Arch Enemy Review – The Final Battle For Wonderland Has Begun.

ArchEnemy (The Looking Glass Wars, #3)

 

 

Hey readers,

 

So, I’ve finally finished the third book! Took a lot longer than I thought and once again I’m feeling like I didn’t actually enjoy it all that much. Though it hardly remind me of the first book, I just wasn’t caught up enough in the story to get really into reading it. It seems predictable in parts too and there’s not many twists. I knew how things were going to work out, but I felt that the journey getting there wasn’t exciting enough. It’s still a typical good vs evil plot and the out come stays true to this. However, I’d have liked a little more….I don’t know imagination? Though that seems rather ironic since this book is all about saving imagination!

 

For me the second book was my favorite, because I got into the story a lot more and it felt better written then the first. The third isn’t badly written, it just seems lacking and in places seems more screenplay like the novel like. I guess it really isn’t my kind of book, but I can see why younger readers would be taken by it. The one comparison I can think of making is to Treasure Island. I read this believing it would be more adult then it turned out to be and granted I knew it was a children’s book, but I still believed that there would be a lot more depth to it, but by the time I’d finished it I felt really disappointed. I then picked up Flint and Sliver by John Drake and found it to be just what I was hoping Treasure Island would be. I was hoping that The Looking Glass Wars would be an adult version of Alice, but this is far for the case.

 

I don’t dislike this trilogy, but for me it just has a few problems and I think the way it’s written is one of its main issues. There’s nothing wrong with the characters and even in the third book they are well developed and continue to grow as they learn things. They also have key roles to play, which helps to move the plot along. I still also like the connect with Earth that the plot makes. We once again get the Liddell family and Lewis Carroll appearing and its nice to this consistence with characters. The introduction of new characters gives it a fresh edge and adds some more helping hands to the war efforts. I guess some more depth into the characters would have been nice, but I know how hard it is to do this when there are so many of them.

 

In my last two reviews, I don’t think I really talked about Beddor’s use of sound effects. These often appear throughout the book and echo the sounds you would hear if you were witnessing the item in action. Though these are really thoughtful and do add something to the visuals on the page, I did feel they were a bit childish and probably more comic book suited. They were over-used and I got a bored with seeing them. Normal sound description works fine within most books and for most readers and I just felt that in some places the sound effects weren’t needed.

 

My other problem with Arch Enemy is the fighting scenes. I got a little bored of the fighting towards the end. I guess the constant repetitive action scenes weigh the plot down too much and though this is mixed in with other events happening, the chopping back and forth left me feeling a bit dizzy. When I think about the Drizzt books and how they deal with fighting scenes, I can see the difference straight away. It feels a lot more choreographed and the writer is very knowledgeable about how his character would use his weapons in battle. I just didn’t get the same feeling out of Arch. The writing of these scenes didn’t feel rushed, but for me a lot more could have gone into them. As the final battle was reaching it’s end, I didn’t get much satisfaction out of characters completing missions they had set themselves. However, I did like the idea that Dodge felt no sense of close at the death of The Cat, who he’d been trying to kill to get vengeance for the murder of his father.

 

The obstacles that Alyss faces are good. She is fighting two enemies now and must decided what’s best for Wonderland. She does think like a queen throughout, beside from one point, where she drops everything to go and rescue the Liddells’. She is then trapped on Earth because Arch has had the Pool Of Tears drained and the water evaporated. Lucky, Molly is there and able to create another portal which allows them back. I thought Molly could have been more used, but since she needs the time to get over the events of the second book, its understandable why Beddor didn’t use her more. Once again, I’d have liked to see more of the relationship between Alyss and Dodge, though they do get to gather at the end. In some parts you can see where Beddor has tried to fit this in, but I felt that a lot more could have been made out of it. More detail about their feelings and the struggle for them to be in love when there was so much else going on, could have added another layer to the story.

 

One thing I’ve found that I did really like about the trilogy was the art work used on the books. I was drawn to the images because they looked different and interesting. My copy of the third book is in hardback and on the pages dividing the book into pages are art works of Wonderland scenes. It reflected the art used in Alice. I don’t know if the hardback versions of 1 and 2 did this as well, because the paperbacks didn’t.

 

The ending works well, though I think I did want a little more out of it, but the characters have learned what they have to do and are able to complete their tasks. Beddor also seems to have issues killing off characters and I don’t like how he handled this, because it felt like characters who should be dead escaped it. I guessed also what would happened to the caterpillars- well anyone who’s read Alice will also know it.- It did feel like a nicely rounded off ending, but maybe it would have suited a more open ended one?

 

Overall, I found Arch Enemy a struggle to get through. It just didn’t grip me and it just lacked in the key areas of writing and adventure. For the last book in a trilogy, it feels pretty flat and predictable. The trilogy over all isn’t that bad and some parts I did find interesting and readable, but I just got bored of the repetitive fighting scenes, lack of real development in Alyss’s and Dodge’s relationship and the jagged jumping between characters. I would tell people to read this and come up with their own conclusion about it, though I would tell them that its not a re-telling of Alice or an adult version of the story.

