Wicca Series review

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‘Wicca’ is what the ‘Twilight’ phenomenon should have been about.

This reviewer isn’t as vehement a critic of Stephanie Meyer’s vampire saga as some, having read the series and found some things to enjoy about it, but, having read ‘Wicca’ several years before in my early teens, it’s hard not to feel that this beautiful, fifteen-book epic by Cate Tiernan was far more deserving of the YA craze that later took off.

Seemingly ordinary high school girl Morgan Rowlands finds her life altered when handsome newcomer Cal Blaire arrives in her hometown of Widow’s Vale, and quickly becomes the object of desire for every girl in school, not least Morgan herself.  When Cal reveals his Wiccan beliefs and decides to form a local coven, Morgan finds herself drawn deeper into his world as she starts displaying a talent for witchcraft herself, leading to conflict not just with her best friend Bree, who also has her eye on Cal, but with rival coven leader Sky Eventide and her cousin Hunter Niall, a Seeker for the International Council of Witches, who is determined to investigate Cal and his mother Selene for possible misuse of magic.

‘Wicca’ (or ‘Sweep’ in the US), although sharing the same Young Adult paranormal DNA as ‘Twilight’, is a richly-crafted world full of well-written and developed characters and in-story atmosphere and logic that most detractors of Meyer’s saga complain that her series lacks.  The world-building and establishment of rules within the story, meshing together elements of real-life Wiccan practice and obviously invented supernatural phenomena is understated, yet hugely impressive, seeping the books in a sense of authenticity, despite the paranormal setting.  The juxtaposition of this hidden world with everyday issues of high school and family life, while hardly uncommon to YA fiction, is a wise move, making the story and characters relatable to their intended readership, and grounding them in a reality the reader can almost see themselves in.  While some real-life practitioners of Wicca have criticised the books for their apparent sensationalising of much of the religion’s rituals, from an objective point of view this reviewer can appreciate the need for dramatic licence for a story that is, at the end of the day, about the supernatural, and it’s abundantly clear throughout that Tiernan intends no offence to real-life Wiccans.  Her aim is to tell a compelling story, and in this, she more than succeeds.

The characters that populate her world are a rich cast, every one of them believable, well-rounded, and undergoing change and growth as the series progresses.  Central heroine Morgan, while just as subject to the natural vulnerabilities and worries of high school life as any real-life teenager, has the sort of backbone critics craved in Bella Swan, especially in the later books, and is the ideal window for the reader into the new, exciting world of witches and magick that she enters.  Besotted with handsome new arrival Cal, but evidently subconsciously aware that something’s not quite right about their relationship, she makes the sort of correct decisions that all too many fictional teenage girls fail to, and there’s a real sense of triumph when she finally gets the measure of him, and makes her choice about how who to trust.  Her horror at uncovering the secrets of her true parentage, and her struggles with her adopted parents over conflicting ideas of faith give us plenty to root for over the course of the series, and her slowburn romance with initial enemy Hunter is one of the true joys of the saga, to the point where her devastation over his apparent fate in final book ‘Night’s Child’ is keenly and heartbreakingly felt by the reader.

Hunter himself is the sort of love interest that typically makes a YA readership swoon, while being at the same time much more understated in his heroism than the likes of Edward Cullen, bringing a quiet strength and reserved quality that pays off all the greater when his guard finally lowers.  The decision to devote some of the later books, or parts of them, to his point of view is a great one, ensuring that by the time he strikes out on his own in Book 10, ‘Seeker’, we’re still fully engaged and ready to accompany him on his journey, despite Morgan’s absence for most of the book.  His conflicting sense of duty and guilt over having to take action against shop owner David Redstone in Book 5, ‘Awakening’, risking alienating Morgan just as they’re starting to grow close, is one of the highlights of the whole series.

