Of Musings and Wonderings

night circusThe Night Circus starts off with a bet between two very unique men. In it, they agree that they will each put forward a protégé for a competition, testing which of their methods of teaching is the best. The protégés do not know of one another, and until the right time comes, they are unaware of the stage on which their competition will be set.

The Night Circus becomes that stage, a wonderful, magical place full of amazing displays and acts that leave the spectators spellbound. The circus is open from sunset to dawn. It arrives with no warning, and usually disappears just as fast. It attracts casual visitors and a group who follow it as much as they can.

And Cecile and Marco, the protégés, are the ones holding the circus together, their powers combining to make the circus what it is, though they do not know the power is held in the hand of the other. The game is played out like a game of chess, where the player cannot see the other make their moves but only the results. One creates a tent and the other responds with their own. And around them, the circus grows.

The one thing that struck me with this novel is how beautiful it is. Seriously. It’s mainly description, which is something I don’t usually like, but it’s description that is breath-taking and wonderful, drawing the reader in totally and completely. The circus itself, the scenery, even the weather, they all become characters in their own right, as Morgenstern lends them a weight rarely seen in other novels.

Of the two main characters, Cecile comes across the best. She feels stronger, more able, while Marco – due to circumstance – simply slips into the background and watches from the side-lines. As he does what he needs to do, Cecile keeps the circus going and faces up to her father, the man who set her out for the competition in the first place. Even when not quite there, he’s a constant presence in Cecile’s life, but one she is able to confront when she needs to.

Between the chapters of the story itself, there are sections dedicated to allowing the reader to almost explore the circus, as Morgenstern uses second person POV to walk us through parts of the circus, sometimes dragging us along to the next event that holds the key to what happens next in the plot itself. And the ending…well, it’s bittersweet and sad and joyful and manages to pump all these emotions out.

The Night Circus is, to put it simply, a wonderful, delightful and unique read. If you haven’t had the chance to read it yet, I’d strongly urge you to do so.


{January 26, 2014}   Waxwork [Film]

waxworkWaxwork tells the story of a group of college kids who get invited to a private show at a waxwork museum. The place seems to have cropped up overnight, and is manned by a creepy English guy (David Warner). Seriously? Why would anyone step into that place? Especially after an invite from a guy who seems to go out of his way to be creepy.

Anyway. After entering the museum, two of the students step over the barriers and find themselves transported to other dimensions, containing stock horror characters. The first finds himself attacked by a werewolf, while China – already tagged as the slutty girl – finds herself at dinner with a bunch of vampires.

There are points when it feels this film could have been pretty damn good. The exhibits in the museum serve, almost, as movies within movies, with homages to various famous characters. And there’s a brilliant comment by creepy museum guy, when someone points out that Phantom of the Opera was made into a movie, that “They’ll make anything into a movie these days.” Yeah like…creepy waxwork exhibits coming to life.

Back to the plot! After two go missing, the other two leave the place unscathed and the main character, the hero, Mark, begins to worry about his former girlfriend China. Also his mate. But more China. After some investigation they find out that if the exhibits absorb a certain amount of people, they will come alive and wreak havoc on the world.

waxwork 2Very little in the film actually makes sense. It feels like a mishmash of homages more than anything else, with a little bit of 80s gore and splatter thrown in for good effect. And you know what? All of this makes this film great. Not in a typical great film way, but it is, without a doubt, one of those so terrible it’s good films. Camp, over the top, and the ending even has a bunch of old men charging forward to defend the world from the evil about to be unleashed.

Yeah. It has God awful, laugh out loud moments. And I loved it! And there’s a sequel!! Which I really, really need to watch.

Waxwork. A brilliant, over the top 80s flick. A terrible, downright confusing mix of homage and attempts to be original. A contradiction that works wonderfully.

{January 26, 2014}   The World’s End [Film]

worlds endFive friends gather together to complete an epic pub crawl, convinced by former ring-leader that they need to visit twelve pubs in their hometown. Gary King (Simon Pegg), in his forties, looks for some sort of link to his past, and draws the men together with one goal in mind. To reach The World’s End. Along the way, however, they realise there is something seriously wrong with the town, and the five must try to survive…while also completing the pub crawl.

Any fan of Pegg & Frost is aware of the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, starting with Shaun of the Dead, with Hot Fuzz as the second instalment and now ending with The World’s End. And it’s a decent end to these films, containing the same sort of humour and running jokes as the first two. Yet The World’s End is different in an important way. It feels like, with this film, Pegg & Frost have grown up, have matured beyond the guys who stared in Spaced (if you haven’t watched it, please do) and were in Shaun of the Dead.

