Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Devouring Films: Young Adult (aka hear me rant about UK cinemas)

I've seen Young Adult twice now (because I love it) but neither of those times was in a cinema in England, the rightful place, I think we'll all agree for doing things like watching films. But no: across the three major cinema chains in England, I think Young Adult was showing on about 30 locations, when combined they must have at least 350 locations in the UK. And this pisses me off SO much, because hey, what do you need to do to get your film widely distributed? Win an Oscar for your screenplay writing skills? Have an Oscar winning actress in the leading role? Direct Oscar-nomiated performances? Nope, none of that thanks, you just have to be in 3D, and, I have to assume, really really crap (I'm looking at you, Ghost Rider 2 *shakes fist at Nicholas Cage*).

This isn't even the first time I've been deprived of Diablo Cody-ness! United States of Tara (RIP) was never shown in the UK, for no discernable reason I can think of, other than some kind of strange vendetta against Cody. I think it might have been Cody herself who said that there's a lot less trust when women are involved in filmmaking, in that they're checked up on a lot more, and a lot less is invested in them (I may be getting that confused with Drew Barrymore, when she directed Whip It, another film that wasn't released anywhere, and where it was released it was out for about a week) and I guess that's something that's reflected in a limited release- if there's no guarantee that screens are going to be full, then no one wants to take the risk of putting out films that are slightly edgy/about anything interesting at all. I understand that a lot of movies that I would classify as being like this are also indie movies, and so they have all sorts of other problems with finances, but Young Adult was financed, at least in part, by Paramount. Who have plenty of money. Hmm.

Anyway, it's such a shame because Young Adult is a great movie that so many people aren't going to be bothered to seek out and watch, and so are going to miss out on it. It's funny, it's sad, it's disturbing, but above all else, it's real. I know I've waxed lyrical before about how much better indie films are than (most) big studio productions, because they reveal so much more about life and about ourselves; and Young Adult is no exception. Charlize Theron is brilliant and hilarious as Mavis Gary, a YA writer who does, herself, refuse to grow up and move on with her life. Upon hearing that her high school boyfriend has just had a baby, she decides to go back to her tiny hometown (for which she has plenty of contempt) in an attempt to win him back and so to get the life that she thinks she deserves.

Nothing about this decision strikes Mavis as slightly insane, and it takes a really great Patton Oswalt (as Matt, a guy who Mavis went to high school with who was crippled after some jocks beat him up because they thought he was gay) to attempt to reason with her, and make her see that her actions are unhinged/foolish/vindictive/not very well thought through. Not that he ever really gets this through to her, but he tries, and because he is the only person paying the kind of attention she wants to her, Mavis ends up hanging out with him more and more, as Buddy (her ex, played by the oh-so-loveable Patrick Wilson) repeatedly shows her how much he loves his wife and new baby.

All the characters are so real, and nothing about their actions is even that predictable or cliched. I've seen some criticism of this film where reviewers have said that it's kind of lame because Mavis doesn't grow or change as a result of the things that happen in the film. This has annoyed me considerably because 1) that's not really true, and although I can't really explain why because it's kind of a thing at the end that would be a bummer if I gave it away, 2) it's not the kind of film where the woman has to be a reformed character at the end because she's been less-than-perfect throughout- I mean, Mavis is genuinely unlikeable, but there's nothing to say that unlikeable characters suddenly have to turn likeable because a film is ending, and 3) in real life, she wouldn't change. She just wouldn't. Hence, a reinforcement of the 'real' thing, and really just another reason why I like this film.

At least, I'm pretty sure I do. Crappy audio, and fuzzy visuals do not exactly make for the best film watching experience, so ask me again when it comes out on DVD. Or better yet, ask the cinemas why they didn't give it a wider release. Because here's what I think. Sometimes people don't know what's good for them, and so will just go and see Ghost Rider 2 because, hey, you get to wear those fun glasses,  and Nicholas Cage isn't the most annoying human being ever or anything! Why make that easier for them by not even giving them the option of seeing something that's a lot more real, but still entertaining and engaging? Films like Young Adult are never going to make money when there's no confidence in them, and there isn't going to be any confidence in films like Young Adult while they're not making any money. It's a vicious, and kind of ridiculous cycle, and one that I'd like to stop, right now, please.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Devouring Books: The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates

You guys! I finally, FINALLY finished a book from my TBR list/ Off the shelf challenge! It's like some kind of miracle! I mean, I'm absolutely keeping in mind that this means I literally didn't read a book I already owned that I hadn't read before until February 25th of this year, whilst also having bought about, well, at least 10 new books in that time. But that's neither here nor there really, so we can just ignore that... *pushes fact under the carpet, whistling innocently*.

Right! Well, now that the self-congratulations are dispensed with, let's talk about The Falls shall we? Set in Niagara Falls (an area that I'm assuming Oates knows well, since quite a few of her books are set in Upstate New York) it explores not only the mystical and hypnotising powers of the falls, but also looks at one, not at all typical family living and growing up by them, just as their formation was ensured by them. And it's all dramatic, and there are murders and lawsuits and neuroses and children who all feel like they're inadequate, and less loved than their siblings. So, you know, all that usual life stuff and all.

Here's the thing with Oates. There is always a slight distance between the reader and the characters, so that, even as you feel like you know the characters pretty well, they remain universal enough so they could almost be anyone, at any time. Their fears, concerns, joys and successes are so real and so familiar that, in keeping slightly aloof from the characters, they could almost be members of our own families, or even ourselves. I think, though, that this way of writing characters has an impact on how the story reads, and it's either something you like or you don't. Love one Oates book, and you're pretty much going to love them all, but hate one, and you should probably avoid her. This isn't to say that all her stories are the same, far from it, in fact, but the style they are written in remains pretty constant, and it happens to be one that I really like.

So. A real closeness to the characters is almost impossible, but their emotions, and their thoughts? Those we can sympathise with. We can sympathise with Dirk Burnaby's (GREAT name, by the way!) moral dilemma between wanting to prosecute chemical factories for polluting areas and making a lot of people ill (literally all I could think of during that whole part was Erin Brockovich, which is a good thing to me- how you feel about it probably depends on how much you like Julia Roberts...) and wanting to stay friends with his friends who were involved with said chemical factories, and we can sympathise with Ariah's desire to not know anything, so that she also can't be hurt by anything. I mean, don't get me wrong, we can also criticise them for their decisions and believe that their moral dilemmas are really easy to decide on, and yet in our own lives, we can probably think of parallels and so, there's that sympathising again!

By far my favourite part of the book was the last part, which was all about Dirk and Ariah's three children. Partly, I think, because in knowing their origins, it's like we know everything there is about them, but also purely because they're all less insane than their parents (well, than Ariah. Dirk's ok). Through three random events in each of their lives, we get a pretty comprehensive idea of what they're like and who they are, and we get to know that hey, they're ok; and also that an overbearing mother and absent father don't have to mean that they're irrevocably damaged- in fact, they all manage to break free of the roles assigned to them by their mother, and forge out their own lives, even if that means breaking away from 'The Family' (Family= a big thing in this book. Although not in a mafia way. Probably.)

So. I'm glad I finally read this book, especially since I started it about 4 years ago and never picked it up again, and now I won't have to look at it on my bookshelf every day and idly wonder what it's about. It's not my absolute favourite of all the Joyce Carol Oates books I've read (that would be Blonde) but I liked it plenty.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Sunday Sundries

Figured out that Instagram literally can't improve on nature (at least the pretty parts)... Marvelled that it was warm enough to read outside, although admittedly I did have to put on some fingerless gloves in the end... Baked bread for the first time in about 10 years, and thoroughly enjoyed eating it!... Knitted a hat! Which is slightly absurd looking, but also only the second thing I've knitted that wasn't a blanket, and therefore I love it!

