Sunday 30 June 2013

Sunday Sundries: I Have Been...

I'm feeling weirdly reflective today with it being the end of the month and all, and maaaaan, June was SO GOOD. I realised yesterday that this was the first week in about 5 that I hadn't been to London at all, and apparently all good things happen in London, or at least they did this month. Just so this post isn't just made up of general gushing about having done fun things, I'm going to give it a structure (wooo! Structure!) I've maybe done this 'I Have Been' thing once before, (twice? I don't know) but it's fun and saves me from thinking too much, which really is a blessing to us all.

I Have Been...

I have written so many blog posts this last week it's been insane. And by 'so many', I mean about four, but these days it's kind of a big deal for me to really want to write about the stuff I've read, and to spend say an hour each day writing posts- normally I'm like 'UGH so much to write about' and then end up doing them all in a big rush on a Saturday. I like this new way a lot better.

SO much. I've seriously read more in the last week than I probably have all month. And I've been way more into reading this month than I have been all YEAR. I would say it's because of the weather but that's clearly not true (it has been mostly AWFUL. But I did get in some quality reading time yesterday because there was SUN, glorious sun!) and, much as I hate to admit it, I'm going to have to say it's because of Harry Potter. In that... Do you even know how hard it is to read other stuff when you're in the middle of Harry Potter? It is VERY HARD.
But seriously. It's basically been GLORIOUS to read of late.

It's been about 6 months now since I first saw Les Miserables, and I'm STILL listening to the soundtrack (10th Anniversary recording. It's basically the best.) because I'm very cool and don't have a problem with obsessions, at all. Nope. Not me. But let's just say I've listened to it so much that I could probably do a one woman show of Les Mis which would obviously be terrible and no one would want to see that. But yeah. I still could.

I went to see The East with my friend Becci last night and it was REALLY good! I mean, I basically just wanted to see it because SKARSGARD (yep. Also it was actually our second choice of film because NOWHERE is showing Much Ado About Nothing, and WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHO JOSS WHEDON IS?!) but it turned out to be all interesting and moral-grey-area ish and naked Skarsgardy (yeah, it was still good on the Skarsgard front) and yes. I approve of it, so you're allowed to go and see it.

ALSO I've never watched Luther but it's back on BBC 2 on Tuesday and I'm definitely going to watch it because Idris Elba is in it and I love him now. ALSO I've been watching Les Revenauts (or, The Returned) on Sundays and I like it a lot, but more importantly it's in french and so watching it makes me feel all smart.

For holiday ideas. Mostly in my brain, but I found this snazzy looking Youth Hostel in Stockholm and I want to go to there. Also yesterday my mum was like 'why don't you go to Australia for like a month?' (not in a mean way. Is there a mean way that can be?!) and I was like whuuuuut?! But also that does sound awesome. Kayleigh, I'm on my way!

Shit, what have I been learning? I guess I've been learning that people on the internet are probably not serial killers and are actually EXCELLENT (seriously, have you met your internet friends yet? Why not?!) and just generally that going places and doing stuff is The Best. But I guess I already knew that.

OH also I've been trying to learn where places are in England, so now on my wardrobe door I have a map of the US (that I've had for like 4 years) AND one of England and its counties. This is connected because when I met Bex and Hanna we had this moment where we didn't know where Leeds was (in relation to, say, York) and I wanted to change that! Especially when I can name all 50 states and have a faaairly good idea where they are (mostly).

Preeeeetty awesome and just generally positive about things? Optimism would be my main feeling at the moment, which I don't expect to last much past, say, mid-September but it's good for now.

More blogger meet-ups, the sun to stick around for more than one day so I can read Gone With the Wind (and, you know, everything) outside, going on the Harry Potter Studio Tour (it occurs to me that I haven't even mentioned this once!! I am going! In the school holidays, I believe- I should probably watch the films now?), the last season of Breaking Bad- August 11th is taking SO LONG to get here, I swear.

I don't know, isn't that Australia thing enough?! My general always-wish is to move out of my parents house, but to get to that point I have to do the whole looking-for-another-job thing that is actually my least favourite thing to do. Obviously I will be doing it intensively at some point (when, me?) but for now... It's summer, so really I'm just wishing for sunny days and lots of time to read. That's reasonable, right?!

The very full fullness of the month just gone, and the possibility that July could be just as good. God, I love summer.
And YOU, of course. You're all awesome.

Friday 28 June 2013

Devouring Books: The Invisible Circus by Jennifer Egan

"The vision tumbled over Phoebe with the force of revelation: she would stand somewhere and look back, she would live a life. Until this moment, she had never truly believed it."

Hey, remember when I read A Visit From The Goon Squad and it was awesome? Well, since then I've been keeping a bit of an eye out for other Jennifer Egan books, and found some and then, obviously, since I'm me, I didn't read them. BUT THEN: Alice and Megs both read Goon Squad sooort of recently, and it made me feel all loving and longing towards Egan, and so I picked up The Invisible Circus and read it. Obviously. Since I wouldn't be telling you about it if I hadn't read it. Ahem.

The Invisible Circus is Egan's first novel, and it's basically a coming-of-age tale about Phoebe, an 18 year old whose entire life so far has really been shaped by two deaths- those of her father when she was about 6, and her sister Faith when she was 10 (and Faith was 17). It is Faith's death that has the stronger impact on her, because Faith was deeply involved in being a big ole hippy, and in true younger sister style (HAH) she looked up to everything she did and thought, and then all of a sudden she was gone. This is kind of where we meet Phoebe at the start of the book, before she sets off on an impromptu trip to Europe to trace Faith's last steps and along the way she unexpectedly finds the beginnings of who she's going to be.

Shit, you guys, that might be the first time I've ever written a synopsis on here, and now I'm ruining it by being excited that I actually did one. But look, I did! This feels very much like a book that's pretty easy to sum up in a few sentences, which isn't an insult so much as just, like, this book knows what it wants to say and sticks to that game plan pretty rigidly. It was nice to read this and realise that Egan is just as good writing in a straightforward and traditional narrative as she is at being innovative and amazing (Seriously, Goon Squad. You want to read it) and really, for a first novel, it's pretty darn good.

Here's one thing that wasn't so great- Phoebe has a lot of memories from the time her family knew her father was sick (so, when she was 5-6) and they're very... vivid. And I'm not saying that she wouldn't be able to remember these things, but she ascribes a lot of meanings to things that she absolutely wouldn't have been able to have as a five year old, and even though she's 18 and recalling all these things to the reader, it's still pretty clear that she's supposed to have thought these things as a child. Which, really, was waaaay unrealistic and quite clearly used for symbolic purposes. I'm not against symbolism AT ALL (when it's done well, a la To Kill A Mockingbird) but here it was just a little bit heavy-handed and at the expense of the character.

