Sunday, April 29, 2012

Criticising Undelivered Yet Umpromised Expectations ... A Rant

OK, so this has been brewing in my head for a while and I thought I would use the luxury of my blog to have a little rant ... after all, what is the internet for? Topic of discussion ... people criticising things (in this case novels) and labeling them as some kind of failure for not meeting expectations that they have placed on them that probably have no place being there in the first place.

I need to preface this by saying that I am an artist - I make, watch, teach and discuss choreographic and theatrical works for a living and because of this I think it has developed in me an ability to look at works abstractly and obliquely. It is always important to form your own opinions about a work and how it affects you, but it is equally important to understand the artists intent so that you may further understand and more fully appreciate what they have done. There have been some works I have watched and hated them overall, but I have respected them for their place and their integrity (and other things) and have enjoyed at least some elements.

This has transferred to my reading. To put it very simply, I may be reading a book featuring cats, which in fact describes cats as well as a whales ability to swim in a supermarket, but it has great interpersonal relationships that are so intriguing and beautiful it makes me cry at the end of the book.

This is where my issue lies.

A lot of people out there will slam the book because it is obviously about cats and the author has failed so miserably at describing cats that it can be classed as nothing but a spectacular failure - especially when you compare it to that other novel Kittens, which was pretty much the same thing but those cats were heaps cooler. However, I'm pretty sure that the novel was actually about the relationships occurring and in that regard it was incredibly successful ... the cats were only a front. But because you were so set on your kitty cat read, you actually missed the more beautiful part of the story.

That being said, I am not excusing authors who have have written woeful books that may somehow have had one great redeeming feature ... obviously books need to be well written and realised as a whole. I also need to acknowledge that of course personal opinion plays a part ... you could still hate it all regardless of anything I said above.

I'm going to talk about The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins because it's such a useful example at the moment. 

Firstly, mainstream/popular ≠ trash. I have heard so many people say they read the books to see what the hype was, even though they know they are trash. Who said they were trash? You enjoyed them didn't you? And if not, was it really because they were trash? Last time I checked, a large part of the reason that something became popular was because it was good and people enjoyed it. And just because it may be a little more simpler than what you read as an experienced and accomplished fantasy enthusiast does not make it a lesser work or invalidate the enjoyment people get from it who might not be fantasy aficionados. It seems to me that more and more people are shooting down popular novels/films because by being critical of something that has been well received, it makes them look like they are far more educated and experienced and that this kind of thing, like all the other people who enjoyed it, is beneath them.

This brings me to my second point. The Hunger Games is essentially aimed at a young adult audience. That usually means some things are simplified and kept to-the-point for all the little youngins out there with the attention span of a shovel. That is not to say it can't be enjoyed by adults - quite the contrary! But you can't then criticise it for not having enough gore and violence. I don't know about you, but I don't want my kids reading Silence of the Lambs: The Arena Spectacular.

Luckily, I believe that being a young-adult book isn't even the reason for the lack of violence. Point number three, the most important and a return to my initial argument, The Hunger Games was never about the blood and gore and terror of the games - you just thought it would/wanted it to be. 

The number of people that have complained that it is the same story as Battle Royale, except not as good because Battle Royale was more realistic because it had at least 73% more blood, is reaching epic proportions. Let us remember that novels are also works of art and as an artist the author can choose to highlight or distract from certain elements to make the statement or tell the story they want to. Battle Royale was controversial, graphically violent and a little horrific - all the things the Japanese do best. That was the point of the novel/movie.

The Hunger Games was about the physical and psychological journey of Katniss. We saw the world and the story through her eyes, to such a point that events and observations were incredibly skewed by her views, including her own flaws and failings. Thrust into the role of protagonist and heroine, Katniss is a tragically beautiful mix of capable and incapable, independent but lost, strong-willed yet confused. Throughout the novels we see her forced into the spotlight yet simultaneously sidelined. We follow as she and the other young victors start to unravel as the Games take their psychological toll. Through her we watch others rise to action while she tries to comprehend what is real and what is fake and perhaps unknowingly, refuse to acknowledge the truth behind her personal relationships.

For me, this whole story could have taken place in a single room. The Hunger Games themselves were superfluous. They were just a vehicle for all the other beauty and complexity in the story.

