November 29, 2014

"Mockingjay (Part 1)" Spoiler-Free Review

I am not a big fan of young adult material, all that much. I've read, and enjoyed all seven of the Harry Potter books, and also enjoyed the films. There have been a few other YA books and movies since (and during) that, intentional or not, have tried to recreate (or 'cash-in', depending on your viewpoint) that level of quality, immersion and sizeable fanbase. 

I believe that The Hunger Games while possibly not the 'next' Harry Potter, is possibly the best young adult books (and films) since. 

I was pleasantly surprised after reading the first book (and the rest of the trilogy) by the the story, as well as the fact that I enjoyed it as much as I did. 

I was also surprised by the first film (as I was with a few of the Harry Potter films) that a movie this good could come from YA literature - it is a force to be reckoned with, that genre. Without a doubt, Jennifer Lawrence is the best aspect of that first film. 

And, the same goes with Catching Fire, the second installment. For the most part, they improved on The Hunger Games. But now, we approach the end of the franchise. 

First things first. You see 'Part 1' in this review, on posters etc...etc... that is because, like Harry Potter, they have split the finale into two films. So, really, I will let you know how much I enjoyed this film(s) next November. Just kidding. While reading the final book, I thought "this is going to be a long movie, or lots will be cut out, or both." (this was before the announcement that the finale would be a two-parter). So, I was glad that the last book got two films. There is quite a bit that goes on 'behind the scenes' or 'off the page' that warrants a split, dollar figures aside. It seems right that it got two films, the same way that Deathly Hallows, the ending of Harry Potter, did. The decision did not seem to boggle the mind like the ending of Twilight did (why was that two movies? Pure and simple, money, nothing to do with narrative.). My thoughts on The Hobbit getting three films is for another post, though I support it: expanded narrative etc. But anyway...  

The film basically picks up right where Catching Fire left off. In the future, I am sure people will be having four-movie marathons after next year's finale, but I would suggest brushing up on the Catching Fire story shortly before seeing this one. To not waste time, to my joy, there was not much 'recapping'. The film is more drama based than the other entries. It is more on the political side of the rebellion. Because of that, one could argue against the two-movie split, especially due to the 2 hour runtime (make it longer, or close to three hours than you could fit everything in. Then again, things may have had to get cut out of a single-movie Mockingjay to maximize theatrical potential) however it may have felt crammed or rushed, like the Goblet of Fire film did as an adaptation.

The acting is pretty good for a YA film. There are great moments throughout the series and this film, but special mention goes to the " is catching! And if we burn, you burn with us!" speech, due the power and emotion Lawrence gives it.

The film ultimately spends about 2 hours to set things up for the finale, Mockingjay (Part 2) due next November. To quote another franchise: "The board is set...the pieces are moving." People who have read the book will definitely appreciate the split to stay more faithful to the source text; to include the non-Katniss scenes. Non readers may not be as 'forgiving', 'accepting' of the split. I have high hopes that next year, when the saga closes, that it will be worth it. 

I will close by saying that I am glad these films have turned out so well in terms of quality. They may not be nominated for any Oscars or high-end prestige awards; but it is safe to say that The Hunger Games on the whole will appear on many favourites, and I think this is one of the year's better films. I hunger for next year's installment, the finale - Mockingjay (Part 2)

By the way - the film ends with Katniss finding out what Snow meant when he said "It's the things we love the most, that destroy us."

(next year I'll review Part 2 on it's own, as well as the film series as a whole)


November 25, 2014

Do Not Weep For the End

"End? No, the journey doesn't end here"

It is now less than a month to go before myself (and my eight companions) see The Hobbit (Part 3), the last Peter Jackson Middle-earth film in cinemas.

Online, when it comes to the comments users have posted for posters, trailers, etc. they mention 'the end' and they oft refer to Gandalf and Pippin talking about death. 

Like Gandalf, I am here to tell you that this is not, indeed, the end. 

