Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Film review - Thor: The Dark World starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston and Natalie Portman

Can you have too many superhero films? Not according to Marvel, who bring back Thor for his third outing on the big screen.

Two years after the events of the first film in the franchise (and after Avengers Assemble), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is still trying to subdue the uprisings in the nine realms caused by the destruction of the Bifrost, all while pining after Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who is holed up in London doing her science thing.

While Thor broods (with his top off for some of it - thank you, director) Jane heads out on a date - the first of many funny scenes in the film.

Because while Thor: The Dark World is trying to be a serious film (with limited success), where it really engaged the audience was with the comedy - the quick quips and moments like Thor hanging his hammer up on a coat rack had people in stitches, as did one scene between Thor and Loki (Tom Hiddleston), which I won’t spoil for you, but which had the second of two guest stars I completely wasn't expecting.

On the serious side, the interplay between Thor and his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) feels a bit clunky, and the bad guys (a race of evil guys led by an unrecognisable Christopher Ecclestone who want to destroy the nine realms) are just bad guys, with little depth. This is not a perfect superhero film, but there are some really strong moments. Hemsworth’s boldness and kinglike strutting shows that this is his film - he's definitely a king, whatever anyone else says.

And the quieter moments, in between all the huge set piece fighting scenes (seriously, the Avengers can save New York, but they leave Greenwich in THAT state?) are brilliant too. There is a heartbreaking but beautiful scene roughly a third of the way through found me struggling to get rid of whatever was causing my eye to water.

But really, how can I talk about Thor: The Dark World without talking a bit more about Loki?

He’s so, so bad, but so, so good. Just the right side of pantomime villain, Hiddleston knocks it out of the park with his portrayal of the confident, cocky, sarcastic yet broken Loki, and the more I saw him on screen, the bigger my crush on him grew. Loki is a bit of a scene stealer in Thor: The Dark World, but no one can begrudge him his screen time - he'll have you laughing, crying and sighing in despair.

There are other characters who provide great support - Jane is as sweet and tough as she was in the first film and Idris Elba just exudes power as Heimdall - and then there are those who are a little caricaturist - mainly I'm thinking of Darcy (Kat Dennings), whose role is to be the sidekick and whose every action you could see set up miles off.

Despite its faults, Thor: The Dark World is a solid superhero film, and is perfectly set up for a sequel, so there’s no chance of Marvel getting tired of superhero films soon. Let’s hope we don’t either.

Thor: The Dark World is out today.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Sunday Post (#26) and Showcase Sunday (#12)

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, and Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits and Tea and inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and the Story Siren. They're a chance to share news, a post to recap the past week on your blog, highlight our newest books and see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, or bought.

It's been a while since I did one of these. In fact, it's been a while since I did anything on my blog! I've been busy getting a new job (still journalism, but covering the publishing industry), so I haven't had much time for anything else.

I've managed to get my hands on some lovely books while I've been away though...

From the library:
Eleanor and Park by Robin Rowell
Seeking Crystal by Joss Stirling

Happy Endings and This Thirty Something Life, both by Jon Rance (thanks @HodderFiction on Twitter)

For review:
The Siege by Adrien Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark (from Penguin)
London Villages by Zena Alkayat (from Aurum)
If Mayors Ruled the World by Benjamin R. Barber (from Yale University Press)

Borrowed from a friend:
More Than This by Patrick Ness

Resist by Sarah Crossan

I've got some time off in between finishing my current job and starting my new one, so I'll be doing lots of reading then.

What's been happening with you? Catch me up!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Book review: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

You'll know Matthew Quick for The Silver Linings Playbook, and Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is his highly anticipated second novel.

I only recently read The Silver Linings Playbook, and absolutely adored it. Perhaps because of this, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock didn't live up to my expectations.

It's Leonard Peacock's 18th birthday, and he's wrapped up for presents for his closest friends - his neighbour, a violin virtuoso, his teacher, and the daughter of a preacher. He'll give them the presents, and say goodbye.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is told through the eyes of the protagonist, whose inner voice is one I found difficult to be comfortable with. Partially, this is due to the fact that Leonard is a strange character with many problems, but mostly it was to do with Quick's writing style. For a start, he employed the letter technique he used in The Silver Linings Playbook, only here it was strange and didn't really add anything to the novel. I didn't feel like I knew Leonard well enough to work out what the letters were getting at much of the time.

