Sunday, 30 September 2012

Sunday Sundries: These Things Are Sent To Try Us...

Well, another week, another stressful situation to add to my life. Please, please, my cup runneth over! But seriously- the week started off fine- I went to London a few days with my mum for her radiotherapy, plus I had a day of housewifely things, and then on Thursday all my plans were scuppered by tonsillitis! So I've had like 3 days basically just in bed, and I'm on antibiotics, but I'm sure I'll be fine.

And anyway, that's not even the stressful thing. Nope, because on Friday morning, my nan had a heart attack and now she's in hospital and I'm like 'well, like I didn't have enough to worry about!' And also, slightly less narcissistically, 'I hope she's ok!' But no really, it's been very worrisome and horrible, even though she has had a heart attack before, which, actually, I don't know if it makes it worse or better... Hmm. Either way, it's not very nice. And I really want to go and see her, but of course I've got tonsillitis, which doesn't really seem like a good illness to spread around people with weak hearts (well, no illness is really!) so instead I just have to sit at home and metaphorically bite my nails and stuff.

So... *tries to think of some positives from the week* Well, I made a schedule for the Grapes of Wrath Readalong, and... I know, I went to m&ms World in London because I'm a disgusting tourist, but actually because I really really like having exciting coloured m&ms because they taste better! (They do. Scientific fact.) And they've been very good for me what with being ill and needing large quantities of chocolate, so that's a positive. And also I've watched massive amounts of Daria which is never bad. But let's be brutally honest, this week kind of sucked. Obviously.

Which is why there's always a new week, and new chances for good things to happen. And this week, that good thing is going to MEET CAITLIN MORAN. Which is going to be awesome, even if at the moment I'm like 'I don't feeeel well, and my nan's in hospital, and my mum's having radiotherapyyyy' all of which is true, BUT I believe that come Thursday, I'll be able to put that aside for a few glorious hours and just be like CAITLIN I LOVE YOU, only perhaps not all in capitals because I don't want to scare the poor woman! Also in my near future, I believe, is a viewing of The Rescuers from the comfort of my bed because I was discussing it with Rainbow Rowell (!!! The excitement!) on twitter last night (or, ok, this morning) and daaaaymn, I forgot how good it is, and how much I like it! Caitlin and Disney? This coming week isn't going to be ALL bad!

Aaaaaand, it's time for my quarterly challenge update! (You knows I love doing this!) I'm actually kind of surprised at how well I'm doing, especially since I had a total challenge burnout earlier in the year- I guess that when I got rid of some books, I kind of wanted to keep doing it, or at least to have the opportunity to keep doing it by, you know, reading books I've had for a while! So, here goes the challenge update...

Quick little Stephen King update: I've read 15 of his books this year. Which I'm not deeming either good or bad, because I've got no time limits on that at all. But it's good to keep count, I think.

And also, a teeny Classics Club update: I've read 12 classics. Which is actually double what I had read in June, which surprises me because I kind of thought I'd... lost some of the mental stamina needed for classics of late. So that's a nice surprise!

And for the Back To The Classics challenge, I'm... Well, I've read 5. Which isn't great, BUT I'm part of the way through book 6, and I fully plan to read 2 more in October (The Grapes of Wrath is an absolute certainty) so if I read ALL of those in October, I'll only have one more. Look at me justifying myself to people who don't need it! How sweet.

This next one is really exciting- for the TBR Pile Challenge, I'm exactly where I should be! 9 books read, 3 to go! It kind of feels like I've been trying to catch up with that challenge all year, so this is my favourite stat-du-jour!

And then, for the Off The Shelf Challenge, I've read 22 books. Which I believe is probably about 3/4 of the way through, so yay for that!

It has to be said, I have the RIP Challenge to thank for most of this, since I've read what, 5 books for it already? And 4 is the top challenge? And I'm definitely not done yet? So much scary reading to do, just one more month to do it. But 3 more months to do all these challenges? Eaaaasy!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

What I'm Watching Now: Food Porn

Well, not actual food porn... Here's the deal people, I'm ill and I have a book review to write and I can't be bothered, and so I'm going to sum up some things I've been watching on the telly because I don't have one specific show to talk about, or, I guess, not enough to say about one show in particular. And as it turns out, I've been watching a lot of food programmes because... Well, they're clearly awesome. And here they are.

The Great British Bake Off
There's literally nothing about this programme I don't like, and when it was on the other night I believe I burst out with 'this is my favourite programme ever!' I especially like it because I like to bake too (although, seriously, I'm nothing compared to some of these bakers) but even my dad, who I believe struggles to boil an egg, likes it because it's all jolly and English, and everyone's basically really nice to each other all the time and it's wonderful. And also, BAKING! And ALSO also, Mel and Sue, who are clearly awesome, and hello BBC, what are you doing with them the rest of the time? Think about it.

And oh my LORD, I've just remembered that next week they're making gingerbread houses. Like it could get any better...

Cupcake Wars
Cupcakes Wars is kind of terrible, in that it's really formulaic and everyone always has a problem just before the advert breaks and it's like 'oh no, will the cupcakes be made?!' and the answer is always yes. But. Cupcakes! There's nothing I like to make more, and to be honest, it's pretty soothing watching people make them, even when they put weird shit in them like pickles and bacon. I didn't make either of those up. Basically, I wouldn't exactly hate having my own cupcakery, so I can indulge in a little bit of... wishful thinking as I watch. And speaking of wishful thinking...
The carpenters are HOT!

Nigella's back! And she's making Italian food. So I've only watched one episode of this, but it was extremely pleasing even if basically everything she made involved meat (a pizza with a meat instead of bread base? Come on Nigella, what?!) Her programmes are pretty much always good to watch, and I watch repeats of them whenever I can find them, so I can only assume that this will continue to be great. And if she keeps making Nutella Cheesecakes (YUM) then Nigellisima will never be anything less than awesome.

Masterchef Australia

I really hate English Masterchef. The judges are dreadful, the amateur cooks are annoying, basically everything about it pisses me off. But Masterchef Australia? It's amazing- the judges are so lovely, you really feel like you get to gradually know the contestants, and the entire format is just so much better than the English one. In my house, we're onto our third series (and a series lasts from September to early December, it's a long term investment!) and our love for it really hasn't waned at all. If you live in the UK and have literally no idea what I'm talking about, it's on Watch at 7pm basically every night, and honestly, you don't know what you're missing!

I guess sometimes I watch programmes that have nothing to do with food (I was going to say Breaking Bad, for example, but I guess that does have an awful lot of cooking in it...) but those are few and far between, and, to be honest, I love watching all of these things! The main drawback is that they do make me awfully hungry, but hey... What are snacks for?!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Devouring Stephen King: Nightmares and Dreamscapes

"I still see stories as a great thing, something which not only enhances lives but actually saves them- nor am I speaking metaphorically. Good writing- good stories are the imagination's firing pin, and the purpose of the imagination, I believe, is to offer us solace and shelter from situations and life- passages which would otherwise prove unendurable."

This book marks the first time that I've really realised that I find Stephen King's writing incredibly comforting- scary as it can be, when I was feeling ill, all I could even consider reading was my next Stephen King book. Some people might suggest that this is because his writing is 'easy', but nay! I just, after 32 books, find it comforting and familiar, and not a bad medicine, either.

