27 June 2011

Heroes of Olympus: The Lost Hero - Rick Riordan

Having read all the previous Percy Jackson series, as well as having seen the film Percy Jackson and The Lighting Thief, I decided to go on to what seems to be the next series in the world of Percy Jackson. This time we follow an amnesiac called Jason on an adventure that takes him to California, Chicago and even to Canada on a giant fire breathing hunk of metal. But enough of that, or there could be spoilers.

As a... fan, of Greek mythology, I very much enjoyed the portrayal of it in in 21st century from the original Percy Jackson series. This book goes one better and plays around with its previous ideas to create something even more memorable. I rather like the way that Jason can't remember who he is, as it means that we only know things about him when he learns them.

The back stories to the characters are clever and interwoven with the main plot very well, and yet it took me a while to see what was coming. The book is told by the three main characters, from their viewpoint, meaning that as a reader you get to see into all their minds and learn to understand them as separate people and also be continually wondering what secrets they all seem to be hiding.

I also like the way that the plot is almost carried on from the end of the first set of books, meaning that the reader can easily pick it up without wondering too much about what has happened since, as only a few things have and they are explained to you fairly early.

There are a couple of twists in the plot, however, I could see some of them coming and guessed two major plot points extremely early. Of course, it helps that I have a rather good knowledge of Greek myth (and other myth too), but I think others with not so good a knowledge would have figured it out long before the characters did. However, since this book is for teens rather than 20 year olds, I think that's OK.

Overall I give this book a 9 out of 10.

24 June 2011

Raising Demons - Rachel Hawkins

I do believe Rachel Hawkins has done it again. She writes in such a way that I really couldn't put this book down. Yes, it took me a little longer than 4 hours this time, and then only because I had important things to do.

Again this book is hilarious, and even though the main character is a teenager, I could relate. The plot this time is a lot more 'twisty' and I really didn't want it to end. One bad thing though, I don't have the next one, so how on earth am I going to finish the story?

I am hooked, not only because the storytelling is good, but because it is no longer in the school, people we thought were good are actually bad and there are still those beautiful popular culture references without any hugely overbearing similarities to other books.

All in all, another good read, despite this very short review. I think it deserves a 9/10, simply because it ended in the worst place I could have hoped for, and with so much unanswered!

(Also called Demonglass)

22 June 2011

Holy Fools - Joanne Harris

My favourite author has yet again done a beautiful job of bringing to life something of both normality and pure emotion as well as something a little darker.

This time, the story is set around the flame haired nun, Juliette, and the Abbey she resides in. But there is so much more to this story than meets the eye.

Joanne Harris artfully involves a colourful background of theatre, circus and performance to the plot, rendering the Abbey only a stage for an old and beguiling friend, if you could call him that.

Culminating in a tense and powerful ending, and featuring scared nuns who talk of demons, ghosts and the involvement of the devil, the book grabs hold of you and dares you not to let go.

I could find few flaws in this book, and yet somehow I found it was quite easy for me to put down. I think this is due to a lack of empathy with the main character, as I am not a mother, and a large amount of time was given to the motherly emotions of the main character as her daughter is stolen from her.

However, as always, I implore you to read Joanne Harris. This may not be for the average reader, as it can be slightly difficult to get into this particular style of hers, but it is definitely worth a read. I give it an 8 out of 10.

21 June 2011


Disney Pixar have been around for a good while now, and they have thrown out such favourites as Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Cars and WALL-E. But, just sliding past the very clever robot love story, my favourite has to be Up.

It is a story about an old widower who sets out on an amazing journey... in a floating house held up by balloons. The concept is pure genius. After all, most of us have a dream of going travelling, and why not bring all your belongings too?

The film is full of laughs as well as a few sad parts that make these animations so special. Dogs can speak; giving way to lines such as 'I can smell you', which probably only makes sense in context.

There is a bit of gender confusion for a female bird called Kevin and an old man fight, which is hilarious given that they use their false teeth and their walking sticks to fight and are continually having to put their backs in place.

The film has some wisdom in it though: Firstly to respect your elders, and secondly that everyone has something more to give in life, even if it is crossing a giant rock to get to a waterfall, dragging a house along with you.

I think for whoever sees this, it will keep with you for a very long time. It has something about it that makes it a favourite, as it has very different characters to normal animations and an old fashioned style (and music) that anyone would love. I really can't fault this film, so it has to be a 10/10.