Having said that, though, Phoebe as her older self is a character I have a lot of time for. She's very young (not just in age, but in a worldliness sense too) and feels constantly overshadowed by the memory of her sister- or, not even overshadowed so much as let down by the fact that she'll never have the experiences her sister had because, well, it's not the sixties anymore. The thing that really sold this book to me (other than, you know, Jennifer Egan's name on the cover) was the idea of the lost era of the peace and love (and drugs and stuff) of the hippies, and the way Egan covers this is excellent. There's kind of a gap between Phoebe, who watched it from the outside and wishes she'd been a part of it, and the people she meets who were a part of it, but still kind of feel like they were on the outside. Here's one dude's thoughts on the whole thing:
"'The weird thing about that time... is in a way we were nostalgic for it even while it happened. I think it had to do with constantly watching ourselves, on drugs, the whole out-of-body thing, but also on TV, in the papers. We were news. Whatever we did felt so big, so unbelievably powerful, almost like it was happening in retrospect. I've never felt anything like that, before or since. It wasn't real life. Which I guess is what made it great.'"
Yeah, I just... I'm never going to NOT be sad that I was never a hippy, guys. But I still think this is a really interesting perspective on that whole time, nonetheless.

Here's the bottom line on this book- it was good but not great, especially not in the way that A Visit From The Goon Squad was (why am I even comparing them?! I feel like a jerk) and even though I enjoyed reading it, I never felt like I had to read it or I would die (which, as we all know, is the best feeling). Jennifer Egan always writes the lovely words, and that's no different here, and even though it hit some of my hotspots (write 'hippies' or 'flower children' or 'the sixties' into your book and I'm there), it definitely didn't hit all of them and I haven't even told you about the bit where she has sex A LOT and really it starts to feel gratuitous. 

I've just realised that this is the worst bottom line ever, so here it really is- it's not the greatest book ever, and it's not even Egan's greatest book, but it's still worth a read, especially if you're all into hippies and coming-of-age stories and also in looking at the development of certain writers because there are definitely points of excellence here where you can see the writer Egan is going to become. So, yeah. Read it? If you want. But you don't have to.

Thursday 27 June 2013

Devouring TV: The Wire

I finished watching The Wire an entire two months ago, and I'm concerned that if I don't write something about it now, then I never will, and this post will be lost forever in my drafts folder (or, you know, I'd delete it because I got bored looking at it). Here's the thing- I don't want to say too much about The Wire because I feel like it's been subject to SO much praise (so so so much. Incredible amounts. Probably even more than it deserves, and it deserves a fair bit) that anything I'm going to say about it is going to be redundant and, you know, you're probably sick of hearing about The FUCKING Wire already (I know I was before I watched it. But then the Breaking Bad withdrawals set in and I had to do SOMETHING with my time.)

So. The Wire, along with The Sopranos, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad, is commonly regarded as in the top four TV shows OF ALL TIME. I'd prefer to think of it as the top 4 TV dramas of all time, and if I'm honest, The Wire wouldn't be in my top 4 (replace it with The West Wing and I think you're pretty much there, though) BUT that doesn't mean that it isn't still FREAKING AWESOME, it just means that I'm not so much into the police dramas. I mean, the fact that I even watched the whole five seasons of this is an achievement in itself, because I think the only other TV police show I've ever watched so much of is 21 Jump Street, for... Obvious reasons.
I almost feel bad watching it because he hates that show SO FUCKING MUCH. But he's too beautiful not to.

Anyway. In case you were wondering, The Wire is MUCH better than 21 Jump Street, albeit not as beautiful. But then again...
Oh, McNulty. You're such an asshole. But I love you.
And, for that matter,
Stringer Bell, guys. ALSO an asshole. I don't know what this says about me.

See the thing is though, BOTH of these guys are assholes, but they're on different sides of the law, and I think that's what REALLY makes this programme interesting- the characters are so layered and interesting, and no one's wholly good or wholly bad, and THEN you also see the the different cultures and environments they've been brought up in, and maybe you go 'well, in different circumstances, maybe McNulty could have been a great drug kingpin, and maybe Stringer could have been a cop if, say, his best friend had been murdered instead of growing up with him and them dreaming together about how rich they were going to be.' There are really a very very few characters who've escaped the circumstances they grew up in, and that alone is enough to make you think about a LOT of things.

Basically 90% of the characters are unlikeable, or at least unlikeable some of the time, and you'd think that would make it kind of frustrating to watch, but really I was more frustrated at the lack of women in it (oh yeah. There are like no women. Don't come into this expecting women, because there are maybe two? And those that get to be any kind of main character have to have rejected femininity entirely. But hey, there're always strippers! *sigh* and THIS would be why it doesn't make it into my top four, just by the by). Because the thing is, these characters being unlikeable doesn't mean that you don't care about what happens to them- it just means that you love them, but you don't always like them. Just like a completely fucked up little family of badness!

Anyway. One character I quite uncomplicatedly like is Omar. Omar is essentially a thief who only robs drug dealers, and a murderer who only murders drug dealers (and only when he has to). He's on the edges of the drug dealing culture because it seems to be where he can make the biggest profit, but also because he's bound to be on the edges of that whole culture because he's also gay. Which is just sort of AMAZING to see because I'm not sure I've ever seen a gay character ANYWHERE who's completely comfortable and unapologetic about his sexuality, but also whose sexuality is also not the most important thing about his character- rather, the fact that he's a complete and utter total badass is.

And it's so weird to be rooting for a character who basically just steals and kills, but somehow The Wire is the kind of programme where you end up doing just that- there's the sense in which he's almost doing a public service by beating these violent, damaging men at their own game, and it feels ok to support him in this because, as he constantly reinforces- 'I never killed nobody who wasn't in the game'. Omar does everything he can, in fact, to avoid harm to civilians, and you kind of have to love him for it. And just to reinforce what a badass he is- the danger involved in what he does is apparent throughout the series, but no more so than when he ends up in prison for a murder that he actually didn't commit and it suddenly becomes clear that he's locked up, unarmed, with the exact people he's been fucking with for years, and you suddenly realise that this is the risk he's been running all along and GOD, can you imagine constantly fucking with a load of violent criminals and then suddenly being easily within their grasp? How long before you get killed in that situation, twenty minutes? Omar is a BAMF.
And now, a really quick rundown of each season, and then we're done, I swear.

Season One: It really sets the bar high for how the rest of the show should be- the ensemble cast of police officers is so good that it feels wrong somehow when they're all working separately (and, in fact, I'm not sure the whole team is ever assembled again after this season). The storylines are tight, the targets are made clear and all the characters and themes and issues and everything are introduced so well and strongly. Just an amazing first season.

Season Two: I just find this season really really brave, because rather than just giving us what we've been used to (the same characters, the same crimes), things are actually switched up and the targets are actually completely different- this is still Baltimore so the crimes still involve drugs, but in a completely different way to season one (although you still get to see some of the criminals from then too, because, you know, attached.) Also has maybe the most chilling line of dialogue I've ever heard in anything: "Cut off his hands. Cut off his face."
Season Three: This is really the Stringer Bell-Jimmy McNulty showdown season, although this really constitutes Stringer going about his daily life and McNulty becoming increasingly obsessed with him. If we're applying the Draco-Harry rule here, then Jimmy is DEFINITELY in love with Stringer, but... I'm not sure that's true. Sadly.
Anyway... This season I found a liiittle bit patchy and unfocused at times (look at this guy! And now this guy! And that other guy is doing other things now for reasons I'm not sure of!) but it definitely sets certain things up for the rest of the series.

