Meh

Star Wars: Jedi Apprentice Defenders of the Dead by Jude Watson

This novel takes place before the Phantom Menace and was really written to be a quick, popular read based around Obi Wan Kenobi’s Jedi training. Unfortunately, no one really bothered to work that hard on the writing or narrative because they had a captive audience (Star Wars fans looking to transition from picture books and easy readers to novels) and as a result the book was very much… meh.

The premise of the book is that Obi Wan and Qui-Gon Jinn travel to a planet that has been at war for so many generations no one really remembers who started it on a rescue mission. While they are there, they encounter a group of people called the Young who have decided that they will defy their families and force their people to talk peace, by any means necessary.

Honestly, it’s not a great book. The premise is pretty interesting, but of course because it’s a Star Wards book, they had to sideline the original elements of the story in favour of the Star Wars characters. The writing is bland, although its a good transitional book I guess, to move young readers along and while I wouldn’t recommend it to an adult, I would hand it to a young reader who loved Star Wars and was ready to move to novels.

Last movie I watched: Deadpool 2

Pretty funny

Last TV episode I watched:

The Crown. Still so good. SO GOOD.

A dud. They have to happen sometimes

The Black Stallion and the Lost City by Steven Farley

I picked up this book years ago after the series was withdrawn from the library I was working in at the time. The library usually couldn’t keep serial horse fiction on the shelves they were so popular, so I was surprised this one was withdrawn. Until I read it, and then it made sense.

This book wasn’t really bad, it just wasn’t really anything. The story starts with the Black and Alex, his rider, in Greece filming a movie about Alexander the Great. Shooting is disrupted one day so the Black, Alex and a friend go out on a ride, come across a beautiful white mare and end up following her into a mythical city were people drink magical water that keeps them young and healthy for a very long time, and spoiler alert, at the end of their lives are fed to the sacred fleshing eating horses from Greek Mythology.

The story is fine I suppose but unoriginal. The writing style is flat and uninteresting. The characters are generally characterless and the mystery of the city is ruined by the flap on the cover, so as a reader it’s just a matter of time before the story unfolds. It’s not even bad enough to real blog critically about.

There is no chance of me recommending this book. I’m not sorry I read it, even though it took forever because there was no narrative drive, I’m just probably never going to think of it ever again.

Last movie I watched:

X-men Apocalypse I think? If so, it was way better than I thought it would be.

Last TV episode I watched:

The Fosters. It’s a great show. I love it. They might be getting a little extreme about creating enough drama for this to go on as long as it has, but I love it anyway.

 

 

Geronimo Stilton doesn’t nail it

Geronimo Stilton: Singing Sensation

This was not Geronimo Stilton at his strongest and no one could be more disappointed then I am. Generally I love Geronimo. Way too much for someone who’s a few years shy of 30 anyway.

This particular one has the trademark fun fonts and Geronimo Stilton’s fumbling, hilarious mishaps but the story was lacking in anything fun or interesting. What you’d imagine to be the story – Geronimo unwillingly entered into a singing contest – is over by the 40th page or so and the rest is Geronimo tracking down some cats who are participating in musical piracy and thwarting them.

I mean, I’m a librarian, I have a healthy respect for copyright law and the pros and cons of the current copyright situation and of course, at the end of the day people should get paid for their arts and talents. But this book was simplistic (literally stolen CDs being burned and sold) and honestly, dull. I’m not sure that anyone, least of all the target audience, is really excited about music pirates. Not musical pirates, because obviously that would be wonderful.

Anyway I’m not going to write off the whole series because of this one but I’m probably not going recommend this one particularly to any kids I run into. Just not that good.

Last movie I watched:

STAR WARS FORCE AWAKENS!!!!!!!! But I can’t talk about it

Last TV episode I watched:

Smallville. Man, I love this show but I had forgotten how lame the first season is

I am very sorry if this is your favourite book… ’cause I thought it was absolute rubbish

The Rift by Andrea Cremer

I tried really, really hard to like this book but I failed. Then I tried to give it the benefit of the doubt but I failed. So then I started looking for redeeming qualities and well, I failed at that too. This book was just one giant stream of tropes back, to back, to back with inconsistent characters and the  attempts at grappling with complex themes were so weak that it’s basically just a lie down and let complex themes fall on top of the story.

