Wednesday, February 22, 2012

TV SHOWS - The L.A. Complex



The L.A. Complex is a Canadian drama series chronicling the lives of six sexy young performers living in an apartment block all trying their best to realise their dreams of stardom. We follow the ups and downs in their lives as things don’t work out as planned as they attend acting auditions, comedy gigs and work in the studio.


The show has been picked up by the CW in the US and is shown on MuchMusic in Canada. The first season consists of 6 episodes each lasting 45 minutes in duration.


WHAT I THOUGHT
How to describe the L.A. Complex? I will start by saying it was one of the best series I have seen, it is equal parts compelling and gritty. I hesitate to use the word gritty with its sometimes negative consequences but that is what it is, a lot of shows aimed at the teen/young adult market will show sometimes show the more negative aspects of life, drink drugs etc but the LA Complex pulls no punches and shows us exactly how dark things can be.






It just feels more realistic than other shows in the genre. The acting is incredible and the storylines excellent. I really wasn’t sure when I started that I would be a fan it was more a referral from one of the stars of the show combined with the fact that two of my favourite shows of the past couple years were Canadian made (Lost girl and Endgame if you were wondering). I was impressed by what I saw characters with depth, something which was apparent even in the first episode which is rare.


Another thing that this show doesn’t shy away from is controversy I think there is a fair amount in here that Hollywood wouldn’t be overly enamored with. The idea of a gay hip hop star was not something that I thought of but is definitely something that would cause a stir much like the fact that there has only been one professional footballer in the UK to come out as being gay. The spectre of mental health issues is interestingly handled but more alluded to than anything else.


So to sum up, should you watch The L.A. Complex? Yes I think you will find a lot more than you bargained for with a story that goes a lot deeper than most shows that you may be tempted to compare this with. Should it come back for a second series, hell yes if the networks on both sides of the border know what is good for them then we will see more of this engaging series.

Monday, February 20, 2012

BOOK REVIEW - My Soul To Save by Rachel Vincent

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

My Soul to Save is the second book in the Soul Screamers Series and was written by Rachel Vincent. It is published in the UK by Mira Books and was released on 18th February 2011. My review for the first Soul Screamers novel can be read here.




PLOT
When teenager Kaylee screams, someone dies...So when teen pop star Eden dies onstage and Kaylee doesn't wail, she knows something is dead wrong. She can't cry for someone who has no soul. The last thing Kaylee needs right now is to be skipping school, breaking her dad's ironclad curfew and putting her too-hot-to-be-real boyfriend's loyalty to the test. But starry-eyed teens are trading their souls: a flickering lifetime of fame and fortune in exchange for eternity in the Netherworld - a consequence they can't possibly understand. Kaylee can't let that happen, even if trying to save their souls means putting 
her own at risk.

WHAT I THOUGHT
I loved the previous two instalments of Soul Screamers (in addition to the first novel there is a free prequel novella) so I went into this book right after listening to the first two full of enthusiasm for the series and wondering what would happen next. The very first thing that grabbed me was it didn’t go where I expected bringing Tod to the fore which can only be a good thing after his cameo in the first book.

I really like Rachel Vincent’s writing as it feels very real to me and in that way I feel like you almost fall into the book and it leaves you caring about the characters and for the most part you understand their motivations.

I can’t review this book without talking about the things that irked me about the book and that is some of the decisions that Kaylee makes. The one that springs to mind is when they are trying to convince Addison’s sister of the utter foolishness of giving away her soul they try to talk her around instead of the obvious step of having Addison remove her magical contacts and scare the ever loving life out of her. To me there is no reason in the world why that shouldn’t have occurred to at least one of them after all there is no sense in sugar coating things.

One of the things that did keep me reading was Nash calling Kaylee on her Superman complex and the danger she places herself in when she doesn’t have to. You could call it honourable but she really puts herself out there for Todd and suffers the consequences. I don’t like Kaylee just some aspects of her personality irk me and her awe of Nash is never going to make for a truly healthy relationship.

Now we come to Tod our intrepid reaper. After this episode I am not entirely sure how I feel about him, while I can understand his intentions and the fact that Addison has awaken something in him that he was beginning to lose that is no excuse to sell one of your friends down the river especially in a way that you knew was potentially lethal. At the very least you could characterise him as manipulative at the most you could call into question whether he even care for Kaylee.

I can’t finish the review without mentioning the whole allusion lambasting of the extremely Disney like corporation at the centre of this conspiracy for selling soul. I don’t know if Rachel Vincent was beaten up by a Mickey Mouse actor at Disneyland but there are certainly some old scars there. I don’t know how anyone could hold a grudge against the company who brought us Ashley Tisdale.