So yes you could have hated/not appreciated that part of the story too, or felt that the other elements were still not up to scratch ... all personal opinion. My point though is I feel too many readers are being far too critical about books when in most cases the criticism is aimed at goals that the book never aimed to achieve in the first place. 

Another great example is Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire. This is an incredibly lengthy and often monotonous book that denies to reader of anything grand and truly magical. And this is what is so brilliant about it. Maguire wanted to tell the fantastical story of Oz through the eyes of the realist. Life is rarely as dramatic as it is in books, there are far less magical coincidences and a lot of the time things do not live up to expectations. Through telling of the incredibly uneventful lives of Elphaba's child and grandchild it allows us to see something beautifully simple and brutally honest, even though it isn't a roller-coaster of drama and emotion that we would like it to be. Unfortunately most readers saw the novel as just plain boring.

I urge people to be more open-minded when reading. Accept the book for what it is and what beauty it brings to you. By allowing yourself to be receptive to what the author has to give you (and look they're published, so they must have at least something) you'll enjoy the book a lot more. If you go into every book expecting the same fantasy-filled, tick-the-boxes pro forma, then you will often be disappointed and miss out on a whole world of opportunity.

Friday, April 27, 2012

REVIEW: A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

Firstly I have to say, with deep regret, that I had to abandon my challenge to post every day in April (obviously). This was for a couple of reasons ... one was my current workload and time constraints, but primarily it was because I felt that I was adding things to the blog that were straying too far from it's intended purpose and it was becoming watered down.

So because of aforementioned business it has taken me much longer to finish A Game of Thrones than anticipated. I feel like I don't have too much to say about the book because I found it almost identical to the HBO series which I have seen previously. This was a massive drawback while reading for me ... some scenes in the series were word for word from the book and so while reading, I felt like I was watching the same thing again. This had an innate ability to kill any suspense or surprises, which I guess is actually something to be thankful for because it means the series was made extremely well and follows the books closely.

Regardless, I really loved the book (and know I would have even more if I hadn't seen the series). The story, history and politics are incredibly well thought and realistic (other than perhaps how members of each great house are walking stereotypes, both physically and in terms of personality). I also really love how, much like Stephen Deas, Martin isn't afraid to lop the head off of characters you thought were so vital, they would clearly be around until the end. Sorry, you lose, life ruined. It keeps it edgy and unpredictable but is also a lot more life-like ... the baddies can't always lose!

The choice of and constant switch between character POVs was also an excellent move - it kept everything fresh and meant that Martin could make the decision to skip out on things that could be lengthy and repetitive. Characters like Sansa who had a very skewed perception of events around her were a highlight - in fact I think each character had a very distinct feel to their story telling. At the conclusion of the novel I felt that almost every character had a huge amount of potential - the Stark children in particular. I am very interested to see how the younger ones grow over the series and what part they have to play.

I cannot wait to start on A Clash of Kings and finally overtake where I have seen up to in the HBO series, although there will be a few new releases coming up such as Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore that I know will be interrupting my Song of Ice and Fire journey.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My Old Drawings

Seeing as I'm still making my way through A Game of Thrones and have nothing fantasy-book-related to post about in my daily-post-for-April-challenge, I do apologise for the slightly off topic posts!

Before I was 'into' dancing I was into acting, and before that I was into art and drawing (and before that it was singing and before that it was violin) - I've pretty much done the rounds in terms of arts. Drawing was a big part of high school for me because in my small group of friends, most of them were amazing artists/drawers so it kind of rubbed off.

We started off doing classical anime and then that kind of digressed into more personal styles of 'toonish' characters. Usually we would draw the lineart and then edit and colour in photoshop. I was a little sporadic in my efforts while a couple of my friends would finish several pieces a week.

I just thought I would share some with you ... These were done when I was around 16-17, except the last one was a few years ago and is the costume design for the character of Tyda in Fy (hopefully you can recognise it from the video on my previous post). 

Monday, April 9, 2012


When I'm not spending copious amounts of time on the couch with a book, I am working as an independent choreographer. As a part of my challenge this month to post everyday, I thought I would share a couple of the works I have made that have had a fantasy element.

I work with contemporary dance/movement and sometimes incorporate text and a lot of my projects have been with young people (non professionals). And because I love all things fantasy (not just the books) I have tried to use that as a point of difference in my work and combine two of my passions.

