Thursday, 20 December 2012

We need to talk about the Gossip Girl finale: New York, I love you xoxo

I’m having some issues with television at the moment, all about trust and the relationship between the audience and the writer’s/producers, because unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few weeks, Gossip Girl’s identity was finally revealed this week and it brought to the fore all my ugly grumps when it comes to this relationship.

I love TV shows – actually scrap that, I love clever TV shows. Now I’m not saying that they have to make me think, or put my intellectual cap on to enjoy them, they can be clever in all sorts of different ways, but they have to engage me and persuade me to connect with them. I have to want to invest my time in them, want to tune in at the right time, or demand to catch up as soon as they become available – otherwise what’s the point?

My biggest case right now, if you haven’t figured it out yet, is with Gossip Girl. I loved this show when it started. It was the delicious guilty pleasure watching these scheming, manipulative rich kids do truly terrible things to each other. Yet I watched the entire first season in less than 48 hours. Why I hear you ask – because it was clever, it was smart, it was well written, and it was fantastic.

And I stuck with it determinedly as they went off to college and everything slowly deteriorated into a royal cluster fuck of idiocy, bad plots and characters warped so badly that they were barely recognisable when placed next to their series 1 counterparts. There were still good storylines, the odd fantastic episode that reminded me of the glory days, but the fantastic spark of Gossip Girl was dying. It shrank with the ridiculous Jenny and Chuck hook up. It went out when Chuck punched the wall by Blair’s head and abused and intimidated her.

And then came the finale, and some terrible twisted part of me wanted to see how they’d tie this all up with a neat little bow. And frankly, I wish I’d stopped watching the show  when Chuck finally said ‘I love you’ to Blair at the end of Season 2. Yes there were some good moments – Jack Bass and Georgina? Blair and Chuck having serpent wedding rings? Henry! But what undermined, ridiculed and flat out destroyed the show, right back into the previously brilliant Season 1 was the reveal of Gossip Girl.

Because the writers reveal of Dan as Gossip Girl not only gave the show more holes than a colander, it was an effective middle finger to the audience. It said to us that not only did they not care that the show now made little to no sense with this reveal, that they had effectively put the five core character’s names in a hat and drawn one out at random, but that they thought we were stupid enough not to care.

And that damages my relationship not just with the show, but the writers and producers who have gift wrapped and handed that to me. I now wouldn’t touch anything Stephanie Savage worked on with a barge pole because she has shown (with the help of many others) that she considers the audience of any ‘teen show’ she works on to have the intellect of a five year old, with an attention span half that.

Because by revealing Dan as Gossip Girl they not only undermined any character development his character had (remember back when Dan was the good guy???)  but they showed that he was not the once nice guy/slightly creepy writer we had watched for the last six seasons, he was a deranged, stalker. He met Serena once. Once. And off that he decided to create a website that effectively tracked her every move, vilified, bullied and humiliated not only her but her friends, and then at the end Serena, instead of backing away with the mace spray held in front of her, not only calls this abusive, psychotic and downright disturbing behaviour a ‘love letter’  but then goes on to marry the guy? Excuse me show, what message are you trying to send out to your audience? That creepy and stalkerish is the new cute, that abusive is good, that women deserve no less and are utterly brainless and devoted when it comes to their one true epic love no matter what he has done to them and how he has treated them?

Because that’s not ok in my book.

Abuse is not ok. Verbal, physical, emotional. None of it. It is not romantic, it is not excusable, it is not something that women (or men) should have to put up with from their partner, or someone they are romantically involved with. 

And it terrifies me that so many books and shows and films are showing this type of relationship as the norm. When did this happen??? How??? Why??? It leaves me kinda speechless. (Or not  apparently given the length of this rant.)

What the show did was turn Dan into even more of a horror than Chuck, and Chuck has done some truly unforgiveable things to Blair in the past. And maybe that was the point, by making Dan an even worse villain that suddenly made Chuck and Blair’s relationship ok and normal and acceptable. Because their relationship was pretty messed up. And I say that coming from a huge Chair shipper point, back before they took Chuck down a terrible, unforgiveable path in Season 3.

So this clever show, has turned around, destroyed any semblance of plot that it had, and patted us viewers on the head and told us that this is true love, this is what we should accept, this is what we should hope for out of our lives. Oh goody, I feel so fulfilled now.

Because ‘teen shows’ are so much more than that now, and the writers should have kept up with what was happening outside the bubble of Gossip Girl, because we’ve had some truly excellent shows that have come along and completely redefined the idea of what a teen show should be. There are intelligent, brilliant. Sharp, well written, incredibly fast paced shows that don’t feel the need to create female characters that are so mind-blowingly vapid that they will cling to any abusive guy they think is their soul mate. And I’m thrilled that there are shows out there like that, I’m just devastated that Gossip Girl let me down at the final hurdle and gave a condescending half arsed ploy to tie everything up in neat little bows.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The Vampire Diaries Review: My Brother's Keeper

So this week’s episode has taken me a little while to recover from – did anyone else have trouble catching their breath after the end scene?
I have a feeling that trying to cram all my thoughts and feelings about this episode into five favourite things would be next to impossible, so it’s going to be more of a recap like I used to do… So I’d get comfortable, I have lots to talk about.

I like that after the calm mature Stefan of last week we’re seeing him start to lose it over the break up, because I love moments where we see how hard he works to try and maintain he’s the ‘good brother’.  There’s been an awful lot of discussion about Stefan and Damon and the ever changing good brother/bad brother balance. Thomas Galvin talks about it in his recap for this week a lot more eloquently than I’m about to, and I’ll link to that at the bottom.

