Hello and welcome to a long-overdue edition of the Friday Review, where I review various things I’ve read, watched and played lately.
Due to all the free time I’ve had recently I have been going through books at a ridiculous pace. Many have been of a very high standard and here are some of the best.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Everyone raves about this book and I was sceptical that it would be as good as they say. It was.
The storyline is well known but I'll summarise anyway. Disgraced journalist Mikel Blomkvist ends up investigating the disappearance of Harriet Vanger from her family island thirty-odd years ago. The Vanger family, who run a large business, are a bunch of not very nice people to say the least. He gets help from hacker and social recluse Lisbeth Salander and together they discover the horrific truth of what happened on the island.
The story is really gripping despite it's slow pace and the things that happened were truly horrific. I imagine some people were put off by this fact. What is even better is the characterisation. Blomkvist is a relate-able character and Salander is unique yet believable. Her morals are questionable to most but reasons for her actions are obvious.
This book could have been a real challenge to get through but Larsson's writing style is both original and engaging. All in all I loved it and it is quite possibly the best book I have read so far this year. 5/5.
The Enchantress by Michael Scott
This is the sixth and final book in “The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel”. Everything ends here after five wonderful books. As with the other books, this book constantly flickers between perspectives. It’s a little confusing as some characters are in the story twice, at different points in their time line.
Josh and Sophie, as well as the group of warriors including Scathatch and William Shakespeare, are on the ancient island of Danu Talis as Anubis tries to take over having removed Aten from the throne. There Josh and Sophie must save the humani and they finally find out who they are courtesy of their parents.
Meanwhile, the Flamels, Machiavelli, Billy the Kid and a load of others are in San Francisco fighting various monsters as they try to stop the city from being ripped apart.
It’s a wild ride and contains a really satisfying end to the series. Out of the rather large cast some don’t survive and the ending is really quite dark for a children’s book. I won’t say anything but it’s much more complicated than it being a happy ending, which is good as many authors would have been afraid to end on the note this one does.
It does feel a bit squashed as a lot happens and could have easily been spread out over several more books, though it was probably good that it wasn’t. Plus the series’ title still feels like nothing more than the selling point. Flamel gradually became a minor character during the series and that doesn’t change in the finale.
A great end to the series than is thrilling and still full of unexpected twists and fantastic monsters. Worth waiting for! 5/5.
Joey Pigza Swallowed The Key by Jack Gantos
What an incredible book this is! Joey Pigza is a child with ADHD whose life is gradually spiralling out of control.
For a children’s book this tackles some serious issues brilliantly. Joey is dealing with not only his ADHD but the way others react to it. His peers make fun, adults shout at him and his Grandma even abused him. You can feel the hurt within the text as Joey is put with children with severe disabilities.
Despite the subject matter it’s quite light-hearted and funny. The things that happen are told in a hilarious way despite the fact they are quite serious so you end up with a mix of emotions.
Probably my favourite thing about the book was the way the sentence structure reflected the hyperactivity with long run-on sentences being used. It’s a fantastic technique which really helped seeing in the mind of this child.
rom my experience this seems a fantastic insight into the mind of a child with ADHD. For children this book probably gives a great view of special needs that children might not otherwise understand. As an adult it brings up all sorts of questions about how children with ADHD and other special needs should be treated, brought up and educated. This is as good a representation of ADHD as “Curious Dog” is for Aspergers.
Mercury Falls by Robert Kroese
The apocalypse is coming. To Christine, a journalist who spends her whole time interviewing people predicting the apocalypse, this is no surprise. Except this time it really is happening. Mercury is an apathetic angel who just wants to watch what's going on and doesn't want to choose a side.
Lucifer and his gang of fallen angels are up to their usual tricks and planning to change the apocalypse plans by making the apocalypse accord agreement void. Christine has to convince Mercury to help her stop Lucifer's plans and save the world.
As well as being a great concept, this is a hilarious book. Mercury is a fantastic central character, the idea of nothing getting done by angels because of the insane bureaucracy and there's all sorts of hilarious narration and dialogue including a discussion about whether it's "pawn" or "prawn".
This is a highly entertaining book. At first it makes no sense but as you laugh your way through it and get to the end you suddenly realised everything does now make sense and you end up re-reading the prologue. It has similarities to “Good Omens” and Douglas Adams but in fact it is very different and a very original novel. I loved every minute of it.
You can read reviews of every single book I read over at Goodreads. If you have a profile feel free to add me as a friend!
Not Going Out Series 5
In my mind Not Going Out is one of the best British sitcoms that are still around. Lee is a slacker living in a flat with a girl he is really attracted to. The attempts to bring her closer cause all sorts of trouble for him and his best mate and flatmate’s brother Tim.
