The Casual Vacancy Review

The Casual Vacancy; JK Rowling’s first dip into writing for the adult audience. It blew charts away,  being bought by millions and obviously earning her a fortune due to its £20 price tag. I must admit it was an interesting read, not something I would usually delve into but interesting still the same.

The book tells the story of the inhabitants of a small town called Pagford. When I say the inhabitants, I mean all of them. Every single citizen of this town seems to be included in some way and the reader is not only expected to know them by name but the follow the many strands of interconnecting storylines which link them. This was my main issue with the book, the sheer amount of characters which I did not manage to understand until about halfway through the book, and it’s a very long book.

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But putting that aside I’ll continue to tell you what it’s about. At the beginning of the story a man has a heart attack and dies. His name is Barry Fairbrother and he is a member of Pagford’s Parish Council, a very prominent member in fact. So prominent in fact that the first two hundred pages of the book are given to recounting people’s reactions at his death.

The rest of the book sort-of recounts how 4 people apply to get old Barry’s seat on the council, hindered by somebody who’s been posting revealing messages about the candidates on the Parish website. Guess who’s doing it! Barry Fairbrother’s Ghost (actually just some teenagers wanting to get revenge on their parents for God knows what).

In my opinion; the book is ok, hindered only by the sheer amount of characters that I mentioned earlier. I actually began to enjoy watching events unfold, from the teenagers; rebellious and insert adjective here, to their parents, fighting for their reputation. I would recommend it to Rowling fans, it’s an interesting read. The rest of you; go and read Harry Potter first.

Finished Lord of the Rings! At last!

An era has ended for me, for I have just finished the Lord of the Rings! That’s right, after about half a year of on/off reading, I have finally got to the end of those devilishly hard-to-read books.

Why did it take so long? I really don’t know. The truth is that the Lord of the Rings are excellent books, excellently written and following an excellent storyline. And when you consider to wealth of background detail which has gone into these stories, you’d be hard placed not to find someone who would not be amazed. However I think that the reason it took me so long to get through these books was that, despite being amazing, they took a lot of concentration to get into the words, to take in the story, which meant that I could only really read a few pages at a time. Another thing that added some 2 months to the process, was the fact that at the back of the last book is the Appendices. These are 100 pages of background information to the Lord of the Rings, half of which is good, a quarter is ok and the last quarter is incredibly boring.

Now, most of my thoughts were ‘How is this book the same or different to the films’. Well the answer varied. At some points Peter Jackson’s films followed the book to the word wheras at other points it differed intensly with scenes being dropped out or put in. Mostly this was for the better however there were a few occasions when it was not (see old posts).

I would defiantly recommend these books to anyone who loves reading, reading fantasy and reading fantasy for months on end.

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Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

CIMG9143There are many books in the world where one read simply doesn’t do them justice. There are some books that have to be read, if not over and over again, at least more than once. Three of these such books are Northern Light, the Subtle Knife and the Amber Spyglass, or ‘His Dark Materials’ if you want to sound fancy.

Northern Lights focuses around the young girl Lyra, who lives in a world parallel to our own. This world has many differences. The North is ruled by a kingdom of vicious, talking Ice Bears whilst the skies are roamed by clans of witches. However the main difference is that people’s souls walk beside them in animal forms known as Dæmons. Lyra lives in the stately; Jordan College where she has been left by her uncle Asriel when her parents were killed in an airship accident. However her care-free life is destroyed one day when, hiding in a cupboard in the strictly out-of-bounds retiring room, she saves her uncle from an attempt to kill him by poison. Soon she is whisked away from Jordan College by the evil Mrs Coulter (who turns out to be Lyra’s real mother whilst Lord Asriel is her father) and then rescued by the boat-dwelling Gyptians who take her with them on a mission to the North to recover children stolen by ‘The Gobblers’.

This for me was a great book with a brilliant storyline and superb writing style. The first chapter stood out the most for being brilliantly written and subtly (see what I did there) revealing tiny details which become vital throughout the rest of the trilogy.

I particularly like how Pullman has subtly modified everything about our lives to create Lyra’s parallel universe, from Geography, place names, language, fashion, religion and knowledge of science.

This first book was the basis for the movie ‘The Golden Compass’. But don’t get me started on that. I hated that film, and I mean HATED it.

COMING SOON! I review the next in the trilogy; The Subtle Knife.

The Fault in our Stars by John Green

The fault in our starsI read ‘The Fault in our Stars’ by John Green, for two reasons. Firstly everybody I knew seemed to have read it and secondly, it had a really cool cover.

