Saturday, 17 December 2016

#StrangeTimes by #TomDelonge The Ghost in the Girl Mini Spoiler Free Review

Another sci-fi collaboration from Punk Rocker Tom Delonge, this time writing with Geoff Herbach who has written a few other teen fiction books.

The Ghost In The Girl tells the tale of an unlikely band of stereotypical teen angst outcasts who are thirsted together to tackle an enticing mystery through banding together and ultimately becoming a surprisingly close unity of friends, paving the way for future stories nicely.

This story is a mystery and a good old fashioned ghost story, and feels akin to the Goosebumps series of novels from when I was growing up, only with more swearing to appeal to the definitely less adult, more teenage audience that the book feels aimed at, more so than either Chasing Shadows or Poet Anderson before it.

It's an extremely accessible, easy and interesting read, with enough twists and turns to keep you interested without ever becoming overly convoluted. All of the characters have an interesting back stories, with personalities gradually becoming deeper throughout the short book, revealing things about them and their histories. The locations and paranormal events are well described, and in some places quite anxiety provoking, which can only be a good thing for a ghost story.

If not ground breaking, the story is solid and enjoyable, and whilst I felt it wasn't quite as well written as Delonge's previous efforts, I'd still recommend to fans of science-fiction stories looking for a quick read.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

#Uprooted by Naomi Novik spoiler-free mini review

Uprooted is a fantasy novel by Naomi Novik, who is known for her Temeraire series of books. I myself was completely new to her as an author when I stumbled across Uprooted and decided to give it a punt solely on the premise from the blurb and the stunning cover.

The novel has been nominated for and winner of many accolades the 2016 Nebula Award for Best Novel and the 2016 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel amongst others, and it's easy to see why.

Uprooted feels like a fantasy story for a modern age, in that whilst it contains many expected features of fantasy fiction; wizards, magic, monsters and a young, expecting heroine, the way in which the story is told and the descriptions of the quaint villages to the elaborate dress sense of the feared wizard known as the Dragon, all feel extremely fresh and original.

There are many twists and turns throughout; many characters, some definitely more likable than others without being less significant to the plot; lots of locations and many magical beings and elements. Nothing feels over described, detailing the world believably without pandering to the readership. The writing is often beautiful, and I actually found myself re-reading segments purely because of how they felt to read. I especially like the descriptions of how magic is controlled through voice and when it works, it works because the user has stumbled across the correct way to perform or annunciate or sing a spell, instead of simply learning words and performing a spell.

The evil blight that plagues the land is an interesting and original concept too. Our heroine Agnieszka's small country village is plagued by an evil lurking in the nearby wood, and the creatures within are all strange, horrifying and unique. It can be fairly frightening and gruesome in places, with battle scenes epically told and descriptions, such as the use of magical fire to burn enemies, is intricate in it's detail.

The novel is also strangely romantic; it's a lovely story not only between some of the characters, but also between our heroine and her home land. She cares for everyone and everything, deeply, and quite simply wants to help in anyway she can, despite her self-deprecating sense of uselessness. For this quality, I found myself drawn to Agnieszka; she's an endearing and likable character, 

I found the story a little long towards the end; the concluding events seemed to keep returning to the brink when you believe all is lost, and back again a few too many times, and I struggled to stay as absorbed for the duration. I was however rewarded for my perseverance, with an extremely satisfying and equally beautifully written conclusion.

In all, I would recommend this story for fans of innovative fantasy fiction, just with the proviso of being persistent to the end. It's worth it.

Monday, 5 December 2016

A Christmas Carol at the Crescent

In the true spirit of delving head first into the deep end of the festive spirit I went to see A Christmas Carol at the Crescent theatre in Birmingham. At £8 a ticket, I thought it worth a punt to welcome the yuletide season.

I love the story of A Christmas Carol - grumpy, rich man strives to redeem himself after being shown the error of his selfish ways by a variety of supernatural beings and save his soul from eternal torment, already suffered by his late and similarly selfishly inclined partner.

The version at the Crescent was produced by their in house theatre company and directed by Alan K. Marshall. Whilst I would struggle not to enjoy a retelling of the Dickens classic, I did feel this rendition was somewhat lacking.

The cast, whilst appropriately chosen, did seem to lack an amount of passion within their roles. Scrooge didn't seem nearly as cold in the heart as I feel he should be, and some of the younger cast though did a cracking job for their ages, just felt a little unbelievable and emotionless. I was particularly disappointed with the portrayal of Jacob Marley, who instead of being a terrifying spectre intent on filling Scrooge with dread, became almost comedic, and at times incomprehensible thanks to him shouting almost every line. Scrooge's half hearted responses didn't do much to assist this. At least the cast were all well made up, looking the part in their costumes and makeup.

The cast had good presence on the stage and filled the space with the effective scenery well. The prop for the final spirit however was extremely cheesy, and it's bright green LED eyes weren't nearly as evil as I assume the director thought they were.

I did enjoy the score, mixing motifs from Christmas carols with filmic music, however the quality of the sound in general seemed poor. Edits between tracks and sound effects seemed abrupt; levels were quite erratic and I found myself struggling to hear the cast occasionally. The noise of the movement on the stage often hampered my enjoyment of the music, too, not to mention the added effects from a nearby latecomer's mobile phone (definitely not blaming the theatre for this, just wanted to add it in!).

Despite these negatives, I still enjoyed the performance, and it did help me get into something resembling a festive feeling, though had it been more than £8, which it is for the evening performance (£15) I think my disappointment wouldn't so easily dissipate.

Thanks for reading!

For more information, visit The Crescent Theatre website.

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