 

Les Miserables novel and movie Reviews: ‘I have brought your soul…and I give it to God’

Hi readers,

Whilst gathering the images for this post I was busy thinking about how big and packed with information this review might get. I do have a lot to get through and thought that it might be best to break it into three sections and then decided if it really needs two blog posts. I’m not even sure if I’ll get it written in one go either and with it being 10:40pm now, I guess the answer would be no, but we’ll see. This post might end up with a follow up one anyways and the reason for that is because I’ve only read part one in the novel. So, why am I bothering to write a review of it now if I’ve read that bit? Because the Penguin version is 1,200 pages long of smallish, but still very readable font. Part one is 275 pages and I was slightly worried that if I finished the novel I might have forgotten what I wanted to say about the first lot of chapters/parts! So I’m making a start now.

Lots of people know about Les Miserables (LM) and came to it through the musical production, (which I’ll get on to later) as I did through my mum wanting a dvd of it for mother’s day one year. We watched it and I fell in love with the songs and the story. I hope that most people also know that its a novel. A long, heavy tomb of one at that! I think after watching the musical and listening to the cd, I was interesting to know more about the story and so brought the novel LM whilst in my 3rd year of uni with some spare money from buying my uni books. All though, its taken me two years to get around to reading it, which sadly is what happens with most of my books because I can never find the time or the right mood for them all. However, I’m mega glad I’ve finally picked LM up!

The first time you see the novel it can be very draughting. I have the complete thing with an introduction and appendixes in one book. I’ve seen it spilt into two or three books as well. I guess some publishers decided to make it easier to read, but really I don’t think it should be in this format as that isn’t the way its meant to be read. The format of the novel is split up like this; There are 5 volumes divided into 8-15 chapters which are further divided into sub-chapters which are only a few pages in length. In the first part there are 8 chapters divided into 15, 14, 9, 3, 13, 2, 11 and 5 sub-chapters. In the original French the book is 1,900 pages long and some English editions go up to 1,500! The formatting does help make the novel easier to read as every part is clearly titled and you don’t get that lost feeling that can some times happen with long novels. Also LM is considered on the longest novels ever written. I wanted to see where abouts it falls in the list of the longest novels. Wiki counts by page number and there its the 3rd from the bottom out of 16. The word count is the best way to do this though and looking at few different websites as shown me that LM is still ranked near the bottom 3/4 place at of 15/16 books, with a word count of 530,982.

LM was written by Victor Hugo (1802-1885), who also wrote the Hunchback of Notre Dame. He was a prolific French writer, a royalist, later a social Democrat, he was exiled from France because he declared Napoleon III a traitor and went to live in the Channel Islands where wrote Les Mis. He returned to France in 1870, made a national hero because he had helped to shape Frances democracy and then died aged 83. He is a very interesting figure and achieved so much in his lifetime. Also his political and religious views can be seen in his writing and doing more research into this can help understand the works better.

LM was published in France in 1862, it was also translated into English and published in Britain that year. It has a French historical novel which spans the time period of 1815-1832. The French have always had a very interesting history and if you remove the plot and story from this novel, you would be left with a detailed account of that era. The historical content does digress a lot and often completely removes the reader from the story. It’s important and good to have a strong historical background in such novels, but LM does take it to the extreme. Saying that though I actually enjoyed reading those parts as it then give greater depth and understanding to the actions and behaviour of the characters. The front cover illustration on my edition is of a painting by Hippolyte Lecomie, Detail from Battle at the St Denis Gate, 1830. The gate was used by the Parisian Republicans as part of the barricade during the June Rebellion of 1832 and this features in the last volumes of LM. The gate is still there today.

The novel opens on the life history of Monseigneur Myriel, Bishop of Digne, 1815 and covers 70 pages. It first it seems a bit pointless to have to read this history and even the second paragraph states ‘it has no direct bearing on the tale we have to tell.’1 Actually though this isn’t true. The chapter sets up historical France and the main theme of religion. The Bishop has an important part to play as well because it is through his years of experience dealing with the poor and lost of society, that he helps the main character. The reader can see some importance in this set up, even if it isn’t clear at first. The Bishop symbolises God, but it could also be said that he represents God in this novel. Also that the Bishop becomes a role model or a father figure for the main character as well.

The main character and the novel’s focus is Jean Valjean. He is an escaped convict and the reader learns that he was imprisoned for five years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister and her children. He tried to escape from prison a few times and had time added to his sentence for that. The sub-chapter about him gives lots more information to his background, though not as deep as the Bishop. Valjean is treated like an outcast by everyone he meets and people act like he’s a murder instead of the petty thief he really is. The reader can see in his chapters how poverty and society has shaped his character and why he ends up acting like he does. Valjean is also an intelligent man and has had some education whilst in jail. When he steals the Bishop’s silver it reflects the stealing of the bread. He doesn’t want to do it but feels that society has left him with no choice. He only wants the needs to survive, but knows he can’t ask anyone for help. However, he finds compassion in the Bishop, who allows him to take the silver, but only on this promise; ‘use the money to make yourself an honest man,’ for ‘I have brought your soul….and I give it to God.’2 and surprisingly, Valjean does do that.

