Month: November 2017

@TheMagicMisfits by @ActuallyNPH #bookreview #hanreview

36417447

Egmont Publishing
Release date: 30.11.2017
From Goodreads:
This book contains a BIG SECRET. Read on if you dare . . .
Do you believe in magic?
Carter doesn’t. He knows magic tricks are just that – tricks. And as a street magician he’s also pretty good at them. But then Carter runs away from his conman uncle and he finds himself alone and in danger from dastardly carnival ringleader, B.B. Bosso. He could really use some magic now . . .
A chance encounter with the mysterious Mr Dante Vernon leads Carter to a magic shop, where he teams up with five other like-minded kids and the MAGIC MISFITS are born! Can the gang use their magical talents to save the day and stop B.B. stealing a priceless diamond?
And now for the BIG SECRET . . .
Inside this book you will find a treasure trove of tips, codes and stage tricks that will help YOU join the Magic Misfits and make some magic of your own. (BUT DON’T TELL ANYONE.)

Preorder it here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Magic-Misfits-Neil-Patrick-Harris/dp/1405290331/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1511714070&sr=1-1
Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28107444-the-magic-misfits?ac=1&from_search=true

The Characters

Carter is a moral and kind young man who even the coldest of hearts will warm to. He’s our eyes and ears into the world of magic, and he will keep you engaged from the very start to the last word. As an older reader, I take the perspective of wanting to protect him and keep him safe, to the point where I want to reach in and take him out of harm’s way. There’s little to fear though, as once the story gets going, there are enough characters that have his back.
Mr Vernon is very much my favourite adult within the book; part Dumbledore, part Neil Patrick Harris himself and just a splash of Mr Miyagi. I love that the characters allows the children to get themselves out of trouble, giving help in many different forms and taking almost no credit for it. I look forward to seeing more of him as the books progress.

The Plot

It’s a perfect origins story that has laid the foundation for any, and every, sequel Neil Patrick Harris will grace us with. In this novel, the protagonist is Carter; runaway orphan, looking for a place to call home when he gets wrapped up in the mystery of the Pock-Picketers and Frown Clowns.
The Magic Misfits, by the end of the book, have formed into a wonderful band of magicians and friends. While its ending is positive and delivers an uplifting success, it is more about the characters, and the magic.
If you’re anything like me, that uplifting feeling will not leave you; but pull you into the Mistfit’s charm and claim you as one of their own.

The Writing

Neil Patrick Harris, writing with Alex Azam has a wonderful way of breaking the fourth wall. I couldn’t help but read this in one sitting, even when I was reminded that it’s important to pee, I passed.
There’s a passion and deep-rooted love of magic and family woven into this narrative that not many people would be able to achieve without is feeling too overworked.
It’s undoubtedly an easy read for anyone reading alone and of a reading age beyond 12 years old, however I could imagine any parent taking joy in taking time reading this as a bedtime story; voices and all.

Illustrations

The pictures within this Middle-grade book are so beautiful, I really want to have some of them up as art work. They add to the richness of the story and with some aspects, help engage the imagination.

Goodbye Perfect by Sara Barnard #bookreview #hanreview @NetGalley

Release date: 8.2.18
Preorder here
From Goodreads:

Eden McKinley knows she can’t count on much in this world, but she can depend on Bonnie, her solid, steady, straight-A best friend. So it’s a bit of a surprise when Bonnie runs away with the boyfriend Eden knows nothing about five days before the start of their GCSEs. Especially when the police arrive on her doorstep and Eden finds out that the boyfriend is actually their music teacher, Mr Cohn.
Sworn to secrecy and bound by loyalty, only Eden knows Bonnie’s location, and that’s the way it has to stay. There’s no way she’s betraying her best friend. Not even when she’s faced with police questioning, suspicious parents and her own growing doubts.
As the days pass and things begin to unravel, Eden is forced to question everything she thought she knew about the world, her best friend and herself.

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The Characters

I’ve never spent time with a character like Eden. She’s far from perfect, temperamental and loyal to a fault. It’s wonderful to see her develop throughout the book and becomes self-aware.
The pain and confusion Eden feels when her best friend leaves and the truth begins to unravel is very raw and real. Her relationships (adoptive parents, boyfriend and sisters) add to her complexity and gives her a vulnerability and equal inner strength that makes her a relatable character.
Valerie is Eden’s sister and a surprisingly good addition to the plot. Initially, I disliked her; I trust Eden’s voice. However, as the plot progresses I warm to her and I’m able to distinguish between Eden’s perception and the truth of the character.