So, first the tale itself. Ember is the youngest child of Lord Marrow and resents her future as a bride in an advantageous marriage for her father. She would rather learn to fight with a sword with her oldest friend Alistair. This is why, when she’s claimed by Conatas, a mysterious clan from the north she’s excited to leave her family and enter into a life of …. honestly it’s too hard to make it sound like something excited is going to happen when she gets there. I mean, it’s probably exciting for her but from a reader’s perspective not so much.

She enters into a life of falling immediately in love with her mentor without realizing she’s in love with him, her mentor who is gruff, hard and brutal but we’d never actually know that if we weren’t repeatedly told because he’s actually flat, in love with her and motivated by annoyingly uninteresting things like being the perfect hero and in no way gruff, hard or brutal. She enters into a life where your horse claims you and you can learn to ride expertly in a single day, you get magical personal weapons made specially for you that immediately complete you. She enters into a fifteen second training montage that prepares her for the enter book, which takes place over about 10 days. She enters a life where they take her on a dangerous mission just 4 days after she arrives at her new home and she is able to do more to fight monsters then her entire squad of people while sustaining a serious injury.

Her dearest oldest friend goes from the affectionate joker to the aggressive lover to the affectionate joker to the jealous best friend to the man who sells his soul for a woman who he wasn’t remotely interested in until it was convenient to the plot. The other women are all kickass and epic until they get into a situation where it becomes hard to be kickass and then they give up and either die or go to the dark side. Barrow, her lover and mentor, is constantly described one way, and portrayed totally different.

Eira, who should be a tragic symbol of the corruption of a hero, is in actually a symbol of someone who was clearly lazy, bitter and not that heroic becoming lazier, more bitter and going evil. Without any of the complex feelings that could probably accompany summoning a devil because you know, why not?

Honestly, Ember was the “empowered female character” who was completely devoid of any actual characteristics fumbling her way through a story that had as many surprises in it as a box of crayons with a fellowship of sidekicks who invoke so little sympathy I actually don’t care what happens to them in the next book at all. And that almost never happens.

And it hurts my soul, ’cause if a book has a gay pair of characters in a normal, stable relationship whose sexuality is one of their many characteristics (or would if they had any) I really want to like it.

But I don’t.

Last movie I watched:

The Book Thief. The tears I shed for that movie, oh god, it was so beautiful

Last TV episode I watched:

Smash! Man, the first season of that show was great. I’m so sad that the internet tells me the second was the worst

If this is what dance class is actually like, no wonder I dropped out

Dance Class: So You Think You Can Hip Hop? by Beka and Crisp

Well this book is pretty much everything I hate about girl books.Like pretty much everything. The cover of the book is enthusiastically pink and purple. The characters are the 1) pretty blonde girl 2) the black girl 3) the bitch and 4) the fat one. Seriously, this is a thing that actually happened. It’s brutal and chock full of all the anti-feminist drivel you can possibly handle. Including, but not limited too, a token minority who’s race has nothing to do with her identity (because your race isn’t in any way important to who you are or how you’re perceived at all), the “fat one” who isn’t actually fat in the pictures but we know is fat because the other characters talk about how she’s fat (please let’s talk about how this is the worst possible message we could give to girls), the bitchy character who is mean for no reason at all (because all girls are bitches to each other, it’s the only way to get what we want), and the blonde one who exemplifies everything we should all strive to be (because if we’re nice, work hard and are pretty enough, there’s nothing we can’t do).

Annoying crushes that aren’t based on anything remotely real, bitchy cat fights over lead rolls, jokes about outfits and dating, absolutely the kind of book my daughters won’t need to read.

I mean, if they want to, of course I’ll let them, but they aren’t gonna be laying around the house to be found, that’s all I’m saying.

Last movie I watched:

Oh probably either Dune or About Time. Both are fantastic.

