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Oh. My. God, everyone, it was basically exactly what you'd want from a Spooks movie. It was RIDICULOUS. It was AMAZING. There were fights. A whooooole bunch of people got shot. People get questioned A LOT. Things went boom. London (love of my life) looked fantastic.


Also now I've linked to this on [livejournal.com profile] spooky_doings I feel obliged to say: 1) this is overexcited word vomit, not a sensible review and 2) I have a terrible memory and have probably got stuff in the wrong order/forgotten things. 

In conclusion: go see it, but go see it expecting a very long episode.

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 I decided a while ago that I would start putting up short reviews of all the books I read, partly so I could actually remember them. I decided to start from the beginning of 2015 and have been piling books up on the sofa for the last six weeks, well done me. 

So, in no particular order:

Gentlemen of the Road - Michael Chabon I really liked this book about two Jewish adventurers who get involved in a rebellion - it was written in a very engaging style, it was funny and I like the adventuring of the main characters. It was pretty short, which was a shame - I could happily have spent more time with the characters. Very Musketeers-y (shut up, that is totally a word). 

Dream London - Tony Ballantyne I made it a grand total of one chapter into this book. It was London-based urban fantasy, which is basically my very favourite genre, but it was so bad. The main character referred to himself in the third person, loads of women want to shag him and men want to be like him, everyone spoke in a weird pseudo-Victorian style for no reason I could see, apart from the main character's ex women were mentioned as whores. Somehow I carried on after that (shouldn't have done) and then a really weird gay character turned up who was an incredibly camp cliche who for some reason kept speaking in alliteration.  Oh and he wanted to shag the main character, of course. 

I have no idea what the London part of the plot was, save that London is changing in some mysterious way. It wasn't well set up and I couldn't dredge up any interest in ploughing on through the stereotypes and the Gary Stu. 

Alex + Ada Volume 1 - Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn This was a graphic novel I really liked. Alex is lonely in the future and his grandmother buys him an android, and the story develops from there. I read the Luna Brothers' Girls years ago and really liked the art style, and this is the same kind of thing. I loved the atmosphere and world building of this and definitely want to keep going with the series.

Room - Emma Donoughue This is our latest book club choice, and it was the one book on the list I didn't want to read, but the popular vote decided it, so I got it out of the library and DAMN it is readable. I mean, DAMN. The main character lives with her son in one room, where they're being kept by the man who kidnapped her seven years ago. It's pretty upsetting - not least because there are multiple cases of this situation in the real world - but the mother character is really strong. I think I got through the book in about two hours. And I could tell I was being emotionally manipulated but I almost didn't care (almost). I don't know, I really liked this book, heartwrenching as it is. Looking forward to the book club!

A Child's Book Of True Crime - Chloe Hooper I have forgotten how this book - about a teacher having an affair with one of her pupils' fathers - ends. I seem to remember losing sympathy for pretty much everyone involved over the course of the book, including minor characters. There was a device of a book within a book, a reimagining of a local murder told for children that didn't quite work (even within book world it wasn't a real book, and this is getting confusing), and I just don't think anyone was as interesting as the author thought they were. 

The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood This book is a brick and I do most of my reading in the bath these days so this took me an absolute age to get through. I enjoyed the story of the Chase sisters but I'm not sure my interest stayed consistent all the way through. It was very well done, and I loved the newspaper articles and the way that the perception of the girls' lives were shown versus the reality. 

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It’s been a while since I’ve been properly disappointed in a book. I must have been lucky because I’ve had a run of books recently that I’ve really enjoyed (I have reviewed some of them here but I have some more to do).

The book is PopCo by Scarlett Thomas. It’s all about a girl called Alice Butler who grew up with her code breaking grandparents (after her mother died and her father disappeared) and who now works for a toy company designing new toys. It is a novel with two distinct threads – the coding, mathematics and patterns of the world Alice grew up in, and the team-building nonsense of a PopCo retreat which turns into something a bit more sinister (just a bit, though).

Spoilers )

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So we have a book club at work, which has had some *cough* variable results (anti-rec: The Husband's Secret, AVOID) and the last meeting was to discuss Ben Okri's The Famished Road, which I found dense and monotone and which I could not finish (ditto most of the group).

By contrast, I read the latest book - Slated by Teri Terry - in about two hours flat. I was going to make a list of the things I like versus the things I didn't, but really I basically loved all of it. So here's a very positive review, hurrah!