The Plot

Finally! A YA novel that doesn’t glamorise or romanticise the student/teacher relationship that is often prominent in teen fiction. Not only that, Goodbye Perfect delves into the consequences of engaging in this sort of relationship.
The key here is that the story focuses on those left behind, but leaves room to show how the core couple feel about each other. The book explores the complexity of love, the consequences and dangers of grooming.

The Writing

Barnard gives Eden a strong voice that makes Goodbye Perfect an easy read; it’s clear and modern with a message all should hear.

Paddington 2- PG

Paddington 2

Release date: 10.11.2017

Trailer

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Description: Settled in with the Brown family, Paddington the bear is a popular member of the community who spreads joy and marmalade wherever he goes. One fine day, he spots a pop-up book in an antique shop — the perfect present for his beloved aunt’s 100th birthday. When a thief steals the prized book, Paddington embarks on an epic quest to unmask the culprit before Aunt Lucy’s big celebration.

The good

Paddington and the Brown family are back, and they’re as charming as ever. This is the perfect antidote to the current climate and stresses of every day life.

From the opening narrated letter to Aunt Lucy to the films resolution you will be uplifted to the point of tears.

There’s a whose who of British talent who happily take on the number of flamboyant cameos. Some will go over the heads of international viewers, but there are enough Potter alumni to keep everyone happy.

The bad

A good chunk of the film takes place within Portobello prison. Here we get one of my favourite additions to the whole film; Brendan Gleason as chef inmate “knuckles”. Full disclosure, I have a soft spot for all the Gleason men but I’ll challenge anyone to hate the gruff cook who’s heart melts at Paddington’s influence. The one thing that enables an audience feel fulfilled is the progression and development; and you get it with Knuckles in all its Han Solo-esque glory.

The way in which the prison is ran is very fanciful and I LOVE that. It reminds me of a book I don’t remember the title of in which the parents of the protagonist purposely get themselves thrown into prison so they don’t have to cook for themselves. It’s clear that the film isn’t glamourising or even commenting upon the prison system; it’s simply just having harmless fun.

The ugly

I ugly cried. This film has found a winning formula and has worked out that tears are better when formed because of positive and bittersweet motivations. In a tone similar to It’s a Wonderful Life, it will render anyone with an open heart a blubbering mess. Thankfully, the film offers you some mid-credit sequences so you can sort yourself out before leaving the cinema.

Jumping the Shark (or how I learned to stop watching a show)

Have you ever found episodes of a once-loved show stacking up and taking up space on your TV box? How about powering through numerous ‘bad’ episodes, convincing yourself the next one will be better? Or have any shows gotten away despite you really liking it, just because it aired at a time when technology didn’t allow for you to record everything?
Some shows are like your best friend or secret lover; you’ll have disagreements, long periods when you don’t see each other and you get used to a life without them. However, when you catch up, it’s like you’ve never been apart and no matter how bad things get (How I Met Your Mother, I’m looking at you); you’ll be there until the very end.
But, when do we know when enough is enough, call it quits and leave the show to be loved by another?

Cast Changes
Often when a successful show progresses, actors leave the show in order to seek new challenges. In other cases, they may be wanting roles in movies; and they are not always accommodating of TV schedules. Gone are the days where you could work all the hours sent on multiple sets and have a successful TV and film career. Michael J Fox was able to film Family Ties during the day and Back to the Future (1985) in the evening.
Depending on the actor’s impact on the show, it can change the dynamic and the show may lose its feet, and its audience, while replacing what it lost.

Case in point: Two and a Half Men (2003 – 2015) were left in a difficult position in 2011, when production was halted on series 8 to allow cast member Sheen to seek help for his problem with addiction. Due to further complications, Sheen was fired from the show.
Ashton Kutcher tried his best as Walden Schmidt, a billionaire unrelated to any existing character, who buys Charlie’s house upon the start of series 9. Unfortunately, the chemistry that made the show work was lost; It floundered for a further four seasons before ending in February 2015.

