Thursday, December 27, 2012

'Even as they cast one last glance over their shoulders at the low, hulking building - the antithesis of summers glow - the school had seemed smug and patient knowing the children's leashes were not as long as they thought.' Kealan Patrick Burke

Oh my goodness me, what an awesome story!

Timmy Quinn is enjoying his summer holidays. He and his best friend Pete decide to go down to the local pond to have an adventure. Unfortunately for them, they stumble upon an eerie looking child... a boy who looks a bit like a turtle. He is dipping his feet in the pond, apparently feeding the turtles. This visit to the pond leads to life changing events for Timmy.

This is a straight up ghost story, and a creepy one at that. Congratulations to Mr. Burke, he managed to shake me right up! Burke's writing is just so precise, and to be honest is exactly what I want out of a ghost story. I really enjoyed the prose, Burke is an excellent writer with a brilliant command of language. There were a couple of times during the 'turtle judgement' scene where I felt that Burke slightly lost his way, but he managed to keep up the pace of the narrative and keep it nice and creepy!

When I first started reading it, I really thought I was going to read a coming-of-age story (bildungsroman) in the same vein as 'The Body' by Stephen King, and I guess that in a way, I did, it just wasn't a conventional coming-of-age tale.

In the true style of short stories many details of main characters are missing, and all that is left are the bare skeletons of the story.  The tale is polished, awesome, scary and quite imaginative if I do say so myself. The fact that it was free on Kindle just made it so much better, especially as my last few experiences with free Kindle books have not particularly been good ones.

This novelette is the first of a number of short stories featuring Timmy Quinn (and I believe that there is also a full length novel too), and I am more than happy to get hold of them as soon as possible.

Emma reviewed this tale a long while back, so I recommend you pop over to MabisMab for her take on this ghost story.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Put your hand up if you've seen this movie?
No? Well, you're missing out... big time!

This comes from the fabulous Joe Cornish and produced by the same company as Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead. I love it. I can't help it. I just do. A gem from 2011 as far as I'm concerned.

A council estate in London is suddenly invaded by a bunch of scary aliens - they're as black as black and have scary glow in the dark teeth. It comes down to a bunch of yobs to defend their council estate. It's full of scares, laughs, thrills and aliens.

We've all seen the endless films of aliens attacking America, and Americans defending the world against invasion. The film turned the genre on its head. Instead of super brave American heroes defending the planet, in this movie it is a gang of thieves that stand up to the aliens. This film was truly a breath of fresh air, and I enjoyed it not only because it was set in Britain but that the humour was quintessentially British. It didn't take itself seriously - and that is imperative. But don't get me wrong, it's not a Hollywood blockbuster, but as I said, it is refreshing, enjoyable and well thought out. 

It stars Nick Frost, y'know, that guy from Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, but the rest of the cast features relatively unknown actors, especially the boys in the gang. Apparently these boys were selected from drama schools around London and had to audition a number of times before even getting the role.

For those of you outside of the UK, the boys are using real London slang, so it may be necessary to maybe put on the subtitles if needed.

I also really enjoyed the soundtrack, it was pretty much just a load of electronic noises, over remixed music and it suited the whole feel of the movie (haha, that was a very smart way of describing music!)

So, if you're going to watch it, please let me know what you think, I'd love to know! You'll find the trailer below! I really enjoyed it, and in fact it'll probably be in my top 20 favourite movies. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Cowboys & Aliens (2011) has been a movie that has been on my to-watch list for a while. Everything about it is right up my street - a coupling so bizarre but so brilliant that there was no doubt about it being awesome. I'm very sad to say that I was wrong.

It is 1873 and out of the blue a bunch of gold-grubbing aliens have landed... and are attacking and kidnapping civilians. Cowboys and Natives come together to fight against the aliens - and get their people back. 

The premise is quite simply awesome, the effects weren't too bad, and Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford were great together. The main problem was that the plot line was just so weak! It was so disappointing. They could have done something AMAZING with this movie and it just lost its way.

The length was also a problem, as sometimes, the pace was desperately slow and was more about character development, whilst at other times, it was fast and engaging. 