Last episode I watched:

Charmed! Wesley’s date from Angel is an evil, snake wearing, cleavage bearing long dead witch

No wonder I discarded this

The Marvelous Adventures of Gus Beezer with the XMen: X marks the Mutant by Gail Simone, Jason Lethcoe Hi-fi, Dave Sharpe, Mike Raight, Joe Quesada and Dan Buckley

Well, it’s pretty unshocking why no one  read this particular piece of work. It’s a story about Gus, who is the symbolic ultimate nerd child, and like most symbols, isn’t remotely interesting to anyone ever. The book is split into two different parts, one a hand drawn lame adventures Gus imagines himself in. The other one, the “real” one is mostly Gus having very uninteresting “typical” school aged problems, bragging about how he thinks he’s an X Men only to have the X Men show up and inform him that his baby sister actually is a mutant.

Anyway, there’s not much to say about it other then lame. And also there were a series of these.

People thought other people’s kids would like to read a whole bunch of those. Good god, why? I’ve read better fanfiction then this.

Last movie I watched:

Children of Dune! Again. Possibly that’s a mini series. In which case it was About Time still, so beautiful, so very, very beautiful.

Last TV show I watched:

Charmed. I think. Same one as last time. The learning about not using powers for personal gain one.

Good story. Shame about the writing. Seriously. Brutal.

Eldest by Christopher Paolini

This book was like someone ate the Salmarillion, a dictionary, every single TV trope ever and a philosophy textbook, vomited it all up and is now trying to convince me to eat it, it’s good.

That may be harsh. But it also might not be.

I know that he was like 16 when he wrote this book, and honestly, despite the heavy trope-i-ness of the story, it would be an engaging story, if it had a story at all. Because it was like 600 hundred pages of meandering mythology that has literally nothing to do with the plot, ever, ever, ever and vague musings about the morality of war (and still coming to a simplistic conclusion) and the existence of a higher power. It’s about as compelling as a text book. Maybe a textbook written on an interesting subject, but still a textbook.

Here’s the story: Eragorn and Saphira won an epic battle, but things don’t go well at all. Urgals attack suddenly, kidnap Eragorn’s friend and the evil magicians, and kill the king of the Varden. The next ruler is chosen, politics happen (seriously, there are a lot of them but they lack subtly, intricacy or cleverness), Eragorn leaves to train with the elves, where he philosophizes, crushes on the elf princess inappropriately (and agonizes over that) and then leaves again. Meanwhile, the soldiers come to his village looking for Roran. He refuses to let them take him away, so his whole village gets lit on fire, slaughtered and his fiancee gets taken prisoner. He grows as a person (with no character development, which is a remarkable feat really), takes the whole village on a quest to find the Varden and finally runs into Eragorn, where he over emotes (without actually having a character). The Varden get an army together, funds it on lace and play politics. Epic battle, cliff hanger. Over.

There I just saved you 24 hours.

I don’t understand how they even got published. I know, I know I’m a snob but seriously, it was more like fantasy world porn, and less like a narrative anyone actually wants to get through.

Also the story is basically Star Wars and Lord of the Rings having an illegitimate child.

Yup. I think that’s the only book I’ve ever blogged about that I really didn’t like. Please don’t let that effect your opinion of me. Personally, I think it speaks volumes about the book.

Last movie I watched: ParaNorman today at work. Great movie. Great movie.

Last TV episode I watched: This Xena right now. Pretty sure Gabrielle’s screwed world up by freeing the Titans. Just sayin’.

Substance abuse, bad Frenchmen and philosophy – but now I know why I’m reading them

Ranger’s Apprentice Book Three: The Icebound Land by John Flanagan

All right, out of necessity this blog post is going to be full of spoilers ’cause I can’t talk about anything interesting that happened in this book without you know, talking about what happened in this book. So if you’re inspired to read this series and don’t want to know what happens in the third book you should probably go find something else to do with the next ten  minutes of your life.

For anyone else who’s left, let’s continue.

