Book Review: Skulduggery Pleasant Mortal Coil- Derek Landy

mortal coil****

Again, this book really deserves five stars, but it can’t be read and understood without the others, so it only gets four. Sometimes I really dislike Derek Landy. He seems to punish my favourite characters the most, but I suppose that means that they’re his favourites too.

Read my review of book one, book two, book three and book four

In this book the Remnants break free and try to get to Valkyrie because they think that she’s their saviour, or rather, the person that will destroy the world. So, you know, there’s that to deal with. The remnants possess people in power in both the magical and mortal worlds and pull out all the stops to get to Valkyrie. Skulduggery and the gang have to round up all of the possessed and rip the remnants out of them within four days, otherwise they will be bonded to their hosts forever. They manage it of course, but as I mentioned in the last review, things are getting darker in this series. One of the remnants manages to escape in the body of one of the main characters (I shan’t tell you which) and becomes permanently bonded. That’s nice of you Derek, thanks for that.

Things begin to change on the romance front too. Valkyrie and Fletcher are an item, because they’re young, and that’s normal for young people. But things are rarely as simple as that in Valkyrie’s life. Having an attractive vampire following her around and saving her life threatens the safe and normal relationship that she has with Fletcher. I feel I must point out that although there is a love interest (or two) it is not a love story. The choice that Valkyrie has to make is not a choice between two boys, as much as it is between two lifestyles. Good and Easy. It would be easy for Val to be with Caelan. It would be good for her to be with Fletcher. It would be easy for SPOILER:

It would be easy for Val to become Darquesse. It would be good for her (and the rest of the world) to stay who she is. It’s a difficult choice that is going to have to be made, and the onl one that can make it is Valkyrie. (Or Darquesse. Shall we just call her Stephanie?)

Oh, and there’s a baby about to be born that might just be able to save Valkyrie with her cuteness.

(SPOILER: her name is Alice!)

 

Have a lovely day,

Alys.

 

Visits from the Future.

A few weekends ago (I write posts in advance) I spent a both Saturday and Sunday visiting universities with my mum. I had thought that I already knew where I wanted to go. After visiting Hannah at university last year I fell in love with the place, without having ANY idea about their English department, or even where my learning would take place. So I applied, thinking that it didn’t really matter about my other choices, because I had already made my decision. But then the applicant days started rolling in and even though I was firm in my decision, I knew that I had to keep my mind open for such an important decision. Saturday came and the first university visit was to Chester. I got a train with my mum and we found ourselves in Chester at a very well organised applicant day (aside from the lack of directions). They blew us away. Their English Literature department was well established and regarded. The talk was led by their main Creative Writing tutor, who spoke knowledgeably and with wit. The accommodation left a little to be desired, but it was no worse than could be expected for university halls. On the way back to the train station we decided to walk through the town of Chester. The original town walls still stand and the whole town was steeped in history, the old buildings preserved and protected. I fell in love with that town, if any doubts had seeded in my head over the university and the course, they were weeded out by the beauty of the town. I didn’t take my camera, because what would have been the need on an applicant day? But as soon as I set foot in the town I regretted it.

On the train homeward bound I had a lot of thinking to do. I was in a dilemma; my ideas of what I wanted needed to be re-evaluated and checked for an update. How important was the town in which I would be living for the next three years? Important, I knew that, but how much did it weigh against the actual course and the university itself?

5:30 Sunday morning. Up and on the bus to the train station. Another applicant day and the day for decisions to be made. I was visiting UCLAN, the university that had been in my heart for the past year. Full of doubt about my previous convictions, and unsure of what my decision would be, I arrived in the town of Preston with an open mind. Now, Preston is not exactly a tourist town, it’s definitely not as beautiful as Chester, but it’s still nicer than the deadbeat town where I live. I already knew all of that from the last time that I visited. I was there to find out about the English department and my course. We were greeted with croissants and coffee in the languages department. Despite the breakfast I was a little concerned about the fact that they didn’t have an actual English department, but I powered through that little prejudice and listened to what they had to say. We met a literature student called Jas and we talked for a while before we had to go into the first session of the day. The literature tutor told us all about the course and we had a bit of a taster, looking at one of Shakespeare’s sonnets. When we came back out they greeted us with cake. CAKE. And if that wasn’t enough they fed us vegetarian chilli and lamb hotpot (one or the other, not both, that would have been weird). And then more cake. How could they possibly have known the importance of food? We spoke to a creative writing tutor aswell and that was interesting. I was pretty impressed to say the least.