One of the series’ best rug pulls is the unmasking of initial love interest Cal as an antagonist, and ultimately reversing his and Hunter’s original positions in the mind of the reader, and it’s to Tiernan’s credit that even after his exposure in Book 4, ‘Dark Magick’, he remains an interesting, three dimensional character, not as wholly bad as it would have been all too easy to write him from then on.  The surprisingly early exit of the ‘Edward’ of the series, less than halfway through, remains, in this reviewer’s opinion, one of the better trajectories of a YA hero due to its unexpectedness, though penultimate book ‘Full Circle’, as the title would suggest, does return to his story.

The series enjoys an impressive collection of villains generally, the decision not to rely on just one antagonist, a la Harry Potter’s Voldemort, proving to be one of this reviewer’s favourite decisions by the author.  From her first boyfriend and his mother, to the very Luke Skywalker/Darth Vader conflict with her biological father (one of the most interesting, well-rounded characters of the whole saga) to her utterly odious half-sister, all of her enemies are intimately connected to Morgan herself and to each other, making her conflicts with them all feel like a natural evolution of her journey and story as they occur, rather than bringing in some external ‘big bad’ purely for the sake of it.

Not that there aren’t some arguable missteps on Tiernan’s part.  For the most part, her choice to tell the story from points of view besides Morgan’s pays off well, from the excellent use of diary entries by characters like Hunter building to whole sections of, or entire books told from his perspective, to the majority of Book 11, ‘Origins’, being told from the POV of Morgan’s ancestor Rose via the device of an ancient journal, to the split-perspective of the finale, ‘Night’s Child’ between Morgan and her daughter Moira.  The decision, however, to devote some of Book 12, ‘Eclipse’, and all of Book 13, ‘Reckoning’, to secondary character Alisa, as interesting as she is, feels just a little too random, a little too much like a whole other story, given that the following two books bring the entire saga to a close.  Placed so late in the series, it can’t help but feel a bit like filler before the buildup to the series finale, Tiernan perhaps temporarily unsure where to go with the series before the misfortune of declining sales made her decide to start wrapping the saga up.  And it’s slightly frustrating to have some later entries like Book 9, ‘Strife’, devote so much time to high school melodrama and parental/child conflict over rather mundane issues like homework, after successfully avoiding this earlier in the series.  The decision to follow the journey of Moira in ‘Night’s Child’, meanwhile, while a more than interesting character in her own right, is initially very jarring stylistically, the book shifting to third person after sticking reliably to first in every preceding one.

These are minor grievances, however, in the overall scheme of things.  This is a saga full of lively, likeable characters and immersive romance, engaging intrigues and mysteries, and sporadic, but always well-earned and exciting action.  It covers impressively mature ground at times, such as conflict over differing faiths, with Morgan’s Catholic parents displaying real difficulty in accepting her practice of witchcraft, as well as the idea that handsome or beautiful people are not always virtuous or trustworthy, the character trajectory of initial dreamboat Cal a refreshing antidote to the outwardly gorgeous = inwardly beautiful take on love interests in ‘Twilight’.  Wicca is the sort of YA phenomenon that teenagers deserved to have, and this reviewer still craves the day that a film or TV adaptation finally sees Morgan Rowlands, Hunter Niall and their supporting cast come to life in the flesh.  It would be, to pardon the pun, magic.

 

*****

 

A well-written, richly crafted supernatural world, full of relatable characters, sweeping romance, impressive twists, and all seeped, appropriately, in magic and atmosphere.

 

Christopher Moore

@Moore_27Chris

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The Traveller’s Guide to Love review

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Before commencing this entry, I should first declare an interest: this reviewer is a good friend of author Helen Nicholl, having worked with her for several years during her time co-managing War on Want charity bookshop in south Belfast.  But such was the fun to be had in reading her warm, witty, often quite poignant debut novel ‘The Traveller’s Guide to Love’, that I couldn’t resist writing a review of it for this blog.  If it opens me up to a slightly higher degree of bias than usual, then that seems a worthwhile exception to make on this occasion.

It’s more or less love at first sight for Johanna van Heerden when she meets Albert Morrow while perusing the shelves of the Good Intentions bookshop.  Striking up a fast connection, the couple quickly discover a shared love of travel and appreciation of ancient archaeological sites, and happily start journeying together to various places of interest throughout County Down.  But complications loom on the horizon, not least the misgivings of Johanna’s friend Rita, Albert’s troublesome ex Carmel, and the ambiguous reliability of Albert himself.