Hex Hall - Rachel Hawkins

This book is by far my fastest read. I literally read it in a four hour stint because I could not put it down. Usually, this book is not what I would go for. My sister recommended it to me and I took it, feeling apprehensive about the whole thing. One point to be made is that it is teenage fiction, and therefore revolves around things like school, boys and angst. However, the book is not just about a normal person, it is about a witch who goes to a reform school for magical beings.

I know, this all sounds very Harry Potter. And in fact, you can tell that the idea did come from there. The writer doesn't try to hide that from us at all, which I like. There is even a little joke at her own expense here. You can see rather a lot of parallels with Harry Potter and Hex Hall; A ball, a school, witches, wizards (or warlocks), vampires, werewolves, a forbidden wood, resident ghosts, some sort of magical enforcement and a journey of self discovery.

Thank God then, that the writer added a first person style and a sense of humour to the book, or else your mind would scream Harry Potter at you throughout the whole read. I really like the main character, who is female by the way. She is so sarcastic and witty that I can relate to her entirely, even though I am very aware of her rather clumsy powers.

I don't want to give too much away about the plot, but believe me when I say that the school and the inhabitants are where the similarities end. The book is definitely for the teenage generation, but I have to say that I did have a good laugh at all the jokes that were included. Rachel Hawkins really knows how to bring characters to life and did a good job of showing the emotional turmoil of a teen.

Had the book not reminded me so much of another magical series, I would have given this a higher score. However, the backchat and general feel of the book redeemed this. I give it a 6 out of 10.

19 June 2011

The Lord of The Rings - J.R.R Tolkien

As some of you may have noticed, there has been rather a big lack of book reviewing going on recently on this blog. Why? Because I have been undertaking the momentous task of finally reading The Lord of The Rings.

I would like to say first off that many people find this book difficult to read, and I agree, it is rather like wading through a thick and rather sticky marsh in places. It was written way back in a time when authors had such a fixed idea about who there characters are and what their world is like that every minute detail of the landscape and the thoughts of the characters are meticulously written down. So, for those of you who think they can't handle that type of writing, I would ask you  to leave this one to the book worms and the hardcore fantasy fanatics.

I am one such fanatic though. And so I have to say that even though it took me 3 months to complete my reading of this book, it was time well spent. The movie, which the book MUST be compared to at some point, does extremely well at showing the reader the main story, and making it as compelling and exciting as they possibly can.

But they miss so much. The absolute terror that the Black Riders induce in people is never really shown, and many characters and scenes are missed out whilst others are put in. For example, Frodo never sends Sam away at any point, and there is a large section in the first book, concerning Forests and a strange, ancient being by the name of Tom Bombadil, that is missing entirely from the story. However, I think that had this part been in the film, it would have almost stopped it dead, so it may be for the best.

Back to the book, my favourite character by far was Sam Gamgee. Probably because we get to know him much more than any other character in the entire book. The books are written from the viewpoints of the hobbits, rather than from the men, which proves very interesting.

When we are following Frodo into Mordor, Sam's point of view is the one that we have, and we learn that he is a loyal and caring companion who only wishes to help. Not only that, but he is in fact quite brave and clever, despite not looking that way. He is really the only character that has been opened up to us in his entirety, with even Merry and Pippin's thoughts not showing quite as much depth.

The book is extremely well written, with a superb plot that is well thought through. We follow a great journey in a land that is so unlike our own, sometimes it is easy to become lost in it. The beginning can take a while to get into, as a great deal of the book is actually still in the Shire.

The end can also be a little long winded, but hold on, because there is a very interesting part that was never put in to the films. As I said, it can be a difficult read at times, but I implore anyone to give it a go at least once, if only to say that they have read one of the greats.

As for me, I give it a 9/10.

14 June 2011

Brokeback Mountain

There are a lot of westerns out there, and they all have one thing in common; manly, gruff talking men in Stetsons shooting Indians and each other. Sometimes there's a pretty woman involved too. Then this film came along and revolutionised the idea of these manly, gun slinging men and made them more real. OK, so it's not really a Western so much, it's more of a film with cowboys in, but you get the jist.

For those of you who have never seen or heard of Brokeback Mountain, it follows the lives of two men who look after sheep one summer on Brokeback Mountain. During that time, they form a tenuous relationship and become lovers. The mountain becomes a safe haven for them both throughout their lives, as they live in continual fear of being found out.

