Book Review – Doctor Who; Time Lord Fairy Tales By Justin Richards

I did wonder if I had already done this one but apparently not…

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Goodreads says…

WE ARE ALL STORIES, IN THE END…

Fifteen tales of ancient wonder and mystery, passed down through generations of Time Lords.

Dark, beautiful and twisted, these stories are filled with nightmarish terrors and heroic triumphs, from across all of time and space.

There are times when you get incredibly excited about a book and for me this was one of them, I thought it would be a fun read and was looking forward to some unique fairy stories, however what you actually get is mainly a twist on traditional fairy tales. Now don’t get me wrong they are well written, entertaining and I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I think the problem is it was not quite what I expected. I would love them to have taken things further and made the tales more alien. I think one issue is also who the book is aimed at, while I enjoyed it I am not so sure the monster would have understood everything in it, Doctor Who is a family show and although this is certainly not an adult book it is certainly aimed at older readers. I think my favourite story was Cinderella and the Magic Box, and one other good aspect of this book is it does feature a mix of new and classic Doctors.

So it needs a score and I am going to give it 4 out of 5 stars, good but not quite great.

4stars

Book Review – The Legends of Ashildr By Doctor Who Authors

I confess I picked up this book with trepidation bought it I may as well pick it up and give it a go.

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We begin as always with the Goodreads blurb…

“Ten thousand hours is all it takes to master any skill. Twenty thousand, and you’re the best in the world. Over a hundred thousand, and you’re the best there’s ever been.”

Ashildr, a young Viking girl, died helping the Doctor and Clara to save the village she loved. And for her heroism, the Doctor used alien technology to bring her back to life. Ashildr is now immortal — The Woman Who Lived.

Since that day, Ashildr has kept journals to chronicle her extraordinary life. The Legends of Ashildr is a glimpse of some of those stories: the terrors she has faced, the battles she has won, and the treasures she has found.

These are the tales of a woman who lived longer than she should ever have lived — and lost more than she can even remember.

How I wish I could say I liked this book, like the character it had so much potential and fell short. I had hoped the book would provide a mix of stories from the lives lived by Ashildr in between her encounters with the Doctor and to be fair in some ways it does, but where it falls short is in providing a balance between the elements of her nature and does not expand our insight into the character.

In the TV series the Ashildr we encounter with the Doctor is hard and selfish, she talks of the loss and pain which bring her to this point, the stories contained in her journals, so this book had the opportunity to let us see how she become ME but instead it shows only the selfish nature previously displayed. From the very beginning of our on screen encounters we know she is rash and acts without thought for consequences, but we see from this she fails to learn from her actions, repeating the same patterns over and over again.

I had hoped in the third story where we see her in a more vulnerable light in some ways as she loses her children to the plague, we are told these are not the first children she has lost through the years but there is no real sense of anguish there, and I say this as a parent who has watched their baby fight for their life, the fact that she even contemplated leaving them behind to their fates alone makes it even harder to empathise with this character.

I get that years of loss would harden a person but in order for that to be balance we have to share their suffering and so how the change over the years, sadly I was disappointed by both the book and the character and feel that a real opportunity was missed.

So onto the score, and I have to be fair and cannot let me affection for the show influence me so it is 3 out of 5 stars, while there was nothing wrong exactly with any of the individual stories I was left feeling it is not a book I will pick up again.

3 stars

Book Review – Summer Falls And Other Stories By BBC Doctor Who (Justin Richards & James Goss)

Originally published as three different books I have the combined version so I am going to discuss each in turn before an overall opinion is expressed

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This is the Goodreads blurb and as you can see it mentions each of the three stories

Summer Falls by Amelia Williams

In the seaside village of Watchcombe, young Kate is determined to make the most of her last week of summer holiday. But when she discovers a mysterious painting entitled ‘The Lord of Winter’ in a charity shop, it leads her on an adventure she never could have planned. The painting is a puzzle – and with the help of some bizarre new acquaintances, she plans on solving it.

The Angel’s Kiss by Melody Malone

Detective Melody Malone has an unexpected caller: movie star Rock Railton thinks someone is out to kill him – and when he mentions the ‘kiss of the Angel’, she takes the case. At the press party for Railton’s latest movie, studio owner Max Kliener invites Melody to become their next star. But the cost of fame, she’ll soon discover, is greater than anyone could possibly imagine.

Devil in the Smoke, as recounted by Mr Justin Richards

On a cold day in December, two young boys, tired of sweeping snow from the workhouse yard, decide to build a snowman – and are confronted with a strange and grisly mystery. In horrified fascination, they watch as their snowman begins to bleed… The search for answers to this impossible event will plunge Harry into the most hazardous – and exhilarating – adventure of his life.