A huge part of the enjoyment of this novel is its evocation of place.  It’s immensely refreshing to read a work of fiction set in Northern Ireland that has little to do with the Troubles or any of the other less-than-flattering associations the region enjoys/endures.  Instead, here, in the form of ‘The Traveller’s Guide to Love’, it’s the setting of a rich, funny, modern romantic comedy, one that fulfils all the expectations and tropes of the genre, and yet isn’t without teeth.  Pleasingly, it focuses on an older, worldly-wise couple (particularly Johanna), who have lived long enough to appreciate the absurdities of life and what to avoid, and yet are still subject to its passions.  The pair’s romance is well-written, taking off early on, and remaining believable throughout, the reader invited so intimately into Johanna’s head and her love for Albert that, when crises between them finally arise, we feel for her acutely.  Johanna is a sharp, pithy, well-sketched character, her humour and personality not a little borrowed from Nicholl herself, and the book is packed full of fun little allusions to the author’s own acquaintances and time spent volunteering (this reviewer even gets a nod to his home town).

As suggested already, the story makes rich use of its Northern Irish backdrop, from the student bustle of Botanic Avenue, to the idyllic suburbs of Holywood, to the slopes of the Mourne Mountains and expanse of Strangford Lough.  Johanna and Albert’s travels to all the recommended dolmens and cairns in in-story guidebook ‘The Traveller’s Guide to Ancient County Down’ makes the reader feel like hopping in a car with a companion and setting off on expeditions of one’s own, and their gentle quests provide a lovely, quiet structure to the novel that soothes and reassures- at least until the problems of real life begin to intrude.  The supporting characters earn their stripes too, with glamorous best friend Rita and amorous landlord Sticky Wicket among the most memorable (the latter providing a brilliantly funny twist/punchline at the end of one chapter), while smarmy ex-husband Socrates and eccentric sister Frederika round out the cast nicely.  The fictional pubs and shops of Johanna’s Belfast, meanwhile, provide a fun exercise in trying to match their real-life counterparts, for anyone who knows the city well.

Highly readable and laced through with wit, the book flies past, so that it really is almost a shame to have to come to the end- this reviewer predicts many re-reads to come over the years.  If there is perhaps one, minor structural issue to give pause, it’s the surprising absence of Albert from a very considerable chunk of the story late on, something that, for me, does ultimately work, but perhaps only just.  For some readers, enjoying the novel primarily for the journeys and adventures of the central couple up until this point, the issue could potentially jar.

At the launch of the novel, Nicholl expressed her wish to produce a local piece of fiction that went beyond the tired, disheartening associations of the Troubles, the Titanic and the province’s ‘horrible politicians’.  This book is indeed the perfect antidote to the grim-and-gritty crime fiction one might have associated with Belfast and Northern Ireland in decades gone by.  Enjoyable, humorous and uplifting, this romcom for the no-nonsense, middle-aged, but still-full-of-zest-for-life crowd is an example of the sort of diversity Northern Irish literature and fiction is hopefully on the cusp of embracing.  While there undoubtedly still remains a place for the likes of Adrian McKinty, Stuart Neville or Brian McGilloway in local bookshops, this reviewer, for one, hopes to see more work like ‘The Traveller’s Guide to Love’ joining them on the shelves.  A lot more.

 

*****

 

Gentle, humorous, but often with fangs, ‘The Traveller’s Guide to Love’ is an uplifting and rewarding read, shot through with the engaging personality and voice of its author.

 

Christopher Moore

@Moore_27Chris

Warm Bodies review

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The central character of Isaac Marion’s ‘Warm Bodies’, R (full name never revealed) begins the story as a lumbering zombie with a penchant for human brains, a fairly standard craving in zombie media and literature.  Devouring this most vital of human organs provides him with essential nourishment and energy to continue his purgatorial existence, moving steadily from victim to victim in the process.  The experience of reading ‘Warm Bodies’ is, to this reviewer, akin to the sensations R must enjoy when consuming his victims’ gray matter- a rich, pleasurable, slow-burning treat of a novel, that leaves you feeling like you’ve digested a wholly satisfying meal by the end.