Not pictured: lots and lots of cooking and cleaning, and oh sweet lord the washing. I mean, I washed some clothes on Monday, and then I was horrified that by Friday the washing basket was completely full again! I was so not cool with that. I am cool with the cooking though, since as you may have seen on Wednesday, I've given up meat for Lent, which is something that my mum never lets me do properly, in that she goes 'well, there's just this bit of pork mince leftover...' and I feel bad for being an inconvenience to her so just agree to eating the meat, only there's always 'just a bit...' leftover because she KEEPS BUYING MEAT! It's annoying, but anyway, now I'm cooking, I get to make the choices! So, yay! I've got some yummy chinese food planned for tomorrow night, so if that ends up looking pretty, I'll take a picture of it and display its glory here next week!

Only one hospital trip this week (that I went on, anyway) to get my mum's drain taken out and have her dressing changed, which literally took 10 minutes, but she also had a bone scan (apparently a standard thing/next step along the cancer road) on Friday that I decided not to go to and I'm way glad I didn't because she had to wait ages, and then go to another hospital (it's a bit tricky to explain, but there are basically two hospitals linked together almost as one that the staff go between on different days, but they're like 20 minutes away from each other... all very confusing!) because the radiographer thought she had an infection, but she just had fluid on the breast, which is apparently normal, so 1) phew!, and 2) a bit of a palaver of a day, I think! Tomorrow I'm going with her to see the consultant who's going to talk about what the next steps are going to be, which I wasn't too worried about until mum started going, 'I know they're going to say it's spread to somewhere else, and I'll have to have a mastectomy and chemo', and I went 'shut up, shut up, shut up!' and so yeah, now I'm worried! But we'll see how that goes. Oh yeah, and my dad's going into hospital on Tuesday so he can have a nephrostomy, and I would explain why but my dad's medical history should perhaps be saved for another day... ANYWAY, lots of hospital this week. Le sigh.

Reading-wise though, I actually finished a book this week! And not just any book, but a book that's on my TBR Challenge list, and so one that's been on my shelves for about four years! This literally excited me so much, and I've already written the review so hey, there'll be at least one blog post about books this week! Yippee! I'm also progressing well with Jane Eyre (just over a hundred pages to go) so who knows, 2 book reviews this week? Can such a thing be done?! Maybe. I really don't know what to read next though- all I know is that I shouldn't read more than one book at once, and so I'll probably be reading 5 this time next week. Such is the craziness of my brain.

Finally, what I should be doing tonight is watching the Oscars, only to do that you have to have Sky Movies Premiere, which is a channel that I don't have because my dad is stupid and would rather have sports channels than movie ones. I'm blaming Murdoch for it though, because he's EVIL and SELFISH and doesn't want anyone to be happy EVER. I can't even be bothered to stay up and watch all the dresses go down the red carpet, so I'll just go to bed early (have to be at the hospital at like 9.15 tomorrow anyway!) and be all pissed off. And find out who won on twitter in the morning! One day I will watch the ceremony though guys. One day...

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Winners, and another book list...

So, the Literary Blog Hop ended yesterday and I had to pick my winners today! Out came the hats, and the winners were (drumroll in your heads please):

Of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: Jenn from Booksessed! (Jenn fought off stiff competition from a whole 9 other entrants! I don't know whether to be irritated, or pleased that basically everyone has read Jane Eyre!)

and, of How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran: Alice from Reading Rambo!

Congratulations you guys! I'll be emailing you later for your addresses and things (there will be no things, just the addresses...) and you'll have your books... sometime in life!

And now, since I know how boring posts where people have won things can be, especially if you're not the winner; how about a list? I saw this on Brenna's blog yesterday, and I was all interested, then I saw it on Alley's blog today so I was like, fine, I'll look at the list and say which ones I've read too. If I must. (I realise I'm totally being grumpy about this, which is inaccurate because actually, I bloody love lists!)

So anyway, this list I speak of is made up of the books that The Telegraph (also known as the Torygraph, and newspaper of some consternation in my house, because my dad buys it because he likes the sports pages, whereas I'd rather he bought The Guardian...) thinks would make up the perfect library. It's a pretty hefty list, and I think some awesome books are missing from it, but there you go. What I'm going to do is cross out the ones I've read, and also put the ones I own, and so am ready to read sometime, in italics. Makes sense, no? Let's go!

The Iliad and The Odyssey- Homer
The Barchester Chronicles- Anthony Trollope
Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen
Gulliver's Travels- Jonathan Swift
Jane Eyre- Charlotte Bronte
War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy
David Copperfield- Charles Dickens
Vanity Fair- William Makepeace Thackeray
Madame Bovary- Gustave Flaubert
Middlemarch- George Eliot

Sonnets- William Shakespeare (I've read like 3 of them, so I don't think I should count that...)
Divine Comedy- Dante
Canterbury Tales- Chaucer
The Prelude- William Wordsworth
Odes- John Keats
The Waste Land- TS Eliot
Paradise Lost- John Milton
Songs of Innocence and Experience- William Blake
Collected Poems- WB Yeats
Collected Poems- Ted Hughes
(Ok, I suck at reading poetry. But really, Telegraph? No Emily Dickinson? Sylvia Plath? Not even Walt Whitman- he's even a man! Song of Myself, anyone?)

The Portrait of a Lady- Henry James
A La Recherche du temps perdu- Proust (Ok, I only have part one. But still, it's a start!)
Ulysses- James Joyce
For Whom The Bell Tolls- Ernest HemingwaySword of Honour Trilogy- Evelyn Waugh
The Ballad of Peckham Rye- Muriel Spark
Rabbit Series- John Updike
One Hundred Years of Solitude- Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Beloved- Toni Morrison

The Human Stain- Philip Roth

Rebecca- Daphne Du Maurier
Le Morte D'Arthur- Thomas Malory
Les Liasons Dangereuses- Choderlos de Laclos
I, Claudius- Robert Graves
Alexander Trilogy- Mary Renault
Master and Commander- Patrick O'Brian
Gone With The Wind- Margaret MitchellDr Zhivago- Boris Pasternak
Tess of the D'Urbervilles- Thomas Hardy
The Plantagenet Saga- Jean Plaidy


Swallows and Amazons- Arthur Ransome
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe- CS Lewis
The Lord of the Rings- JRR Tolkein
His Dark Materials- Phillip Pullman

Babar- Jean DeBrunhoff (Although I did love the cartoon!)
The Railway Children- E Nesbit
Winnie The Pooh- AA Milne
Harry Potter- JK Rowling

The Wind in the Willows- Kenneth Grahame
Treasure Island- Robert Louis Stevenson (I read this as part of a university unit, and it's so appropriate for all ages, not just children!)

Frankenstein- Mary Shelley
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea- Jules Verne
The Time Machine- HG Wells
Brave New World- Aldous Huxley
1984- George Orwell

The Day of the Triffids- John Wyndham
Foundation- Isaac Asimov
2001: A Space Odyssey- Arthur C Clarke
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?- Philip K Dick
Neuromancer- William Gibson

CRIMEThe Talented Mr Ripley- Patricia Highsmith
The Maltese Falcon- Dashiell Hammett
The Complete Sherlock Holmes- Arthur Conan Doyle
The Big Sleep- Raymond Chandler
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy- John Le Carre
Red Dragon- Thomas Harris
Murder On The Orient Express- Agatha Christie (I can't even describe how much I love this book!)
The Murders in the Rue Morgue- Edgar Allen Poe
The Woman in White- Wilkie Collins (I need to get a copy of this before April though!)
Killshot- Elmore Leonard

Das Kapital
- Karl Marx
The Rights of Man- Tom Paine
The Social Contract- Jean Jacques Rousseau
Democracy in America- Alexis de Tocqueville
On War- Carlvon Clausewitz
The Prince- Niccolo Machiavelli
Leviathan- Thomas Hobbes
On the Interpretation of Dreams- Sigmund Freud
On the Origin of Species- Charles Darwin
L'Encyclopedie- Diderot, et al

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
- Robert M Pirsig
Jonathan Livingstone Seagull- Richard Bach
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy- Douglas Adams
The Tipping Point- Malcolm Gladwell
The Beauty Myth- Naomi Wolf
How to Cook- Delia Smith
A Year in Provence- Peter Mayle
A Child Called 'It'- Dave Pelzer (this book did not at all change my world, and all it seems to have done is open the floodgates for any and all abused children to write books outlining their experiences. To which I say, I'm sorry and all, but please. Just stop.)
Eats, Shoots and Leaves- Lynne Truss
Schott's Original Miscellany- Ben Schott