First let me say as a print version it works a lot better putting these together than each as an individual book, although they are very different stories, the introduction and final ‘article’ by and about Amelia Williams nee Pond pull them all together and, for really anoraks like me, cause the raising of eyebrows and questions regarding possibilities and continuity, which that damn Moffat bloke seems to enjoy doing.

The first story is notably also the one we see Clara reading in her first proper story as a companion, The Bells Of St John’s, personally of the three I feel it is the weakest, the main characters are all children and it would be more likely to have featured as a Sarah Jane Adventure rather than as a full blown Who story line. The children are annoying and I did not feel invested in them, the cameo of the Doctor as the curator was interesting in light of the Tom Baker appearance in the 50th anniversary special but overall even as a Doctor light episode I would have wanted a refund, I had looke forward to this for a long time and was incredibly disappointed.

Next up the River Song based story, not the one featured in the actual series The Angels Take Manhattan but one which would seem to pre-date that one and leads into the events featured in the actual TV show, the writing for this story is superb and you can really hear Rivers voice as Melody Pond and visualise the action, some of the secondary characters are not so strong but to be honest they are caricatures of a certain time period, as is the story generally, and as a satire/parody it works incredibly well, proving humour while also telling an engaging tale.

Finally the Vastra story, and of the three this is in some-ways the most tantalising of the three as it teases the reader with just how good a Paternoster Gang spin off could be. Set in the Victorian era we associate primarily with the Strax, Vastra, Jenny trio, this was a brilliant crime romp. The characters are well written and given we know them so well you can actually hear them in your own mind as you read. I am more convinced than ever that this would be the perfect children/family spin off to take the place of the Sarah Jane Adventures following the sad loss of Elizabeth Sladen or taken down a darker route rather than as just comic relief to replace Torchwood.

So the marks out of 5 are based on the book as a whole and while I would happily give the final two stories top marks the first on does drag it down, so over all I am giving this 4 out of 5 the intro and final part dragging it up from the 3.5 I was tempted to give based just one the stories alone.

4stars

Television Tuesday – Back To Basics

The last few weeks I have been rather slack in terms of blogging general but even more so on certain days, so today we are going back to the original format I intended for these posts so let’s go…

Television

Given my away day this week it can only be one programme…

The reason I have chosen to discuss this, other than the obvious, is also that the season finale is fast approaching and we know that Clara’s days are numbered.  It was really interesting watching the panel with the writers of the show and learning the way that they craft the stories was fascinating. Sometimes my daughter complains that I read far too much into plot points and come up with far too many kooky theories but I fear that the writer in me cannot help but see extra links even when they are possibly not there. One thinks Steven Moffat did say that has really stuck in my head is that if you hit a wall the chances are that whatever is wrong is not what you have just written, it is somewhere further back and one you find the error everything else will fall back into place.

Film

Rewatched this this week…

I loved these films the first time round, sadly so did the kids which led to the DVD’s becoming extremely scratched to the point where only a couple actually still worked, but, as we recently acquired an xbox One and the full box set was on offer at work (throw in staff discount) I decided to invest in a Bluray box set and I have to say the picture quality is fantastic. The thing that struck me was firstly just how young they all look but also just how rare it was that the original cast stuck it through all the films. In books we have full control of how our characters age, but in film that could have been problematic, you cannot be sure how someone will look as the age, and though make up can fix some things others are not that easy to sort out.  Imagine if the twins playing the Weasley twins had suddenly developed differently, if one had shot up a couple of extra inches or the other had put on weight, though they are identical twins these things can sometimes happen. I hate to think that in ten, twenty years time they will probably feel the need to remake the films because of new technology and hope  JK retained the control to make sure it never happens.

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I love this series ‘Everything wrong with…’

I generally dislike sequels and people cashing in on franchises, also as the parent of a 7 year old monster who wants to be a palaeontologist, they give unrealistic expectations. Okay he knows that dinosaurs are not real but he also now believes every piece of amber should contain an  insect and that you can get DNA from every bone dug up. As a bonus though I want to show one of the monster favourite programmes at the minute that we recorded on the Tivo box.

Not TV, Just Me!

It is Tuesday so there should be  TV post but guess what?  Today so I am going to chat a little bit more generally about my TV likes and dislikes.

First of all I am rubbish at watching TV, no really I am, if it were not for TiVo and Netflix I would never get a whole series of anything watched.  I used to be good at watching programmes religiously so I cannot say if the change has come about because of the invention of recordable TV and Catch-up channels or if it is due to the change in my life itself.  So now rather than watch one episode a week I binge watch several at a time, this year I have found even shows I love such as Strictly and Bake Off have fallen into the watch later category.