What I love about Stefan is that whilst we were introduced to him as the good brother of the two, and he’s always tried to maintain that aura of golden goodness, it’s always just been a fa├žade. We’ve seen it crack at various moments throughout the first two series’ – Miss Mystic Falls (Round 1) anyone? And what about his death threats to Uncle John in 2x01? It wasn’t until the start of Season 3 though that we saw just how deep the rabbit hole really goes with him. His moral compass, particularly in this episode is really skewed and I love seeing that darker side of Stefan – I don’t like him particularly, his actions with Jeremy and his reasons behind it are truly awful, but at the same time I can understand where he’s coming from with how hurt and desperate he is after losing Elena. That should never be a good excuse to decide to play god, even if the person killed was an unrepentant murderer… 

On a side note, if he was going to do things like that I really wish that he’d step up and own his actions instead of hiding behind ‘I don’t want to do this but I have to’ – if you contrast it against Damon, the supposed bad brother in Stefan’s head, then Damon would have owned it, he would have decided he needed to do this, done it and not regretted or whinged about it. For me that makes Stefan come across as a coward, and hiding behind excuses and desperation to make it ok, to make it the ‘right thing to do’. I really hope that this season we get to see Stefan unravelling further because he’s always been an all or nothing kind of guy and he’s never learnt or understood moderation or even come to terms with his true nature. Whenever his massive killing spree along the east coast is mentioned (which is almost never because apparently most of the characters have forgotten how many people he murdered…) he always refers to ‘The Ripper’ as a separate person, he’s never owned up to and accepted his choices, his actions and the consequences of those. So for me personally, I really hope that this episode and the sheer awfulness of Stefan (props to Paul Wesley for his fantastic acting) leads on to us seeing a greater character arc with Stefan falling completely of the rails and rebuilding himself, not just pretending it never happened.

Caroline on the other hand, I’d quite like to slap, repeatedly. We appear to have regressed back to Season 1 Caroline, and really, if we’re going to lose every last bit of character development she’s had over the last two seasons, I may cry. However there are two things to consider before throwing heavy things at her. One, her reaction to Damon is kinda justified. He really did terrible things to her in Season 1, he used her, he manipulated her, he was going to kill her and she remembers all of that. Yes they’ve had an uneasy truce over the last couple of seasons but I don’t think she’s ever truly forgiven him for his actions towards her. My problem though is that this should really be addressed at some point, we need her to acknowledge that part of why she’s reacting so strongly towards Damon and Elena is due to his treatment of her.

Two, she could be projecting her own insecurities about her feelings for Klaus onto Elena. Because Klaus is really starting to get to her, he’s ‘weaselling his way into her little vampire heart.’ And I don’t think she quite knows how to handle that. Because he really was getting to her this week, those scenes had me melting. The moment where he takes out her Miss Mystic Falls application and starts quoting it had me giggling like a schoolgirl, it was gorgeous, and funny and a breath of fresh air, and I love the chemistry between the two of them. And really, whilst Damon has done his fair share of bad things in his time, Klaus has done a hell of a lot worse. This is a guy who frequently puts his siblings in the time out coffin of doom just because he’s in a petulant mood at not getting his way, and I think any feelings she’s starting to notice for him are scaring the hell out of her. However, again, I want acknowledgement of this instead of her hating on Elena in very public loud shaming sessions, which let’s face it, were not nice Caroline, particularly as she couldn’t even see ‘how did I become the bad guy?’ I would also like to gift Caroline with Seasons 1-3 of The Vampire Diaries seeing as how she seems to be under the misguided impression that Damon is never right. Please see every situation in the history of this show where Damon is always right…

I have to admit though, it does look like Caroline is just going a judgemental spree given the web clip for next week’s episode where she seems pretty judgy about Bonnie’s choice of crush. I either want character development or a royal smack down courtesy of Elena in the next few episodes, because much as I love Caroline, this neurotic whiny judgemental girl who’s come out to play doesn’t seem a whole lot like the Caroline I love.

Let’s talk about Jeremy next, who I am loving this season. He’s got a fantastic plot, which is slowly being peeled back and more layers revealed each week and it is utterly brilliant. I’m fascinated by this plot. And I am loving the sibling conflict it’s creating. McQueen is really pulling it out the bag, most obviously this week, that moment where he looked up opened his eyes and stabbed Elena in the neck? Chilling, I have never been more afraid of him/for him, and I am so excited about that. I can’t wait to see how Elena and Jeremy interact, and how this continues to unfold. I’m just worried that it’s all going to end in tragedy for the littlest Gilbert. One thing’s for sure though, if it does? McQueen is going to give us the best damn show before he goes, that much is obvious. I’d also like to give him a round of applause for staking Stefan for being a royal pain in the ass and trying to intimidate and compel him into doing what he wants. This little brother just got bad ass…

Now intricately bound up in the Hunter/Shane/Silas/Cure tango are Hayley and the Hybrids? I didn’t see that one coming, but I’m loving the additions. I feel like I’m playing a chess match, and whilst I was paying attention to one bit, the writers have maneuverered me to be completely surrounded. Something big is falling into place, and this slow reveal is pitched brilliantly – well done writers, you’ve got me. Hayley is absolutely brilliant. I loved (strangely) the scene with her helping to unsire another hybrid (hey look guys, we’ve just been re-reminded of the sire bond, anyone need a refresher?...) and persuading Tyler to take her to the Pageant. It was strangely electric, there’s no denying her and Ty have chemistry, and I’m fascinated to see where they go next. Also her mocking put down of the whole affair left me chuckling, and ‘I have claws’ – hell, I’m surprised Tyler didn’t jump her then and there.