Promises aren’t met
There are shows that offer so much in terms of plot, intrigue and mystery. You are love bombed with the fast pace, refreshing concept and glossy characters. Some are so well made and pose questions that you just can’t wait for the next episode. Everyone loves the show, everyone wants a piece of it and you feel like you’ve got a special bond with it. However, those questions soon start racking up and answers aren’t forthcoming. You grow bored and soon find you’ve lost hope of getting the answers and, in some cases, you’re certain the producers are making it up as they go along and have no idea what the answers are themselves.

Case One: Lost’s (2004 – 2010) first series was undoubtedly one of the best presented mind warping shows to date. Passengers from a plane crash, left stranded on an mysterious island while their past comes back to haunt them. Channel 4 did a wonderful trick that they still use for their resident soap today; they aired the following episode on E4 directly after the Channel 4 broadcast. Being in uni at the time, we only had Channel 4. Each week we would gather around the tv and as that chilling music announced the episodes end, we’d all gasp and wish we had E4. One week, we thought we had it sorted; a digital box that we forgot to test out beforehand. Cue a frantic 10 minutes while we tried, in vain, to plug the damn thing in. I can tell you now which episode it was that had us so desperate to see the next; the seventh episode titled The Moth. Not many shows have that impact.
However, by the time I got to the cliffhanger of ‘Not Penny’s boat’ I was jaded, my mind was mulch with keeping all the strands in context and I never returned to the island. From the dwindling viewing figures, I wasn’t the only one; they declined slow enough to keep getting a renewal. By series 5’s series finale, it had lost half its audience and bowed out a year later to one of the most hated show finales.

Case Two: Heroes (2006- 2010) was another unique show that I discovered during my university days. I was not one for going out, so binge watching shows became my go to for the dark evenings. I was recommended this NBC show about people with superpowers.
Being a time before Netflix, I indulged in online viewing. My best friend and house mate, was preparing to go to a party when I suggested watching this new show. Just one episode, I’d insisted. Eight hours later, we had watched all the episodes the internet had to offer; painfully waiting for the programme to buffer while we made tea and toast. Even now, I can text her ‘la pom pom girl’ (We inexplicably had French subtitles and it forever became Clare’s nickname) and we’ll begin quoting lines to each other.
I’m sure, based upon this back story, you’ll be surprised to find out I didn’t see much passed the second series’ ending. The show had become so wrapped up in its own mythology and world building that it seemed to forget the questions as soon as it asked them. Just like my waning attention for the convoluted show, audience rating fell dramatically. Perhaps had the show have operated as it originally intended, as an anthology, it may have had more than a fleeting success. Alas, the creator appeared to be listening to fans and became interested in wish fulfillment. Which leads me to my next thorn in the side of show success.

Social Media
It’s a tricky thing, Twitter. On the one hand, producers get an instant snapshot of audience reception enabling them to please their consumers and give them what they want. Of course, the intention of this is to keep ratings high. However, it can often have the adverse effect. Because, on the other hand, listening to fans can often lead to poisoning the water you need to live. Making changes based upon fan reception can sometimes come at the expense of character and plot integrity.

Case in point: Big Bang Theory ( 2007 – Present) There’s little doubt that the show is still a powerhouse going into its 11th series. I also have to point out, in defence of the show, that my relationship with the comedy is intrinsically linked to my father who once made me watch the same episode 5 times in a 24 hour period (Thanks Channel 4, for your plus 1 and repeat schedule).
The biggest issue for me with the show’s story line is the one concerning Penny and Raj. By the end of series 4, Penny was seeking comfort after months of watching Leonard happy in a relationship and finds herself with Raj, in Leonard’s bed no less, just as we cut to the credits. It didn’t sit right with me and it wasn’t something I felt was what either character would do.
Neither did many of the fans, and they took to social media to express their outrage. And they were heard. By the end of the summer, there’s been a rewrite and it was now a simple misunderstanding. I don’t know what I hated more; that it had been written in or that those writing the show had such little conviction that they could change it without a second thought.

