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.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Battle of the Planets - Ah the Rose Tinted Goggles of Nostalgia - #FanFriday 15


Welcome to Fan Fridays 15 and a trip back to my childhood :). Hope you enjoy the post.

Battle of the Planets
Ah the Rose Tinted Goggles of Nostalgia

Now I know that Battle of the Planets was a hacked around version of the Japanese Gatchaman and the US producers kind of wrecked it, but I still absolutely adored this cartoon as a child. If I had to miss G-Force blasting off in their Fiery Phoenix for any reason, there was major trouble. It was often the cartoon show along with Why Don't You during the school holidays.

I have gently looked back into the series in the recent past, but lets just say, it's best left in my memory, I think :). For a start 7-Zar-Z is so incredibly annoying and the animation in his parts so utterly terrible that I have no idea how we put up with it as kids, but we did. I suppose condescending robots are less annoying when you are seven!

This is the cartoon that really addicted  me to animation. I loved Scooby Doo as well, but nothing compared to Battle of the Planets.

The gist of the series is the Mark, Princess, Tiny, Keyop and Jason are a group of five young people with superpowers who protect the Earth from the planet Spectra and the evil Zoltar.

Not gonna lie, I always fancied Mark. He was the strong leader all in white. The ultimate hero and typical knight on a white steed, or in this case white plane.

At school we all loved the whole transformation bit, where they would bring their wrists in front of their faces and say "Transmute" to go from normal people to being G-Force. Mark always seemed to be sitting in his plane when that happened. I have very fond memories of all of us having our coats only done up by one button around our necks and dashing around the playground playing G-Force.

These days I think I might be more likely to go for Jason, who was a bit of a bad boy :).

G-Force had a space ship called The Phoenix and Tiny was in charge of flying it, while all the others also had other vehicles that could be separated from it.
  • Mark had a jet, as I have already mentioned, which was very fast and sleek.
  • Princess had a very futuristic motorcycle.
  • Jason had a weaponised racing car (I did mention he was the bad boy, yes? :)).
  • Keyop has an all terrain vehicle, which according to Wikipedia was called a Space Bubble.
The Phoenix was no ordinary space craft either. It was capable of becoming the Fiery Phoenix, which was a flaming ship that could save them from just about anything.

I honestly don't remember any of the plots of Battle of the Planets, just G-Force kicking butt and Zoltar forever losing. As a child it fired my imagination just like Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk. It may seem a bit terrible looking back at it, but when I was a pre-teen it was THE BEST EVER! Because of that it will always hold a special place in my heart.

Do you have any fondly remembered cartoons from your childhood? Do they hold up or are they as cringe-worthy as Battle of the Planets? :)

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Guest: Rachael Ritchey - The Captive Hope Blog Tour, #WriterlyWednesdays 20


Please join me today in welcoming Rachael Ritchey to my blog on the blog tour for her exciting new book The Captive Hope. There is also a competition, so don't forget to enter.

Rachael Ritchey
The Captive Hope Blog Tour

Captive Hope is the second book in a series of magical realism. It follows a minor character from book one, The Beauty Thief. Lady Idra’s story actually came about because in book one, to my utter surprise, one of the guardsmen fell for her.

 He refuses to tell her because he thinks himself below her, but the feeling just won’t be shaken. Idra is completely clueless about his esteem, but she’s is smitten with him, too.

Shyness and duty work wonders at keeping her from dwelling on what she doesn’t have . . . most of the time. She cannot forget the life to which she was raised: service to her cousin, the future High Queen of all the realms. It sounds bleak, but she loves Princess Caityn like one of her own sisters. Still, it leaves her lonely and dissatisfied with her life.

But in the story, things are about to change, and possibly not for the better.

As you can tell from the title, hope is an underlying theme throughout the entire book. It is a driving force for both good and evil; though only for good does it ever amount to anything. Hope is also what sets the captive free. I wanted to write Idra’s story—along with some others—in this book because hope and redemption are such strong themes in my own life.

