Monday, 29 March 2010

A very disappointing model

Well, as you've maybe noticed I enjoy building model aircraft, and I'm a member of the official Airfix Club. I came to build the second of the three club models I got sent this time, and am now incredibly disappointed with the quality of their offering. It's a Wildcat with Royal Navy markings, an interesting aircraft to build. However, the quality of the parts leaves something to be desired. The two fuselage halves do not fit properly, there is a random hole in the bottom, the holes for some pieces are not drilled in quite the right places. Worst of all though, the kit did not have the clear parts for this model in it! And this is supposed to be their exclusive limitted edition kit. I was quite pleased with the Seafire that was the first of the three models I built, it looks rather impressive although the hook mechanism did not fit particularly well it only took a little sanding to get it in fine. In fact, the Seafire is probably one of the most professional looking models I've built. But the quality of the Wildcat is incredibly disappointing, because not only are there all those faults with the pieces, there's a lot of extra cack on all the pieces too which has to be peeled off. So I'm quite disappointed, as I won't be able to finish it properly. I might have to build it with battle damage, in fact as I don't have a cockpit cover it would be impossible not to. So maybe I give hte little man a parachute and have him dangle out the aircraft turned upside down with the cockpit blown off so he can escape... That could be quite an interesting one, but it shouldn't have to be done as the model should be decent enough to build it properly. I might write to Airfix and get them to send me the cockpit lid. Although it would be a good model to try out the battle damage techniques on since it's a bit naff...

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (film)

I don't often watch a film that's based on a book without having read the book, but the film looked so good and there weren't any copies left in the library that I couldn't risk missing it. So I went and saw it in half term (gosh, I really am behind--it's the Easter holidays now!) with my brother. Great film, judged separately from the book. If you've not read the book yet, I suggest you actually go and see the film first. It doesn't follow the book much at all, but it is a good film in its own right. Impressive graphics with the monsters, and I found the plot gripping given that I'd not read the book. Does have a rather different ending and middle than the book, and I really don't see how they'll swing it enough to film the second given the differences, plus they made a lot more of the romance (don't they always) which barely exists in the book. But like I said, it was an enjoyable film. Can you tell I don't review films as often as books? What do you write about, camera angles? Well, it seemed to flow fine, and I was peeved when it ended because I'd enjoyed it. The book (which I read later) was certainly better, but the film was enjoyable and probably more so because I'd not read the book.

The Lazarus Strain

I can't believe I haven't reviewed this book yet. I must be about a million bazillion books behind! Well, I'm in a bit of a productive mood just now, I might manage a couple more reviews tonight. And I've read several more by this author because I really enjoyed it.

A fascinating medical thriller, it features ex-Special Forces medic Stephan Dunbar in the slightly obscure government department SciMed. Its brief is to investigate problems involving science and/or medicine, as the police force cannot reasonably be expected to keep up to date with all the latest advances in science and medicine, and sometimes a spot of spare expertise is helpful. Fascinating twists and turns, along with a brilliant plot involving terrorists, biological weapons, animal rights activists, and a diabolical plot to wreak havoc with Western political systems. Added to a great main character who doesn't read like a cardboard cut out of a stereotypical hero, and plenty of action, it's a gripping read. Very glad I picked it up despite the fact I'd never read anything by him before--I don't often buy books if I've not read something by the author previously. I don't have the space any more to just buy anything that takes my fancy--it has to be something I'm likely to read again. But I took a chance because it sounded interesting, and I'm pleased to say the chance paid off.

Highly recommended, I've read a couple in the Steven Dunbar series and not yet been even slightly disappointed, although I've not tried any of the ones not in the series yet.

Operation Kill Ike

Okay, so it was another trashy novel that most English Lit teachers would turn their nose up at, but I enjoyed it. Wasn't feeling well, didn't want a complicated plot to follow, so I figured why not try the book I picked up from a market stall for 10p? Operation Kill Ike was not particularly politically correct in parts (the word 'wog' which caused quite a calamity when used off air was frequently used to describe a character), but it had the down to earth honesty that's quite nice to find in a thriller. The characters were all real, desperate characters, formed into a band called 'The Destroyers' in order to do stuff that you couldn't send normal troops to do. Good action, a more complicated plot than I expected... Goes to show that as with the Batman one, you just can't judge a book by its cover. I actually really enjoyed it, I'll be looking out for more books by the author. Unfortunately, books that you pick up for 10p tend to be books that're actually really hard to find because they're tatty little paperbacks that probably haven't been republished (can't imagine that they'd republish it, but you never know... Just checking on Amazon :) Oh! I've actually got some of his non-fiction! And there seems to have been a couple of the books republished in large print in 2003. So I might be in with a chance). Any rate, I have to recommend the book. And I should perhaps get round to reading a couple of his non-fiction books which I've bought but not read yet.