Nightmares and Dreamscapes, as I discovered, is King's third collection of short stories, and might well be my favourite so far. I'm always a fan of his short stories anyway, because I think that he can really be more brutal than in his longer fiction, and also explore different genres, but not in a way that makes them a hot mess, a la The Tommyknockers. Included in these different genres are even stories that don't fall into the crime/thriller/horror/sci-fi category at all, as my favourite in the collection, My Pretty Pony doesn't. And this is all true of his two other short story collections too, but I just like the stories in this one better. Or, at least I think that there are less boring stories, and on the whole I was just continually entertained.

And now, the difficult part of every short story review. Tell you about every story, or go more into detail about the ones I really liked? I... Still don't know. So let's see what comes out!

Stories I really liked

Suffer the Little Children: This one really scared me, and I don't really know why! I think it just tickled my scaredy bone, maybe because it's kind of subjective and has a fairly open ending. Or maybe because it's AWESOME.

The End of the Whole Mess: I really liked this because there's a whole 'writing against the clock' thing going on in an apocalyptic world. Very sci-fi-ish, but also very human and brotherly love-ish.

Chattery Teeth: Quite horror-y, but in a pretty unexpected way- I liked it more than I would have if someone had described the plot to me, so I won't.

You Know They Got A Hell Of A Band: A couple gets lost and ends up in Rock and Roll heaven. This story could have been really dreamy and exciting, but because of COURSE this is Stephen King, things get pretty scary, pretty quickly.

Rainy Season: Really really scary and gross. But in a good way...

My Pretty Pony: I'm a sucker for a story about time and how it gets away from you, and My Pretty Pony is exactly that. A grandfather explains to his grandson the elusive nature of time, and it's just wonderful. Like this:
"Grandpa, watching him closely seemed to read all this in the boy's brown eyes, to know all the words for all the things the boy could never have found a way to tell, things that could not escape him because his mouth could never articulate the language of his heart. And then Grandpa nodded, as if he wanted to confirm this very idea, and suddenly Clive was terrified that Grandpa would spoil everything by saying something soft and soothing and meaningless. Sure, he would say, I know all about it, Clivey- I was a boy once myself, you know.
But he didn't."
I really feel like sometimes King's writing outdoes himself, and he strikes upon some essential truths, and it happens only when he has a child narrator, and I believe My Pretty Pony is one of those times.

The House on Maple Street: This was SO much fun, and has a really good ending, and I just genuinely wholeheartedly enjoyed it.

Stories I Didn't Like So Much

Dolan's Cadillac: Ostensibly a revenge tale, it was fine, but not great. There was slightly too many technical things, and not really enough action. But it was good revenge...

Dedication: This was really really gross. Like, seriously unnecessarily gross. In the notes at the end, King worries that it might be non-politically correct, but honestly? I just thought it was gross.

The Fifth Quarter: A kind of crime/thriller story, but not a great one. There are better ones just included in this collection, so... Not my favourite.

Head Down: It isn't King's fault that I didn't like this at all it's just a matter of personal preference. In that, this is a piece of non-fiction about Little League baseball, and I understand nothing about baseball, so a lot of it was kind of lost on me. But I did like the whole 'yayyy teamwork!' aspect of it all.

Pastiches that I had mixed feelings about (I only learned the word pastiche when I was wikipediaing this book, so go me!)

So for some reason there are THREE stories in this collection that are homages of sorts to various authors, and I don't think this is something King has ever done before, so they deserve special attention. So here's what I thought about each of them.

Crouch End: This is apparently based on/an homage to HP Lovecraft, and I didn't love it (it was set in London, and all the characters were like 'pip pip, what's all this then' and really non-authentically English) BUT it did scare me A LOT, in a good way, and I feel like this means I should probably read some actual Lovecraft? Yes, I should.

The Doctor's Case: This is basically a Sherlock Holmes story as imagined by Stephen King, where Watson gets to solve the case. I have never read any Sherlock Holmes story, so I have no idea how accurate it is, BUT if Sherlock Holmes stories read like this one, then I am about 1000% more interested in them than I was before I read it.

Umney's Last Case: This story was really interesting to me, because earlier this week Alley reviewed The Maltese Falcon, and I was like 'I have no idea who Raymond Chandler is' etc but as it turns out (as I learned from this Chandler pastiche) I entirely know the way Chandler writes because it's been homaged again and again and again. And I LOVES it. What makes this story even better is that it goes all meta and Sophie's World-esque, and I LOVE shit like that. Seriously.

It's definitely a mixed bag, with mixed forms and genres, and mixed types of endings (hence 'nightmares' AND 'dreamscapes') but that doesn't make it any less readable and interesting and just plain GOOD. Definitely one to come back to whenever I want a nice (or nasty...) little short story.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Grapes of Wrath Readalong: The Grapey and Wrathy Schedule

It's SO nearly time for The Grapes of Wrath Readalong that I can practically TASTE it, and you know what it's going to be?
After extensive (like, 5 minutes) thinking, I hath decreed that we should post posts on Tuesdays, starting on the 2nd (in 1 WEEK!) because posting on Mondays, as Alice pointed out to me, means that you kiind of have to do homework over the weekend, which, you know, I'm pretty sure we're all too old to do (or maybe we're not... Hi young people/grad students!)
ANYWAY! Here is the schedule, as laboriously (I took the number of pages and roughly divided them by 4) devised by yours truly:

October 2nd: Things we think about Steinbeck- Have you read Grapes before? Were you booored? Do you harbour a (very understandable) love for Steinbeck? I think we all want to know.

October 9th: Chapter 1 through Chapter 11 (that means to the end of Chapter 11. Which I didn't know until like a month ago, so... Just wanted to make that one clear)

October 16th: Chapter 12 through Chapter 18

October 23rd: Chapter 19 through Chapter 25

October 30th: Chapter 26 to End

And it's about as simple as that, folks! I've just realised that this means there are some pretty long chapters, which, you know *sigh* but they're also AWESOME chapters so it's all going to be ok. So get your sad gifs ready, and I'll see you all back here next week! I can't guarantee you'll like the book, but I CAN guarantee Skarsgard gifs. The End.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Sunday Sundries: Illness and Cancellations

BUT- I'm not going to moan in this post. Honest! First of all, I'm going to gently guide you to some internet things you may have missed this week:

  • Insatiable Booksluts have been having a Stephen King Week this past week in honour of his 65th Birthday (which I found out about, ahem, the day after the event) and obviously I've been in hog heaven reading all their posts. If you're in love with Stephen King like a normal red-blooded reader, then I recommend catching up with their posts!
  • In other Stephen King news, did you know that the sequel to The Shining now has a publication date? EXCITING!
  • Here's an interview with JK Rowling that I liked quite a lot. If you don't know how awesome she is, or want a bit more information about her new book (out on Friday!) I recommend having a read.
  • Some Shakespeare appreciation is always... um... appreciated? Whatever, I liked reading this post anyway!
  • Some moron got married and then called everyone who has sex outside marriage "promiscuous charlatans" "harlots" and other lovely things like that. I would never get you to read his article if Jezebel hadn't gif-ed it up in THE best way. You're welcome.
  • Nora Ephron's out-of-print essay collections are going to be re-published in one book! It's already on my wishlist, cause, you know- Noraaaaaa!
  • Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, is writing another book! I know that I'm Furiously Happy about it.
  • Here's Caitlin Moran: Reading a HILARIOUS extract from her new book, Answering all the important questions, and Writing about her food memories. And if you haven't seen THIS from her book launch yet, then what have you been doing with yourself? 
I didn't really mean to be the pusher of literary links, but there sure have been a lot this week, or, I should say, a lot that I find relevant/interesting, that you might hate! So there's that. 

