blacklands – belinda bauer

Blacklands - Belinda Bauer

I was actually quite disappointed with Blacklands.  I thought that it was a good story, but was very short, and this could have been the reason that it didn’t involve me as much as I felt that it should have – there was just way too much missing.

In the blurb, Belinda Bauer says that she wrote the book as she was moved by the story of a mother whose child had been murdered many years before, and she was curious about how that kind of event would affect a family long-term…however, that is exactly what I believe was missing.  I felt that the mother and grandmother were really weak characters that I had no empathy for at all, even though I felt some amount of guilt as I knew that I SHOULD feel it.  They just didn’t seem real to me at all – they were very one-dimensional.  The only reason they even seemed to have one dimension was because of their relationship with Steven.

Steven felt like a real 12 year old boy, and I did care about him.  Uncle Jude’s character was also appealing, but that was probably just because of the change in Steven when he was around.

Strangely, I also didn’t feel much hatred towards Avery – he felt a bit of a cartoon villain to me, rather than a paedophile, serial child-killer.

Also, although the story is set in recent years, the idea of the family being oh so very poor makes it feel like it’s been set in the 70s, and for some reason, just doesn’t ring true.

However, it was an entertaining enough, easy-to-read ‘filler’ book.  I can actually see it as making a fantastic film.  In the UK we can make brilliant gritty dramas, making characters very very real with a host of fantastic actors that can make bleak tales SO amazing (anything with Paddy Considine for example!) and we ‘re great for gritty, film noir child actors.  I’d certainly watch it, and I think an adaptation would really bring the story to life and make it more believable – no matter how uncomfortable the subject matter may be.

dracula – bram stoker (the cheat’s version)

Dracula - Bram Stoker (pretty, isn't he?)

We decided on this as a read in my little book club that I have with some of my friends and I have to admit it – I am ashamed to say that I couldn’t actually read this book. I know the story (and have never liked any of the films btw), and I have always thought it to be a good story, and about 18 years ago, I listened to the audio book and really enjoyed it.
I have cheated again. I bought a cheap paperback, and was determined to read it, but in over a week, I managed to get no further than page 7, no matter how hard I tried.

Unfortunately just the first sentence bored me to tears, and then it went downhill from there – I found myself thinking about it half the time “Oh god no,I’ve still got to read Dracula!”

For anyone who hasn’t read it, the book is written in the form of journals, letters and memos written by the various characters from the book.  I think one of the problems for me was that the first entry is written so that it feels like you’ve entered part way through the story.

Just for reference, the first line is:  “3 May. Bistritz—Left Munich at 8.35 P.M. on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; should have arrived at 6.46, but train was an hour late.” The first night that I picked it up, I read that, thought “Jesus!” and put it down, turned out the light and went to sleep, LOL

In the end I picked up my old audio book, and listened to it again – and thoroughly enjoyed it. obviously the CDs only go on for 2.5 hours, so it is a heavily abridged version, but it was brilliant – I love the story.  My audio book is read by Anthony Valentine (whoever he is) and I think he reads it really well (apart from the dodgy French-sounding accent he gives Van Helsing the Dutch man!  The whole climax of the story, with the mad horse, gypsy, wolf, carriage, coffin chase was fantastic, and he did a brilliant job of conveying the excitement.
I am still unable to explain why I can’t read the book – it’s not the old-fashioned writing, as I like many books of the same era and older. Maybe someone else can give me a reason if they have ever felt the same way!

the little stranger – sarah waters

The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters

I must admit, I was quite disappointed with The Little Stranger – I think I was expecting better things from it.  I don’t really want to give too much away as people may be wanting to read it – and I hate knowing endings etc, so I warn you there MAY be a couple of little spoilers in here.

It was written well , and the characters seemed real enough, but real as they were, they annoyed the hell out of me. And nothing really seemed to happen, which frustrated me beyond belief! I kept thinking “Oooo, it’s going to get good now!” and then it didn’t, it went back to ‘blah’.

The story centres around a society family in a Warwickshire town shortly after the war who have had to live with various traumas and upsets and are slowly being brought down in their crumbling mansion that they are unable to maintain – it was a gothic style but not particularly spooky (although I was so determined to finish it one night that I read it in bed til 2am, and then cos I’m short-sighted, started imagining all sorts in the shadows of my room – but that was more my overactive imagination than the actual visualisations of the book!)

The story is written from the point of view of their doctor, and one of the most annoying things was that nothing ever happened when he was around – it was always told as him hearing the tale from someone else…which made me wonder whether it was actually him that was ‘haunting’ the house a lot of the time, although I hope that would have been hinted at towards the end at some point.

I sped through the book, and finished in 2 or 3 days (which is very quick for me!) but a lot of that was through sheer frustration, wishing for an ‘event’ in the story.

I found it a bit like the Lost of the literary world. Well made, great back story, real characters and hints of ‘goings-on’ but eventually just disappointing and a completely missed opportunity to be something fabulous!

the secrets of the lazarus club – tony pollard

A proper Victorian London romp!

I can’t imagine this book winning any awards – although obviously well-researched, it felt somehow lacking depth.

It was a decent enough romp through Victorian London at a time of great change, when great Britain was great and really leading the way with engineering etc, which was the basic premise for the novel.

Although unbelievable, it was quite fun to have characters in it whose names were recognisable – Florence Nightingale, Brunel, Darwin, Stephenson to name just a few. I can see how it would make a good film, with the dramatic climax at the end!

A very easy-to-read story that I think anyone should be able to pick up and feel entertained.

oh this is awful – i LOVE it!

one of the best ideas ever to hit our TV screens!

Me and The Man have a bit of a soft spot for really awful B movies.  They’re fantastic to while away a lazy afternoon, or on a Fri/Sat nmight when we’ve had a couple of drinks.  hell B movies are good any time of the week!!