Too Formulaic
Some shows have a great premise, good stories and excellent characters. However, the episodes go through the motions and become stagnant after a while. There are even some that you can describe episode plotlines down to the twists and reveals

Case One: Alias (2001 – 2006) College double agent who gets to play dress up, forbidden love with handler and a difficult father-daughter relationship. What’s not to love?! So, it was never a massive hit to begin with, but it did get an outing on channel 4 here in the UK. I did manage to watch all of its 4 series, but it was more out of sheer stubbornness than enjoyment. Had it been today and available on Netflix, I doubt I would have gotten past the first series.
The biggest issue being it’s formula; a busy and action-pact opening 10 minutes, followed by 25 minutes of slow exposition culminating in a showdown, twist or ticking bomb that cut to credits and resolved in the following episode. I’d imagine it was good for ratings; people desperate to tune in to find out if Sydney was safe, however in the binge-watch era it becomes tedious very quickly.

Case Two: House (2004 – 2012) made a US household name of our beloved Hugh Laurie. It was (and still is) an excellent medical procedural riff on Sherlock Holmes. However, if you missed an episode all you needed to do was ask a friend if there was any character development because, when it came to ‘patient of the week’ there was a strict formula the show stuck to; patient gets sick and ends up at Princeton–Plainsboro Teaching Hospital where House exploits them to challenge his diagnostic team. The patient will be misdiagnosed, get better before deteriorating to the point of almost-no return before House, against hospital regulation, does his thing and the patient recovers completely.
The show could work with the formula while you cared about the characters. Unfortunately, by the shows closing series, too many of the fan favourite actors had departed, leaving little motivation for anyone other than hardcore followers.

Reminds you too much of an old favourite
You won’t notice at first. There are some shows that you get caught up in, they fill the space of a departing show. Then, as it gets into a rhythm you might notice an odd theme here or a line there. Maybe it’s even a character that reminds you; you’ve been here before. Most of the time, it doesn’t matter and it’s just playing to a winning formula. However, there’s the odd few shows that don’t quite make it their own and you’re just left with a poor imitation.

Case in point: Designated Survivor (2016 – present) started strong but even in its first series it lost half its audience. Six episodes into the second series and amid flagging ratings, the show has changed its format and it’s putting the Kiefer Sutherland show at a disadvantage. It appears Theresa May is not the only one using the West Wing (1999 – 2006) playbook; Designated Survivor is trying to pitch Kirkman as the new Barlet; the story, dialogue and confrontations all give a sense of deja vu, but lets face it there’s only one guy who can write a political conflict about an animal. That man is Aaron Sorkin.

Yet…

There’s always one you can’t give up on
There’s that one that’s in your DNA, it has helped form part of who you are and the friends you’ve made. So while any of the above may apply, you just can’t quite let go. Course, the show the show I’m thinking of is Doctor Who.
I’ve struggled with the last two incarnations, despite my love of bother actors and I’ve very much open to BBC’s new occupant. However, the words ‘I’m not watching it again.’ have left my lips so many times since the Ponds left the TARDIS.
This show, for me, is more like a relationship than anything else on TV. I can’t give up, because it’s Christmas, then it’s a new series; things will have changed. Then, I’ll leave the episodes building up (of course, I’ve still got it on series link) and other people brag about how good a time they’re having watching it. So I creep back, with chocolates and wine.

Star Trek Discovery S1 ep7: Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad

Star Trek Discovery
S1 ep7: Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad
From IMDB:
As the U.S.S. Discovery crew attempts to let loose at a party, an unwelcome visitor comes aboard bringing about a problematic and twisted sequence of events.

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My favourite episode so far; it takes an old school Trek idea and makes it feel fresh and new.

The Logical

This is the first episode where the ‘previously on…’ and the title sequence run one after the other. Immediately I feel like something different is going to happen this episode. This then leads naturally into Michael’s ‘ship’s log’. It does feel a little bit like a homage to the recent films, but it still is a nice touch.

We get a party. A proper party. Not one of the stuffy things of Trek of old. There’s alcohol, there’s loud music and there is fraternisation. We get a drunk Tilly, and its genius.

Michael and Ash are being established as a romantic couple. It’s not subtle, it’s beautifully organic and totally fun to watch. Especially as the episode progresses and Michael is able to explore her emotions.