Never give up hope. Take it captive.

~*~
Book Details

The Captive Hope by Rachael Ritchey

The Twelve Realms seems an idyllic nation, but behind locked doors there are sinister powers at work. Not even the royal family of High Castle is outside their reach, and Lady Idra has unwittingly placed herself in the crosshairs of a shrewd mercenary.

Idra is noble by birth and lady-in-waiting to the future High Queen of the Twelve Realms. Yet she’s unaware of her true value and strength. From her youth she has been pledged in service to the crown, and though accepting of her duty, she inwardly longs for more. But in her wildest dreams Idra never imagined the terrible future devised for her by forces unknown.

Sir Ahmad, a knight of the realms, admires Lady Idra from afar. But when he finally has the courage to tell her, it may be too late. He could lose Idra forever because of one man’s devious ploy to gain revenge and riches by her ruin. If an ocean stands between them, will all hope be lost?

Book Links

Excerpt
Zaide pressed the door closed behind them, and Noreeta jumped when she heard the lock click into place. She spun around in time to see him slink toward her as if he were a beast and she his prey. She was content to be devoured by him and stood her ground forgetting for a brief moment why she’d come. His promises, his masculinity, and his charm had all worked their way into her heart.

“Well, my dear, what news do you have to share with me about Idra? Did you make all the preparations and unlock the necessary doors?”

“Not exactly.” She squeezed the key in her pocket, her thoughts turning morose.

Noreeta couldn’t ignore the storm brewing behind Zaide’s glassy stare. She knew it wouldn’t be held off for long. She wiggled under his scrutiny.

“What do you mean, ‘not exactly?’ It shouldn’t have been difficult to accomplish. We are prepared to move tonight to finish the job. With Dante and his men well away, it is the best time to act.”

“I mean a better option has come along.” Noreeta held up her hands in entreaty. “Please don’t be angry, Zaide. If you don’t like the idea, there is still a chance I can clear the path.”

“A chance, woman? I’m listening, but it had better be good.”

She swallowed hard. It wasn’t exactly that she was worried he would hurt her, but there was this lingering feeling of unease every time he looked at her like that. She didn’t know why it frightened her so much.

Noreeta touched her damp hair, fluttering her hands around, unsure where to place them before clutching them in her skirts.

“Well, Zaide my love, Lady Idra hasn’t been sleeping in her own room since the king and prince left. She sleeps in Princess Caityn’s salon. It would be a terrible risk to break in there. But I have good news.” She took a deep breath and plowed ahead. “Idra is to travel with an escort to Taisce. Tomorrow morning. They’ll take the main road to her family’s estate.

“I heard their whole plan. What I was thinking was that it would be easier to do away with her not in High Castle.”

Noreeta’s hands flapped while she spoke, her nerves getting the better of her. If only he’d smile at her; it would be reassuring. She cleared her throat.

“It would mean you’d have to . . . do something with her escort. But, my dearest, you’d be better protected and have less chance of discovery not being within the walls.” Noreeta held her breath and waited while he considered her rushed chatter.
~*~
Giveaway
Join Rachael's newsletter for a chance to win (click here to go to the sign-up form):
  • 1st: ebook of Captive Hope & choice of one from a host author 
  • 2nd: ebooks of Captive Hope & The Beauty Thief 
  • 3rd: ebook of Captive Hope 
~*~
Author Details
Rachael Ritchey is the author of the Chronicles of the Twelve Realms, a YA fantasy fiction series set in a medieval era. Her passion for writing stems from her appreciation of history, since our world is built on stories, true and imagined. Rachael writes with teens in mind, because she wants her own kids to be proud of her work and be able to share it with their friends. She’s a wife and a mom to four amazing kids. Rachael and her family live in Eastern Washington where there’s plenty of inspiration to dream up exotic worlds, both real and fantastical.

Rachael's Links

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Go sign up for the AtoZChallenge 2016 - #TipsTuesdays 20


So the AtoZChallenge has opened for signups for this year and I cannot encourage you more to sign up if you are a blogger. There are already 329 blogs signed up as of this morning and there will be many, many more by April, which is when the challenge runs.