Batman: The Stone King

Yes. I read a Batman book. I actually picked it up at the same time as a couple of 'classics' and got a strange look from the librarian at my selection. Ended up managing about four pages of Jack Kerowack (or however you're supposed to spell that name), but absolutely loving the Batman book. Brilliant. I was actually nearly late for history because I was reading it in the library at college. I also (have to admit) was reading it before English, but hid it as soon as my teacher came in. I don't know whether her opinion of my status of 'well-read' would survive seeing me read what looks like a pretty trashy paperback based on a comic book. It was very well written, very exciting, and the characterisation was fantastic, particularly of Batman himself, but also of the other superheroes. I have to recommend this book, even if it does necessitate hiding it from English Lit teachers...

Batman is the only one of the superheroes who does not possess a superpower, only the power of his own determination which has made him strong. But when a new super villain rises with the sole intent of ending life as we know it and turning humanity into his slaves, Batman is the only member of the Justice League who escapes his clutches. With the help of an empath whose powers have suddenly taken a terrifying turn away from the familiarity of just reading people's emotions into seeing visions of the horror the Stone King wants to unleash, Batman has to not only rescue his colleagues, but stop an evil presence from the past coming to dominate once again. Action and characters are both fantastic, don't be put off by the fact that it's a novel based on a comic book. Highly recommended.

Blocking the Light

What's between you and the light today? On Thursday, I got my Dad to put up some model aircraft that I'd built. One of the ones I put up was given to me for Christmas by a friend. It started life filled with chocolates, which I ate, and now it's hanging from my ceiling. It's a lovely little biplane, and it looks really good hanging up there. However, while I was pointing to where I wanted my Dad to put them, I was being a bit incautious. It's now hanging between my ceiling light and my desk, so although I have a desk light the light on me is not great while I'm sat here. It's being blocked. The aircraft itself is great, there's nothing wrong with it. It's just the position I've put it in.

Sometimes life gets a bit like that. We have things that, in themselves, are fine, perhaps even great. But when we put them in the wrong place, they block out the light and leave us in shadow, unable to enjoy the full benefit of what God's got for us. I need to climb up on my ceiling and move it. There are sometimes things we need to do that in our life with. We've put them in the wrong place, and it's stopping us from enjoying the full fruits of life. So in order to get back into the full light, enjoying the full benefits of God's provision, God's grace and God's faithfulness, we need to shift them out the way. I'm going to be asking my Dad to help me, cos I'm not overly fond of clambering on things and waving my arms around. Maybe we all need to ask our Heavenly Dad to help us shift a couple of things about in our lives, in order to be able to see properly.

Sunday, 21 March 2010


I'm quite behind with book reviews. Well, more than quite behind. I've been reading a lot recently. As in, seven last week, then another four today and yesterday. Which is quite a lot of books to review. I don't know that I can physically manage to review that many books. I have an entire series to review (minus the most recent one which I've not yet got hold of) for goodness sake! Okay, admittedly that's only four books, but still. That was the oops part of my post.

Went to Lytham yesterday. And St Annes too, because they're basically next door to each other and St Annes has a really neat library. Lytham's a great place, have to say, and not just because I know a bunch of people who live there. For a start, there's the Windmill Bookshop just as you're heading into the town. I don't think I've ever seen a place quite so stuffed with books. No particular order to them, other than them being generally sorted into fiction, children's, and then the non-fiction was kinda sorted too. At least, most of the history stuff was together. Lytham itself is a nice place to walk around too. We stopped at a lovely cafe called the Source (there seems to be about a million cafes in Lytham...), had coffee/hot chocolate and cake (the coffee being for my parents, the hot chocolate and cake being for me :) ). Yeh, just generally had a nice day out. Oh, and visited the libraries, which somehow despite being technically smaller than the Harris library in Preston have contrived to get a better selection of books in. Or maybe that was more because I've read most of the interesting ones that the Harris has in. Any rate, there were good teenage sections in both libraries, so although I haven't taken out any stuff that was technically teenage for a while I've got a bunch out now to read, and some of it's really good. Then came home and read. First Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, next Act of Treason (not a teenage book, but very good all the same). Today was Changeling Blood Wolf and Fever Crumb (a prequel to the Mortal Engines series). I've still got a fair stack to go at though, so I might go and read some more... Then I'll have even more catching up to do, but never mind.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Dragon Keeper

