performance) would be better, because it wouldn't be bogged down with so much unnecessary detail and could really get into the story, although of course they'll have to recap it constantly, so maybe it will be just as bad. It was just...ugh, it was just so dull. I can't even think about it anymore.

No, actually, one more thing. The special effects were pretty good, I actually thought the mega-villain creeping over the city was incredibly good. Very impressive. What I don't understand is how they can do something as brilliant as that, but they can't make it look like Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively are actually standing on a rooftop. Seriously, the green screen at that point was so bad, I'm assuming they'd blown the budget and had to make a hash of that scene.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Cast Lists

For the Historical Fiction class I'll be taking next semester, I've been reading "Wolf Hall" by Hilary Mantel. It won the 2009 Man Booker Prize, but I'm not really enjoying it so far. I'm finding it pretty difficult to get through, especially since the main character is never referred to by name in the narrative. He's only ever called "he", which is a problem when he's having a conversation with another man. I haven't got a clue what's going on.

But that's not what this blog post is supposed to be about, though it is related. In a way. "Wolf Hall" starts with a contents page, which I personally think is pretty unnecessary. It annoyed me in the Twilight books, when it was completely unnecessary, and I have yet to see whether it serves a purpose here.

After the contents page, however, there is a list of characters. A cast list, if you like. And just seeing it filled me with dread. A cast list makes sense in a play, where you don't have a narrative that can fill you in on the details of the cast. "Wolf Hall" is a 650-page novel. It shouldn't need a cast list, because all of this information should be told/shown to me in the main body of the novel. Having a cast list says a lot. It warns me that the book is not going to be well-written enough to give me this information as it should, and that I will probably need to keep referring back to the list to find out who all these people are, which should also be shown in the text.

It got me thinking because a cast list isn't something you often see in a novel. In fact, I didn't think I'd ever seen one, and I assumed that this meant "Wolf Hall" would be a rubbish book because it needed something that no other book did. I'm not saying this is the case, because I can't really say that until I've finished it. But then I remembered another series of books with a cast list. A series of books that I actually love.

Every instalment in the "Pure Dead" series by Debi Gliori, beginning with "Pure Dead Magic" and ending with "Deep Fear", features a cast list at the very beginning. And a contents page. I actually liked this feature in the series, which is aimed at children/young teenagers, especially since the "Dramatis Personae" is actually quite funny. It works. It doesn't make the book seem poorly written, it adds something to it. With "Wolf Hall", I have to admit that I took it as a bad sign. I'll let you know how it works out. I'm only forty pages into the bloody thing.

Friday, 24 June 2011

I have my life back!

Hello, world!

This is just a quick update, because I can finally switch off my laptop and leave the house. Okay, that's a slight exaggeration (why on earth would I leave the house?), I just mean to say that I can finally stop refreshing Vue cinema's website every 20 minutes (or 60 after 8pm) because I HAVE TICKETS TO A MIDNIGHT SCREENING OF HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART TWO. Yes, I am a little bit excited.

Although not as excited as I should be. In fact, I'm pretty pissed off about the whole thing. I have to go to a midnight showing. Not just because I HAVE to, but because my schedule means that if I don't see it at midnight, I won't see it until the next week. Possibly the next weekend. Which is unacceptable. So, I have to see it at midnight. That isn't an option for me. Which is fine, I guess, because I wanted to go at midnight anyway.

Another option that I don't have is whether I see the film in 2D or 3D. I want to see it in the 2D. My cinema will only permit me to see it in 3D. Which is unacceptable. No, more than that, it is an absolute disgrace. I don't want to pay the extra money to see a 3D film, especially not when it means wearing a pair of 3D glasses over my regular glasses. Noses are not designed to accomodate more than one pair of glasses at a time. They're just not. I saw Tangled in 3D, and spent the entire film holding up the 3D pair of glasses because they kept sliding down my nose until the frame was blocking the screen.

Maybe it's me, maybe it's just my nose, but even if I didn't wear glasses, I would be furious about this. All films should be available in 2D from the day of release. 3D should be the bonus, not the other way around. I wanted to see Thor, really wanted to see it, but the cinemas near me were only showing it in 3D when it was released. Six weeks later, they did their first 2D screening. And I couldn't go.

I'm sick of this 3D thing. I didn't mind it so much when it started. If people want to waste their money and watched a film that's dimmer and a little fuzzier, just so that two or three times in a couple of hours something can jump out of the screen...well, that's their choice. But to interfere with the 2D screenings? No, this is unacceptable. Something has to be done. Unfortunately, I can't find anyone to complain to about this except individual cinemas. Who don't really give a shit, because they're making more money of 3D screenings.

