Friday, 17 May 2013

Childhood Books

I would like to share some of my favourite books from my childhood, because, let’s face it, being a child is great for reading. This list has the added bonus of being a good guide for if you have any small children you need to buy books for. Who says I don’t make helpful blog posts?

Harry Potter by JK Rowling

Erm, do I need to say anything more? Magic, friendship, and good versus evil, Harry Potter captured my heart like it did with millions of others around the globe. It stretched my imagination, and took me into a beautiful, intricate world. More than that, Harry Potter showed me what it was like to grow and evolve. The series had its dark and bright parts, reflecting life in a not-so-magical world. Harry Potter may be set in a magical world, but its messages are all too real.

If there is one thing I look back on my childhood, it will be that I was exactly the right age to be in the true Pottermania spirit. I read my first Potter book when I was six and they remained an important part of my life until the last book was released when I was thirteen. I grew up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and entered a community filled with others who had done the same.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Along with Harry Potter and LOTR, Artemis Fowl planted the seed for what was going to become a long term love affair with the fantasy genre. It’s a story about a 12 year old criminal mastermind, Artemis Fowl, who kidnaps a fairy for ransom. He was the first anti-hero I met, whose sarcasm and conflicted nature blew my previous views of literature where the hero was always purely good, and the evil villain was always to be hated. For Colfer to show young children that the world is not black and white in such an engaging, action-packed, and funny (who can forget Mulch Diggums?) way was incredible.

I met Eoin Colfer for my thirteenth birthday, and got all of my books signed, and they still sit upon my bookshelf. Although I haven’t revisited Artemis in many years, and haven’t read the final book, I will always have a nostalgic memory of him.

Roald Dahl

I know this is an author, not a book, but it’s hard to pick one. His books are so incredible that they’re embedded into British consciousness. Golden ticket anyone?

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The Twits, B.F.G, I could go on and on… Roald Dahl had an imagination unparalleled to anyone. To make up a fantastical world is one thing, but to take our mundane world and make it extraordinary is another. His books were about real children acting like real children, and he showed the cruelty that there was in the world (some parts of Matilda are strangely haunting). I particularly liked his more unknown stories such as Esio Trot and The Giraffe and The Pelly and Me.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

 I don’t know how old I was when I first read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, but it left a deep impression and will forever remain my favourite classic books.  Unlike other classic books, AiW is forever timeless in its story. The strange and marvellous world brought life into immortal characters such as the Red Queen, the Queen of Hearts, the White Rabbit, Tweedle Dum and Dee… (I could go on), which will continue to be exciting to many generations of children and adults.

Another key point of the books is the reason Carroll wrote it. In the Victorian age, children’s books were meant to having meaning and a moral. These books had none. That doesn’t make them bad books, they were books written purely for a good story, and that was refreshing.

Honourable Mentions:
The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkein
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Dr Suess

Jacqueline Wilson

Let me know your favourite children books!

Friday, 3 May 2013

Iron Man 3 (2013)

Marvel had a lot to live up to after The Avengers. Iron Man was the first in the instalments, and brought to us witty dialogue, action, and a superhero plot. Each instalment had to match the previous, only to be completely tied together and blown out of the water by the epic Avengers. To say my expectations were high wouldn’t cover it.

Thankfully Iron Man 3 exceeded them.

Iron Man 3 takes place after the Avengers, and, without giving too much away, involves a lot of bio-technology jargon, explosions, and characters from Tony’s past. Shane Black and Drew Pearce has not let us down with hilarious not-quite-villains (Ben Kingsley I salute you), sharp one liners, and an twisting and turning superhero plot. The action sequences and special effects were a visual spectacle, and I would expect no less considering what they had pulled off with The Avengers.

As for the man himself? Downey Jr. was the Tony Stark that we all know and love. He was funny, he was egotistical, and he was human. And when we’re watching an iron suit, is an important thing to remember. I was glad to see Stark was affected by what happened in The Avengers, it gave the sense that Iron Man 3 was trying to stand by The Avengers, instead of trying to brush past it, as well as reminding us that our superhero was mortal. Tony Stark has always been my favourite Avenger, he always seemed to be the most robust character, the most charismatic, and in the end, the one you didn’t mind seeing a one man show of.

If anything, that’s the only negative I had to this film, the lack of development in most of the other characters. I really felt like they could have pushed a lot further with Pepper Potts and their relationship, instead of having her hanging on for her life in a sports bra and using her as a plot device to express Starks obsession with Iron Man. I suspect Paltrow is a better actress than the character shows off. Rebecca Hall’s character, Maya, had a strong start as strong female scientist, and then went absolutely nowhere. Guy Pearce as Killian, the villain, is a tricky one. I understood his motives and found him despicable enough to hate, but it felt that I hated his actions more than his character.

There were two secret stars to this film though: Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin, and Ty Simpkins as Harley, a 10 year old boy. I was utterly impressed by the way Kingsley moved effortlessly through the different dimensions of his character, and Simpkins, the first prominent child in a Marvel film, was intelligent, funny, and adorable.

Would I watch Iron Man 3 again? Yes. This film had what all Marvel films have, the enjoyment factor, which is hard to get anywhere else. Iron Man 3 may seem like a one man show at some points, but it's a damn good one.

Rating: 8/10