Origin – Dan Brown

Edmond Kirsch, a futurist and outspoken atheist, is assassinated while giving a presentation at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao that he claims will have a catastrophic impact on the future of the world’s religions. His former teacher, Professor Robert Langdon, along with the curator of the museum, Ambra Vidal, set out to try and find another way to reveal Kirsch’s presentation to the world, which he claimed would finally definitively answer humanity’s two most important questions, ‘Where do we come from?’ and ‘Where are we going?’

As with other Robert Langdon stories, the action is fast paced and moves between several locations in Spain, including Barcelona and El Escorial. As someone who lived in Spain for eight months and visits the country regularly, I really enjoyed knowing some of the settings. The novel includes interesting themes, such as the future of technology, particularly Artificial Intelligence, (Langon and Vidal have the help of a supercomputer built by Kirsch, namely a Siri/Alexa type character called Winston) and connections between science and religion.

This is a fun read, although almost inevitably after the huge build up the final reveal from the presentation is anticlimactic. It also lacks a lot of the symbolism that I particularly enjoyed in The Da Vinci Code. However, for some escapism and enjoyment, I would definitely recommend this novel.

 

 

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Gallowglass – New Theatre, Cardiff

After Sandor saves Little Joe from jumping in front of a tube train, he tells him that as he saved his life, his life now belongs to him. Sandor begins to tell Little Joe a story about a princess who was kidnapped, but as the story develops it becomes clear that it may not be fiction, and Little Joe realises his role as a ‘gallowglass’, the servant of a chief, in Sandor’s plan.

Gallowglass is based on the novel of the same name by Ruth Rendell, but writing as Barbara Vine. I haven’t read the book so cannot make any direct comparisons, but this play felt very much like an adaptation. What I mean is, a good adaptation should sound and feel like an original whereas this didn’t. Without having read the book, I could tell that structurally it was trying to keep very close to the original narrative, and therefore it didn’t flow smoothly at times. There was a lot of setting up to do at first, and then it also meant that we were given a lot of important information extremely suddenly in the last five minutes, without time to process or receive an explanation for what had happened.

As for the actors there were some good performances byPaul Opacic as the driver, Dean Smith as Little Joe and Rachael Hart as Tilley. Smith and Hart brought some much needed humour at times. However, sometimes it was difficult to hear some of the other actors, and there is no excuse for that as professional actors should be able to project their voices adequately. The set design was clever, with the stage split in half to show two different domestic settings and then a screen coming down in front showing projections for other locations. Some of the scene changes were a little slow and clunky however, and the staging meant that people sitting on the far sides would miss quite a lot of the action at times.

Overall this was underwhelming, There were some plot points I also questioned but as I haven’t read the novel I don’t feel it’s fair to raise them here as I’m not sure whether they’re relevant to the book too and therefore not the play’s fault. It is a good premise for a story, but I feel it could have flowed a lot better. Other book to play adaptations have worked very well, and it’s a shame this fell short of the mark.

Charlotte’s Web – E.B White

Wilbur the pig is the runt of his litter, and after Fern Arable saves him from being slaughtered he is sold to her uncle who keeps Wilbur in his barn. When it seems that Wilbur may once again be facing death, his new friend Charlotte the spider decides to help him by writing messages in her web to persuade the farmer to let him live.

I am not the target audience for this book but as I’d never read it as a child I decided to give it a try. It is a very sweet story about friendship and I enjoyed the characterisations. I would recommend this as a book for young children, but be warned that there are some sad moments.

 

Mort – Terry Pratchett

Mort, an awkward teenager, is recruited by Death as his apprentice. One evening when covering for Death, he decides not to follow the rules and allow Princess Keli to live, but this has a disastrous consequence on reality which he must try and fix.

This is the fourth novel in the Discworld series and is probably my favourite so far. It is full of humour and I loved the characterisation of Death. I look forward to seeing him in more Discworld novels.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Rey (Daisy Ridley) has found Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and with his guidance develops her new found skills. The resistance are fighting the First Order, and Finn (John Boyega), his new friend Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) and BB8 head off on their own mission to help the cause.