Anyway, this week I've been ill! So surprising, I realise, but it was odd in that I had a cold, and then on Wednesday I had a MASSIVE headache which was horrible, and then that went away and the cold kind of came back. It was really weird, and I didn't much appreciate it. Plus, yesterday I GOT OUT OF BED to go to this book sale that was cancelled so that was really annoying, but on the plus side I got some books anyway, cause the place where the book sale was supposed to be? Totally charity shop laden. I got a few books, and most importantly...
I bought Ulysses. Which, as everyone knows, is the first step to actually reading Ulysses some time in The Future. I am terrified. But it's a good kind of terror. Probably.

Anyway, I totally hid in that picture because my hair is DISGUSTING (ill! Bedrest+lack of washing=nothing good) but, by popular demand, here's a picture of my hair when it's all curly now it's been cut (this feels like a really awkward introduction to a picture, so everyone who wanted this better say nice things about it!):
It sure is curly! (Isn't my jumper amazing? BUNNIES!) I realise my hair must just be thrilling to you, but what can I tell ya? I have no tales from this week, for it has been tale-less.

Oh, except I accompanied my mum to London on Friday for her radiotherapy session (3 down, 12 to go!) and while she went and got all... radiated, I went for a stroll down Tottenham Court Road (it's at the end of Oxford Street. In case you wanted to know) and got severely pissed off by London! I mean, normally I love it, but on Friday I got pushed in front of in a queue in a shop, nearly got run over by someone who didn't know what a ZEBRA CROSSING was for, and kindly took a leaflet from someone who, it turned out, wanted to convert me to Scientology (LOL no. That one was kind of my fault though, as I failed to spot that we were outside a Scientology centre...). And then, to top it all off I went to get a nice hot chocolate from Starbucks, and THIS happened on the cup:
The mind genuinely boggles. And, I mean, I realise that ALL of this falls under the category of first world problems, and, to be fair, I got more stories out of a couple of hours in London than I did out of the whole week! But still... I think I've got a moors hangover, or, in other words, I think I prefer big open spaces with few people, to little cities with millions of people. At least at the moment.

OH! I almost forgot (in fact, I have forgotten. Often.) to announce the winner of my 'please take my copy of We Need To Talk About Kevin away from me' giveaway! The hat hath decreed that Alley can have it, so yay! I will be sending it to her whenever I can be bothered to go to a post office which... might not be soon. But anyway, YAY!

This week, I anticipate: forgetting to go to the post office many times, more trips to London (I don't know how many cause my mum's all like 'don't come with me, there's no point', and I'm like 'but I want to come with you in case you get all tired and stuff' and she's like 'noooo' and I'm like 'yesssss' and it's all very battle-y, so we'll see) and hopefully finishing a book, because it turns out, when I'm ill? I kind of just want to watch Daria all the time and also sleep. And ALSO to keep starting new books without finishing old ones because I'm a dumbass. Blog posting will depend on all of the above, BUT I'll definitely be posting some kind of schedule for the Grapes of Wrath readalong, so keep an eye out for that! (And hey, sign up here, if you want!)

So, I hope y'all have good weeks, and that you at least know what you're doing during them! Cause that's always a good thing.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Nora, I Love You

I only properly discovered Nora Ephron last year (before which I'd only seen When Harry Met Sally, which, by the way, I loved) and within about 4 months, I'd read 3 of her books (see here, here and here) seen the underwhelming movie adaptation of Heartburn (I STILL don't understand what happened there!) and even bought a magazine because she'd written a 2 page article in it (Vanity Fair. It was totally worth it.) I was besotted.

So obviously when she died in June I was devastated. What a loss to the WORLD- someone so funny, so charming, and such a good writer that she could make a 22 year old girl want to be best friends with her 70-something year old self. She was amazing. Fortunately for me, I'd never seen You've Got Mail or Sleepless in Seattle (probably her two best known films after When Harry Met Sally) so I still had some 'new' Nora to get me through my mourning period. It helped.

The thing is, because I love Nora's films so much, reviewing each of the ones I've seen separately is just going to turn into four love-rambles- which admittedly would be fun to write, but maybe less fun to read, and besides, I find it really difficult to talk coherently about things I really love (you may have noticed this about me...) But anyway, I'm going to write some mini-reviews at the end, but first allow me, in a completely general way, to tell you what I love about her movies:

  • They all pass the Bechdel Test: I'm pretty sure they all do, because, even though they're romantic comedies (PRIME for feminisity failure), Nora's heroines have interests and jobs and lives that go beyond men, and sometimes the 'love' bit is more of a secondary storyline than anything. Which is so wonderful and refreshing, I can't even tell you!
  • Awesome old lady characters: I'm thinking specifically of the lady who works in Meg Ryan's shop in You've Got Mail, but there's also the 'I'll have what she's having' woman from When Harry Met Sally (I realise she isn't fully a character, but she is awesome), and Julia Child isn't all that young in Julie and Julia, either. Basically, Nora gives older women a voice in her movies, and often the funniest lines, and best stories. Which is wonderful.
  • The dialogue: Honestly, Nora writes some of the best dialogue in any movies ever. It's just so... real and hilarious, only more so- like listening to the smartest and funniest people you know really kill it at conversation. I could really just listen to it all day.
  • She's made me love romcoms: aka the impossible feat! Having said that, I still can't really watch any romcom starring Jennifer Aniston, so it's possible that what she's actually done is given me really high expectations for how awesome romcoms should be. But whatever, I just love her movies!
And now for the mini-reviews.

When Harry Met Sally

This was my introduction to Nora, to Meg Ryan, to everything that's good about romcoms. I was thoroughly charmed by it, as well as surprised at how much Sex and the City stole from it (and, predictably, I can think of no examples of this right now. But I know there are some.) And, it's barely aged at all in 23 years? Just perfect.

Sleepless in Seattle

I watched this when I 1) was very sleepy, and 2) had watched You've Got Mail the night before, so I can't give the best review of it cause it's very hazy in my mind (clearly I need to watch it again!) But- I got a general 'liking it' impression from it, and the whole An Affair to Remember thing ("You don't want to be in love, you want to be in love in a movie.") made me watch that film which was EXCELLENT. (Added to the list: Nora has excellent taste in movies. See also: Casablanca in When Harry Met Sally, The Godfather in You've Got Mail).

You've Got Mail

I love this movie. I know it has issues with orders of events (well, I think so) and because of that maybe can't be seen as perfect, but to me it kind of it! I mean, books, email, Meg Ryan, Tom Hanks, New York City... How could there be anything wrong with this movie?! (Note: I totally said this about Heartburn. But in this case, it's true!) Bonus points for this: "So much of what I see reminds me of something I've read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way round?" It's like you're looking into my SOUL, Nora!

Julie and Julia

I loved this movie, and when I first saw it I didn't realise it was written by Nora, and I was kind of like 'why is this so much better than other movies..?' And then when I finally got the Nora thing, I was like 'ohhh, that's why!' I think it's great anyway- Amy Adams in Meg Ryan's role, and MERYL being amazing as always. Plus, FOOD PORN and angry french ladies. I just love it.

So tell me, TELL ME everyone that you love Nora too! And then we'll have a sleepover and watch all these films and then also FOOD PORN. Yes?

