Wednesday, November 23, 2005


I have just finished reading the second book in the Inheritance Series, Eldest by Christopher Paolini. I had read the first book, Eragon, over the summer. I did actually enjoy it, though I found it a bit hard to get into at first for some reason.

The book is definitely worth reading, but it still has some rough edges. This is understandable since Christopher Paolini is only 22 years old, and started writing the trilogy when he was 15. He has definitely accomplished an amazing feat considering his age and the fact that this trilogy was his first major undertaking. I am actually quite jealous, since I am also a huge fantasy fan and have considered writing my own epic. Alas, due to laziness, or maybe because I've just been too busy with other things, I have only ever written about 3 chapters of my novel.

In any case, although I enjoyed Eldest, I could definitely tell that the writer was a little inexperienced. The story didn't flow as well as it should sometimes. Also, I think he tends to overexplain himself a little bit, like going into exhaustive detail about how the magic works. He needs to understand that, unless a technical point is important to the story, most readers will simply accept the magic. Unless there are glaring inconsistancies, it won't matter to them, because it's the story that matters. In addition, the way he goes about explaining technical details slows the story down a bit. He tends to have characters explain, rather than having the characters do something which will make the explanation obvious to the reader. I don't know how much sense I'm making here, but you're supposed to show them, not tell them, right?

This also brings me to the point that, in writing, less is more (usually). Basically, you need to create an atmosphere, and do some character development, but unless a point becomes critical to the plot later on, there's no sense including it just for the sake of including it. I think J.K. Rowling is a master at this. She tends to have incidents happen, or characters do things which appear incidental and unimportant in one book, and then become huge deals in another book. For example, in the first book, Harry talks to a snake at the zoo and lets it out of its cage. Just an example of his natural abilities as a wizard coming through you think. Then in the second book, it becomes a HUGE deal that he can talk to snakes. In fact the whole plot hinges on it. Another example: It is suddenly discovered that Ron's stupid rat Scabbers, who has been around since book one, is actually the wizard responsible for Harry's parents' deaths. Like, I really wonder how much J.K. Rowling had things all planned in advance, because it seems that nothing that happens in the earlier books is insignificant, no character is introduced simply for the sake of it. It seems to me that the best plots are like this: they do not meander (although they may appear to meander, these are the sneakiest plots) but every step, every action, every comment, is planned out to perfection. Now I know this definition of a good plot practically eliminates all 19th century literature, but I guess it depends on what kind of story you want to read. Fantasy, for the most part, relies upon magic, exciting adventure, discoveries, etc. and I think it needs to have fast-paced plot.

But, back to my review. Really, beyond my few criticisms, I was impressed. Yes, it's a traditional fantasy epic, fairly formulaic as we all know, and yet the book managed to surprise me a few times. So keep writing Mr. Paolini, and I'll look forward to the third book. 3.5 purple horsies out of five.

In other news, and speaking of J.K. Rowling, I will finally get to see the movie this weekend. To prepare for this momentous occasion, EJ and I have planned a little Harry Potter movie marathon. We're going to watch all three earlier movies before we see number four. That way we can compare directors, etc. and see if Daniel Radcliffe has learned to act yet. Although, I actually rewatched part of the first one, and he wasn't as bad as I remembered. Maybe it was only the second one... In any case, I am making some traditional British recipes in honour of the occasion: Treacle Tart and Toad in the Hole. I considered Spotted Dick, but it sounded icky. (What in God's name is shredded suet??)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Potter Mania

That's right folks. Tomorrow night it happens: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is finally here. Rejoice!

Okay, I've always been a big fan of the books, but not so much the movies. I thought the first couple of movies were only pale imitations of the books. The third one, however, was a big improvement in my mind, and I have been looking forward to seeing the fourth one for a while. Especially after my summer read of Book #6 got me into it all over again. Despite my growing excitement, I thought I was past all of that pre-adolescent swooning that goes on over Daniel Radcliffe. I mean really, the kid (and kid he is by my reckoning) is 9 years younger than me! And to be quite honest, he's not my favorite actor. Personally, I've found him to be a little stiff and awkward, especially in the first two movies, although he is improving. It only makes it worse when he plays so often opposite Rupert Grint, who is a really fluid actor with great comic timing. However, that's not to say Dan won't get better and someday become a great actor. Besides the Harry Potter films, he isn't that experienced.

Ahh yes, but on to the point of my post. I had a Harry Potter dream last night. I was in the movie, and I was playing the part of Ron and Ginny's older sister. It was really funny, because for the life of me I couldn't remember my character's name (I of course didn't remember that it's because there is no such character). So there we were, me, Dan, Emma, Rupert, and whoever it is that plays Ginny, dashing around the set. And I couldn't remember the script. I was never where I was supposed to be, and I got all of my lines wrong. I remember thinking that I had better re-read the book since I couldn't seem to remember anything of what was supposed to happen! This made such a strong impression on my mind that when I woke up, I was all set to phone my sister and tell her to lend me her copy of the Goblet of Fire so I could re-read it. I then recalled that I had just re-read the entire thing this summer, and I could recall most of the details just fine.

But here's where it gets weird. We were all taking a break between takes, or whatever, (despite my dream I honestly have no clue what goes on during the filming of a movie). Emma was sympathetic and trying to explain to me where I was supposed to be. Then Dan came and sat down very close beside me, and then we started kissing!!!

Okay, this guy is only a year older than my cousin whose diapers I used to change. I have no excuse, except that Potter Mania has finally really gotten to me. The only cure I guess is to go and see the movie.

Despite my rather embarrassing dream, I'm still really excited. Yay Harry Potter!!!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Sick as a Dog

Hmmm. I wonder where that expression came from? Are dogs really sick that often?

Anyway, I am quite ill. Some sort of flu I think. I took yesterday off work, but I was supposed to give a 5-minute presentation to the Regional Board today, so I hauled myself in to work at noon. I endured the 3-hour meeting where such lively subjects were discussed as whether the board should meet five times a year instead of four. Believe it or not, this was a fairly contentious issue. The good news is I got to take home the fruit plate leftovers. The bad news is that I now feel like I've been run over by a truck. I haven't thrown up since yesterday, but my chest hurts when I breathe in deeply. That's not a good sign, is it?

Well, enough of my misery. If you are looking for something to do at work (besides actual work I mean) and you are sick of solitaire, try one of these puzzles:

It's like a crossword puzzle with numbers.