Welcome to my Blogger page, thank you for visiting. This is where I will share my reviews of books, movies and other things I enjoy. If you would like to see my ramblings, fanfiction and other general posts, please visit my Livejournal: beren_writes. Visit my pages to learn about me and my books.
Top set of links above are external links, second set are pages local to the blog.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Drabble Cascade week #16: Dark (R with warning for abuse trigger)

The Drabble Cascade happens every Tuesday and runs all week. We have a prompt word, this week's is 'hidden' and we invite anyone who would like to, to submit drabbles (100 word stories) or flashfic (up to 500 words). To play you simply write, post and add your link to the list at the bottom of this post. Anyone can join in and we accept original fic, fanfic or even meta as long as it is inspired by the word of the week.

This is a flashfic for this week's word.

Please be aware I am placing it behind a cut because it has possible triggering subject matter, although there is no actual adult content, simply adult concepts. If reports of child abuse are an issue for you, please do not click into this flash fic. This week I was rather darkly inspired.


Guest Blogging at the A to Z

Hello to one and all, I hope you are all well on this lovely sunny Wednesday.

Today I am lucky enough to have a guest blog up at the wonderful Blogging from A to Z Challenge site.


For those who don't know the A to Z challenge happens yearly in April and all the bloggers who sign up post daily (except for Sundays), utilising each letter of the alphabet in turn. If you would like to see mine just my reflections post with links to all my A to Z posts is here. It's a great way to meet new people.

So, back to my guest post. I have chosen to blog about fanfiction because it is a subject close to my heart and seems to be a very hot topic at the moment. You can find my guest post at the following link.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Fanfic: The Loco of Loki (Avengers 2012, Iron Man, Thor) (Tony/Pepper/Loki) NC17/18

Title: The Loco of Loki
Author: Beren (that's me, Tasha, in my fanfic guise :))
Fandom: Avengers 2012, Iron Man, Thor
Pairing: Tony/Pepper/Loki
Rating: NC17/18
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Marvel et al. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Warnings: SPOILERS for Iron Man 3, vampires
Summary: Tony gets an unexpected visit from Loki when the demi-god is supposed to be safely locked up in Asgard. The thing is he's pretty sure Loki didn't have fangs last time they met.
Author's Notes: I know Marvel has canonical vampires, but I don't read the comics and there haven't been any in the movie-verse so I'm just running with whatever I fancy :). Also, I started writing this before the teaser trailer for Thor 2 came out, so it mostly doesn't gel with that. Thanks to Soph for the beta.
Links to parts: (no login required at any of the sites)
LiveJournal : Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
or
DreamWidth : Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
or
at AO3 (Archive of Our Own)

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Review: Warm Bodies (2013, 12A)

Title: Warm Bodies
Rating: 12A
Cast:
Nicholas Hoult ... R
Teresa Palmer ... Julie
Analeigh Tipton ... Nora
Rob Corddry ... M
Dave Franco ... Perry
John Malkovich ... Grigio

SummaryAfter R (a highly unusual zombie) saves Julie from an attack, the two form a relationship that sets in motion a sequence of events that might transform the entire lifeless world.

This is a brilliant film and anyone who says any different is fibbing :). I missed this when it was at the cinema because it came out at the same time as a whole bunch of other films I wanted to see, so as soon as it came out on blu-ray I snapped it up. I am so glad I did. Now I can watch the funny, thought provoking and touching film over and over again.

I'm not really a huge zombie movie fan because they tend to be something of a downer, what with there usually being a zombie apocalypse and everything. Warm Bodies is actually the opposite - it is a very uplifting story. It's also a romance ... and don't go ewwww - it so works.

The first half of the movie has some genius comedy as well as being just a little bit brutal. This isn't a movie about the zombie apocalypse happening - it's already done that and we come in where the zombies are wandering freely and the living humans are behind a wall in the middle of the city. What's going on in the rest of the world we aren't told, but there are no planes in the sky (there is a conversation to confirm this) so it looks like the whole world is gone.

R lives at the airport, where a lot of the zombies seem to gather. He doesn't remember his name, only that it began with R and he doesn't remember who he was. He has his own place in an old plane where he hoards things he collects when they go into the city to hunt. However, he does kind of remember being human and his internal monologue is absolutely brilliant. Nicholas Hoult plays him so very, very well and there is this quite animated mental voice and slow zombie body. It's brilliantly done actually, because at the beginning of the film R can barely speak, as proved when he meets his best friend M (for a very zombie interpretation of best friend) and they grunt at each other (their sum total of communication), so his inner voice gives us all the information.