Of course, all three films do have strong things in common. Sometimes, it feels like they’re acting out a fantasy; being the last standing in an apocalypse, saving a village, or fighting strange alien robot creatures. The fight scenes do look like the people involved are having fun. But it’s in the characters themselves that the main change can be felt.

In Shaun of the Dead, Pegg’s character is hopelessly in love with his ex-girlfriend. His main aim is to save her, because what is more important to a twenty-something than the love of his life? In Hot Fuzz, which very much feels like the middle ground, they play on the idea of the cop movie and Pegg plays a big city cop who moves to a crime-free village, only to find it’s not as slow-paced or quiet as initially expected. And in both these films, Frost is at his side, helping him, working with him, and, in Hot Fuzz, in awe of him.

worlds end 2But in The World’s End, Frost isn’t Pegg’s partner in crime. Instead, he actively tries to stop Pegg’s character from doing what he wants to do. He joins in with the pub crawl out of pity, rather than friendship or a desire to follow. It’s interesting to watch, as Frost, rather than standing to the side and letting Pegg get on with it, challenges Pegg, fights him and tries to make him stop.

With very good reason.

Pegg plays Gary King, a middle-aged man trying to relive his youth. He gathers his friends, all of which seem to have been fairly successful, with jobs and/or families, happy lives that they’ve built for themselves. King, with none of that, disrupts their routine and persuades them to try to relive the glory days.

It becomes painfully obvious that the only person desperate to relive them is King himself. Recovering addict, King is eager to return to a point in his life where it felt like anything was possible. And Pegg creates this sad, pathetic character, getting it easily across to the audience exactly how we should feel about him. He’s not the one who should get the girl, not the one who should be the hero, and he puts himself and his friends at risk trying to complete the mile. He’s held up as the worst of humanity. And yet, yet, there are points where we still root for him. Where we want him to come through and make it. And by the end…King has matured, in a way. Has progressed after facing the end of the world and has realised that the life he was clinging to just wasn’t obtainable.

worlds end 3The World’s End still has the same action and fun as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, but with a more mature, grown up edge to it, a deeper level of feeling beyond what we’ve seen from Pegg & Frost previously. Not as good as Shaun of the Dead, perhaps, but it has its own unique charm to it, even if there are moments where the main character deserves a punch to the face.

I’m looking for beta-readers. Basically, I’m working hard at the moment to get some work out there. I’m looking to enter competitions and submit various pieces of work to places. But what I really need is a pair of (or a few pairs!) critical eyes, to look over my work and let me know if it’s any good.

What I’m looking for is honesty. Even if it’s just “Well, this is crap, because of x, y and z.” Thoughts on plot, characters, grammar…anything! Even from people who might not consider themselves to be experts. I want to know how my writing would be perceived.

I’m not looking for editors. Just people willing to give time and impressions. The way I’d like it to work is maybe, every so often, I ping off an e-mail to anyone willing, let you know the word-count, what sort of story it is, that sort of thing. Then, if you have the time and want a read, I can send it over. And of course, I’m not expecting anyone to do this without something in return. I’d be happy to beta-read for people, or to read something of theirs (short stories, novels, anything!) and give an honest review. There’s also the opportunity for guest blogs or interviews, whatever it is you may be looking for at the time. (For example, if I give a review and you don’t currently have anything else you want me to review, but you are willing to read something of mine, we could set up a guest blog or something.)

So if you think you’d be interested, drop me an e-mail at gracebunting@hotmail.co.uk or leave your e-mail in the comments below.



{January 12, 2014}   Lords Of Salam [Film]

lords of salemSomething strange starts happening when local DJ Heidi receives an album, with no information except the name of the band Lords of Salem. As she listens to it, she begins to see things. Hallucinations invade her life and her friends try to help, but unfortunately Heidi is under the grip of a group of witches, burnt at the stake during the Salem witch trials. The music affects other women in the community, too, anyone whose ancestor was part of the group who tracked down and killed the witches.

The premise is actually sort of interesting, and could have made for a much, much better movie. As it is, Lords Of Salem tries way too hard to be different and a little edgy, with over the top ‘trippy’ scenes, a rock DJ with a history of drug abuse as the main character, and, oh look, the standard academic guy who twigs what’s going on before anyone else.

To be honest, this film was crap. Do me a favour and just…give it a miss.

The characters are bland, the dialogue feels forced and there’s no real connection between any of them. There are a few short scenes where things feel a bit more natural, but they’re overshadowed by the strangeness of the whole thing. And the climax of the film…oh, God. It was just so unbelievably weird. It was like watching a really shitty metal band trying to make a unique and ‘oh this gonna be awesome, dude’ music video. Just way too much squeezed in.

So in short. Crap characters, potentially good plot completely wasted, and trying too hard to be weird and trippy. Like I said, give it a miss.


et cetera