They are usually shown on ZoneHorror or Sci-Fi channel, and we’ve had some brilliant ones over the years.  Sometimes, our mates come round and we tend to turn into Mystery Science Theater 3000 which was maybe one of THE most genius inventions ever to hit our TV screens – oh how I miss it.

Anyway, yes, we turn into a showing of that, just sitting there taking the piss out of the acting, out of the sets, out of the script, out of the ‘speshul’ effects and generally enrichign the whole experience.

I wish they’d bring back MST3K (as i believe fans always called it) – I remember watching it with my two closest mates back in the early 90s eating crap food, pissed out of our heads!  Oh the good old days.

Anyway, this afternoon, me and The Man watched the fabulously awful Snakehead Terror – which was not terrifying in the least, but had brilliantly awful continuity and some real laugh out loud bad acting and dialogue 🙂 although it didn’t have the required ‘slight’ star.

Of course – THE ultimate film to get this treatment is tha AMAZING Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus )please DO click on the link and watch the trailer if you’ve never seen it).  It stars 80s pop kitten Debbie Gibson (except now that she’s grown up, she’s Deborah!) and has everything we ever wanted from a B movie.  It’s fantabulous, and I have forced many many of my friends to watch it – and there have been no disappointments yet.

Another great B movie that has all the required elements is the wonderful Warbirds, which has WWII american female fighter pilots, Leo from Charmed, Japanese soldiers and pteradactyls!!!  It’s brilliant – I loved it.  there was another one called Locusts starring Lucy Lawless (Xena) which also fit the bill, but just didn’t quite touch the genius of Warbirds.

God bless ZoneHorror and SciFi channel – they really need to bring back MST3K though!  I’d be a brilliant script writer for the aliens!

things i do when i should be working

Ellie Goulding - 'The one to watch' in 2010

Well, apparently Ellie Goulding is top of the BBC Sound of 2010 list which means she’s destined for big things this year!

This news has given me a new excuse to procrastinate today while I’m working from home.

I don’t know whether it’s just me, but when I’m working from home, I tend to get a lot more done, but feel a lot more guilty when I’m not actually doing any work.  In the office, me and my boss laugh and joke and show each other stuff on the internet – I’m quite happy to have Facebook open permanently (I CAN multi-task).  I also have a work Twitter account, which also throws up some interesting stuff.  Then I get phone calls and have meetings and there’s so many distractions.  Plus I have to travel there and back.

When I’m working from home, I tend to start looking at emails and stuff at about 8am and end up doing far more actual work, and yet when I’m not working, I keep feeling like I’m going to get found out!  I wonder why that is.

Anyway, Ellie Goulding – as of today she’s suddenly got her name all over the news and the internet, and so I spent the last 10 or 15 minutes looking through YouTube videos of her at the Union Chapel gig in November.  Mainly to see if I can see myself.  Ahem.

I wonder how many other people do that.  When they’ve been somewhere that they know has been recorded, they go and look at countless videos just to see if they can spot themselves a nd if they do, then moan OH MY GOD – do I look like THAT?!!?  Was I dancing like THAT??  I look SOOOOOOOOooooooooooo pissed/stoned/fat/slutty/mental/like my mum*!!”

*delete as applicable

I’m sure that’s not just me.

Anyway – it was a brilliant gig, but Ellie was WAY down my list of favourite acts that night.  Obviously I went for Florence & The Machine mainly (3rd time I saw her last year) who is perfect far the fantastic acoustics of Union Chapel (which is the most amazing venue), but close on her heels were the amazing Rodrigo y Gabriela – who I had never heard of at the time.  they just completely fired the crowd up – and again, they were perfect for the venue.

Ellie had a good voice, but it was nowhere near as powerful or controlled as Florence, and I think Under The Sheets especially sounds far better once it has been produced etc, as I quite like the single, but live it was definitely lacking something.  All of the Union Chapel gigs were acoustic and I don’t think that was really her strength.

day of the triffids

Evil Eddie
Eddie in DOTT

Last night I watched both parts of Day of the Triffids on BBC1.

I remember the original series when I was little, the one with the really awful big orange and yellow flowers.  I must have been about 9 or 10 when it was on, and I found it completely terrifying.

My mum and dad used to go to this club (I think it was bowls, cricket, tennis or something – it was definitely based around some kind of sport, but the exact details are a little hazy) and I used to have to go along with them, but i used to have to stay and amuse myself in the bar, which was some kind of odd wooden structure.  Anyway, they had a TV in there, and I remember it must’ve been shown on Thursdays, as it used to be on straight after Top of the Pops.

It’s amazing what parts of your life your memory regurgitates.

Anyway, last night’s triffids were far better than the ones in the early 80s, which is to be expected – and some of the shots actually felt quite atmospheric and a little spooky…but when it comes down to it, it was just large flowers walking around killing people – which, when you think of it like that, is NEVER really going to feel very believable, and hence not really scary.

I also love Eddie Izzard, so i was looking forward to seeing him in it – especially as I recently got to see him in a room of about 100 people for a special showing of his new documentary at the Prince Charles Cinema, and he answered one of my questions afterwards.  i felt all silly girlie when he was talking to me.  it was like your secret crush talking to you when you’re a teenager – I was all cool n the outside, just nodding, and smiling slightly while he was talkign, and inside I was going “Oh…my…GOD!!  it’s Eddie fucking Izzard, and he’s talking to ME!!  look – he’s looking right at me. into MY eyes!!  woohoo!!  it’s Eddie fucking Izzard!!”.

And he was pretty good in Triffids…but i did keep expecting him to break into a James Mason impression, so I kind of spoilt it for myself.

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