Cowboys and Aliens also committed one of the cardinal sins of movies, at least in my eyes, by showing us the aliens... in depth. I'm quite OCD about not wanting to see movie monsters/ghosts/aliens etc etc. I'm quite Hitchcock-ish that way; I find things a lot scarier when they're obscured by the film makers. And so, the strange, amphibious aliens were a complete let down and the CGI wasn't mind-blowing enough to really enjoy the aliens.

It also starred the very annoying Olivia Wilde. I'm sorry to say it, but really, the film would have been fine if she hadn't been there. Her acting and the character she played was just so 'blah' and unnecessary. Her back story was so predictable and obvious that it was frustrating. Like I said, she really did not need to be there. 

So overall, this was a disappointment. The very title was enough to have me excited and I was totally let down. 
I recommend it to those who like cowboys... and those who like aliens! But, don't watch it hoping to be blown away. I love quirky movies but this was a waste!

Friday, December 21, 2012

'A fur-clad figure loomed, head an inch shy of the top of the frame. With those broad shoulders and that height, she assumed it was a man, though a cap buried his eyebrows and a scarf swaddled his face. He gripped a rifle in one gloved hand, and the hilt of something - a sword? - poked over his shoulder. Who in tarnation brought a sword to the Klondike?' Flash Gold, Lindsay Buroker

This was another free download from Kindle and I really quite enjoyed it! 

It's steampunked Canada set in the 1890's. Kali, a tough talking and super intelligent inventor is building a steam powered sled for the upcoming dog sled races. Unfortunately, she's also the daughter of a dead alchemist who found out how to make the mythical flash gold. With a huge bounty on her head and all sorts desperate to get hold of the flash gold, a mysterious stranger tries to help her, and Kali has to overcome challenges to try to win the races.

This will be another mixed review I think. I was pleasantly surprised with the novel. The writing was pretty good, the sentence structure tight and the story line propelled at a good pace by the author. As there was not the same type of finish that one expects from mainstream authors, I assume that this book is by an 'indie author'. 

Although I enjoyed the novella, and was definitely surprised, I found the characters quite cliched. I know, that may sound harsh, but it the was the same story just in a different setting... tough talking, I don't trust anybody, super intelligent main female character, being aided by a talk, dark stranger, with a troubled past... until eventually she drops her defences and well, I can just guess what will happen in the sequel. Granted, many people enjoy reading those types of  characters - and I do too! But I would have loved to see more be done with these enigmatic characters. 

The storyline is pretty tight and I have to say Buroker has definitely done a great job in making me want to get a hold of the sequel 'Hunted'. I'll definitely be visiting the world that she's created again to see what happens to Kali and Cedar. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In a Nutshell:
Harry Potter begins the story by almost having his wand taken away by the Ministry of Magic for using magic in front of a muggle. With the Ministry of Magic trying to take control of Hogwarts, and the psychotic Professor Dolores Umbridge being hired as the new defence against the dark arts teacher - Harry Potter has to contend with the ever stronger Voldemorte and the hardest part... puberty!

The Audiobook:
As you guys very well know that Jim Dale is the narrator of the Harry Potter series I'm listening to; and you know what? His Professor Umbridge is eerie. Oh my goodness me, at times I was just finding it all so chilling, especially when listening to it when trying to sleep!

The Story:
This was most certainly the hardest Harry Potter to get in to so far. In fact, I almost gave up because I found it so slow. Harry Potter spends the first 300 pages being whiny, self-indulgent, hormonal and annoying. I would have expected just a tiny bit more maturity (as he's experienced so much of the magical world) towards the changes that come with teenagehood. Maybe I'm not being very understanding, but really? 300 pages of whining!

Anyway, it gets better in the last 300 pages - and Harry Potter snaps out of it and just gets on! 

Of course, Harry faces a major loss in this book - but he manages to try to work through it without winging about it chapter upon chapter!

I really enjoyed the movie adaptation of this book and think they did an excellent job of putting it in to film.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Like the Hunger Games? Then you'll like this!

Whilst trying to decide whether I would be dedicated enough to the Kindle if I bought one, I recently downloaded the Kindle App on to our iPad. I then decided to have a peek for free Kindle books, and subsequently downloaded them.

Deadlocked was one of those books, and Pandora (part 1) was another. You've seen my review of Deadlocked, and here is what I think of Pandora.

Well, Waters certainly knows how to grab the attention of an audience, even skeptical ones like little old me. We're introduced, quite suddenly, to the fainted Hope as she comes around after one of her spells that she's suffered from for most of her life. 