I am not that familiar with Star Wars at all but mostly enjoyed this very much. The action sequences were great and there were plenty of twist and turns in the plot. It was also very easy for me to follow despite not being an aficionado, but I’m sure there were plenty of in jokes for bigger fans of the franchise. I did feel however that it was too long. Without giving anything away, there was one point where I thought the film was coming to and end but there was actually about another 20 minutes to go, and by then I’d started to get a little disengaged. However, this was very enjoyable and will hopefully push me to finally watch other films in the series!

Goodnight Mr Tom – Michelle Magorian

At the outbreak of World War Two, 8 year old William Beech is evacuated to the village of Little Weirwold and sent to love with an elderly man called Tom Oakley. At first he is extremely timid and nervous due to his strict upbringing by his mother who is a religious fanatic, but gradually he develops confidence and begins to love his new life in the country. After a few months, he receives a letter saying that his mother is unwell and wants him to go back to London. A few weeks later, not having heard a word from William, Tom decides to go to London with his dog Sammy to find out what’s happened.

I really enjoyed the first half of this book but afterwards I felt the plot became a little disjointed. I also didn’t always find William’s character development believable, such as when he and his friends decide to investigate the spooky house in the village and he is the only one brave enough to go ahead. I did however love the character of Tom, and thought the writing was very effective when describing William’s life with his mother.

Dead Simple – Peter James

Michael Harrison is a bit of a prankster, so on his stag do his friends decide to get their revenge by burying him alive for a few hours in a coffin. However, before they can let him out, they are killed in a car accident. Detective Superintendent Roy Grace must try and find out where the missing groom is, and whether his bride may know more than she’s letting on.

I had actually seen a play version of this story before reading it and although I could remember the main premise I had forgotten some details so it did not spoil my enjoyment. I thought it was very well written, particularly the chapters about Michael in the coffin which were fantastic at portraying the claustrophobia and were very uncomfortable to read. I also really liked Roy Grace as a character, and I’m looking forward to reading more in the series.

Charlie and the great glass elevator – Roald Dahl

Charlie and the great glass elevator picks up immediately where its predecessor, Charlie and the chocolate factory left off. Charlie, his parents, both sets of grandparents and Willy Wonka first head off on an adventure in space where they come across some vermicious knids, and then head back to the factory where one of Wonka’s new creations, Wonka-Vite, goes a bit wrong.

Before rereading this I wondered why I didn’t remember this story as clearly as I could remember Charlie and the chocolate factory, and I think it must be because it isn’t such a good story. I felt there was a lot of build up in the section in space, which then came to am abrupt end, and then the rest of the story back in the factory almost felt like a completely different book.

There are some classic Dahl wit here, but not his best story by far.

A Woman Of No Importance – Oscar Wilde Season Live

A Woman of No Importance is the first production in Dominic Dromgoole’s Oscar Wilde Season at the Vaudeville Theatre in London. It isn’t Oscar Wilde’s best known play, and it isn’t his best by far but there were several enjoyable elements.

Lady Hunstanton (Anne Reid) is hosting a gathering at her home, and among the guests are Lord Illingworth (Dominic Rowan) and a young man called Gerald (Harry Lister Smith) who he intends to employ. Later in the evening Gerald’s mother arrives, a lady who calls herself Mrs Arbuthnot (Eve Best) and it becomes clear that Gerald is in fact Illingworth’s illegitimate child, and he had refused to marry his mother. The play shows how differently men and women are treated when a child is born out of wedlock – Mrs Arbuthnot has suffered, she has been shamed, and had to change her name, leave her home and pretend to be a widow. Lord Illingworth’s life hasn’t been affected at all.

The play begins a little slowly and the plot doesn’t really start until the second scene when Mrs Arbuthnot arrives. However, the dialogue is full of Wilde’s classic witty observations and there were several recognisable quotes. The performances were all strong, particularly Eve Best but Anne Reid was also fantastic, particularly when she sang witty songs from the era during the scene changes.

This isn’t Wilde’s best play but it was an enjoyable evening at the cinema nonetheless.

Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman

When Richard Mayhew helps a stranger on the street, little does he know that this act of kindness will change his life forever and introduce him to the hidden parallel world of London Below, where there is an Angel called Islington and Black Friars living at Blackfriars.

This is the first novel I’ve read by Neil Gaiman and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s funny, original, exciting and it has fantastic characters. Richard is very likeable, but I particularly liked Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar as the baddies. I’ll definitely be reading more by Neil Gaiman in the future.