Season Four: The season of the children! This is probably my favourite season, because there are kids, which means that it's here that you can see where people start off in the streets and why they become drug dealers at all. It's probably the most social justice-y of the series, but it's interesting seeing how these characters we thought we knew suddenly start acting differently when children are involved (as they are in practically all their lives), and it's heartening, too. Until the end. Which is SO SAD.

Season Five: It's... Patchy at best. There's a newspaper involved, which is ostensibly to show the inequality of media coverage over things like gang shootings, but is really there so McNulty can do something SO STUPID that I can't even think about it without getting pissed off. It's not at all without merit, and it really really finishes things off well, I think, but it's definitely not the best season. But, you know, it's The Wire and it's allllllll good.

And those descriptions? Really, really, really just tips of the iceburg because oh my GOD the characters I didn't even mention (BUBBLES!) and the whole entire storylines I missed out (this guy runs for mayor and I really don't give a shit because everything about the Political stuff was already done better by The West Wing) and really you just have to watch it because no one is ever going to be able to cover everything that happens in it in one blog post, but through a series of emails? I think we can get a lot closer! And I can't even imagine a time when I won't want to talk about The Wire. Seriously.

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Devouring Books AND Films: The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

"I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life."

I'd read The Great Gatsby two or three times before I read it this time round, and I always left it with a vague sense of admiration but only a hazy idea of what had actually happened in it. I've never actively hated it like I have, say, The Catcher in the Rye (DAMMIT, Holden) but I've never felt much of anything towards it either. 

But then. I saw the film, and I liked it so much that it inspired me to read the book again, and lo and behold, was that... Me remembering concrete events? And those concrete events being improved by the GORGEOUS writing (because Fitzgerald writes gorgeously, I don't think that's what makes me not-remember Gatsby)? Amazing! I think that really, my having no prior claim over the book (in terms of wanting to freaking marry it, like most of the film's harshest critics) was a real advantage in watching the movie because I didn't have all these ideas about exactly how everything should be and I could enjoy it for what it was.

Here's why I really liked the movie- reading The Great Gatsby before, I think that what has happened to me is that I read it, take in the language (the gorgeous language, I'll say it again!) and then leave the book with only the vaguest idea of what actually happened. This is the only way I can explain having read the same book more than once and never remembering anything about anything, and that fact has made me completely ambivalent towards the story in the past. What the film has done has given me actual, visual groundwork that I can base my reading upon and actually remember the stuff that happens, and that is reason enough for me to like the film.

There are other reasons: Leonardo Dicaprio is a really really good Gatsby (I haven't seen the Robert Redford version but I would imagine that he is an EXCELLENT Gatsby, but that's another matter), I think the sets and the decadence and all of that stuff was done really well and Baz Luhrmannly (which, coming from me is a compliment because I really like Baz Luhrmann) and I just generally liked putting it into my eyes and would definitely watch it again. Plus, there's that whole thing where it made me understand and, more importantly, remember the book better, and that's worth its weight in film reel, trust me.

I'm not going to go through the whole story because I'm preeeetty much assuming we all have some idea of what it's all about at this point, but there are a few things in it that are things that, for me, stop it from being the ultimate book of all books that it's often lauded as being. They are these:
  1. I don't care for any of the characters- And I don't mean that I hate them all, but more that I can barely drum up a single emotion for any of them, and I think we all know that indifference is worse than hate. I don't know what it is, but they're all so... I don't know, distant? that I find it really hard to care about any of them in any genuine way. And I know that's not everything, but when I'm reading? It's pretty much one of the main things I want.
  2. Daisy- I feel like Daisy carries a lot of the blame for the things that happen (oooh, cryptic) in the story, and I don't think that's fair at all. I mean, she's clearly a terrible person (they're all kind of terrible people, in their own ways) but that doesn't mean that she's wrong for having been in love with her husband, and for being kind of... overwhelmed with the way Gatsby acts towards her. Because, um, having a dude pine after you for five years, knowingly building a house across from where you live and generally tailoring his life so that it'll be perfect for the moment that you come back into it? I don't really see that as romantic, I kind of see STALKER written in bright flashing lights. And then demanding that she say she has always loved him and no one else? I'm sorry Jay, but Daisy's right- that is asking too much. WAY too much.
Ugh, Gatsby. Seriously. But: as I have said THE GORGEOUS WRITING, and there were so many points where I was completely familiar with the things the characters were thinking or feeling and I'm all about the universal feelings and thoughts and the general describing of the human condition in interesting and true ways and this does that a lot. It's never going to be my favourite book, but at least I feel like this time, thanks to a little help from the film, I'm going to remember more about it, and remember that actually, I do like it. I just don't really feel things about it. But maybe that's ok.

Sunday 23 June 2013

Sunday Sundries: I met people from the internet and no one even got murdered!

I feel like this title makes it sound like I'm secretly a serial killer and that is clearly not the case!
Anyway... No more of this nonsense for I have a story to tell and it's important and awesome and it goes a little something like this. Once upon a time, many wonderful women who enjoy reading started book blogs on the internet and found each other and became friends. One day a few weeks ago, three of them made plans to meet in London, and on Friday, THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED. 

Now. I'm constantly saying things like 'when I started a book blog, I never expected X to happen' and all of the things I say are always true, but the thing I least expected to happen (so far!) was for people from the internet to jump out of my computer and into the real world where I could look at their faces as we talked! And we could eat food together! And hug (HUGGING, guys!) And wander round London for HOURS and not even notice because we were talking and laughing and generally having an excellent time of excellence.

But all of these things happened, and they happened with Bex and Hanna on Friday. Let's see, a coherent description of events... Well, I got to South Kensington first but lost my time advantage by having to pee (TMI, I realise. That's how I roll) and then I walked back into the tube station to meet Bex (and Benjamin! He is adorable. Also her sister Clare who was all helpery with Benjamin's buggy on the train and was also very nice) and mere moments later, Hanna showed up and we were altogether and it was lovely! It was such an adjustment hearing their actual voices, (Hanna is all NORTHERN! Which I knew, of course, but somehow it didn't click that she would sound all northern! In other news, I am stupid) because I guess I pretty much read their blogs and tweets in my own brain voice, but I got over that soon enough, and after a while I didn't even think about it anymore.

And so we got burgers and then cake (Hanna took on the biggest slice of red velvet cake I think we'd all ever seen, and so nearly won!) and then walked around London looking for a bookshop but there was NOT ONE TO BE FOUND (rich people apparently don't read) and then walked through Hyde Park to meet two more of Bex's sisters (I believe there is one more. But I could be wrong!) and there was talking of books and movies and certain people's dislike of Tom Hanks (WHO doesn't like Tom Hanks?! Madness!) and general jolliness and awesomosity. 
And the weirdest part of the whole thing is how non-weird it felt. Like, you know when you meet new people and it's a bit awkward and you feel like 'GAH!' and it's sliiightly a relief when you leave because you can relax a bit? (Ok, this might just be me. I'm really bad at meeting new people!) Anyway, that's not what this was like AT ALL. This was basically like seeing your friends, and that's because that's exactly what it was. We've gotten to know each other so well over the magic of the interwebs that seeing each other face-to-face just felt... Normal. Not that this should make it sound like it was underwhelming in any way, but just that it felt good and right and I would do the same again with any one of you! (In fact, I'm pretty sure I'm going to Leeds sometime soon!)