800px-Harrris_Museum,_Preston_1-Oct-07_232-0021

I think that by the end of the weekend I had learned that I was right all along. Chester had impressed me and shaken my convictions, but it was UCLAN that had made its way into my heart. Not that I won’t be visiting the town of Chester again, it’s absolutely beautiful and I will be going there again. I may be intending to live in Preston for the next three years of my life, but I’ll definitely be taking my camera on a date to Chester.

Right, that’s my penny’s worth.

Have a lovely day,

Alys.

Book Review: Skulduggery Pleasant Dark Days- Derek Landy

****

Please don’t misinterpret the lack of the fifth star. I know that the first three books in this series got five stars from me, but this is in no way worse than the others. It simply loses a star because it cannot be read without the others. Dark Days could not be seen as a stand-alone book. It’s the turning point of the series, and in more ways than one.

Read my reviews of book one, book two and book three.

The ‘master plan’ of the series as a whole begins to come into play in this book and the story takes a turn for the darker side of the magical world. People die in this book, and just as Landy’s audience gets older, so does his content. Valkyrie isn’t a child anymore and that’s reflected in the subject matter and what actually happens to the character. I would say that parents really should heed the age ratings on these books because there are some graphic scenes, and they’re not just violent, they’re emotional aswell.

We discover a little more about all of the characters in this book, some secrets that were so deeply buried that they could hardly be remembered come to light. Landy has a talent for balancing his stories with just the right amount of light and dark, but as the title suggests, things are heading down the path of darkness. Much like Valkyrie herself as she begins lessons in necromancy with Solomon Wreath. It has a seductive amount of immediate power, and there’s also the added danger of the necromancer’s belief that she is the prophesied ‘Death Bringer’; their saviour that will dismantle the barrier between the living and the dead.

Dark Days indeed.

Have a lovely day

(Doesn’t that sound odd after that review?)

Alys.

Craven.

Samwell

It seems that the closer that I get to something that I want, the faster I run to get away from it. I am a coward. As it happens, I am on the cusp of finishing college and beginning university. That is terrifying. When you’re at school things are easy because every decision is made for you, in sixth form you get a bit more independence, but everything is still simple, because you know that if you work hard and ask for help, then things will turn out alright. And then you go to college and for the first year you get annoyed at how easy it all is, but then the second year. Ah, the second year, when you’re just that bit closer to leaving and having to make an actual decision for yourself. It’s scary because there’s just this huge chunk of your life ahead of you and you don’t know whether you’re going to be good at it, whether you’re going to succeed or fail. And really, who wants to fail?
Next week I’m going to go and look around universities and try to decide whether I want to study in the North or the South (the most expensive place in the country). Wonderful. Well, I suppose that I already know where I want to study, but I need to choose a university for my insurance choice, and that could be one of two- one in the south and one in the north. I also need to save up some money to buy my ticket to the leaving graduation thing that we’re having in a few weeks. (Bear in mind that I’m writing this in advance)

Anyway, the point of this post is that I am a coward, and I’m trying to force myself to stop running from what I want, because I know that it will be good for me when I get to it.

Does anyone else do this, or is it just me?

Have a lovely day,

Alys.

Book Review: Skulduggery Pleasant Faceless Ones- Derek Landy

*****

The third book in the series sees Valkyrie beginning to grow up, Ghastly return to the land of the living, and, of course, the world narrowly avoiding destruction.