So once you see the final Hobbit film, there are some things you could do:

- see it again! If anybody could not make it out to see it with you, offer to take them, or join their group. 
- watch previous Middle-earth films
- look forward to The Hobbit (Part 3) Extended Edition (or, in my case, the 2D blu-ray trilogy box set; both of which should arrive next November) 
- read some Tolkien (The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales to understand and appreciate why The Hobbit is three movies) 
- read some MORE Tolkien (Children of Hurin, Tales From the Perilous Realm, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, and Beowulf)
- listen to all the soundtracks 
- look forward to hopefully The Hobbit Complete recordings
- look forward to hopefully The Music of The Hobbit films book
- read some tales that inspired Tolkien to create his own realms by Penguin (Beowulf, The Elder Edda, The Saga of the Volsungs, and of course The Sagas of Icelanders
- play The Lord of the Rings Online
- take a trip to Oxford, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or New Zealand for your own Tolkien (or Tolkien-esque) experiences
- Tolkien was in a writing group called The Inklings with another famous author - C.S. Lewis. You could read the Narnia books (in the order they written, mind!) or watch the Narnia films if you've never seen them. After all, The Silver Chair is in pre-production so that's something else to look forward to. 

Also, just because this could be the last film based on the realms Tolkien created, does not mean that Jackson & co could also film some tales that inspired the professor?

Perhaps there could be another movie (or movie series) of Beowulf? King Arthur? Or maybe even some Legends of the Ancient North, such as Sigurd?   

Once the film arrives, I hope that you enjoy it, but do not despair too much once it ends. 

November 23, 2014

An Observation: Small Works by Big Authors

There is something I have noticed lately - some big (as in famous, high profile) authors that I follow have been writing smaller works lately.

No, this is not a complaint but a trend I have noticed recently, which is most likely coincidence. I am most likely (literally) reading too much into it. 

Some of these works are a part of the world of their more famous writings, other times it is unrelated. Here are some examples.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Great book. My paperback copy clocks in at...178 pages of story, and it begins on page 3.

The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King

This is basically The Dark Tower Book 4.5, but it was written after the seventh book, which is where the story ends. Making this book the 8th one published. my paperback begins on page 3, and is 384 pages. This title is longer than The Gunslinger, though that one is the first book in the series. The rest of the Dark Tower books have are longer than 385 pages. Keyhole is also a 'side story' of sorts - not essential to reading and finishing the 7 main books. But provides more information and 'links' books 4 and 5. Interesting that King wrote a story set in his universe after the main story has already finished and placed it as neither a prelude or follow-up, chronology wise. As far as I can C.S. Lewis did that also, perhaps. 

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

The next book in Pat's fantasy trilogy is the third and final one, with the possible title of The Doors of Stone. The Slow Regard is a short story (or novella, I forget which is the proper term that Pat gave it) which takes place in his world - a kind of side story. It is by far his shortest work, and to my knowledge the only title that is not a 'big' (main) book to have its own separate release. Some of his other works have appeared in anthologies, but not individually yet. As I am waiting for the paperback release I do not own it yet. 

The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin

This one kind of counts, kind of doesn't. According to the 2014 re-release by Harper Voyager, it takes place in the same world as A Song of Ice and Fire. Written by George R.R. in 1980, this predates A Game of Thrones, the first book in Ice and Fire series; which was published in 1996. It has been released a few times since. the latest version, is fully illustrated and contains around 130 pages. Since this reissue came out during the Ice and Fire series, it gets a mention. 

The Fall of Arthur by J.R.R. Tolkien 

The Fall of Arthur is an unfinished poem by Tolkien. The book which came out not too long ago presents what Tolkien wrote of the poem, as well as other contents (Foreword, Note on the Text, Evolution of the Poem, and an Appendix on Old English Verse) however the poem itself is only about 45 pages in length.
Poems are vastly different than 'fiction' or 'fantasy', so this is to be expected. However, with the recent releases of The Children of Hurin, and The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, the Arthur poem is physically quite a small book. Also, the recently released Beowulf is much longer than it. 