Here would be the perfect place to put a picture of Bex, Hanna and I (and probably Benjamin too, let's face it!) but... We kind of forgot to take one. In that Bex said to me 'we should take a photo before we leave!' and I was like 'definitely!' and then it never happened so frankly I could just be making this whole thing up, but my smileyness since then tells a different story. Seriously, I can't recommend meeting people from the internet enough! Best idea ever.

Tiny little story to end things: I was watching Julie and Julia yesterday, as one does on a Saturday afternoon, and it got to the bit where Julia Child goes to meet Avis De Soto and it transpires that she's never actually met her and until this point they've just been penpals. And, I shit you not, when it got to the bit where Avis walks into the train station and Julia sees her and they greet each other all excitedly, I actually teared up. Which is LAME, but I know how that feels now and it's LOVELY and ah. Yes. Everything is just awesome.

Friday 21 June 2013

Harry Potter: It's not goodbye, it's just see you later

Oh you guys. This was some readalong, huh? We had some laughs, and then some cries, and then some more laughs and crys and it was kind of the best thing that a group of people on the internet have ever done ever?
FIRSTLY before I even try to sum up anything Harry Potterish, I have to say THE HUGEST thank you to Alice for being our gracious and also excellent host these past SIX MONTHS (seriously guys, that is the longest time).
Every single week I've felt bad when everyone else is a better thanker than me, but look! An actual Harry Potter gif from an actual Harry Potter film (don't ask me which one because I don't bloody know, do I?) But anyway, yes, Alice you've been great, and THANK YOU especially for getting your post up really early for those of us in foreign lands and strange time zones, even if we sometimes have to be reminded to link up our posts. Ahem.

And now, Harry Potter. I didn't want to talk about the Epilogue last week because I didn't want to end my post on a bummer, but I'm just going to have a teeny moan about it now. Because... Ok, I never used to HATE the epilogue at all, but it feels like for the entire readalong, everyone's been saying 'UGH, the epilogue' and I read it this time, and... Yeah. It's not even that I hate the pairs that JK makes, especially (although I do hate that Ginny didn't get to name ANY of her kids) although you have all made me want either a Harry-Luna or Harry-Draco union SOMEHOW, but that's not the problem.

The problem is, I want to know what happens to EVERYONE- how has George even coped with life after Fred's death? It's so amazing that Neville is a Professor, but what about his personal life? Is he married to Luna, and for that matter, hey, WHERE IS LUNA? It seems like JK makes her a pretty important character, especially in the Deathly Hallows, and then just leaves her out completely. And then, just, everyone else. I want to know far far more than there's space for in the Epilogue, and if I can't have it all then I'd rather just have nothing, and I'll imagine what's happened to all the characters myself, THANK you very much.
But. Let's just put that aside now, because I'm over it and oh my gosh have I even mentioned how much I love Harry Potter? I can't think of another thing I would spend six months of my life on, and the weirdest thing is, I'm still not at all done with it. I know that my posts every week were INSANELY long (um... Sorry about that) but honestly they could probably have been twice as long and I would still have things to say. And I don't even know why that it but it probably has something to do with the fact that, even though there's a finite number of pages in the series, they have created an infinite world inside each of our brains, all of them different, which makes an infinite number of infinite worlds and yeah. Woah.
So basically, JK Rowling is an amazing human being and I know that I'm grateful she went on that train journey that one day and dreamed up Harry Potter because I can't even imagine a world without it in. And we're so lucky because we grew up WITH Harry, but imagine what it's going to be like for all the generations of kids to come who get to grow up in a world where Harry Potter already exists- Guys- if we have kids (not together. Unless you want to) WE GET TO READ HARRY POTTER TO THEM. We have the opportunity to bring children that joy, and that is just the coolest thing ever in the world ever.

So. To sum up. This was the best readalong ever and I'll probably never read Harry Potter in quite the same way in my life again ever, and I love you all for your comments and your posts and for making everything about this experience The Best.
I am mostly VERY SAD that the readalong is over, but there's a teeny part of my brain (the crazy part that wants to read things that aren't Harry Potter) that's already noticed that I'm doing better at reading other things now that there's not a kind of huge part thinking about Harry Potter all the time. But still, I wouldn't have traded this for anything. This. Was. Awesome.

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Shit I'm Going To Be Reading This Summer

Yesterday's Top Ten Tuesday Topic (say it 10 times really fast) was the ten books at the top of your TBR for summer. I already had a post for yesterday (and I'll be DAMNED if I post more than once in a day. Unless it's a readathon day) and also I was going to write this list yesterday but something something lazy.

But it's a whole new day now, and I've decided two things- 1) it's good to have some kind of idea of the books I'm going to read next because otherwise I just finish a book, stare at my shelves for about half an hour, shrug and go and watch something on Netflix instead, and 2) you totally want to know what I'm going to be reading this summer. I can tell. So I picked out 10 books and here they are!
TA DAAAAA! And here are some things about them.

1. Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner- This book seems fun, and also short, and ALSO it's set in Australia (or, the land of perpetual summer) and Kayleigh will be sad if I don't read it sometime soon (I mean, she'd probably be fine. But do I want to risk it? I do not!) Also it's rumoured to be kiiind of like Little Women in certain ways, so I. Am. Sold.

2. Middlemarch by George Eliot- I've been meaning to read this for a LONG time now, and this summer could be it's time? I hope so. Also it's my firm belief that BIG classics are at their best in the summer, read outside with cool drinks and warm weather.

3. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell- Most of the firm belief from above is based on that time about 5 summers ago when I read the majority of Gone With The Wind in my nan's garden, or, more accurately, when I time-travelled to Civil War era Georgia because that's how amazing it was. I'm trying to recreate that experience this summer, so... Wish me luck!

4. What Maisie Knew by Henry James- The movie comes out in the UK in August, so I want to read this before then. And why do I want to see the movie? No comment.
This is my comment.
5. My Life in France by Julia Child- France! And food! And Julia Child! There's no way this book isn't going to be cheery and excellent and will hopefully let me travel to France in my brain, just like a real summer holiday (note: Nothing like a real summer holiday.) But anyway, I'm excited to read it.

6. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver- I... Don't really know what this book has to do with summer. But dammit, I want to read it and so I shall. I SHALL, I tell you.