Valkyrie is fourteen now and I love how Landy is so delicate about introducing the idea that she has grown. without being so crude as mention her chest he discusses the fact that the clothes that Ghastly made for her are getting tight. That makes me very happy, because I am, in fact, a girl, and I do, in fact, know what it’s like to go through puberty as a female of the species. I really appreciated how Landy dealt with the idea of Valkyrie beginning to look at boys and young men in terms of love interests. the story is by no means a love story, but there is an undercurrent of possibility in there. I think that’s quite important for these books because it grounds the characters in reality. that sounds like a trivial thing, but it’s not. In the world of Skulduggery and Valkyrie it could be very easy to forget that they are also in the real world, where people like Fergus and Beryl live.

It’s an interesting blend of danger and the assurance that ‘this is a children’s book, nothing really bad could possibly happen.’ But there is a feeling that things could change in that department. Valkyrie’s getting older and that suggests that Landy’s audience is too- they’re looking for something slightly different to the first two books, and they’re going to get it with this one.

I enjoy these books immensely and I know that I’ve said it before, but they really are a solid investment for years of reading pleasure.

Read my review of book one here and book two here.

Have a lovely day,

Alys.

TV Tuesdays: Terra Nova

terranova-newtitle

It’s highly irritating when you know that a programme was cancelled after the first season, and you decide to watch it anyway. I am now suffering an emotional backlash akin to somebody dying in one of my favourite books. It’s almost as if all those characters from the show have died and I will never see them again. I can now understand why people write fanfiction. Not that I’m going to do that, my grieving process just doesn’t work that way…

For those of you who are like me and missed Terra Nova when it first came out, it’s a future set in the past. How weird is that?! Basically it’s set in the year 2149 and the world is in a bit of a state. Humans are dying from the lack of oxygen in the air and everything’s a bit crappy to be totally honest. We meet the Shannon family in the very first moments of the first episode and instantly form a bond with them. I should introduce them. The father is Jim Shannon, who apparently starts the programme as a sort of policeman, but is very quickly arrested because his wife, Elizabeth, and he have a third child. 2149 has strict population laws that prohibit more than two children being born to one set of parents. Things would probably have been alright had Jim not decided to punch the guy that was investigating them, but he did, and he was sent to prison for it. A few years later Elizabeth, a doctor, visits Jim in prison to tell him that she has been picked for the tenth ‘pilgrimage’ to Terra Nova, the same Earth, but in the time of the dinosaurs. As it turns out some clever clogs in the 2149 world discovered a rift in the fabric of time and space that they could use to send people back in time to live healthy lives in a world where the air didn’t kill humans. “But what about the Butterfly Effect?!” I hear you shout, with a little clever manoeuvring an explanation was offered, and maybe I didn’t fully understand it, but I think that may have been the point. Point is that the butterfly effect doesn’t apply because the timelines are different. Or something. But anyway, back to Elizabeth and Jim. Elizabeth explains that she has been chosen to live in Terra Nova, but she can’t take the youngest child, Zoe, with her because she is the illegal third child. So Elizabeth has hatched a plan to get Jim out of prison and into ‘Hope Plaza’ where the rift is, picking up Zoe on his way there and carrying her through the rift in a backpack. Fair enough. Bit outlandish, but certainly do-able. And they succeed. Sorry if you were waiting for a cliff hanger on that one, they all get through and they all survive the journey. It’s when they get tot he other side that the story of the programme really comes into effect. I mean, which story would you be more interested in? The angst of wondering where your husband and daughter are, or the story in which they’re all together in a world that has dinosaurs?! I know which one I’d pick, and I think Spielberg agreed with me. (Why are all the best people called Steven? Steven Spielberg, Stephen King… ok, so that’s two of the best people)

Terra-Nova-image-pilot

They are under the rule of Commader Taylor, who, after a little trepidation, accepts Jim as part of his police force, and acts as a sort of guide in this new world. But there is a secret the Taylor hasn’t told anyone, his son, Lukas, is alive in the world outside the settlement and he is working on something that no-one understands. The series follows the trouble that Lukas and the ‘Sixers’ (outlaws that live outside the settlement) cause for the residents of the new world and their silly skirmishes that are ultimately overshadowed by the larger threat of the people of 2149 in their quest to find something that only Terra Nova has.