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
- Edward Gibbon
A History of the English-Speaking Peoples- Winston Churchill
A History of the Crusades- Steven Runciman
The Histories- Herodotus
The History of the Peloponnesian War- Thucydides
Seven Pillars of Wisdom- T. E. Lawrence
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle- Compiled at King Alfred's behest
A People's Tragedy- Orlando Figes
Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution- Simon Schama
The Origins of the Second World War- A.J.P. Taylor

Confessions- St Augustine
Lives of the Caesars- Suetonius
Lives of the Artists- Vasari
If This is a Man- Primo Levi
Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man- Siegfried Sassoon
Eminent Victorians- Lytton Strachey
A Life of Charlotte Brontë- Elizabeth Gaskell
Goodbye to All That- Robert Graves
The Life of Dr Johnson- Boswell Diaries, Alan Clark

So, I've read 18 of these books, the majority of those are children's books, but I do have 17 more from the list to read! I do question the list itself though, because there's plenty of shit on it that I have no interest in reading, and it also seems to mainly avoid American authors, whom I read about 90% of the time. So basically, there's obviously nothing wrong with me, and plenty wrong with this list! But seriously- I do severely question a list like this that doesn't include The Republic by Plato...

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Lion King, The Circle of Life, and Me

So, I watched The Lion King for only the second time in my life the other weekend (I know, I know, it's amazing and everyone's seen it a kajillion times. What can I say? Other than 1) Boy Disney film! and 2) We didn't own it! I have seen Aladdin about 5 million times though...) and I was definitely into it and looking for its relation to Hamlet which, I'm sorry, but it's really not that similar to Hamlet. Aside from the lack of Shakespeare disappointment, though, I really really enjoyed it, and it did make me wonder how appropriate it was to kind of fancy a lion... (Mustafa is hooooot, you guys!)

Cartoon bestiality aside though, The Lion King did make me think about things a lot more than it was probably designed to do, because I am a crazy person with an overactive brain (and not overactive in a good productive way, just overactive in a 'let's overanalyse disney films while life passes me by' kind of way'.) So anyway, this whole circle of life thing. Mustafa's all like 'you have to respect the land, and just take what you need from it so that it can all renew itself in a healthy way' and it's like, the antelope eat the grass, and the lions eat the antelope, but that's ok, because when the lions die, they go back into the earth and help the grass to grow! And it's all organic and lovely, and then Scar comes along and does what he does (we've all seen The Lion King, right?!) and he allows the hyenas, and, well, everyone, just take what they want without giving anything back, and everything turns to shit.

And so, you know what I'm thinking when I'm reading this? The way we live now, the way we consume the earth's resources and just buy and eat and buy and eat, is kind of like Scar's way of doing things. We just continually take and take, and give nothing back to the earth, so that if we're not careful, we're going to make the earth look like some hyenas came along and fucked everything up. Dammit, we are those hyenas! The thing is, when we can just go down to a supermarket and just buy whatever we want for not very much money, where is the benefit of thinking about where that stuff has come from? Why should we think about 'the circle of life' when we can get whatever we want, whenever we want it; and never face any consequences for having such conveniences?

And, (and here's where I really get down to what I've been thinking) where's the incentive in thinking and caring about factory farming, when it means that we can get meat and eggs and oh man, cheese, for affordable prices, without having to know where they have come from. I mean, if a few animals (ok, millions) have to suffer so that I can have a nice juicy burger, why the hell should I care about it? The answer is, of course, that I should- and I do, only I don't care enough not to eat the yummy burger-especially if there's some cheese, or mmm, just a little bit of bacon on the top! But here's the thing about factory farming- it desperately doesn't respect the circle of life. From what I understand of it, the circle of life is about sharing everything with every being (human or not), and not taking any more than is your due. But we do that, all the time- as much meat as we can handle, which isn't even very good for us anyway; and we eat it because we like it. It's not because we've earned it, having hunted some animal for the best part of the day, and it's not like we even need to eat it- we eat it because we're used to having what we want, and we don't want to not have what we want because, you know, we're greedy (and when I say we, I obviously mean me.)

So. I mean, what can I conclude from all of this? Do I want to say that the only meat we should be eating is that which we've hunted down, killed for ourselves, and thoroughly earned? And that we should let animals roam free and have a good life before we eat them? That kind of is what I want to say, only I realise that the world has kind of moved on from that way of doing things, and whether or not I think it's right isn't going to change anything. The only thing I can realistically change is myself, and my own habits, and the best way I can think of to start is by giving up meat for Lent (not that I am in any way religious, but a 40 day trial isn't a bad way to go, I think). After that, who knows? I'd like to think I could be a vegetarian forever, but I don't know that I can. But I'm still taking this first step, to be just a little bit more respectful of the circle of life. Vegetarians, do you have any amazing recipes that I must try that will convert me to your ways/keep me from going hungry for the next few weeks? Let me know in the comments, and I'll probably give them a go!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Top Ten Tuesday

Hey guys, we all made it through Monday and well look! I've written a nice list to keep you all entertained! This is actually going to be my last Top Ten Tuesday for a few weeks because *whispers* I'm not all that keen on/bothered by the topics for the next few Tuesdays, but I'll be back to tell you all about the books I'll be most looking forward to for spring, so there's that! For this week though, I've gone with the books I'd take if my house was on fire, just because it's was the original list title and I'd already thought it through waaay too much to think about the books I'd need if I was abducted by aliens! So, here are:

Top Ten Books I'd Save If My House Was On Fire

1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
2. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte- So far, these are the only three Penguin Clothbound books I've got. They're not strictly irreplaceable, but they are beautiful (and quite expensive) so I'd definitely be saving them

4. The BUST DIY Guide to Life- Because, well, after I'd lost everything, I'd need some guidelines on how to rebuild my life. Plus I could make skirts and things from it and save me some money!

5. How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran- As an instruction manual, as well as something to make me laugh after all the horribleness

6. Maus by Art Speigelman- To remind me that, no matter how bad things seemed, they really could be much much worse

7. MoMA Highlights- Just because, I got this book when I went to New York, and I suspect they have a totally different edition of it now and whatnot, so it's basically irreplaceable.

8. The Freud Reader- I also got this from New York, and I'd like to save all my American books (cause it's harder to get them, you know?!) so, yeah. Also because it could be a useful tool to stop me from going mental.

9. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk- Is it not Tyler Durden who says 'It's only after we've lost everything, that we're free to do anything'?  I feel like this would be very useful advice for someone who's just lost everything, although maybe not so much if it spurs them on to start a terrorist organisation. Hmmm...

10. The Rough Guide to the USA- In the spirit of being free to do anything, what better than starting a new life in the USA, for which I would obviously need this book (which I love by the way... Ah, America). If I couldn't find it, The Rough Guide To Sweden would also be acceptable, because hey, Sweden is pretty awesome.

Obviously, family members and my macbook would take priority over any books, but that goes without saying really, doesn't it? I still think these ten books would set me in good stead for being able to move on with my life, and out of tragedy create opportunities. Like horrible capitalist governments.

On a slightly less depressing note, it's the best Tuesday of the year, and my favourite religious holiday today- Pancake day! (also known as Shrove Tuesday, I guess, but the pancake part is really the important bit!) In recognition of this glorious day, I've already had these, American style pancakes for breakfast, and I'll be having the more English-style ones (or, I guess, like crepes? Only thicker?) for after-dinner pudding. It's very very exciting! Will you be indulging in the pancake frenzy of today, and what's your topping of choice? I'm all about the nutella, personally, and if not that, then it's golden syrup. Mmmmmm...

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Sunday Sundries

Wherein I am trying to be more of a Midori and less of ANY OTHER CHARACTER in Norwegian Wood.

So, this is a new thing I'm trying where I talk about my feelings and stuff (mainly about stuff, I expect) and generally distract you from the fact that I haven't finished any books for a while and so my fairly unexceptional life will have to be enough to entertain you, at least for a while!

