Of Musings and Wonderings











legends of windemereBeginning of a Hero tells the story of Luke Callindor, a young adventurer determined to prove his worth outside of his family name. His chance comes when he meets a royal messenger, and convinces him to hire Luke to protect the heir of Duke Solomon. Unfortunately, Luke has no information on what the heir looks like, no clues as to who they might be except that they are currently at the Hamilton Military Academy, a school run by former mercenary Selenia Hamilton. Luke has to avoid suspension, discovery and death at the hands of a demonic assassin, all while trying to work out who, exactly, the heir is, so he can protect them.

Admittedly, it took a while to really get into the book. Mainly because it’s a style that I (and I suspect most people) aren’t used to, the use of third person present tense. If not done well, it can be horrible. But luckily, Charles manages to pull it off, and after getting past the first few chapters it becomes much easier and enjoyable to read. I have read some third person present books that have been horrendous, and it’s great to see a writer who can actually do some good with it.

The characters themselves are nicely written, especially the characters that populate the academy around Luke. Some serious, like Selenia, others funny and comedic, adding a nice bit of humour into the plot. Luke forms his own group, made up of the people he trusts and likes, to help him in his quest. The characters balance each other out, and add something different to the action scenes later in the novel.

Possibly due to the use of present tense, some of the action scenes do get a little muddled. In places, it is a little dialogue heavy, and the dialogue is used for explanation purposes perhaps a little too much, detracting a bit from the story. But it’s definitely a novel where it feels like the author is getting better and better with each page, and it’s easy to enjoy reading it.

I’ve read a few self-published novels in the last few months. Some have been terrible. Others have been actually, pretty damn good. Maybe not as polished as traditionally published novels, but then again, these authors don’t have a whole team of editors behind them. And I’m very, very glad that Beginning of a Hero falls among them as one of the best self-published novels I’ve read, and it’s the strongest present tense one I’ve seen. If you like fantasy, and want to read something a little different, I strongly suggest picking this one up.

Oh! And what excellent timing! The novel’s free for the next three days, so go check it out and check out Charles’ blog while you’re at it, too.

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{February 20, 2014}   Saga, Volume One [Graphic Novels]

saga“Am I shitting? It feels like I’m shitting.”

Authors spend ages thinking over the perfect opening lines, the perfect way to grab a reader and plunge them into a story. Saga does that brilliantly, with the first piece of dialogue (above) and the narration on the first page of the novel (This is how an idea becomes real). And, as we all know, the first thing a reader reads (and sees, in the case of graphic novels) is crucial.

Saga tells the story of Marko and Alana, soldiers from opposite sides, fighting in a never-ending war. Their attempts to escape the war backfire when they are tracked down, and they must run to save themselves, their love, and the life of their new-born child, the narrator of the story.

saga2As with Hit-Girl, the art in Saga is beautiful. Unlike Hit-Girl, the art here needs to do a lot more. Rather than just tell the story of the characters, the art also has to create whole new worlds, has to make us fully believe in the strange terrains and landscapes these characters travel across. And the appearance of the characters themselves has to say a lot, with the two main characters having more than just different home planets and lives separating them. They are also separated by their very appearance, Marko with his horns and Alana with her wings. But these aren’t the only two species inhabiting the worlds of the graphic novel. We also see human-like characters with TVs for heads, monkey-like men, and drifting lost souls. It’s clear that a hell of a lot of work has gone into the world building of this, and it pays off nicely.

As for the main characters, well, Marko and Alana are very human. They’re relatable, they bounce off each other and at times, have you wondering why the hell they’re together. There are moments when it’s clear to see the love they have for each other, and moments when they butt heads so spectacularly that it makes you question how they ended up together. But…it makes the relationship itself feel more real. After all, don’t we all know a couple that seem to click and compliment each other brilliantly one day, and the next just seem to act like children about something? But they’re the kind of couple that doesn’t take it too far, and are there to support the other one when it’s needed.

Marko and Alana are a lot like that, and little things about their relationship become more clear as we find out how, exactly, they met.

saga-no-killingAs well as the two main characters, there’s a whole host of supporting characters that are, basically, very strong. We get almost behind the scenes glimpses at those who had hired to track down the two runaways, and although at first the bounty hunters come across as right dick heads, but like Alana and Marko we’re treated to further glimpses into their pasts, and see more human-like, decent sides to them. There are characters that make you want to slap them, and there are characters that make you want to slap them then hug them then wish everything would just turn out all right for everyone, damn it.