We're quickly introduced to a type of Orwellian, Hunger Games-y type city that spends a few months of every year battling a new plague. The plagues all have obvious names such as 'The Strangling' (any guess what that does?) or 'The Paralysing' (you may find this one tough) or even 'The Bleeding'. 

Hope lost her father to 'The Paralysing' and now her and her best friend Jake are trying to discover the secret to the plagues and whether they are government made... trying to target the suburbs and kill off poor people. After given information through a type of flash-drive, a photograph of Hope as a sixteen year old flashes up, with the name Pandora written across her face... there is no more information, but Hope starts behaving like she knows something and well - she faints before Jake can get any details from her. We are left, puzzled, and curious with Hope waking up in hospital, and Flex fighting for his life after having been pushed down a flight of stairs.

So yes, it has most certainly made me very curious. It's an interesting start and a great and very short read. It kept me interested, and intrigued, although I feel that at times it tried too hard to be mysterious and cryptic, but other than that - it was pretty good.
Hope seems like an interesting individual, whilst Jake, rather than being this stereotypical strong-man type seems to be a weaker character than her. 

I'm a fan of the post-apoc genre, and whether this book is meaning to to, I don't know, but  post-apoc conventions seem to be running through it. Well if I'm honest, other than the lack of televised tournaments that involve teenagers killing each other, Pandora smells quite like The Hunger Games.

The interesting thing about Waters is that from what I've seen and from the research I've done, she's basically writing a TV series in book form. Small books that pick up and stop in dramatic places to keep audiences riveted. Not as heavy as intricate novels, but short clips - I honestly felt like I was watching the first episode of a TV show. The Pandora Chronicles is a forerunner in how books will probably be in near future... mini-digestible stories, published every few months, quite like they used to be back in the olden days (where authors would publish to a magazine or journal and then you put their short stories together and voila, you have a novel!) 

I'll most certainly be going back for the rest of the series methinks. I just have to know what Pandora and her box has to do with a white-haired girl named Hope living in the not-so-distant future (around 2037 I believe). 

Monday, December 10, 2012

So I quite randomly came across this little (58 pages!) story, and decided to download it on to my Kindle app.

As you know, I'm not really a horror reader any more (but I had been a compulsive horror reader as a teenager), but I thought... hay, it's zombies right? I can do this! So, I sat down over a couple of hours and read this apocalyptic book.

It is written in first person from the perspective of Dave, and catches him at work when the zombie apocalypse starts. The rest of the novelette follows Dave as he tries to negotiate through the hysterical city to get back and save his wife and two girls.

It's a simple enough premise, and pretty much the same premise we see in most zombie movies and books. The zombie genre usually has little or nothing to do with zombies in themselves (although the Warm Bodies movie which is being released in Feb 2013 seems to be breaking that convention) but more to do with the survivors who try to continue living in a lifeless world.

So what did I think. Well, if I'm honest I found the first person narrative unbelievable. It was not the pace of the narrative that did it, I would expect the pace to be quick for such a short story, but I found the depth of character lacking and so I could not empathise with Dave. In fact, I found that I preferred Laura and her motivations and character rather that Dave, and she barely featured in the story.

Deadlocked is the first of a series and so I think I will go back to see just what Wise has up his sleeve and whether his character development and depth improve as the writing gets longer. I have a distinct feeling that the rest of his novelettes (it seemed too short to be considered a novella, but I may be wrong as I don't have a word count) will see him start to hone his craft.

I think it was a brave first attempt at delivering the theme to an audience and so the author should be commended; but the writing, in my opinion, tried, desperately, to claw at emotion and it just could not deliver on that front. There were times that I did feel the fear of the characters, but those came few and far between and when I read a story... I want to feel too. 

Interestingly enough, the end of the novelette features an 'Authors Note'. In this note the author tells us what he aspired to create, and why he did certain things. All I will say on this point is that it took away the mystique from the book and its ending. I have always been of the opinion that it is not for the author to tell us what he or she meant to do, but for the reader to decipher what the author did for them; if the author has to tell us what he or she had intended, it insinuates that he or she did not accomplish what they set out to do (as they're having to explain to us afterwards). 