Firstly, I just want to say a massive THANK YOU for all your lovely comments on my post on Thursday- it was pretty difficult to write, just because I'm not all that good at talking about or, you know, facing things that are horrible and actually happening, so just reading your 'I'm so sorry' comments really helped me get through the roughest day. I don't know if any of you have had someone close to you have a big operation or anything, but it's the weirdest feeling- even though you're trying to get through your day as best you can, it's always on the back of your mind and makes you feel so... restless and edgy. Seriously. This feeling wasn't helped by the fact that the hospital seemed to lose my mum after her operation was over, so my dad was calling them and no one seemed to know where she was! It was really weird, and ultra unsettling!

Anyway, they eventually found her and we went to see her in the evening, which was horrible because she was all drugged and feeling the after-effects of the anaesthetic, and generally was pretty out of it, which isn't a state I'm used to her being in so it wasn't very nice. BUT then on Friday she came home kind of early and was literally fine seeming! I mean, she's all sore and has a drain coming out of her (I'm guessing where they took out lymph nodes and stuff, but we're not really sure!) but she keeps wandering around and moaning that she's bored because we won't let her do anything. The most common conversation in my house at the moment goes:
Me/My dad/My sister: Where are you going?
Mum: I'm just going to get a drink/get some fruit/go to the toilet
Person who asked: I'll get that for you
It's funny because she hates sitting around, yet that's all we're letting her do because, hello, tumour removed like 3 days ago! The fact that she doesn't seem to be in too much pain or anything really makes it easier to be a Midori rather than a Naoko, even if it makes her an annoying patient in that you have to stop her doing things. I still prefer it to the alternative though.

So, that was the main attraction (attraction?! I guess I mean event...) of the week. We also had hospital trips on Monday and Wednesday for... things that I'm sure were important but I can barely even remember now so 3 of my weekdays were spent in hospitals, and on Valentines Day I went shopping with my sister to Windsor, which I want to sound very impressive to Americans because there's a castle there and stuff, but which is a place I go to quite a lot so has lost all exotic attraction to me. I mean, I had lunch in a Pizza Hut that faces the castle, but it was still a Pizza Hut! Anyway, I bought myself presents because I'm a strong independent woman who doesn't need a man to do such things for her, and I'm assuming all your valentines cards got lost in the post..? I thought so.

Post-Thursday, it's pretty much been: looking after mum, doing washing, making dinner, putting flowers in vases (I have a big family. HUGE. And most of them are my mum's, so, you know, there've been flowers, and also a fruit basket!) and generally sharing household duties with my sister, who goes back to work tomorrow which I'm dreading a tiny bit because I'm so tired out just by my half of the things my mum does all the time! I think my sister and I have gained a newfound appreciation for all the things she does, and I've definitely revised my opinion of housewives. Like, seriously. I suppose that she does do more things than your average housewife since she's also my dad's carer (so for the next couple of weeks I am...) but still. It's kind of immense.

So. That was my week! There was also some reading- I'm not even halfway through Jane Eyre, I read a bit of The Falls on Saturday afternoon, but only because I was upstairs, Jane Eyre was downstairs and I couldn't be bothered to move. Which is bad. I'm getting through Jane Eyre at a snail's pace, which I blame entirely on having a beautiful copy of it- I do A LOT of reading in the bath, and I don't take Jane Eyre there anymore because of an unfortunate incident where a bit of water got on the front and rubbed off a bit of the cover... I don't want to talk about it, other than to say that it was VERY traumatic and I now practically have to wear gloves even to touch it because I don't want to injure it more. Very sad stuff, and I don't mean in this way :(. Mainly I'm too lazy/busy to read anything except magazines at the moment, but if you're VERY lucky this week you might get a rant about how awful Cosmo is, like you didn't already know that. Nothing but originality here folks!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Literary Giveaway Blog Hop!

So, it's been a while since I've given anything away (that's a complete lie, it's been about a month, but anyway) and hey, I have some spare books! So it's time to get generous! I'm going to be giving away 2 books this time, so listen closely, decide which one/s you'd like, and I'll tell you how to enter at the end of the post!

So, firstly I'm giving away Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I mean, I know everyone probably owns it and has read it like a million times already (wait, is that just me?) but just in case I'm giving away my old copy which, as an added bonus, has some very scholarly highlighting and possibly some very light notes in it from when I had to study it, but never actually read it, at University. So, as long as you don't mind some light noteage, then this could be the book to go for!

The other book I'm going to give away is How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran which you know you want to read! My review of it is right here, so please please check it out if you're going 'who the fuck is Caitlin Moran?' because this book is awesome and you deserve to read it. That's right, YOU do. Even if you're a man.

So, these are the things up for grabs. And how do you get your pretty little mitts on them, I hear you cry? Well, it's simple. Basically, leave me a comment and tell me which one/s you want, include an email address that you can be reached on, and two lucky people will get these books sent to them, post haste! You don't have to be a follower because I don't necessarily like blackmailing people so they can get a book, but if you'd like to follow me then I would be ECSTATIC, and my self esteem would skyrocket, so... that may be something to think about.

Oh yeah, and if you're amusing in your comment that would help me an awful lot, because last time I got like 80 comments, and sifting through them all in the end became slightly... repetitive. SO, exclamation points and jokes people, that's where it's at! The giveaway will end on Wednesday 22nd, at, let's say, 12 noon, GMT? So good luck and godspeed, and pray the lovely straw hats (scroll down) are lucky for you!

And hey, why not keep on hopping? All these lovely people are participating, so have a go and maybe you'll win one of their books!

  1. Leeswammes
  2. Curiosity Killed The Bookworm
  3. Lit Endeavors (US)
  4. The Book Whisperer
  5. Rikki's Teleidoscope
  6. 2606 Books and Counting
  7. The Parrish Lantern
  8. Sam Still Reading
  9. Bookworm with a view
  10. Breieninpeking (Dutch readers)
  11. Seaside Book Nook
  12. Elle Lit (US)
  13. Nishita's Rants and Raves
  14. Tell Me A Story
  15. Living, Learning, and Loving Life (US)
  16. Book'd Out
  17. Uniflame Creates
  18. Tiny Library (UK)
  19. An Armchair by the Sea (UK)
  20. bibliosue
  21. Lena Sledge's Blog (US)
  22. Roof Beam Reader
  23. Misprinted Pages
  24. Mevrouw Kinderboek (Dutch readers)
  25. Under My Apple Tree (US)
  26. Indie Reader Houston
  27. Book Clutter
  28. I Am A Reader, Not A Writer (US)
  29. Lizzy's Literary Life
  30. Sweeping Me

  1. Caribousmom (US)
  2. Minding Spot (US)
  3. Curled Up With a Good Book and a Cup of Tea
  4. The Book Diva's Reads
  5. The Blue Bookcase
  6. Thinking About Loud!
  7. write meg! (US)
  8. Devouring Texts
  9. Thirty Creative Studio (US)
  10. The Book Stop
  11. Dolce Bellezza (US)
  12. Simple Clockwork
  13. Chocolate and Croissants
  14. The Scarlet Letter (US)
  15. Reflections from the Hinterland (N. America)
  16. De Boekblogger (Europe, Dutch readers)
  17. Readerbuzz (US)
  18. Must Read Faster (N. America)
  19. Burgandy Ice @ Colorimetry
  20. carolinareti
  21. MaeGal
  22. Ephemeral Digest
  23. Scattered Figments (UK)
  24. Bibliophile By the Sea
  25. The Blog of Litwits (US)
  26. Kate Austin
  27. Alice Anderson (US)
  28. Always Cooking up Something

Thursday, 16 February 2012

If I'm Not Here, This is Where I'll Be

The interesting thing about blogging (at least about book blogging) is that you can feel like you're amazing friends with people, even while you're being able to withhold the biggest things that are happening in your real life. It's a weird relationship, sometimes restrictive and sometimes wonderful, but mostly, at least lately, I've been feeling kind of uncomfortable about withholding information- whilst also feeling like I could use some support from the place where I sometimes feel most at home.

So, here's the deal, and here's my attempt at opening up to some things (ok, one thing) that's happening in my real life. So, three days after Christmas (nice), my mum announced that she'd been to the doctor because she found a lump in her boob, and he referred her to the hospital. Fast forward about 3 weeks, and I'm sitting in a surgeon's office with her while he's telling her that she has breast cancer. Today she's having a lumpectomy and some lymph nodes removed, and her prognosis is very good.