Cut for plot spoilers )
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Well. Today I watched a very, very odd film. So odd that I'm actually posting about something I've watched twice in two days. It's like it's 2009 or something. 

(as per usual, this is not a review but more a ramble)

Blitz is a film adaptation of a Ken Bruen novel. I have tried to read a Ken Bruen novel in the past - possibly this one - but did not finish it as I just could not get on with the style. It stars Jason Statham as DS Tom Brant, who is a massive cliche. MASSIVE. CLICHE. It's amazing how many stereotypical tough, gritty London copper elements are packed into this one guy. 

Also in the cast are Paddy Considine, David Morrissey, Zawe Ashton and Aiden Gillen. 

Spoilers beyond the cut...

Spoilers )

So, all in all, I would recommend this film. The first part of the film was over the top gritty nonsense, but once the film gets over needing to establish Statham as the lone cop with no limits blah blah blah and just gets on with the plot it improves massively and actually does some unexpected things with its characters. I'm also tempted to give the book another try... 

ps I thought this Mark Kermode review made some very good points: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaiNU-1wMA8
pps just realised in this whole thing I haven't mentioned the action scenes: the film is fairly violent and the Statham fighting is not quite as good as in The Transporter (which is fair enough), but the action scenes are nicely put together and there's only one point where I thought it got too violent. Actually on the whole there are some really good shots where things are implied rather than shown full-on.  
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Hello, all. Hope you are doing okay.

I have been sucked down a hole of Olympics excitement. Suddenly I am bothered about sports, pretending I know wtf is going, and enjoying the Gymnastics particularly . I also have Paralympics tickets, so woo hoo!

I am writing and working on a few of the wips, and I hope to finish and post at least 5 fics before the end of August (I am going away week after next so intending to police the almost-complete ones then).

My digital camera has finally died (it could have been fixed but it was too expensive). I have been trying to remember when I got it, and suspect it may have been around the time Dad & Lesley got married, which would make it 7 - 9 years old. Whatever the actual figure is, it served me well and was very well behaved. It was a Sony, and believe me when I say I am actually quite upset I can’t get a new Sony. Still, I am going to (hopefully) buy my new one this afternoon.

I apologise in advance for the photo spam that will appear.

Recently I have read the following books:

Dead to Me by Cath Staincliffe – Scott and Bailey prequel
This is essentially a rehash of my Luther: The Calling non-spoilery review, but OH MY GOD, if you are a Scott and Bailey fan, read this book. It is everything you could ever want from Scott and Bailey fic: perfect voices, interesting plot, and so much backstory omg.

Seriously. Read it.

Zone One by Colson Whitehead
The tagline for this was ‘a zombie novel with brains’, which initially made me expect a book where the zombies were intelligent and organised. That’s not really what it’s about, and tbh if you’re going to use that as your tagline then you should make sure there are some brains in it one way or the other. And this is a pointless tiny niggle because that’s not why I picked it up. ANYWAY.

The Zone One in this is in New York City, and it takes place after the zombie invasion and in the clearout. There’s some interesting themes running through the book, identity and how people recover from trauma etc. One of the things I found interesting was how people seemed to pick nicknames up as real names, but didn’t really take advantage of having a clean slate to just go off and do whatever they wanted etc. There’s also some intriguing stuff about branding and sponsorship in the new era.
I don’t know if the author’s planned more books in the series (other cities and camps are mentioned) but I’d be interested in reading them.

Britten and Brülightly by Hannah Berry
This is an odd one. It’s a graphic novel with an interesting art style, and the main character – Britten – is a detective.

His sidekick – Brülightly – is a teabag.

To be honest, I found this tricky to get past. Britten only spoke to Brülightly once in the presence of other people, so I couldn’t work out if Britten had had some psychotic break in the past and really thought he was talking to a teabag, or if this was the type of world where teabags can talk.

Still, it’s a pretty interesting art style and a little noir mystery, and it was the author’s first graphic novel, so I will probably look out for their other stuff.

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
I have been waiting to read this for aaaaaaages. I have read extracts and the first chapter on Kindle, but I hadn’t got the whole thing.
It is mostly excellent. Funny, clever, honest, chatty. I was annoyed at the parts where Moran says that women just haven’t made the contributions to the world that men have (massively paraphrasing). I understand the point she is getting at, but the problem is not that women weren’t involved in things in the past, it’s that by and large their contributions were ignored at the time and have continued to be ignored. You can find intelligent, amazing, inspirational women throughout history. You just have to look.

Still, that aside, it’s a really good read.