Wow. That's my first statement, the only thing I can really think to say about this book. Wow. I was expecting a fantastic piece of fantasy, but Robin Hobb just gets better and better with every trilogy she releases. It was a stay up until two in the morning sort of book, despite the fact I wasn't feeling well, and was absolutely shattered. I couldn't bring myself to stop. The first one she's done in third person, but none of the richness of the characters is gone. Nor have the settings suffered. In fact, I expect this will be her greatest trilogy yet (though out of my love for Night Eyes and Fitz I have to say that the Farseer trilogy and the Tawny Man trilogy are both awesome). But this just took the experience to a whole new level. It's in the same world, set after the Tawny Man trilogy, but it's a whole new set of characters. And wow. I know I keep saying that, I'm sorry, but if you read this book you will completely understand why I describe it as a wow book. It's a broader book than her others have been, spreading over a period of several years and encompassing a vast swathe of characters.

The dragons have hatched, the first set of dragons in living memory. But all is not well. They emerge from their cocoons as broken scraps of creatures, not a single one free from defects. And so they remain, sat at the bottom of a city. A handful of lives are picked out from the world in which they inhabit, lives that have been changed by the dragons.

Absolutely amazing. I can't recomend this book enough. Although I supply one warning (other than the fact that it'll keep you up until you've finished it). The third book of the trilogy is not out yet. The second has only just be released (though I've seen it in the Harris library! yay!). Actually, looking at Amazon, it appears that there might just be the two this time... Any rate, I'm convinced that Robin Hobb is just about the greatest fantasy author ever.

Monday, 15 March 2010

The Hurt Locker

I nearly missed a book club to go watch this film. In the end, the film club was postponed a week, so I managed to go to both. But I can say this now for certain, although I enjoyed the book club, the film was worth missing a week for. The Hurt Locker won a couple of Oscars, and it certainly deserved them. Probably the best war film I've ever watched. It felt real, from the intense moments of action, to the tension as bombs were defused, through the drinking and the characters' interactions to each other, right down to the ending. Loved it from start to finish, and I was really surprised when it finished. Fascinating and engaging, it dragged you right into the action and the tension during a long scene of silence, when the soldiers were trying to out wait insurgents, could've been cut with a knife. I was surprised by how many people there were at the film club to be honest--I wasn't expecting many others to go 'oh that's my sort of film', although to be fair I've never been before so I'd no base line to compare it to. But I loved this film and I'll certainly be watching it again. I believe the college library has a copy, I may have to reserve it for a weekend and enjoy it again.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Minor Rant

A while ago I believe I reviewed the book 8th Confession by James Patterson. I was grateful for the fact that the rather pointless side plot that has been going on through several of the books and involves Lindsay fancying two men at once was finally at a close. Having looked at the blurb for the ninth book, it appears this side show surfaces again. I can all but promise I won't be reading the newest one if that's what's going to happen. It's almost as annoying as the side plot in the otherwise brilliant (or at least, the three that I've read are otherwise brilliant) Steven Dunbar thrillers by Ken McClure (more on that later) which have a different and rather pathetic female character showing up in the side lines for the main character to talk to and express his frustration at the case with etc. Why is it that writers seem to think they need to throw in such an extensive side plot, which has nothing to do with the main thriller plot line? I can understand it, I suppose, in the Ken McClure ones. It really is just a side plot, and it's not too bad. But the James Patterson side plot is growing to ridiculous proportions. Enough already, just let Lindsay marry the man of her dreams and get on with life. Or stop wasting space on the romance side altogether. There does not have to be a love interest in every single story. I acknowledge freely that most books do have some sort of romantic thing going on in the sidelines, but do they really have to start leaping into bed with people at every turn?! Thinking about it, I will confess that I've only written one story which has absolutely no love interest for the main character. However, in the vast majority of my own books it does not take centre stage (except for the historical romance, for obvious reasons...).