So in the end I have to give a mixed review taking another step into Soul Screamers world is an enjoyable experience but there were just a few things here and there that niggled at me but nothing that would stop me making this series one of the ones to watch.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

BOOK REVIEW - Brotherband Chronicles Bk 01 - The Outcasts by John Flanagan

Brotherband Chronicles is the first book in a new trilogy from International Bestselling Author John Flanagan who is probably most widely known for the Ranger’s Apprentice series. It was released in the UK on 3rd November 2011 by Bodley Head and the hardcover is 464 pages including  an extract of Ranger's Apprentice Book One.

PLOT
The story focuses on young Hal Mikkelson, a young man living in Skandia of mixed parentage. He struggles with a feeling of being an outsider which is exacerbated by him being smaller and less brawny than those around him. Hal however is a genius at building things and seeing ways to improve on others.

When Brotherband training – a rite of passage for all Skandians – starts for Hal finds himself the unwilling leader of a band of outcasts, the boys that no one wants. They are small and wiry but what they lack in size, they make up with skill and courage. Now they must battle against the other bands in the ultimate race where there can only be one winner.

WHAT I THOUGHT
There was a very high mark that Brotherband had to aim for after the excellence that was the Ranger’s Apprentice series. This series is set in the same world of that of the first story but begins in Skandia whereas RA starts out within Araluen. So this of course brings about the question of whether or not you should read Ranger’s Apprentice before coming to Brotherband. After careful thought after reading book one (this is a series so things may change) I am going to say that you do not need to have read Ranger’s Apprentice but doing so will give you a greater insight into the locales mentioned and into the culture and ideology of the Skandian nation.

Let me say that almost immediately I got sucked into this world, the way that John Flanagan paints the details of his stories with rich descriptions means you can easily picture yourself there along with the characters of the story. His style is very descriptive visually without going that step too far which would push it into hammy writing.

Hal is a great lead character, he is the outsider because of his small size and his mixed parentage as well as the fact that he grew up without a father. Like all good heroes though he has his strengths as well as his weaknesses and that is what allows the reader to care for him. He isn’t perfect he plays to his strengths but still suffers some setbacks as a direct result of his shortcomings.

There are a number of solid supporting characters and I am anxious to see what happens next with the members of the Brotherband. I hope we see more of Rolland even though it doesn’t seem immediately likely.

This is the kind of book I cry out for, good male lead and a book that could definitely appeal to young male readers which is something that I am a big proponent of. I feel that YA suffers from a distinct lack of male leads and I hope that this series as well as titles like The Chronicles of Nick and The Heroes of Olympus might blaze a trail for more titles aimed at young male readers.

So to sum up I would recommend Brotherband: The Outcasts to anyone who is interested in a good adventure series with rich descriptions and an intricate world for you to explore. That recommendation goes triple for fans of Ranger’s Apprentice.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

100 BOOK CHALLENGE

So regular readers will realise that I am dedicating a lot of the blog to discussions about books. I am NOT turning this into a book review blog my interests are more varied than that and I could not dedicate enough time for a personal blog AND a book review blog so I have combined them along with the other things I have an interest in.



As part of my book reviews and discussion I have issued myself a challenge - to read 100 books in this calendar year. I have seen it on a few book review blog and I thought I would give it a try as I definitely want to get into reading more. I would suspect last year I probably managed 50-60 books so I will need to be disciplined in my reading and of course discover a lot of new books to check out.

As you can see in the links above there is a page where you can see the books I have already read which I will add to as new books are completed.

How many books do you intend to get through before 1st January 2013?

Monday, February 6, 2012

MORGANVILLE VAMPIRES READING CHALLENGE

I found this reading challenge at the Ink and Paper Blog here. It is one of two reading challenge that I have signed up for this year which is a new activity for me but it seems pretty fun all in all and there is a chance of prizes. I have included the details below with links.


The Details:

Anyone, from anywhere, can sign up, whether you have a blog of not - you just need somewhere to post your reviews, like Goodreads. If you do have a blog, you're welcome to write a sign-up post. 

When? The challenge will run from 1st January 2012 until 31st December 2012.

Formats? All formats count - books, e-books or audiobooks!

Levels
There are levels! Pick the one you would like to complete. The levels are characters from the books in the order of their creepiness! So who are you going to be?

Sam Glass: Books 1-3
Oliver: Books 1-6
Amelie: Books 1-9
Myrnin: Books 1-13

You can sign up here



Morganville Vampires is an incredible book series and this could be your time to discover it for yourselves.
Bishop: Books 1-13, plus all short stories (in anthologies or otherwise).

