Friday, 21 June 2013

THE SHINING GIRLS

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

This book was sold to me as a thriller about a man who uses a time-travelling house to stalk and kill special 'shining' girls across the decades.

In actual fact, this is not a thrilling story about a man who uses a time-travelling house to hunt and kill girls across fifty years. This is a series of graphic descriptions of brutal murders alongside very long and very dull character descriptions, with some bullshit about a time-travelling house thrown in to distract the reader from the fact that there is no story here. Because there isn't. There isn't any characterisation either. Actually, no, that's not true. There's a lot, just of the wrong characters. The girls that Harper kills are over-developed. Harper, Kirby and Dan, the main characters that survive until the final chapters, have nothing going on at all. I found this book intolerable and I will happily never think about it again.



Thursday, 20 June 2013

SIEGE AND STORM

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Alina, the Darkling and Mal are all back in this sequel to the fantastic Shadow and Bone, and many are saying that this book is in fact better than the first instalment. I'm not sure I agree with that, because the Darkling is, for the most part, absent here. In fact, Bardugo has employed the same little trick that Stephenie Meyer used to keep Edward fans happy when he was absent for the majority of New Moon. Now, I could criticise this, but honestly, I didn't notice it until after I'd finished reading. I missed the Darkling, sure, he's my favourite character in this series - I want my own, I really do - but I didn't spot that Bardugo was doing the same thing as Meyer. That might have impacted my enjoyment a little, but it didn't. I thought this book was fantastic. I want the final one now, right now, but at the same time, I don't really want this to end. I haven't loved a series this much since Harry Potter, and there really is no higher praise that I can give.



Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Hot Villains - Good or Bad?

(As the title suggests, this blog entry will probably be extremely shallow. You have been warned and I don't want to hear a word about how shallow I am. I am mostly okay with it)

So, Jonathan Rhys Meyers is playing the primary villain in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. I have never found him particularly attractive, but in the posters and even the trailer, he looks pretty hot. Here is a still from the film for you to assess:

Ignore the scary eyes, I'm sure that's been done deliberately to let you know that he is The Villain
I am now conflicted. See, my first instinct was that he can't be attractive because he's the villain, and how am I supposed to hate him if he's so attractive? (Setting aside the fact that I rarely hate the villain because he or she is usually the most interesting character) And Valentine is a BAD guy. So it's weird that they've made him hot, especially since this is a film for teenagers. Then I thought about the fact that they'd probably cast him for any mothers taking their teens to see the film and got depressed because that made me feel really old.

Then I decided it was a good thing that they'd made him attractive, because it showed that even pretty people can do bad things. I don't think this is something we see very often - the funny looking guy, the one that looks like a serial killer, usually ends up being the bad guy. (If I was a better blogger, I'd have examples of this here). I then remembered an article I read about people with scars or facial disfigurements (which you can find here) and was further convinced that Jonathan Rhys Meyers being attractive was a good thing.

Then it occurred to me that of course he is attractive, since he's been cast in a big Hollywood movie. Most people in big Hollywood movies are considered attractive to some extent - even if some people disagree with that assessment - and so maybe it's a bad thing that he was cast. Maybe we should be clamouring for unattractive/less attractive actors to be cast in primary roles, maybe we should insist on judging on acting ability alone.

Then I decided that I really didn't know what I thought (other than JRM is hot and I am depressed that I might find the teenage MC's father more attractive than her boyfriend) and would share that non-knowledge with you. If you've gotten this far, thank you for reading my long and ridiculous blog post. I'd love to hear what you think about the matter, which is obviously of grave importance in the grand scheme of things.



Thursday, 13 June 2013

Books and Their Film Adaptations

This is a subject I could talk about for hours - why are the books always better? Are the books always better? Should you read the book before you see the film?

That last one is the one I want to take a minute to talk about today. I've been talking to a friend recently about how she needs to hurry up and read some of the books I've been trying to force on her in the last year because the films are coming out soon. Because she always reads the book first. Which is fine, I don't judge her for that, but people often judge me when I say I like to see the film first. It's not always the case, but often I do. Sometimes I'll hear about a film and be interested, and become even more interested in the book, but usually I'll wait and see the film first. I've always said this is because the book is always better - if you read the book first, you won't enjoy the film. If you see the film first, you'll enjoy that and then enjoy the book even more. Put like that, it makes no sense whatsoever to see the film first. You'd be better off reading the book and not even bothering with the film.

Then today I saw this quote, which I think just cements what I'm trying to say:

The next two years will be filled with potential blockbusters based on YA novels. By polishing off the books now, you'll be able to sit calmly in the theater next to your gasping friends with the satisfaction of totally knowing that plot twist was going to happen.*

In that scenario, your friends are enjoying the film a lot more than you are. You're probably sitting there, feeling all smug about the fact that you knew what was coming, and then reeling the next moment when you realise that the filmmakers have skipped over your favourite part of the book. Because the films have to cut things out, there simply isn't enough time to put everything in. And that's irritating, but only if you've read the book. Only if you know what's missing. Otherwise, you'll just sit back and enjoy the film and, when it's done, you'll decide to buy the book because you enjoyed the film so much. And guess what. You'll probably enjoy the book even more.

What about you? Do you insist on reading the book first or would you rather see the film beforehand?