Fantine is the next main character to appear, though she doesn’t last very long. Once again there’s a lot about her background and her character is well grounded. She’s a factory worker, who falls in love for a student, who then abandons her not knowing they have a child together. She has to go and look for work and whilst moving from town to town, finds an inn keeper and his wife who agree to take care of her child. Though really they are just using her to get money and ill treat her child. Fantine gets a place in one of Valjean’s- now the mayor a town- factories. One of the rules is that the women have to stay pure and when Fantine is accused for ‘sleeping around’ to earn money for her child, she is dismissed. We see her fall from grace then, as she has nothing and must sell off her things and live on the street. Desperate for money she sales her hair and teeth before becoming a lady of the night. She ends up being rescued by Valjean after being attacked on the street. He cares for her and agrees to take care of her child. I’ve always liked the character of Fantine and the novel really puts across what the musical sometimes can’t. Though she is only trying to do the right thing, she ends up becoming an outcast because of a situation she can’t explain and when she finally gets help it comes too late. Her character also reflects Valjean’s as they both end up shoved out of society and poverty changes their views on the world. She also helps Valjean escape prison once more and free her child from ill-treatment. I do get why she has to die too and its because she is giving her life up for Valjean and her daughter. I couldn’t see her become a part of their lives either, because her symbolism wouldn’t work any more.

There are a lot of other characters in LM, but only one more I want to talk about here and that’s Javert. He’s the antagonist and his only goal is to see Valjean back in prison. He has an interesting character description; ‘Javert unsmiling was a bulldog; when he laughed he was a tiger.’3 He was also born in prison and saw himself an outsider to society because of that,believing he only had two options to become an outlaw or to become the law. The other characters fear him and he sympathises with none of them. When he rediscovers Valjean he can’t let it go, though he can see how much the man has changed. Javert could symbolise a number of things; from a man who’s pulled himself up through poverty, to being the symbol of the french authorities or perhaps the Devil to balance out the Bishop being God. He doesn’t change throughout the novel until the final chapter about him.

Another theme of the novel is identity, because Valjean changes so he can start a new life being good, but then he struggles to completely let go of being Valjean and at different points in the novel claims himself to still be that man. Fantine too losing her identity because she ends up falling into such poverty that she losses herself. Her daughter is then given a new identity when she is rescued. Javert knows his identity right up until his exist from the novel because it is at that point he suddenly can’t find himself any more as his only goal in life is now gone.

And that brings us the end of the first part. There’s a lot more to say about the novel, but I think I will save it for another time now as I’ve written so much already and I’ve still got a few more things to add. My overall impression of the novel is that I am really enjoying reading it and though it’s length is challenging, the actual content is easy to read and understand- well beside from the French history!- The characters are very well written and are interesting. They can be engaged with too and their stories symbolism with. There are a lot of themes and symbolism, but this just adds to the greater whole of the novel. As for recommended reading? I’d advise most people to give it ago. It can be brought free on kindle and with the movie now out it seems a good time to learn more about the characters and the plot.

The musical theatre production (a note)

I’ve only seen one version of the LM musical and that has been the one above. I’d love to go and see it live in London (or if that cast ever came to my city). Of course there’s lots of depend about which is the best musical version and I guess that depends on your own liking of the singers/actors. It was adapted from the novel in 1980 and appeared on the French stage. It came to Britain in 1985 after some more changes. Unlike most stage plays and musicals, you feel more at a gig when watching LM as there is hardly any acting taking place. Though some of the more dramatic scenes are played out. However, like the novel you get swept up in all the action, emotion and story going on. In some ways the musical does do the book’s message justice and I know like a movie, things have to be left out, but I felt that more religion symbolism and mentioning could have been put in.

The Movie

Elephant

Lastly, I wanted to write about the elephant statue which appears in the movie and also later on in the book. I wanted to know more about it because I was unsure if Hugo or the scriptwriter(s) had just come up with it. But no, the Elephant of the Bastille as it was know stood from 1813-1846 and on the site of the Bastille. (Which was a fortress, then a prison and was destroyed in the French Revolution, 1789) The statue was a full scale model made out of plaster over a wooden frame and it was then going to be made into a bronze, but that was never achieved.

Hugo describes it in Les Mis very negatively and shows the disrepair the statue had fallen into before it was removed. (QUOTE!) He also uses it as a house/den/safe place for Gavroche the street urchin.

I was impressed with them showing the elephant in the film because it came to symbolises a number of things for me Firstly, the power and the strength of the people in the June Rebellion as they knew what they wanted and were willing to fight. Secondly, that France was in a disrepaired state after the Revoluation. Thirdly, the lost hopes of the France people, because they couldn’t achieve what they dreamed of. Fouthly, Napoleon 1’s victories and military prowess, which the elephant was orginally meant to represent.

This is the statue they used in the movie.

Images from;

http://www.booksplease.org/tag/les-miserables/

http://athinkersblog.com/2011/08/20/les-miserables-and-america-today-a-review-of-the-25th-anniversary-concert/

http://filminsider.blog.de/2012/09/24/les-miserables-neues-poster-musical-drama-hugh-jackman-anne-hathaway-russell-crowe-14871556/

http://bytesdaily.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/les-mis-update-and-elephant.html

Qutoes from;

Victor Hugo, Les Miserables (Penguin Group, London, 1982)

1. pg: 19.