I made Fy in 2010 with a cast of five professional performers and nine young people. The show was a combination of dance and text that told a story of a fantastical world named Irda.
In the beginning there was nothing but Irda in his divine form, and he was alone. Breathing into the nothingness, Irda unmade himself, sundering his spirit and matter into many pieces. With the greater piece he formed a world, a place of metal and water; his mind, heart and hands he entrusted to three immortal beings; and with the many lesser pieces of himself he created a race of people to inhabit his world, known also as Irda.

Millennia later, having lost almost all interest and desire for advancement and experiencing neither birth nor death, the immortal Irdans have become sedentary and allowed their world and race to fall into decay. While under the leadership of Din, the Heart of Irda, the Irdans retain their humanity, the future of Irda itself is still unclear ...


The plot is quite complex and similar to a Shakespearean tragedy (everyone dies!). To date this is still my favourite show and I think best reflects my own personality and interests - even if my choreographic abilities have improved drastically since then. 

The thing I loved about this show (and was the most challenging) was the production elements (set, costume, lighting). We built a shallow 9 by 9 metre pool in the theatre with a scaffolding structure on top. My costume and lighting designers were able to create some beautiful effects with the water and there were so many beautiful and visually stunning moments. Putting on this show was filled with so much drama that is hilarious in hindsight - the pool sprung a leak and the giant scrim-dress-train got snagged one night.

I have plans to turn this show into a trilogy of shows and create two prequels which tell of the beginnings of the world ... but I am going to need some big budgets for that!

You can see a trailer for the work below and if you want to see some full scenes you can check them out on my youtube channel.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Ian Irvine's Three Worlds Cycle

I've been reading fantasy since I was about eight and luckily my school and town library always had a great range for me to borrow from. I didn't actually buy my first book until I was about 17 or 18 years old. I can't really remember why I decided to buy one; it wasn't as if there was a particular one I really wanted. After browsing the shelves I eventually settled on A Shadow on the Glass by Ian Irvine on no other recommendation than the blurb and cover.

To this day that book (the whole series really) is the best book I have ever read, hands down.

A Shadow on the Glass is the first book of The Three Worlds Cycle which currently consists of two quartets and a trilogy, with another single novel (or possibly a trilogy) in the works. It's set on the three linked worlds of Santhenar, Aachan and Tallallame. The cycle details the struggle for survival between four human species: old humans, Aachim, Faellem and Charon, as well as a variety of other creatures, both intelligent and beastly.

It's often referred to as a Darwinian fantasy. It's got nothing to do with the perennial (and sadly jaded) struggle of good vs evil. It's about the struggle for existence between four human species, each believing it has the better right to exist. In this regard I find the series so much more realistic and relate-able - no one is intrinsically evil, they are just trying to survive and prevail. It also means there is a much more even spread in terms of character development and perspectives. The worlds are so rich with history, geography and politics and even though it has it's fair share of magic and fantasy elements, it feels much more earthy and real than other epic fantasies.

The first quartet is A View From the Mirror and is in my opinion the stand out.  Karan and Llian are the most amazing characters, although admittedly a little archetypal. The whole quartet is such a raw and desperate struggle for these characters - it really brings out every part of their personality. There is a great mix of the grandiose that we expect in fantasy and the common and everyday. 
"One there were three worlds, each with their own human species. Then, fleeing out of the void came a fourth species, the Charon. Desperate, on the edge of extinction, they changed the balance between the worlds forever .
Karan, a sensitive with a troubled heritage, is forced to steal an ancient relic in repayment of a debt. It turns out to be the Mirror of Aachan, a twisted, deceitful thing that remembers everything it has ever seen.
At the same time, Llian, a brilliant chronicler, is expelled from his college for uncovering a perilous mystery. Thrown together by fate, Karan and Llian are hunted across a world at war, for the Mirror contains a secret that offers each species survival, or extinction!"

The second quartet is The Well of Echoes and is set two centuries after the time of The View from the Mirror, when the world is greatly changed as a result of what happened at the end of The Way between the Worlds. It's a dark world where the entire society is regimented for just one thing: survival in the endless war against the winged lyrinx. This series benefits from the same setting and history as the first quartet, but due to certain events and the passage of time, there's a fresh load of characters and new world-scale problem to solve.