Speaking of awesome people, I’d like to set up a Matt appreciation club. He’s always been lovely, sometimes a little bit misguided, but I never really feel like he’s been included in storylines properly. He has his odd moments, and then he’s back to the odd moment bussing tables at the Grill, and I miss him. This however has the makings of genius on several levels. First, let’s take a moment to appreciate his moment where he stepped up for April 'I got this' - cue swooning! Also his sleuthing ninja skills that we saw in Episode 6 where he connected the explosion to Shane – atta boy Matt, people are always shady in this town, I’m glad someone’s paying attention. It also offered us a nice moment between him and Damon which I have a feeling is going to be quite important later on in the series. Let’s think back to last season where Elena had several heart to hearts about her, well, heart… But not with Caroline or Bonnie, but with Matt. 

She talked to him about how confused she was, how she felt safe with Stefan but was consumed by Damon – she talked to him about the fact that did have feelings for Damon, that he’d gotten under skin, and acknowledged that she loved vampires (plural.) This was all whilst she was human, whilst she couldn’t be acting strangely or differently if we’re going by Stefan logic, which is always a bit flawed anyway… I think that now Matt is going to one person who is firmly on Team Delena. He knew and understood that Elena had feelings for Damon, that she loved him, even if she wouldn’t say the words out loud. He was driving her to Damon so she could tell him goodbye when he was dying. Matt has never judged her feelings for Damon and has supported her more than either of the girls, and I think now, with Caroline and Stefan having been replaced by banshees and trying to make Damon think that these feelings aren’t real, Matt could play a key role. Just look at that little half smile when Jeremy asks him where Elena’s going to go… Matt, closet Delena supporter.I also adore the fact that he’s actually turning into Ric. He’s the one looking through the research and trying to help Jeremy, he’s taking care of Jeremy in a way that no one else appears capable of doing, and now he’s moved in with him and the epic bromance can finally start… Oh be still my heart!

And now we come to Damon and Elena, who can’t really be talked about separately because of how interwoven they are right now. I loved this episode for them. I loved the call backs to the last Miss Mystic Falls, I loved Damon saying that he was ‘still here’, I loved the lingering looks and eye flirting going on whilst the dance of the non touch was happening. And I loved the progress that was made after three seasons of dancing around the point.
Elena finally admits to Damon that she has feelings for him.

That ‘You’ actually broke my heart a little bit, just for the look on Damon’s face. That half smile whilst he thought she was going to take it back or say ‘but’ or anything to take this away from him, and then the look of pure disbelief, of vulnerability and humanity as he realizes that the girl he’s in love with, the girl he knew he’d never have, has just chosen him. And let’s face it, this is the first time Damon has ever been chosen. His father preferred Stefan, Katherine preferred Stefan, Elena preferred Stefan – ‘It’s always going to be Stefan’. He has never been chosen not by someone whom he loves, and that look on his face as he realised all this damn near broke my heart. If that was all the Damon and Elena goodness we’d gotten this episode, I would have still been happy.

But then we finally see Elena stand up to Stefan, to see her realise what a terrible person he can be – he is trying to ‘save her’ by destroying the one person she cares about and loves most in the world, her little brother, and the look of horror on her face was such a sight for sore eyes. It was so good to see her finally stand up after six episodes of being pushed around about how she shouldn’t be a vampire and this isn’t who she is, and bad Elena, feel guilty and crippled for the fact that you aren’t golden and pure enough for Stefan anymore – really, I’ve struggled with Stefan’s perception of her and attitude towards her ever since she’s turned. 
For her to finally stand up to Stefan and say ‘This is who I am now. You don’t have to love me like this. The old Elena died when she went off that bridge, you need to let her go.’ Note we don’t know which time she went off that bridge she’s referring to, and I think it’s as much about when Damon jumped with her in the last episode, as when she drowned in the truck. I damn near cheered when she said that to him.

And then we’re treated to my favourite scene in the entire episode. I’m going to talk about the intercutting banshee wail of Caroline afterwards, because I’d like to just enjoy Damon and Elena for a minute…
First off, I’m loving the evolution of Elena’s dress sense, she has definitely gotten more stylish since she turned, and it makes her seem more confident, more poised and assured of herself and who she is, and I love that. P.s. I love those boots!

The conversation is so easy and natural between them, aside from Matt Damon is the only person who is accepting her as she is, who loves her regardless of whether she’s a human or a vampire, who has ‘never seen her more alive.’ I loved that Elena acknowledged that she’d been thinking about the last Pageant, about their dance together, and that she’d wanted to dance with him today. I also love that of the two of them it is Elena doing all the talking, this is all her, regardless of any information we might be about to find out. There is absolutely nothing on Damon’s part of encourage this outpouring from her. He just sits there and looks silently flawed by what he’s hearing, and really if you put that with the ‘you’ from earlier, I’m not really surprised. He’s more vulnerable and more human now than we’ve ever seen him before, and much as I love cocky and arrogant and funny Damon, I love seeing him like this even more.

And really how perfect is that dance? It’s quiet, it’s content, they are both so comfortable with each other and it looks as though they are coming home as he settles his head against hers. It’s beautiful and the music choice of ‘Kiss Me’ by Ed Sheeran just makes it into an even more beautiful moment.
I love that first kiss between them, lingering and quiet, after the explosion of a kiss that they last had outside the motel in 3x19, and I love how it builds. I would have loved for Damon to pull back and look at her, not to say anything, but just to try and find some reassurance that this is what she wants, because it does go from kiss to explosion pretty quickly, and I would have liked some sort of moment where he gets some reassurance.
That said I love that she takes the initiative to start with, the furniture/lamp throwing and pinning him to the wall (another fantastic moment of him looking completely undone by her as if he truly can’t believe what’s happening.) But I also love that the power is equal, he pins her, he responds; it’s on an equal footing that they come together. And that’s shown even further when they make it up to his bedroom. Again, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Damon more human and vulnerable, he is completely undone by her and it seems like she knows it if that smile is anything to go by. It’s passionate, it’s sexy and steamy and I loved it, and that last kiss before the title card? Gorgeous.