Wandering the deserted corridors of an airport in an unexplained dystopian future, R searches for answers and meaning in his seemingly futile existence, inwardly as articulate and thoughtful as any living person, but limited to grunts and monosyllabic utterances whenever he attempts to speak aloud.  During a fateful attack on a group of human resistance fighters, R consumes the brain of their leader Perry, and immediately finds himself blindsided as the memories and emotions of the dead man, particularly his feelings for fellow fighter and ex-girlfriend Julie, suddenly become R’s own.  Spiriting her to safety away from the ravenous hunger of the rest of his kind, R slowly becomes besotted with the girl, and attempts to improve his communication skills as small, subtle changes in his physiology gradually begin to transform him.

‘Warm Bodies’, unlike other, bleaker zombie fare like ‘28 Days Later’ or ‘The Walking Dead’, reads like a dark fairy tale.  The Romeo and Juliet parallels are obvious, from the similar names to the star-crossed element, with a balcony scene even making its way into the narrative.  But the novel goes beyond ‘Twilight’-esque romantic tropes so common on Young Adult bookshelves.  ‘Warm Bodies’ is a study of human degradation and the long struggle back to the connections and everyday experiences we all take for granted.  The cause of the apocalypse that R and Julie find themselves in is never truly explained, nor does it need to be, but among the several possibilities hinted at by Marion is the work of a curse or black magic.  This theory is certainly supported by the gradual transformation of R’s physiology as he begins to fall in love, from numb, undead and decomposing, to slowly turning back towards something resembling a living human.  It’s a transformation so patiently and exquisitely executed by the author that it feels like a slow spell: some benevolent magic activated by the old fairy tale conceit of true love that slowly, very slowly, begins to lift the curse of living death that R, and by extension all humanity, have found themselves placed under.

It’s a pace of storytelling that also allows the reader’s hope, like R’s, to evolve from dormant and barely aware, to fully blossoming and yearning for a happy ending and a better life.  Early on, R ruminates on how much more socially connected and close humanity must have been before its mysterious descent, when in truth we, as readers, know that, if anything, mankind is in many ways more isolated and withdrawn from each other than we have ever been (a concept brilliantly realised by an early vision/flashback scene in the film adaptation, in which travellers through the airport walk past once another plugged into or occupied by every variety of electronic device possible).  It’s an early sense of irony that is deliberately placed to dishearten us, and, on some level, make us feel that R’s hopes and beliefs are somehow false or naïve from the outset, making the slow drawing out of optimism represented by his growing feelings for Julie all the more rewarding, as we begin to hope against hope that things might change.

R’s characterisation is wonderful, Marion’s decision to make us privy to his fully articulate inner thoughts from the beginning, while all the time making him unable to speak them aloud, forging an intimacy between us and his protagonist, almost as though we ourselves have consumed R’s thoughts as surely as he does Perry’s, and enabling us to share in the frustrations he feels.  We see Julie through R’s eyes, and thus find ourselves falling for her (or indeed, the idea of the future she may represent) alongside him, exemplified by an excellent scene late in the novel in which R overhears a former fling boasting about her in crude, intimate terms, and we are right there with him as he struggles, and fails, to contain a poisonous jealousy that ultimately spills over into violent rage.

His limited knowledge about the answers and details of his world, meanwhile, allow many aspects of his environment to remain eerie and mysterious for the reader, most notably the true nature of the novel’s villainous force, the skeletal ‘Boneys’- on the surface, seemingly an inevitable later stage of R and his kind’s decomposition, yet hinted at by Marion as something altogether more sinister and unconnected- potentially even extra-terrestrial.  It’s little hints like these that make ‘Warm Bodies’ so layered, subtle and rich, with nothing about this world ever truly certain or completely knowable, making R’s apparent gradual transformation back into a human feel entirely plausible, and not the fanciful terrain of sudden magical restorations to be found at the end of many a Disney film- it’s so much more elegant than that.