It took me a little longer to warm to this quartet, but when I did ... wow! I think these are the books when Irvine's imagination and mastery really shine. The complex system of magic combined with a previously absent use of machines/mechanics is original, logical and intriguing. While the story and the characters are not dissimilar to the first quartet, there is no sense of repetition. There is a lot of foreshadowing and even ... aftshadowing? ... I totally made that up just now, but the past becomes just as mysterious as the future. The ending of this quartet is utterly brutal. Throughout the whole series Irvine treats his poor characters like punching bags and they get the worst of it at the end of Chimera.
"Two hundred years after the forbidding was broken, Santhenar is locked in war with the lyrinx - intelligent, winged predators from the void who will do anything to gain their own world. Despite the development of battle clankers and mastery of the crystals that power them, humanity is losing. The enemy is destroying their nodes of power, one by one. 

Tiaan, a lonely crystal worker in a clanker manufactory, is experimenting with an entirely new kind of crystal when she begins to have extraordinary visions. The crystal has woken her latent talent for geomancy, the most powerful of all the Secret Arts, and the most perilous. Geomancy is likely to kill her before she masters it. It is a talent that allies and enemies alike are desperate to control.

Falsely accused of sabotage by her rival, Irisis, Tiaan flees for her life. She is also hunted by the lyrinx, Ryll, who plans to use her in his dreadful flesh-forming experiments. Only geomancy can save her. Struggling to control her talent, Tiaan follows her visions all the way to Tirthrax, greatest peak on all the Three Worlds, where a nightmare awaits her ..."


Next is the Song of the Tears trilogy. These books differ greatly from the previous two quartets in terms of the pattern and feel. Taking place only ten years after Chimera, this trilogy features many of the same characters but with the world vastly changed (again). It was a little hard to transition into this trilogy because it felt like such a big departure from the previous books and I have to admit there were one or two lame elements.

However, the most satisfying and genius part was the unexpected return and resolution of characters from the previous two quartets. While The Well of Echoes was filled with questions that seemed would go unanswered, Song of the Tears finally delivers with more than I ever expected. The conclusion of the final book had me in rapturous spasms and yelling 'NO FREAKING WAY' and then sobbing a lot and then back to the spasms.
"After ten years of servitude, Nish is about to be released from the blackest prison of the maimed God-Emperor, Jal-Nish Hlar, his corrupt father. Jal-Nish holds the two sorcerous quicksilver tears, Gatherer and Reaper, and with them controls all of the Secret Art. All opposition having been crushed, he has begun to remake the world in his depraved image. 

The only hope of overthrowing him lies in Nish, whom the oppressed peoples of the world see as a messianic figure, the Deliverer for, as Nish was dragged off to prison a decade ago, he wildly promised to return and cast down his father. 

Unfortunately Nish is powerless and without allies. But worse, his father wants Nish to become his lieutenant and become as corrupt as he is. Jal-Nish offers Nish everything he has ever desired and, faced with the unbearable alternative of another ten years in prison, he isn't sure he can resist the temptation."
The final book/trilogy (formerly known as The Fate of the Children) will return to Karan and Llian and their children, which I am immeasurably excited about as they remain my favourite characters from the cycle.

If you haven't given this series a go, I cannot recommend it enough - utterly brilliant! When I get around to re-reading them for the third time I will have to do a proper review for each one.

Fore more info, check out Ian Irvine's website:

Saturday, April 7, 2012

UPDATE: Some Housekeeping

I decided that the titles of my blog entries weren't very informative as to what kind of entry they were, so I have decided to preface them with UPDATE, REVIEW, NEW BOOKS, NEW RELEASE and UPCOMING RELEASE ... we'll see how it goes anyway.

I also found a huge dilemma (because I'm weird like that) in trying to decide whether to keep the book cover images centred and above the text, or to the left and amongst the text. Too hard! What do you guys think? I edited the last couple of entries, but older ones are still there.

I added some tabs up top a little while back with some more info which makes it easier for any blog visitors. If I get really bored, I could even add tabs for things like my to read list ... not that anyone actually reads them, but it makes me feel accomplished!

Friday, April 6, 2012

UPCOMING RELEASE: The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson

I don't usually do these kinds of posts because I like to leave them to the people who make it their business to keep their finger on the fantasy literature pulse and keep informed people like me. But! Any unanticipated new release by Brandon Sanderson is pretty exciting and so I wanted to share it with you all. Mistborn, The Way of Kings, Elantris and Warbreaker all rank in my top favourite books and so I am sure this one will not disappoint!