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Top Ten Tuesday

Helllllo Top Ten Tuesday-ers! Welcome! Now, this week's topic is kind of ridiculous, because I could basically just list my top ten favourite bloggers, and they would truly be the people I most wanted to meet, so I have of course cheated a lot on this list. But it was THE ONLY WAY! So, here goes:

Top Ten Bookish People I'd Like To Meet

1. Stephen King- Obviously. I mean, it'd have to be after I'd read allll his books, and even then I probably wouldn't have the guts to go 'I read all your books and it was awesome' I'd just be like 'Hi, I love you' really quietly. But still, I'd love to meet him and not be a shy idiot!

2. Caitlin Moran- THIS IS HAPPENING! SOON! I'm too too too excited about it to talk about it, but I'll tell you the story once I've been. But anyway, SCREAM!

3. The Readalong Gang!- You know who you are! This is just an easier way of saying 'Alice and Alley and Megs and Rayna and...' so on, but really, all of us would have the best time just hanging out and watching movies and being ridiculous. It'd be great.

4. My English Blogging Ladies- Specifically I'm thinking of Bex and Hanna and Ellie, but I think I follow more UK book bloggers, and guys! We should hang out! It'd be great, and besides, it's kind of lazy not to.

5. Haruki Murakami- I'd be all like 'Dude, I totally feel your vibe and everything, shall we go and hang out together near some cats or something' and he'd be like 'no, you weirdo' and disappear. It'd be amazing.

6. Harper Lee- Not just because To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my favourite things in the world, but because she's a recluse, everyone! Imagine meeting her and getting to talk to her about stuff (it wouldn't even have to be about her book if she didn't want it to be)! I think it'd be pretty special.

7. Jenn- Cause she's my oldest blogging friend (I mean, the one I've had the longest. Not that she's super old) and I loves her and ALSO she lives in Maine so we could go and hunt down Stephen King at the same time. I'm nothing if not good at planning imaginary meetings...

8. WILKIE!- Preferably with the ladies from number 3 because that would be SO MUCH FUN! There'd be so much forehead stroking, you wouldn't even believe it! *sighs at the thought of it*

9. The Brontes- Mostly so I could go back to Yorkshire, but also just because... The Brontes! They are the awesomest. And I think I kind of have the imaginary hots for Branwell. Before the alcoholism.

10. John Steinbeck- I genuinely think I could have been really good friends with him, since I agree with pretty much everything he ever said ever. And because I just LOVE him so so much.

Annnnnd... (Cheats cheats cheats) 11. Kayleigh- Cause I neeeeed to watch all of Breaking Bad with her in person, so we can analyse the CRAP out of it. This will of course be happening in Australia rather than here, cause hello? IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY THERE!

Honestly, I think this is a pretty solid group of people! Obviously some impossibilities in there, but you never know when someone's going to finally figure out time travel... And then there's just normal travel for the rest of them!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Devouring Books: The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

The Little Stranger. And I have so little to say about it. I just... I can see from afar why this would technically be scary (and I have to admit I had a few moments of 'oooh... creepy', but not many) and I also get the whole 'rich people's way of life changing and so they turn that into a scary scary ghost' thing, but I didn't necessarily think it was that compelling, and overall the whole book just fell flat for me. I'm going to try to explain this (there will be a spoiler section at the end for fellow readalongers cause I WANT ANSWERS TO SOMETHING, but first, a spoiler-free moan).

So, The Little Stranger is all about the crumbling upper classes, and the rising middle class, and there are all these symbols like the crumbling house representing the state of the rich people, and there's class envy and mild hatred and so on and so on, and it's all very clever but also kind of tedious, as well. See, Dr Faraday is a sort of local boy done good; the child of servants who has risen to be a doctor who isn't really rich but is well respected, and his rise has corresponded with the fall of the upper classes, and the two collide when he's called out to the big manor house to treat the people who he both admires and sort of hates.

So, let's talk about Dr Faraday. Who I don't really like, which is never fun with a first person narrator. When all the ghostly things start happening (finally start happening, I should say) Dr Faraday is extremely dismissive of them (as, I suppose, a man of science kind of should be) and this made it way less creepy for me. It's like... The scary thing would begin to be described, and I'd get a tiny bit freaked out, and then the Dr would come in and be like 'oh, it was probably just the wind' 'Don't worry, she's just INSANE' and it kind of took the wind out of its scary sails for me. I understand that you're probably supposed to go 'Oh, well the Doctor is clearly WRONG, look at the scary haunted house' but, even though I didn't really like him? I totally sympathised with him.

Because I can't sympathise with the English upper-classes, I'm sorry I just can't do it! They're depicted as sort of helpless and and the mercy of the EVIL Labour government (poor rich people) and just completely unable to think of anything to do (like, I don't know, get jobs) to raise some funds and attempt to go on living in the manner to which they've become accustomed, and so instead just crumble in their crumbling house and do nothing. So, frankly, when the haunting started, I didn't really care about what was going to happen to them because of their irritating helplessness. I realise this may make me kind of heartless, but come on! They're TORIES!

So, anyway. I liked this a lot less than Tipping The Velvet, which is the only other Waters book I've read, but I DO applaud her doing different things and not just falling back on controversial lesbian relationships all the time (I assume she does this in more than just Tipping The Velvet... If not, then fair enough for making all her books all different!) although Dr Faraday being a woman? Definitely would have spiced this book up a bit. I will just add that I DID like the ending (which I'm going to discuss in the spoilers!) so that redeemed this book a bit. But not really enough.

So. Do we totally think the ghost is some kind of malevolent force coming off of Dr Faraday because of his possessiveness over the house? I think yes. I mean, for most of the book I just assumed it was the child who died (as I guess we were obviously supposed to), but maybe this brutal part of Dr F just took the form of whoever would affect the hauntee the most? And also, just before Caroline's death, when she said 'YOU!' do we think that she saw Dr F? Because I feel like she would be horrified to see him there, and also maybe his physical presence near the house encouraged the spirit to take its proper form. AND did the Doctor unwittingly help the spirit by, for example, sending Roderick away, and by not staying with Mrs Ayres. But what would have happened if he'd stayed in the house? Would nothing have happened so as not to alert him that he was a big part of this, or would the spirit have used him for something, and everyone sensed this and wouldn't let him stay? OR did the fact that they wouldn't let him stay anger him, and so his spirit, and made those things happen at those times?

As you can see, I have a lot of questions, which makes me think that I maybe didn't dislike this as much as I first thought. Or that the ending gave me a lot to think about. And I will say just this about it: Who ends up with the house in the end, and finds out that all that glitters is not gold? Exactly.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Sunday Sundries: This Will Be Exciting To No One But Me...

...But I got a haircut! I know, (normal) people get them all the time, but I haven't had a proper one for TWO AND A HALF YEARS because I have a hairdresser phobia that's akin to that which most (normal) people have of the dentist. But NO MORE!
This was the only picture I took that I could allow to be on the internet... Sadly it kind of cuts off the hair... Like the hairdresser did! (Oh, puns...)

I really like it! This is also the first time it's been straight in like... 2 and a half years, and it won't be staying that way, so I'll have to see if I still like it when it's curlified. Although there's not a lot I can do about it if I don't!

Anyway. That was pretty boring news, I'm sorry. What else... Oh yeah, I went shopping with my cousin on Tuesday, which brought to the forefront of my mind how RIDICULOUSLY different we are (she thought I was weird for sending a postcard to my internet penpal [Totally not weird!] and said that Stephen King had a messed up brain despite never reading one of his books [:O] and then I went to wander round Hobbycraft while she had her makeup done by the Boots lady [not that I have anything against makeup, but I don't wear any and it doesn't excite me at all]) but how it doesn't matter! Because we love each other! It's like... Love triumphing over shared interests, guys. It's all good.