One superior element the novel enjoys over the movie adaptation (as much as this reviewer loved that film) is the nature of Julie’s father, General Grigio.  The story’s main antagonist apart from the Boneys, Grigio is a genuinely threatening presence, a clear obstacle to Julie and R’s potential happiness.  His eventual fate sends goosebumps across the skin, and further reinforces the sense that this is not a world of viruses or science gone wrong, but something much more primal and metaphysical.

‘Warm Bodies’ feels like a slow walk back to happiness from a bleak, dark premise.  Early on, Marion describes the zombie plague as the result of mankind having reached the bottom of the universe through its greed, and continuing to dig.  In many respects, this beautifully crafted story feels like a physical crawl out of that same abyss little by little- R climbing his way up towards the light alongside the reader.  When we finally emerge out into the sun, the sense of reward, of having escaped the darkness in the pit below us, is all the more blissful.

 

*****

 

A beautifully paced story of redemption, with the reader closely bonded to the central character from the very first page.

 

Christopher Moore

@Moore_27Chris

The Hunger Games Trilogy review

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For my first book review post, I thought I’d do a retrospective of a series of books I’m sure most readers will be familiar with by now: Suzanne Collins’ ‘The Hunger Games’ trilogy.

I first read ‘The Hunger Games’ back in 2012, in time for the first movie adaptation, but found myself so busy with other things that I didn’t get around to reading Books 2 and 3 until two years later.  It’s hard to know whether this gap had any impact on my overall appreciation of the series, or if my verdict would have been different if I’d bulk-read all three together, but as it stands, I was left feeling that, while Book 1 is a near-masterpiece, its sequels are, at best, adequate follow-ups.

Perhaps it’s unfair to expect a sequel to recapture the magic of the original- it rarely happens.  Most second-instalment success stories (think ‘The Empire Strikes Back’) tend to be hits because they go off in different, startling directions that build on and enrich the existing world, but certainly don’t rely on it for their power.  This reviewer was left with the distinct feeling that ‘Catching Fire’ and ‘Mockingjay’ simply cling to the coat-tails of the original- understandable enough, and both books are far from disasters, but it’s interesting to wonder how the series might have looked if Collins had been braver in this respect.

To ‘The Hunger Games’ first, then.  As suggested already, the book is, for this reviewer, close to perfect.  A prime example of just enough world-building without sacrificing story, the novel throws us into the action straight away, its pacey, first-person writing style allowing us to really get to know our protagonist Katniss within a single page.  Collins drip-feeds any information we need about the characters’ environment, keeping the plot ticking along so that by the end of the first chapter, we already have our high-stakes premise in place- the person Katniss cares about most, her sister, in deadly danger.

The pace never stalls from this point on, managing to keep the reader gripped throughout a first third which, when examined objectively, is really only setup.  It’s not until Part 2 that the story truly gets going, yet it hasn’t felt that way at all through any of the preceding chapters- the buildup and sense of creeping tension is so masterfully done.  By the time the characters are thrown into the arena of the titular games, we feel we’ve already been following a rich, engrossing story- when the action really starts, it merely kicks our enjoyment up an extra gear.

The tense nature of the novel is beautifully sustained, never truly allowing us to relax, always keeping us on edge and worried for the characters’ fates, with any pauses in the narrative merely serving as powerful interludes in their own right, such as Rue’s tragic end, and Katniss’ subsequent grief.  Dread is never far away though, and the story continues relentlessly, building to a suitably dramatic climax as the final three contestants battle it out amidst a greater attack by mutual foes.

Katniss Everdeen herself is a strong, richly-drawn character, wilful and defiant, yet laced through with vulnerability and weak points, Collins’ decision to tell the story entirely through her eyes paying off wonderfully.  Peeta Mellark is a refreshing male lead: thoughtful and a romantic at heart, in spite of the brutality of the world around him, yet not above shrewdness and trickery to protect the ones he loves.  One of the best aspects of the book for this reviewer is the well-sketched, understated love story between the two protagonists, Collins ensuring the reader can see clearly Peeta’s true feelings whilst her narrator, Katniss, fails, almost literally, to see the wood for the trees.  Of the secondary characters, Capitol spokeswoman Effie Trinket stands out the brightest, proving a welcome source of light comedy amidst the tension and horror, while the decision to keep President Snow a malevolent background figure for the time being is well-judged.

