Friday, January 8, 2016

Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

The second instalment in The Lunar Chronicles quartet, Scarlet sees Marissa Meyer return in exceptional form to her re-imagined, futuristic fairytale world. The first book in the series, Cinder, concluded with the titular character interned in a New Beijing jail awaiting execution at the hands of the malevolent Queen Levana and Scarlet picks up the story with the unwilling fugitive hatching plans to free herself.

Lunar plans, however, are not limited to the execution of a deserter, and thousands of miles away in France, Scarlet, a young farmhand, is about to find herself embroiled in an adventure that reaches far beyond her quiet town of Rieux. It has been nearly two weeks since Scarlet’s grandmother went missing and the police have given up hope of finding her. When they dismiss the case as just another runaway, Scarlet is left to uncover the truth, setting off on a path that will see her story entwined with that of the mysterious fighter known only as Wolf. Together they uncover a tale so unbelievable it threatens to unravel all that Scarlet knows about her past, and will forever change her future.

With Cinder the author had already proven her ability to rework classic fairytales into engaging adventures for a modern audience, and she takes things a step further with Scarlet. Seamlessly, integrating the Cinderella and Red Riding Hood tales in her own unique style, Meyer offers a story that is both nostalgic and original. Scarlet offers a clever twist on the roles and relationships of classic characters, providing an engaging world that teases and encourages the reader to become involved with the story.

Ultimately it is the author’s ability to engage the reader that marks Scarlet and by extension The Lunar Chronicles series for significance. The book is a fairly easy, light read, sure to entertain both young adult and fantasy audiences; leaving them wanting more.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

From a Book, a Memory

This week, thanks to, I've had the pleasure of reading Another Bloody Saturday by Mat Guy (expect a review in the next few days). The book centres around Guy's experiences following 'smaller' football teams over the course of the 2014/15, with a few exceptions, and calls to mind something that causes indignation among my friends when I mention it to them. Over the years, I've been to a Lazio-Roma derby, I've seen Arsenal beat Liverpool in the Emirates and was present at Mick McCarthy's last game as Republic of Ireland manager: In spite of this, I would regard the 2003 League of Ireland Promotion/Relegation Final Second Leg as the most memorable game I've attended.

First some backgrond: After a terrible season Drogheda United had finished 9th in the Premier Division (P27; W8; D6; L13; F26; A40; Pts30) and entered the Promotion/Relegation playoff alongside Finn Harps, Galway United and Cobh Ramblers. [Aside: Yes, we had the same 10-team, 3-game structure as the Faroes until a few years ago, and a report published this year recommends returning to it.] After beating Cobh at the semi-final stage (2-2 2-0 agg. 4-2) Drogheda travelled to Galway for the first leg of the final where they were defeated 2-0, a difficult result to overturn.

I remember attending the game with my dad and uncle, standing in our usual place on the United Park (called O2 Park in 2003) terraces, just inside the Windmill Road entrance. Like most League of Ireland games, it was played under floodlights, but this time around there was going to be no time to concern myself with how cold my feet were getting. I seem to remember the game being a fairly tight affair, indeed it took an Andy Myler (my favourite Drogheda player as a boy) penalty early in the second half to break the deadlock.

On sixty eight minutes Declan 'Fabio' O'Brien netted to cancel Galway's aggregate advantage and give the home fans hope that Drogheda could retain their Premier League status for the next season. [Second Aside: The years leading up to the 2002/03 season had seen Drogheda yo-yo between the Premier and 1st Divisions and victory over Galway would offer stability for the team. Indeed, I personally see it as the pivotal point for Drogheda winning their first and only league title in 2007.] Following Drogheda's second goal the game became a tense affair, going to extra time after a 2-0 final score. At some point after the second goal (I can't remember whether it was before or after the 90 mins) Galway had the ball in the Drogheda net for the second time in the game - the first having been disallowed. I remember the heads of the supporters around me dropping, indeed I was devastated to, until I noticed the linesman on the opposite side with his flag up. I remember turning to my dad "It's offside", no response, "It's offside" I repeated. As my dad and uncle started to take their heads out of their hands a cheer began to ripple around the stadium. We were still in this thing.

Of course, what joviality this inspired was severely dented in the 102nd minute when midfielder Mark Quinless received his marching orders. Down to ten men, with seventeen minutes to play, in the most important game of the season? We were screwed. I doubt Quinless had time to unlace his boots by the time that Danny O'Conner put Drogheda 3-0 ahead just three minutes later. The home side were able to hold on for the remaining fifteen minutes to unbelievably secure top-flight football for the following season. Absolutely brilliant.

And there you have it, a memory inspired by a book, and still the best game of football I've ever witnessed.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Righting a Wrong

With the centenary of the 1916 Rising in Ireland just around the corner, I've decided to embark on the reading of O'Brien Press' 16 Lives series. Unfortunately, it has been met with an inauspicious start with my first foray (John MacBride) taking about two weeks to read. In spite of this minor setback, I hope to finish the books in time for the centenary celebrations next year. Check out my review of  John MacBride: 16 Lives at goodreads.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

My Favourite Fantasy Series (Books)

Having recently began listening to a book club podcast (linkage), and talking with other listeners and the hosts, I've felt compelled to put together a list of my favourite Fantasy series. This is by no means a definitive 'best of' list, but rather a smattering of the fantasy that I myself have enjoyed reading. Perhaps I'll put together further 'favourites' lists in the future. So, in no particular order:

1. The Farseer Trilogy/Liveship Traders Trilogy/Tawny Man Trilogy 
    by Robin Hobb


I first read these books when I was about seventeen and really enjoyed them. In all, the nine books tell numerous wonderful tales, filled with great characters (and some emotional scenes), and are partly responsible for distracting me from my first semester at college. On the one hand, I really want to go back and re-read them, but on the other, I'm afraid that they won't live up to the memory I have of them.