Rant over.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

BRIDESMAIDS

Yes, that is a photo of me and my sister (I'm on the right) as bridesmaids at our auntie's wedding. Don't worry, she won't mind me using her photo. She doesn't even know this blog exists.
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So, on Tuesday, I saw a preview of "Bridesmaids" with Kirsten Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Chris O'Dowd and Jon Hamm. It's been described as "the female Hangover" but I'm not sure I'd agree with that description.

The story follows Annie (Wiig) who's life has basically fallen apart. We know this because she's single and broke. Her best friend Lillian (Rudolph) gets engaged and asks Annie to be her maid of honour, and, basically, chaos ensues. In a good way.

The film is hilarious. I dragged my mother along grudgingly, because I was desperate to see it, but she had zero interest. Maybe less than zero. And she laughed more than I did. It is really funny; it toes the line between witty banter and all-out gross. And there's a story there, too. I can't abide a film without a good story (which is why I tend to avoid horror movies) and this one was really strong.

I thought it was well-written and well-acted, and I would like to particularly commend Melissa McCarthy, who was brilliant as Megan. I still want to know what happened to the puppies, though. In fact, the only downfall as far as the characters are concerned is the fact that we barely saw the other two bridesmaids once they'd been introduced. Newlywed Becca and mother of three boys Rita. It says a lot that I had to look up what the former was called. They had some great lines, especially Rita, but they weren't developed very well and sort of fell off the radar.

Of course, being an American film, it did have a bit of a Hollywood-Happy-Ending, but it wasn't so bad in this case, because they made it fit the film, and it wasn't a big, showy, Happily Ever After for Everyone Involved Affair.

I almost forgot to talk about it being the female-Hangover thing. It's not "the Hangover" with women instead of men, there's no going off and getting so wasted you can't remember what happened when you wake up the next morning. It's more like the lead-up to the wedding done by women instead of men, and it's just as funny as "the Hangover". It just has a bit more story in there, too.

So I would definitely recommend this film, probably to everyone. If you didn't like "the Hangover", don't assume you won't like this. When I went to see it, there was an even mix of men and women, and a huge range of ages, and as we were leaving, there didn't seem to be anyone who didn't enjoy it. Not one person left the room and didn't come back, which is good.

And if you think you've seen all the funny bits because you've seen all the trailers, you'd be mistaken. In fact, some parts of the trailer aren't even in the film. So go see it. A good comedy with a story, and written by women. It's about time, I think.

TELL-ALL

"Tell-All" by Chuck Palahniuk tells story of an aging movie star and the woman who, essentially, looks after her. It was actually published last year, I believe, but has only just come out in paperback, and therefore only just appeared on the shelves of Waterstone's (not one hundred per cent sure why this is).
A couple of weeks ago, when I bought this book, I was in Southampton with my friends Sara and Nick. Nick said that the best Palahniuk book is "Fight Club". I told him he was wrong, because "Invisible Monsters" is clearly the best, but I had high hopes for "Tell-All". I'll admit, I was a little bit disappointed.

The story is good, it's engaging and well-paced, with short chapters so reading it doesn't feel like a chore. I like to read before I go to sleep, so I'd rather read a few short chapters than slug through a single long one. I liked the way the chapters were described more like scenes from a film, although I found the decision to do this a little confusing at the end (though to explain why would be a huge spoiler, so I won't). I didn't like the character of Miss Kathie (who a couple of times was referred to as Miss Katie - not sure if this was deliberate) and I didn't really like the character of Hazie either, though I felt a bit sorry for the former. Actually, no, I felt a bit sorry for both of them, but for different reasons.

My issue with the book was the constant name-dropping. I understand why it was done, and it was definitely unusual, which I normally like in books. My problem with it was that I hadn't heard of most of the people being mentioned, which meant I didn't understand the references and therefore didn't really get it. I found myself skipping a paragraph or two full of references (and they stood out because they were bold-ed) and then had to go back when I realised I didn't understand what was happening in the next paragraph. I just didn't get along with the constant name-dropping, I found it a bit distracting.

I also think he gave away the end game a bit early on, but I can't say any more than that. In fact, I probably shouldn't have even said that, but anyone who reads Chuck's books knows his style, so I'll just say that the ending of "Tell-All" bears a resemblence to the endings of "Fight Club," "Invisible Monsters," "Choke," "Snuff," and, to a certain extent, "Rant."

I did like the book, I enjoyed reading most of it. I even laughed out loud a couple of times, although I've been told I have a weird sense of humour. Really, the only bad point about it was the incessant name-dropping, which I just couldn't get along with. Someone who knows who these people are might find it adds a whole new dimension to the book, but I was just pleased on the rare occasion that I'd heard of someone.

