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Amongst Women
Amongst Women
by John McGahern
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A Fictional Memoir Based Loosely on the Author's Own Life, 6 April 2011
This review is from: Amongst Women (Paperback)
John McGahern's "Amongst Women" begins slowly, but after a certain point, I really became caught up in it. The book is very well-written; it's lyrical and much of what's going on happens below the surface.

"Amongst Women" reads like an unflinching memoir. And in many ways, it is. The main character, Michael Moran, is for all intents and purposes McGahern's father, an ex-Republican, separated from the rest of the community, and known for being harsh to his children. And McGahern is essentially Luke. (Though, unlike that gentleman, McGahern did come home from time-to-time on short visits and did wind up moving back to Ireland as he got older.) Quite a bit seems to have been drawn from the author's real life.

However, at times, it's hard to feel sympathy for Moran. Yes, he has PTSD, but the way he treats his children drives them away, especially keeping Sheila from going to university. That action and both of the times he snaps at Rose really makes Moran hard to like. Also, not much happens. It's lyrical and floats along, but there's very little plot.

FAQ About Time Travel [DVD]
FAQ About Time Travel [DVD]
Dvd ~ Anna Faris
Price: £6.28

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable Enough Film, 28 Mar 2011
This review is from: FAQ About Time Travel [DVD] (DVD)
"FAQ About Time Travel" is an understated, low budget sort of film. The special effects are gorgeous considering how low budge it was. The actors do a good job, especially Anna Faris who really stole the movie and two scene wonder Meredith MacNeill. There's a lot of geek humour ("In the future, everybody's American") and shout outs ("I'm an Imagineer!"); this film knows its audience and caters to them. (to the point where I was constantly explaining minor things I had laughed at to my mate.) The time travel tropes are done well, and shout outs are made to all the classic time travel stories, including an incredibly subtle one to "A Sound of Thunder" in addition to the more obvious one. After Ray meets Cassie, the film moves almost in real time; that's really quite clever for a film about time travel. It's a silly romp of a movie, and it is well aware of that.

There are some big plot holes. Also, the story had a lot of potential, which it didn't live up to. Anna Faris and Chris O'Dowd are two of my favourite comedians; they have really good comedic timing, which they don't get to really show it off here. However, there are some hints at it. Ray's opening monologue about time travel (done in a quite convincing American accent, even if his real Irish one slips through in a few places) shows what he could do. Both characters are funny, though, and their romance is really quite enjoyable even if it moves along very quickly.

To be honest, the biggest flaw was the quick pace. Whilst it kept the plot moving, it didn't give enough time to delve into anything. The characters visit a horrible, utterly destroyed, nuclear winter future ruled by giant carnivorous ants. For five minutes. Pete has been bouncing around time randomly for two months, leaving him addled and slightly savage. Which informs his character but is never discussed and is touched on only briefly. They visit a fan night at the pub where everyone is dressed like them; it doesn't result in any hijinks other than the Best Toby being much fatter than the real thing and the Best Pete being real Pete. The part that suffered worst was Ray and Cassie's relationship. I could buy that she was really into him because she'd been spending months at a time learning about him and focussed on him, but in real time, he'd known her for about an hour, maybe two at the most. All of their interactions were cute, adorably awkward, and funny, which left me begging for more. (I really want to see Anna Faris and Chris O'Dowd in a quirky, indie rom com now. And I don't like rom coms.) There was a lot of potential and due to the quick pace, the film didn't live up to it.

Overall, "FAQ About Time Travel" is well-worth a watch. It's a silly, quirky little movie, and it knows it and doesn't want to be anything else.

The Sandman: The Kindly Ones
The Sandman: The Kindly Ones
by Neil Gaiman
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Kindly Ones: The Climax of a Fantastic Comic, 26 Mar 2011
"The Kindly Ones" is the climax of the Sandman series. This is where all the work that came before reaches it's pentacle. Several of the characters mentioned in early arcs are back, and this arc serves as a good beginning of the end for the series.

Lyta Hall sets off to get revenge against Dream who owns her child, Daniel, and whom she believes has taken him from her. And whilst the plot is about her, the story is about knowing that the end is coming and facing it with dignity and about accepting punishment for one's actions with grace. As in several other arcs, the plot has little to do with Dream, but the story is all his. Like the rest of the stories, this is one that needs to be read multiple times to get everything that's going on because Gaiman weaves several layers.

