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Flash Reviews (18th December 2013)

Percy Jackson and the Battle for the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan ****
This year, I have read through the entirety of the Percy Jackson series of books, all of which deal with a young American boy who finds out that he is the son of Poseidon, and has to battle many beings from Greek mythology with his ragtag band of friends from thereon in.  I find Riordan’s interpretation of ancient and modern so very interesting, and Percy’s voice is believable throughout.  In The Battle for the Labyrinth, the story which has been set out in the first three books carries on marvellously.

Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian by Rick Riordan ***
I have been so enjoying this series of books, and am surprised that I reached the end of them so quickly.  Throughout the entire series, Riordan has crafted all of his characters well, and as with the previous four books, I love the parallels which he draws between Ancient Greece and present-day America.  The Last Olympian was, however, my least favourite of the five Percy Jackson books.  It felt at times as though it had been written merely for the sake of ending the series.  The ending was a satisfactory one on the whole, but I predicted it in its entirety, which was a real shame.

The Amazing Spider-Man: Shattered by the Shocker (Marvel)

The Amazing Spider-Man: Shattered by the Shocker ***
Being rather an enormous fan of the man himself, I was given this graphic novel for my birthday by one of my University friends.  It has taken me rather a long time to get around to it, I admit, but it stubbornly refused to come out of my next-reads jar.  In Shattered by the Shocker, there are ten mini comics, all of which have the same thread of plot running through them.  On the whole, I enjoyed the drawings more than the text.  It seemed a little stolid and cliched at times, which was a real shame.  As is often the case with such collections, I suppose, some of the comics were far better than others.  I was also a little baffled that Peter Parker and friends, all of whom were meant to be young students, looked as though they were approaching middle age in the illustrations.

Richard II by William Shakespeare ****
Richard II was my third to last Shakespeare play.  It was not my favourite, and when it began, I did not know if I was going to enjoy it.  I am pleased to say that it did improve a lot as it went on.  Overall, the play is an interesting one.  The history within it is presented well, and a real feel for the characters and their personalities is present from the outset.  The writing throughout is lovely, and some of the speeches absolutely beautiful.  I far preferred it to Richard III, which I read as part of my AS Level study and very much disliked.

‘Best Detective Stories of Agatha Christie’

Best Detective Stories by Agatha Christie ****
Winter nights always make me want to curl up with cosy books, and as far as crime stories go, Agatha Christie seems to me to be as close to cosy as one can get.  Although all of the stories in this collection are rather short, they are all very clever.  I found them morally interesting in terms of the consequences of and musings behind the motives of the killers.  I really liked the use of different detectives in the volume, and was pleased to see the appearance of good old Poirot and Miss Marple.  I love Christie’s writing, and her plot twists work marvellously.  I cannot wait to get stuck into more of her stories!

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Flash Reviews (November 20th 2013)

‘Daisy Miller’ (Dover Thrift Editions)

Daisy Miller by Henry James ****
I was so impressed by my reading of The Turn of The Screw that I could not wait to read another one of James’ books.  I had no idea before I downloaded Daisy Miller to my Kindle that it was quite so short.  This novella is not overly plot-driven, but the characterisation – the strongest element of the novel as far as I am concerned – is marvellous and more than makes up for the lack of action in its pages.  An unexpected and beautifully written novella.

Miss Julie by August Strindberg **
I hoped I would enjoy this play more than The Father, which I read in October.  Sadly, I didn’t even like it as much.  The characters all felt a little flat to me – perhaps because the play itself was rather short and there was not enough space in which to develop them.  Miss Julie is not a very memorable play by any means, and on the lack of strength of it, I shall not be picking up any more of Strindberg’s work in future.

Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan ****
I am so enjoying the Percy Jackson series.  This book, as with the previous two, was so, so good, and I could not bear to put it down.  As far as the storyline goes, I think this may be my favourite to date.  I love the way in which figures from mythology are woven in, and the relevance within the story which Riordan gives to each one.  Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse is well paced, well plotted and full of excitement.  The character development too is great, and it really feels as though Percy is maturing as the series goes on.