November 19, 2014

Brandon Sanderson NaNoWriMo Pep Talk

Brandon Sanderson has written a great pep talk to those participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which is great for aspiring writers, such as myself.

To read it, head on over here:

Best of luck to everyone! 

"The Winds of Winter" About Half Done...At Least

Well, there is both good and bad news - George R.R. Martin is about halfway done The Winds of Winter, Book Six of A Song of Ice and Fire

"..."I'm still in the middle of the book..."

Of course, he could have more done and is going back to the middle of the book to write or edit extra stuff in regards to the winners. 

This is all speculation, of course, and is no indication of how much of The Winds of Winter is completed. Bear in mind, he began working on the book in January 2012, and he was already about 200 pages in, which were transferred from Book Five, A Dance With Dragons.

I think it's safe to say that 2015 release date is hopeful, and 2016 is reasonable and realistic. Also, 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of A Game of Thrones, the first book.

Either way, I am looking forward to it. 

Those worrying about the show overtaking the books remember this - George has a lot of input on the Game of Thrones HBO series, and there's a reason why the show has steadily strayed from the books.

My dream, for the show, if it does end at seven seasons, is to split the seventh season in two part, each part consisting of seven episodes. Much like how AMC has split the last bit of Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and now, Hell on Wheels. HBO did likewise with The Sopranos

November 17, 2014

Goodreads Choice Awards 2014 - Final Round

It is now the final round for the 2014 Goodreads Choice Awards, so you get those votes in!

Here's who I voted for: 

Fiction: The Bone Clocks 

Mystery & Thriller: Mr. Mercedes

Historical Fiction: All the Light We Cannot See

Fantasy: The Slow Regard of Silent Things 

Romance: Written in My Own Heart's Blood

Humor: Yes Please 

History & Biography: In the Kingdom of Ice

Debut Goodreads Author: Pierce Brown 

Young Adult Fantasy & Sci-Fi: Red Rising 

I'll announce who wins....

Tolkien Christmas Offer

Shortly after my most recent Tolkien post, I nosed around and had a peek here and there at various sections of the site. From now until December 25th, they are offering 25% off of some of their books.... but only on

Here are some of the books featured, and ones I'd recommend especially this time of year...either for a fellow Tolkien fan, or yourself: 

The Hobbit (illustrated by Jemima Catlin) deluxe edition

The Lord of the Rings 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

The Silmarillion 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition 

November 15, 2014

Tolkien For Christmas

Everybody knows someone who likes Tolkien.

About 13 years ago, I saw The Fellowship of the Ring in cinemas, and received The Lord of the Rings (single volume hardback edition) for Christmas that year. That, and other things have made me associate fall and winter with fantasy. Essentially, since then I have become a fan of Tolkien.

That said, here are some suggestions worth checking out for gifts to others...or perhaps yourself.

First of all, there's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I definitely recommend starting with those if you (or person buying for) have never read Tolkien before. 

But what if you (or the person you're buying for) has already those??

I also suggest picking up The Children of Hurin. Especially for those who have read and enjoyed The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. This Tolkien's equal to a Greek tragedy, and is set in the First Age - so hundreds of hundreds of years before The Hobbit. It is also quite darker than The Lord of The Rings

Also, if you or the person you are shopping for likes ancient epic poetry, then I definitely recommend picking up one of Tolkien's best publications (which is not part of the Middle-earth Legends) which is The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun. It is a narrative poem composed in alliterative verse. 

Finally, if you enjoy something more whimsical or were a big fan of the style of The Hobbit, be sure not to miss out on Tales From the Perilous Realm, written with the same charm and style as The Hobbit. Just like The Hobbit, Tales will appeal to both the young and old; and of course completists. This title is essentially a short story collection, and most of the titles can be purchased separately.  