* Quote from this article at mashable.com

Thursday, 6 June 2013

CHANTRESS

Chantress by Amy Butler Greenfield

“Sing, and the darkness will find you.” This warning has haunted fifteen-year-old Lucy ever since she was eight and shipwrecked on a lonely island. Lucy’s guardian, Norrie, has lots of rules, but the most important is that Lucy must never sing. Not ever. Now it is 1667, Lucy is fifteen, and on All Hallows’ Eve, Lucy hears a tantalizing melody on the wind. She can’t help but sing - and she is swept into darkness.

The cover is by far the best thing about this book. Now, I know what you're thinking - that cover is stunning, of course the cover is the best thing about it, but that doesn't necessarily mean that what's inside the book is bad. So, maybe what I should have said is that the cover is the only thing I liked about this book. At all. 

In the interest of being totally up-front and honest, I started this book immediately after reading Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone, which I loved. Really loved. So it's possible that this book suffered from the inevitable comparison, but I don't think that's all it was. I just don't think this book was that good. I didn't enjoy it, I found it boring and I really didn't care about any of the characters. I finished it about a week ago, and I would be hard pushed to name more than three characters right now. But the cover is really pretty.

The other thing I had a problem with was the fantasy setting. I'm not a huge fan of high fantasy, but this didn't seem to fall into that category. It appears to be set in London in 1667, which is absolutely fine. Except it's not, not really. It's set in an alternate London in 1667, a parallel world or something like that, because the great fire of London never happened. They reference it, they make a joke about the fact if there was a huge fire then they could rebuild the city and make it nicer, but that's it. And I can't see the point. First of all, what need was there to set it in an alternate world? Secondly, if you're going to pick a very specific date, why would you choose 1667? Greenfield studied history, she'll know that date is significant. Did she pick it just to make a really lame joke that was forgotten about (by the characters at least) within two sentences? This really, really bothered me.

Also, I hate when people name their characters Lucy. It's a lazy name.

So, yeah, I wasn't a huge fan of this book. I can't think of anyone I'd recommend it to, but I'm sure there are people out there who would enjoy it. Just don't read it after Shadow and Bone, which you are all reading now based on me recommending it last week, yes? This just didn't really capture my interest at any point, and, honestly, I was just a little relieved to reach the end of it. But that cover is brilliant.



Monday, 3 June 2013

SHADOW AND BONE

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka. Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite - the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

This book. I can't really explain how much I enjoyed this book. I love lots of books, but I don't often find new ones that I love. To be honest, nowadays, I find myself thoroughly irritated by a book more often than I actually like it. And this book is high fantasy, a genre that I am generally very sceptical of. Seriously, even a hint of magic and I'm basically put off. I attribute this scepticism to Harry Potter - the perfect wizard book exists, why is anyone else bothering? - but this book is high fantasy and full of magic. And it is glorious.

The word epic gets thrown around a lot, but I think this trilogy - Shadow and Bone is the first instalment and I believe the sequel, Siege and Storm, was released yesterday (my copy is on its way as we speak!!) - is going to be just that. Alina has lived all her life as an orphan, living in a benevolent duke's house with her best friend, Mal. Neither one of them has the talent required to join the Grisha, the mysterious and magical group ruled by the Darkling (more on him later), and so they join the army. Alina is a mapmaker, though she has little talent for that either. In fact, she's spent her whole life feeling like she didn't fit anywhere but with Mal, but even he is starting to drift away from her. Enter the Darkling. I could write several paragraphs about him now, but I feel honour-bound to keep quiet and let you experience his character for yourself. I just have to say that he ranks highly on my list of favourite male characters of all time. It's not a long list, I'm extraordinarily picky about...well, about everything, but that just makes him being on the list more impressive.

Frankly, there isn't a lot more I can say about this book because I don't want to spoil a second of it for anyone. I want you all to go out and get it and devour it for yourselves. I will say that I thought it was a little slow to start, it wasn't until Alina was with the Grisha that I became hooked, and there could have been an awful lot more kissing scenes between Alina and the Darkling, but Leigh Bardugo herself assures me there is more kissing in the sequel, though it now occurs to me that she didn't specify exactly who would be involved in this kissing.

Anyway, before I start to analyse what was really just a short tweet, I have one more thing to say and it's to do with my wariness of high fantasy novels - this book contains a map.


If I was sceptical about it before, the fact that there was a map inside the cover was enough to make me regret having bought the book. Luckily, I turned out to be completely wrong, about as wrong as I could have been. I loved this book. I can't stress it enough. After I finished it, I immediately wanted to open it up and read it all over again. I haven't felt that way about a book in years and it's one of the best feelings I know. So do yourself a favour and buy this book. At once. And while we're at it, order a copy of the sequel, because you're bound to want to get your hands on it the second you finish the first one.




Saturday, 1 June 2013

Warner Brothers Studio Tour


You will never guess where I went the day before yesterday. Unless you follow me on Twitter and saw me getting a wee bit over-excited about it. Seriously, any fan of Harry Potter who is on the fence about going to the studio tour, you need to book it now because it is amazing. I thought it was actually going to turn out to be pretty lame, that I was getting excited for no reason, and I was utterly, utterly wrong. It was brilliant and I can't wait to go back. So, book it, and I don't really have much more to say (except make sure you charge your camera before you go - mine ran out halfway round the first section of the tour and I had to rely on my partner-in-crime to take photographs of everything. I mean, technically her camera is better than mine so it wasn't a terrible thing, but whatever. Also, money for the amazing gift shop. You will probably want to buy everything and it's not exactly cheap). So photos.






























 (All right, so I haven't fully mastered the photo formatting on Blogger yet - seriously, why is it so bad? - but you get the idea. The studio tour was brilliant.)