Wednesday, 31 October 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012

Happy Halloween!

Okay, that was hard for me. I don't do Halloween. It's just really not my thing. Anyway, whatever your feelings about the 'holiday,' it does mean one good thing - NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow. For those of you who don't know, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month and is a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in just thirty days. That works out at about 1,667 words a day.

This is my third year doing NaNo, and I've been looking forward to it for weeks. I'm doing something a little different this year, though. The last two years, I've started writing my novels on the spur of the moment. I didn't really know what story I was going to write until a day or two before. Or afterwards. This year, I've planned it out. Actually, I'm supposed to be planning right now, but life kind of got in the way. Also, I really hate to plan.

So this could be the first year I lose. Good luck to anyone else who's taking part this year, and I really would encourage people to have a go. It doesn't matter if the 50,000 words you write are complete crap that you're ashamed to show to anyone. Getting the words down is the first step, then you work on improving them. So switch off your internal editor for thirty days and join the writing frenzy. You can find out everything you'll ever need to know about the challenge here: http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/dashboard



Tuesday, 30 October 2012

FUN SIZE

First of all, let me explain my reasoning behind going to see this film:
1) It's by the people who created Gossip Girl. So, the people who did Gossip Girl in the days when Gossip Girl was good.
2) The trailer made me laugh.
3) I was warned that seeing Skyfall would be a family event and that I wasn't allowed to go and see it without the rest of my family in tow. Which meant I had to find something else to see. Given that Taken 2 had a very similar caveat and I've seen a load of films the last few weeks, the pickings were slim.

Okay, now that that's out of the way, the film itself. Which was awful.

I mean, seriously, this might be one of the worst films I've ever actually seen. And I have seen Slap Her, She's French. Don't ask, there's no justification as far as that one is concerned.

If you're going to make a movie without a story, it either has to have characters you care about or it has to be funny. If wanting to shake them and ask them why they were so stupid counts as caring about the characters, the film had the first one, but I don't think that does count. And it was so painfully un-funny that we honestly thought about giving up and leaving. If there hadn't only been a couple of other people in there (or none at all), we probably would have done it.

So please, I beg you, learn from my stupid mistake and don't go and see this film. Unless you're really drunk, it might make a good drunk-movie. And, okay, if I have to say one good thing about this film, the kid is adorable. He doesn't talk, so he stays cute. But that is it. Literally it. What's interesting is that my brother says Johnny Knoxville, arguably this film's biggest star (and if that doesn't tell you everything you need to know, I don't know what would) is listed on IMDb as uncredited. Johnny Knoxville didn't want his name on this movie. Even the guy from Jackass considered this complete crap. Enough said? I have to go and punish myself some more for my stupidity.



BREATHE

Breathe by Sarah Crossan

The trees are gone. The surviving citizens live inside a glass Pod. Mostly. There are those who live outside, believing that the Earth can one day be a safe home again. And there are those who live inside and are determined to do whatever they can to fix things.

Does that description sound a bit vague and possibly a bit lame? Good. Okay, maybe that's unfair. The book isn't bad and I'm starting to think I've hit a saturation point as far as YA Dystopians are concerned. There are a lot of them about and I've read a lot - there are at least two more sitting in my To-Read pile. I like YA Dystopian, but they're all starting to sound a bit same-y.

This one, Breathe, had what I consider to be quite an original premise. Something vague and bad happened - this is not the original part - and all the trees died. There is literally not enough oxygen left for humans to survive on, only a lucky few were able to buy/win entrance to the Pod, and are now charged for every bit of oxygen that they consume. This to me sounded great, but the actual book didn't meet my expectations.

The story is very much typical of the genre - the people who run the Pod are evil, the people in the Pod have no idea how evil their government is, a couple of teenagers find out the truth and decide to fight, a war looms but never actually happens, the book ends without anything really having happened because it's the first in the series.

And as for the three main characters... The book's told from each of their perspectives, in first-person, a chapter at a time. And, unfortunately, all three voices sounded pretty much the same to me. I frequently had to figure out which person was narrating, which at least distracted me from how bored I was of the story.

It's not a terrible book. I'm probably being a bit unfair to it just because as YA Dystopians go, this is nothing special. Not bad, but not particularly good either. Maybe I'll give it another try once I've read something completely different for a while - okay, we all know that's not actually going to happen. I'll just have to cross my fingers that Crewel and What's Left of Me are a bit more impressive.