And then we have the controversial element, aka the shrill yapping of Caroline as she continues to incorrectly use the term epic to describe Stefan and Elena’s relationship. I would love to know why Caroline appears to have completely forgotten about Stefan’s ripper spate, and again, please can we see this addressed at a later point? In the mean time, on to the sire bond, which actually doesn’t worry me too much. I think whoever decided to cut the scenes of Damon and Elena and Caroline and Stefan together for ‘dramatic effect’ was not in their right mind. It meant that a lot of fans felt like the scene was ruined, that Damon and Elena were not given their proper moment, which is incredibly annoying given how long we’ve been waiting for this to happen. It also put a huge asterix next to this triangle development where it could potentially go the way that this could all be explained away and the progress between Damon and Elena didn’t mean anything which, yeah, if they go that way would be awful, but I don’t think it will.

If you look back at the last three seasons the relationship between Damon and Elena has been so carefully constructed. The show is a love letter to the relationship developing between them. No that’s not all that this show is, there’s so much more than that and their relationship. And let me be clear, I loved her and Stefan’s relationship for the first two seasons. But if you look back through everything Elena and Damon have gone through, the careful development between them, the symbolism behind some of the moments, it’s all been quietly developing and paving the way to give them their proper due, and I think that if you’re convinced that the sire bond is going to undermine that and after a couple of episodes she’ll be ‘fixed’ and back with Stefan, you may have been watching a different show.

As I said earlier, we know Elena had feelings for Damon before she was turned, and Matt will be a testament to that. Stefan and Elena’s relationship has been broken ever since he went off with Klaus at the start of Season 3, and even though they did try and patch things back together with sticky tape, they were never really in the same relationship that they had been for the first two seasons, and neither was looking at the other with clear eyes. Elena was overlooking the fact that Stefan had gone out and killed a bunch of people – hell, had even threatened to kill her in the most psychologically and emotionally traumatic way possible. And Stefan was overlooking that he’d done those things too, and that whilst he’d been away Elena had changed. She’d grown, she’d learned to defend herself, she was standing on her two feet rather than leaning against him, and as a result her relationship with Damon and grown and evolved and changed. They were both hiding those changes and trying desperately to be the people they used to be. It would have fallen apart regardless of whether Elena had turned. And now Elena has seen how Stefan sees her, as something that needs to be fixed, as someone he needs to make better, as someone who is not good enough.

That realisation has set her free in a way, and she now feels like she can explore her feelings for Damon, real feelings that have been there for a long time, no matter how hard she’s fought against them. Do I think this relationship would have developed between them without the sire bond? Absolutely! But I think the sire bond will make it more interesting. This means that Damon, who has finally gotten all that he wanted, will now be terrified that she is only with him because of the bond, and because of how much he loves Elena he isn’t going to want this relationship unless it’s real. That’s all he’s ever wanted with her, for it to be real, otherwise he doesn’t want it. He’s going to be heartbroken, but he’s going to try and distance himself from her because he loves her.

She on the other hand knows that she loved him before she turned, she knows her feelings and I think it’s going to be her turn to convince him. She’s going to have to chase him, to prove to him that she loves him, and not just because it was his blood that turned her, and I’m really looking forward to watching that.
And an interview Julie Plec did over at Zap2it only makes that even clearer. She refers to the sire bond as ‘the tiniest of obstacles’ and says that ‘He (Damon) wants it to be real. She knows it’s real.’ I think that means that there’s more hope than ever that this relationship between them is real, that it won’t just be tossed away and explained out of existence in a couple of episodes. I don’t think that the writer’s would have spent this long carefully crafting their relationship only to toss it away on a cheap thing like this. So I trust the writer’s. I have faith that this is going to be the start of a fascinating storyline that is going to be heartbreaking to watch, but ultimately really rewarding. If I’m wrong, and my trust is broken in some horrible trick then I probably won’t be able to watch the show in the same way ever again, which would be tragic. But I don’t think it’s going to go that way, I think we’re going to finally get a pay off for this, and the sire bond is just another bump in the road that will ultimately make Damon and Elena’s relationship even stronger.  After all, they've been planing Elena being sired to Damon since the start of Season 3, you don't put that much planning into a throw away story.
It's all down to trust, and I trust the writer's.

Wow, turns out I had an awful lot to talk about this week, so if you’re still reading, thank you for sticking with me! I’d love to hear what you make of all the shenanigans of this episode and the new development of the sire bond, so please chare in the comments below. And next week we have slumber parties with plenty of judging, flashbacks to Damon in uniform, and Elena wearing Damon’s shirt the morning after. I know I can’t wait…

If you’ve enjoyed this recap, other recaps, or any of my other reviews I would love if you’d take a minute to watch this video. I’ve made it to the top 10 UK book bloggers in a competition run by Mira Ink to win a position as their new in house editor, and in order to win I need to get as many views, likes and comments on this video as possible. It’s only 60 seconds, and would mean the world to me if you could check it out. Thank you!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Blog Ink - Round 2!

A little while ago I entered the Mira Ink BlogInk competition to find their new in house blogger, an incredible prize of a 12 month paid contract with them!

I was over the moon when I was picked to go through to round 2 as one of the top 10 finalists.
Round 2 meant recording a 60 second video about why I think I should be picked for this life changing opportunity. The resulting bout of insanity is now live on youtube, and it's over to you!