I'm sick to death of James Patterson's obsession with sex. You find it in the vast majority of thriller books to be honest. And I can't even get away with just reading older books, because then you end up with really really pathetic women characters. So there we go. My rant about the state of thriller books is now over. But you can (I hope) see why I'm annoyed. When I started reading adult books--ran out of children's ones--I discovered that some of these books were in the adult section for a very good reason, and actually found it quite embarrassing. One thriller writer who has not used sex or even much romance (worries me that I can only think of one off hand... oh, no, I can think of two): Matthew Reilly, and David Gibbins. There we go. I said the rant was over... It is. Promise :)

Monday, 8 March 2010

Three Book Clubs

I feel quite proud of myself. I managed to go to three book clubs in the space of a week. I dare say that's quite impressive. The college one on Wednesday I nearly didn't go to, even though I actually read the book. There was supposed to be film club, and they were meant to be showing The Hurt Locker which looks completely like my type of film, so I was going to go to that instead. Thankfully, it got postponed til this week.

Anyway, on Wednesday I went to the college book club, and we discussed A Thousand Splendid Suns. To be honest, I much preferred A Thousand Suns (somewhat different genre) and didn't particularly enjoy the book we were reading. I was the only one who thought that the book wasn't that great. Everyone else was rather taken with it. Perhaps there wasn't as much of a shock factor for me as for others as I've read a similar themed book in the past so I was aware that things like that do happen. However, a fuller discussion of the book to follow...

Friday night was the History Reader's Group in Chorley that I attend. Fantastic fun, and a fascinating topic even though I hadn't read either of the books I'd taken on the topic. I tried to read one, but the way it was written, the rather patronising tone, the failure to deliver on the promised 'fair amount of scandal, sex and booze' and political intrigue, combined with the fact that the same paragraph was repeated at least three or four times, and a number of other ones repeated in each chapter, made me give up on it. The other was by the same author, so I didn't bother. If you're gonna write books that are allegedly popular history, you could at least make them interesting and read the whole thing through rather than just editing it one chapter at a time. I assume that's what was done, either that or the author was being paid per page and decided a copy and paste job would be perfectly adequate for a non-specialist audience.

Saturday afternoon was the Teenage Bookclub at the Harris. I might as well have not bothered almost, as we hardly talked about books at all and it was a bit rubbish to be honest. However, I did get some great feedback from one of the members on one of my books which I'd emailed him, which was handy. It basically confirmed what I thought already: nameably: it's on the short side and there's no real proper plot structure that goes through the whole novel. It's basically a collection of short stories--not surprising as that's what it started out as.

So yeh, three bookclubs in a week. And I am way way way behind with writing book reviews too. I seem to be doing a lot of reading at the moment and not a lot of reviewing... I'll try and catch up.

Wonderful Weather

I'm English, I have to talk about the weather :). It's part of our cultural heritage. Or something of that sort anyway. Hmm, I quite like this keyboard. Sorry. I'm currently on a mac in the mac suite at college. It's a bit weird--I've never really used one before. Not sure whether I like it or not yet. Certainly the keyboard's nice. Anyway, the weather...

Today, it is sunny. Very, very sunny. I woke up and went downstairs, and discovered that not only where the skies blue, they were so blue that there wasn't a single cloud anywhere. The only thing that marred the perfect pale blueness of the atmosphere was a jet trail, carving the sky into segments. Actually, I quite like aeroplanes (as you've maybe noticed...), so to be honest I wasn't that bothered by the whole jet trail. It's quite incredible to be honest, that we've had such nice weather recently. The other day I was listening to Cross Rhythms, which is based in Stoke-On-Trent (not that far away really), and one of the presenters was really late into the studio because the snow was blocking up the roads. No snow in Preston (not that that's so unusual). What is unusual though, is that we've had such sunny weather. I mean, it's March. Last month was February (okay, I guess that's kinda obvious...), you do not expect this kind of weather in early spring in Preston. You expect grey skies and rain. Admittedly, it's cold, very cold. But in the sun, it's actually pretty warm, and the sun is everywhere! Yay! If this is what global warming means... Actually, no, we don't want global warming. It'd mean us getting colder, because being British we just have to be the awkward ones don't we? To be honest, it's probably too late to save the Gulf Stream thing now, apparently the massive chunk of ice that broke off Antarctica the other week is going to screw it up anyway. Still, if we get a bit more sunshine and a bit less rain, I don't suppose that it's going to destroy our country. In fact, it might make it a more popular tourist destination. Can you imagine people coming to England to enjoy the sun, sea and sand?! I mean, British summers are renowned for being wet, and let's face it last summer was pretty darn wet. There was a puddle on the caravan site big enough for ducks to start swimming in, and it was not supposed to be a puddle, it was meant to be a pitch. I'm not convinced by this mac to be honest. The print's a bit small in here, I'm kinda struggling to read it properly. Never mind. Anyway, I just thought I'd tell you all a bit about the weather in this part of the world, because it's nice enough to deserve comment.