What, I hear you ask, is the AtoZChallenge?
Wittegen Press
$3.29 | £2.19
Amazon | Other

It is very simple, during April you post one post a day (apart from Sundays) using a letter of the alphabet as your starting point, so 1st is A, 2nd is B etc.

This post is my set of tips for a less stressful AtoZChallenge, but they might not work for everyone, so be prepared to go your own way too, That's what's so great about the AtoZ - the diversity :).

Which brings me to Tip #1: Have a theme.

You can blog randomly by letter if you want to, I did my first year, but it works so much better if you have a theme. There are several advantages:
  • You can join in the theme reveal blogfest too, signups are from Feb 22nd and the actual fest is on 21st March. This will get people interested in visiting you blog.
  • A good theme can stick in people's minds and keep them coming back for more.
  • It actually makes it easier to come up with ideas for each day.
Tip #2: Prepare in advance

I cannot stress how much this will make your life easier. I always try to have all my posts scheduled before April even begins.
  • Firstly this will stop the mad panic each day of trying to figure out what to write.
  • It will prevent you accidentally missing a day because offline life jumps up to bite you.
  • It will give you more time to visit other blogs in the hop.
Tip #3: Don't make your posts too long

I know for a lot of us it seems that more is better, but not in this case. Because the AtoZ is so big people don't have huge amounts of time to spend on every blog. Hence:
  • Grab your audience in the first paragraph (this is good advice anyway :)).
  • Don't have huge numbers of words - unless it's utterly gripping people won't read it all anyway.
  • Throw in some images if you can.
  • Use short paragraphs and bullet points to catch the eye when appropriate.
In other words, make your posts eyecatching and easy to read quickly.

Tip #4: During the AtoZ visit lots of Blogs and Comment

Wittegen Press
$2.99 | £1.99
Amazon | Other
This will be my fourth year doing the AtoZ and every year I meet so many lovely people. And not just for the duration of the blog hop either - some become year long blogging friends. I find the best way to keep up is to stay organised. Now I am going to list what I do and you'll probably think it's mental, but it saves me a hell of a lot of time :).
  • Day 1 I create a spreadsheet by copying the signup list and turning it into a list of blog names in Excel down the page with blog list numbers (these numbers can occasionally change thanks to blogs being removed by mods, but gives an idea of where in the list the blogs are from) and the days of the fest across the top.
  • As I visit a blog (it is good practice to start from your own blog and work down the list if you are not near the top) I add in the URL to another col (for ease of revisiting) and then mark off that I visited in the col for the day.
  • If they visit back I also mark that in the day col too (I use v for visited and cb for comment back :)).
  • I also have a col for ranking the blog from 1-5, 1 being I must visit this blog every day to 5 being, nice blog, but not for me.
  • Then every day I resort the spreadsheet using the rankings so I have the must revisits and so forth at the top.
  • The first day I try to visit as many blogs as I can and every day after that I try to visit at least 10 new blogs as well as the ones I have been to before that I need to revisit.
I have to admit sometimes the difference between a 1 and a 3 is simply a comment back because there are so many wonderful blogs to read in this fest, I am not kidding. It's easy to lose days!

The AtoZChallenge is a lot of work and I suggest you read their FAQ as well, but it is so worth it. You'll make new friends, your blog following will grow and you'll have a great time. If you don't believe me go read this post about Six Benefits of the A to Z Challenge.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Witches - The Fictional Kind #MonsterMondays 31


Welcome to MonsterMondays 31 and today I am going all fairy tale for my monster of the week, with witches. Not the real kind, I have several friends who are very nice witches, I'm talking about the evil ones of bedtime stories.

Witches
The Fictional Kind

Now I do realise the idea of witches have been used to persecute (mostly) women for many centuries, but today I am interested in the fiction kind. The ones I loved to hate as a child in the fairy stories that were some of my favourite bedtime reading.