But. It's still scary, and horrible, and I don't really know what to do with myself while all this is going on. Reading is pretty difficult, because it's hard to fully detach myself from what's happening in the real world and just escape into book world, and now I'm going to be taking over household duties while my mum's recovering from her operation. Which I'm fine with, and I don't mind at all, but at the same time, I think I need to try to carry on blogging and expressing myself in that way, because otherwise I might just cook the dinner, hoover, and then sit in a corner rocking for the rest of the day. That's, you know, the optimistic view for the next few weeks!

So. There will be less book reviews, at least for a while (and believe me, this isn't an apology about that because, you know, I gotta do what I gotta do) but I'm thinking that I might start doing weekly updates of my life in the real world- an opportunity to vent about what my real world life has been like for the week, and just an opportunity to kind of decompress from it all. At the moment I think that's something I need to do, but I could just as easily decide that I don't want to go into the potentially miserable reality of my life, and then we'll just never speak of this again. We'll see.

So. That's what's going on with me. Sadly this isn't the first time one of my parents has had cancer, so I'd like to think I'm slightly more prepared to deal then someone who's never gone through it before, and so far that's kind of looking like it's true- I'm definitely a lot more mature than the last time around, and having gone to pretty much all of my mum's hospital appointments with her (cancer? Mainly involves a lot of hospital appointments and people talking and stuff), it definitely takes away some of the scariness and makes it all seem slightly, well boring. But it's still plenty scary, especially today. My mum has been completely amazing so far, and I think that really has a calming effect on everyone else- we see that she's not freaking out about it, and so it would be foolish for us to freak out! There are already 2 cancer survivors in my immediate family, and we're well on the way to having family member number 3 kick cancer in its stupid arse.

So... What's new with everyone else?

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Devouring Stephen King: It

I can't even describe how difficult it's going to be for me to review It, because, you know that book you read when you were like a teenager that was amazing and made you completely fall in love with an author, that you thought couldn't possibly be as good as you remembered it being, but was actually better on a second reading, and that has somehow miraculously gotten better with each subsequent re-read? That's what It is for me, and yet explaining why I love it and what I love about it seems like an almost impossible task because I just love It, all of It, apart from the scary bits which I am appropriately scared by: only, I do love those bits too, because they are all part of what makes It so indescribably awesome.

I am babbling, I realise, and I'm pretty much starting to sound like I'm introducing some kind of award at some kind of event (not all that inappropriate considering that it is awards season) but let's be honest- If I was giving out awards for the best Stephen King books, this would win all of them. Best characters, best scares, best monster, best setting, best interplay of past and present... there's literally only one aspect of It that I don't like (which I'll come to later) and even that doesn't bother me as much as it should because (and I'll say it again) I just love It so much!

Ok, actual reasons. Firstly, it's DAMN scary. Like, I've been scared by Stephen King books before, but It is the only one that consistently scares me, and I've read it about 5 times now so I really do know what's coming. Regardless, the whole time I was reading It, I found it really difficult to walk through my house at night (the dark is genuinely scary when there might, just might, be a homicidal clown hiding in your bedroom) and I have, shamefully, but honestly, run to my bed after I've turned the bathroom light out so that nothing gets me in the dark (why my bed is safer than anywhere else, I don't know, but there you go.) To date, the things It has given me a phobia (whether mild or severe) of include clowns, drains, the plughole in the sink/bath, really really really big spiders, blood that you can see but no one else can, really big birds, and the whole state of Maine. So, just a few things then!

But the horror's really only a part of it, and honestly, I'd argue not necessarily the biggest part. What this book is really all about, is childhood and the loss of childhood- the reconciliation of what you once were with what you have become, and with trying to make sense of all of this. Of course the children (and adults) in It are extraordinary because of what has happened to them, but they are still people, and they're just trying to make sense of things, even when things can't really be made sense of. It's also about friendship- none of the things that happen in the book could have happened without the team being assembled, and as readers we get to witness the kind of easy and massively strong bonds of friendship under adversity (even if it doesn't stretch much beyond the two summers that are dealt with in detail). I realise I'm being pretty vague here, and that is deliberate- I read this book knowing nothing about it, and it was, honestly, an amazing experience that I wouldn't want to deprive anyone else of by giving too much away.

Having said that, to me It gets better with every read for me, I think simply because it's so complex that there's so much to have forgotten, and so much to remember again with each re-read. I think, actually, the first reading really just puts everything into perspective and you kind of understand what's going on; whereas on a second reading, when you're fully comfortable with all the characters, you can relax into it more and really take in everything that happens. On this most recent reading, I really and truly was within the story, and I didn't need to stop at all and go 'wait, but which one is he again' because I really feel like I know these characters inside out. Each new reading is always a surprise though, because I find my focus, and so a great portion of my love, goes on a different character each time. The first time I read it, it was unquestionably Ben, and while I do still generally adore him, I have shifted between characters and shared my love around equally. In this most recent reading, Richie got slightly more of my attention than the others, so right now I love him a fair bit, but it really does shift all the time. It's wonderful and exciting, and I never do quite know what's going to happen with that aspect of things.

Now. The one thing that bugs me but I let it go because I love It so much. I realise there's a danger in making this the only specific thing in this whole review, and you going 'well damn, that sounds like crap now' and just not reading It. DON'T DO THAT TO YOURSELF! Anyway... So, the thing with It is that there's essentially only one female character, Beverly, and she is pretty awesome (like, she's got the best aim with a slingshot and she's really tough and all) BUT she's also the one character who King makes burst into tears at every opportunity. And it bugged me because she's so strong in other ways, in spite of also being a domestic abuse victim (I would also complain about this, i.e. why does the only female character have to be a victim, but actually that's a pretty important plot point later on so I can kind of let that slide) and yet she seems genuinely unable to cope with any kind of crisis (and there are a lot of crises) without crying. And I just don't get it, because these are really scary and upsetting situations, so  I get Beverly's tears, but WHY IS NO ONE ELSE CRYING? I mean, I know that I more or less can't cry in front of other people, no matter what the situation, so I don't understand where King has gotten this idea from that women can't cope. But it's horrible and I don't like it and I want it to stop!

Anyway, that's a really minor complaint in a book where so much is right (even when everything's wrong) that I can't really dwell on it too much. Even while I was reading it and getting mildly annoyed, I literally thought afterwards 'well... He's done so well on so much else that I can't really complain', so while it bugs me a bit, it doesn't devalue all the rest of the book, which is (insert your favourite positive adjective here). I mean, I think this probably goes without saying, but really- if you're only going to read one Stephen King book in your life, it should be this one, and even if you don't want to, you should absolutely read this book. It's obviously one of those ones where I don't want to know if you don't like it because it would shatter my soul, but still. Please. Read, enjoy, be scared, and then repeat, ad infinitum. Oh, and when you review it, try to be a bit briefer than me, yeah?

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

I Love This, Ergo, You Will Too

This literally has nothing to do with books or movies or TV or even cake, but I have to share this because, hey, you've been good and you deserve a little Valentines treat. (Also because I've had it saved for about a week because I can't figure out what to do with it.) Anyway, Damien Rice and Ray Lamontagne are pretty much my favourite male singer-songwriters (nobody tell Jeff Buckley or Bob Dylan) so this video, which I found once and then somehow, alarmingly, forgot about, is pretty much the greatest thing in the world for me. And, obviously, for you too now. So, Enjoy!

Top Ten Tuesday

Well hi there, guys and gals, and happy Tuesday to you all! Nothing special at all happening today, at least not to me, so lets move on from that thing that some people might think is happening but isn't. At least not here. (Note: I say this now. I was totally planning to have a review up for Jane Eyre today, but I haven't actually read it so... we're going to pretend it isn't that day that everyone thinks it is.) So today's list is all about heartbreak, specifically mine, and even more specifically over books. Weep weep, wail wail. Etc. So, anyway, here are:

Top Ten Books That Broke My Heart A Little

1. It by Stephen King- I love, am scared of, am amused by It, and eventually this book breaks my heart too. I can't even tell you why, but just trust me when I tell you that it's really upsetting, but still well worth reading.

2. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier- That ending! It's so cruel! And just plain mean to the poor reader! Heartbreaking after you've grown to love the characters, especially.

3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte- Ok, I know nobody likes Wuthering Heights, BUT it does completely break my heart because Heathcliff's entire existence is so utterly bleak and unkind, and it turns him into someone who is so cruel, when he could have been so much better. I am far less heartbroken about Cathy's fate, because she's a spoilt little bitch and I hate her.

4. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby- This book breaks my heart more because of the situation rather than any actual events in it. It's basically the true story of its author, who suffered a massive stroke and was left with Locked-In Syndrome, which is basically where your brain still works but you're trapped inside this mostly inactive body. It's heartbreaking because you get to know the guy stuck in this useless body, and you really just want him to recover and to be ok again. The film is equally as heartbreaking.

5. Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott- aka the second part of Little Women, I was left traumatised when I finally read this! Beth! And Amy and Laurie! Far too much trauma for my liking.

6. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami- It really did. Consistently. In the parts where it wasn't amusing me/freaking me out.

7. The Hours by Michael Cunningham- Another traumatic ending that makes this book (one of my favourites) completely break my heart. The film of this is also worth watching, just because the ending there always always makes me cry, maybe even more than the book (although the book is way better overall).

8. Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates- Even though I knew what was going to happen, and that there wasn't going to be abundant happiness in this fictional biography of Marilyn Monroe, I wasn't quite expecting to be so moved by a story that I already knew pretty well. I was though, in the best and worst kinds of ways.

9. Maus I and II by Art Speigelman- Damn this is a difficult graphic novel to read, but it remains one of the most rewarding, albeit harrowing, reading experiences I've had. So so upsetting, and yet so incredibly meaningful.

10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky- I find pretty much everything about this book perfect, so in that, it also has the perfect balance of comedy and tragedy, and with each little tragedy, my heart broke just a little bit. In spite of that, (or maybe partially because of it) it was still a wonderful reading experience.

So, yes. Heartbreaking stuff, but mostly in a good, healthy, cathartic sobbing over a book way. If there's anything I sickly enjoy more than having a weep over a good book, then I'm not sure if I've figured out what that is yet! How about you? Any good books that you weep over but still adore desperately?

Monday, 13 February 2012

Devouring Films: Amelie

Some Reasons Why You Should Probably Definitely Watch Amelie
1. Subtitles!- Films with subtitles, for people who like to read, are awesome, because you get to read words as well as watching a film, and in my eyes that's like getting two things for the price of one. Bargain! Additionally, the actual speaking is in French, which as we all know is the most beautiful of languages. It's so seductive that the other day, my Dad genuinely found himself attracted to this French chef on the TV, even though he was not at all attractive and my Dad's relatively straight. Powerful stuff!

2. It's set in Paris!- I don't know if you know this, but Paris is the BEST for pretty buildings, and Notre Dame, Sacre Couer, and many, many train and Metro stations show up in Amelie. It also gets extra points for not constantly showing the Eiffel Tower the way an American film set in Paris would do (you know, like when the hero/heroine goes into their lodgings and their window always ALWAYS has a view of the Eiffel Tower? PARIS ISN'T ACTUALLY LAID OUT THAT WAY. Ahem.)

3. Amelie is so lovely!- Like, she's really shy and sweet, but she also wants to do lovely things for people and bring great joy to their lives, only in a secretive and shy way. In doing this, the events that happen to these people can happen without them thinking of them as something they have to offer thanks for, but almost as if by magic, which makes them all the more special. She truly enjoys doing them without getting any kind of reward, although its questionable whether this means that she is unable to take any rewards for herself ever is a subject for another day.

4. Nino Quincampoix!- Seriously, SUCH a cute love interest for Amelie! Just look at him, I want to smoosh his face!
5. The whole rest of the cast of characters!- There are clear lines drawn between the characters you're meant to dislike and the ones you're supposed to love, but in terms of being wonderfully drawn characters, every single one is up to scratch. The whole crew at Les (des?) Deux Moulins, the ever-so-sad lady who lives downstairs, the cruel grocer who gets his come-uppance, Collignon; and of course the ever-so-sweet Lucien and the crabby but loveable M. Dufayel. Basically, everyone's wonderful, even those who aren't.

6. The character descriptions!- In most cases, when a new character is introduced, we're given a few facts about them. Instead of being really ordinary (read: boring) though, these descriptions are things like: 'She hates the phrase 'fruits of thy womb'' or 'he likes overhearing children's stories' (that one's actually about a cat, so that should give you some idea of how awesome this film is). It's just a small thing, but it's a really nice touch, and one that tells you from pretty much the beginning that this film is not going to be your ordinary fare.

7. This- "Without you, today's emotions would be the scurf of yesterdays."

8. And also, this- "Amelie has a strange feeling of absolute harmony. It's a perfect moment. A soft light, a scent in the air, the quiet murmur of the city. A surge of love, an urge to help mankind overcomes her."

9. And, finally- I love it so much that I can't even write a proper review of it, because I don't want to overstate it, and nor do I want to lose the magic of it that I can't describe with words. But just know that, to me, it's perfect.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Blog Tag, and I'm It?

Yeah, that's right. Tag.

So, I was just going about my usual Saturday life (laying around, watching The Lion King, fucking around on the internet) when, LO! A new post from Alley at What Red Read appeared across the internet kingdom. So she's been playing blog tag, and tagged me, presumably because I couldn't run away fast enough because that's what happens to me in real life when I play tag (which is never). Anyway, I don't mind because YAY this sounds fun, and it gives me an excuse to blog post on a Sunday which like never happens!

So, the deal is:
1. Post the rules (oh hey, lookit what I'm doing!)
2. Post 11 fun facts about yourself
3. Answer questions from the person who tagged you
4. Make up 11 questions for the people you tag 
5. Tag 11 people (I'm clearly not going to tag 11, especially since Red has already tagged about 5 of the people [that includes herself, actually] I would have tagged. But I'll tag a few, and anyone who doesn't want to play, that's cool, I'll just assume you got away from me because that's genuinely what would happen IRL)
6. Let them know they've been tagged

Sounds pretty easy. Let's go!

11 Fun Facts about me

1. Instead of reading much at the moment, I've been crafting my butt off, for no reason other than I want to make pretty things. By crafting my butt off, I clearly mean knitting whilst watching Weeds and Breaking Bad on Netflix, but hey, that's the same thing.

2. On Thursday and Friday I managed to spill 3 glasses of water, one of which was full and went all over my bed, and meant I had to sleep on the sofa. That's just not normal!

3. I severely want to live anywhere apart from where I do. Right now my number one candidate is Paris (I just watched Amelie) but mostly it's just New York City. Like, you know, all the people who've ever lived in the world. Yeah.

4. I'm obsessed with literary tattoos and I really really really want to get many, although I don't have any tattoos yet. I'm thinking that once I'm done with my whole Stephen King thing, I'll get one of his quotes tattooed on me someplace (I actually found a really really good one yesterday!)

5. I am addicted to Lush products. When I was a student, the majority of my student loan probably went in to Lush stores, and, to be honest, most of my money still does. And about that, I say, Je ne regrette rien! (Seriously, it smells so so so so good!)

6. I regularly daydream about the things I would do to my bedroom if my sister moved out (at the moment, it's turning her bed into a kind of chaise longue and generally having much more space for books). Since she 'doesn't agree' with renting, I'm probably more likely to move out than she is, even though I don't have a job right now. And yet I still dream the good dream!

7. I can only really get fully attached to TV programmes once they've ended forever, which is massively not a good thing because it means there are NO MORE EVER, which is really sad. So far, this has happened with The West Wing, Buffy, Sex and the City... It's really not a healthy thing to do.

8. I am dying to see Damien Rice live! I'm fairly sure the last time he toured was in 2007, only I didn't go because he was playing London on my second weekend at University, which I felt certain I would need to have for 'bonding time'. Since I pretty much hate everyone I lived with that year, I'm so unbelievably pissed off that I didn't go.