2. pg: 111.

3. pg: 165.

The Legend of Drizzt Book 1: Homeland Review; This is the Underdark

I’ve had a craving for a little while to read a fantasy novel. Maybe playing Dungeons and Dragons had reawakened my fantasy side and I wanted to indulge in it more. Only I didn’t want to read LOTR again or Warhammer books, I wanted something slightly different but just as good. My search was a little in vain, so I give up and re-read The Hobbit in prep for going to see the movie. But I wasn’t satisfied afterwards and wanted more….but not Tolkien or Prattchet. My boyfriend suggested a new author; R A Salvatore and has it turned out he was just what I was looking for because he writers fantasy novels set in the DD world.

Though he has written a number of other books and series, it’s to the character he’s most famous for that has been my introduction to Salvatore and DD novels; Drizzt Do’Urden.

Drizzt, a drow (dark elf) is born into Menzoberranzan; an underground matriarchal world of betrayal, war, magic and monsters. Almost scarified at birth, but saved due to his older brother’s death, Drizzt must learn the way of Loth, the Spider Queen and also the skills of a warrior. However, he is no normal drow and keeps hold of his humanity, which all drow loose as they are taught the ways of Loth and to despise the world above. Though he is part of a society which would be considered evil to the above world, Drizzt stands out by his questions on killing and drow history. Somehow though his words are overlooked by other drow and he is able to keep his feelings hidden.

The plot of the story is all about Drizzt growing up and coming to realise that everything he knows is possibly wrong and he no longer wants to be a part of it. Through events he can be seen to arise to challenges and fully develop as a character. In a way the reader grows with him. We are with him in the moments before his birth when the plot twists are being set up and then as he grows up and becomes an adult. There is a lot of fighting in the plot, but it is kept fresh by the different monsters and different reasons. We also get to see Drizzt improve his fighting skills and he becomes very impressive with his swords. I was gripped straight a way into the plot and the setting, finding the 3rd person narrative working well and giving the reader an eye over anything. The cuts to different characters and their plotting, helped move the story along and created a much bigger picture throughout the novel.

The other characters are just as intriguing as Drizzt. There are his sisters and brother fitting the bill as fighting siblings and trying to outdo each other in order to impress their mother. She is a great character being all power hungry and desperate to improve her family’s status in Menzoberranzan. Zak, the master swords man, who trains Drizzt his deeper connects to him than first seems, but during the cuts to his thoughts, the reader can see how similar in nature the two of them are. The antagonists are other drow, who use magic, which is a nice contrast to the use of weapons, but they are just as power hungry as Drizzt’s mother and want the same thing. Lastly, there is Guenhwyvar, who I liked straight a way, he is a magic panther and Drizzt’s only friend. The similarities can be seen in their fighting styles and they complement each other well too. It was nice to have an animal companion for a change!

I really like Salvatore’s writing style, because it is fast pace, gripping and full of information that just sinks into your head. You learn a lot about drow society, but you don’t realize it from the way it is written. The vocabulary is a bit simple in some places, but this just helps the speed of the story telling. Like the Warhammer books, Salvatore makes his fantasy writing as simplified as possible, leaving out long descriptions of settings, battles and other events. This allows the reader to imagine more things and that is something I like doing. Also you don’t want to be bogged down by needless details when reading a world that many would be familiar through playing the game. Which is what I found having played the DD drow trilogy, because that is set in the same area. It’s the little details and drops of humour that add to the greatness of this novel. It is very easy to read over these or not take them fully in because of how they are placed within the story. However, I didn’t find myself flicking back to re-read, because I was just able to take the whole thing in. The dialogue of the characters is great and a lot of raw emotions come through the words. Which is great because the reader should always be able to see the emotion that way and not through the writer stating it. There was nothing heavily accented or old fashioned and the use of the drow language wasn’t over used. It really is an easy book to read and I shall be picking up the second on soon.

Ps. As an added note, I thought I’d say that the character of Drizzt’s reminded me of Malus Darkblade by Dan Abnett and Mike Lee, set in the Warhammer world. Malus is also a dark elf who though evil must fight things more evil then himself. I did think that this was interesting and though it has been awhile since I read him, the books have enough differences between them.

The Casual Vacancy Review- A Town At Poltical War

 

Hey readers, It’s another book review this post, but don’t worry I am working on the second DD chapter and should hopefully have it up soon. So, for the last few days I’ve been reading J.K Rowling’s latest book The Casual Vacancy. I’ve read about 150 pages now and have decided to stop reading it and maybe pick it up some time after Christmas. It’s not often that I put a book down after that many pages- especially when this novel is 503 pages long. But I’ve a number of problems with this book and that’s way I’ve stopped reading it for now. So in light of me not actually finishing the it, I’m not really going to talk about the plot much and I might have to do a follow up post on this later on. But here are my thoughts so far.

J .K. Rowling is known around the world as the creator and writer of Harry Potter and his series of seven novels. HP became a phenomenon across the different age groups and has a massive fan base. So, whilst everyone begged for there to be another HP book or even one that connected with it though background characters, Rowling decided to write a novel for the adult readership. That in itself is fair enough, writers like to experiment with different genres, age groups and themes. It helps give a freshness to their writing and allows them to be more creative. I’ve heard though-once again not read any reviews, that most of the HP fans are not so taken with The Casual Vacancy and I can understand why.