Friday, 17 June 2011

THE TOWN

Yesterday, I finally watched "The Town" - a 2010 film starring Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm and Blake Lively. I've been desperate to see it since I saw the first advert for it at least a year ago (nuns with scary masks made me think of "The Dark Knight" for reasons that I can't explain because I don't really understand them myself) but only just got around to watching it. I have to say, I'm glad I waited for the DVD to be reduced to a fiver.

It's not a bad film. It's pretty watchable, and there wasn't a point during it that I thought, "Well, I'd cut that bit for a start," which is something I've been thinking with a lot of films recently. I blame studying film theory for a semester, it's ruined my ability to enjoy films. I seem to only be able to watch with my writer-head on.

The film starts well, a good action sequence to get things moving, but then it slows down a lot. I didn't mind that, I think it got the balance between bank-robbing and falling-in-love-with-the-bank-manager just right, but I did have a couple of fairly major problems with the film.

1 - I was at least half an hour into the film when I realised I didn't know what anybody's names were. Not a one. Okay, that's a lie. I knew Rebecca Hall's character was called Claire, but it was the shock of hearing her name so suddenly that I noticed I hadn't heard anyone else's.

2 - And this is a biggie. I couldn't understand a word that any of them were saying. The mumbling was ridiculous. So then I put the subtitles on, and I still didn't really get what was going on, because I'm not familiar with Boston street slang. So I was very grateful when Jon Hamm's character took a minute to explain literally everything that was going on, because otherwise I would have been lost. I hate when films think they need to explain to their audience what's going on, but "The Town" really needed it.

And then...well, I don't want to give away the ending (in case my review hasn't put you off watching it), but it wasn't what I expected. Which I always appreciate in a film. And it was nice to see Blake Lively playing someone other than Serena Van Der Woodson, she might have given the most impressive performance. The only other competitor would be Jeremy Renner, but I've never seen him in anything else, making it hard to judge this performance.

So, yeah, not a bad film, but I would advise putting the subtitles on from the start, just in case.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

HIT LIST

I have an interesting relationship with Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series. Well, I think it's interesting. You may well disagree.

I discovered the books two summers ago, I think, around the time Skin Trade came out in hardback. The cover caught my eye, and I almost bought it, but then I discovered that it was number sixteen in the series. So I spent the summer reading the series from the very beginning, Guilty Pleasures. I got really into them, and would order the next two as soon as I was halfway through one. I actually regret this now, since I paid for all of the books myself and am currently in rather dire financial circumstances. Had I been prepared to wait a little between each book, I'm sure my parents could have been persuaded to buy them for me. After all, what parent doesn't want to encourage their child to read more? (I should probably point out that I'm now 20, but I still think it's important for my parents to encourage me to read and, you know, keep buying me books)

I had a point. Oh, yes, Hit List. Before I talk about Hit List specifically, I want to say something about the series as a whole. I do like them, Jean-Claude is my favourite character and I was a little disappointed that he didn't get so much as a phone call in this book, but that's a personal matter. I've been worried for a few books now that there are too many sex scenes, and that the stories are being lost in a sea of endless sex. I'd gotten to the point where I actually said that if I didn't like Hit List, I wouldn't read another Anita Blake book. (Yes, I did actually say this, but I really don't think I meant it). Not that it matters, because the balance is much better this time.

My main issue before (I cannot stress the before part enough) I read Hit List, is that it was an Edward book. People who've read the books will know that they tend to fall into certain categories - vampire books, wereanimal books, and Edward books. Of course, most of them cross over, but there's always a strong theme. I don't like the Edward books. I don't know why, I quite like Edward as a character, and Olaf is fascinating (as psychopaths in literature always are), but I was disappointed that Hit List was going to be an Edward book. Almost as disappointed as I was when I received my copy of Flirt and discovered that it was more of a short story than a novel.

I really enjoyed Hit List. It is the first Edward book that I've enjoyed, and now that the balance between sex and everything else has been established, the series seems to be getting back on track. It's fast paced, exciting, and the ending wasn't what I expected. I actually read it twice, because I thought I'd missed something key. Anita is becoming a much more rounded character, as her good qualities grow in number and she accepts her flaws as a part of herself. There's nothing worse than a perfect heroine. Anita is a lot more likeable than Sookie Stackhouse, who lets the men in her life trample all over her half of the time, and in a way she could be seen as a good role model, (for adults, not kids!)

I honestly really enjoyed Hit List, I found it hard to put down (because the chapters are so short that you have to read at least ten in one go to feel close to satisfied) and it's great to see the series getting back on track. I think it benefitted from reducing the number of men hanging around Anita all the time, but I'd really like to see Jean-Claude in the next one. I'm pretty sure he's the only other character that's survived all twenty books (although please don't quote me on that), and he's certainly not one to just fade into the background. Bring on number 21!




(Oh, and the photo above is by me, Lesley Whyte)