Friday, 26 October 2012

Flashfiction Friday #09: Atomic Vomit

"Look at this mess! I can't believe you sometimes. You treat this house like a hotel and now this? You're cleaning this up. Don't look at me like that, you're going to do it. Nobody else is going to do it for you. It's time you learned to take responsibility for yourself and your actions. If you want to go out with your friends and stay out all night drinking, fine. But don't you come back home and throw up all over my bathroom. Look at it! It's all over the walls as well!"

"Well, you can't blame me for that."

"I can't wait to hear why not."

"If you use a paint called 'Atomic Vomit,' you're just asking for trouble, aren't you?"



Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Naming Game Part Two

Last week, I spent some time talking  complaining about how difficult I find it to name things - characters, places, chapters, whole books. This week, I've been thinking about series of books and how often the individual titles follow some kind of pattern or whatever. Some examples, you say? Of course:

- The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare - City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels, City of Lost Souls.

- The Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris - Dead Until Dark, Living Dead in Dallas, Club Dead, Dead to the World, Dead as a Doornail.

- The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the...

- Bumped and Thumped by Megan McCafferty

- Matched, Crossed and Reached by Ally Condie

- Uglies, Pretties, Specials and Extras by Scott Westerfeld

And these are just some of the ones I can see from my desk. In fact, in my whole room, I can only see two series where the titles aren't connected to one another: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (followed by Catching Fire and Mockingjay) and Patrick Ness' Chaos Walking trilogy, comprised of The Knife of Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men. I'm counting the Anita Blake series as related because they started off that way, I figure Laurell K. Hamilton just ran out.

And that's exactly the problem. If you're planning a trilogy or a sequel, naming that first book becomes that much harder if you're having to consider future titles as well. The book I'm about to start writing is tentatively titled One Previous Owner, and actually Two Previous Owners would be fine for the sequel. The problem is with book number three, where the pattern won't work. I'd say it doesn't matter, that the three can all have completely different titles and it won't make a speck of difference, but the data suggests otherwise. Is there a reason publishers prefer related titles? I suppose it makes branding easier.

But what about readers? Do you prefer series where the titles all work together? Have you ever even thought about it before?



Tuesday, 23 October 2012

BZRK

BZRK by Michael Grant

This book should have been called BZZZZZZZZZRK. Because it was so boring. See what I did there?

Sorry, couldn't resist. I'll try to be professional/grown-up about it from this point on.

This wasn't the book I thought it was going to be. I first picked it up in a bookshop and read: A global war is raging. You can't see it. It's happening inside you and it changes everything. There was also, I believe, a reference to something being in the meat. I was thinking parasites in the meat that we eat, something really creepy and sinister and possibly related to BSE. That's mad cow disease, right?

It turns out I was defeated by my own principals. A little while ago, I joked that I would stop reading blurbs that weren't on the back cover of the book where they're damn well supposed to be. I believe I came across the hardback edition of this book, which had the lines above on the back cover, and the full description inside. Presumably, suitably hooked by the lines on the back, I didn't read the actual blurb. I will not be making this mistake again.

This book is pure sci-fi, but it's missing something. And it's the something that makes books interesting. I didn't care about any of the characters, I didn't connect to them or the story. Interestingly, most of the characters have designated code names so that they don't become too attached to each other (or something like that) and I think that had the same effect on me. I just didn't care. The only characters who had proper names (they had a nickname as well, but it's different) were the villain/s. And they/he was so exaggerated and ridiculous that it just wasn't threatening at all. And the technology...I really don't know what to say, none of it worked for me.

I struggled with the terminology. I've finished the entire thing and still couldn't tell you the difference between nanos, biots and macros. Or maybe it was just macro, never plural. Who knows? Honestly, I don't know whether this was because they were actually confusing or poorly explained or I didn't care enough to properly figure out what was happening. 

Some time last year, I read Gone, the first instalment of Michael Grant's popular series. I didn't like that either, I had very similar problems with it. I found it very boring, an interesting concept but the world was populated by so many dull characters that I just couldn't get into it. I think this goes to show that maybe I just can't get along with Grant's style and I ought to save myself some time and stop trying. If you liked Gone, you might well like this. I didn't, but there you go.



Monday, 22 October 2012

Shameless Self-Promotion

Happy Monday!

No meme today because the 30 Days one is finished, and I haven't found a new one to do yet. I like the idea of a Monday Meme.