7. Eating for England by Nigel Slater- I know for a fact that I have been seduced into thinking this is a summer book because THERE IS ROCK ON THE FRONT COVER which almost guarantees that I'm going to be transported to the seaside immediately. Presumably all the foods he talks about can't be summer foods, but still. It looks awesome. 
(aside: Do places that aren't England even have rock? It's terrible for your teeth but so so so good. Let's see what Wikipedia says about it)

8. The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson- For more of that travelling in my mind stuff, this time across the small towns of America alongside everyone's favourite grumpy travelling companion, Bill Bryson! I dunno, my mind just associates Bryson with summer maybe because he fills my brain with fucking sunshine. (That was getting too poetic so I added in fucking. You're welcome.)

9. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen- It's big. It's chunky. I kind of like Franzen's writing in spite of all the things that are wrong with him as a person. Do I need any more reasons? I do not.

10. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green- I am all out of summer reasons, but I've been meaning to read this for ages (as in, it's been next to my bed for a long time) and so I SHALL. Because crying outside is the best kind of crying, correct? (No.)

So yeah! That's what I'm planning on. I worked it out, because I am the kind of person who does such things, and altogether that's 4694 pages I'll be reading this summer, which is a ridiculous average of basically 470 pages per book. It might literally take every second of summer, but I CAN DO IT (probably. I don't know. Whatever, I might just read some other things anyway.) Anyway! Summer! GET YOUR ASS OVER HERE.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Devouring Books: Little Men by Louisa May Alcott

"No person, no matter how vivid an imagination he may have, can invent anything half so droll as the freaks and fancies that originate in the lively brains of little people."

I have read Little Women (or, if you're American, the first part of Little Women) approximately a million times, but until I was nearly 21 (and prompted by the SHOCK of seeing the second half of the movie where Christian Bale is Laurie) I hadn't even read Good Wives (or, if you're American, the second part of Little Women). Considering how much I love Little Women (and that, by the way, is A LOT) this was kind of ridiculous in itself, and even more ridiculous is that I've owned the third part of this saga for a long time now, and I didn't read it until the other week. I don't even want to go into how my brain works, but the obvious answer is: Not well.
Anyway. It has been read now, and the verdict? Kind of... Mixed. Here's the thing- when I DID finally read Good Wives (ugh, that title...), even though I disagree with a lot of the things that happened in it (I'm never going to be OK with Laurie and Amy. I'm just not) it was so lovely to read because here were some characters I knew really well, and they were doing things again and figuring stuff out and OBVIOUSLY DOING WITCHCRAFT TO GET LAURIE TO MARRY THEM, and basically it's a gay old time, and even though I'm never going to love that half of Little Women as much as the first half because I read it too late, it's still good.

Little Men is good in it's own way, too, but... It was disappointing. I think that Alcott was basically like 'OK, well, I'm done with the girls now, so let's move on to the next generation' and that's what she does. And I understand her doing that, in terms of wanting to tell the stories of the next generation, but... I'm old now. I'm very, very old, and I almost... don't want to read the stories of 10(ish) year old boys? And, when I'm finally reading the third in a series of four books that I started when I was about 12, it's reasonable to expect the author to focus on the characters that I want her to, and to ignore doing something new with different characters, right?
So. Disappointing in a it's-not-Little-Women way? Yes. But actively terrible? Not at all! Alcott is still fine at writing, and her boys are interesting and fun, and have their flaws and whatnot and it's fairly fun and, let's face it, easy to read about them. Their little adventures do call to mind the ones Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy had in Little Women, and just, Alcott's really good at creating characters who are likeable but not perfect and just, generally, like real little boys.

But. I've read some reviews of Little Women by people who didn't read it when they were 12 (and from then on) and I've always been perplexed as to why they're so negative- talking about things like the moralising that's rammed down your throat and the gentle brand of sexism that comes from being a woman in the 19th century and believing that the entire POINT of your being is to marry a man and be his support. And, whilst I can't see that in Little Women unless I look REALLY HARD, it's all over the place in Little Men, mostly with the fact that Jo (who is the only one of the sisters with a main part in this book- Amy and Meg make maybe two appearances each) doesn't seem to do anything any more except be a mother to a load of boys.
This is Jo, we're talking about. Jo, who is about the least maternal person ever, and who is a writer for fucks sake! She runs a school with her husband (who is a genuine Professor, to be fair) and she can't even teach a creative writing class? Or just an English Lit in general class? No, Jo's apparently just content to sit back and let Professor Bhaer do that kind of work while she teaches the only girls in the school HOW TO COOK, and it's seen as some kind of progress for her character because she's finally learnt how to be a proper woman. COME ON, Louisa, what are you doing to me?!

Ahem. Apparently I'm angrier at this book than I realised, and I need to take into account society's values and blah blah blah, but from a modern woman's perspective... Yeah. This IS bullshit. But, like I've said, it's nice. It's nice as long as you ignore everything you used to know about Jo (which, frankly, you might as well) and if I'd read it along with Little Women when I was 12, I doubt I'd have such a problem with it now. But I do. And that's probably a good thing.

All that being said, I kind of still want to read Jo's Boys for the sake of, I don't know, completeness or something, so I guess you can pretty much take all my criticism with a pinch of salt that lovely Mother Jo will get you to add to a pie crust or something. But I'm still pissed off.

Sunday 16 June 2013

Sunday Sundries: Not Much To Report This Week

I was just about to say that nothing much happened this week, but that is a LIE because I totally went to see Kings of Leon on Thursday, and beforehand I was slightly... not OVERLY enthusiastic about it (a bit enthusiastic. But not OVERLY so) because I used to be like KOL FOREVERRRR but now I'm more like 'yeah... I haven't listened to you for a while...' BUT the point is that it was awesome and reminded me how much their music just SOUNDS like America (to me) and that is very much a good thing and also now I want to go to Arizona or somewhere and just SOAK UP it's America-ness.

Glad I got THAT off my chest!

Other than that... I don't know guys, nothing much really happened this week, and even if it did, I'm REALLY tired today and can't seem to remember things. But I'm sure it was fine! I have vaguely warm feelings towards the week that's just been, even if I can't really remember anything about it. I blame my Saturday of shameful shameful sloth- LITERALLY the only thing I achieved yesterday was making vegan doughnuts (thanks to the book the lovely Ellie bought me!) but then maybe that was the kind of weekend I needed after last week's AWESOME but also terribly tiring one.

Actually, you know what's just occurred to me? This week has been a lot about blogging because I wrote two HUGE posts about basically my favourite things (Les Miserables and Harry Potter) and they took up two evenings after work just by themselves. I actually can't tell you how good it feels to have FINALLY said words about Les Miserables (even if there were waaay too many of them) OR how sad it feels to have finished Harry Potter. I mean, I'm going to talk about it more on Friday which is the last official post of a SIX MONTH LONG READALONG (amazing!) but yeah, I'm a little bit... adrift and sad and, yeah, let's go with BEREFT. But I'll be ok. I'm assuming another WILKIE readalong is coming soon, so yeah. All will be well.

On a less pleasant blogging note, I woke up this morning to a mean comment on a REALLY old post (it's this one if you want to see it. But why would you? OH YEAH, my awesome response) but HERE'S a lovely little excerpt from it: "I hope that you don't speak this way, 1992 wants it's [sic] "Valley Girl" act back." I mean, OUCH RIGHT?! I'd just like to assure everyone here and now that I speak WAY WORSE than I write here. I mean, I use 'like' SO much that practically everyone comments on it, and still I can't actually stop it. IT'S MY FILLER WORD OK?! But yeah- don't write the way you want to on the internet, people, because random strangers might not like it!