The reason Not Going Out is so brilliant is because the nature of the laughs. It’s stacked full of one-liners so even if the main plot point of the episode isn’t necessarily full of laughs the episode still is. Having said that, most of the plots are brilliant and actually very clever. Memorial ones in this series include confusion when a masseuse turns out to be a prostitute, Lee attempting to look at other men’s testicles to see if his own are normal in comparison and a camping trip in the spooky woods. Several of the subjects are quite adult and/or serious yet Not Going Out casually tackles them and has no trouble in doing so.
My only issue with the current series is that it’s beginning to get a bit stale. The format is pretty much identical to how it has been since series 2 apart from Tim’s girlfriend replaced the cleaner as the stupid character. In my mind it’s about time Lee and Lucy finally got together or one of them found someone else properly.
After five series though Not Going Out remains hilarious and simple, the perfect format for half an hour of fantastic laughs. 5/5.
The Social Network
a.k.a “The Facebook Movie”. This film tells the story of Mark Zuckerburg as he sets up a new social network and faces legal battles all over the place. Jesse Eisenberg managed to capture Zuckerburg very well but ultimately a film about making a website isn’t that exciting. It was certainly my least favourite David Fincher film. The scene where Zuckerburg pretty much set up Facebook after his girlfriend split up with him was pretty awesome but for the most part I couldn’t help feeling a bit bored. This is one I will probably re-sell on ebay. 3/5.
American Pie: Reunion
I ended up going to see this at the cinema, much to my surprise. The gang from the first three films all come back and end up getting up the usual crazy antics. Except this time they all have things in their lives to deal with now they are adults and grown-up. Apart from Stifler that is. The two most memorable moments for me were Jim trying to sneak a half-naked girl he used to babysit back into her house, with his motive being nothing more than doing the right thing, and Stifler this time getting his way with someone’s Mum!
It’s nothing ground-breaking but if you’ve seen the previous films this is a great come-back which manages to be hilarious and heart-warming. 4/5.
I have already raved about this film on this blog once but I haven’t yet given it a rating. Joss Whedon managed to create a proper comic-book movie rather than a movie based on comic books. Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye all became important and effective characters and the film managed to be humorous, action-packed and just generally awesome. My earlier thoughts are here. All in all though this is the best of all the Avengers films so far when it could have so easily been the worst. 5/5.
This film sees three teenagers accidentally develop super-powers. They then proceed to do all the stupid and fun things we all would do if we actually had super-powers. That part of the film is the best and is very funny. Then things take a darker turn as main character Andrew goes a bit mad and runs rampage. It doesn’t really have a very pleasant ending. But what it does do is make you think about the fact that if such people did exist, then they might become monsters rather heroes.
The film uses the handheld-camera technique but actually managed to make this original. Andrew uses his powers to make the camera fly over the scene regularly so it can be handheld from above with no characters hidden behind the camera, which is a much better technique which works brilliantly.
It’s a great movie which goes from very funny to very dark but is not afraid to do so. Perhaps the best thing about this is that is the rare thing that is an original movie. This is no sequel or remake or rehash of an old idea or based on real life story. This is properly original and that makes it even more brilliant. 5/5.
Mario Open Tennis
This 3DS sports titles sees developer Camelot making a welcome return to making Mario sports games. As usual, they focus more on gameplay rather than filling it with gimmicks like previous Mario sports games are guilty of. The way it plays is very clever too. If you hold the console vertically you are positioned behind the character rather than above and can use the gyro sensor in the console to aim a bit. The gameplay is brilliant although quickly progress from being too easy to very frustrating. I am still trying to fight my way through the final tournament but my match seems to be going on forever!
The biggest issue with this game is that it doesn’t have much longevity. Once you’ve played a few games of tennis on it, you’ve got the gist and nothing new will come. Of course you could spend ages becoming a master tennis player but I think it would be quite easy to lose interest. The mini games aren’t particularly exciting and whilst Streetpass adds to longevity a little, it’s still not very exciting.
A great game but it just feels like there should be more to do. It’s just a bit short and needs something more. This is probably the best tennis game I’ve played on any console for some time though so if you want to play a tennis game, get this one. And just because it stars Mario does not been it’s full of gimmicks because Camelot made it and they are awesome. 4/5.
Thanks for reading and as always let me know your thoughts on any of the things here. Did you agree with me? Also I’m starting to run out of books to read so if someone could check out my Goodreads profile and suggest similar books to what appear on it I would be very grateful!