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The more I think about this book, the more disappointing it gets. Not because it was bad or boring, but because there’s only one sodding book and it’s YA so it’s far too bloody short.


Interlude: a handy tip

If you see a book in a library that has a) a brightly-coloured sticker on the spine (in this case, fluorescent orange with a black Z) and b) is pretty short, and then c) when you read it the main characters are all teenagers, you’ve probably picked up a YA novel.


So, the premise of this book: London is now Pastworld, a giant Victorian theme park, staffed with permanent residents (some of whom live their whole lives in Pastworld with varying degrees of awareness of the artificial nature of their home) and more temporary employees. They’re watched over with a very modern security system, and everything about their environment can be controlled – the residents don’t even get to see the sky).

The story focuses on two people (I say people because I also didn’t realise one of them was supposed to be a teenager until fairly late on – basically the book is not the only one at fault here) with mysterious pasts and futures (as well as a large cast of mostly male supporting characters). Their stories don’t play out entirely satisfactorily, but I think this is mostly down to the amount of time given to them – I really do think this book had plenty of scope to be longer.

The characters in the book are, as I mentioned, mostly male (which makes sense given the faux-Victorian setting and the jobs of the modern characters) and fairly broadly drawn. The star of the show, to be honest, is the world building (which suits me just fine). Somehow, the idea that London has been bought up and turned into a giant theme park seems plausible in this book.

The book is set in the run up to an anniversary party (can’t remember which one now) which will be marked with the destruction of the last remaining modern building in Pastworld. Oddly enough, this is Tower 42 (NatWest tower). This is probably going too far off into territory that only interests me, but I’m not sure why Tower 42 was the last one standing? I presume it was mostly to do with practicalities – it provides a space for scenes from the book that you couldn’t have done at something like the Gherkin, even if that would have been more familiar to a YA audience.

The book ends slightly disappointingly (for me) but with the possibility of a sequel – I really hope there is one. I would happily read a whole book of short stories just following residents and visitors in Pastworld. I think there’s plenty of ways the author could return to the premise. I’d like to see something similar as a full-length novel as well, but to be honest I’d read it if it was just world building so maybe I’m not the most representative audience...

Still, I would recommend it for YA readers, or readers who like London as a setting and like it even more when something creative is done with that setting.


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The short version: if you are a Luther fan, read this book.

For one thing I think it counts as canon. For another, it’s absolutely fucking brilliant.

The non-spoilery version:

This book is everything you could want in a Luther prequel. Everything.

Any characters from the first series you thought weren’t fleshed out? Boom, here you go.

Wonder what happened pre-series to make Luther the way he is? You got it.

Thought the series wasn’t quite horrific enough? Yeah, that’s covered too. Reading this was the closest I’ve ever come to having to put a book down so I could go and throw up (I didn’t, but it was close). Fucking Neil Cross.

I’ve said before that I prefer Neil Cross’ TV writing to his books (this may be a minority opinion, idk), but this was just as good. At the end of the book, he acknowledges that usually it goes book series then TV series, but Luther did it the wrong way round, and I think that’s the best thing for it.

Basically, it made me wish I had books for other shows that were this good (I’m not counting actual book-adaptation series here, obviously). There were points reading it when I desperately wished that there were Spooks books like this.

There were many points reading it where I wished someone was reading it at the same time and pace as me so I could turn to them and just go OH MY GOD and WHAT THE HELL and THIS IS AMAZING (like it was an episode of the show, basically). I read most of it on the train, so I had to do all of that inside my own head. Had it been my own book I’d probably have been underlining bits with a highlighter pen. And occasionally writing YES, THIS, EXACTLY in the margins.

Talking about the characters without being spoilery is hard, but: they’re perfect. This shouldn’t be a surprise – they’re his characters – but somehow I didn’t expect them to be this good. If the characters are what got you into Luther, you will not be disappointed in this book.

The Calling should be counted as canon; it fits seamlessly into the series, and provides the kind of set up that most shows can only dream of. The detail and the texture and the feel of the whole thing is just right.

(as per the series, the horrible bits are horrendous, but as per the series, if you can get past them, it’s worth it)

Final thought: this was a review copy leant to me by tigertrapped, and I am going to buy myself a copy anyway (eventually – it is being released in hardback, *sigh*) so I can reread and lend it out to people: that’s how good it is.

ETA: Holy crap people, it's under £8 on Amazon!!!

The spoilery version, not really a review if I’m honest: http://hestia8.dreamwidth.org/10588.html?#cutid1

June 2017


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