The main problem, and the reason I didn't want to expend too much time working out the meaning of the letters, is that I just wasn't absorbed in the novel, and that's because it's set out a little like a scientific paper - perhaps because Leonard spends a lot of his time observing people and taking mental notes. In the book, this manifests itself in constant footnotes, which made it hard for me to find a rhythm while reading. Do I read the footnotes as soon as they're referenced? Do I wait to the end of the sentence they're referenced in? Do I wait to the end of the page or chapter? Or do I just ignore them altogether? I went for the first option, but the constant stop/start meant it was more than three quarters of the way through the book before I started enjoying the novel, and that was only because of the BIG REVEAL.

Quick is good at keeping you guessing. I tried constantly to work out what led Leonard to his actions in the novel, and none of my guesses were accurate, even though a couple came close. When the moment came, I was a little stunned, and despite having been reluctantly picking up the novel over a couple of weeks, I suddenly found myself enthralled and intrigued as to what would come next. However, even though Quick reveals what's wrong with Leonard, there's never a workable solution given to his problems, and that bugged me. There were perhaps allusions to it, but none of them were satisfying.

And that was the overall problem - I just felt a little dissatisfied at the end of Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock. I felt like it was a novel that pretty much started where it began in terms of character development. I can see what Quick was trying to do - Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is a novel about depression, and love, and friendship, and relationships - but I just didn't care enough about Leonard until the last quarter of the book. Perhaps Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is one of those novels I need to read again, when the ghost of The Silver Linings Playbook has fled my mind and my expectations are lower.

How I got this book: Borrowed from the library

Monday, 7 October 2013

Reading challenge 2013: How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

Here's what I expected before I started reading How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran - that it would be honest and opinionated and funny.

What I didn't expect was to learn quite so much about Moran, particularly regarding her masturbatory habits and her menstrual cycle, and definitely not within the first couple of chapters.

Still, once I got the shock out of the way (as Moran probably intended) I began to enjoy the book.

Part feminist manifesto, part guide on being yourself, part memoir, How To Be a Woman is fully hilarious, whether Moran is talking about her (mostly) disaster of a wedding, her fashion choices or her treatment of colleagues at her first job.

That's not to say How To Be a Woman is not a serious or touching book. Moran's chapters on children and abortion feature some particularly heartrending moments, and her treatise on plastic surgery had me nodding most of the way through.

I don't agree with everything Moran says in How To Be a Woman, but I do agree with the push behind it all - that the way to be a woman is just to be who you are, and to be a human being first, and everything else second.

I think Moran is probably too honest for some, but I loved it. And if nothing else, I will take Moran's fashion rules away with me and treasure them, especially the one about how 'you can get away with nearly anything if you wear the thing with black opaque tights and boots'. So true.

How To Be a Woman is the sixth book in my challenge to ready 12 non-fiction books in 2013. I'm failing miserably.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Book of the month - September 2013

A little late (again), but the best book I read in September was...

I'm a huge fan of Maggie Stiefvater, and this standalone is definitely my favourite book of hers.

What was your favourite book from your September reading?

Saturday, 5 October 2013

My week in books (#11)

My week in books is a feature where I share things I've found interesting from the past week that concern books, literature and all things book blogging.

I did something a few weeks ago when Seamus Heaney passed away. Since then his publishers, Faber & Faber, have set up a website here, collecting tributes, memories and more.
Two of the best books I've read this year have been Cinder and Scarlett by Marissa Meyer, and I'm hugely excited about Cress, which comes out early next year. Here's an interview with Meyer, where she talks a little bit about what we should expect in Cress, as well as other things.

Also speaking this week was Andy Serkis, who talked about The Bone Season film. have an interview here.

As well as being a lover of books, I'm also a bit of a spelling, grammar and punctuation nerd, so I loved these mugs, which are both funny and helpful. For those who prefer their literary gifts to have a bit more flair, here is a gorgeous book-inspired Kate Spade scarf (there's more available in this range).

And finally, if you're hungry, don't look at this Tumblr post, which is a collection of images of meals from literature (think Heidi's cheese on toast).

Have you found anything interesting this week to share?


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