Wittegen Press
$3.29 | £2.46
Amazon | Other
My husband and I saw "The Last Witch Hunter" recently and I'm not really sure why it didn't do better on it's general release. I found it highly entertaining and with interesting baddies. Just in case you are wondering, witches in this movie are not all bad, they are simply another species living among humans. Their queen once tried to wipe out humanity with the black plague because she saw us as invaders. Now witches and humans live in peace with Kaulder (Vin Diesel), the immortal witch hunter, keeping order.

I think it needed to be a longer film with more background, but the evil witches were superb monsters. Just as the non-evil ones were great as well.
Julie Engelbrecht as the Witch Queen
Other evil witches that I love from film are those in "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters". Famke Janssen plays the very, very bad Muriel, the head witch and she is deliciously evil. This is not a film that pulls any punches and it earns its 15 rating. There are no grey areas about good and evil here, Hansel and Gretel are good, the witches are bad and eat children. In this film Hansel and Gretel are all grown up and have used their childhood trauma to create careers, where they destroy witches that are attacking communities. I really hope they make number 2 soon.
Famke Janssen as Muriel
Wittegen Press
$2.99 | £1.99
Amazon | Other
Hansel and Gretel was always one of my favourite fairy tales. I loved the story of the lost children and the gingerbread house and them outwitting the witch who is trying to eat them. It is, of course, the ultimate good, the innocence of children, against the ultimate evil, a person who wishes to kill them and consume them. An epic battle played out in a house of sweets. I may also have liked the idea of an edible house quite a lot too :).

"The Witches" is another classic with irredemably evil women who like to do nasty things to children. Anjelica Huston is simply brilliant as the Grand High Witch. This is another children againt witches tale, as many great fairy tales are, and in this one two boys who are turned into mice must stop a convention of witches from doing the same to all the children around the world.
Angelica Huston as the Grand High Witch
In childrens versions of fairy tales the good and evil is usually very clear and sometimes I find this very enjoyable. Human beings are very complex creatures and there are many grey areas and, just occasionally, it's fun not to have to worry about that. Goodies are good, baddies are bad and that is that :).

Who is you favourite evil, fictional witch?

Sunday, 24 January 2016

New Cover for The Machine - Rise of the Gifted


So I never did get round to writing a blog post for Friday, sorry. That's because I was working on the new cover for "The Machine". Finally finished it yesterday.


Thank you to everyone who voted on the other two versions of the cover. As you can see I've stuck with the overall design, but it's changed in the details and positioning :). After staring at the previous version for some times I decided the details were getting lost and it didn't quite give the message I wanted. Hence this new version with some photo-realistic detail.

So, does it grab you and does it say "telepathic figure skaters"?

The Machine
Rise of the Gifted

COMING SOON

Rafe used to be a world-class, British figure skater competing against his arch rival, flamboyant American Louis Hayes. A catastrophic knee injury ended his career and now all he can do is look on from the sidelines. He thinks he hates Louis and wants nothing more than to see his nemesis go down in a blaze of failure.

Then mysterious men in black with guns take over a press meet, trying to arrest Louis, awakening something dangerous in their target, and setting in motion events they cannot control. Most shocking of all, Rafe finds out Louis can literally read his mind.

Dragged into a murky world of government agents and x-files by one of those x-files, Rafe finds his world view completely changing. And, along the way, his hatred for Louis proves to be something else entirely.

Now Rafe just needs to survive so he can decide what to do about it.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Sorry about the lack of posts this week...

My sincere apologies for the lack of posts this week - it has been one of those weeks.

Everything has just got away from me.

I hope to get back in the swing of thing tomorrow with a Fan Friday post - although I haven't decided what to do it on yet :).

Many thanks for continuing to visit and I hope everyone is well.


Friday, 15 January 2016

Alan Rickman - A Very Splendid Man - #FanFridays 14


Alan Rickman
A Very Splendid Man

To bastardise a quote: to lose one icon may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.