So instead, I thought I'd share a little bit of news that I forgot to mention a few weeks ago. One of my short stories has been published in an e-book anthology, called Visions: Contemplations of Life in 2050 and Beyond. It contains 25 short stories looking ahead to the near future, and how the world and our lives might have changed. I haven't had a chance to read all of the other 24 stories, but the ones I have read have all been really interesting, so I think it is well worth the £1.91 that Amazon are selling it for.

(click on the picture to go to the book's Amazon.co.uk page)

At the moment, it's only available as an e-book - we're hoping to eventually do a print run, but that's all a bit up in the air at the moment. For those of you who, like me, don't have a Kindle or anything like that, you can download free software from Amazon so that you can read it on your PC or Mac or a range of other devices. You can find the details of that here.



Saturday, 20 October 2012

HATE LIST

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Here's the blurb of the book:
Five months ago, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Val was as shocked as everyone else - but, despite her own serious injury, she's implicated in the crime because of the list. The list she and Nick made of people they hated. The list Nick used to pick his targets. 

Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, her former friend, and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place, and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.

What drew me to this book, other than the intriguing title, was the fact that it focuses on the aftermath of the shooting, not the shooting itself or the time leading up to it. Sure, I expected to see the shooting and be told a fair bit about why Nick did it, or the reasons people think he did it (since he killed himself, too, and couldn't explain to anyone), but I figured the vast majority of the book would focus on Valerie's return to school. That was the part I was interested in. Unfortunately, it's the smallest segment of the book. I don't have the numbers to back this up, but I think the shooting and the immediate aftermath, as opposed to the "five months later" part, are at least half the novel. It's not what I expected.

When reading this book, it occurred to me that it falls somewhere between We Need to Talk About Kevin and the movie Mean Girls (although that comparison may be down to the Hate List itself, which struck me as being like the Burn Book). It's an odd place for it to sit, not sure if it wants to be light teen-lit or something with more depth. Honestly, it felt a little shallow to me. Maybe that's just because I was expecting a different novel to the one I got, I wanted to see the range of emotions and reactions to Valerie coming back to school, but people either ignored her or were a bit cold. Given that half the reason Nick opened fire on the students is that they ignored him, (the other half is that they picked on him a bit), this didn't seem the "navigating [of] rocky relationships" that was advertised.

I also think the pacing was off. Some parts were rushed through, others dragged out for too long, some thrown in haphazardly for no apparent reason. I couldn't put my finger on exactly what the problem was, but the balance wasn't right. Maybe I'm just being hard on it because it wasn't the book I expected it to be, wasn't the book I wanted to read. It's not a terrible book, but I doubt I'll be recommending it to anyone.



Friday, 19 October 2012

Flashfiction Friday #08: Lockout

I stopped, gripping the damp brick wall to steady myself, and hitched in another shallow breath. It felt like I was breathing through water. Kinda sounded like it, too. I took another breath, then a third. My head was starting to spin faster, worse than when I was running. I needed...I needed to sit. To lie down. To rest. I needed to...

I flinched at the sounds coming from the darkness behind me. Howling. Growling. Slobbering. I needed to run. If I was close enough to hear the dogs drooling, I'd rested too long. I needed to move again. I glanced up at the sky as I set off. I didn't have a watch, I didn't know how long until morning, but the sky was black. Clear enough to see the stars, but there was no sign of the moon. Was that good or bad? I'd only seen the night sky a few times in my life. I'd never seen it when I was alone.

My feet pounded against the packed earth, skittered over loose stones and nearly sent me sprawling when my toe snagged against the start of the tarmac. There was a road beneath me. That meant I was back at the front of the building. I forced myself to keep running. Pounding on the gates would do me no good. Trying to climb over the fence would be worse. It was my own fault for getting back late. The doors would be locked until morning. I just had to live until then.

My throat was tight and dry, my heart rattling against my ribs. I could almost hear it. I stopped again, leaning over until my shoulders almost reached my knees, trying to shift the build up of acid in my stomach and take in as much oxygen as I could. I wasn't going to make it. I knew the rules and I hadn't met them. I had to deal with the consequences.

Another howl, slicing through the air like lightning. I jumped. It was so close. It was too close. I started running again. If only there were trees to climb. I could hide in the leaves and wait out the night. But there were no trees. Nothing but scorched earth and the factory and the creatures that stalked through the night. All I could do was run. I wasn't going to make it.



Thursday, 18 October 2012

THIRTEEN REASONS WHY

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Clay comes home from school one day to find a package waiting on his doorstep. He opens it to find seven tapes, with thirteen sides numbered with blue nail polish. He puts the first one in and hears the voice of Hannah Baker. The girl he's had a crush on for years. The girl who killed herself a few weeks ago. She wants to explain her suicide to the people she blames for it. Clay doesn't know what he did, but he knows he'll soon find out.