There is however a danger in doing this for the shows I love. you see channels such as the BBC look at the viewing figures to decide which shows to carry on and when to put them on, my beloved Doctor Who suffered from a drop in the ratings when up against the rugby the other week unleashing numerous articles suggesting it was in trouble, the fact is once iPlayer viewings are added in plus overseas viewings and DVD sales it becomes apparent that the show continues going from strength to strength.  The one thing however that does become vulnerable is the time slot, after all if more people are recording it and watching it later does it still need its Saturday night prime time slot, for me I still say yes but the fact the show is slowly being moved later and later suggests others may not agree, and tradition may not be enough to keep it there.

I have noticed one thing about myself when I watch shows that have a competition element and that is when I was younger I would have a favourite who I wanted to win and would cheer on, now as I get older I find the opposite, rather I don’t care who wins as long as it is not which ever person I have taken against, usually for being too smug, and during Bake Off this year I actually cheered when something one person made went wrong.  I think by the time I am old I may have turned into Miss Gulch from The Wizard of Oz lol

The other thing I want to mention here is films, it takes something pretty outstanding to get me to the cinema these days, the cost is ridiculous and the seats at our local cinema are not too comfy if you are larger and have a bad back already, but again it is becoming less of an issue.  Chances are you only have to wait around three months for the DVD to come out or to be able to watch it via one of the movie sites on SKY or Virgin for a fraction of the price of a cinema ticket, for those who cannot wait and are less scrupulous there are numerous sites where you can watch it online while it is still in the cinema, though I personally don’t use those.

W is for Wales – Places I Dream of Seeing!

W Now don’t get me wrong I have been to Wales, or at least the very northern parts of it, I was little, I remember it was wet and my Granddad bought me a doll wearing Welsh National costume that came in a plastic tube but really that is all I do remember.  This trip would see me not only remembering but venturing further into the country. Map_of_Wales

I want to start my little Welsh excursion in Cardiff, I have actually got as far as planning this trip several times but the other things intervened and scuppered my plans.  For my perfect Welsh road trip I actually think the perfect transport would be a camper-van, the reason for this is that it is the actual travelling around bit which turned out to be a pain in previous attempts at planning, for such a small country they seem to make travelling from point A to point B hard work. However the Welsh trip will start with a trip to see a Time Lord or two before heading into the past.doctor-who-tardis-22

Of course I could not go to Wales without heading to the Doctor Who experience in Cardiff. Infact the monster and I would need several days to wander round and pick out all the locations we can spot from the new series and those from Torchwood though the monster has not watched that yet, I think I will allow him a couple more years before starting him on that but he does know Captain Jack and a couple of the characters from their appearances in Doctor Who.cardiff-bay

So of course the significance of Ianto’s shrine will go over his head but it is pretty amazing to think that a fictional character has inspired such a moving tribute and shows just how much the show has come to mean to the city.

But Cardiff is a city where you can move from the Time lord technology of the future to the ancient past and this is one of the main attractions to Wales for me.Cardiff_Castle

The Castles!

It almost seems like you could not throw a stone and not hit a castle in Wales but I would start here at Cardiff Castle and also take the chance to meet up with one of my FB friends Dave who lives near Caerphilly a place I knew as a cheese long before I knew it was a real place.  He has spent years as part of a re-enactment group and is a walking history encyclopaedia, he also has a couple of gorgeous hounds.

From Cardiff I would head round the coast visiting all the different castles hopefully ending up near here._59942769_flint_castle_nature_flickr_

Flint castle is possibly a little less impressive than some of the others on the route but once again the area holds a bonus attraction, our very own Lord David Prosser from over at Barsetshire Diaries.  He might blush a little but he is such a wonderful human being, you will have noticed his lovely comments on my posts and if you have not visited his blog you have no idea what you are missing.  He has a wonderful, warm and witty way of regaling us with his week and his Sunday post is one of the ones I most look forward to.  I believe he is actually on his jollies this week so may not see this but if I know him he will spend a week on his return catching up on all his inbox.

Book Review – Slaughterhouse-Five By Kurt Vonnegut

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 This is another book which features on my book challenge lists and is one I have read previously that I decided to revisit in order to review it.

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This is the blurb bit and I have decided to cheat and use the Goodreads descriptions so I can just concentrate on what I personally think of the books rather than do the whole talking through the basic plot bit which as you will see for this book is anything but simple.