So the Icebound Land picks up where Burning Bridge ended. Will and Evelyn/Cassandra are being kidnapped by Skandian mercenaries (read Vikings)and looking forward to an exciting life of slavery. Halt and Horace are pursuing them through Gallica (read France). Halt is struggling with his oath as a Ranger since it’s stopping him from questing after his apprentice. Horace doesn’t have these problems.

This book started on a high note, which was Halt getting drunk, committing treason and starting a bar fight so he could get exiled and thus be free to go after Will. Unfortunately the story kind of slips downhill after that. Nothing clever happens. Will and Evelyn have a few lame attempts to escape. Halt and Horace follow a very traditional, riding, challenging knights, sleeping at inns, getting sidetracked by people who need help kind of quest and then at the end a satisfying meeting of Halt and Will doesn’t even happen. This meeting is pretty much the reason I’m going to read the fourth one. For all the lack of character depth I am looking forward to it.

‘Cause everyone loves the moment when their favourite character finally catches up with the person they love most in the world. At least, I think they do. Well, I do anyway.

So there are four things that I think I’ll muse on about this book.

Number one: Drugs!

Drugs are complicated. As I understand it, people do them for a variety of reasons, they are rarely particularly good for the people who are doing them and it’s often pretty challenging to stop doing them. Unfortunately this book features Will getting addicted to something called warmweed. His slave masters give it to him on purpose because it makes people easier to control. And by easier to control I mean it makes them into zombies. It’s highly addictive and Will has to go through a long, painful withdrawal process to get control of his life back, not that he cares because he’s a zombie. And there in lies the problem for me. It is a kids book, but there are loads of kids who are affected by drugs and loads of children will grow into teenagers and adults who may have to make decisions about drugs. So I kind of figure if you’re going to have your main character addicted to drugs the least you can do is make it a little more, well, three dimensional than “and someone tricked/forced him into using this drug and it turned him into a complete zombie who wouldn’t raise a hand to help himself if you set his feet on fire until someone slowly, loving, patiently weened him off of it and he became fine again.”  Again, drugs generally cause problems but I’m pretty sure very few of them, if any at all work in such a simplistic, good or bad, no choice kind of way. That’s all I’m saying.

Number two: Bad Frenchmen

Okay, so Halt or Horace are trekking through a neighbouring country where the people speak French, say “ma sewers” and eat long, thin, crusty bread. Maybe I’m reading between the lines but I think it’s France. Which is cool, I like France – visited a few times, enjoyed their long, thin crusty bread, managed to maintain the odd conversation in French about when my train was leaving or what I like on my pizza and went swimming in the Mediterranean sea. But this book is full, I cannot emphasis how full, of comments about how the men in this country have no regard for honour, how they are cowardly, how they are incompetent, how they rule by fear, how they are generally useless and I can’t help but wonder what on earth does John Flanagan have against French people?

He’s also not very flattering towards Vikings.

Number three: Word use.

At least twice in this book someone “accepts their fate philosophically”. I am of the opinion that good writing shouldn’t draw attention to itself but somehow I noticed every time “philosophically” came  up, which makes me think it wasn’t a good word choice. Also, in a book that uses words like “cowl”, “foolhardy” and “composites” having Halt roll his eyes and say “puh-lease” just seemed… ridiculous

Number four: How much I want a magical Ranger pony

There is a lovely scene in which Halt’s Ranger ponies warn him that he’s being followed by someone in the bushes (Horace). The horse indicated that there was someone in the bushes pretty much the way my horse indicates that she thinks there might be something in the bushes. Only when my mare does it, there’s never anything in the bushes and instead of warning me by snorting or tossing her head she jumps ten feet in the other direction and tries to run away. I love my pony dearly and wouldn’t trade her for the world but you know, sometimes I can’t help thinking … Ranger pony, kind of awesome.

And that brings me to the end of this blog. I’m still not a nine year old boy, so it’s possible I’m not getting something out of this book that I could be.  But there are better books for boys.

And I’m probably going to read the next one.