I started reading this novel knowing that it had been greatly hyped and that I was supposed to love it. I didn't. Knowing I was supposed to might be the reason I didn't, but that's a debate for another day. Honestly, I have very mixed feelings about this novel.

During my own teenage years, I thought about suicide a lot. Not actually killing myself, more suicide as a concept. I remember someone saying that suicide was the most selfish thing a person could do, and that stuck with me. I didn't necessarily agree with it, but it stuck with me. One of the main things I considered, and still think about sometimes today, is the leaving of a suicide note. My feeling is that if you've got someone to leave a note for, why the hell are you killing yourself? Sure, there are obvious exceptions (someone who doesn't want to go to prison for something terrible that they did but can't live with the guilt), but generally speaking, I don't believe that real people leave suicide notes. And if they do, I think they do it because fiction has led them to believe that it's the done thing. Hannah's tapes are one long suicide note, and so of course, this was immediately an issue for me.

Hannah herself was another problem for me. I wanted to like her. I wanted to feel sorry for her and care that she was dead. Sure, she was picked on a bit, but everyone gets picked on a bit. Honestly, of the thirteen reasons, I think only two or three of them are what I consider to be valid reasons for suicide. The rest of the time, Hannah seemed to be overreacting, or making these things happen to herself. I understand that there are self-destructive people in the world and maybe Hannah was one of them, but I couldn't sympathise with her, and I needed to be able to do that. I also thought that much of what she said on the tapes was hurtful. Yes, she was hurt herself, but I think it was cruel of her to send the tapes. Some of the recipients deserved them, some of them didn't. That bothered me.

In terms of the writing, rather than the story, I had a bit of a problem with the varying POVs. Basically, it's told in the first person from Clay's point of view as he's listening to the tapes, which is Hannah's point of view in first person. Rather than alternating chapters or sections, like most multiple POV novels do, everything's on the same page altogether. Several times I had to back-track to clarify something because I got confused. It might be me not paying enough attention, but it was difficult for me to follow on a few occasions.

I'd probably recommend this book to people, but I'd give them a warning, too - set aside a few hours to read this in one setting. Believe me, you'll want to. It needs to be read all at once, I think. It just doesn't lend itself to being spread out over a few days. Also, I can say from personal experience, it's not a good book to start reading at around midnight, thinking you'll just read a couple of chapters and then go to sleep. Trust me, I was still up at 3am.



Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The Naming Game

For as long as I've been writing, names have been an issue for me. Character names vary, they either come to me in and instant or go through months of changes before they feel right for the character in question. Naming anything else is always the same, though - it's difficult. Really difficult.

Towns, countries, cities, companies, bands, TV shows, movies, drugs (medical or otherwise)...I struggle to come up with anything at all, then when I do have an idea it just feels wrong or stupid or too similar to something in another book or the real world. I get frustrated and plug in Xs wherever a name is missing just so I can carry on writing the story, always intending to go back and put something in, and then ending up going through the same process all over again.

I've tried using name generators, looking at lists of real places and muddling up the letters or putting different parts together. I have books full of first names and surnames that I scour through on a regular basis. And even after all this time spent writing, I still struggle every single time. I haven't found a way that works for me to name things within my story.

And don't get me started on titles for the finished book or chapter titles. I gave up on the latter a long time ago, but it turns out books do need names. There's no escaping it. I'm hoping one day it'll come to me a bit easier, but it's not looking good.



Tuesday, 16 October 2012

MONSTERS OF MEN

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
I am finally done with the Chaos Walking trilogy. Okay, so I finished it some time last week, but I've been too busy to do a review up until now. In fact, I wasn't even going to do one, given my not-exactly-strict policy about reviewing sequels, but I really felt I had something to say about this book.

The back cover of this book describes it as a "heart-stopping novel about power, survival and the devastating realities of war." And it is indeed heart-stopping, I'm pretty sure I died of boredom at least a couple of times and had to will myself to live.

Okay, so maybe that's an exaggeration, but it was so dull. Really. I found myself skimming through it more often than actually reading, and started to skip over the 1017 parts altogether (that's not a spoiler, it's made blindingly obvious by the back cover. When I got to the dramatic reveal, I was confused because I was sure we already knew).