The book, for me, ends on just the right note, a happy ending in the traditional sense all but impossible within the tone of this world, leaving us just hopeful enough that Katniss and Peeta can perhaps find genuine love in the fullness of time, but ultimately concluding things on an appropriately sombre beat.

It’s a shame, then, that ‘Catching Fire’ and ‘Mockingjay’ don’t quite manage to maintain the suspense of THG.  Certainly, CF takes things off in an interesting direction that doesn’t entirely rely on Book 1 for its cues, but ultimately, Katniss and Peeta being forced back into the arena, however aesthetically different this time around, feels inevitably like a retread.  The dilemma inherent in fighting for survival against previous winners, people who have all come through the same struggles as Katniss in Book 1, is rich territory to explore, but it would have been interesting to see if Collins could have achieved this without the use of another arena tournament.  The Plutarch and District 13 twists are genuinely good ones, but, for this reviewer, don’t altogether manage to offset the sense of repetition.

To be fair to CF’s arena setting, though, some of the new ideas and sequences within, such as the clock twist, the poisonous fog, and the jabberjay psychological attack, are fantastic, and again, if they had been part of some other scenario than a second contest, would have been all the more gripping.

In terms of characterisation, on the other hand, Book 2 fares far better.  Right from the start, President Snow is brought into the action in a much greater way, and becomes a memorable, chilling villain in the process.  The tensions, misunderstandings and constant dangers in Katniss and Peeta’s relationship are well-played, ensuring we all but scream at the page when either of them find themselves in mortal danger (in particular, Peeta’s electrocution by the force field), while one of the best aspects of CF sees love rival Gale finally become a proper character in his own right, after being absent for most of Book 1.  Of the new players, Finnick and Johanna prove themselves to be enjoyable additions, Johanna’s caustic barbs, in a sense a more extreme form of Katniss’ own jadedness, a particularly refreshing element to be thrown into the mix.  It’s a shame they’re only really given prominent roles in the second half of the novel, though.

‘Mockingjay’ is notoriously the instalment with which most people have issues, although my own problems with it are probably different to most.  The most common complaint is that the story of Book 3 drags, with too many instances of Katniss falling ill or missing out on the main action.  I never really found myself buying into that.  The final third of the novel more than makes up for any sense of our heroine being forced to sit on the sidelines, and it’s interesting to get a bit more politics and intrigue this time around, after the straightforward action of the first two books.  President Coin (nicely subtle name) proves a compelling, insidious new player, and Gale gets to truly shine as a character at last, driving the plot ahead more than Katniss, in fact, for much of the book.  Peeta’s brainwashing is a wrenching twist for his and Katniss’ relationship, and contributes nicely to our yearning for President Snow to finally get his comeuppance.

This reviewer’s major complaint with Book 3, however, is the sense of a lack of proper resolution for the main characters.  Although Gale comes into his own for much of the novel, his eventual fate feels underwhelming (though I’m glad Collins avoided the easy route of killing one side of the love triangle off), while Katniss and Peeta’s ‘happy’ ending feels strangely off.  On the one hand, I can see the author trying to study the idea that war leaves people something of a shadow of their former selves, making the sort of happiness they might once have hoped for virtually impossible, but it still feels like a downbeat end to their story.  On paper, all the right beats, words and declarations are there, but it all seems to lack an emotional heart by this point.  It’s hard to know whether this was Collins’ intention.  If it was, she succeeded- if not, it’s slightly frustrating execution.  Prim’s fate, meanwhile, is the moment that left me with the most mixed feelings, and I’m still not sure how I feel about this outcome for the character whose earlier jeopardy kicked off the entire story.  And elsewhere, on a more minor note, I feel that Effie’s almost complete absence from Book 3 is a misstep (something, interestingly, made very different by the movie adaptation).