Various editions of these can be found on  , and of course bookstores such as Chapters Indigo, Barnes & Noble and Waterstones. 

November 12, 2014

"Interstellar" Spoiler Free Review

"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
- Dylan Thomas 

I admit, I am a fan of Christopher Nolan's work. Ever since Batman Begins wowed me back in 2005, I was looking forward to whatever this film maker could come up with. I also, 'got' his pattern during his trilogy. He would do a 'non-Batman' movie between Batman movies. 

All of Chris' movies are pretty good, but I think Batman Begins onwards was when he truly became an exceptional filmmaker. I enjoyed The Prestige a lot more than The Illusionist. The film has said (in the trailers at least) 'are you watching closely?' Because that's the thing with Christopher Nolan's films - they are dramas mostly. 

Christopher Nolan also would never put a movie into 3D. IMAX, sure. But not 3D. When 3D became all the craze thanks a little movie you my have heard about called Avatar, Chris said 'no.' regardless of what the 'general popular public' and studios were saying. In fact, from The Dark Knight onwards, Chris used IMAX cameras to film some scenes. Now, a good chunk of IMAX films are 'converted' into the format, not filmed in it. 

Which brings me to Interstellar. This movie looks great, and deserves to be seen in theaters, and if possible, IMAX. As for the plot...sorry, won't say that here. I like going to into Christopher Nolan's films knowing as little as I can. Heck, I even avoid the trailer at the least. The 'teaser' trailer is usually the only one I'll watch willingly.

Once again, Nolan tackles sci-fi. He has done so before with the excellent Inception, but bring it to space in Interstellar. However, this is not an action movie. This is a space exploration movie. As great as it looks and sounds, this is not Star Wars. This is a sci-fi that is more similar to Close Encounters, The Right Stuff, or 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The cast is incredible - both in characters and acting. The story is great, and will make you wonder what will happen next..and how. The visuals (and audio) are top notch. The film is excellent, ambitious and beautiful. 

Christopher Nolan has crafted another cinematic masterpiece.

In a world where what is on TV is, for the most part, superior to what's in the cinemas, Christopher Nolan reminds us why we go to the movies. 

9.5 / 10

Next movies to see / reviews to come: Mockingjay (Part 1) and The Hobbit (Part 3)

November 11, 2014

"In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

November 10, 2014

"The Swordsman" Deleted Scene from "Inheritance"

This a section from Inheritance, Or, The Vault of Souls which is the fourth and final book in Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle. It was on the Paolini website, and I have re-posted it here for all of y'all.

Goodreads Choice Awards 2014 - Semifinal Round

It is now the semifinal round for the 2014 Goodreads Choice Awards! Make sure you get your votes in. 

Here are my picks:

Fiction - The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
Mystery / Thriller - Natchez Burning by Greg Iles 

Historical Fiction - All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr 

Fantasy - The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss 

Romance - Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon 

Science Fiction - Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey

Debut Goodreads Author - Red Rising by Pierce Brown 

Young Adult Fantasy & Sci-Fi - Red Rising by Pierce Brown 

November 7, 2014

Hell on Wheels: Last Stop

The day I finish watching Hell on Wheels (season 3) on Netflix, I saw on that it will be back one last time for a fifth season.

Seven new episodes will air next summer, with the final seven episodes of the series following in the summer of 2016. It is unknown if it will be labelled as 'Season Five: Part 1' and 'Season Five: Part 2' or a style seen with other 'split' seasons, or if it will take the Breaking Bad approach and call the first portion 'season 5' and the final portion 'the final season'. Either way, I am looking forward to watching the rest of the series and am glad that they know going in this is the end. 
If you haven't watched the show yet, I strongly encourage you to do so - it is one of the best underrated TV shows.

Looks like after this, AMC's 'big drama' will be Turn. Breaking Bad is finished, and Mad Men will end next year. 