9. I have a pretty sizable collection of Converses, which basically began to accumulate after I saw Dave Grohl wearing some on the cover of a magazine. I think I have about 14 pairs, and I'm on my second pair of pink ones and I should be on my third pair of black ones. I also haven't had a new pair for a really long time, so I should really get on that.

10. My favourite story about myself-when-I-was-younger is the time that I sneaked me and my cousin out of nursery when I was about 3/4 because I knew my mum and auntie were in the school hall watching my sister's assembly and I apparently wanted to see them. This makes me think that I was kind of a badass kid, and, you know what, sometimes I miss her! My least favourite part of this story is the bit where nobody shouted at the nursery teacher lady for not keeping a closer eye on us, because, hello, 3/4 years old!

11. When I'm really tired, I talk SO much because I'm physically unable to monitor my own speaking. It's, I'm sure, really annoying to everyone else, but I find it funny because, hey! I'm tired, so everything's funny. This is also the complete opposite to how much I talk when I'm not tired, which is hardly at all.

And now, Alley's Questions (which will be much easier than just randomly talking about myself, I hope!)

1. What's your favourite bookish movie? (movie based on a book, movie with literary tendencies etc)
Right now, I'm thinking 10 Things I Hate about you, just because it's so funny and great and, for once, an improvement on the book! But movies I love that I think have literary tendencies include American Beauty and Rachel Getting Married. OH, and I also think Brokeback Mountain is amazing. So basically I have many favourites!

2. How often do you re-read books?
Now, hardly ever, but it seems like there was a time when I pretty much just used to rotate The Hours-To Kill A Mockingbird-The Grapes of Wrath and a few others, which explains why I have so many unread books. I'm much better now because hey, I have to try and come up with blog content, you know?

3. What's your favourite reading spot?
I really really really love reading in bed, but it is winter right now- so my actual favourite reading spot is somewhere outside on a blanket, basically. And if it's by a river, and there's a picnic involved, then it's basically bliss...

4. Which season is your favourite?
I'm going to say- a really warm spring. So, warm enough that you think it's almost summer, but also with all the beautiful blossoming and baby animals and things. Also my birthday's in April, which doesn't hurt with the spring loving!

5. What's your profile picture?
It's a picture of me! Mwahahaha. But actually, it's a picture of me with a cake made for me by my lovely friend Frances, on my sort of 21st birthday (like, the third part of it). I've actually just realised that picture isn't even on my page though, and the picture in my 'About me' section, is me, in a diner in New York City, with a burger, aka I'm in heaven!

6. What's your ideal meal?
I dislike so many foods, but I also love so many foods- there's kind of no inbetween with me. So, I'd say, some kind of duck pancake starter, followed by an amazing burger and like an oreo milkshake, followed by probably some cheesecake, or maybe just a cupcake. Or, failing that, a really yummy savoury crepe.

7. What's your guilty pleasure TV show, movie, book?
I refuse to accept 'guilty pleasure' as a thing- pleasure is always good! But if you insist- Teen Mom/The Hills, The Lindsay Lohan Freaky Friday, and the Shopaholic series/Sookie Stackhouse books. But I still don't feel guilty!

8. How do you like to spend a rainy day? 
I know reading is the obvious answer here, and I definitely do that when it's raining and like it, but before I settle down to that, I usually look mournfully out of the window for a bit and wish that I could do something else, even though I wouldn't care about doing that thing on a non-raining day. Just call me Mary (... quite contrary...)

9. Do you have any good Tumblrs to recommend?
Why yes, yes I do. Like, Bookshelf Porn, Hot Guys Reading Books, Awesome People Reading, Awesome People Hanging Out Together, and The Word Made Flesh.

10. If you like to cook (or bake) what is your favourite thing to make?
I like to bake anything and everything! I'm rather enamoured by caramel at the moment, because I made it for the first time a few weeks ago, but I generally love making cupcakes, and my favourite thing I've ever made is this rainbow cake.

11. Do you have a big TBR list? Or do you wait until you're done with your current book to buy (or borrow from the library) your next reads?
Oh man... I'm such a book hoarder that it's disgusting, and I have, I think, just under 300 books that I still need to read. Not that this stops me buying more, or going to the library and getting some out. It's a serious problem, and the reason why I'm doing 2 challenges this year that involve reading the books I've already got, dammit! So far this year, I've read zero. Damn.

Now my questions... I have no idea what to ask, so these may be really really boring...

1. If money was no object, where would you most like to live in the world?
2. What books are on your nightstand/wherever you keep the books you're going to read next right now?
3. Do you have any hobbies apart from reading that are really exciting?
4. What is your favourite cartoon?
5. Who is your favourite celebrity crush, if you had to pick just one?
6. What kind of music is your favourite, and which artist would you most recommend to me/anyone?
7. Are you a simple girl or a Katie girl? (For help with this question, see this video)
8. Readalongs: Scourge of the devil, or really really really fun?
9. Cupcakes: anti-feminism, or just tasty little cakes?
10. You're given a ticket for a round the world trip- who do you take with you, and where are you going first?
11. What is your desert island book?

And, now, for the lucky tagees:

Jenn at Booksessed
Kayleigh at Nylon Admiral
Christina at Reading Thru the Night
Frances at Stars in Her Belly
Trish at Desktop Retreat
Hanna at Booking in Heels

No pressure guys, I'll just cry myself to sleep until you all respond (not really. Just, you know, if you're bored, have a little procrastinatory fun!).

Friday, 10 February 2012

Devouring Books: As You Like It by William Shakespeare

Oh Bill, (may I call you Bill?) am I to forgive you for The Taming of the Shrew? I mean obviously it was about the most offensive thing I've read for a long time, and it was even more offensive when venerable critics said 'hey! It's a comedy so it's all ok!' and, wow, let's face it, it's just terrible. BUT then you go and write a play where the woman is the main character, and as the main character gets to steer pretty much all the events in the play and is generally much better than all of the other characters (except possibly Celia, who is kind of fun too). So what am I to think now, huh, Shakespeare? Can I just let it all go and get back to loving you again?

Well, maybe I can. Because As You Like It is really the anti-Shrew, the best antidote to that big horrible-sexistathon short of a full apology signed by Shakespeare and lost somewhere. And, if I'm honest, I wasn't even thinking of it in this way until I read the introduction to it in my GIANT Complete Works, where it said "Rosalind's lesson is the opposite to that of The Taming of the Shrew: a desirable woman is not a tame one but a 'wayward' one, whose energies (verbal, emotional and sexual) are incorrigible." Well, quite, and may I add that Rosalind is the one who gets to teach the lesson, rather than being 'taught' (tortured) to. Basically, it's a big round of applause to Rosalind, and a big sigh of relief from me!

Anyway, moving on from The Taming of the Shrew comparisons, As You Like It is really a great play on its own. Even though the comedy aspects of it tend to not entirely make me pee my pants (cross dressing and puns don't really do it for me, but that's Shakespearean comedy for you) the love stories contained within it are excellent, and reveal all sorts of love- instantaneous love, pining love, love where the one you love dresses up as a boy and then gets you to say nice things to her pretending that she's the one you love when she is, in fact, the one you love- you know, all the kinds of things normal people have to face every day. And no, obviously it's not realistic, and there are so many contrivances, and people very rarely cross dress because they've been banished from a kingdom, but you know what? It's entertaining to read, and I can see that it would be even more entertaining on the stage- I was acting out in my head all of the significant looks that Rosalind could almost constantly be giving to the audience, and that made me giggle some.

But oh, the love! I'm a real sucker for some love talk, and I think this (which I'm sure I've read/heard before, but definitely not from here) is so wonderful:
"No sooner met but they looked, no sooner looked but they loved, no sooner loved but they sighed, no sooner sighed but they asked one another the reason, no sooner knew the reason but they sought the remedy: and in these degrees have they made a pair of stairs to marriage."
'No sooner looked but they loved'... I mean, I know it's wholly unrealistic and everything, but still, the romance of it makes me sigh and feel all good inside. And that's how Celia gets her man, but Rosalind takes a far more roundabout path with Orlando. It's a little perplexing to me why she didn't just admit who she was to begin with and let him woo her in the woods and all, but the fact that she didn't gives me far more respect for her because it allowed her to steer events, which led to the marriage she desired, as well as the marriage of this shepherdman who kind of deserved a better woman than the one he got, but since he was desperately in love with her, all's well that ends well there (oh wait...)