Anyway, I guess from my dithering you can kind of tell that I didn't really do anything this week. And I didn't, which was fine except when I try to do a weekly round-up post, it makes for some pretty dull reading, I realise. So let's liven things up and talk about something I really hate: YOLO! We all know that this stands for 'You Only Live Once', right? And to be honest, it's a sentiment that I don't hate- you have to do exciting things, and things you might not get another chance to do, because, indeed, you do only live once. It's just a truism.

But when it's used for something like 'Oh, I've got loads of homework today but there's this major party going on tonight... YOLO!' I'm just like... That's not an awesome once in a lifetime opportunity, that's you being a lazy moron! I mean, the other day I saw a white van where someone had written on it 'Clean me! YOLO'. You only live once, and you're going to spend that time writing shit on people's dirty vans? And you think that's a good use of your time? Basically, everyone needs to get over this before we have an entire generation of moron alcoholics who only drank so much because YOLO! LOL! and civilisation FALLS APART. I don't even think I'm being dramatic.

Young people are so stupid...

Anyway! Bookish update alert: I'm still loving the RIP Challenge. I finished The Little Stranger yesterday and I shall review it tomorrow (here's a shorter version, in case you don't want to read it: meh.) and I'm still trying to decide if Crime and Punishment can count as a RIP book. I think yes, but since I've already read 4 and it's only halfway through September... I don't think it really matters! So I'm going to keep plugging away at it (it's really good, but harrrrrd, for some reason. Russian lit, man) and read some other things cause that's just what I do.

Mum starts her radiotherapy next week, so I don't know how internet present I'll be (probably loads- like I'll come in and be like 'I can't face ANYTHING except the internet!) so DON'T PANIC if I'm not here loads. Cause I know how you worry about me. And have a lovely week!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Devouring Books: The Godfather by Mario Puzo

"Like many young men, [he] thought that having struggled to complete his education and master the tools of his profession, his virtue would automatically be rewarded and he would earn a decent living. This proved not to be the case."

Have I said before about how much I love The Godfather? *Peruses archives* Oh yeah, here it is. I mean, those two films (the third one is unnecessary and DREADFUL, and we shan't speak of it here.) are just the GREATEST, and when I finally watched them having lived like 21 years without having seen them, I had to question what I'd been doing with my life a little bit! It's not for nothing that they're considered classic films, so you should probably watch them right away.

And then there's the book. And the book is equally as awesome, because it basically is the first movie (and half of the second one) only with some added bits, and so reading it is the equivalent of watching the movie and then watching deleted scenes that were only deleted because a tighter focus on the Corleone family was wanted, rather than because they suck. Which are obviously the best kind of deleted scene. But seriously, you've got all your important Godfather things in here: Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes, and I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse, and go to the mattresses, and ALL the important stuff, and frankly, I wasn't expecting the book to be as good as the film, but it was!

Obviously I say this from the position of having seen the film. And obviously I couldn't help but picture Al Pacino as Michael and Marlon Brando as the Don, but I don't really consider that a problem- they're such great actors that they embody and define those roles, and why would you want to picture anyone else? Exactly. Having said that, though, I do wonder what it would have been like reading The Godfather before the movies came out (which would give you like a 3 year window, daaaamn did they see the cinematic potential of it!) and just having to create your own pictures of the characters, like, you know, any other book. I reckon... trickier and more annoying. But only in this case.

Now I can hear you all asking 'but should I bother to read this book if I haven't seen the movie? I don't even like gangsters', and what I say to you is OF COURSE you should because it's awesome, and if nothing else an important cultural touchstone, but if nothing else, you should probably just watch the movie. Which is not to say that there's anything wrong with the book because there isn't (it's like literally reading the movie! It's great!) but the movie is so so amazing, and trims off a bit of the unnecessary (albeit interesting) fat from the storyline of the book. I'd say that the book is almost like... Something you want to explore because you're obsessed with the film and NEED MORE, but I think that in this case, the film really outdoes the book. Or at least, matches the book, and it's a film and therefore easier and oh my GOD I'm clearly not going to rest until you've seen it!

So. The book is well-written and compelling and I had trouble putting it down, and I believe I still would have enjoyed it if it hadn't been made into some of the greatest movies ever. I was totally THRILLED and then SAD and then also HAPPY and a bit SHOCKED (this in spite of knowing what happens!) and it's a real page turner. So you should watch The Godfather (and Part II) and then read this, and have all the emotions all over again and breathe a sigh of happiness at the end. Really you owe it to yourself!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Top 5 TV: Special Buffy Edition!

Because you've been very very good this week (I have no way of knowing if this is true or not, so let's pretend it is) you're getting a DOUBLE Top 5 TV, also known as, I have 2 complimentary lists that I made a long time ago and the time really has come for them to be all computerised and stuff.

Please note: This is only going to be interesting to you if you've seen Buffy. And I mean, a LOT of Buffy.

So here's what I'm going to list: my top 5 'supporting' characters, and my bottom 5 'supporting' characters. By supporting, I basically mean anyone who isn't in the core 4 of the original gang (Buffy, Willow, Xander and Giles) although I realise that some of these characters may have, at some point, been in the opening credits, so don't tell me cause I don't want to know!

I realise I should probably have posted these when I talked about Buffy waaay back in January (January. Jeez.) but things got away from me and now it's September which is the perfect time to talk about Buffy. So hush. (Hush! Ha.) So anyway, here come the lists:

Top 5 Buffy Supporting Characters
1. Tara- I can't even explain how much I love Tara, but she's SO wonderful. I guess she's kind of got the Melly-effect (Gone With The Wind. Don't even tell me that you needed this explanation) in that she's quiet and kind of shy but if she needs to be, then dammit she can be SO tough and brave. Also she taught Willow how to love the ladies and brought that VERY pleasing dimension to Buffy!

2. Spike- Come on. Have you seen him? He's also maaaybe the most complex character in the entire programme, or at least the one who goes through the most radical changes. Plus, I find his English accent seriously impressive, and I don't often say that about Americans! Also, did I mention those cheekbones?

3. Bad Angel- And ONLY bad Angel. Normal Angel just barely escaped making it onto my worst list because OMGSOBORING. And also the reason I haven't watched Angel yet. Bad Angel though? Dude's got charisma. And is hilarious. And irritates Spike which makes him even more hilarious. Yeah, he's great.

4. Glory- By far my favourite big bad (although maybe that's just because she was trying to kill Dawn all the time...) Glory is FABULOUS, and maybe just a bit evil. Or, ok, a lot. But still, faaaaabulous.

5. Faith- I kind of love/hate Faith (as, I believe, I'm supposed to) but there's no denying that she's one complex tough little cookie who just needs hugs, like, constantly. And I love the comparing and contrasting that goes on between her and Buffy- there but for the grace of Joyce goes Buffy.

Bottom 5 Buffy Supporting Characters

1. Riley- This doofus literally has NO redeeming features. Not one. And he's SUCH a dick to Buffy when her mum is ill. When they brought him back and made his life all perfect, I was seriously pissed off, cause I WANT HIM TO BE MISERABLE AT ALL TIMES. Considering that's all he brought me, and all.

2. Dawn- Dawn is the WORST. The very worst. If she's not getting into trouble then she's screeching about how IT'S NOT FAIRRRRRR, and basically acts like she's about 5 instead of 15-ish. She ranks lower than Riley only because she becomes slightly more bearable in Season 7, but she's still fairly annoying. A very very unwelcome addition to the show.