I absolutely love the cover, although this will be the first novel as a part of the Cosmere (the Universe in which nearly all Sanderson's novels take place) that doesn't have the matching white covers. I have a feeling they will most likely release one anyway along with the one above.

But enough about me and more about the book! Like Alloy of Law, this one will be a shorter novel (around 30,000 words apparently), which is just as well because if it was any longer I would have so scold Brandon for not focusing on more important things like the sequel to The Way of Kings. Expected release date is December this year - so quite manageable! I'll leave you with the blurb;
"Shai is a Forger, a foreigner who can flawlessly copy and re-create any item by rewriting its history with skillful magic. Though condemned to death after trying to steal the emperor’s scepter, she is given one opportunity to save herself. Despite the fact that her skill as a Forger is considered an abomination by her captors, Shai will attempt to create a new soul for the emperor, who is almost dead from the attack of assassins.

Delving deeply into his life, she discovers Emperor Ashravan’s truest nature—and the opportunity to exploit it. Her only possible ally is one who is truly loyal to the emperor, but councilor Gaotona must overcome his prejudices to understand that her forgery is as much artistry as it is deception.

Skillfully deducing the machinations of her captors, Shai needs a perfect plan to escape. The fate of the kingdom lies in one impossible task. Is it possible to create a forgery of a soul so convincing that it is better than the soul itself?"

Thursday, April 5, 2012

My Ocarina!

I've been meaning to post this for a while now but never got around to it. I was at the St. Kilda Market and I came across a stall that sold pendant ocarinas. Much to my partner's dismay I HAD to get one. Having been a massive fan of Pokemon (in particular the Pokemon 2000 Movie) and Zelda: Ocarina of Time in my childhood, there was something very fantastical about the ocarina.

The one I got was a smaller pendant ocarina, rather than the larger ones used in Pokemon and Zelda and I have to admit I struggle to get it to sound quite so magical. Nevertheless I have been practicing with the little booklet that came with it and can play My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean, We Three Kings and Amazing Grace. I also found some sites with user submitted scores and so of course I'm learning all the songs from Zelda.

I've been semi working on a solo dance work that uses themes and ideas from my childhood and so I have been thinking about incorporating playing the ocarina into it ... I'll have to get a lot better at it though. I think I may buy one of the larger ones too ... a friend gave me the site of a reputable ocarina maker.

The scores (above) are really easy to follow too because they are visual representations of what holes you need to cover with your fingers (a black spot means cover that hole and the fifth middle hole means you have to remove your thumb from the bottom hole, which is usually always covered).

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

REVIEW: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

This is officially the first whole book I read on my Kindle (even though I own the hard copy) and I must say it was a very pleasurable experience!

I have to say that this book is one of the strongest and most moving pieces I have read in a very long time. Having recently read a lot of novels out of obligation to finish a series (none of which were bad, but not exceedingly brilliant either), Mockingjay was an incredibly welcome read. I really cannot emphasize enough how much I loved this book, how invested and attached I was, and how satisfying I found it as a conclusion to The Hunger Games trilogy.

To start off with, Collins finally gets into the nitty gritty of the rebellion (this being the central focus of the book) which was sparked by Katniss and Peeta's stunt with the berries at the end of their Hunger Games. This book is essentially about war - full out civil war. We get to meet a lot of new key characters and through Katniss, finally experience first hand what is happening in the rest of Panem. What I loved was it wasn't all about 'shoot-em-up' action - although we do get a good dose of this - but more about the psychological effects the Games and the war has on the characters and their relationships.

While for some characters Collins has delivered a well earned reprieve from suffering, this merely lulls us into a fall sense of security as she then deals out some terrible fates for others. It becomes a little Deathly Hallows-esque in that no character is safe from a sudden and brutal death, no matter how important or liked they were. This is just one of the elements that make the rebellion and the story in general so believable and also so gut-wrenching.  