There are also two types of zombie, R's kind and those who have given up and become bonies. As you can see in the picture they are nasty. Basically a zombie like R rips their skin off and you get a bony. These are a brilliant plot device to give you the bad guys, not that R's lot are nice, they still eat people, but as he says, at least he's conflicted about it.

Nora, R and Julie (after they've made him up to look alive)
Then you have Julie (and to my shame it did take me 'til the end of the movie to put R and Julie together and get the Romeo and Juliet reference) who is the daughter of Grigio, the man who organised and saved the living population of the city. He's a bit focused and her boyfriend, Perry, seems to want to emulate him. Julie is fierce in her own right and it's a romance, but she does not suddenly fall into R's arms. He protects her from the hordes by making her smell like a zombie, but give her a weapon and she's quite capable of protecting herself except when she's hideously out numbered.

This film has a very dry wit. You'd think to make a zombie sympathetic you'd have to make them not a zombie, but to begin with R is a little unusual, but he's still definitely a zombie. He's dead, he eats brains (and the reason for that is another stroke of genius which I am not going to reveal) and it's only his connection with Juile that starts to change him. The movie takes you on that journey with him as he dodges the risk of being shot in the head and the bonies.

The cast is brilliant, the effects are good, the plot is absolutely amazing (I am going to have to look up the book by Isaac Marion) and I utterly, utterly love it. Who knew you could make a feel good zombie romantic comedy with some horror on the side?

Monday, 17 June 2013

Recipe: Low Fat Chilli

This is my own recipe, based off a standard chilli con carne recipe. I came up with it because I wanted something substantial, that was low fat so I could have it on my fast days for the 5:2 diet. This can be made so it is vegetarian, although I use Worcestershire Sauce so my version isn't.

Low Fat Chilli
Ingredients (serves 2 ~225 kCal per person)

  • 200g Quorn Mince (210 kCal)
  • 1/2 can Red Kidney Beans (200g) (112 kCal)
  • 1/2 can chopped tomatoes (200g) (32 kCal)
  • 1 small onion (chopped) (~28 kCal)
  • 1 carrot (grated) (~25 kCal)
  • ~1/2 punnet of mushrooms (sliced) (~20 kCal)
  • 200 ml veg stock (you can use beef stock if you prefer) (~20 kCal)
  • 1 tspn mild chilli powder (you can add hot chilli powder or chilli flakes if you like it hotter)
  • a dash of Worcestershire Sauce (for vegetarian version use something like Soy sauce)
  • spritze of oil (~5 kCal)
Instructions
  1. Spray the bottom of a sauce pan with a spritze of oil.
  2. Add the chopped onion and cook on low with the lid on until it has softened.
  3. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are also going soft.
  4. Take out just over half the mushrooms and set aside for later.
  5. Add the tomatoes, stock, chilli powder and Worcestershire sauce and bring to the boil.
  6. Take off the heat and blitz to a smooth sauce with a hand blender (you can miss out this step if you like it chunky, but I find it makes for a much thicker chilli this way).
  7. Return to the heat, add the reserved mushroom, kidney beans, Quorn and carrot. Cook for about 20 mins.

For the light option serve with a green vegetable like kale or broccoli, or a green salad.

If you're not worried about the calories you can serve it with rice or bread and a handful of grated cheese :).

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Heroes and Villains Blog Hop

Welcome to my post for the Heroes and Villains Blog Hop, I do hope you enjoy my selection. If you click the link or the image you will be taken to the master post for the hop run by Dani and Jackie.

First the Villain

So I really have to wax lyrical about my favourite villain, but before I do I have to say, I'm not usually into villains. I can appreciate a good one, but they are very rarely my favourite character. This gentlemen is definitely my favourite, hands down, without any competition.

The villain I am talking about is Loki of Asgard, adopted son of Odin and true son of Laufey, of the Avengers movie universe.


We first meet Loki in the film Thor. Now I am not going to lie, the first time I saw Thor I was not impressed, in fact I complained about it on my LJ, but the second time I saw it I realised something fundamental, I had been paying attention to the wrong brother. King of ironic given the overall plot of Thor.

In mythology Loki is the trickster god and he is the trickster in Thor as well. He is the younger brother, the shadow to Thor's heart winning bravado, and the brains of the operation. Thor is not an imbecile by any means, but he is brash, loud, proud and a bit of a tit at the beginning of the movie. Thor ends up banished, Loki finds out he's adopted and a Jotun (Asgard's ancient enemy) and winds up king, because Odin falls into Odinsleep and you can just tell that's not going to end well.