November 6, 2014

Winterbeer '14

Well, it's time of year  a change in the beer season! Herein I name some winter / Christmas beers worth checking out.

Downton Abbey Gets Season Six

Courtesy of their facebook page (and probably other social media as well)
For those of you currently enjoying the fifth season, you can be safe in the knowledge that your favourite butlers, lady's maids, footmen, lords and ladies will be back again. What splendid news that is to all of our ears!

In retrospect, I'm far behind - need to watch season two and up! Great news though. I wonder how many more seasons it will get? Hopefully, they will know well enough in advance to bring closure to the story. 

November 5, 2014

Vikings + Other TV Shows

"When are the new episodes of Game of Thrones coming?" is a question I get asked frequently after the final episode in a year ends. Why, the same as any other TV show - a year later. 

One show I've been watching in Thrones' off-season is Vikings on History Channel. Do not dismiss it as Game of Thrones lite, or copying Game of Thrones, or any of that. Both shows are similar, and different, to one another.

For one thing, even though Vikings has the odd time-jump now and then, the plot is a lot more streamlined than Thrones'. The focus of the story is much more simple, yet it is equally brilliant. 

The sex and violence is more light, but that does not mean these Northerners (the word 'viking' is never said on the show) are any less soft. 

I am not offering Vikings as a series to replace Game of Thrones (far from it), merely saying that when Game of Thrones doesn't have new episodes, you should be checking out Vikings. I did, and I am looking forward to the 2015 episodes.

The adventures of Ragnar Lothbrok: the greatest hero of his age. The series tells the saga of Ragnar's band of Viking brothers and his family as he rises to become King of the Viking tribes. As well as being a fearless warrior, Ragnar embodies the Norse traditions of devotion to the gods.

Speaking of TV shows, I am up to date on Homeland (according to Netflix, which only has the first two seasons uploaded), am currently on Hell on Wheels season 3 (the 'current' season on Netflix), I need to watch season 2 and onwards of Downton Abbey, and I've added Rectify, Longmire, and The Killing to my Netflix list. Up to date on Game of Thrones, Sherlock, Mad Men, and House of Cards

Oh, and Game of Thrones Season Four Blu-ray will be out in February, and Season Five has no official start date for the new episodes in 2015; but I'm going to guess as early as March 29, or the more likely April 5th. 

November 4, 2014

Beer! Beer!

The next Game of Thrones beer by Ommegang has been announced!

The next one in the series is called 'Three-Eyed Raven', and it is a dark saison ale, and will be 7.2% alc./vol. I am still awaiting Valar Morgulis to arrive here in Canada. Meanwhile, Three-Eyed Raven will be available in the U.S. spring 2015. 

The Art of The Lord of the Rings: Coming in 2015

Nope, I am not talking about the 'Art of' books by Gary Russell for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy by Peter Jackson, but Tolkien's own artwork.

Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull are doing a follow-up to their Art of The Hobbit, which I do not yet own but Christmas is rapidly approaching....

Tolkien Books: Middle-earth & Beyond For Younger Readers

J.R.R. Tolkien has appealed to a large number of people over the decades, as well as various types of audiences. He has created his own world and tales of Middle-earth, Numenor, Beleriand....he has translated and composed epic poetry, as well. 

The Hobbit was written (originally) as a children's book, however children and younger readers were not the only ones to enjoy that story. Tolkien also wrote other tales targeted at younger readers and children. Some of these you may have heard of, some of them maybe not....but the kids will love them.

November 3, 2014

Goodreads Choice Awards 2014 - Opening Round

It's that time of year again...time for the Goodreads Choice Awards!

you get to vote on the year's best in a series of rounds to determine the winners in various fields. It's all user-selected. Begin here:

The opening round lasts until November 8. Then, Semifinals are November 10-15. The finals are November 17-24. 

