19 February 2011

A Kiss in Time - Alex Flinn

'A Kiss in Time', by Alex Flinn is a modern retelling of the classic story: Sleeping Beauty. It seems to be aimed at younger teenagers due to the first person narrative of the 16 year old Princess and the 17 year old boy who wakes her. However, I read it anyway.

Having read other retellings of classic fairy tales such as Gregory Maguire's 'Mirror Mirror' and his 'Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister', I thought that this would be an interesting read because of it's modernity.

The story is very similar to begin with.The Princess is born, the witch casts a spell because she wasn't invited to the christening, the Princess pricks her finger on her 16th birthday and falls asleep.

That is where the similarities stop though. I was surprised to find that the Princess runs away to America and THEN falls in love with her 'Prince', only to be spirited back by the witch, who believes that the boy is not, in fact, her true love.

It is interesting to see how cleverly Flinn imagines the 18th century ways of the Princess affecting the way in which she approaches the 21st century, having slept for 300 years.The plot can get a bit samey at times, due to most of the book being in America, showing the growing love between the teenagers and how the princess adjusts to modern life, but the pace is good throughout.

The characters were average, as they were not very well delivered, which made them pretty one dimensional. Talia wants to travel and for Jack to love her. Jack wants to get rid of Talia and do gardening. Not a lot comes through about our characters other than what is said to us by the opinion of the other character.

The fact that it s split into the narrative voices of both Talia and Jack is good, at the beginning and at the end. In the middle, it wasn't really necessary, and it would have left a bit more to the imagination if we only had Talia's view.

I personally feel that there should be twists in the plot, and this book didn't fail me there. The end was interesting as the Princess needed to be rescued yet again, with her 'Prince' having to go through a number of tasks before he could find her. At the very end, however, it was exactly what I had expected, and this disappointed me a bit.

Overall I would say that this book is worth a read if you are interested in fairy tales and Disney, from which this book is surely based on. I would say that this book was slightly too young for me, but someone aged 16 or 17 would definitely enjoy it for its humour and its plot.

17 February 2011

Black Swan

Five times Oscar nominated 'Black Swan' was a complete and utter surprise from start to finish.I had heard so many good things about it by both people and in other reviews. The simple fact that it is nominated for an Oscar surely means that I would find it incredible.

The truth is, it is very very good. Not incredible so much, as the plot was quite obvious, with no twists as such. What it really does is tell the story of an innocent perfectionist ballerina who descends into madness whilst trying to understand and therefore live the role of the black swan, from Swan Lake.And my god, does it tell that story well.

We certainly see the whole story from Nina's (Natalie Portman) point of view, with the audience starting to see the changes in her as she does. We are shocked when she is, we cringe when she bleeds, when her legs break, we are terrified when she sees herself in the mirror, but not herself - the black swan, her bad side.The film, although I knew it had a 15 certificate was surprisingly gory, with an imagined murder, a hand being crushed twice in a door, faces being stabbed, legs broken and lots of bleeding.

It is definitely a psychological thriller, with the main character hallucinating a double of herself (a doppelganger) that she eventually seems to change into. We can see how her perfectionism leads her to take risks and to become destructive in her relationships as well as to herself. At the end she transforms into the black swan completely, with feathers bursting from her arms as she dances and embraces her new role.

And the very end seems quite complete, almost like it was always coming to it anyway. A perfect ending that mirrors Swan Lake and causes her story to be intertwined with that one in the audiences mind forever.

Natalie Portman was, as always, brilliant. Though I have to say, I think I preferred her character in 'V for Vendetta' a little more. If only because she wasn't so much of a sap.However, her portrayal of this ballerina falling into insanity is perfect. You feel like you really understand her and why she does what she does.

I personally liked the tiny things that were almost imperceptible to a normal viewer: The black and white colour scheme running throughout, and the flashes of vivid red that was reminiscent of a certain 'Sin City'. Her ring tone subtly changing to Swan Lake as she gets more into her roles.The fluid shots that connected the story together.

This film is certainly a one that I would watch again, and you won't be wasting two hours of your life if you see it too, no matter who you are.

Five Quarters of the Orange - Joanne Harris

Joanne Harris is one of my all time favourite authors. She wrote the beautiful, sensuous book that is 'Chocolat', and it's sequel, 'The Lollipop Shoes', which is equally as wonderful.

A lot of her books are set in France: Les Laveuses, Lansquenet sous Tannes, Les Salants. I find this very interesting as a lot of her books have something to do with food. From Chocolate to Wine and Oranges, Joanne Harris is exceedingly good at describing the food in such a way that the reader salivates at the thought and longs for the taste.

Not only does Harris write about food, she also has written some short stories as well as some psychological thrillers. I particularly enjoyed her first book, 'The Evil Seed', which is about a man who rescues a mysterious and strangely eerie woman from drowning, who then goes on to torment him throughout his life. I won't give away the ending though, just in case you want to read it.

I have recently finished 'Five Quarters of the Orange', a book about a widow named Framboise, who comes back to Les Laveuses, her childhood home, with a dark secret in tow.

The blurb reads:
Beyond the main street of Les Laveuses runs the Loire, smooth and brown as a sunning snake - but hiding a deadly undertow beneath it's moving surface. This is where Framboise, a secretive widow named after a raspberry liqueur, plies her culinary trade at the creperie - and lets her memory play strange games.#

Again, this book is a writing triumph for Harris, whose descriptions of places, food and people never fail to disappoint me. The story was slow to start, but after a couple of pages I was hooked. The beauty of her storytelling is as apparent here as it is in the highly acclaimed 'Chocolat'. There are twists and turns that even I, as an avid fan, did not guess at.

The end, although quick, was done quite neatly and answered all of my questions - something I like in everything that I read or watch. Her character development, too, is exquisite. It feels like I know all her characters intimately after I finish a book, which means a happy ending makes me happy, again, something i personally prefer.

Overall this is a perfect portrayal of a childhood in wartime France as well the workings of an old woman and her family history of betrayal. It is dark, perhaps the darkest out of her food trilogy ('Chocolat' and 'Blackberry Wine' being the other two), but I know it will never leave me, as with all her books so far.

The cover, Five Quarters of the Orange

16 February 2011

Misfits - Series One and Two

Having recently watched both series of Misfits, I found that I was extremely impressed. I originally thought that the series was going to be too much like Heroes.

Not only was it good, it was also British. The humour was profoundly either sexual or vulgar, which was rather traditionally British, in my opinion. Nathan, one of the main characters, is the main culprit of these jokes and they hardly ever fail to amuse me.

The series is based around five young offenders who are electrocuted in a freak storm and then gain supernatural abilities. Kelly can hear peoples thoughts, Curtis can turn back time, Simon can turn invisible and Alisha, strangely, can make people want to have sex with her when she touches them. And Nathan? Well, you'll find out when you watch it.

The series feels continually a bit disturbed, with various murders and violence teamed with steamy sexual encounters, some odder than others. Simon is probably my favourite character, as although he is quite shy and creepy looking, he really gets to my heart. Nathan, who seems to be the front man in the group, can only be described as a twat, as in the series. However, he is so lively and cringingly amusing at the same time that he can be forgiven.

All the characters are well thought out, with good back stories and various layers to them that are gradually removed throughout. The only fault I can find is that the drugs and sex involved can be seen as too congruent with the themes in the other popular British series, Skins, which is aimed at the same age group as Misfits.

All in all, this series is definitely one to watch for a dark and satirical look at super powers in modern life.