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West of the West Wind – Nils-Johan Jørgensen

51So-GksydL._Nils-Johan Jørgensen is a master teller of folk tales for children which draw on myth and legend from cultures around the world. His first collection; North of the North Wind included four stories based on Nordic fairy tales, set in curious dreamscapes. His second, East of the East Wind, incorporate oriental themes and lore to create beguiling modern-day fables. West of the West Wind continues the series in the same tradition, featuring three beautifully illustrated stories; The Library, Wolves and the Silence of the Sail. This time, our heroes face adversarial situations and malevolent foes which challenge every bit of their strength and courage. Dark and foreboding, these stories will appeal to older children’s love of the bizarre and sinister.

For me Norway and nature are synonymous, situated at the edge of things.  This mystical place conjures up frozen wastes, surrealness and a certain mournfulness that is at once as pleasing as it is anguishing. Michael Avery’s art work which accompanies each story complements this feeling and is wonderfully rendered.  The pencil drawings show the contrast of nature and humans vividly.

Former diplomat Nils-Johan Jørgensen has successfully managed to combine these traits into his latest collection of stories in a way that will appeal to both adults and children.  With its focus on the human ideals and the misdirection that life constantly throws at us.

The first story is set in World War II, following a boy attempting to stop books being burned and focusses on the themes of confusion, fear, censorship and loss but also exudes a love of words and thoughts upon the legacy of humanity.  A constant running throughout the book is that circumstances are not always as they appear to be, preconceptions are usually proved wrong in a gentle way, reminding us of the flaws of preconception in our minds and lives. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 18/04/2014 in Children's Literature, Fiction

 

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Reeling You In?

After last post’s brief film review I have been galvanised with ideas to start reviewing film and TV shows, not the popular and famous ones that we have all heard of though.  Many people review those and as someone who lives in old books, the topical doesn’t suit me as well as others.

I am more than tempted to start taking on this idea to add into the mix with all the other stuff I do because when not reading my leisure time is spent in the solitary pursuit of watching things.  I am a man of simple pleasures…give me a tree (with branches), a semi flat piece of ground under said branches and some sunshine and I will be happy until dark.

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I will probably review some new films if and when finances allow but really it’s an excuse to eat more popcorn than is healthy whether I am in the cinema or not.  Really I suppose I think it is best to canvass you the reader, is this something you’d want to see in amongst the usual words and thoughts? Bearing in mind that a lot of the stuff may be quite obscure although there will be a smattering of familiar faces easily available on Netflix and such sites.

 
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Posted by on 15/04/2014 in Blogging, Films, TV

 

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The Raid 2 and Cinema Experience

Yesterday I went to the cinema, a rare event for me as I tend to watch my films in the company of two or fewer people, in fact mostly just by myself.  Having said that every so often a film comes along that demands to be experienced on the big screen..The Lord of the Rings were three such films with the epic scope to the fighting and the realisation of the world that it raised the benchmark for epic films.

Despite all that I do like the cinema with that sensory deprivation that gives an edge of danger and the unknown to what you are experiencing. The truly great films take you away to another world or time and it’s an amazing feeling to discover that piece of art which allows you to forget you are in a room full of other people and just be totally focused in that moment.

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Although multiplex chains have become commonplace and make the world of quality cinema seem almost vestigial these days, (fans of independent cinema I salute you), there is no shame in giving the corporate suits some of your hard-earned money if the film demands it.  Ignoring the shamefully expensive food and drink as well as the people talking about how amazing Saw 26 was, it is somewhere I perhaps need to start going to more often.

The film I went to see was The Raid 2, a film in an all together different category from your average action flick. It’s a fantastically colossal action/thriller martial arts film which takes choreographed combat to the limits.  The sequel to The Raid, imaginatively titled The Raid 2: Berendal is one heck of a film…for those of you not familiar with the first film it had a simple plot of taking down a gang leader that didn’t get in the way of pure action, it’s a pacy film with really exhilarating to watch fight scenes which get longer as the film goes on.  The second film builds on this with even more style than the first without just rehashing the same film. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 13/04/2014 in Films

 

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Hot Air and a Partially Remembered Stair

Is it too early to have a beer at 10 in the AM…how early is too early? With everything pressing in my day completed by around 9AM, I have been spending quite a lot of the day indulging in listening to some loud music of days gone past…stuff that brings back the malleable miracle of memory that haunts us ( if we choose), or as in this case just serves to cycle up the good mood-a-tron which is located somewhere in my head.

Good moods are conducive to my thinking and probably explains why recently I have only been able to do book reviews and not look for inspiration in the wider world.  All this thinking had me in mind of my struggles for non book related posts and how things change in general.