There appears to some restrictions - it seems this year it's US based. For example, I was wanting to vote on Tolkien's Beowulf in the poetry section. Yet, The Fall of Arthur won it last year. And, Ken Follett's Edge of Eternity is a nominee this year. Doesn't make sense to me. 

November 2, 2014

"The Hobbit (Part 3)" Soundtrack Tracklist

Well, this could very well be it - the final soundtrack for a Middle-earth movie. As of now, there are no plans for any future Middle-earth films [due to rights, copyrights with the Tolkien Estate mostly]. Unless we see The Hobbit Complete Recordings emerging in the coming years, this is the last Howard Shore music for a Peter Jackson Middle-earth movie.

The Special Edition will be released on December 16, 2014 on both CD (2 discs) and itunes. There will also be a cheaper, less elaborate (and less music) standard edition.

Here are the tracks: 

Disc 1:

1. Fire and Water
2. Shores of the Long Lake
3. Beyond Sorrow and Grief
4. Guardians of the Three
5. The Ruins of Dale
6. The Gathering of the Clouds
7. Mithril
8. Bred for War
9. A Thief in the Night
10. The Clouds Burst
11. Battle for the Mountain

Disc 2:
1. The Darkest Hour
2. Sons of Durin
3. The Fallen
4. Ravenhill
5. To the Death
6. Courage and Wisdom
7. The Return Journey
8. There and Back Again
9. The Last Goodbye (Performed by Billy Boyd)
10. Ironfoot 
11. Dragon-Sickness 
12. Thrain 

Also, because this is 'the end', here is a look back at the soundtrack artwork and tracks for Part 1 and Part 2 respectively: 

1. My Dear Frodo
2. Old Friends
3. An Unexpected Party 
4. Blunt the Knives
5. Axe or Sword?
6. Misty Mountains
7. The Adventure Begins
8. The World is Ahead
9. An Ancient Enemy 
10. Radagast the Brown
11. The Trollshaws
12. Roast Mutton
13. A Troll-hoard
14. The Hill of Sorcery
15. Warg-scouts

1. The Hidden Valley
2. Moon Runes
3. The Defiler
4. The White Council
5. Over Hill
6. A Thunder Battle
7. Under Hill
8. Riddles in the Dark
9. Brass Buttons
10. Out of the Frying-Pan
11. A Good Omen
12. Song of the Lonely Mountain (Performed by Neil Finn)
13. Dreaming of Bag End
14. A Very Respectable Hobbit
15. Erebor
16. The Dwarf Lords
17. The Edge of the Wild

1. The Quest for Erebor 
2. Wilderland
3. A Necromancer 
4. The House of Beorn 
5. Mirkwood 
6. Flies and Spiders 
7. The Woodland Realm 
8. Feast of Starlight 
9. Barrels Out of Bond 
10. The Forest River 
11. Bard, A Man of Lake-town 
12. The High Fells 
13. The Nature of Evil 
14. Protector of the Common Folk 

1. Thrice Welcome 
2. Girion, Lord of Dale 
3. Durin's Folk
4. In the Shadow of the Mountain 
5. A Spell of Concealment 
6. On the Doorstep 
7. The Courage of Hobbits 
8. Inside Information 
9. Kingsfoil 
10. A Liar and a Thief 
11. The Hunters
12. Smaug 
13. My Armor is Iron 
14. I See Fire (Performed by Ed Sheeran) 
15. Beyond the Forest   

November 1, 2014

A List

"What do you want for Christmas?" is something I get asked, or think about, as early as October. When I was younger, I was more accustomed to making 'wish lists' so that my family had an idea on what to get me. Also because my liking for a particular book format, special edition DVD, etc...

Then, I got a job (either part time pay-the-tuition or full time, depending on where I was at in life) and bought my own stuff throughout the year. 

Since I have a few readers on here, I will share the answer to that question on here so you have an idea of what Old Man Hawboldt wants this year. And you know, in case Santa reads this blog.