3. Wesley- The thing about Wesley is that I hate him because I'm supposed to, so that's a good thing at least. But his English accent is unbearable, and he continually puts a spanner in the works which displeases me. I believe he's in Angel too, so... Another good reason not to watch that show!

4. Jonathan/Warren- I would include Andrew in this, but I like him in Season 7, so... Just those two. Because, like, I know that in Season 6, the ACTUAL Big Bad is life, but do the decoy big bads have to be so... crappy? I realise that they represent a certain type of Buffy fan and I bet those guys LOVE these two, but I do not.

5. Kennedy/The Potentials- I do not like the potentials at all, nor do I really like that the whole of the last season of Buffy is sort of all about them, when I want my guys to be the central focus! But quite aside from that complaint, most of these kids are boring, and surly, and very very Dawn like, and they are SO mean to Buffy when she's just trying to get them not-killed! Kennedy gets a special mention for displacing Tara, but that's not really her fault, I GUESS.

So, tell me Buffy lovers! Who do you love/hate? Are you Dawn's biggest fan (like that's a thing...) and do you think Spike is so evil that Buffy should have just staked him? Let's discuss the crap out of this thing.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

We Need To Talk About We Need To Talk About Kevin (and my need to give it away to someone...)

"In a country that doesn't discriminate between fame and infamy, the latter presents itself as plainly more achievable."

So many people have told me that they thought this book was amazing, and the more I think about it, the more I'm slightly like '...Really?' The thing is, while I was reading it, I kind of couldn't put it down, and also I wanted to read it at every opportunity, and say what I might about it, the fact is that, the other day I saw this table outside a charity shop that was full of travel guides and I looked for AWAP ones (A Wing and a Prayer are the travel guides that Kevin's mother, and our narrator Eva writes), so its enveloping reality obviously can't be denied. But still... Issues.

So, I'm assuming we all know about Kevin. Psychopath child who orchestrates a high school massacre (which is something you find out practically immediately, in case you didn't know- the end result isn't really in question here, but how they got there is what the entire story is about) and his mummy is very very cross about it. I'm clearly trivialising here, but this woman... Wow. You may have heard that she's a fairly unsympathetic narrator, in spite of her circumstances (psychopath son, and all) and oh boy, that doesn't even cover it. I was expecting to go into the book not necessarily liking her, but I wasn't really expecting to HATE her, so fully and completely. I mean, I don't think there was a point in the whole book where I hated Kevin more than I hated her, and did I mention the thing about him massacring people?!

Anyway. Eva being a complete fucking bitch isn't necessarily a bad thing, or rather isn't something that puts me right off a book. In this case, it made things interesting because you want to attribute certain things in Kevin's personality to her (there are definite overlaps) even if she's not always open to recognising them, and there are points where you don't know if you can fully trust what she's saying because, after all, this is just her version of events. But the thing is... There might be a little TOO much Eva. The way she writes (since she's writing letters to her estranged husband- a format which I'm not even sure works at all since she writes about things that HE WOULD ALREADY KNOW ABOUT, in great detail. Which was one annoying thing.) puts her directly at the centre of everything, something which is obviously true to her and anyone else's experience (we're all the heroes of our own lives etc etc) but because she's writing letters just makes her sound like a massive narcissist. She is both responsible and not responsible for everything that happens, and while I guess this could be the way the mother of a psycho might think, it sure can get irritating to read.

And that's not all. The thing that gets me is that Shriver seems to have been unable to make up her mind about what or who she wants Kevin to be. On the one hand there's the constant evidence that there's something almost supernatural about his complete lack of feeling (in that, it was there from birth and so he was sort of a psycho baby, which I really don't buy), that no matter what anyone did he would have always turned out that way and so it doesn't really matter what anyone did during his upbringing (actually making the book sort of redundant). This is the line most taken, and actually, I find it really dull. Like, I'd be more interested in a look at what would drive someone who essentially had a normal mind to take such drastic action, rather than just seeing the inevitable in his entire character. The flip side is the idea that he's not so bad really, and that certain things Eva did made him the way he is, but I found these parts inconsistent with everything else mentioned about him. It's like no decision was properly made about his nature, and while I guess this is something that Eva never properly decided for herself, I feel like it's something that the author should have at least decided, you know?

I don't know. A big part of the book is Eva's trying to come to terms with what Kevin has done, and with that come a lot of mixed feelings and ideas and memories that seem to point in different directions, so maybe the conflicting views of Kevin come from that, but I still just didn't find it convincing- either baby Kevin was born without essential human feeling (as Eva seems to suggest basically all the time) or he wasn't, for which there is almost no evidence apart from a few things that completely contradict the rest. If this is meant to be confusion for Eva, then fine, but it felt really confusing and indecisive to me too, and not in a good way. We need to talk about all the ways this could have been a better book...

Now. I realise I've just bitched about this for a good 4 paragraphs, and not without good reason, but like I say, I was TRANSFIXED by it for a good 3 or 4 days. So while there were a lot of things that annoyed me, it's not like it was a bad book, because that kind I don't even keep on reading now that I'm on a bit of a book-getting-rid-of kick. It was extremely absorbing and I was dying to know what had happened, in full (which, don't worry, you'll get your moneys worth at the end) I just feel like I need to dispute the idea that it was perfect, because I think it's far from it. 

So. Who wants this far-from perfect book?! I've decided to give it away to a lucky lucky commenter, because when I mentioned I was reading it on my Top Ten Tuesday post, SO many people said that they wanted to read it. This could be your chance! (Please note: While my review is far from positive, I never said you shouldn't read it. I think you definitely should, to see what all the fuss is about!) So yeah, if you want it, just leave a comment with your email address in it, and I'll see what I can do!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Devouring Films: Mysterious Skin

I watched Mysterious Skin on Netflix the other week, and it's at once the most traumatic and sad thing I've maybe ever seen, but at the same time, completely and utterly compelling. You've probably never heard of it, and admittedly I hadn't either, before I searched for Joseph Gordon-Levitt on Netflix and was enticed into watching it that way (I do love him so). It's pretty tragic, actually, that it's so little known, because it's probably one of his best performances, or at least one that truly stretches him as an actor (as, indeed, it would stretch anyone who played it). I loved it almost as much as I hated the things that happened in it.

I don't really massively want to review it, so much as talk about the main thing that impressed me about it. See, Mysterious Skin is basically a tale of child molestation, and its after-effects and what it does to its victims. Joseph Gordon Levitt (JGL to, well, me) plays Neil, the baseball coach's 'favourite' and the boy who, after it's over, fully remembers it all, and even thinks upon it fondly as a time when someone truly loved him (which isn't to say that he's not completely fucked up by it, because he's a male prostitute for goodness sakes. But it seems like his feelings about the abuse are very complex and maybe not even entirely settled.) The flipside of the story is the other boy who was abused, who has completely sublimated the entire thing but it's still had an effect on the things he does.

So that's what happens afterwards. But what the film actually does is show the abuse (to a certain extent), which obviously makes the film a whole lot more shocking, and I'm sure earned it plenty of criticism before and I'm sure after its release. Criticism which, I think, is pretty unfair considering how utterly well done it is. Because it's so clever- apparently the child actors were given their lines out of context so they weren't traumatised by the whole abuse thing (LIKE I WAS WATCHING IT) and the molester's propositioning and pleasure faces (pleasure faces? I feel like any way I said this would be wrong...) are done directly to camera, which has the dual bonus of not inflicting that on the kids, and also putting the audience in the children's position. So I approve of this because of 1) the sensitivity towards the child actors, and 2) the impact on the audience (i.e. me).