I have this theory about books or films involving war. I don't like them. They bore me. The mere mention of the word "war" is enough to make me put down a book, walk away and never look back. Unfortunately, this was the last in the series and I'd bought all three together, so I felt obliged to trawl through it. It was a real effort, but I made it through. Unfortunately, I have nothing good to say about it. I was left unimpressed by the second book, The Ask and the Answer, and after reading this, I am sincerely re-thinking my policy of not leaving books unfinished. It's a week of my life I'll never get back.



Monday, 15 October 2012

30 Days of Books Meme (Part 10)


Day 28 – Favourite title(s)
Favourite book title? That's easy.

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

Need I say more?

This is actually a very good book. It's so funny. I sat up late reading it, giggling through a good three-quarters of it (the end is less funny, more serious, but that worked so it's fine). This is the only Terry Pratchett book I've ever read, but regular readers will know that I'm a big Neil Gaiman fan. It's just little things like a footnote to explain to "Americans and other aliens" the wonder that is Milton Keynes.


Day 29 – A book everyone hated but you liked
I admit that Twilight is probably too popular a book to be called a book that everyone hated, but I've decided to interpret "a book everyone hated but you liked" to mean "a book that you're ashamed to admit to most people that you like." For me, that book is Twilight. This book has so much hate and anger aimed towards it, but you know what? I kind of like it.

The writing's awful, Bella's a terrible heroine, and it's totally cheesy, but I like it. The story's solid - it takes a while to get into it, but when it starts to pick up, it's kind of engrossing. In fact, my main problem with it is the way people claim that Stephenie Meyer uses it as a way to promote her Mormon values, mainly by the fact that Bella and Edward don't have sex until after they're married. I don't see this as some attempt at religious brainwashing, the fact of the matter is that this makes sense within the context of the story (I'm guessing its harsher critics didn't reach book three, Eclipse, where sex first became an issue).

Oh, and if you've only seen the films, please don't judge it based on that. Even the most die-hard fans would admit that they're pretty terrible. Some of the funniest films I've ever seen, but I don't think that was intended on the part of the film-makers.


Day 30 – Your favourite book of all time
This is a little anti-climactic, I guess, but who the hell actually has a favourite book? I mean, really, who? I love lots of books, I have many favourites across different genres, with different styles and different tones. I can't bear the thought of reading some great books at certain times. Sometimes all I want is a quick, trashy read. Other times I want to dive headfirst into another world and get lost there. I really think that if you have a single favourite book, you clearly aren't reading enough.



Saturday, 13 October 2012

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

Okay, first of all, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a stupidly long title and awkward to type. From hereon, it will be known as Perks. Of course, now that I've said this, I won't refer to it by its title once.

I haven't read the book. In fact, I don't think I'd even heard of the book until I started hearing about the film, but I do intend to read it now. I think the film was very good. I'd be interested to hear what people who've read the book think of it, but I really did think it was a good film.

It's not a cheerful film, though, which I feel someone should have warned me about. I'm fine with seeing grim films, generally I can't stand bright and cheerful films. Seeing the trailer, I thought it would be a film about slightly unusual, maybe slightly damaged, teenagers, but overall it would be a positive film. You know, one of those films where the teenagers are deep and have angst, but everything turns out all right in the end. It's not quite like that. In fact, it's essentially two hours of unrelenting misery with a couple of funny bits thrown in. Although we did seem to be the only people in the cinema who were laughing. To be fair, though, there were less than ten other people there and maybe none of them got the funny parts.

Even without having read the book, I feel Emma Watson was woefully miscast and it's a shame that the first thing she's really done post-Potter is something that makes her look such a bad actress. That sounds mean, I know, but I wasn't watching the character of Sam, I was watching Emma Watson talking in a weird voice. Logan Lerman was good, eventually. I've only seen him in the Percy Jackson film before, which didn't seem to require any acting of him, and though the same could be said for a lot of this film (he looks slightly baffled, slightly sad or slightly happy during the first three-quarters of the film), he really comes into his own towards the end and delivers a quite impressive performance. Every single person in the film, however, is totally eclipsed by Ezra Miller. He was magnificent. In fact, now I'm certain I'll find the time to sit down and watch the film adaptation of We Need to Talk about Kevin. 

If you're after something bright and fun and light-hearted, this film is not for you, but otherwise it's very good and well worth seeing.

I knew I wasn't going to use the title again.



Thursday, 11 October 2012

BRAVE

Last week was a good week for films - I saw Killing Them Softly, Looper and then Brave, the latest from Pixar, a film company that I admire very much.