‘Mockingjay’, however, is still full of great elements that more than salvage the story.  The attack in the sewers is an incredible sequence, one of the scenes in the whole trilogy that translated best to film, while Katniss’ final decision during the public execution is a genuinely startling twist for anyone not aware of what’s coming.  And the sense of slow claustrophobia and confinement within District 13 for the first part of the book is an interesting complement to the relentless tension and dread of Book 1.

‘The Hunger Games’ remains a brilliant trilogy of novels, the magnificence of Book 1 more than enough to prop up any shortcomings that the following two have, with the series as a whole standing as an intellectual, thought-provoking and richly-crafted alternative to the Twilights of Young Adult bookshelves.  It still contains all the tropes of the YA genre, yet woven within a stronger, powerful message permeating the whole trilogy, one with a deep resonance for all readers, not just teenagers.  This reviewer has no doubt that Book 1, at least, will come to be regarded as a classic.

 

The Hunger Games *****

Catching Fire ***

Mockingjay ***

Trilogy ****

 

A thrilling, tension-seeped trilogy of novels with a strong message, driven primarily by the sheer brilliance of the first.

 

Christopher Moore

@Moore_27Chris

Introduction

Welcome to Sleepy Sheep, a writing blog by a Northern Irish literature graduate and recent TV screenwriting student, currently working on a novel and coming to the end of a year studying in Glasgow.

To start with, the title of this blog is taken from an in-joke with a good friend of mine (as good a way of finding an original title as any), so it’s not just something I plucked from the ether.  This will, however, be as far as I ever explain it…  Probably.

The blog is an amalgamation of what had previously been four different sites, streamlined into one for simplicity’s sake.  ‘Sleepy Sheep’ had previously been the home to Film and TV reviews, but will now also host my short stories, book reviews, travel and appreciation pieces, the occasional theatre review, and general reflections.

I love fiction-writing with a passion, and the creativity it draws out and nurtures.  I’ve done courses and degrees in novel-writing, stage-writing and screenwriting, and have a genuine love for all three mediums, as well as trying my hand from time to time at short stories and flash fiction.  This blog is intended as somewhere to showcase some of my shorter pieces of work, prose being my original, and still very powerful, love when it comes to writing.

As a recent MATV Fiction Writing student at Glasgow Caledonian University, however, screenwriting is also something that has really grabbed my imagination, and so I’ll be using this blog as a space to share my thoughts on current (and occasionally older) films and television dramas.

Having loved books since I was a child, and having greatly enjoyed studying literature for my undergrad at Queen’s University Belfast, I also want to use ‘Sleepy Sheep’ as a place to reflect on books I enjoy, both current and classic, of any genre.

Meanwhile, having travelled a lot these last few years between Northern Ireland and Scotland, and occasionally further afield, I want to take the chance to write some pieces on my impressions of various places I’ve spent time in, and convey my affection for both my home and adopted home.

Finally, having completed the Fireworks Young Writers programme for Tinderbox theatre company in Belfast during 2014, I’ve developed a love of theatre and the excitement, immediacy and raw quality of that medium, and while I already review Northern Irish theatre for the blog Scene Docs (https://scenedocs.wordpress.com), I’ll include any reviews of theatre I happen to see outside the province here.

At this point, I’d like to give a shout out to a few different groups of people who have supported me on my writing journey and provided invaluable feedback.  Firstly, the 2013 Curtis Brown Creative three-month novel-writing course alumni, many of whom I still exchange feedback with on a regular basis.  Secondly, Writers’ Block, the creative writing group at Ballymena Central Library, who have been a great source of local support at home.  And thirdly, the Glad Writers Circle in Glasgow Southside, who have been a fun, dynamic group to write with during my time studying in Scotland.  You’ve all been great friends and a huge source of encouragement.

I hope everyone who visits the site, whatever their area of interest, will find something to enjoy in my writing, and please feel free to leave comments or thoughts on any of the pieces.

Happy reading, viewing and writing, and safe travels 🙂

 

Christopher Moore 

@Moore_27Chris