And I mean... I guess the film would still have worked without explicitly showing the abuse (I mean... not explicitly. But it's really clear what's happening. And apparently difficult to explain) but because they did so, it was really easy to see where Neil's issues especially came from (this guy was paying him LOADS of unhealthy attention, but to this 8 year old kid, it felt like really nice attention especially because his mother doesn't seem overly interested in him), and because it was so well done, it seems difficult to complain about. Also, I just have to add that child JGL is SO good- He really looks like a teeny version of JGL, only with really deep blue eyes (seriously cute kid) and so to get round this they got JGL to wear blue contact lenses. I am totally on board with this too.

Mysterious Skin is in no way easy to watch, but on balance I'm really glad that I did. I'm so impressed with how cleverly and sensitively everything was done, and I feel like the subject matter, which is more or less the WORST in the world was handled really really well. The ending is incredibly moving, and overall, I just really really appreciated the film. I would say liked, but liked is the wrong word, so appreciated? Much better. I should probably add as a disclaimer that Michelle Trachtenburg is also in this film, but you can mainly just ignore her as you always should. JGL forever though!

Monday, 10 September 2012

The Little Stranger: A Thing.

So I've been reading The Little Stranger as part of a readalong, and since it's all new and scary people I don't know if I'm meant to write a post about the first half or just discuss it on the host blog and it's all VERY CONFUSING AND SCARY.

Ahem. So what I decided to do instead, so that EVERYONE can enjoy my post, is just talk about a thing that the book raised, and that has been brought to my attention before, and we can all say what we think about it. Hence, no spoilers, everyone's happy. OK? Good. (Although, let me just say that this is the SLOWEST book ever and nothing has happened in 8 chapters. 8 BIG chapters, I should add. Sigh.)

So, there's this part where this girl goes to this party with this guy (details aren't important here) and when she's there she sees a girl she's friends with and they go off and dance and generally have a good old girly time. The guy sees this, and assumes they're really good friends, but while they're driving home, they have this exchange:
"'That girl Brenda I met tonight: I don't much like her, you know.'
I said, 'You don't? I'd never have guessed. You greeted each other like long-lost sisters.'
'Oh, women always go on like that.'
'Yes, I've often thought it must be exhausting to be a woman.'
'It is if you do it properly. Which is why I so seldom do.'"
Obviously all this is to show that this particular character is all non-conventional, blah blah blah, but is this really how women are? I mean, do you have friends that you don't really like? This isn't the first time I've come across the idea, is why it struck me as interesting/irritating (more of the latter). In Julie and Julia, Julie asks her 'proper' friend 'What do you think it means if you don't like your friends' and her friend (also a woman) says 'oh, it's totally normal'. Is it?! And the entire basis of Mean Girls is that friendship is a competitive enterprise, and, you know, everyone secretly hates each other.

And I really don't know how accurate these are as descriptions of certain female friendships, but I DO know that a lot of the females I know (not naming any names) bitch about their so-called friends a LOT, while I'm just sitting there going 'so... why do you hang out with them again?' See, the thing is, I don't have that many friends, but I can say with complete honesty that I don't bitch about the ones I have, because I love them! And honestly, I only want to hang out with people that I love, otherwise I'd rather be alone (you know, reading and shit) than spending time with people that I'm just going to spend more of my time complaining about afterwards. That's just how I roll.

So. Does this make me a 'non-proper woman', or just a sensible and thinking human being? I mean, am I the only person who just DOESN'T get this way of thinking, or are you with me? Friends are there to be liked, right, not to compete with or be irritated by or for you to essentially hate. Or, does everyone do this and I'm just the odd one out (which, in this case, I really don't mind)? Let's have your thoughts!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Sunday Sundries: Summer Is Here!

Hey guys, it's September now, which obviously means that, in a completely logical way, we're finally getting a proper summer over here! Yeah, it's ridiculous, and yet it would be churlish to complain about it because it's sunny! And so hot! And lovely! Yesterday afternoon I just walked to this bit of grass (I would say park, but it's not a park, hence, 'bit of grass') and read under this tree, and it was BLISS! In fact... it was under THIS tree:
Which waaaay back in March I was like 'I'm going to read under that!' and then NEVER DID. So I'm glad I finally did before autumn (which is basically winter) got here.

The big event this week, anyway, was my sister's birthday on Thursday and because I'm lovely I made cupcakes for all the people she works with (supposedly for money, but I have seen no evidence of any yet...) plus I made her a birthday cake that she complained about. It wasn't the best of 'thank yous' I've heard. Anyway, the point is that I could have actually done without the super-hot temperatures for those two baking days because oh MY, I nearly melted. With the oven on as well... It was just too hot. But it's all done now and I feel good for doing a good thing, and also I'll feel even better when she pays me. I'll buy myself something pretty, like my own copy of Attachments.

Oh, and on Friday I went on a picnic with my friend and it was AWESOME and totally picnic weather and would have been a perfect day if there hadn't been a point where I had to pee in a bush. Yeah. That was not the most fun I've ever had, but other than that? It was great! All the days are great when they're sunny! (I'm in such a good mood. I don't even know how I'm going to deal with the downfall when it's all cloudy and rainy next week. It's not going to be fun.)

I'm totally not going to keep you for much longer because I really don't have anything interesting to say (although, allow me to observe: reading scary-ish stories when it's sunny and lovely? Totally diminishes their scariness. Take THAT, We Need To Talk About Kevin!) because I've just basically been reading and baking and getting outside as much as humanly possible while it's still lovely. But I just want to announce, or rather, re-announce that:
You can read The Grapes of Wrath with me and many other awesome people this October! It's going to be awesome, I can tell already! So you can sign up HERE, and if you've already signed up and refrained from putting the bad bad picture thingy on your blog as requested, you can now put this way classier one on there if you wish to do so! Now, you might be on the fence and all like 'ooh, I don't know, can I manage to read The Grapes of Wrath in one month' and I'm here to tell you that Bex is taking part, and she's going to have a baby in the middle of it. So you can probably manage it, is what I'm saying. So get your sad gifs at the ready, cause October is not all that far away!

Friday, 7 September 2012

Devouring Stephen King: Dolores Claiborne

"In the end, the bright colours always go out of life, have you noticed that? In the end things always look grey, like a dress that's been warshed too many times."

I had major reservations about this book, for the one good reason that it's basically one giant monologue, which I'm never NOT going to have problems with- I don't like it when chapters go over about 10 pages, so 300 page book with NO stopping points? What am I supposed to do with that?! It didn't look good from the start.

But. It ended up actually being really awesome! I even figured out where some appropriate stopping places were, but in the end I read almost all of it in one day anyway, which was definitely handy! So. Dolores Claiborne is a pretty straightforward story about one woman's murder of her husband 30 years prior to her confession, which makes up the biggest portion of this book. Oddly, when I read about 2 pages of this whenever I first bought it (AGES ago) I thought that Dolores was going to be the villain in a scary-old-lady way, but nope, she's the good guy (unless you consider murder bad, which it obviously is, except when it isn't... In a book sort of way, that is.)