The plot develops around a returning fan favourite; using the good old trojan horse trick to get on board. However, it’s not the only old trick in the book that the episode uses. Henry Mudd, seeking his revenge uses a temporal loop to gain information about Discovery. It’s delightful and fun. And you know what makes it different from other shows that use this plot device? We don’t follow the character that is exempt from the loop. It’s our resident Stamets! I did tell you I loved him, right? When asked about the second run through, Stamets has to correct them:

“Multiple times actually, and I’ve yet to get a win for the home team.”

If you loved Stamets before, you’ll be bursting with love after seeing be all positive and joyful. Even more so when you see how he responds to Michael. The best part was watching him teach her how to dance.

The time loops develop to a musical crescendo and by the episode’s time runs out, everything is resolved and Mudd is sent off with a beautiful wave from Stamets.

The Illogical

Call me cynical, but was the Gormagander the alien of the week to coincide with the release of series 2 of Stranger Things?

 

Final thoughts
No Klingons and, surprise surprise I loved every minute of this episode. I’ll let you into a secret; I didn’t have any illogical points and I think the timing of the episode was genius.

Almost Midnight by Rainbow Rowell Illustrations by Simini Blocker

Almost Midnight by Rainbow Rowell Illustrations by Simini Blocker

Buy it here

Midnights

Is a wonderfully charming story that will fit within a tube ride if you time it right. You can see where it’s going before the characters do, and this one does leave you wanting more.

I could see this being an individual story, showing a development over time. However, the snapshot of this one evening every year works well and will leave a smile on your face.

Kindred Spirits

This is my favourite of the two; it is relatable, nostalgic and totally sweet. Taking place in the run up to 2015’s release of Force Awakens the main character explores Geekdom and managing expectations.

I was a romance like the one that appears in this second short story. It’s not a sweeping gesture, but a warmth and comfort that comes with trusting a person.

This book will make a perfect Christmas gift for any fan of Rowell’s previous work.

Bonfire by @Krytenritter #bookreview #hanreview @NetGalley @Arrowpublishing @WindmillBooks

Bonfire

Release date: 9.11.17
Buy it here
Signed edition here

From Goodreads: It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands.

But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town’s most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens’ biggest scandal from more than a decade ago involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.

Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as Abby tries to find out what really happened to Kaycee, she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game,” which will threaten the reputations, and lives, of the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her.

With tantalizing twists, slow-burning suspense, and a remote, rural town of just five claustrophobic miles, Bonfire is a dark exploration of the question: can you ever outrun your past?

Bonfire-book

My first thoughts

I’ve been itching to get a hold of a copy for months. I somehow knew it was going to be something I’d love, and I wasn’t wrong. I’d already pre-ordered a signed copy, but Net Galley UK approved my request and sent me a Kindle copy at the beginning of the week. Full of cold, I set myself on the sofa with a cuppa and a blanket, and past a whole autumnal day within Ritter’s world.

The Characters

Abby is so relatable, its rather scary. She’s a little bit of a loner, fuck up and passionate about her job. However, that’s not where the comparisons end for me. It’s Abby’s relationship with father that will haunt and sooth me for many days; the difficulty, the pain and guilt are all things I understand and help me to be drawn into the plot. It wouldn’t matter what the plot was; I’d have followed her into the depths of hell because I had her back, and many other readers will feel the same.
The supporting characters are all explored through Abby’s thoughts and memories and, as a result, you trust them as much as she does. Condor is one of my favourite characters, and I wish we’d been given more time with him. However, as Abby goes, so goes my nation.
There’s enough mystery behind a lot of the characters and it’s organic; allowing you to suspect and dismiss as the novel progresses.

The Plot

It’s a perfect slow burn plot that is set in motion way before the book begins. Being a book within the crime thriller genre, it would be easy to fall into the stereotypical pit falls or become so convoluted that it loses its readers. Bonfire escapes both of these, by giving a clever plot that will keep you guessing right up until the final reveal.

Underlying the law suit that the environmental lawyers are trying to uncover, Abby is returning home and opening up old wounds she never expected to face. It brings about a heart to the book that some crime novels of this ilk often lack.

The Writing

There’s a wonderful voice presented in this first-person narrative, one that I trust; Abby fast becomes a person I would love to get to know. The development of the plot and the sleep deprivation is well presented in the narration; without losing clarity of written structure.

This is a solid debut novel by Ritter, and I for one will be looking forward to any and all future offerings.