And I'd just like to add: the extremely gallant Kayleigh had already jumped to my defence BEFORE I EVEN WOKE UP this morning and I was all like
(It's fine, I'm not calling her a bitch! Just... Watch Breaking Bad, people. ALSO Kayleigh doesn't just sit around reading comments on my posts, I ASSUME, but this guy replied directly to her comment, for some stupid reason of stupidness cause he's stupid.)

Not that I'm dwelling on it or anything, but I had to fill this post with SOMETHING. Also, be nice to people on the internet, guys. It's not cool to be anything but. And also do this

Friday 14 June 2013

"'Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?'"

Oh my gosh, you guys. I can't even begin to process the fact that THERE IS NO MORE HARRY POTTER TO READ, and also THIS IS BASICALLY THE LAST HARRY POTTER DAY, and other sad things like that, so INSTEAD let's just talk about the book and weep.
There is SO MUCH to talk about in this last section, I think (I have, like, 18 pages of notes, mostly because I'm INSANE but also because I copied out whole CHUNKS of text, but anyway) and I'm going to try and restrain myself and only say the very most important things, mostly because I have a time limit (places to go etc etc) but also because, what is there to say? This section is both wonderful and horrible at the same time, and pretty much all of it makes me want to weep but let's just talk about the things that actually did, shall we?

  • Percy comes back!- I don't even remember if I was expecting this to happen, or if it was just a wonderful surprise, but every time it gets me because OMG all Molly wants is for all her children to be together and he comes back and ADMITS HE WAS WRONG and it's lovely. 
  • BUT THEN- Fred dies- And how cruel is that, JK? Firstly it always gets me when ONE twin is killed off because THEY ARE TWINS AND ARE SUPPOSED TO BE TOGETHER ALWAYS, but this is Fred! We know Fred! We love him! And also it feels like Ron might be dead for a minute and that is terrifying, but then Fred is ACTUALLY dead and it's not a relief! Nothing about this is good!
  • And then Lupin and Tonks- This is a cruel and horrible thing to do to her readers, but it sure is moving (and awful)- Not only do they now have an orphaned child, Harry's just lost the last living (close) link to his parents and also remember how much I fancied Lupin in PoA? It was a LOT.
  • Snape.- I am physically unable to cope with how much Snape loved Lily, and for how long, and how he really was protecting Harry for all those years and oh, Snape. I was of course weeping throughout all of his memories, but I also just think... How amazing that this one chapter can change your entire view of a character because seriously? I hated Snape so much. HATED him. Was absolutely willing to be convinced that he was evil because I hated him, but then, new information emerged and suddenly everything I thought about him was turned into this deep sympathy for him and that is why I've been defending him for this whoooole readalong. Oh Snape. You deserved better than being eaten by a snake.
  • Then Harry accepts that he's going to have to die- And I know! I know he isn't going to die! But still it's terrifying being inside his brain when HE thinks he's going to have to die, and it's so beautiful that he doesn't even question the reality of this- not that he's not scared but that he's brave enough not to run away from death because he believes it's the thing to do to save everyone he cares about. God, I love him.
  • The Resurrection Stone- I LITERALLY CANNOT DEAL WITH THIS BIT. All the crying. All of it. Ever. "'You'll stay with me?' 'Until the very end,' said James. 'They won't be able to see you?' asked Harry. 'We are part of you' said Sirius. 'Invisible to anyone else.' Harry looked at his mother. 'Stay close to me,' he said quietly." (I'm not kidding, I am crying right now from typing that. DESTROYS me.)
  • The Headmasters' Office- I'm pretty much ok once Harry doesn't die (although I am still a bit sniffly when he meets Dumbledore in Purgatory or wherever) and then Voldy dies and whathaveyou and Harry, Ron and Hermoine go up to Dumbledore's office and the portraits all give him a standing ovation? And in Dumbledore's portrait "tears were sliding down from behind the half-moon spectacles into the long silver beard, and the pride and gratitude emanating from him filled Harry with the same balm as phoenix song"? Yeah, that gets to me. Right in the heart.
So what can I say? There was a lot of crying. And also, a few other things:
  • It's so perfect that the last quarter of the book happens in Hogwarts. It's kind of one of those things where I didn't realise how much I missed it until we got back there, and even with all these bad things going on, it's still so. good. to be back there even under so much trauma. "But he was home. Hogwarts was the first and best home he had ever known." Perfect.
  • I know we've been doing the whole Draco-Harry thing (Harry saved his life! TWICE!) But what about Luna and Harry? She's there with Dean and Ernie and their Patronuses, urging Harry to think of happy things, and she's there when it's all over, knowing just what Harry needs. Or... Maybe I just want to marry Luna?
  • Ok, so what is that gross thing in the bundle at Kings Cross/Purgatory? Is it the part of Voldemort's soul that was attached to Harry, or... Something else? And in other questions I want answered, does anyone really care about the Deathly Hallows at this point? Are they really just there to make the point that we shouldn't be afraid of death? Cause that's cool.
  • Neville is a fucking badass. Also, fun snake fact- Nagini is a sanskrit word for an deity that takes the form of a snake, so REALLY we should have known she was holding a bit of Voldy from day 1 (or book 4. Whenever she appears.)
  • "'NOT MY DAUGHTER YOU BITCH.'" Best thing ever. 
  • In the end, Voldy is killed by his own rebounding curse. I feel like it's a very superhero-ish thing for Harry never to have to kill anyone, and in the end for evil to end up being it's own foil, and then at the same time, I'm not sure if I feel like it's a bit of a cop-out? I could go either way on this, folks.

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Devouring Books: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

"Nothing can be sadder or more profound than to see a thousand things for the first and last time. To journey is to be born and die each minute."

You might have noticed if you've spent any time around my blog for, oh, all of this year, that I've become sort of... Ok, yeah, obsessed with Les Miserables. What started with the movie (I saw it TWICE at the cinema, which I basically never do with films anymore because dude, the cinema is expensive) culminated (NOT ended) a couple of weeks ago in seeing the musical in London, and in between the two was an epic, four month long battle with the book.

That's right, I said battle. This is not an easy book to read both in terms of there just being SO much in it that's good that you kind of don't want to miss anything, but then also there being so much in it that's irrelevant to the main story that I might have spent a lot of time reading at it SCREAMING at Hugo in my brain to just GET BACK TO THE STORY DAMMIT. I feel like this might be a hazard of having watched the film first, in that I cared so much about the characters that I wanted the whole book to just be about them (which, to be fair, isn't an unreasonable ask!) but then the flipside of that is, if I hadn't seen the film first, I'm not sure if I would even have finished the book. It's a harsh but true reality that, every time I picked the book back up after weeks away from it, it was with the knowledge that the movie wasn't out on DVD yet, and I was too poor to see the show.