When I picked it up I told myself not to think about HP and not to compare it, for it was going to be completely different and yes it is. The front cover of the book is very bold with it’s red and yellow colours and the white lettering. The black x cross in the centre does draw the eye and it does look very attractive. The book itself-the hardback cover version-is large and heavy. Rowling wrote this book for adults, but it doesn’t look very adulty to me. The adult version covers they did for HP looked a lot better then this! I know that you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but there’s just something about this ones that seems out of place. Yes, it is eye catching enough, but it seems to be aimed at a teenager/young adult readership.

The synopsis of the book begins with ‘A big novel about a small town…’ and that in itself sounds very interesting. We then learn that the novel is about the sudden death of Barry, who was on the Parish Council and that his now empty seat is about to start a big war in the town. Mixed into this are the sub-wars of rich/poor, teenager/parents, wives/husbands, teachers/pupils and neighbours/friends. So it does sound very exciting. But within the first 50 or so pages of this I still couldn’t get into it and was finding it hard to follow. Maybe that’s just me and believing that this book would be an ‘easy, light read.’ Also the main theme is politics and that really doesn’t interest me. The other themes are family, friendship, relationships, death and bullying. (Maybe there some more later on in the book.) There are also lots of characters, but I’ll get on to them in a minute.

So, first the plot, well there’s not really a plot, it’s more a story. The narrative is written in third person and switches points of view so many times; it makes you feel dizzy and lost. There’s just too many characters appearing in a short space and some of the switching does seem pointless. There’s also a number of different settings in and around the village. The first is the house of Barry and his family, followed by the golf club where he suddenly drops dead. There’s no time for the reader to connect with Barry and we are left in the hands of the other characters to view his life style. This does create some mystery, but also bias stories and I was left with a lot of different views about Barry. (Maybe this will become clearer later on.) The setting then moves through different characters’ houses, a shop, a school and other places. There’s really no centre setting to this novel, unless you count Barry’s house, but we don’t spend enough time there. So for pages that follow his death, we get all the other characters telling each other about what’s happen and spreading gossip. We get to see a whole range of reactions to this news, but also to the now vacant seat on the council. For me there’s just too much happening at once and too much repetitive. The plot really doesn’t feel like an adult novel, but more like a collision of different ideas and characters. I guess it would be better if there was less characters and more concentration of creating an actual plot line at the very start.

I had a problem with the chapter layout. It’s not really divided into normal chapters, but instead uses roman numerals to show the switching to a different character, the days of the week show the passing of time and there are pages with titles on them showing more movement of characters and time. I get the idea of having a fresher look to chapters, but this just doesn’t work. Well, at least not for me. It causes there to be too many breaks in the story, which means that it does flow and the pace is mixed from fast to slow. I guess that the passing of time is important, but as of yet I’ve not discovered why. Maybe it has political connections which I’m not aware of.

As for the characters, which I’ve been touching upon, I’m not taken by any of them. There are some interesting ones almost them like; Parminder, Krystal, Colin and Simon. Most of the others just seem to fall into the stereotypes of the people you’d find in a village; the gossipy shop keeper, the nosy women, the abusive father, the trapped teenagers, the stressed head teacher. The range is really covered by the characters as if Rowling wanted to allow everyone to have a character they could connect with. But I don’t think it’s possible, because there’s far too many. I struggled with the relationships between them too and often found myself wonder who’s wife, child, dog this was. Maybe it’s just me, but I found being stuck in the middle of all these families at once was hard to handle.

The writing style is meant to be for an adult readership. It hardly comes across as this though and a long/difficult word will often pop up as if Rowling suddenly realized she needed one. This just throws the flow off the narrative though and is really not needed. For the most part the writing is simple and seems very teenage/young adult like. There is also a lot of swearing and sex references, but these do work because the age and nature of the characters. For me and I knew I wasn’t going to compare them, but this writing is far from HP. and I know some people said that was badly written, but this just doesn’t have the style and I wasn’t very taken with it.

So, is this going to be the next biggest seller? I don’t think so…it’s riding on the back of HP in some ways, because nearly all the readership for this book will have read HP and seeing Rowling’s name on the cover will get them to buy it. For me this book is too big, confusing and the theme of politics just doesn’t interest me and does seem to be the focus of the novel. I’ve problems with the chapter layout, the language used and also the characters. I’ve read books with lots of characters before, which does switch pov and there’s no problem with this, but Rowling just doesn’t pull it off and I was left feeling lost in a sea of characters. I’d like to say that in the near future I’ll pick this book up and finish it, but I doubt it. I’ve so many other interesting novels to get through, that it’ll take me awhile, before I decided to give it another go and see if it does improve.