Whilst you might miss Dream, the ending to this series helps you realise that which is Endless never ends, it just becomes something new.

Superman: Red Son
Superman: Red Son
by Mark Millar
Edition: Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superman: Red Son an Elseworlds Tale, 26 Mar 2011
This review is from: Superman: Red Son (Paperback)
This book operates on a fascinating principle. What if Superman fell to earth a few hours earlier?

It's an interesting book. There are no heroes in this book, only anti-villains. Superman is trying to do what he thinks is best, but he's using surveillance, brain washing, and lobotomisation to achieve that. Lex Luthor is fighting for truth, justice, and the American way, but he's still the supervillain we know and love. Wonder Woman gets sucked into Superman's way of thinking before being tossed aside; when she fights to end Superman's corrupt rule, it's not for the good of the people but to get revenge for him not loving her. The closest to a hero is Batman (and his sexy ushanka). He's still fighting against the people who killed his parents, but this version is much more willing to kill, even if he tries to minimise the damages. So he's a bit more anti-hero.

The artwork is great, and the colours are true and vibrant. A lot of work was put in to determine how this brave new world would look. It's not just our world with a few more Soviet flags; it has a different design aesthetic. The best example would be in the Green Lantern Corps uniforms. The Red Son GLs don't look remotely like the DCU's GLs. The former have a far more militaristic look and feel.

The story is well thought out, and there are shout outs made to earlier Superman stories. There's stuff in here for every Superman fan. The only problem is sometimes a lot of stuff happens on one page. Also, characters are very briefly referenced and never show up again. (An example is Ma Kent.) However, the latter is done to make Superman fans happy so it's acceptable. Whilst it's a serious story, it's obvious Millar is having fun with it and wants the fans to have fun too.

Overall, it's a good book for fans of "What if" scenarios. Also, it's totally worth it just to see Batman in the ushanka.

Batman: Arkham Asylum Anniversary Edition
Batman: Arkham Asylum Anniversary Edition
by Grant Morrison
Edition: Paperback

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, 21 Mar 2011
"Arkham Asylum" is a fantastic book. The plot is well-paced and a lot of thought was involved. It might not be the strongest Batman plotline, but it's more literary than action adventure. This version comes with a script, with notes from Grant Morrison, in the back, which is almost an absolute necessity because so much is going on. Every page is crammed with literary and psychology references. Morrison layers each scene with so much information that one almost needs Ph.D.s in Literature, Philosophy, and Psychology to get everything that's happening. Upon subsequent readings, the story became more horrifying as I noticed things I hadn't seen before. It really paints a vivid picture of being locked inside the mad house with the inmates. The story is understandable without it, but you'll probably miss a lot. I know I did. I still find something new every time I read it.

The Joker is in amazing form here. He is my favourite Batman villain, and Morrison understands why I adore him. He's allowed to be terrifying, whimsical, and hilarious all on the same page. He comes across as a worthy foe (who is maybe a little in love with Bats. Or maybe he just knows how to freak him out). The other villains are all represented well, especially Two Face. Morrison's version is pathetic and terrifying, his mind broken even worse by the people who are supposed to be helping him. The reader feels sympathy for him whilst feeling revulsion.

Unfortunately, the art was a draw back for me. I love Dave McKean and his "Sandman" covers are amazing. His style works well for a deeply literary, quietly horrifying book like this one. However, at times, it's too dark, and I lose some of the detail that Morrison describes in his script. In other places, it's too chaotic, and I can't tell what's happening. I understand McKean is trying to show the cacophony and insanity of the asylum, but it managed to irritate me. Also, (this is more a lettering issue) the Joker speaks in spiky red words at all times, which can be hard to read and blend into the background in places. When McKean's art shines, it is gorgeous: hauntingly beautiful and subtle. But it doesn't often get to shine.

"Arkham Asylum" is for fans who like their Dark Knight darker than most, fighting against his own mind in addition to those around him. It would also be enjoyed by people who enjoy literature and philosophy who don't look down on comics.

The Master
The Master
by Colm Toibin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

5.0 out of 5 stars The Master, 21 Mar 2011
This review is from: The Master (Paperback)
Toibin's prose reads like poetry; there's a gentle rhythm to everything, and each word is painstakingly chosen. It manages to imitate Henry James' distinctive style whilst still keeping characteristics of Toibin.