Now. This doesn't mean that the movie/musical is the only good form of Les Miserables, and so you should just skip the book. No, on the whole I'm going to have to say that the rewards of Les Miserables are infinitely greater than having to skim read a MILLION pages about the Battle of Waterloo, or the Parisian sewer system (!). Although the book would be far far better if Hugo had allowed it to be edited properly (I think then, I could have called it one of my favourite books), the things it has added to my overall idea-in-my-brain of Les Miserables I wouldn't be without. But I give you permission to skip anything you think is irrelevant, because *whispers* it probably is.

See, see how long this is getting already? I don't even know where to go from here, because this book is EPIC, you guys, not just in, you know, length, but also in the number of Things it covers. Just off the top of my head, I'm thinking history, politics, religion, social issues, love, hate, justice (or the lack thereof), youth, morality- almost everything you can think of is right there in it, and that's just for starters, because what it also has are characters that are so complex that I'm still trying to figure them out now, and stuff that happens that is engaging and exciting and that I have Feelings about. So let me just... I'm going to say some things and they'll hopefully make sense and if not then I still need to say them, apparently. So yeah.

Firstly- Even though the massive rambling story deviations were pretty awful, there were extra things about the book that I did love, which were, basically, anything that was directly to do with the actual story. Reading the book means that you find out more about the kindly Priest (he's really awesome, by the way), little Gavroche! (ditto) and, possibly the thing I was most interested in reading about, how Fantine got into her, y'know, situation. Also, there were things that happened that the musical just really doesn't have time for, and they're still exciting- for example, at one point Jean Valjean is almost buried alive and my heart was in my throat the whole time. If I'm honest, I really just used the book to enhance the musical and the way I think about the characters in it, and... It really lived up to that task.

Nextly- I know I've mentioned already that I'm still trying to figure out the characters, but the book makes me feel like I'm nearly there. I got so much more from it than the musical shows, character-wise (as is natural) and I feel like I'm that much closer to understanding Javert and his INSANE conformity to The Law and to just how well that contrasts with Jean Valjean and his sense of justice having to fit appropriately to the situation, otherwise it really isn't justice at all. These two men, in fact, are probably the two most interesting characters to me, possibly because they contrast so well with each other.

Also notable- I feel like it's really natural to find Marius and Cosette kind of annoying because they're the only characters who kind of get everything they ever wanted (each other) and, in fact, the whole of Part Three ('Marius') feels kind of like a deviation from the story because it moves things on about one song's worth. But the thing about the two of them is that if they weren't in the story then it would pretty much make you want to kill yourself, and without them and their love, Hugo wouldn't be able to say things like this:
"There is no joy outside the ecstasy of love. The rest is tears. To love or have loved is all-sufficing. We must not ask for more."
 And- In spite of my frequent frustration towards Hugo, I feel like I also kind of love him? From a view of religion that isn't overly strict and is more based on kindness, and not even that, just the situation instead of some pre-ordained rules, than any religion that actually exists, to lamenting the fate of women who are forced into prostitution (FANTINE! Dear God, Fantine) and so so so many more progressive social views that make me want to give him a hug. If I'm allowed to see all the goodness that exists in Jean Valjean's actions as telling me something about Hugo, then I'm pretty much going to say

Slight backtracking- I know that I've said that the deviations are what stop this book from going from a good book to a GREAT one, but there are some exceptions to this. There were parts in the deviations that made me sit up and feel all shocked, and also made me feel vaguely sorry for not reading all of them properly, because what if the really really good bits were tucked up inside of them? Like this stunning piece of optimism:
"Our nineteenth century is great, but the twentieth century will be happy. Nothing in it will resemble ancient history. Today's fears will all have been abolished- war and conquest, the clash of armed nations... the birth of hereditary tyrannies, nations partitioned by a congress or the collapse of a dynasty, religions beating their heads together like rams in the wilderness of the infinite...One might almost say, indeed, that there will be no more events. Men will be happy."
I like to picture Hugo writing this and truly believing it, and it makes me kind of glad that he never lived in the twentieth century. No more wars? No religious conflict? Happiness?! He couldn't have been more wrong about the twentieth century, but it's nice to know that there existed in him, as I think exists in all of us, the belief that things can be better in the future- otherwise, I guess, what's the point in living at all?

My love- is reserved for Enjolras specifically, and the revolutionaries in general. Had I been a male in Paris at the time of the June Revolution, I'd like to think I'd have been one of them, and if I'd been a woman I'm sure I'd have been hopelessly in love with a revolutionary. The musical makes it clear that Enjolras is not interested in love at all, but the book cements that with the information that he only bestows two kisses in his life, both on the body of a fallen comrade. Hot.

And finally- in my extensive research for this extensive post, I found out that, re: the musical, "Literary scholars condemned the project for converting classic literature into a musical." And I'm just... I mean, I'm assuming that's before they saw the musical, because I can't even stand the thought that anyone who's read Les Miserables could watch that and go 'yeah, but they missed out the SEWER EXPLANATION.' But even so, that still doesn't give any credit to the incredible emotional power that music has, and how well it can be used especially in this book, to pick out its tragedies and triumphs and really make you feel things about stuff. Because that's entirely what the musical does and it's fucking magical and literary scholars can just shut up if they think that it doesn't.

I realise that this post is a hot mess, and makes absolutely no sense if you're not at all familiar with Les Miserables, but this was really the only way I could write it- I don't know how to talk about things I love so much in any kind of sane way, so this is all I have (well, not all, but I don't like to GO ON, or anything). And I wish I was sorry, but I'm kind of not because this was the thing I wanted to write about it, and now I have and that's good enough for me! And I included gifs to try and keep you entertained, so pretend that worked, ok?! And go and experience Les Mis in some way, yes? It's kind of my favourite thing.

Monday 10 June 2013

Monday Mundries: Well, that was a weekend!

So, there was no Sunday Sundries yesterday, basically because I was watching tennis and then having my heart ripped out of my chest by reading the last quarter of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and I sort of lost all motivation to do stuff after that and just sat staring at the internet all evening... But I feel better now! Sleep is magical.

SO my weekend was kind of awesome (sobbing alone to Harry Potter aside. But that IS kind of awesome in a special kind of way...) but totally tiring and it is just a GOOD JOB I got a new mattress on Saturday that meant I could sleep my little heart out in complete comfort on Saturday night. But anyway- so on FRIDAY, straight from work I went to see Paloma Faith at the O2 with my lovely friend Justine. If you want to be all technical about stuff, I only went initially because she had a spare ticket and I wasn't exactly sure how I felt about Paloma Faith, but it turned out to be really good, and, as a person, Paloma Faith seems like someone I'd like to hang out with. (Apparently that's an important thing to know about a musician...)