Saga, the story of a love forged during a never-ending war, is a brilliant read. It really tugs you into the world, makes you feel for the characters involved – no matter what side they’re on – and leaves you, as all good novels, graphic novels, etc, should, wanting a hell of a lot more. Definitely worth checking out.



rot and ruinI loved Patient Zero, and I loved the short story, focusing on the same characters as Rot and Ruin, in Zombie.  So I was super excited to start reading this, and I was not disappointed. The book starts years after ‘First Night’, when the dead stopped just being dead. Now, fourteen years later, Benny Imura has to find a job or have his rations cut in half. After trying a variety of work, Benny opts to apprentice with his brother Tom, a man he has hated since their parents died, when he thought Tom simply ran away.

But when Tom takes Benny out into the Rot and Ruin, the land beyond their small town, Benny begins to understand exactly what it is his brother does. And his world changes as he realises bounty hunters, the men who hunt down zombies, aren’t as cool as he originally thought.

Benny at first comes across a little bit of a brat. Him and his best friend turn down job after job, for the main reason that they’re just too hard. He refuses to see his brother as a person, and admires men like Charlie Pink-Eye and The Motor City Hammer, men who, it’s clear, are rough and tough, so completely opposite to Benny’s brother Tom. He’s not unlikable, but he is a character you urge to grow. And that works nicely for the plot of the book, where Benny’s world changes and he starts to realise that the way he sees things might just be wrong.

Nothing is overly explicit in the book. Maberry lets us, as readers, make up our own minds about these characters and this world, dropping hints here and there towards what they’re really like. As well as that, even though it’s mostly from Benny’s POV, Maberry draws us in and allows us to see much more than Benny can. The characters of his friends, his brother and the others in the town are interesting in their own right, and none of them feel like they’re shoved in there just as a plot device, or just for the sake of the book. They are feel like real people, even when we only glimpse them for a few moments.

There aren’t twists, as such. More like revelations, mainly ones that Benny has but the reader is able to pick up on beforehand. But it’s not a book to read for major plot twists and startling moments. Instead, many of the best parts are the quiet, understated ones, where we glimpse into the characters and see their emotions, either hidden or bubbling quietly to the surface. There are some truly touching moments, not just on the part of the human characters, but moments when we see that the zombies aren’t just undead people who need to be re-killed, but instead are former humans who had lives and families.

When the action does happen, it’s gripping and engrossing. There’s real fear for the characters, real worry for them as they find themselves in severe danger. And most of that is down to the way Maberry has introduced them to us, the way he has them laid out and the way we feel for them before they face too much.

Rot And Ruin is a different type of zombie book, one where the zombies are more background than the main monsters, and one in which the quietest moments are the strongest. A great read.

 



drop dead gorgeousI made a huge mistake. That mistake was reading Doll Parts, the sequel to Drop Dead Gorgeous, before reading this one. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy Doll Parts, but the whole way through it really did feel like I was missing something. Luckily, I read Drop Dead Gorgeous and all those missing pieces finally fell into place.

Drop Dead Gorgeous tells the stories of various people, after the whole world around them seems to have died. The characters range from school-kids to messed up twenty-something’s to a washed up, older DJ. It also tracks a former IRA member as she joins a soldier, leading a group of people to safety.

Each group of survivors have their own issues and kinks to work out. Some have pretty dark pasts, and it seems that this event could help them rebuild a new life. Others have to learn how to cope with each other, especially Mairead and Roy, who find a young girl in a school building and who then act as her parents. A truce is made between them, but it’s a truce that cannot last, as Roy tries to ensure the safety of the community and Mairead witnesses the true extent he will go to for this.

This is not a zombie apocalypse novel. Instead of showing us these characters facing off against a horde of the undead, we see a much more bleak view. We see what they’re like when there are no enemies, no one to fight, just a daily struggle to live and find a reason to keep going. And we see the way humans turn against each other, even without any sort of outside threat to force them to do so.

There are zombies, of a sort. But they don’t creep in until the end, and they’re presented in a much more unique way than the shambling corpses we’ve come to know. Instead, these creatures seem to possess some sort of reasoning, clinging onto memories and acting accordingly. It’s a much more interesting look, and a haunting one, as they stalk their prey and go for those who have done them harm, rather than simply attacking any living, breathing thing in sight.