Two much beloved iconic artists gone in one week, at the same age, both from cancer; it is horrible. If I am honest I will miss Alan Rickman much more. David Bowie was a great man and a superb artist, but I feel much more of a connection with Alan Rickman because he has played so many of my favourite characters.

I first saw Alan Rickman as the odious Mr Slope in Barchester Chronicles and my love for him has only grown since.

He was an actor who seemed to be able to take on any kind of part; villain, hero, comic relief, and make such a stamp on it that it was impossible to take your eyes off him while he was on screen. I regret that I was never able to see him on stage.

He turned down the role of the Sheriff of Nottingham twice in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves before being allowed to take the character in his own direction, according to Wikipedia. Thank god for that, because he makes that film. His Sheriff is just fantastic and evil, as well as being sexy even when he's being horrible.

I know I didn't see Die Hard until quite a long time after it was originally released, probably when they first showed it on TV. Of course I rooted for the hero, still do, but Hans Gruber is another of Rickman's genius roles. I read somewhere yesterday, that apparently they were going to have him in all this tactical gear to begin with, but he suggested the suit. It seems Alan Rickman is the reason for the greatness of many of his roles not only for his acting ability, but because of the suggestions he made as well.

So there you have some superb villains, but he was so versatile he wasn't limited to bad guys. He also played the comic relief; I love him in The January Man as Ed, the eccentric artist who takes over Nick's (Kevin Kline) apartment whenever he feels like it because the light is better.

Of course there is Alexander Dane in Galaxy Quest where he's playing an actor who makes his living pretending to be the alien Dr Lazarus of Tev'Mack. He is something of the straight man, the foil for Tim Allen's Jason Nesmith, and he is brilliant. My husband and I watched Galaxy Quest again last night because it won the toss between it, Die Hard and Prince of Thieves.

Here he plays a caricature of himself playing an alien who helps a real alien race save their species. Brilliance!
Then there is the romantic lead that makes you cry in Truly, Madly, Deeply where Rickman plays Jamie, a cellist who returns as a ghost to help his girlfriend, as played by Juliet Stevenson, get over his death. It is an amazing film and Rickman is amazing in it.

I don't think there was a role Alan Rickman couldn't play. I think if he had been given an action hero he would have pulled it off. He definitely managed to be the villain to the hero enough times.

And of course I cannot begin to complete my list of my favourites of his roles without mentioning the tortured Professor Snape. Really he was far too old for the role, Snape was supposed to be much younger, but who could have played it better? He single handedly launched the Snape fandom into the huge expanse it is now.

Given the Harry Potter fandom I have no doubt there would have been much meta written about such a pivotal character anyway, but there is no doubt that Alan Rickman is the reason for a hell of a lot of the fanfiction.

Alan Rickman was a great actor and from all I have seen written about him, an amazing man and good friend to all those he knew as well. He leaves behind a superb legacy and my heart goes out to his family.

Thank you Alan for sharing your talent with us. Thank you for taking us on so many wonderful journeys be it to cheer your characters on or to gnash our teeth at their nastiness. May you rest in peace.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

The Machine - Which Cover Do You Like Best? A Poll


So I have a new book The Machine, Rise of the Gifted almost ready for publishing, but I have a dilemma, I don't know which cover to use. Hence I come to you, my friends, to ask your advice. The genre is SciFi/Gay Romance with telepaths and figure skaters - I kid you not :).

~*~

The Machine, Rise of the Gifted (Preliminary Blurb)

Rafe used to be a world class, British figure skater competing against his arch rival, flamboyant American Louis Hayes. A catastrophic knee injury ended his career and now all he can do is look on from the sidelines. He thinks he hates Louis and wants nothing more than to see his nemesis go down in a blaze of failure.

Then mysterious men in black with guns take over a press meet, trying to arrest Louis, awakening something dangerous in their target, and setting in motion events they cannot control. Most shocking of all, Rafe finds out Louis can literally read his mind.

Dragged into a murky world of government agents and x-files by one of those x-files, Rafe finds his world view completely changing. And, along the way, his hatred for Louis proves to be something else entirely.