What I love about Loki is how broken he is. In Thor he could have become a laughing lunatic (which if you look at the original script is how he was written), but he doesn't, he just breaks more. He is the lost son trying to prove he is worthy, even if he goes about it in entirely the wrong way. Loki's actions ultimately make Thor a better person and at each point, if one thing had been different, Loki could almost have come out the good guy.

It also helps that he's played by Tom Hiddleston who is one of my favourite two actors ever (check out my Tom Hiddleston label to find out why). Tom's range and love for the character is what makes Loki so engaging to watch. Loki has depth and it's impossible to simply hate him no matter how bad he gets. Tom is also gorgeous, which helps :).

Loki's second outing comes in The Avengers and he's changed a bit by then. We're never shown quite what happened to him as he fell through the void or everything the Chitauri did or did not do to him, but he's more than a little crazy.

Personally I think a lot of the Loki we see in The Avengers is an act. The plan was too complicated and too full of holes to actually be viable and I'm a firm believer he wanted away from the Chitauri and back to Asgard and attacking Midgard was a good way to do it.

That's not to say he's still not more than a little cracked. He kills lots of humans and doesn't seem to give a damn about it. Loki is way over the line and a long way down the path to becoming the creature of chaos he's supposed to be. However, even after all he does he's still my favourite character. He has moments where there is sanity in his eyes, moments when Thor's words almost get to him.

I think Loki is playing the long game and I can only hope the movies continue to build his character in Thor 2: The Dark World, coming in November. Here's a little piece of artwork I did just after The Muppets came out and Tom Hiddleston raved about the movie on Twitter - since Tom's going to be in the next Muppet movie I think it's doubly relevant :).


Now to the Heroes

I can't choose just one for this, so I am going to list a few :).

Thor

I couldn't really have Loki without Thor and I think he's an idiot in the beginning of the movie that bears his name, but then that's the point. The way Thor grows as a character is superb and I love him in his own movies and in The Avengers.

He is loyal and brave and courageous; he loves deeply, will walk through hell for his friends and he's awfully pretty as well. I am very much looking forward to seeing the more mature Thor in The Dark World.
Aragorn

He's my favourite character from the Lord of the Rings movies. He's handsome, brave and downright badass through the whole thing.

What I find amusing is that I don't really fancy him when he's dolled up as king, I prefer the scruffy ranger hands down :). He's also the crossover character, the one who is human, only not quite and I love that about him. I really wish Tolkien hadn't written the appendix about him and Arwen, because they have such a fabulous romance.
Buffy

How could I have a list of heroes without Buffy? She was a revolution and a truly great character. The fact that she is not perfect, she is not the ultimate brain as well as being the ultimate slayer.

I love her for her faults and for her strengths. She's a teenager and she acts like one. Sometimes she sulks and yet at other times she shows more bravery than most people could ever imagine. She is strong yet vulnerable and she is always ready with a one liners.
Black Widow

I'm not totally obsessed with Marvel, promise, but I couldn't leave out Black Widow. This is one woman who can take on gods and win. She is totally awesome and she has no super powers. Her abilities are human and so well honed that she is a master assassin.

In a fight you want this woman to have your back.
Sapphire and Steel

These two are from an British 80s TV show and are an integral part of my childhood. They are agents of an unknown force for good and are elements as their names suggest. Some might say they are not heroes, but if Black Widow counts so do these two. They prevent destruction when time breaks through into the real world causing all sorts of supernatural events. If you have never seen this show and you enjoy sci-fi with a touch of paranormal that will scar you for life, this is the show for you. They keep talking about a remake and I think it would be really good.

Belgarion

This boy is from The Belgariad by David Eddings and I so, so, so love him as a character. He is just a boy dragged into events he cannot understand; in his case, the ongoing war between Light and Dark that has been raging for millennia with gods and wizards and demons and devils. The Belgariad is by far and away one of my favourite book series of all time. When he turns out to be far more than just a orphan farm boy it's not a surprise, but it is perfectly done and still he's more confused than competent. He faces a destiny that would scare the bravest warrior and he really doesn't know how to be a hero.

I could go on, I have so many favourites, but I'll stop here. Thank you very much for reading. I look forward to seeing everyone else's choices in the hop.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Den of Eek! eBook in aid of Geeks vs Cancer now available

Last year I was lucky enough to take part in Den of Eek, run by the lovely people at Den of Geek. This was a live evening with twelve authors (3 of us from a competition Den of Geek ran, the others established writers) reading aloud their works of horror written specifically for the event in aid of the Geeks vs Cancer appeal.