Images from: ratedreads.com

Update for up and coming stuff

This is a bit of a random post and comes mostly from some deep thinking I’ve been having lately. My job situation hasn’t changed, I’m still looking for work and still not wanting to go back into eduction. I’m not actual stuck in deciding what I want to do any more, but I’m just having a hard time in finding suitable jobs which I’d get interviews for. It can be a problem finding stuff with my educational level and skills. There’s so many jobs out there and the market has become flooded in the run up to Xmas in the last month. Making now a good time to find something! Luck doesn’t seem to be on my side right now though and I can only hope that there is something out there I’m destined to do.
I’m still on a break from writing as well, though I’ve been doing bits and pieces, but I’m finding it hard to draw inspiration and motivation to get back into things. I guess the last few months of uni and the intense writing has taken its toll. I do have the wanting to look through some older novels and work on them instead of writing something completely new. The project I was working on with my boyfriend has stopped for the minute. I can’t get into the genre of it, for whatever reason. I’m hoping this will change soon though and I can start looking for publishers and stuff. Having some money coming in would be a good thing before hand though! I’ll still keep writing my blog, it’s becoming a good place to reflect about things on.
Halloween arrives on Wednesday! I’m not having a party, or doing anything special this year, but its’ still my favourite celebration. The rest of my week will be spent carving the pumpkin and baking. I seem to do a lot of cooking in Autumn, but there’s just something about coming home to the smell of meaty stews and all spice sweets that appeals to me. Also its great prep for Xmas! I’ll properly write a blog post about Halloween on the day before or the actual night and share some of my favourite recipes.
Actually there are two main things I wanted to put up. The first is that I’ve noticed people are taking an interest in my book/movie reviews and I’d like to carry on doing this. It is something that I’ve done before in the past, but didn’t get into it. Now without uni to worry about, it seems a good time to expand out and start doing more reviews. I’ve got a few books in mind, but mostly my reviews will be on my most current book, whatever that might be and I’ve a lot of on my bookcase to get through!
Secondly, I want to write about the next season of Dungeons and Dragons. Only instead of it being an account of the game I played and a rough guide to playing, I want to turn it into a novel. I already know that this might be a long and hard task, but at the heart of D&D is storytelling and so many novels have been written already. So, what will be the difference with this one? Well, because it will reflect the actual game I played and also the new D&D rules they’ve brought out make it much more easier to do this. I still lack knowledge in certain areas, but I know people who’ll help and the idea seems like a good one. The next few months will tell on that for sure!

The Hunger Games Review – May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favour.

I’ve never really written reviews before. Yeah, maybe I did a brief one or two before about a book I was reading for uni or one which I really loved. To me there always seems to be a tone of reviews out there covering the whole range, so why add one more to the list? Because for some reason whilst I was watching this movie I thought ‘won’t it be interesting to write a review and do it from the point of view of a writer.’ I bet this film has been reviewed by film and book critics a like and that there are hundreds out there, many of which are properly really good. I’ve never been one for reading reviews of anything before. I think that at first I didn’t have time to read or watch reviews and then it became because I didn’t want to know; I wanted to watch or read in my own time and make my own judgement influenced by anyone else.

Lately, and maybe it’s because of my boyfriend and the fact I suddenly have a lot of time on my hands now, I’ve started to become interested in book, film and comic book reviews. I’ve been watching a few on blip recently and maybe that has part inspired me. However, I wanted take a different point of view from the normal film and literature critic styles, not saying I’ve not got the intelligence to take one of those views- I’ve a degree in English lit and know how to de-construct a book to death- but this being a blog about becoming a writer and with myself trying to become a published author, I fancy that this view point would be more valuable.

So, here’s my writer’s review on The Hungry Games.

I already know this is a bit of an out dated review with The Hungry Games (HG) books and movie rush already over, but I only just got around to watching the film today. I was aware of the books before I heard about the releasing of the film, however hearing the whispers that HG was the next Twilight and the next big thing in teenage fiction put me straight off. For me, I’ve never actually got into teenage fiction, all of my writing is adult fiction and I’ve never been drawn to reading much teenage stuff. Though I was a massive fan of R. L. Stein and the Point Horror novels when younger.

With HG I refused to jump on the bandwagon like everyone else. It didn’t interest me especially when I found out that the plot was similar to Japan’s Battle Royal films and manga. I love both films and find them fascinated. I’ve read some of the manga too and actually found it a lot more in depth and graphic then the films. So, I was even more sceptic about the HG book. I couldn’t see how someone could take the idea of teenagers being forced to fight to the death much better then the Japanese. (If you’ve not actually seen this film then do.) Now the author of HG Suzanne Collins said that she wasn’t aware BR existed and her book had no ties to it. For me as a writer, I find that a bit hard to believe. Yeah, I know there’s no original ideas left and that writers recycle stuff all the time, but for her not to be aware of it until it got pointed out seemed a bit off. However, there are very few similarities between HG and BR.

I received the first HG book as an overdue Christmas present from a friend who thought it would be the perfect thing for me. I then also learned that the movie was due to come out. Interested to see what all the fussy was about- the same thing I did with Twilight-I thought I’d give reading the book a go. I was prepared as a reader and writer for it to be terrible, for the characters to be like cardboard cut outs and all samey, for the plot to only have one focus and frankly for it to be an American rip-off of Battle Royal.