Now Rafe just needs to survive so he can decide what to do about it.

~*~

I think I'm wavering towards Cover B at the moment, simply because I think it's easier to tell the figure is an ice skater, but the figure in Cover A is very attention grabbing, so I am not sure. Please tell me which one you prefer in the poll and feel free to comment and tell me why if you feel so inclined. Many thanks.
Cover A
Cover B

Which cover do you like best?

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Author Interview: Diane Riggins (Fantasy Author and Blogger)


Today I am very pleased to welcome author and blogger Diane Riggins to my blog. She has very kindly agreed to be interviewed.


Diane Riggins
Interview

Can you tell us a little about yourself? 
Wow, this is hard. What does one say about themselves. :) I guess I would start with how I started writing and that was in high school. I was one of those students that was into art, drama, and writing. I took art and drama classes and belonged to both the art and drama clubs. I continued the arts in college and have a media arts degree with a focus in screenplay writing. I love to play online games and that has led me to start creating games.

Tell us about your book(s).
I published two short stories in 2015. The first one is an urban fantasy story called Town Curse and is included in the Anything Goes Anthology. This was the first story I have ever had published. I’m considering writing a book using the main character from Town Curse. The other story The Loss is an epic fantasy story and was published in December 2015. I consider The Loss to be a prequel to the epic fantasy series I’m working on. It gives readers an introduction to the main character Aleesia. I’m currently working on the epic fantasy series as well as a vampire series, a shapeshifter series, and several more short stories.

How do you come up with blogging topics?
I sit down with my calendar at the beginning of the month and decide what topics I and followers of my blog might be most interested in reading about. I usually try to make sure the topics fall into one of several categories: books, movies, writing, and gaming. I throw personal updates about my writing and what is going on with the game I’m designing in there as well.

What inspired you to start writing in your favourite genre?
I was inspired to start writing fantasy when I sat down and read The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings as an adult. I had read them when I was younger and became a fan but I didn’t know what genre(s) I wanted to write and after reading them again I realized I wanted to write fantasy whether it’s epic or urban.

Do you have a favourite character from your fiction? Why?
This one is hard. I love all of my characters but if I have to pick one it would be Aleesia, the main character from my newest story. I’m having fun writing her story. She is an elf captain in the King’s guard in the story The Loss and is the main character for the fantasy series. She has worked her way up to being in the guard and has to deal with a lot of issues that come with that and what other female elves think of her. She is the only female in the guard. She’s powerful but at the same time can show her sensitive side and she does have doubts about things.

What is the hardest part of a story to write, beginning, middle or end? 
For me, it’s the end. I have a hard time trying to tie everything together. I tend to leave cliffhangers even when there shouldn’t be.

What is your favourite genre to read and why?
My favourite genre to read is fantasy both epic and urban fantasy.  I’ve always loved reading about elves, magic, wizards, witches, etc.

Do you have conversations with your characters?
I try not to but wind up doing it anyway especially if the character keeps drawing my attention to their part in the story.

What is the most random thing you have ever blogged about?
Nothing really comes to mind as being random but I guess it would be some of The Hobbit/Lord of The Rings posts I wrote in 2015. Some of those topics were pretty random.

When do you have the most fun writing a piece of fiction? When you first start? When you are blazing along with the main bulk of the plot? When you are rounding it all up?
It depends on the story I’m working on at the moment. With some of them I have the most fun writing the beginning and others I have fun writing the main bulk of the plot. I have a hard time with rounding it all up with any of the stories I write. Endings are the hardest to write I believe.

Are you a dog or a cat person, why?
I’m both. I’ve always had dogs and cats living in my house at the same time. I have one dog and three cats in my household now and they get along to a certain point. :)

What is your favourite film of all time, why? 
Wow, this one is hard as well. I would have to say it’s The Lord of The Rings trilogy. I can’t pick just one of the films. All three are my favourite. It’s hard to say why they are my favourite but if I have to say why it would be that Middle Earth is brought to life on the big screen in such a great way.