Goodreads summary…

Kurt Vonnegut’s absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut’s) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.

Don’t let the ease of reading fool you – Vonnegut’s isn’t a conventional, or simple, novel. He writes, “There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick, and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters.”

Slaughterhouse-Five is not only Vonnegut’s most powerful book, it is also as important as any written since 1945. Like Catch- 22, it fashions the author’s experiences in the Second World War into an eloquent and deeply funny plea against butchery in the service of authority. Slaughterhouse-Five boasts the same imagination, humanity, and gleeful appreciation of the absurd found in Vonnegut’s other works, but the book’s basis in rock-hard, tragic fact gives it a unique poignancy – and humor.

The first time I read this was before I tackled a Time Travellers Wife, and after rereading it I am now even more convinced that this inspired that book.  The concept of time travel is one I am of course familiar with after all as a huge Sci-Fi fan and more specifically a Doctor Who fan the idea of time travel is a basic staple but this book differed from any I had read before in that it did not tell the story sequentially in the way you would expect. The problem is that the way this book randomly jumps between different times is it makes it incredibly hard to keep up with.  This is not a beach read or a book you can pick up and put down, it requires a degree of concentration to keep the story straight in your head.

I also have one major issue with this book which effects the mark I give it which is the portrayal of the female characters.  While the book is witty, the story lines imaginative the female characters are nothing more than the worse stereoptypes possible which is a real shame, admittedly it is written for a different generation who may not have found this as problematic as the modern reader.

I find I can only give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars because of the failings I have mentioned which is a shame because other than that I enjoyed it.

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Vlog Time 7

I decided to make the Vlogs weekly rather than fortnightly in an attempt to keep the time down so I decided to give you one today but normal scheduling will be for a Friday from now on and that means you get a #TBT photo ever week of me as well which I hope you enjoy, I would love to see some #TBT photos of you guys so if you are up for the challenge post one this Thursday for me to come and smile at xxxx

A to Z Challenge 2014 – Z is for Zygons

a-to-z-header-2014-aprilZ  You knew that I would have to fit the Doctor in somewhere and given we have just celebrated the 50th anniversary it is even more fitting we discuss an alien which featured in that episode.

If you are not sure what one looks like this is a Zygon in both its modern and Classic skins…

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Now between you and me I don’t think they look very scary rather they look quite silly, so why was the monster terrified of them? Well lets begin by looking at what the TARDIS files have to tell us about them…

Interesting but they are still not really the sort of creatures to strike terror in to the hearts of small children who love Daleks so lets look at the intro they showed at the cinema…

And that is where we realise how they can inspire fear, it is the idea that they might be sat next to you, sat behind you, just waiting for a chance to gobble you up, except they won’t they will cover you in gunk then pretend to be you.  What scares children more these days is not the monsters they can see but the ones who look like normal people and if we are honest that is more scary for us adults as well, you can fight the monster under the bed but you cannot fight the monster you never saw coming.  The other issue as well is if you do not know who you can trust, do you trust anyone? And if you do not trust then could you risk offending the wrong people with your suspicions after all sometimes a bunny is just a rabbit…

Sometimes it is not the obvious which scares people, everyone has different treasures and possibly for a child what could be more scary than the thought the person sat next to them, that person they trust to protect them might just be the creature they need protecting from?  And on a more serious note what does it say about our society when the news headlines frequently prove for some children that fear it is not just a TV story that can be turned off…

 

An Old Friend Revisited – Part Six

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First apologies for the delay in the final instalment of this story, real life has been crazy with various charity events taking place but as tomorrow is the first of April and I intend to start the A-Z Challenge again I wanted to tie up the loose ends here first…

If you have missed the first parts you can click on the Full Sunday Story tab at the top of the page and read it all in one go for those who have been waiting patiently then read on and hopefully enjoy…

 

The sound of the slap echoed around the theatre, the Doctors head flew back, his eyes widening fro the mixture of surprise and pain.

“River! What…”

His voice trailed off as the situation became apparent to him. Tightly closing his eyes he slipped from the seat and hunkered down in the gap between the rows. Only once the singers were obscured by the seats in front di he open his eyes once more.

He pulled the sonic screwdriver out from his pocket and held it up in the air pointed towards the singers.  Puling it back down he looked at it.

“Not good, definitely not good.  Now think! I can’t use the sonic to disrupt the hold they have on every one or that will leave them all brain damaged, I need a plan…I need someone to listen to me what is the point in coming up with an amazing plan when there is no one to listen to it!”