BOOK REVIEW - Glass Houses by Rachel Caine

This review is part of the 2012 Morganville Vampires Reading Challenge which is being hosted by Ink and Paper. Morganville Vampires is one of my favourite book series and I am really happy to be rereading them.

Title: Glass Houses

Author: Rachel Caine



PLOT

College freshman Claire Danvers has had enough of her nightmarish dorm situation. When Claire heads off-campus, the imposing old house where she finds a room may not be much better. Her new roommates don't show many signs of life, but they'll have Claire's back when the town's deepest secrets come crawling out, hungry for fresh blood.

WHAT I THOUGHT
If you haven’t already read Morganville Vampires then you may be thinking oh no not another vampire series, you’d be correct that it is NOT another vampire series it is one of the best series around. Claire Danvers is a gifted young woman but she isn’t the Slayer or a half vampire with enhanced strength, she is just a girl on an accelerated learning program with hopes of going to MIT. Excluding the fact that she has a brain with the capacity of a small moon Claire is just your average teen in what becomes a fantastic situation.

We are introduced to her new housemates, Michael the quiet musician, Eve the angry Goth and Shane the loner. The book really shines through with these four central characters and their back and forth you just can’t get enough. After I read through a few of the MV books I wished I lived with Claire and co even with the town’s little issue.

Now onto the town of Morganville, Texas the home of Texas Prairie University and the only town in America run by Vampires. Yep you heard me Vampires and the down and dirty kind, the ones who would rip your throat out as soon as look at them. In Morganville the vampires are in total control and humans must tie themselves to a named vampire to act as a benefactor for them.  A less than ideal situation for the humans especially with an unofficial open season on hunting come sundown.

It is how Claire reacts to this shocking secret and how she fights back despite being the girl too young to be at college, despite being the small frail human against a town of vampires and despite being the nerd versus the most popular girl in town. It is this reason as well as the excellent dialogue and great storyline that I recommend Glass Houses and all of Morganville Vampires.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Is it ok just to like a celebrity for their looks?

I was thinking the other day as I was watching an episode of Psych and saw Sarah Shahi on it as Gus’s new potential homicidal love interest. Now somewhat against the subject of my article I do actually like Shahi’s work which in my case is her stint on Life as the partner of Damian Lewis’ character. I loved that show and I really liked her on it as the long suffering partner. What surprised me was that she looked totally different on Psych and I could barely stop checking her out. Later I realised that is to be expected as she is meant to be eye candy.



Psych seems to be very good at making the average guy like me take various actresses seriously as a piece of eye candy but the whole thing got me thinking about in the world of celebrity and the internet and whether or not looks alone is a reason to take an active interest in a celebrity. After all you can now become a fan of your celeb on Facebook or follow their ramblings on Twitter does it need to be more than lusting after their near perfect form.



But what is wrong with just looking at a celebrity with no prior interest in their body of work so to speak. If there weren’t people who just liked a pretty face (male or female) Maxim, FHM and the rest would have some serious circulation issues. There is an argument that an actress’ appearance in a men’s magazine may prove to be a boom for their careers but there is another chance that it may damage their career in terms of how they are viewed, less of an artist and more an object.



In the end I can’t decide whether or not shallowly lusting after celebrities is ok or not so I will leave it to you out there to make it your own choice. Your thoughts as always are welcome.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

General Update - Stuff I am working on

So again I am trying to dip my toe in the writing pool and I am sketching out some ideas on stories that don't involve anything paranormal. Still working on them so when I actually manage to work on a summary that doesn't bug me I might pot it here to keep me on the straight and narrow as a hint though I am thinking of basing one around teenagers and the fun fun politics of high school.

TV

So I have been watching Psych from the beginning after hearing endlessly about how good it was so I took the plunge with the first season. To be honest I was not particularly impressed it reminded me of things like Murder She Wrote or Diagnosis Murder which are fine examples of shows but I think most would admit they are now dated. Some things that stuck out for me was the ridiculous use of eye candy in nearly every episode and the fact that Shawn is so incredibly unlikeable, it works for House but it doesn't necessarily work for everyone.

Still I had nothing better to do and occasionally I found myself hitting up IMDB to find out what the hot actress of the week has also appeared in. I kept on watching through Season 2 and slowly I felt the writing got a bit tighter and the episodes more fun and more importantly a lot more unique.


The second half of season 2 and later season 3 has definitely improved things again and I fear that those damn catchphrases are starting to stick in my head. That and the Jamaican accent which even I find hilarious. Add that to the hilarious versions of the theme tune that keep appearing and Psych is beginning to get up there among my favourite shows.

Anyway that is all he wrote for now go read a book or something people.
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