It was okay. It wasn't their best (if I had to pick, I'd say The Incredibles is my personal favourite, but Monsters Inc. comes a close second), but it was a lot better than their worst, by which I think we all know I mean Cars. I think a large part of the issue with this film is that, in a way, it's actually quite realistic. When you consider that Pixar's back-catalogue involves toys that come to life, talking fish, monsters that collect children's screams and superheroes in hiding, a Celtic princess sounds kind of boring. Yes, there is a magical element, with complications that anyone over the age of ten will see coming from a mile off, but overall it's oddly normal considering what we've come to expect from a Pixar movie. It'll sound strange, and yes, I am aware that this is a Disney-Pixar film, but it feels more Disney than Pixar.

The main character, Princess Merida, is faced with the prospect of three suitors competing for the right to marry her and unite the kingdom. Except Merida has absolutely no intention of getting married, and her mother insists upon it. The film put me in mind of Freaky Friday, even though it doesn't involve body-swapping, because it places a lot of emphasis on seeing the world from someone else's point of view.

It's not a bad film, it just wasn't what I've come to expect from Pixar. Fair play to them for trying to branch out and do something different, but from a studio whose films burst with originality, it feels like this film has been done before. The animation is impressive, but again, we've come to expect that now. If I'm being completely honest, I think the short that played before the main film, I believe it was called La Luna, was a lot more impressive than Brave, which I think is a real shame.



Wednesday, 10 October 2012

AMERICAN IDIOT

Last night I saw the musical American Idiot, based on the songs of Green Day, at the Mayflower in Southampton. And it was brilliant. Really, really good. I mean, sure, it could have done with a little more story in between the songs, but overall it was great.

Seriously, cheesy boy-band dance moves set to Green Day? Awesome.

The cast were all really good (I thought it was the same cast from the Broadway run, but after reading the rubbish programme (not worth the £10 they're charging for it) I'm not entirely sure) but St. Jimmy stole the show.

The show is touring the UK for the next couple of months (I'm going to the closing night in Hammersmith on the 16th December) and you should definitely try and see it if you can. Obviously, you'll probably enjoy it more if you're a Green Day fan, but I'm not sure that's necessary to enjoy the show.



Tuesday, 9 October 2012

LOOPER

Last week, I saw Looper, a time-travel drama that's been billed as this decade's The Matrix. (I don't remember where I saw it being called that but it stuck with me, if you happen to know where I got it, let me know). I would have reviewed it sooner, but I needed some time to think it over.

It's a good film. Mostly. Overall.

I have this theory about time-travel which involves paradoxes (essentially, if you go back in time to change something, then it never happens which means you would never go back to change it, which means it would happen, which means you would go back and change it, which means you wouldn't go back, which means it would still happen...and on and on forever until my head starts to really hurt.) My theory is that is impossible to make a good time-travel film which is free of paradoxes. This film is no exception, so if like me you hate paradoxes and they really bother you...well, I still think you should see this film, but just go in and try to switch off your brain and just enjoy it. I think it's a good film but because time-travel is a flawed theory, all films that feature it will be flawed. I want to see it a second time, actually, because I think I would be able to enjoy it a lot more a second time around because my brain wouldn't be nitpicking and asking questions.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt was impressive, although I don't understand why they digitally altered his face and made him look like a bad robot. Emily Blunt was also very good. There was some debate within our little party concerning her American accent, and while I can't speak to the quality of it, I don't think she sounded like herself. Bruce Willis has hair in some scenes. If you've seen Surrogates, you'll know it's not a good look on him. You have been warned.

Overall, it's hard to say what I really thought of this film. It's been brought to my attention that I am overly critical about...well, about everything, but time-travel is a particular issue for me. I'm sure I've seen films where they say something along the lines of "But isn't that a paradox?" . . . "In theory, yes, but in the real world, time-travel doesn't actually work that way," which would be fine. Because time-travel doesn't exist, we don't know how it works. But you can't just put in a bloody great paradox and then pretend like you can't even see it. It is a good film though, and I did enjoy it for the most part. I just had so many questions about the specifics of the time-travel technology that I found it hard to just sink into the film and enjoy it properly.



Monday, 8 October 2012

30 Days of Books Meme (Part 9)


Day 25 – A character who you can relate to the most
I have a complicated relationship with this book. I love it, but at the same time, it actually really scares me and I don't think it's supposed to.

Basically, it's about two sisters - pretty, popular perfect older sister Sarah, and troubled Megan. I am troubled Megan, although without the suicide attempt.