Drop Dead Gorgeous shows humanity at its worst, and yet still offers small glimmers of hope as characters fall in love and in some cases, really do look out for each other. Even the characters that make the worst decisions do it in what they believe to be the best interests of the others around them, even when totally misguided in that. It’s a brilliant book, a must for any fans of horror.



{October 10, 2013}   Glee – 5×02 [TV]

502GLE_502-sc28pt_0350_1-e1379623351138-600x403So, due to the nature of them, I did promise I’d talk about the first three episodes of Glee. I know, I know, it’s been a week since it aired, but it’s been a busy week for me. The reason I want to talk about these three, when I’m only talking about the first episode of everything else, is because they’re all tributes. The first two are tributes to one of the most legendary bands ever (The Beatles), and the third episode will be a tribute to Finn. Because I love The Beatles and because the whole current context of the show, I really wanted a chance to put my thoughts out there on how Glee seems to be tackling these tributes.

In case I didn’t mention it last time, I love The Beatles. Their songs, to me, are universal. Everyone can relate to them, even now. For example, my favourite ever Beatles song, Revolution. Yes, everyone thinks of their love songs when thinking of the band, but to me, Revolution is one of their best. And I couldn’t help but think of it a few years ago when I was walking through University and a group had ‘taken over’ one of the buildings, in protest against the rise of tuition fees. So when this episode had Tina singing the song, I was a little bit excited and a bit apprehensive. Could she pull it off? Would it work? Would it fall…oh, never mind, it got cut off.

Let’s face it, the cast of the show can’t come close to being as good as The Beatles. In my own personal, humble opinion, they’re not even as good as the cast of my favourite Beatles-based musical, Across The Universe. But they do try. And the story…well, it’s Glee, the story is a bit forced. It’s prom, and we have the nominations for Prom Queen. Kitty, although not in the right year, is nominated alongside Tina and a few other cheerleaders. In a surprisingly unselfish act for Kitty, she decides to throw her support behind Tina. But one of the other cheerleaders isn’t happy with this and tries to get people to vote for Kitty.

glee beatlesUnlike the previous episode, this one focuses on only a few of the cast. Sam, Kitty and Tina, and, in New York, Rachel and Santana. It works much better as we can get more drawn in, can get our heads around the sometimes flimsy storylines peppered with The Beatles’ later works. Okay, so they didn’t do too bad of a job, and on a superficial level, on a ‘fitting it around the songs’ kind of thing, it does work. Sort of. Though the plot lines remain…well, silly. For example, Sam. I love Sam, and I’d like to see him focused on more, but does it always have to be about a girl? Actually, do all the main characters always have to be searching for or wanting someone or involved with someone? Sam, in this episode, starts fancying a nurse who is fired for being incompetent. Then rehired because Sam asks Sue (the new principle) very nicely.

Err…seriously? If I was a parent of a kid at this school, I’d be pissed off. The school is terrible! They have a nurse who can’t actually do anything, who goes to put a shot in the kid after just sticking it in a sausage, who makes more and more mistakes. It’s…really, guys? I don’t ask a lot of Glee, especially in terms of realism, but this was just idiotic.

Anyway! It’s still fun, still managing to make you smile in some points, even when things are just getting ridiculous. And yeah, the songs are still the main draw, still the best part, especially in New York when we get to see Rachel, Santana and Kurt dancing around with a whole load of other people.

Yay, we got a song. The focus is on us for all of five seconds.

Yay, we got a song. The focus is on us for all of five seconds.

I just have one other thing that’s really bugging me. Tonight, they air the tribute episode to Finn. It should be sad, serious and sombre. It should have an impact, and I think the tears on any of the cast will be real. And yet…there’s absolutely no mention of him in either of the two episodes, no potential build up to what’s going to happen. I mean, surely they could have dropped in a line or two about “Oh, yeah, Finn’s doing this right now” or “I just heard from Finn” or whatever. It’s a nit-picky point, but he is Finn’s brother, Ryder’s mentor, the guy who brought the kid out of his shell, and, well, the whole thing with him and Rachel. And just…nothing? I feel like they could have done with just reminding us, a little, of what’s happened and preparing us for what we’re about to see. C’mon, Glee, you really can do better than this.

Any thoughts? Liking Glee right now, hating it, any ideas about the next episode?

 



et cetera