He glanced to the seats either side of him, he made a decision based on his still stinging cheek and grabbed Astrid by the ankle and dragged her to the floor.  It took a few moments for her to come to her senses, the Doctor clamped his hand over her mouth as she began to speak.

“No! Shhhh! Listen!  Those creatures are using their voices to hypnotise people, somehow they are drawing the energy from them,  I need to break the connection but I need to do it without leaving all the people here brainless idiots.”  He looked along the row to where a group of strange looking creatures were frozen by the singers spell, “Okay so more brainless than they already are, I have a plan well not a plan but a thing, a thing that will be a plan as soon as I finish talking. If you understand nod your head but don’t speak.”

Astrid nodded her head and the Doctor removed his hand. Astrid opened her mouth to speak but one look from the Doctor silenced her.

“No! Wait! Yes! That’s it! Sing! Sing now at the top of your voice!”

“Sing what?” Astrid questioned looking perplexed by the sudden request.

“Anything, everything, sing a shopping list I don’t care just sing!”

Both the Doctor and Astrid broke in to verse, Astrid singing an old Stoe lullaby while the Doctor began singing seemingly random words into the sonic screwdriver which he appeared to be using as a microphone.  The singers on stage waivered before increasing the volume of their own singing, the Doctor adjusted something on the sonic and his voice boomed out overwhelming the other singers, Astrid put her hands over her ears but carried on singing her own song adding more volume to her own words.  Gradually she noticed people beginning to look round to where the Doctor stood still producing some form of noise which was passing as singing.

There was a flash and the Doctor spun round just in time to see a final glimpse fo the mysterious singers as the faded from view.

“Damn they got away!”

“Doctor!” River was now alert and noticing that the majority of the people in the theatre were now moving in their direction looking rather unhappy.

“Ah yes,” the Doctor followed her gaze “maybe we should cut our evening short. Run!”

He grabbed Astrid hand and the three fled from the theatre only stopping once the were safely back in the TARDIS.  River set the co-ordinates and minutes later they set down back in the space port.

The Doctor opened the door and followed Astrid back into the place they had left only a short time before.

“Doctor? I thought your name was Mr Smith?”

“It is that is just a private joke River likes to play.  Well Astrid you have a few hours left to go prepare for your new job.  I don’t suppose I can change your mind about taking it?”

“No if anything the little bit of excitement you have shown me today has made me realise how much I want to get out there and see it all.  I want to see the stars, see all the places these different people come from.” She gestured around the space port. “Today you showed me more excitement than I have had in my whole life, you made me feel alive, like I could do anything be anyone.”

“Astrid Peth you are incredible and you will see the stars and you will change lives.  You are one of the most incredible women I have ever had the honour to know.”

Astrid laughed as she started waking across the space port, “You make it sound like I am someone special!”

“Astrid Peth you are special and don’t ever forget it.”

Astrid’s brow furrowed as she turned “I never told you my surna…”  Her voice drifted off as the blue box disappeared with a wheezing groan.

Back inside the TARDIS the Doctor stood with his back against the door, eyes closed his lip trembled.  River waited for him to compose himself as she knew he would.  My Doctor, always running but he can’t run away from himself, she set the co-ordinates to return her to Stormcage. She watched as he straightened his bow tie and bounced up the steps to the console to join her.

“So Professor River Song where to now?”

“Back to penal servitude I’m afraid, for me anyway. I think you should go pay mummy a visit, I think they might just have forgiven you for leaving the Ood in the toilet by now.”  She turned from him as a smile formed on his lips, then noticed something on the floor.

As she picked it up she recognised the Doctor’s Psychic paper which had so recently failed him, with almost a giggle she opened it, the words that formed before her eyes silenced her mirth and replaced it with confusion as she held it out to him.

“Come to the library, and signed with a kiss? If I didn’t know better I would think that was my writing.”

The Doctor snatched it from her grasp, staring at it with wide disbelieving eyes. “That’s wrong, no, no, no this is wrong.”

“Doctor what’s wrong?” fear entered Rivers voice, it was an emotion she had not felt in a very long time.

The TARDIS landed and the Doctor grabbed River by the hand and hauled her out to her cell.  “River something is wrong, very wrong.  I need you to promise me you will stay here until I come back.  No going off and amusing yourself, no popping home to see your parents.  Just stay here until I come back. Promise me!”

Looking in his eyes she saw the confusion and uncertainty, “Yes!” She wanted to push for more but she realised that she had no choice but to put her complete trust in him.

She watched as he departed knowing that she would keep her promise no matter how hard it was, that he knew more than he was letting on she had no doubt, but she knew he would be back for her.  Only then did she realise he had not embraced her as he said goodbye.