Mockingjay is a Mary-Sue free story, and I would go as far as saying that some of the protagonists are the most flawed I have come across.  In terms of Katniss, this makes for an especially interesting read. Usually the main protagonist/point of view is the centre of action, the instigator and a lot of the time, the most talented or gifted and while Katniss has her strong points, she is rarely any of these things. Realistically enough, Katniss becomes a pawn of the leaders of the rebellion, which has predominantly been taking place without her. Unlike Gale or Peeta, Katniss is not a political activist, but is driven by completely different motivations - to protect the ones she loves and to seek revenge on those that hurt them. She is extremely uncharismatic at most times and lacks a lot of emotional foresight.

The best thing, the very best thing about this is that, like nearly every person out there, she is mostly unaware of these flaws - and because we experience the story through her, we are also unaware, but our experience is still strongly affected by them. When she experiences a revelation about herself, so do we. It's beautiful! The best example of this is her relationships with Peeta and Gale, both of whom she loves (to different extents) and who also both love her. We don't stop and think about how she is treating them, how they feel and what they are going through because initially it does not occur to Katniss ... and when it does, it is heartbreaking.

Peeta's role in Mockingjay is one of the more brilliant (and tragic) elements for me. From the beginning of the series he has such a complex relationship with Katniss, which is then not only further complicated in this book, but then also turned on its head. Watching him figure out Katniss' flaws after being so blindly in love with her is beautiful and the hopelessness of his situation in the latter half of the book is refreshing in such a key protagonist.

The most touching thing and the one that kept me on the brink of tears was watching these young people struggle to retain their mental stability after experiencing so much horror and pain. Bit by bit we watch them unravel as they serve a cause that promises them justice, but at the same time makes them deteriorate faster. Hunger Games survivors such as Finnick, Annie and Johanna are used and swept aside by the rebellion effort, yet it is these characters - not the rebellion and the key political leaders - whose lives we experience. It is the exploration of this microcosm of the whole rebellion that makes it so emotional and beautiful.

The conclusion and ending are simply stunning. I won't say much more than that I actually began to sob. Katniss reaches a breaking point which sees nearly everything in her life come apart. Her irrationality, blind anger and (albeit totally understandable) selfishness begins to consume her, which is a further and welcome departure from the usual fantasy heroine. Yet, as Gale predicts, she finds and chooses what she needs to survive.

While The Hunger Games and Catching Fire are excellent books, I still had some fundamental criticisms. Mockingjay for me however, was absolutely flawless and if anyone was dissuaded from finishing the series because they didn't like the first two, I strongly urge you to keep reading. I cannot recommend this series enough - move it to the top of your list!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

REVIEW: The Hunger Games Movie

I finally got to see The Hunger Games Movie last night! Overall I thought it was a great film and I did enjoy it ... I think I would have liked it more if I hadn't read the book first (and so recently) but I also think that if I had watched the movie first, it would have ruined the amazing flow and suspense of the book.

I was a little disappointed, but obviously not surprised, about the Hollywood/mainstream feel of the script and characterizations. There's always those awkward first ten to fifteen minutes in these kinds of movies, particularly fantasy and sci-fi, when all the background and history gets delivered as subtly as a dying whale in an elevator. Every comment and conversation is loaded with exposition rather than just letting it be. It's as if the movie makers have no faith that the viewer's will either pick it up themselves or be patient enough to wait for the details to filter in - and you can't blame them because unfortunately they are right in these assumptions.

That aside, I thought it was very well put together and - the question everyone asks - stayed remarkably true to the book. There were a few elements that changed but I could clearly justify these as essential during the book to movie transition. For example, the origin of the mockingjay pin was changed to avoid having to introduce the character of Madge, who doesn't really do much else. Prim and her relationship with Katniss was quite different, the movie portraying Prim as much more frightened of the Reaping and distraught over Katniss' departure. I thought this was great for building a bit more sympathy and connection between the two sisters, and it also justified Katniss' volunteering as tribute a lot better.

The world, characters and the visuals in general were almost identical to what I had envisioned myself, especially the Capitol and its colourful residents - so I was extremely happy with this element of the film. My friend commented on how disgusting and sickening the whole thing was, especially the people from the Capitol ... and I think this reaction means they hit the nail right on the head. One thing I was a little undecided on though was Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss ... I mean she was great, but I had a feeling something wasn't quite right.

There were a few frustrating moments where the movie went all Blair Witch Project and decided to pretty much strap the camera to a fish, because it moved so fast and erratically I couldn't even see what was on the screen. And it's not like it was a running through the forest sequence, it was a 'Katniss takes a stroll through the market'.