~*~
Books
Town Curse (Anything Goes Anthology, volume 2)
by Diane Riggins

Nathan’s hometown has been cursed for hundreds of years. It’s up to him to break the curse and with some help from friends he might just succeed or die trying.

The Loss
by Diane Riggins

Aleesia, an Elf is a captain in the King’s Guard. She has to do some things she doesn’t want to while trying to protect the King. She will give her life if need to protect those around her.


~*~
About the Author

Diane and her family live in South Carolina with their three dogs and four cats. When she’s not writing she can be found reading her favorite books which include The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and anything paranormal set in the city of New Orleans, playing online games like her favorite one Lord of the Rings Online, watching some of her favorite movies (Fast and Furious Franchise, Harry Potter Franchise, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings) and tv shows (Supernatural, Grimm, Sleepy Hollow, The Originals, and Arrow), and spending time with her family and friends.

Blog: A Creative Mind
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/drigginswriter
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/sjledge2

Monday, 11 January 2016

Jareth, The Monster Who Was Not Really a Monster - #MonsterMondays 30


So I did have a whole other post planned for today, but waking up to the news of the death of David Bowie, another great soul lost to cancer, I, of course, had to change my choice of monster. #RIPDavidBowie

Jareth
The Monster Who Was Not Really a Monster

David Bowie as Jareth, the Goblin King, from Labyrinth
Wittegen Press
$3.29 | £2.46
Amazon | Other
Jareth, on the face of it, is the typical fairy tale villain. He is the monster with the pretty face who steals babies, taking them to his castle beyond the Labyrinth, and commands other monsters. He is callous and cruel and ready to punish any who disobey him ... at least that's what he tries to make out. Only he's not really very good at it.

Jareth is a monster who only does what he is asked and then offers those whose bidding he has done a way out if only they are clever enough.
  • He takes children to his castle, eventually to become goblins, but only when it is requested.
  • Then when those who asked him to take the children complain, he allows them to attempt the Labyrinth to get the children back. The fact no one has managed it, it neither here nor there.
Not really very monsterish. Frankly he kind of lets the side down as far as fairy tale monsters go, but I love him.

The worst he ever actually does is try and dump Hoggle in the bog of eternal stench and then he doesn't even make sure it happens, he just lets gravity have a go.

He's more of a lonely figure in want of love than a true monster, and Bowie makes him incredibly sexy.

At his command are true monsters, although, they're not very evil ones either. Mostly the goblins are incompetent and lacking true malice. They are highly entertaining, however.

Wittegen Press
$2.99 | £1.99
Amazon | Other
The only time Jareth seems really menacing during the film is at the end, in the Escher part of the castle where Sarah is trying to get to Toby. His offhanded control of his power makes him finally seem like a real threat. He even confesses to Sarah that what he really wants is her to love him.

He is a man, yet again, wishing to possess a woman, which is monstrous in itself, but he cannot force her to be his. There are limits to his power.

I have to admit the only monsters in the whole film I find really threatening are ones that I don't think were really supposed to be. The Fire Gang, with all their removal of their heads and trying to take off Sarah's head really freaked me out when I was younger. Still does if I am honest :).

So there you have it, the sexiest monster on my list to date: Jareth in his tight trousers and long boots.

I hope the Goblin King has finally managed to woo Sarah properly and convince her to come with him, back into the Labyrinth and that he is at peace now he has left this world. Good night sweet prince.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

A Cheap, Reliable Media Player and Streaming Solution - Raspberry Pi 2 + Kodi - #TipsTuesdays 19


A Cheap, Reliable Media Player and Streaming Solution
Raspberry Pi 2 + Kodi

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Rob and I have a NAS box for much of our media and we like to be able to watch it on the big screen upstairs. We have been using an Amazon Fire Stick, but that is wireless and has started not to get on with the Sky wireless router - the other night it finally refused to talk to it at all. In fact most things except for the actual Sky box don't seem to get on with the wireless router.