But As You Like It isn't just about the gentle laughs and the lovely love. Oh no. There are issues of usurpment, of a lack of brotherly love, and the realistic limits of love that make it worldly, and thus more real, than wild exclamations of it. Most interesting of these sub-issues, though, is that of Jacques and his melancholy nature. Because Jacques is a traveller, something which I think nowadays we'd associate very greatly with happiness, but Jacques has rather seen too much, and experienced too many bad things that he has been made melancholy by them, and seems unable to escape this state. This prompts Rosalind to say "I'd rather have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad, and to travel for it too," a sentiment I would happily echo if only Shakespearean humour wasn't quite so, well, crappy. The fact that we know he's melancholy too puts a new spin on what is surely the most famous speech (i.e. few lines) of the play:
"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts."
Now that I think about it, it's kind of an unquestionably negative outlook- nobody is genuine, or acting on their general beliefs or feelings, everyone's just playing their part and not stepping out of line, or doing anything really extraordinary. Thanks Jacques, for making me feel all sad about the world!

Fortunately, the majority of As You Like It is extremely entertaining, fun (but not necessarily funny, at least not anymore), and so female-positive that it makes me want to high-five Shakespeare and take him to some kind of feminist rally. As is probably clear, I definitely prefer Shakespeare's tragedies to his comedies, almost universally, but I still like the comedies I like plenty too. There's enough love to go around you know! Basically, As You Like It was a light, fun end to my month (and a bit) of Shakespeare, and that makes it a good one to go out on, if you ask me.

And, while I'm on the 'end of things' subject, I'd just like to thank Allie for hosting (she's clearly a great host) and to encourage you to go over to A Literary Odyssey to take a look at some other Shakespeare things from this month, because I've found many good things there. AND as an additional thing, the main thing I've discovered this month is that I've basically read fuck all Shakespeare- after this month, just 10 out of the whole 37 (38?) plays, which really isn't that great, SO expect more Shakespearean things here, starting with Julius Ceasar, which I'm going to read for, wait for it, The Ides of March. Because I'm kind of cool and awesome like that. But, until then, farewell, dear Shakespeare. It's been real. For real.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Literary Blog Hop, February 9-12

Literary Blog Hop
Well hey, look which lovely little blog hop has popped up again! I was literally just thinking this morning 'I wonder if there'll be a literary blog hop question today, because I sure as hell don't have anything else planned' (blog wise, that is) and lo and behold! The glorious hoppage. So, the question for this month is:

In the epilogue for Fargo Rock City, Chuck Klosterman writes:
"It's always been my theory that criticism is really just veiled autobiography; whenever someone writes about a piece of art, they're really just writing about themselves."
Do you agree?

Well. Sort of. Or at least sometimes. But then sometimes no. But also a bit yes. 

Don't you love how clear my answer is? Ok, let's get some clarity: I think that sometimes it's almost unavoidable to write a review of something without letting things that have happened to you get in the way- it's why I read, mainly, to have an emotional response to a story that may not directly have anything to do with my own experiences, but that still brings up a lot of feelings and things related to past experiences that mean that, that's what I'm going to be writing about when I write about these books. So, the judgement of whether I liked or disliked a book is always, to some extent, going to be influenced by how well I related to it on a personal level, and not just on the writing or other general good or bad technical aspects about the book. 

But. I feel like Klosterman's view on it is one that allows authors to just think 'Well, just because that one/those many reviewers say my book is bad, that just means they didn't relate to it on a personal level, so it's actually ok.' You know what? Some books are bad. They just are. And maybe some people can relate to them, and their judgement is one that is purely autobiographical (as in, it makes them feel good because it reminds them of this), but that still doesn't excuse the bad writing, or poorly drawn characters, or unoriginality of the story. So I kind of think that negative criticism comes from a place that's more rational and not just related to ones personal history- that it's a carefully considered criticism of the book itself, rather than something like 'they don't like it because their dad never read to them as kids'. 

So I think it's impossible to fully separate the reader from the book, and I don't think you'd want to because the book would literally be boiled down to its most functional parts- language, characters, plot; and so on, without producing an emotional reaction in anyone. It's because of the autobiography that each of us brings to a book that they become what they are- otherwise they're just lots and lots of symbols on a page. What's also great about this is that it means that an author hasn't really just written one book- they've written as many books as the number of people they can get to read it, because every person is going to see it differently, and approach it from a different angle, because our lives are all so different, even when they seem the same. So obviously in this, it's impossible to separate biography from the reading of a book, but that doesn't mean that in criticism, things have to get overly emotional or personal. It's just that usually, its better if they do.

What do you think? Can you just keep a cool objective head when you review, or does your own life always sneak in there a bit? Hop on over to The Blue Bookcase and have your say.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

That One Friends Episode Where They Read Some Books and Stuff

So, you know that episode of Friends where Joey and Rachel switch their favourite books (or, more specifically, the books they've each read more than once), and even though it's not the main storyline of that episode, it's still the bit that I (and probably you, because hey! You're reading a book blog!) remember best from it. The more I think about it, though, the more I really really really love it, only I also kind of doubt its realism, considering the characters involved.

I mean, think about it. It's Joey and Rachel. Has anyone ever seen them read anything, apart from in this episode? I think Joey reads some kind of car magazines sometimes, and Rachel reads, I don't know, Vogue; but there's really not a lot of evidence of any other reading in their lives. Rachel can't even be bothered to read books when she voluntarily signs up for an English class (Remember?! Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre? Cyborgs?!) and Joey is, well, Joey. He goes into libraries so he can use the bathroom, not so that he can experience the wonders of the reading world. Suffice to say, they're not the most bookish of all the Friends crew (in fact, I'd say, they're the least).

But that's ok, because I guess what they're reading isn't all that deep and difficult- Rachel's favourite book is Little Women, which is presumably a leftover from childhood; and Joey's is The Shining, which is presumably because of the movie, which is, by the way, a mockery of the book, albeit a really good movie on its own ("Chandler: Joey's asking if you've just ruined the only book he's ever loved that didn't star Jack Nicholson."- It disturbs me that I didn't even have to check that quote. Damn.) And, whilst when I watched it the first hundred times, I pretty much decided that Little Women was definitely the best, because The Shining a) sounded scary, and b) was clearly a boy book; now I really don't know whose side I'd be on! Let's face it, they're both awesome.

The episode is riddled with inaccuracies though, mainly because I'm not entirely sure the writers had read The Shining, and had maybe just seen the movie. I'm saying this because they reference the 'All Work and No Play Makes Jack A Dull Boy', which only happens in the movie, and the two dead girls in the hallway, AND he describes the end differently to how it is in the book too. It's a little irritating, but I didn't know any different when I watched it when I was younger. What really did annoy me was the things they said about Little Women- that Laurie marries Amy and that Beth dies! Nonsense, I thought: Amy's still a child when Little Women ends, and Beth is fine- her dad comes home and she's all happy and stuff. I honestly held onto this illusion until I saw the movie like 3 years ago, and I was horrified by the second part of Little Women- I apparently had some idea of how I hoped things would turn out between all the characters, and that just wasn't it! So then I decided to believe the movie was wrong, until I read Good Wives about a year later, and figured out that the two books are probably published together in the US, and so Rachel was right all along. Damn.

Having rewatched this episode, I now realise how little of it this skit takes up (it's literally the third, and I'd say smallest, storyline) and yet it's one that has remained in my imagination a lot longer than the other two, which isn't something I'd often say about Friends. I'm thinking that the combination of them a) talking about books at all, and b) talking about 1, and then later 2, of my favourite books; really made this whole thing stick in my brain, while much more important information was (probably) flying out to wherever such things go. Either way, this remains one of my favourite ever subplots, and its nice to see non-typical readers reading, especially when the books involved are so great. Friends wins at being awesome, yet again!