I thought it could have been much braver with the killings and gore of the arena, but then again, I guess they needed to keep the rating down for the kiddies.

The only real disappointment for me was the climax at the end of the Games. It lacked the desperation and hopelessness of the book - it all seemed a little too easy for Katniss and Peeta ... I mean, at the end they just kind of hopped off the cornucopia as if they hadn't just been mauled and forced to kill of several other teenagers.

And on a final note can I just say ... Alexander Ludwig, my how you have grown up since The Seeker and you are looking fine!

Monday, April 2, 2012

REVIEW: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

I really enjoyed this as a follow up to The Hunger Games and (but) thought that it had many of the same strengths and weaknesses as its predecessor.

To begin with, I was really looking forward to getting a better look at the setting and politics of Panem, which I thought would be likely now that The Hunger Games were over and it seemed like the rest of the series was going to follow the course of the rebellion. I was a little disappointed to find that this didn't happen, with events once again rarely expanding past Katniss and her sphere of influence. While I think this constant restricted scope allows us to truly empathise with Katniss and keeps the suspense high, I feel we lose out on a lot of potential story that is happening elsewhere.

Once again the book is divided into two distinct halves and once again I felt the first half was extremely rushed in parts. Katniss and Peeta do a 'Victor's Tour' and visit each of the twelve districts of Panem - an excellent opportunity to expand upon what we know ... which Collins then neglects to capitalize on. She spends a few pages on District 11 and then manages to dismiss the other 10 AND the Capitol in three lines. Again I think this is due to her wanting to keep up the pace fast and the plot moving (in which she is incredibly successful) and also keeping the length of the book down for young readers.

I must admit I did not see mid-book plot twist/revelation coming at all and although I thought it was an interesting decision, it did become a little formulaic and less 'dangerous'. I found the whole second half still rushed and nowhere near as exciting at The Hunger Games. The resolution was the most disappointing element for me ... it lacked any kind of subtlety and depth in its delivery, but luckily was saved by the exposition itself, which made grand promises for the final book.

With those criticisms out of the way, I have to say I am feeling a profound connection to this series, but I cannot really justify why. I am beginning to see why it has become so popular and why it has been having such amazing successes as a series and a movie. Yes, most of the time it is somewhat simple but I think this helps us as the reader focus more keenly on what is presented. We are entirely invested in Katniss and those around her, rather than having to be concerned with the the rebellion, the world and its inhabitants as a whole.

I'm seeing the movie tonight (finally!) and will no doubt make a post about it. I watched the trailer again this morning, and after actually reading The Hunger Games, it gave me shivers. Everything has so much more meaning now - the most prominent of which is the four notes whistled at the very end of the trailer.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Introducing Klaus Kindle!


For my birthday on Thursday my partner bought me a Kindle Touch (and his parents got me the leather case with light as featured in the stock image above), which I have named Klaus.

I do feel like I'm a little late the digital reading party, but I have to admit the only reason I was keen on getting a Kindle was so that I could continue reading while traveling around Europe for three months without lugging a bag of books around. Part of my love of reading is buying beautiful new books and adding them to my collection on my bookshelf, and while the Kindle is really convenient, it totally kills off that whole element of book collecting for me. Even though I now own a Kindle, I don't really think I will be buying or reading real books any less - I think I will really only be using it when I find bargain e-books or when I'm traveling. In saying that, even if I a book for the Kindle, I will still feel compelled to buy the real book ... and most e-books I buy for traveling will be ones I have sitting at home on the shelf anyway.

I did want to purchase something to test the Kindle out though and so I bought Song of Dragons (3-Book Bundle containing Blood of Requiem, Tears of Requiem and Light of Requiem) by Daniel Arenson. It has cool dragons on the cover!

This post marks the first of my daily entries for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. Now I have to admit that I won't be sticking to the rules of posting each day with a topic starting with the letters A to Z. This blog for me has always been about me discussing my fantasy reading and purchases and I am reluctant to stray from this or water it down with other tenuously related things. However, I am up for the challenge of posting every day. Therefore, not only will I be including my usual reviews, but I will also be posting about books I have read before I started this blog, books on my to read list, fantasy shows and movies, my fantasy-related dance works and other interesting finds.