2. The Dark Magician Trilogy
     by Trudi Canavan


At the time I read these books, I was reading a lost of fantasy that could be described as 'Cinderella story' and this was by far my favourite of the lot. So much stood out for me when I read these books, not least the fact that they were probably the first fantasy books I'd read with a female protagonist. The way the series deals with such topics as homosexuality and discrimination, intrigue and deception really appealed to me. Again, this is a series I'd like to revisit.

3. The Hunger Games Trilogy
    by Suzanne Collins

I doubt there is anything I can say about The Hunger Games that people don't already know. In truth, I originally read the series to see what all the fuss was about, and have since re-read it. For me, the series is such an easy and enjoyable read, and I've no doubt I'll return to it some time in the future.

4. The Belgariad
     by David Eddings

The five books of The Belgariad provided my gameway into fantasy reading, and for that they'll always have a special place in my heart. Numerous times over the years, people have recommended them to me and numerous times I've been happy to talk about my experiences reading them.

5. The Drenai Novels
     by David Gemmell

Unlike the previous entries on this list, Gemmell's Drenai novels aren't a set series, but rather a collection of novels set within the same universe. In spite of that, I enjoyed each novel immensely, with The King Beyond the Gate being a personal favourite.

6. The Temeraire Series
     by Naomi Novik

As coincidence would have it, I read a few books set around the Napoleonic War that had some fantasy element thrown in. Together the books enspired me to read more historical fiction and Napoleonic Non-Fiction. Among my favourite books that I read at this time were the Temeraire novels, though I am still a bit upset that the publisher changed the overall cover design midway through the series, so the first three books of my collection look different from those that follow.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Taking Time to Listen

Last Saturday (January 12th) I was walking down Talbot Street in Dublin when I was beckoned to stop by one of those religious ‘enthusiasts’ that you see from time to time. I had a few minutes to kill, so I decided what the hell? (I am aware of the ironic choice of wording) and stopped to talk to him.

For those of you who aren't aware of my religious standpoint, I consider myself to be agnostic. While I do recognise the work that science has done in the expansion of our knowledge of the universe, I believe that there are aspects of the religious argument that it will never be able to disprove. Digression aside, I chose (in the conversation on Talbot Street) to neither hide my own beliefs nor attempt to argue for them with him. He was there to present his standpoint and I allowed him to do so.

Now, there were a number of points he made that I found dubious and ill presented, and others that I have heard refutations for before (Pascal’s Wager for one) but again, rather than challenging him, I took it on board and promised I’d consider what he said. Toward the end of our conversation he recommended a number of books to me regarding his argument, one of which I have actually picked up today, and provided me with an email address to contact him.

To once again digress from the main point of this post; I've had the last two weeks booked off work and I’d been considering doing something “different” this week – something I wouldn't usually do. Prior to this I thought it would be something outdoorsy (rock-climbing, hiking etc.) but this intellectual pursuit might actually turn out to be it.

On point; we’re so used to ignoring or arguing with people who don’t share our exact ideas and values these days. I don’t know what I’ll get out of this, but at the very least I've stopped, listened and given someone else the chance to make an influence on my life.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Expansion on a Though

Before going to bed last night, I felt compelled to leave the waking work with a tweet

Okay, one last thought/question. Does #addiction challenge a negative or chase a positive?

At this juncture I just want to clarify what I mean (and use more than 140 characters to do so.) A crux of addiction, and it’s treatment as a psychical issue, is the question of whether the addiction fills a void for the addict or whether it offers a state of advanced pleasure (or orgasm) that can be achieved only through abuse of a certain substance or activity.

On the outside there are similarities in both positions – the addict seeks to use their addiction to obtain something – something to fill the void or something to give them pleasure. However, their differences are far more worrying.

For the addict who abuses to fill a void there is only despair or ‘normality’ (an imperfect term but something most aim toward.) That which is abused offers only to stabilise that which is already broken. As such, treatment of such an addict must surely centre on what is causing the void in the first place.

Conversely, if the addiction is the method by which the addict achieves excitation/nirvana/orgasm then it must be treated in a manner that recognises this. In such cases might we not instead try to understand why the specific addiction was chosen (perhaps not consciously) and focus treatment around this?

I hope that in some way helps decipher the ideas running through my head when I posted that tweet.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Taking Charge

When does doing something for yourself stop being walking away and start becoming doing what's right for yourself? Today, or more specifically over the past week, I made the decision to cut my ties to the local football team. Since the end of last year, I've found myself getting an increased workload within both the player rep. and webmaster positions, even though I only took up the former for an interim, that was to last only as far as the club AGM (which seems to be getting pushed back and back.) It was always my intention to give up the position at that point, but I've been stuck with an extra workload that I neither need, nor want.

On top of that, I've had the past week off work and I hoped to spend the time relaxing so I informed the club that I'b be taking the week off from football related things as well - those who read my last posting will know ho I've been looking forward to the week off. Instead, I received numerous texts and emails over the week with a "get this done now" vibe that I didn't appreciate in the slightest.

The result? I've cut down on the things I need to get done, which should improve my mental health. ;-) Also, got accepted into the MA course I wanted to do. Things are coming up roses.