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Flash Reviews (5th November 2013)

The Father by August Strindberg ***
I have never read a Strindberg play before, not even at University, so I was not quite sure what to expect.  The plot was interesting yet a little staid.  My favourite aspect of it was the interaction between different characters – Laura and the doctor particularly – and found that the majority of the conversations worked well as a semblance of a conversation which one could expect to have in real life.  The Father is not a play which I will read again, and nor is it one I would like to see performed, but I am looking forward to reading more of Strindberg’s work.

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The adorable Logan Lerman as Percy Jackson

Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan ****
I very much enjoyed the first novel (and film) in the Percy Jackson series, and was eager to carry on.  The first story was very clever, and I loved the way in which Riordan merged Percy’s present day story as a ‘troubled kid’ with ‘behavioural issues’ with tales of Ancient Greece.

The task which Percy and assorted friends from school and camp face in The Sea of Monsters is to retrieve the Golden Fleece from the Sea of Monsters, which Riordan cleverly casts as the Bermuda Triangle.  The story moves on from the first book marvellously, and I am looking forward to seeing which adventures and monsters which Percy will face next.  The humour and sarcasm throughout work well with the action of the story, as does the first person perspective.  Percy feels realistic, and his character development and actions are believable and well thought out.  Highly recommended if you want a fun, light read, or a novel which is sure to entrance any children in your care.

King John by William Shakespeare ****
I became a little behind with my Shakespeare challenge and should have read King John earlier than I did, but I am hoping that by the end of this month, I will be back on track.  I found King John very enjoyable and incredibly well written, and am surprised that there are not more performances or fans of the play.  Throughout, Shakespeare raises interesting questions about one’s eligibility to the throne, and musings about the best candidates who could take over such a position.  A great history play, and one which I would love to see on the stage.
(Side note: I loved the fact that one of my favourite singer-songwriters, Frank Turner, had used a line of the play as a slogan of sorts – ‘Heaven take my soul but England keep my bones’ – and the latter part of this as an album title.  Awesome choice, Frank.)

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Flash Reviews (17th September 2013)

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan ****
I have been wanting to read this book for years, more so since I saw the film version with the adorable Logan Lerman cast as Percy.  I was a little worried that it wouldn’t be as good as I expected, but what I found when I began to read was an incredibly engaging novel, which swept me into its pages and refused to let go.  I love the way in which I, as a reader, was a character on the very first page.  The storyline throughout was intriguing, and the cast of characters marvellous.  I found the way in which Riordan combined Greek myths and historical events.  My only qualm was that Percy often seemed older than twelve, but in the grand scheme of things, that didn’t matter too much.  He was wonderfully angsty regardless.
Suggested accompanying playlist: ‘Fat Lip’ by Sum 41, ‘Papercut’ by Linkin Park, ‘Blood on My Hands’ by The Used, ‘Caribbean War Syndrome’ by Twin Atlantic

The Language of Flowers by Kate Greenaway ****
The Language of Flowers is such a lovely idea for a book, and it is beautifully presented.  Such a lot of thought and work must have gone into Greenaway’s research.  Her illustrations are absolutely lovely, as I knew they would be.  I imagine that this would be even more adorable in a physical edition (yes, I read it on my Kindle, illustrations and all), and would make a beautiful gift and a darling coffee table book.

Selected Poems by T.S. Eliot ***
I decided to re-read this book due to my love of <i>Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats</i> and April’s adoration and sparkling review of his poetry.  Eliot is a very shrewd and intelligent poet, and I would dearly like to read one of his longer collections.  My favourite poems were ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’, ‘The Waste Land’, ‘The Hollow Men’ and ‘Marina’.
Suggested accompanying playlist: ‘I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous’ by Frank Turner.  On repeat.