I got proven wrong. The book is written wellish and has a clear story arc. The language used is as one expects for a teenage audience, simple with a touch of adult vocabulary The pace is also fast and you can become gripped by the unfolding events. The characters appear realistic and you get time to learn the main characters backgrounds and grew sympathy for them. Truthfully, I wasn’t that taken with the book, I’d properly just finished reading some complex book for uni at the time or was reading a supernatural romance novel. I don’t want to say because I’m not into teenage fiction or in touch with my child self. I did however prefer it over Twilight because it was better written and the characters more engaging. I’ve not read the other two books though I do have them.

So, the film. For the first twenty minutes or so I sit there thinking if you’ve not read the books or any reviews, then you won’t have a clue what’s going on. The exposition at the beginning is really bad and can be a bit confusing to what has happened and what is going on. How the dystopia happens and why their society ends up as it does isn’t examined fully and though the book goes a bit further into this, I still had many questions as to why we were being made to believe the stereotypical warring man has driven humanity to this. Battle Royal has a better explanation for why society has choice to go down the path of killing the next generation. In my mind and realistically thinking I can’t see humanity ever choosing to go down this root. I know that reality TV is getting worse all the time and people are becoming desensitised to things, but still.

After that shaky start you get what feels like a lot of time to learn and sympathise towards the main characters Katniss and Peeta. I know that this is important to draw the audience in and get them on the characters side, but I felt that too much time was spent doing this. You also get flashbacks through the film and though these are well placed it can be difficult to understand what’s happening. Rather strangely, whilst I’m writing this and I’m discussing HG with my boyfriend and we just came up with a good explain of the problems with these flashbacks. He wanted to know why the bread that Peeta gives Katniss is so important because that isn’t explained at all in the movie. Having read the book it was clear in my mind! Katniss and her sister are staving and by Peeta giving her the bread she was able to survive. This allows a strong link to form between them and fits in with the whole survival theme.

I have to admit that the romance between Katniss and Peeta though it was a faked romace just for entertiment was a lot better then the romance in Twilight. However faked or not, the romanace didn’t go anywhere and then once it started become the soul focus and the fighting was placed in the background. None of the other characters became romaticly involved and they were only interested in killing each other. Another difference to Battle Royal as lots of characters in that were romanticly involved and some even used it to an adventage. Also the focus is always on Katniss and you only see the other characters when she engages in them. Battle Royal shows you lots of characters and their backgrounds. As I writer I’d be keen to have explored the other tributes’ backgrounds and actual give readers the choice about who to support.

For me the script did come across as an okay adaption of the book, though there clearly were some confusing parts that could have easily been explained or explained differently like the bread thing, it only took me two minutes to explain that. Also one small thing that did bug me was how Katniss got that Mockingjay pin. In the film she finds it on a stall and the old woman gives it to her, in the book it’s the Mayor’s daughter who gives her the pin. The pin is meant to symbol hope and be a good luck token. It also symbolises Katniss district and rebellion against the games. but this isn’t really dealt with and actually slight confusing note, I’m not sure if the pin mockingjay pin does represent district 13 as no mockingjays live there and Katniss doesn’t know what one is until she’s told….So, I’m not sure about that point, maybe that’s my mistake though….

The acting was good, but I do have to agree with a few other reviewers that Jennifer Lawrence didn’t properly represent the image of Katniss that appears in the book. Yeah, I know with a fictional character finding someone to match the image of that character in the writer’s head is hard! The other two books, Catching Fire and Mockingjay (which is being divided into 2 parts) are being made into movies and have predicted release dates of November 2013 and November 2014/2015. If I actually read the books and go to see them is up for some debate right now….

So, what else can be said about HG? Well, technically it is the next Twilight, only I don’t think it’s going to set off a whole sub-genre of teenagers fighting each other books. Similar, to Twilight though the ideas and themes behind it are good, but the way it’s written effects how these ideas and themes are transferred to the reader. Thinking in terms of teenage fiction though and actually getting kids back into reading is a hard thing to do. Technology is a very hard medium to battle against and so any book that gets mass of kids and even adults to read it can only be classed as good. That’s not to say it’s written well though….but still any author who can achieve that has gained my respect.

Images from:

And just to remind you of the link to my boyfriend’s web show.

Tyas Looks At...

D&D parts 3 and 4 – Your Secret Mission Is….If you choose to accept it!

I didn’t get a chance to write about last week’s D&D encounter. I’d spent the day in hospital before going to play and so was unfocused on what was happening. Though I do remember most of it. Being ill means that I’ve not got around to writing the events up so now I’m having to do a joint post for last week’s and this week’s encounters. I’m still very ill right now and also I’m now coming down with a cold, but as normal my mind is pretty active and wants to get busy. So, we’ll see how much I can type before I feel the need to nap again….

 Now last week was the ending of the first mission and at the start you got to choice which house you wanted to belong to. There are three different houses: Xorlarrin, Melarn and Bregan D’aerthe (my house) and the DM give each person a secret mission connected to their houses. I believe if I’d been more awake and not in pain, I would have remembered the need to act on my secret mission, but I was still fuzzy and when the time to step up came, I didn’t. True there was nothing I could actually do, because I had moved to the back of the group and wasn’t in range of the Drow Priestess, but I should have got the other person in my house, who actually attacked her and killed her, to carry out the mission. My boyfriend did remember and suggested it, but it was a bit too late and Bregan D’aerthe failed their first secret mission.