"The Master" manages to be melancholy but never depressing. I'm not sure how it manages that other than through great skill. Toibin's Henry James is fascinating and multifaceted. He's complex, and it's interesting to view the world through his mind. The characters are realistic and well thought out; they appear to have purpose outside of the story. The book was obviously well researched as well. Toibin spent a lot of time preparing.

However, it is sometimes difficult to remember which character is being discussed. There are a lot of them and most of them have similar names. Also, there's not really a plot. It's just a middle-aged writer revisiting his past; there's no conflict other than that between Henry's loneliness and his desire for solitude. It's written beautifully, but if the reader wants a book that will draw them in and carry them along, this isn't it.

Toibin also believes that James was gay. It didn't detract from the book for me. However, a few members of my class were taken aback by this and felt they couldn't trust the rest of the narrative as a result.

The book can be challenging to read as well. Because Toibin is imitating James' style, the reader has to concentrate. "The Master" isn't a breezy, easy read by any means. If you enjoy that and good writing without minding that there isn't much of a plot, then you'll enjoy this book.

by Colm Tóibín
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brooklyn by Colm Toibin, 21 Mar 2011
This review is from: Brooklyn (Paperback)
Out of the three Toibin novels I've read, "Brooklyn" was my least favourite. (The other two are "The Blackwater Lightship" and "The Master.") However, that's like being the worst Discworld novel; it's still far better than most of what's out there. The language is purposely much simpler than the other two novels, and the plot always moves forward, having no flashbacks at all.

The plot begins in Ireland and moves very slowly. The audience sees the monotony of the day-to-day lives of the characters. After Eilis gets settled in Brooklyn, time condenses and a whole summer is covered in a page. Upon her return to Ireland, the time expands once more. Eilis' two weeks in Enniscorthy feel like a couple of months. It's a neat narrative trick.

Eilis as a character is very interesting. Throughout the entire novel, she only makes one decision for herself. Everything else, including moving to the States and getting married, is a decision someone else made for that she's gone along with. Even if she doesn't like the decision, she pretends to be happy with it as shown when Eilis smiles through her fear of moving to the States so her family will remember her smiling. Tony, her love interest, is a one-dimensional character, but he's meant to be. There are hidden depths, but Eilis doesn't care about them. Their whole relationship can be summed up in one scene: Tony full of emotion and happy, sharing everything with Eilis, and her standing apart from him, comforted by the knowledge that he will never know her as she knows him.

However, if the reader doesn't like Eilis, they're not going to enjoy the book. She is the focus of the story and what drives it along. If one doesn't enjoy her voice, the novel could become annoying fairly quickly.

There's an unexpected twist that seems very convenient and just an excuse to get Eilis back to Enniscorthy. However, after talking to the author, it became a bit more believable. Also, that part of the story was based on something that truly happened. Reality can be very unrealistic at times.

I think Brooklyn is ideal for fans of coming of age stories as well as immigrant stories.

The Sandman: The Wake
The Sandman: The Wake
by Neil Gaiman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.56

5.0 out of 5 stars A Fitting End to an Excellent Series (spoilers), 21 Mar 2011
This review is from: The Sandman: The Wake (Paperback)
The swan song of The Sandman series is all about death and ends. It introduces the reader to a new Dream before helping him/her say goodbye to the Dream they're used to. The theme of the whole arc is saying goodbye and moving on. The reader gets to visit earlier characters and check-up on them, which works really well. It's a perfect end to a fantastic series.

If you're a fan of the series, you'll love the ending.

Wilde [1997] [DVD]
Wilde [1997] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Stephen Fry
Offered by westworld-
Price: £14.49

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wilde (1997), 1 Mar 2011
This review is from: Wilde [1997] [DVD] (DVD)
I was pleasantly surprised by how good this film was. It focusses an unflinching look on Wilde's relationship with Bosie. The viewer feels sympathy for both men. It doesn't paint Bosie as a horrible human being, rather he's a man who wants to love Wilde but is caught up in his own life. I was surprised by how well this movie dealt with Robbie Ross. Almost everything that deals with Wilde focusses on his relationship with Bosie, forgetting that he had other lovers and friends. It was nice to see a film address that. Stephen Frye and Jude Law both turn in fantastic performances as does Jennifer Ehle as Constance Wilde.

There is only one special feature. It's a thirty minute look into Wilde's life and adds little to the film. But if you're a fan of Frye, as I am, it's well worth watching. I could listen to him talk about anything, and he really enjoys his topic here.

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