And if all of that doesn’t pique your interest, then I shall tell you a little story about how I found Terra Nova. There is a man, a man called Landon, and he is an actor. He is a very attractive actor. He happens to be in Terra Nova. There you go. All the incentive that you could possibly need to go and watch the show. And then be infuriated by the fact that you will never know what happens next, because there is no next.

And on that cheery note,

Have a lovely day,

Alys.

Ode to Knitters…

Has anyone ever wondered how difficult it is to find a free pattern that you actually like? No? Well, let me tell you; it’s difficult. Even when you’re looking for something so common as ‘Women’s cardigan, aran’

You’d think it’d be easy right? Just type it into Google and up pop the results, there’s bound to be one that you like. Yeah, you’re theory is flawed my friend. I spent hours the other day trawling the internet looking for free patterns. The only solution is to pay for one. It’s much easier.

So after a few hours of searching the internet with mounting frustration, I finally gave up. And lo and behold, as soon as I did I found a lovely pattern in a magazine in my local paper shop. Wonderful! Not only do I have a lovely new cardigan pattern, I also have a pattern for some socks and some other things that all seemed rather nice and achievable. Happy Alys.

A few days after that I visited the wool shop with my mum and found another lovely pattern that I plan on making as soon as I’ve finished the one that I’m on now. Even Happier Alys.

I have no idea why I have shared this story with you, but there it is. Now you know what occupies my mind in the quiet moments between reading and not doing my work.

Have a lovely day,

Alys.

Book Review: Skulduggery Pleasant Playing with Fire- Derek Landy

Skulduggery Pleasant Playing with Fire_260309

*****

The second book in the series is just as good as the first. (read our review here:) I especially liked the way that Landy revisits things that he mentioned in passing in the first book. It’s almost as if he didn’t quite have enough book to fit everything in the first time so he wrote another book just to explore some of those possibilities.

Again, I don’t want to give too many spoilers, but suffice it to say, vampires are pretty big in this book. Landy introduced us to his vampires in the first book, animal creatures that shed their skin as night falls and make no distinction between ally and enemy. Well, they’re back, and they’re definitely enemies.

Having already saved the world from the evil gods, The Faceless Ones, in the first book, Skulduggery and Valkyrie are back to do it again. (Yep, Stephanie finally picked a name for herself) This time though, they’re on their own. Tome’s betrayal of the Elders led to panic in the Sanctuary; Ireland no longer had a leader. A sorcerer named Thurid Guild steps up to the plate and kicks Skulduggery and Valkyrie out to fend for themselves. But Skul and Valkyrie can’t let their political views get in the way as Baron Vengeous has broken out of prison and is trying to resurrect the remains of the Grotesquery- a patchwork creature that can house the spirit of a Faceless One. Cue the dramatic fight scenes and the emotional roller coaster of wondering if your favourite characters are going to die.

But at heart this is a kids book, Valkyrie is only twelve and if you’re reading this as a parent trying to find a good book for your sprogs, then let me assure you that there is no death amongst the main characters. (Except for the Skul- man, but let’s leave that for the theologians to fight over.)

This book does stand on it’s own two feet, but I think that of you’re going to get it, then you should go and get the first one too. (It’s just better that way) It’s great fun and the kids will definitely get their use out of them. I got them when they first came out and I still read them at least once a year. And my mum will read them too occasionally, they’re a great investment!

Read my review of book one here.

Have a lovely day,

Alys.

JOhn green is a sadist.

I just finished reading ‘The Fault in our Stars’. Now I have a blotchy face, I want to throw a book across the room and my mother thinks I’m unstable because I was sobbing at a book.

Thanks John.