If you think I would make a great fresh voice, then I need your help! If you've ever loved reading one of my reviews, or picked up a book because of something I've said, or been entertained by my ramblings! Please could you watch the video, like it! Comment on it! Retweet it! Blog about it and generally get as many people as possible to see it!

Thank you so much for all your support!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Blogiversary Book Giveaway!

This giveaway is now closed - Congratulations go to Maggie on your win!

Are you still breathing after the two interviews I was lucky enough to be able to share today? Well hold onto your hats because I've now got books to add into the mix!

Up for grabs are two recent releases:
'Alice in Zombieland' by Gena Showalter
She won’t rest until she’s sent every walking corpse back to its grave. Forever.
Had anyone told Alice Bell that her entire life would change course between one heartbeat and the next, she would have laughed. From blissful to tragic, innocent to ruined? Please. But that’s all it took. One heartbeat. A blink, a breath, a second, and everything she knew and loved was gone.
Her father was right. The monsters are real….
To avenge her family, Ali must learn to fight the undead. To survive, she must learn to trust the baddest of the bad boys, Cole Holland. But Cole has secrets of his own, and if Ali isn’t careful, those secrets might just prove to be more dangerous than the zombies….

'The Feathered Man' by Jeremy de Quidt
In a German town, long ago, lives a tooth-puller's boy called Klaus. It isn't Klaus's fault that he sees his master steal a diamond from the mouth of a dead man in Frau Drecht's lodging house, or that Frau Drecht and her murderous son want it for themselves.
He has nothing to do with the Jesuit priest and his Aztec companion who turn up out of the blue looking for it, or the Professor of Anatomy who takes such a strange interest in it. No, Klaus doesn't want any trouble.
But when he finds himself with the diamond in his pocket, things really can't get much worse - that is, until the feathered man appears. Then they become a matter of life . . . and death

(Please note that this is a proof copy)

To give more people the opportunity to win, there will be a winner for each book, so when you enter please specify if you do not mind which book you'd like, or if there is one in particular you would like to be entered to win.

And to enter, all you need to do is be a follower of this blog and leave a comment. If you could leave contact info of either a twitter name or an email so I can contact you if you win that's greatly appreciated!

This is open internationally and is open until midnight Friday 30th November GMT.

Good luck, and get entering!

Author Q & A with Katherine Marsh

Continuing in the spirit of celebration for today’s blogiversary, I am now lucky enough to be joined by the lovely Katherine Marsh, author of  ‘The Night Tourist’ and ‘The Twilight Prisoner’ who has just released her latest novel ‘Jepp, Who Defied the Stars’ – a hauntingly beautiful tale with an extraordinary hero at its heart.

“For those readers who haven’t yet discovered Jepp, who defied the Stars, how would you describe the book to them and tempt them to pick up a copy?”

Jepp, Who Defied the Stars is the story of a teenager at the end of the 16th century who leaves his small town home to become a court dwarf, rebels against the world he finds there, and ends up a captive of a revolutionary and eccentric astronomer. It’s a tale about fate and free will, specifically the question of whether our parents, circumstances and misfortunes define us, or whether we can shape our own destinies. The characters are based on real historical figures, including the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe and the dwarf who served him. I think anyone who's ever felt like an outsider or underestimated by the world will enjoy this book--as well as anyone looking for a page-turning historical adventure. 

“Can you tell us a bit about your process – how the ideas come to you, and how you develop them?” 

My background is as a journalist and one of the hints I used to share with reporters was to pay special attention to moments that bother you. The same is true for fiction. I think great books come out of questions, confusion, things that rattle and plague you. In the case of Jepp, I knew I wanted to write a novel about fate and free will because of my own conflicting feelings on this subject. When I was growing up my mother was a very serious astrologer and, to this day, I find comfort in the idea of predetermination. But, at the same time, I am constantly both exhilarated and terrified by a gut feeling that life is uncertain and unknowable.
When I decided I wanted to write about this topic, I began to read about the history of astrology and became fascinated by the time in which astronomers were also astrologers but a new sense of science and free will were emerging. This led me to the astronomer/ astrologer Tycho Brahe. He was such an eccentric character--with a futuristic castle with running water, a collection of automata or moving statues and even a beer-drinking pet moose--that I immediately wanted to write about him. When I read that a dwarf named Jepp sat at his feet I thought of the wonderful portraits of court dwarfs by the 17th century Spanish artist Diego Velazquez and the story of a teenage court dwarf trying to control his own destiny came into focus.

“What was the most exciting part for you?” 
The most exciting part for me was putting Jepp into tough situations and watching him work his way through them. Once you establish a strong character and voice for that character, they begin to take you on a journey. I also loved shaping the language in Jepp, trying to make the prose as distinctive, memorable, and beautiful as I could.

“And what was the most challenging?” 

The most challenging part of the process is honestly putting Jepp out into the marketplace. We live in a time in which books are expected to be reducible to Hollywood-style sound bites and in which familiarity is considered a virtue. I did not write Jepp with those kind of commercial considerations in mind. Rather, the book is an act of faith that there are plenty of readers out there who value complexity, originality and ambition.

“What has been your favourite part of the writing and publishing process?”

On a good day, the writing part of the process is my favorite. On a bad day, I take solace in having written although when I look at my published books, I'm always afraid I won't be able to do it again.

"What are the most important attributes to helping you stay sane as a writer?"

I don't think anyone who aspires to become a writer should place a high value on sanity. Doubt, failure and madness can be just as instructive.

“Has writing always been something you wanted to do? And how did you make the jump from wanting to write and writing for yourself to becoming a full time writer?”