The film won 3 Oscars, 3 Baftas and 4 Golden Globes as well as various other awards. I can see why. Not only does it have a superb cast (with the likes of Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway in the foremost roles) but it also is a beautiful and tragic story of a love that is never fulfilled. It gives us an insight into the lives of gay men in that time.

I was touched by the raw emotion coming out of every character, particularly in the performances of Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, but also in that of Michelle Williams. I think she did a brilliant job of displaying the character and her mixed feelings to the point where, although these things have never happened to me, I could completely understand and empathise with her.

There were, however, a few things that ruined this film for me. Firstly, Heath Ledger sometimes mumbled his lines to the point where I could hardly tell what he was saying. Considering he has the last line of the film, and I don't know what he says, I think this is quite a big problem.

The plot is also a little mixed, so sometimes I couldn't quite tell what was happening or to who. This is good for scenes like in the tent, where the gay action is kept hidden from the viewer on purpose, but it can sometimes be confusing in other scenes.

The film may not be watchable for people who consider being gay to be a crime against nature, but apart from this it tells a beautiful story about forbidden love with some extremely beautiful settings. I think this deserves a 9/10.

9 June 2011

X-Men First Class

As you must all know by now, I rather like my superhero films. They tend to push boundaries in several ways: Special effects, concepts ranging from alien powers to radioactive spiders to genetic mutation, hot men in spandex.. Anyway, I find these films to be better than most because we find ourselves in an utterly different situation. This is no longer everyday life, it is what you make of it, and who is to say what is wrong and what is right?

The most recent X-Men film illustrates that last question perfectly. The film enables us to see everyones point of view; The normal human being, who is intimidated by the next stage of evolution and fears its own extinction. Charles Xavier, who empathises with all parties despite being a mutant and Erik Lehnsherr, believing there is a war coming and wishing revenge. As viewers, we can see the reasons for each character's actions. To them, what they think is right, and this quality in the film is something that I think everyone should appreciate.

This particular film is a prequel to the previous 3 movies, but not Wolverine, whose story, incidentally, is before and during this one, as we see by the fleeting cameo in which he tells Charles and Erik to 'fuck off' as they try to recruit him. I did take quite a lot of satisfaction from this as I do rather love Hugh Jackman and his antihero character.

There were, unfortunately, a lot of slip ups in this film. And I am fairly sure that quite a bit of it was true to the comics, but not so true to their other movies. Here are just a couple of them:

In X-Men: The Last Stand, when Xavier and Magneto visit Jean Grey as a child, Xavier can still walk. Xavier gets paralysed in First Class at a very young age, much before they go to see her. Magneto is meant to be in the Brotherhood at this point, and so may not have even accompanied Xavier to Jean Grey's childhood home.

In the first X-Men movie, Xavier says that Magneto helped him build Cerebro, however, in this film, Beast is the one to build it, and it is destroyed and not put back together before Magneto leaves to build his Brotherhood.

However, they do clear up quite a lot of questions that I had. Probably the biggest was how Xavier got paralysed in the first place. As I have not read the comics, I find the film very good in giving this kind of information, as well as Including characters that I know from the X-Men cartoon series.

The film stars all new actors in order to appeal to the younger audience, and in this respect they did a good job. I do think that they could have given a bit more to all the people who have seen the other films, though. Since the cast was entirely new and quite young, there was no way of recapturing the older generation and the lovers of the original films.

My favourite actor was probably Michael Fassbender in his performance of Erik/ Magneto due to his talent at getting across the mixed emotions that he feels with his facial expressions and body language. I think he did a good job of allowing the audience to get to know the character without hating him, quite like the way that Ian McKellen did in the original 3 movies. You can definitely see that he has studied the actor and taken character traits from him, only put them into a younger and therefore more volatile form.

Just to give a mention to another actor who I hold in quite high esteem, I think Nicholas Hoult did a brilliant job at being a geeky and rather sweet young version of Beast. I liked the way that the emotions of the young people were displayed, and the film did play a lot on attraction and self esteem. This, I felt, was a little too teenage even for me, so maybe the market could have been widened a little.

Overall I think this film is an 8 out of 10 as I very much enjoyed it and it had superb special effects. But it certainly isn't one for the huge fans or the originals, or for the comic book fans for that matter.

For me, I still think that X-Men Origins: Wolverine had it all.