It tells the story of Hazel, a girl with cancer who is using a constant stream of drugs to keep her alive. One day, at a Cancer support group she visits, she meets Augustus Waters and evidently she has to fall in love with him.

The story then progresses. Hazel and Augustus go to Holland to meet Hazel’s favourite author who turns out to be a drunk, whilst nearing the end of the book Augustus’ cancer comes back and kills him.

In my opinion the storyline wasn’t a particularly strong one, or maybe I’m just not cut out for romance novels. However I do think that John Green wrote the book superbly. The first few chapters especially had a firm writing style and made you really connect and emotionalise with Hazel.

Out of ten? I would give this book an eight.

The Hobitit

Hobitit - Gollum‘Hobitit’ is a Finnish TV Series, being one of the only live-action representations of the Lord of The Rings.

In a total of nine episodes this series shows the finding of the one ring by Bilbo Baggins and then goes on to account Books 1,2,4 and 6 of the Lord of the Rings, as narrated by an older Samwise.

I have many criticisms for this series, not least the fact that it is not in English so I can only watch it with subtitles. My main concern is that by limiting themselves to 9 episodes, they featured far more heavily on some aspects of the story and skating over many others with large sections of the story cut out completely. For example a whole episode focussed on Bilbo finding the ring, another on Bilbo’s 111th birthday and another almost complete episode on the hobbit’s journey through the dark forest. However the entire journey of the fellowship only lasted one episode and the scene in the mines of Moria less than two minutes. It also begins to show the scouring of the shire, however this cuts out halfway through for some reason.

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However the series does have to be admired. The representation of Gollum was simple and yet superb and the series was also one of the few adaptations to feature Tom Bombadil.

I also saw quite a few similarities in this series and Peter Jackson’s film trilogy. These include the scene where Saruman imprisons Gandalf in Isengard and the death of Boromir.

All in all a very good series, if I could understand it.

The Hobbit! – 1966 Film

hobbit‘The Hobbit!’ is a 1966 adaptation of JRR Tolkein’s legendary novel. It is famous, not only for being the first adaptation of the Hobbit but also for doing the inconceivable and condensing the whole story into just 12minuetes. Perhaps Jackson could have got some ideas from there.

I would like this ‘film’ as it were, if there were not so many drastic changes to the storyline. Instead of 13 dwarves there are just two men (Thorin Oakenshield) and a women, or princess to be precise, who falls in love with Bilbo. Bilbo is also portrayed as a mighty, destined warrior whos destiny is the kill Smaug (or Slag as he is renamed). This film also cuts out the entire trip to Rivendell as well as the eagles, Beron and the battle of the Five Armies. It also portrays Gandalf more like Saruman, as a wise magician who sits in a tower and foretells the future.

So if the story was told as it actually happened, I think it would be a great way to tell the story. The animation is excellent and even the voices (all done by one man) were great.

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Osgiliath? When did they go to Osgiliath?

That, and by that I mean the title, is a very good question. Where does it say in the Lord of the Rings, or in any of the dozen books of notes accompanying them that Faramir took Frodo, Sam and Gollum to Osgiliath? Nowhere. So why the hell does director choose to add in that tiny little seen, taking up about fifteen minutes of the movie which could have been used for some of the things he left out.

Now don’t get me wrong I agree that no film can follow completely with the books. I understand that some scenes have to be taken out and some added in, that lines need to be swivelled around a and personalities changed, however I think in this scene Jackson goes to far.

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Most of you will probably not know what the hell I am talking about so I will explain thus. In the Two Towers book, Frodo and Sam are captured by Faramir, Captain of the White Tower of Gondor where they are taken to his base at Henneth Annûn. Here he questioned them about the One Ring, realised they were working to destroy it and let them go.

However in Peter Jacksons ‘Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’ movie after being captured Farmarir they are kept prisoner in Henneth Annûn and, after discovering the one ring, Faramir decides to take the one ring to use to help the city of Gondor. He then takes the hobbits, along with Gollum, to Osgiliath where they arrive in a city at war and being bombarded by an attack from orcs and Nazguls.  In the film Faramir also tortures Gollum which was actually quite sad to see.

I don’t know why Jackson did it. Maybee he wanted to show off that his stunt team could successfully tear down the rood of a building, or maybee he was having fun with his remote control Nazgul. It’s not even as if they have made the story any better by doing it this way. Another point to Tolkien.

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