I've wanted to write pretty much as long as I can remember. It's the way I process the world. I started my career as a narrative journalist, which is a wonderful way to learn how to observe the world and structure a story. But ultimately, I wanted the freedom to create worlds, as opposed to just describing the one around me. In my late 20s, I wrote one children's book that ended up in a drawer but it gave me the confidence to attempt another. This second one found an agent and eventually a publisher. It's called The Night Tourist and was published in translation in ten countries and won a big US mystery writing award. I wish I could say that it's been easy since then but I still struggle with doubt and the fear that I'm not really a "writer." So I hope no one else let's that stop them.

“Do you have a specific routine or writing process, and does anything in particular stimulate your writing?”

I work for about 4-6 hours a day, starting at 8am, when my mind is fresh. Some days I write nothing at all, other days several pages. There are occasional moments of inspiration interspersed with lots of revision made to look like inspiration. I am always stimulated to write by reading other books, especially ones that give me a new sense of what is possible.

“Do you have some favourite books or authors that have inspired you?” 

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov is one of my all-time favorites. I love how expansive the story is, integrating religious history, Soviet oppression, philosophy, magic realism, romance. I like books that defy genre and that appeal to our interlinked sense of mortality and wonder.

“What are you working on at the moment?”

A story based on a Russian fairy tale.

If you’d like to find out more about Katherine, you can follow her on twitter @MarshKatherine

You can also follow the lovely UK publishers of Jepp, Hot Key Books here!

You can also find her facebook page here, and don’t forget to check her website for more information and news!

Author Q & A with Eowyn Ivey

Welcome to The Review Diaries two year blogiversary!
I’m kind of amazed that we’ve hit this mark, but it’s here and it’s going to be even bigger than last years!

So for your pleasure today I have an interview with the lovely Katherine Marsh, author of ‘Jepp, who Defied the Stars’ and a giveaway of a proof of the book.
Later on I will have a giveaway featuring new exciting books from Random House and Mira Ink – so check back this afternoon for more details on that!

Up first is Eowyn Ivey, whose breath taking debut novel ‘The Snow Child’ has swept everyone away. So please join me in wishing her a huge welcome to The Review Diaries!

“The Snow Child was a hauntingly beautiful book, and I loved how you wove elements of fantasy with reality, are you tempted to explore other fairy tales in your writing now?”

Thank you so much! That really was the key for me with The Snow Child. Until I stumbled on the Russian fairy tale that inspired the novel, my fiction was lacking something, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Now I know -- it's the fantastical. Now that I've finally figured it out, I'm enjoying exploring it further as a fiction writer. I'm once again working on a piece inspired by folklore and myth and set in Alaska.

“Has the reaction to the book surprised you in any way?”

I always joke that it would have been delusional of me to expect any of this to happen. As a bookseller, I felt I had fairly reasonable expectations about the publishing process. I knew I would be incredibly fortunate to find a US publisher, and I hoped that a few readers would stumble upon my story and enjoy it. The reception instead has completely staggered me.

“What has been your favourite part of the writing and publishing process?”

They are two such different parts of the work -- writing versus being published. I knew I loved to write well before my novel was published, but once The Snow Child was released into the world, I discovered the joy of hearing from readers. The emails I get are touching and amazing. I'm often surprised by the insights readers have into the story. And I love how they bring their own experiences and emotions to the page. That has been one of the most rewarding, and unexpected, aspects of the process.

“Has writing always been something you wanted to do? And how did you make the jump from wanting to write and writing for yourself to becoming a full time writer?”

I've known since I was a teenager that I wanted to earn a living working with the written word, and I've steadily kept my aim there. I just wasn't sure what form it would take. I started out as an creative writing major in college, but then switched to journalism and ended up working for nearly 10 years as a newspaper reporter. Then I went to work at Fireside Books and began spending my writing time on fiction, because I knew that is what I love to read and write.

“Do you have a specific routine or writing process, and does anything in particular stimulate your writing?”

Like a lot of writers, I really do better when I have a set schedule. When I wrote The Snow Child, my husband helped me get an hour or two each night to write after our daughters went to bed. Strangely, I now have more time to write but find it hard to get in the groove. The publication of The Snow Child has become a pleasant but huge distraction, and I'm now trying to find my way back into my next novel.

“Will you be doing any tours or signings in the US or the UK in the future?”

The paperback was just released Nov. 6 here in the United States, so I'm doing some events here in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. And I will be returning to the UK for some events the first week of December, but we're still in the planning stages. I'll try to post a schedule on my blog, Letters from Alaska, once it's set.

A huge thank you to Eowyn for taking the time out to talk to us!
If you’d like to find out more, you can find it on Eowyn’s website – and you can also find her on twitter here!

And if you haven’t yet read ‘The Snow Child’ how on earth have you missed it? Go pick up a copy now! It will be one of the most hauntingly beautiful books you’ll read this year!

Check back on the site later – the next post will be going live mid-afternoon and will include a fantastic giveaway for you!

Two Year Blogiversary!

At just past midnight over here in the UK it is now officially the two year blogiversary of The Review Diaries!

I can't quite believe I've made it this far, but as I have I have lots of surprises in store throughout the day for you fabulous readers who have inspired me to keep reviewing for the last two years.

Later in the day there will be guest posts from the likes of Eowyn Ivey author of 'The Snow Child' and lots of book giveaways for all!

So check back later and help me celebrate!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

The Vampire Diaries Review: We All Go A Little Mad Sometimes

Spoilers for the episode ahead!

Firstly apologies for the lack of a top five favourite moments for last week’s episode. It was an awesome episode, but a hideous week for me, so instead of trying to cram it in with all the excitements from this week, I will post it next week during the thanksgiving hiatus instead.