Last movie I watched: Sherlock! Although that might count as a TV show, I’m not sure. Anyway, Sherlock – a BBC production starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. I can’t even explain how awesome it is. Everyone should watch it. EVERYONE.

Last TV show I watched: An episode of Merlin. I love this show!! And this episode had one of the most adorable Merlin Arthur moments – “It’s not wisdom” anyone? Delightful. If we’re being totally honest the excellent Merlin Arthur dynamic is the only reason that show keeps getting renewed.

Just like a band aid – read it fast and get it over with

The Ranger’s Apprentice Book 2 The Burning Bridge by John Flanagan

I have been accused of being a literature snob. This post might, possibly, maybe re-enforce that accusation and I find this troubling. But not unfair.

I can’t remember exactly why I started reading the Ranger’s Apprentice books. My current theory involves a kid in the summer reading program telling me about one of them just as I was finishing my book. Whatever. I read it and I must have liked it because I actually bought the second one.

So the Rangers Apprentice is packed full of fantasy tropes. The biggest, most obvious one is that Will is an orphan boy who wants to be a knight, but he doesn’t get chosen by the Battleschool. Instead he gets picked up by an elusive, mysterious, cloaked dude called Halt. I like Halt. He’s my favourite. Halt is a Ranger – he ranges  around the kingdom with his super smart pony and a camouflage cloak and a bow to scout and spy and help the helpless, that kind of thing. And guess what? Will’s going to learn all these things too!

Okay, so the stories not exactly a new one but it’s a nice one. This book starts with Will leaving Halt to go with fellow Ranger and former Halt apprentice Gilan and his old rival-turned-best-friend Horace on a routine diplomatic mission. Spoiler alert – it doesn’t go well.

So here’s our nice, if generic story line. And it’s pretty good in a lot of ways. I mean, everyone knows that we don’t read serial fiction for the excitingly original story lines. We read them because they’re predictable and comforting and fun because we get to know what’s going on. Therefore I will not judge the story too much. It does all of those things, and it’s targeted at nine year old boys so it’s full of tropes that many nine year old boys probably really enjoy, like annoying people getting thrown in motes and lighting stuff of fire.

However, my literary snobbishness and also my believe that children are both capable of reading smart material and deserving of it really struggled with the writing of this book. So much so that I had to get a good roll going before I got so caught up in the story that the bad writing became funny instead of annoying. Then I really started to enjoy it.

There was just so much telling and so little showing! All my creative writing teachers would frown on this book.

Each character’s thoughts are described in a strangely omnipotent way, kind of like those scenes from That 70s Show where the camera circles around each character and we hear their thoughts and unfortunately they are almost never thoughts that couldn’t be gotten across with a few lines of description.

Instead of  something like “Halt listened to the birds as they rode. He almost asked Will to identify which bird it was when he remember that Will was miles away with Gilan” we get “Halt realized he missed Will more than he ever imagined he would.” Instead of something like “Evelyn rocked on her heels a few times before turning and sprinting towards Horace” we get “Eyelyn didn’t want to leave Will but she realized that his arguments did make the most sense so she did.” Is it too much to ask that we’re given a little credit for deducing these beloved characters moods and thoughts by their actions instead of because we’re told what their thinking every time things get complicated?

Unfortunately for me, and luckily for John Flanagan I suppose, the last fifty pages were really exciting. So I’m waiting for the next one to come to my library not because I’m that excited to read it but because I need to know that INSERT SPOILER HERE.

Maybe if I was a nine year old boy the writing of this book wouldn’t have bugged me so much but I’m not so I’ll probably continue to have mixed feelings about this book. Having said that, I’d still recommend it to boys who are looking for something with arrows and bad guys dying (in a non-gory, non-problematic way of course).

Last movie I watched: Well, I watched part of Despicable Me, which I love, but I fell asleep this time. The last complete movie I watched was Wall.E. All I have to say is “Ahhhhhhhhhhh”

Last TV episode I watched: Well, Crash Course World History again. Canada got mentioned! Which is always exciting. The last real TV episode was Saving Hope . Michael Shanks is kind of awesome.