Ok, so. That's pretty much all there is to it, so it's a pretty simple story and, in respect of its simplicity, King keeps it down to 300 pages, which I have a lot of respect for him doing. Following straight on the heels of Gerald's Game, he has another entirely female narrator which is a VERY GOOD THING (King not always being the most lady-representing author), and that's not the only parallel with Gerald's Game either. My extensive research (Wikipedia) tells me that they were at one time going to be released as a double book thing because the important events in both happen during the same eclipse, and there's this thing in Gerald's Game that was completely unsolved, that Dolores Claiborne solves. And there are lots of other subtle little mentions as well, which I love and which King does a lot. Hence my love for him.

See, I'm struggling to think of things to say about Dolores Claiborne, because whilst I enjoyed it and everything, it feels like knowing too much about it is going to spoil it because only about three things of major consequence happen, and knowing about them (well, I guess you know about her husband's murder, but that's revealed really really early on. Like first 3 pages or something) would totally detract from the reading experience. So let's just say... There's a really interesting and complex example of female friendship in the story, which was a bit of a surprise and a very welcome one, and there's also some mother-daughter bonding which was pretty nice to. To say this book is all about the ladies wouldn't be far from the truth, and it has redeemed King to a certain extent in my mind about the way he presents women in his books. I mean, it's not perfect for that (there's a thing that's a thing that constantly annoys me... You'll have to read it to see!) but it's definitely a good thing, and feels like a step forward, to a certain extent.

So yeah, Dolores Claiborne, I like it! Short and sweet, even though it's a monologue, you can read it basically in an afternoon, and in return for your time you get some really compelling characters and situations and stuff (vague much?!) Well worth the time it takes to read, anyway.

I totally finished this before RIP started, but am I going to count it anyway? You bet I am. So this is Book the First.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Grapes of Wrath Readalong!

So, I've been going on about this for ages and people have been going 'I want to read The Grapes of Wrath with you, Laura!' and I'm like 'GREAT!' and then ignore the fact that I might actually have to do something useful where people can sign up and things and have an awesome picture thing to put on their blogs!
Or... A kind of crappy picture thing that took THE LONGEST time to make and so no one's allowed to be mean about it, ok? The picture's not important, it's all about the book!
This is really just a sign up post, but if anyone wants to share anything in the comments then, yeah, go forth with that! But otherwise, I'll post a weekly reading itinerary thing in the last week of September a la readalong QUEEN, Alice, and we'll be good to go! This'll be my... ooh, 5th or 6th time reading The Grapes of Wrath, but I'm POSITIVE it'll be the funnest! Sooooo sign up!
Note: Everyone hold off on taking that picture, cause Alice has offered to do a nice one for me! So... just hooold your horses. If, that is, you even want to put it anywhere on your blog, obviously...

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Devouring Books: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

You know when all your blogging bffs have read a book and all really loved it, and you put it off because 1) it sounds kind of great but also like something you don't really read much and therefore you might not like it, and 2) what if you don't like it and you get disowned from the group? I mean... you probably don't know that because you're a well-adjusted sensible individual. And, ok, I was only worried about the first point because I loves my girls, and I know they'd never disown me! Probably...

So, anyway, Attachments was that book for me (obviously) and so it took me ages to find it and read it (and I still only got it from the library... I really don't trust anyone, clearly!) and now I'm just like... WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN MY WHOLE LIFE?! Seriously, I could literally not put this book down. It's just so funny and real and the conversations had are honestly conversations I could imagine myself happening, the references are things I care about (Winona Ryder, for example- oh yeah, it's set in 1999-2000, hence why Winona is still being talked about. But I will talk about her FOREVER) and it's just packed with laughs and sadnesses and basically all the stuff of life. Plus stalking via email.

Which really isn't as bad as it sounds. I guess, only because Lincoln (Sort of kind of the main character only he feels less important than Beth and Jennifer, the emailers) is so lovely and we know so much about him and why he isn't a creep that it seems ok for him to be reading the email exchanges of these women (which is technically his job, but... he doesn't warn them and just reads their emails. So... Yeah.) So, I love Lincoln. And I especially love that *sort of SPOILER* because of his hobbies and things, you assume that he looks kind of like a dweeb, but then you find out that actually he's a GOD. Or at least pretty hot, you know? *end sort of SPOILER*

But, of course, Beth and Jennifer are the real stars, not only of the book but in Lincoln's LIFE (if you look at the book as entirely his narration, for instance, they're clearly the highlight of his days for a good chunk of it) and I can't even tell you how much I love their email exchanges. Like... it's almost impossible to quote them because the awesomeness isn't so much in a little section but just IS the entirety of their emails. They're just. So. Good. And I believe it's been said before, but it is SUCH an accurate and good representation of female friendship that you just don't see everywhere, or hardly anywhere, and not just in books. I don't just want them to be my friends, I feel like they already are my friends.

I can see where Lincoln had difficulties.

Now. I have a horrible feeling that this book could be easily dismissed as Chick Lit (a term which, by the way, makes me want to vomit). I feel like I could easily have dismissed it as that if I hadn't had the guidance of excellent people (my Jennifers and Beths, if you will) thanks to things like quotes from magazines that I sort of disdain on the front and back covers of the book (this is making me sounds like a snob... *thinks about it* I'm comfortable with that, when it comes to Chick Lit.) Here's what I have to say about Attachments and Chick Lit- IF it is Chick Lit (and I'm willing to fight against that label FOREVER) then it's like the Nora Ephron of Chick Lit. Which basically means, nothing else I've read even comes close, writing-wise, or story-wise, or reality-wise, or character-wise. And it's funny because I was thinking this early on, and as I kept reading? SO many references to Nora Ephron films. Which just makes it an even better book!

So. I just love this book, and I will always love it and also I nearly kissed the copy I got out of the library (ICK! Who knows where it's been?!) so I kind of need to buy my own pronto. And give it all the kisses and hugs that a great book deserves. If you're looking for a better review than this poor effort (squealing and kisses? Yeah.) then I suggest looking at Alley's, or Rayna's, or Alice's, for they speak the truth. And also because they have ALL THE QUOTES that I couldn't write down because did you get the part where I couldn't stop reading? And then GO AND READ THIS.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Top Ten Tuesday

Oh hiii, Top Ten Tuesday, welcome back to my blog! Yeah, I haven't been great at doing this recently cause, you know, I'm lazy, but I do like to make seasonal reading lists. This one is going to be mightily RIP-heavy, cause that's all I want to read at the moment really. So yeah, enjoy.

Top Ten Books On My Autumn TBR List

1. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck- Because because I'm hosting my first readalong of it! (I mean, my first readalong ever, not just the first time I've readalonged The Grapes of Wrath. That was probably obvious, huh?) So, anyway, that's happening in October, so stay tuned.

2. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters- Another readalong that I'm really excited about because it'll make me actually read this book! More details about it if you click on the thingy in my sidebar thing. Specifics. I like them.

3. We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver- I've become obsessed with this book since reserving it at the library and NEVER GETTING IT (I still haven't. I bought it in the end) and so I really want to read it. Since it's pretty dark, I'm thinking it'll be great for RIP.

4. Beloved by Toni Morrison- I just want to read something by Toni Morrison. This autumn is the time, and this is the book.

5. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky- I've already started this, so I'd quite like to finish it by the end of autumn, and if I can't I think I might have some issues.

6. Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Linqvist- It's time to read this one. I've had it for a long time, and it's the right time of year. Time. Also, I have good thoughts about the Sweden-vampire combination, so... Yeah.
Annnd... I don't know what else I want to read! Because I have the aforementioned stack of RIP books, and I want to read them ALL, and because of that I haven't properly prioritised them. So... ALL THE SCARY BOOKS! I WANT TO READ THEM ALL!