All of those stories have now been put into an eBook, which is also being sold for Geeks vs Cancer appeal.


The link above goes to Den of Geek's post all about the book with links where to buy it. This is a great cause and all the stories were fabulous so it's a great book too :).

Authors:
Clayton Littlewood
Leila Johnston
CJ Lines
Sarah Pinborough
Natasha Duncan-Drake (me :))
James Moran
Mary Hamilton
Joff Brown
Neil Jones
James Brogden
Johannes Roberts
Kevin McNally

Review: Byzantium - Vampires and blood, but really very little gore.

Title: Byzantium
Cast:
Saoirse Ronan ... Eleanor
Gemma Arterton ... Clara
Sam Riley ... Darvell
Caleb Landry Jones ... Frank
Daniel Mays ... Noel
Jonny Lee Miller ... Ruthven
Summary:
Eleanor and her mother Clara flee from their run down flat to an off season coastal resort town when the past starts to catch up with them. Clara support herself and her daughter the only way she knows how, using her body, but she meets Noel, the lonely owner of the one time grand, but now run-down guesthouse, Byzantium and she and Eleanor move in. Meanwhile Eleanor meets Frank and wants to reveal her long kept secret; she will be sixteen forever and she and Clara are over 200 years old, surviving on human blood. However, they have not run far enough as the past meets the present.

First of all I have to say this was not the film I thought it was going to be. From what I had seen about it I expected it to be more action packed. That being said I really enjoyed it. This is not a teen vampire film; it has a little teen angst, but it deals with very adult themes and is much more character driven than action or lots of plot or romance. I would call it a literary fiction vampire movie, rather than a genre vampire movie, although it has aspects of both. Now I don't usually like literary fiction type things, but this I thought had just enough action to keep me interested.

The characters are superb. There was not one actor in the film who didn't carry off their role, from Gemma Arterton as the practical and sometimes desperate Clara to Jonny Lee Miller as the arse of a man Ruthven, they all did superbly. There were a couple of characters that weren't fleshed out at all, but I still think they held up for what they were there for.

Let's start with Gemma as Clara. The first thing you see Clara doing in the film is lap dancing and that basically underlines her whole character. She uses her body to make money because that is all she knows and she will do anything to support her daughter.

Towards the beginning one of the other characters says something along the lines of 'All these years and you have learned nothing' and it seems sadly true in some ways. Clara survives and tries to be the best mother she can, but her life seems stuck in a cycle. Gemma brings all the desperation and raw love and pure survival instinct of Clara to the screen so very well. She was outstanding.

Then we have Saoirse as Eleanor, a much quieter character. Eleanor was brought up to be a good girl, to tell the truth and to be honest and pure. She is the opposite to her mother and she longs to be able to tell her secret.

She is in no way pathetic; she accepts who she is, but Saoirse shows us the longing in Eleanor so well. She tries to stay away from Frank because she knows she can never make connections, but fate brings them back together. It is only over time she succumbs to the temptation to tell him her secret.

Noel, Darvell, Frank and Ruthven are also well written and well acted characters. I connected with them all and wanted to know more about them, which is always a good sign.

The plot was also original and highly interesting. The vampire parts were different, especially the way they became vampires and the whole setup was beautifully done.


That being said, I do think the film suffered from errors in pacing. I was never bored, but there is a lot of the movie where nothing really happens.

The film starts with a bang, there is angst, tension and excitement, but that's only the first ten mins or so. Once Clara and Eleanor reach the seaside the film kind of just bobs along. There are small flashbacks, but really the audience isn't given huge amounts of information until the last twenty mins of the film. The film ends with as much of a bang as it began and I think they could make an absolutely stunning sequel, but I doubt they will.

The whole premise is that it's kind of from Eleanor's perspective and there are things Clara hasn't told her daughter so the audience don't get to know them either. Then at the end we have a point of view change and we get Clara's missing pieces and it's huge. I think there should have been more flashbacks and more detail in them about how Clara and Eleanor came to be. It would have given a little more tension without being thoroughly annoying and could have moved the middle section of the film along a bit.

The bad guys are menacing, but I think if we'd had a bit more about them they would have been more so and then the excitement would have been higher even if the reveal was still left to the end.

I would definitely watch Byzantium again and I will be purchasing the blu-ray when it eventually appears. This is a good film. I recommend it to vampire fans.