The story's told from Megan's point of view in its entirety, and you're completely on her side. Sarah is a bitch who goes out of her way to make Megan feel bad about herself, who gets all the attention from her parents and has the perfect life. You understand Megan, you want to hug her and make her life better, you hate Sarah. And then it flips. And suddenly, the story starts over again, this time from Sarah's point of view. And you start to realise, maybe Megan's crazy after all. Maybe she's a horribly sneaky, manipulative bitch who actually ruins the lives of her entire family. This book scares me because, as I said before, I'm essentially Megan, and my sister is Sarah. (Apologies if she reads this and sees how many times I've used the word "bitch"). We don't have the best relationship, but reading this book scares me because it makes me wonder if I'm actually seeing/feeling things as they really are, or if my perception is as warped as Megan's.

It's a beautifully written book, it draws you in and uses the idea of the unreliable narrator to excellent effect. It upsets and scares me every time I read it, and yet, I read it a lot. I can't seem to help it. It's an absolutely stunning book.


Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something
Remember how last week I picked The Hunger Games for one of the categories, but in the time between planning my choices for this meme and me actually getting around to writing it, it became inapplicable? Yeah, similar story with this one. I actually can't remember why I picked The Wish List for this category. I have no idea what opinion of mine it might have changed. I also can't think of a book which has actually changed my opinion on something. Sure, a lot of the books I read make me think, but I'm not sure of a time when my opinion was changed by reading something fictional. This book is all about Heaven and Hell, ghosts and angels and demons. I'm an atheist. I was before I read it and I still am, so that's not it. I genuinely have no idea what I was thinking when I chose this book. Sorry.


Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending
Oh. My. God. I cannot even begin to explain to you how amazing this book is. It's my favourite Chuck Palahniuk book. And the ending. Think the ending of Fight Club is a big twist? It's got nothing on Invisible Monsters. 

Seriously, I can't even tell you a thing about this book without spoiling it. It's one of those books that really has to be experienced, you can't appreciate it by just being told about it. They're apparently making a film out of it, but I really can't see how it would work on screen. It's too...can't say! But it would be really interesting to see. And although the book is excellent, you should definitely skip the last chapter, unless you're stupid. I am fairly sure the publishers made him add in another chapter to explain the twist, in case you couldn't figure it out. Do not read the last chapter, you have been warned.



Friday, 5 October 2012

THE ASK AND THE ANSWER

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

I won't do a full review of this book because I have this theory about reviewing sequels. If you liked the first book, you'll probably read this one anyway, so what's the point in me reviewing it for you? If you didn't like or haven't read the first book, you won't care about the second, so what's the point in me reviewing it for you?

But while reading this book, I noticed something interesting and I thought I'd share it with you.

I said in my review of the first book in the trilogy that I didn't like either of the main characters, Todd and Viola. Now I'm starting to think that not only do I not like them, they aren't all that interesting.

To me, the most interesting character in the trilogy is Davy, son of the tyrannical mayor. He fascinates me. In fact, he reminds me of Draco Malfoy, in that you know that deep-down, he isn't really bad, he's just been corrupted by the bad people around him. Davy doesn't like the things his father makes him do, but forgets that when his father praises him for doing them well.

I keep seeing a quote which says your readers should want to read the stories of your minor characters as well as the major ones (okay, maybe I'm paraphrasing), and in the case of the Chaos Walking trilogy, I'd much rather be reading Davy's story than Todd and Viola's.



Flashfiction Friday #07: Silver Knife

The silver knife lies on the table between us, the cold, sharp elephant in the room. It's clean - shining, even - but there is a tension in the room and it's clear it won't stay that way for long. The moonlight breaks through the window in dashes, darting between the leaves that obscure the window, lighting his face or mine or casting strange shapes across the walls.

The room is dark. I can barely see him, but I know how his face looks. It's calm. Calmer than mine must be, calmer than I feel. His breathing is even, steady. Calm. A hint of a smile, maybe, daring me to do it. Daring me to snatch the knife and use it before he can use it against me. His dark eyes like big, black marbles. They're glassy most of the time, like he isn't really there, like he isn't really seeing me. Honestly, it scares me a little when he does see me.

He moves and I flinch, body tensed and ready to reach for the knife. He's brushing his hair back. A casual movement, one that happens every day. But I react. He smiles. I can see the light bouncing off the knife and catching on his teeth. He knows I'm rattled. He's enjoying this. He should, he engineered it. He brought us here. He made it so we would never end up anywhere else.