Did anyone else have problems catching their breath after this week’s episode? It’s promised to be pretty awesome right from the very first details started emerging several weeks ago – hints and teasers and it more than lived up to expectations for me. Watching the internet slowly combust over each scene was definitely one of my favourite parts of a truly spectacular episode. We had character development, ground work for the rest of the series and some pretty major shifts in every story.

So without further ado below are my top five favourite moments/things of the episode, only it was so good I can’t guarantee that it will manage to be contained to five, but I’ll try my best.

Let’s start with that opening, it certainly got my attention. No matter how easy it is to revive people on this show most of the time, that doesn’t diminish the shock value of seeing a character we love die. Similarly to when Elena found Ric dying from the stab would in Season 3 and had to help him by killing him, this moment with stabbing Jeremy in the neck evoked a similar response from me. It set the tone of the episode, and it didn’t let up for the rest of the hour.

The new big bad. Now yes ok it was just a brief head nod to the idea of the new big bad we may see, but Silas sounds a little bit scary to me, even if Damon merely paused before continuing on in his epic quest for love. If you pay attention to the slides happening behind Atticus Shane (Atticus!) we see not only the big hefty rock with Silas carved into it, but also a slide with the weird symbols we’ve seen Connor carving into stuff… Intrigued yet? I sure as hell am, particularly given that little Gilbert is now fully embroiled into this whole big saga. I’m glad they clued him in with all the information that Shane had before he went for it, although do we really trust Shane? It could just be that this show has given me serious trust issues, but whilst I love this character I sure as hell do not trust him as far as I can throw him…

But Jeremy takes us nicely into the sheer awesome of his new thread. He now has a reason for being in direct cahoots with Stefan and Klaus, and I cannot wait to see this play out. But at the same time, I’m a little bit terrified about his new Hunter status. We found out a little bit last week about Connor being unable to control the compulsion to kill as many vampires as possible – that doesn’t sound good to me. On the other hand, Jeremy covered in blood splatters whilst gory was kind of awesome, he may not have hit bad ass a few weeks back when he thought he had, but he is definitely heading that way now.

Let’s take a minute to talk about the hallucinations. These were brilliantly done, the acting, the editing, just everything about it worked brilliantly. I loved the forms these hallucinations took, Elena and her merry band of crazy trundling around town with a bloody Connor, bored Katherine and perhaps most shocking for me personally, was her Mother. I kinda expected to see Connor making life hell for Elena, and yes it was gruesome but he didn’t really get to her too badly. I loved seeing Katherine back again even in hallucination form, and it was fantastic to have her play the voice of the audience, to really take Elena to task over how pathetic she has been, to voice those fears and those frustrations and to almost be a nod to the audience to say, we know, we’re just waiting for Elena to catch on. And actually I loved that Elena tried to stand up to them but ultimately failed and broke under their torment, but that she at least acknowledged all of the things they threw at her. It felt like we finally saw development with Elena where she gets a grip, realises that this is her life, these are her fears, and she needs to suck it up or give up, and whilst it takes Damon’s help for her to realise she doesn’t want to give up, she does decide that.

The hallucination that was most shocking for me, was her Mother. It seemed almost sneaky and underhand, and what it is with these mothers and their insistence that their children have turned into monsters? I’m glad that it wasn’t Connor or Katherine that broke her, that it was someone much closer to her, who she would legitimately listen to that finally broke down the last of her will and convinced herself to commit suicide. I also love the symbolism of her dying in the same way as her birth mother – this show guys, it’s just brilliant.

Can I put three moments at the top of my list? Because part of me wants to put the final scene between Stefan and Elena at the top spot, but my inner shipper would like to put the scene between Damon and Elena in here too – and if we’re going here, then I really loved that moment on the bridge too…

So let’s start with the bridge. I loved that Damon knew her well enough that of course she’d go back to the symbolic place that she died. I also loved his attempts at mildly snarky humour to try and humour her or distract her enough to get a little bit closer to her and how they worked up to a point. Can we also take a moment to celebrate both the sheer brilliance of the acting and editing of this scene to have the hallucination Connor present and devil talking over Elena’s shoulder, her torn between him and Damon and Damon having no idea what she’s looking at. The whole thing played out so brilliantly. I’ve already mentioned my insane amounts of love for how the hallucinations were shot and edited, but that all really came to a head in this scene because it was the first time that we saw the two conflicting forces at work in the tug of war for Elena, and the look of complete loss and deadness in her eyes when she had truly given up hope was just phenomenal. Then that brief moment of reprieve and relief when Connor is gone before the sun gets to work before Elena panics (as she does so well) and Damon grabs her and throws them both off the bridge into the river. I actually gasped when that happened, because yes, brilliant idea and also, sopping wet Damon! 

Only then we cut to Elena sleeping and whilst I appreciate the logistics of shooting Damon and Elena and the search for the ring, presumably whilst she’s unconscious because she’s helpful like that (side note, would he stick her in the cab of Matt’s truck whilst he searched?) would be a little much, did we really have to be denied the beautiful sight of a sopping wet Damon carrying an unconscious Elena home? We like his heroic moments!

I just love the symbolism of this whole scene. Elena has been fighting her darker vampire nature for the last six episodes and really driven home (or tried to) how much she didn’t want to be that person and how she wanted to be the human girl who died on Wickery Bridge. I loved that she came back there this time only this time with Damon, and that in order to save her he took that leap with her into the water – Stefan has pulled her from the water twice, but this time to save her she goes into the water and Damon is there with her every step of the way. It felt like a reiteration of Damon saying in episode 5 he loves her either way, regardless of whether she’s vampire or human, and also a final laying to rest of that part of Elena. I’m looking forward to seeing how she moves forward from this point onwards, and whether her acceptance of herself sticks.