Hence we needed a wired system to view all our stored media. There are off the shelf options, but none of them did everything we wanted or had hang ups we didn't want to deal with.

Our solution, a Raspberry Pi 2 with a Linux install dedicated to Kodi Home Theatre Software, or rather OSMC as the nice people that developed it named it. Rob also bought this remote sized keyboard to control it so we don't have to have a normal keyboard lying around. (The remote is less than stellar, the touch pad is quite awful in fact, I don't recommend it - but there are others out there).

This post here: BUILD A KODI MEDIA PLAYER USING RASPBERRY PI 2 explains exactly how to do it and it works perfectly.

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We tried it out on a Raspberry Pi that Rob had lying around and it also worked, but it was slow because the poor little thing had barely any memory and a tiny processor, hence the reason for the Raspberry Pi 2, which is quad core and has 1Gb RAM.

The good thing about Kodi is that not only does it support almost every media format as well as music and photographs, but it also has plugins that can stream from various sources like iPlayer and the Smithsonian etc.

The only thing that was a little tricky was playing vobs - it has a delay. This is because it's processing the mpeg-2 codec in software not hardware. To get round this you just have to go purchase the hardware mpeg-2 codec from the Raspberry Pi Store for a whopping £2.40 :).

So far we have had it running for nearly a week and it is working really well. We also have other friends who have been using a similar system for quite a while now, with no problems. This is definitely a solution for those who are a little tech savvy, but I had to mention it because it works so well.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Kylo Ren - The Man with the Funky Lightsaber - #MonsterMondays 29


First off a warning - this post contains SPOILERS for The Force Awakens, so many SPOILERS. If you haven't seen the movie and don't want to know, come back when you have :).

So I saw The Force Awakens last week and I loved it and I also loved Kylo Ren, the primary antagonist, so I had to chose him for Monster Mondays 29. I do hope you enjoy the post.


Kylo Ren
The Man with the Funky Lightsaber

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Now I know a lot of people make fun of Kylo Ren, and given the whole scene with the two Stormtroopers who turned around and walked the other way when they realised he was having another tantrum, I think we are supposed to at times. He is not like the calm, controlled, perfectly adult Vader from the original trilogy, he is young and reckless and far too easy to rile up. I have seen him described as the emo kid in Hot Topic and I can see why, but he also clearly has deep emotional problems which I think Adam Driver plays really well.

Kylo Ren is the epitome of too powerful for his own good. He is Anakin Skywalker all over again, only he is terrified of not being as great as his grandfather. Here we have a young man with not only Daddy issues, but Granddaddy issues too. He seems to resent the greatness of his father Han Solo and wants to be his grandfather Darth Vader, while somehow not believing he will ever be quite powerful enough.

He is a monster in that he kills without mercy and yet he admits himself that he still feels the pull towards the light. Just like Vader there is still good in him.

I really wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't have a redemption arc coming his way in the subsequent films.

Yes he killed his own father, but the question is, will that help him go completely dark, or will it, in fact, turn him back towards the light. We all know that when people connected with Jedi die they have a tendency to come back even stronger and glowing. Yes Han isn't a Jedi, but he and Leia produced a very Force powerful son, so the likelihood is that he could easily hang on. Also we saw Han skewered and he fell off the bridge and Leia felt his pain, but this is Sci-Fi, we didn't see a body, he could pop back up at any moment as far as I'm concerned :).

I think Kylo Ren is a great bad guy and I love his tantrums. He was also part of the greatest scene in the film in my opinion, the interrogation scene with Rey. They both play off each other so well and Ren's growing doubt against Rey's growing confidence is just wonderful. Then there's their fight scene at the end which is also brilliantly done.

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I look forward to seeing much more of Kylo Ren in future films. I suspect he's going to be badder than bad in the next one, even more of a monster. After all we did find out at the end of the film that his training isn't actually complete. He definitely inherited the Skywalker drama gene if nothing else :).

So what did you all think of Kylo Ren?