 The Melarn house completed theirs, which we learnt was to carry out the ritual and get the Demon Weave started. There was another choice at the start of the game and that was which you wanted your end goal to be and who’s side you were actually going to stand on. You could stand with Lolth and help create her Weave, be against her and try to take her out or just be against her creating the Weave. I’m not going to tell you what I picked! Of course before we got a chance to try and carry out the secret missions we had to do some more fighting. It was against the Priestess and her guards. I did pretty well with my cross bow and the dice were really in my favour as I took two of the guards out and helped bloody another. So, small victories for me then!

 It was also interesting how the group decided to spilt itself too. I’ve read very little about Drow society and also about D&D itself….maybe there’s a For Dummies book about it, but I properly could do with getting my hands on some books and doing some more on line reading. I believe I’m getting seriously in to playing now, but unlike some ‘serous’ players, I still just see it was a social game and being told a story which you then get to interactive with. Now, my group for the most part did stick together, beside from one guy who decided to walk all around the board and then found out that actually you couldn’t enter the last room and get behind the enemies! He then had to walk all the way back again and maybe because of this when the DM asked him if he wanted to switch sides and become in league with the Priestess, he agreed! (Now the DM had asked everyone but me. I was still at the back of the group firing arrows everywhere.) But it was fool on him really, because the Priestess used him as a pawn and he then decided to turn traitor on us! Bad move as my boyfriend- who’d died on week 2-had come back with a mega strong warrior and when he got attacked decided to try and kill the traitor off. Okay, now this is where it get weird because then some of the other players decided to attack the warrior and let the traitor live, so my boyfriend’s character died once again…..

 I had the choice to stand up and fight against them in sort of like a mini revenge attack, but they outnumbered me and I am but a small female Drow rouge with a short bow and short sword. So, it wouldn’t have been very wise to launch an attack. However, Drow I am learning only look out for themselves and can be very treacherous even to members of their own house. My overall plan has always been to stick as a team player, for what you learn very quickly in D&D is that only by working together can the enemies be defeated and the missions-secret and normal-be completed. So, once again last week I had to give out sympathy hugs and kisses to my guy and of course nobody minds doing that!

 (okay it’s taken me nearly 10 minutes to figure out how to spell ‘treacherous’. The joys of being dyslexic where words so don’t look how you’d sound spell them and to be honest that doesn’t even look like it reads treacherous!)

 

 Let me just explain this before I get on to this week’s encounter. I wanted a D&D image of some minions because they were some of the monsters we had to face. However, instead of some scary looking monsters I ended up with multi-images of these cute guys from the Despicable Me film. And I thought well they’ll lighten up these dark D&D images and so here they are. Frankly, these guys are to cute to engage in battle with….So, here’s another image which is a bit more realistic, though we didn’t have to fight as many minions!

 

 Yesterday then, we started a new mission and we had to rescue the head of the Xorlarrin house who’d been kidnapped. We all got another secret mission and I’m not going to mine state just yet. We had to battle our way into this house where we believed the kidnapped Drow was being held. That battle was tough and everyone took a lot of damage and another character bit the dust-thankfully not my boyfriend! that would’ve been a bit too much bad luck!- We barely made it through though and then I sort of forgot the secret mission. The battle had just ended and my mind was busy wondering what to do now. Once again I’d stuck at the back of the group and just been firing my bow and arrows. Which is very effective and I do seem to get more hits and create a lot more damage to enemies that way.

 The other person in my house sort of did it and my boyfriend, who’s character at this point was laying unconscious on the floor near death, started poking me and trying me to do the secret mission. But my brain just drew a blank on what I was meant to do, which was actually something very simple and very sneaky, but I totally forgot in those few moments. He give up poking me in the end, but to be honest I wasn’t sure how to even go about it because I couldn’t announce my movements to the group-then the other house would know I was up to something and the DM was a bit busy reading the end of the encounter by the time my brain had figured out what it was I was meant to be doing!

 Hopefully, I’ll get another chance to have a go at doing the secret mission next week. The wizards we had to face were pretty hard to beat and they kept casting a range of spells on everyone. I guess my highlight of the battle had to be the goblin balancing and then moving around the edge of this fountain. One of the guys had choice to play as a goblin, but like all non-Drow characters, he was a slave and the servant of our Priestess healer. The RP was really funny and brought a bit of light into the darkness of the battle. To keep his distance from the fight, but still be useful, he jumped up on fountain and shuffled around the edges when he needed to move. Just the image of this in my head seems really funny.

 Lastly, I found this website whilst looking for the minion images and it looks very interesting

http://dungeonsmaster.com  I don’t think I posted up that one last time. I’ve a few more things to add to today’s post, but it’s pretty big already and the things are none-D&D related. However, I want to write another post later on this evening about a review I want to do, so I’ll properly add those things at the end or else just write another post tomorrow…too many choices!

 Images from:

http://muluc85.deviantart.com/art/Drow-Priestess-121639536

http://dungeonsmaster.com/2011/07/two-hit-minions/

http://maurolongo.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/dd-4ed-un-bilancio/