15 April 2013

The Prince: A Selection Novella - Kiera Cass

'Before thirty-five girls were chosen to compete in the Selection...
Before Aspen broke America's heart...
There was another girl in Prince Maxon's life...'

For those of you who have read and loved The Selection, this short story will give you all the extra details you wanted to know. This time we have Prince Maxons viewpoint as he goes through the Selection process.

Judging from the above description of the Novella, I assumed that this would be set much before any of the events that happened in the first book. You would be forgiven for thinking the same. However, that isn't true. Instead, the book is set a couple of weeks before the names are called out and ends just after the Prince has met the girls. More of a midquel than a prequel. Therefore the description, for me, was not a very good one. However, the actual story was genius. It not only delves into the Princes mind, but also that of his parents. It tells you exactly what happened when it came to the selection process and all about this other girl.

That's enough spoilers for you. As it's only a short story, this will only be a short review. An enjoyable, quick, light read that gets you thinking about the first book all over again. It even has a excerpt from the next book, The Elite, for you to dive into. As if you weren't excited enough already about its release. The book is only out on Kindle I'm afraid, but if you have a Kindle, go ahead and pick it up for 99p (or the equivalent of that in whichever country you're in). It's certainly worth it.

Four out of five. And look out for The Elite, out on the 23rd of April.

Image from http://d.gr-assets.com

Haven't read The Selection? Check out my review here.

14 April 2013

Jack the Giant Slayer - Film

Running with the same theme as Snow White and the Huntsman, Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Jack the Giant Slayer is the retelling of the classic fairytale, Jack and the Beanstalk. But don't expect talking harps and golden egg-laying geese, director Bryan Singer has done away with those and has replaced them with a princess and a team of guards.

Nicholas Hoult is yet again in the spotlight as the protagonist, Jack. You may have seen him recently in Warm Bodies, which satirised zombie films and Shakespearean tragedies to great acclaim. Either way, in both this film and the last, it was Nicholas Hoult that moulded the story into something really worth watching. Jack was not the idiotic farm boy in the story that we all know. Now he is a fairly lovestruck boy who, despite his fears, shows great courage. I think most people will enjoy the fact that he is no longer a thief and that he fights for not only the girl he loves, but for  the kingdom of Cloister as well.

The cast is utterly star-studded. This usually makes for either a great film or a really bad one. You will spot the likes of Ewan McGregor (who was actually my favourite actor in this film, his character was so likable and noble), Ian McShane, Stanley Tucci and Warwick Davis Even the vocal talents of Bill Nighy can be heard (remember him as Davy Jones in Pirates of the Carribean? Just stick that voice on a giant and leave out the strange snarly noises). Perhaps it was lucky that it wasn't filled with the biggest names, and that for the most part, the main characters were fairly unknown actors. I find that quite often having too many big names all competing can make the acting seem very shoddy.

The storyline is perfect. It had a great blend of action, romance and adventure, all set in a beautiful and sometimes surreal landscape. The costumes were well-designed and looked wonderful on the actors. The giants were exactly how you would expect them to be; humanoid but ugly, and very cannibalistic. A quick warning though on some of the effects. Children and adults may find them gruesome. There is a fair bit of death and destruction, but despite that the film has a surprising 12A rating.

The pure Britishness of the film cannot be denied; British actors, British story (did you know that originally Jack and the Beanstalk was set during the times of King Arthur and that he met him on his journey? No? I didn't either). I love that Bryan Singer (who, incidentally, is American) has picked up on this and done it justice.

This film is possibly more for children and teenagers than adults, but it is still good fun and I would recommend a watch at least once. Anyone who remembers that tale from their childhood and would like to see a nice twist on it will enjoy the story. In fact, there is a rather large twist at the end, where it all gets rather real. I am still unsure on whether I like it that way or not. But enough about that. I wouldn't want to ruin the surprise.

Four out of five. A solid performance on everyones part.

11 April 2013

The End of Mr Y - Scarlett Thomas

This book, first of all, is stunning to look at. Black colouring on the edges, a kaleidoscopic feeling cover in yellow, red and black, perfect black script in curling, jaunty lettering. Um, wow.

Ariel Manto is a PhD student who is interested in thought experiments and the works of Thomas E. Lumas, a little known writer whose ideas were extremely radical. Saul Burlem, her mentor, is missing, but Ariel carries on her studies regardless. That's when she comes across an extremely rare book; The End of Mr Y. The catch? The book is cursed. If you read it, you die. You can guess what happens next. Ariel reads it, and soon discovers that not all of the book is fiction. By drinking a little bit of holy water and carbon, a person ca transport themselves to the Troposphere; a place where you can read other people's thoughts, see Gods and even go back in time. Oh, and did I mention that two guys from America are after her and the book?

There's one or two things to mention about this book. It takes a little while to get into it. I was beginning to wonder if Ariel would actually try to get into the Troposphere or not. It wasn't until the middle of the book that things really started to get moving. The other thing is that this book has conversations relating to the existence of God, quantum physics, and various theories that I have actually almost forgotten now. So, some readers may have to persevere if they are not at all interested in these things. However, the ideas and theories in the book are every plausible, and that, I believe, is the mark of a good book. Like when many people were sure Dan Browns 'The Da Vinci Code' was based on truth. Well, maybe it is, maybe it isn't.

Ariel, as a main character, is bittersweet. Just when you think you like her she will say or do something self-destructive or stupid. She is very clever, so we tend to feel that she should know better. Her past is sometimes difficult to empathise with. Her current situation isn't one you'd necessarily like to be in either. Still you do feel for her sometimes.

The writing style is nice, descriptive, but sometimes the dialogue is too much. Explanations of theories and arguments, though necessary for the plot to develop and for the big reveal at the end, are taxing. If you're tired, it's quite likely to not sink in at all.

Having read the whole book, it is fair to say that the plot is interesting, clever and absorbing in part, but I cannot say that it was 'hugely enjoyable' (as The Times said) for me.

Two out of five I'm afraid. Good premise, great ideas, but not a book that I'll be likely read again.

PS; You may have heard of another novel that has taken off a bit more; 'Bright Young Things'. I havn't given up on this writer, so I may be giving this a go.