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I remember once, going up to the roof of a church tower.  It was a classic accent with a spiral stone staircase, the type where you have to keep to the outside or risk slipping all the way back down.  At the time I was maybe 8 or 9 and it was an epic climb, going round and round the central column.  it was the return journey though that I am thinking of.  I had in my young and possibly sticky hands a balloon eraser that day.  If memory serves it was blue with bits of green, red and yellow on, a classic eraser then.  I don’t remember much more about it than that.

I dropped this eraser and couldn’t find it on the darkened stair, I knew roughly where it fell but all I was rewarded with was severely dusty hands for my hunting troubles.  Now I am 32 and thinking back to it, I am struck by the image of this balloon, that ultimate symbol of human freedom to be blown about willy-nilly that is now consigned to the dark begrimed and  forgotten confines of a seldom visited place. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 11/04/2014 in Life, Melancholy, My Writings, Poetry

 

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Deja-View

Pottering through any book shop and looking at the bestseller lists, it’s not uncommon to see new book covers aping previous popular books, for example all the ‘erotica books are done in the style of Fifty Shades these days.  The same thing happened with the Da Vinci Code as well as others I would have noticed had I bothered to look at best sellers.  I do recall Salmon Fishing in the Yemen spawning a few as well.

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It is thanks to the wonderful Private Eye magazine and in particular the infrequent Bookalikes column that has encouraged me to bring this travesty of lazy publishers to your attention.  All it takes is the effort to employ some artists, recognise that people don’t want another clone of books they have already read and some original works…it’s not difficult to reinvigorate the poor selection of bestsellers out there. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 08/04/2014 in Lists/Ephemera

 

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The Cage Legacy – Nicholas Conley

cage-legacy Who is Ethan Cage?

Is he just a troubled 17-year-old high school student? A quiet, intelligent kid with a bad home life? Or is he a shattered human being, a boy who lost his faith in the world when he discovered that his loving father was secretly a psychotic serial killer?

As Ethan’s world suddenly spirals out of control, he must confront the reality of his dark past and finally make the decision that will either define his life – or cut it short prematurely.

Starting any book is always a step into the unknown, this one does not disappoint with its unexpected start.  From the get go we are misdirected from the usual to the stark and grim imagery (grimagery) but is this a good thing?

That depends on each reader of course.  This book is targeted at the YA market but also smoothly crosses over into the adult readers world most satisfyingly.  Kids these days are subject to so much in the way of adult concepts that perhaps they wold lap up the macabre nature of this book even though there is a lot of real world grimness pervading the story.

For us older readers we have a book involving drug use, self harm and some strikingly grisly images of a serial killer ilk, which is maturely done, in that nothing is gratuitous and there for its own sake, it has a part in the narrative. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 06/04/2014 in Children's Literature, Fiction, Horror

 

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Smokescreen – Khaled Talib

Yet another featured author who kindly allowed me to review his book, follow Mr K. Talib’s trendsetting and Contact Ste! if you wish to get correspond me.

At an ancient café in Cairo, two veteran spies plot a covert mission to resolve — once and for all — the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. The pledge: Israel will make a major concession as part of the peace treaty. In Singapore, Jethro Westrope, a magazine journalist, stumbles onto the scene of a murder: the beautiful Niki Kishwani directs him, in her last breath, to a digital recorder, evidence that puts Jethro’s life in serious danger. And, much worse, he is framed for Niki’s murder. Jethro sets out to find Niki’s killer and is drawn into a web of deception and intrigue involving officials from the Singaporean, Israeli, and American governments, each with a complex, competing, and potentially deadly agenda. Against this pulse-pounding backdrop, Jethro races to find answers and save himself —yet nothing is as it seems. He finds himself at the centre of a political plot so diabolical and sweeping in its world implications that he is stunned to discover tomorrow’s news headlines today. He is being set up not only as a murderer but as an assassin, and something much larger than his own fate is in his hands.

Whenever I read a thriller there is always a temptation – which I try to avoid – to mention such well-worn classic clichés such as ‘fast paced’ and ‘page turning’ and ‘labyrinthine’. In this case though that is difficult as that is precisely what this book is, however it would be disingenuous of me to dismiss them in this case.

Smokescreen is an apt title for a novel dealing with political chicanery and this is evident from the first pages, I found myself getting ready to relish a story that felt international, realistic and above all intense. I was not disappointed.  With a high body count and some nice detailing, I was in my element,  in fact I defy anyone to reach that state of mind when there is a character called Hong Kong Chong in the mix. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 03/04/2014 in Fiction

 

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