So overall, I'm glad that I had given this book a read, and it does make me curious as to how the rest of the books will pan out, and I will get around to reading the others eventually. 

I'm currently reading World War Z - so it seems that I'm on a zombie kick right now, haha!

Friday, December 7, 2012

In a Nutshell:
Harry Potter is mysteriously entered in to a Tri-Wizard Tournament by an unknown person. He's under-age  terrified and has the whole school suspicious. He is required to pass three tasks competing with students from other wizarding schools to try to win the cup. The only problem is this... there is a traitor at Hogwarts who is determined to deliver Harry Potter to the ever stronger Lord Voldemorte. 

The Audiobook:
Jim Dale is brilliant at commanding all the different voices in this novel. I'm always amazed that he doesn't get mixed up or forget who is supposed to have what voice. What more, this book features new voices such as Madame Maxine, Igor Karkaroff and Viktor Krum, who have international voices! As usual it is the female characters that suffer the most, as Dale just isn't that good at them... but he's a man, with a deep voice... I'll excuse him just this once!

The Story:

I have to say that this one is quite easily my favourite so far. Rowling is completely in her stride and her writing is exemplary in this instalment (of course I've not finished the others yet, but I'll update you later!). I had a sense in this book that Rowling, from the beginning, had a very succinct plan, and that she knew exactly what was going to happen and when (which I haven't always got a sense of in her other books. Although she did seem in control in The Chamber of Secrets).
I was so very impressed with The Goblet of Fire, and funnily enough it was my least favourite movie of the whole series!  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

I'm not usually a sucker for movie-trailers but I've got together a small list of movies that I want to see. Some I'll regret, others I'll love, and so here they are, in all their glory for your viewing and guffawing pleasure!

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Eeek! Peter Jackson's return to the wonderful world of Tolkien has been anticipated all year, and I have been so excited! Bilbo Baggins, a quiet hobbit, is dragged in to an adventure by Gandalf the Grey and a bunch of boisterous dwarves. They go out to finally reclaim treasure that was stolen by Smaug, a scary dragon who does not like to part with his gold.

Struck by Lightning

I am quite honestly intrigued by this one. It has Chris Cofler (from Glee) if there are any fans and a few others (who are less notable) and I have a feeling that this film is going to have a Marmite effect (you either love it or hate it). Cofler's character is struck and killed by lightning and so he narrates to us from the dark pits of his crypt (okay... 'his grave' would have sufficed) about the blackmailing he had to do to get his peers to write for his magazine.

I Give it a Year

This comes out in 2013 and basically chronicles the first year of marriage of a cute couple who are just finding it all so very hard! It's British, it's shameless, blunt and stars some brilliant British comedians that make this worth-while. I generally avoid rom-coms like the plague - but this one has my attention.

The Impossible

Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts are united in The Impossible. They play parents who have taken their children to Thailand in 2004 and are there when the Tsunami struck. The movie tells the story of this real life family and how they survived and impossibly found each other again. It looks as if the audiences will spend most of the time crying, I just hope that the movie does not ignore that 200,000 people lost their lives due to the tragedy, and we are not all just relieved that a privileged white family survived.

Django Unchained

Anyone for a little Quentin Tarantino this Christmas? Yes - yes, I can't wait indeed! It looks like it's going to be inappropriate, bloody, violent, intense and awesome. Django is a slave who is released to become a bounty hunter... chasing and killing white people, at the same time he's trying to find his wife who was sold to somebody else. It's Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio - an interesting combination... I can't wait!

Les Miserables

Yes, exciting times indeed. Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, to name but a few, come together in Les Miserables in what is being anticipated Oscar fodder. See, I told you it's exciting. I love musicals, so this is great for me! It's from the same director who brought you The King's Speech and so, if you loved that, you'll be able to trust Tom Hooper again, I'm sure!

Warm Bodies

I had been terrified that this movie was going to be some sort of crazy Twilight type of thing - but I'm hoping it will definitely be on par with Zombieland (which I enjoyed immensely). The premise is simple. The world is now full of, and run by zombies, there are few people who are actually alive. Strangely, a zombie and a real-life girl, fall in love and put in to motion a series of events that may just save humanity!

So, that's a short list on what I'm looking forward to - let's hope subsequent reviews will show that I have not been fooled by the trailers and that they're all as awesome as they promise!
Happy waiting!

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