I shiver. Only he knows how this is going to end. It's a game and he's several moves ahead of me. All I can do now is wait. I stare at the knife, ready to grab it, and I wait.



Tuesday, 2 October 2012

THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Todd Hewitt lives in a world without women, where everyone's thoughts are projected into the world as a deafening Noise. When he finds a silent spot in the swamp, he is forced to run from everything he's ever known and discover that everything he's been told since he was born is tainted with untruths.

Hm. This book is one of those books that's really raved about, I've never heard from anyone who didn't love it. Not just like it, love it. Now, usually, that's a sign that I'll hate a book. Some people suggest I do that just to be contrary, they could be right. But I liked this book. I didn't love it, and there were things about it that I really didn't like, but it's a good book.

My main issue with it is that I didn't like either of the main characters, Todd and Viola. At one point, I started to actively dislike them both, but by the end I was back to simply not particularly liking them. Now, normally, that's not necessarily a problem for me. I tend to dislike the heroes and like the villains in a story, but this time it was a problem. In this book, we are completely in Todd's head, we see things only as he sees them and are constantly listening to his voice. There's no reprieve, and so it's quite a lot to take. And the voice itself irritated me quite a bit, mainly because I'm a real stickler for spelling and punctuation and Todd is essentially illiterate.

As books go, it's something a bit different. It's quite clearly a dystopian novel, although where we are and what's going on and how we got there aren't especially clear, and I read a lot of those but this was something really quite different. Firstly, it's from a male perspective, which seems to be getting rare these days. And then there's the fact that it appears to be a dystopian that features aliens. And finally, the structure is a relatively straightforward quest. In my opinion, the quest wasn't quite enough to sustain a novel of its length, it could have done with a strong subplot, maybe, but overall it's a good book. It's certainly interesting and if other reviews are to go by, it's entertaining. And hey, I'm more than two-thirds finished with the second in the trilogy, so it can't have been all bad, can it?



Monday, 1 October 2012

30 Days of Books Meme (Part 8)


Day 22 – Favourite book you own 
The Wish List by Eoin Colfer is an absolutely magical book. I've always been a huge fan of his Artemis Fowl series, but I was sceptical when I acquired this book, mainly because the cover is a bit rubbish. It's actually come out quite clear in the photo (which is a shame because you can see how battered the cover is), but it's hard to read the words and it's just a bit naff looking.

The inside, however, is spectacular. Basically, Meg dies in the first chapter, and gets stuck in limbo, essentially. Her aura is neither blue nor red, she is neither good enough to enter Heaven nor bad enough to go to Hell either. So she goes back home as a ghost to make amends to the old man who was tangled up in the events of her death (she was robbing him at the time). He makes a list of four wishes he wants her to help him achieve, and off they go, with Heaven and Hell competing for her soul and doing all they can to help her complete the list or make her fail with disastrous consequences.

I've probably read this book more than a dozen times, possibly more times than I've read Harry Potter. I know there's no such thing as a perfect book, but this comes damn close to it. I couldn't even tell you what it is I love so much about it, but there's just something special about it. Even so, to this day, I don't know another person outside of my immediate family who has actually heard of it, much less read it.


Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t
Okay, confession time. You might have noticed that I started doing this Meme, oh, so many months ago. I worked out which book I would pick for each category and took photos of them ready to post. At the time, I had not read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - I was waiting to see the film first, but then it was assigned as a book I had to read for my degree and so I actually wound up reading it first. And I've posted a fairly lengthy review of it on this blog.

The reason I haven't just picked another book to talk about is that I can't think of one to pick. I was going to say Anna Karenina, but that's been sitting on my shelf for about two years now, so maybe I don't really want to read it. The thing is, I read a lot, and so there are very few books I've wanted to read for a long time and haven't. Off the top of my head, I can't think of a single one, though I'm sure there must be some.


Day 24 – A book that you wish more people would’ve read
I didn't really like the book of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I've seen various TV and film adaptations of it, (Van Helsing with Hugh Jackman being the best, obviously) and was lucky enough to see the recent stage production with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller.

But the book...the book is kind of dull, to be honest. I didn't like the structure or the way it was told, I didn't like the voice, and all the science-y stuff went right over my head, as did a lot of the spiritual and philosophical stuff. So you might think it's an odd pick for the book I wish more people would've read, but there's a very simply explanation, really. It drives me mad when people refer to the monster as Frankenstein. His name is Adam. Frankenstein is Doctor Frankenstein. The monster is Frankenstein's monster who also answers to Adam. It may seem silly, but this is something that really, really bugs me.