Anyway, so we than have another fantastic scene with Elena waking up with her ring (only this time Damon placed it there, Damon shippers, you may combust now) with Damon holding vigil in the windowseat. Everything about this scene was just so fantastically beautiful. I loved his concern with no ulterior motives, just out of genuine love for her, and I love that she finally says thank you and acknowledges that he saved her and she would be dead without him. There is a lot of talk between the brother’s with Stefan always respecting her choices and Damon always saying that he would always save her, but this is the first time we’ve really seen Damon take action, save her and for her to realise his actions. I just loved the quiet love and gratitude in this scene, and that Elena finally acknowledges not only his saving her, but starting to really acknowledge her own feelings for him instead of pushing him and them away.

I also loved that we got to see in this scene how much Damon has evolved over the course of the show. Series one Damon, there is no doubt he would have been working this scene to his own ends, but we actually get to see Damon take the higher road, to try and talk Elena into the virtues of his brother instead of pushing his advantage. I loved watching it, and it sets up the groundwork for some really fantastic scenes between the two of them over the next few episodes, with Damon still in love with her but not having pushed any unfair advantages, and Elena acknowledging her own and his feelings and not feeling betrayed by manipulations which he could have taken this episode. They’re approaching each other on equal ground, and I can’t wait to see it.

And then we have the heartbreak of the final scene between Stefan and Elena. I have to say I’m really glad that it was Stefan ending things rather than the other way round. So many times the decision has been in Elena’s hands and she hasn’t taken it, so it was nice to see him take control and say ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ It was also a fantastic call back to Season 2 when they were pretending to fight and he tells her that every time he says ‘I can’t do this anymore’ it means he loves her.
It was the first honest conversation Elena and Stefan have had in so long and it was fantastic to have this development and progress to really shake everything up. 
It was heartbreaking – Paul Wesley really killed it, and yet at the same time, it breathed fresh air into a triangle that was feeling stale.

So what did you make of this episode? Any favourite moments that I’ve missed? What about that break up, pleased or distraught? 
And what about that promo for episode 7 – so long as we all survive the hiatus next week…

Thursday, 15 November 2012

TV, Trailers and Awesome... Oh My!

It feels like we've had a sudden flurry of truly spectacularly heart stopping awesome coming at all sides for all fandoms over the last few weeks, but more noticeably in the last few days.

Everything from logos, to stills for upcoming tv episodes, to the incredible episodes themselves, to some truly spectacularly jam packed teaser trailers that have have highlighted once more just how long we now have to wait before we get the full thing!
It's been the end of an era with The Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn part 2 finally coming to town tomorrow, and is it just me or do the trailers look as though they finally might have struck the right note on their last outing?
We've got new excitements in old friends - yes Hobbit, I am indeed looking at you and the soundtrack stream that Empire had up on their website this week.
Friends that keep on getting better and better with some highly intriguing flashbacks from The Vampire Diaries, and some new book to film adaptations that look set to fill up the void that Potter and Twilight have left behind.

So without further ado here are my top four awesome picks that have had my heart racing.

I defy anyone who is part of The Vampire Diaries fandom to not swoon at one or both of these pictures - I think more than one person lost the use of their knees at the sight of Damon in uniform. Two weeks running these are stills from episodes seven and eight of Season 4. The only downside is that we have a week's hiatus to get to that point. It's ok, we can be strong though - we've got these to see us through!
The whole of Season four though deserves a mention, not just for little tiny spoilers and teasers like these ones, but because week after week this has to be one of the most solid seasons we've seen on an already incredible show. Can you tell I'm enjoying it?...
Next up we have the trailer for The Host by Stephenie Meyer. I first read the book when it was initially released, so I'm a little bit hazy on most of the ins and outs of the plot, but I remember the basics. I also remember it being wildly different from The Twilight Saga, so don't go judging it just because you see Meyer's name attached to it.

Possibly due to the length of time that it's been since I read the book I really haven't been excited about the film for this one at all, it just hasn't cropped up on my radar, but when this finally snuck up on me it most definitely caught my attention. It's a great trailer, it definitely showcases how different this world and idea is from Twilight, and it doesn't hurt that they've used 'Radioactive' by Imagine Dragons as the music in the trailer.

Next up is the trailer for Warm Bodies  based on the book of the same name by Isaac Marion.
I loved the book, and I don't do zombie romance, so that is an impressive feat all of its own. In fact it's not really a romance, forget I ever said that. It's funny, it's dark, it's poetic and beautiful and apparently Marion has a lot of issues regarding the marketing of his book in some cases as Young Adult, which just makes me want to throw things. It also makes it ironic that Stephenie Meyer blurbed it, and doubly ironic that the 'What Are You?' moment in the trailer, the girl looks almost exactly like Kristen Stewart from Twilight...
Personal preferences aside though, the trailer looks fantastic - faster paced than I imagined, but it still captured a lot of what I imagined whilst I read it perfectly.

And really, what could possibly beat the teaser trailer released last night for The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones based on the book of the same name by Cassandra Clare. I remember seeing the first picture on day one of filming and being filled with this incredible excitement that these characters were being pulled out of the page and brought to life for me - and this has just magnified that feeling a thousand fold. Everything is perfect, the casting, the music, I literally cannot watch it just once, it pulls me in, it gives me goosebumps, and I keep squeeing about to anyone who will listen.
"Welcome to the City of Bones..."

So what has your blood racing at the moment, any trailers I've missed or hot excitements you're shrieking about? Tell me all about them in the comments below!