SO THEN I stayed over at Justine's and we went and got some lunch and went to a few shops and stuff, then I went home, sorted out my new bed (i.e. put the mattress on the bedframe) and laid down for about 3 seconds before I had to go back to London with my sister to go and watch To Kill A Mockingbird at the Regents Park Open Air Theatre. And OH MY GOD you guys, it was SO GOOD. So good that I didn't even care that they missed out SO much stuff, and so good that I kind of wanted to cry before anything had happened because I was just so happy to be watching it? You know, all that good stuff!
And and it was awesome because it was kind of narrated by all the actors in the play (except for Scout, Jem, Dill and Atticus- all of whom were great, by the way) and they each had a different copy of the book and at the interval they put the books down on the stage at the place we were up to (you can juuuust about see it in my picture) and I thought that was the COOLEST EVER. And also I want all the editions of To Kill A Mockingbird, just so you know. Also, this was my first time at an open air theatre and it was so cool (and then COLD) because, for example, when they were talking about Boo Radley when he's all creepy and terrifying, it got all windy and cold and really added to the atmosphere! Mostly, though, I just forgot I was outside and was pretty much transported to 1930s Maycomb, which seems like the exact thing that theatre should be doing.

And then I went home and slept for a million days and did those things on Sunday that I mentioned above. I can't lie, it was awesome, and so FULL of stuff- so much so that on Saturday evening I kept forgetting that it was still Saturday because it didn't seem possible! This is what happens when you suddenly do stuff where you normally do not-very-much, people!

I did have a week but can I tell you much about it? Not really! I had a second literary experience when I went to see The Great Gatsby (which I really liked, for reasons I'll write about in another post, when I've finished re-reading the book) and erm... Sat in the garden a lot? LOVED the sun (which has now apparently gone away FOREVER)? Yeah, all that and more, I'm sure. A good time was had by all!

Et toi?

Friday 7 June 2013

"'Some wizards just like to boast that theirs are bigger and better than other people's.'"

What is there even to say about this part of Harry Potter? I mean, a lot, obviously, but who can care about OTHER things when DOBBYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!
But, I mean, when did Dobby even become a character I would cry over? Remember back in the innocent days of the Chamber of Secrets when we were all like 'UGH DOBBY'? Now I just feel bad for ever feeling that way about a hero amongst elves, and I really love the way Harry reacts to his death- a mixture of gratitude and deep pain at another friend he's lost along the way. Digging the grave with his bare hands? Way to make me cry, JK.

(No, but seriously, Dobby is STILL annoying in CoS. I stand by that.)

Oooh, and here's a thing. I think that a really nice touch in this book is the way that saying 'Voldemort' has become a taboo that has actual consequences. Like, before it was just taboo to say, as if saying it was going to bring him back, or meant he was going to listen to you or something, and people just didn't like saying or hearing it. And Dumbledore worked tirelessly to try and make sure that Harry, at least, wasn't scared of a word, and made him feel like saying it gave him extra strength. But then in this book, all of that flips and it becomes LITERALLY dangerous to say it. And I don't know if that's some kind of nod to Dumbledore's foolishness, or if it's just a kind of nifty thing to have done, but DAMN I like it.

Now, before the bullet points, a moment of silence for this week's death list:
Death Count: Too many for an actual number: Ted Tonks, Dirk Cresswell, Gornuk the goblin, a family of five unnamed muggles, DOBBY, an unspecified number of Death Eaters, probably countless others.
Death Count Overall: Who can even say?
  • I completely forgot that Ron DIDN'T go back to The Burrow in his... hiatus, but I appreciate the implication that the Weasleys (with the probable exception of Molly) wouldn't exactly have welcomed him with open arms. Damn, they're awesome.
  • I definitely mentioned this in my post on Beedle the Bard, but I STILL think it's awesome that the three of them each pick a different Hallow as the best, and it's totally indicative of their characters- Ron wants something that will make him better than someone, Harry wants something to give him back the people he's lost, and Hermione wants something to keep them all safe. It's just... Yes.
  • But ALSO this time I noticed that in the story of the Three Brothers, it says that the second brother (i.e. Harry's choice) was the most arrogant, and isn't that INTERESTING? Considering that Snape (AUGH, Snape. Sorry, had a flashforward.) has always said that Harry's all arrogant and all? Interesting indeed.
  • Are we going to talk about how Harry has Draco's 'wand' now? And about how it works really well for him and sparks come out of the end and stuff? Because... I think that's something we need to be talking about! And did we also see Draco refusing to confirm Harry et al's identities? I know I've been the most reluctant about this Draco-Harry thing, but... Wow. Just, wow.
Also, I have issues with the bit where Hermione says using Bellatrix's wand feels all gross, and Harry has to restrain himself from saying that the wand is only as good as it's master. Because, how about THAT WAND JUST FUCKING TORTURED HERMIONE YOU IDIOT. God, he's insensitive.
  • "Ron said 'Blimey, a baby!' as if he had never heard of such a thing before." Oh Ron. You moron.
  • Remember how much I liked the whole SITUATIONESS of the situation in the Ministry? How awesome is the one in Gringotts?! I really just have to take my hat off to JK for these actiony scenes of awesomeness. Really.
  • Aberforth has a goat Patronus.
  • NEVILLE! Neville has made his first appearance of the book, so obviously everything is going to be fine now! (Shhh, don't tell me anything else.)
So yeah. That's 3/4 of the Deathly Hallows done, then. In a way it feels like loads has happened, but in another way, it feels like NONE OF THE IMPORTANT THINGS have happened. Which bodes really well for this coming week, except that it's the last week and after this I'm going to have to find a life or something and what am I going to doooooo?! 

Wednesday 5 June 2013

Devouring Stephen King: The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass

"'I choose the Tower. I must. Let her live a good life and long with someone else- she will, in time. As for me, I choose the Tower.'"

I love The Dark Tower books almost more than any other series I've ever read (*looks lovingly at Harry Potter books*) but I really hate Wizard and Glass. And I don't even hate it in a 'I-don't-like-this-book-but-it's-still-Stephen-King-so-it's-fine' way- I hate it in an actual hating it way. There are quite a few reasons for this, and since it's difficult to review Dark Tower books without giving things away about all the rest of the books, I'll just list the reasons why. Sounds good (and sanity retaining) right?

  1. It's not even really a Dark Tower book- Ok, so Wizard and Glass is essentially a break in the journey of the ka-tet of Roland, Eddie, Susannah and Jake (and Oy) where Roland tells the WORLD'S LONGEST STORY about his past trauma and blah blah blah I don't really care about any of that. There are about 100 pages at the start and then 60 or so pages at the end dedicated to the characters I'm used to and already love, and the rest of it I'm just not really interested in? This is probably because
  2. It's the most other-worldy and stuff book- About the only other book of The Dark Tower series that I don't massively love is The Gunslinger, and really only the parts where Roland is just roaming on his own. I just... Am not that into fantasy, and witches and weird old traditions and stuff, EXCEPT (and this is an important part of my love of The Dark Tower series) when there's an observer along from 'our' world to whom this is also as strange and they comment on it and call it out on its strangeness. That's FINE, but this book totally doesn't do that. And you know what?
  3. It's a pretty dick move, King- I mean, not so much the Roland's backstory thing, but the gap between this book and the last one (The Waste Lands) was six years (or, 9 books, if you will) which is a brutal enough wait for the next book in a series, but when that book doesn't really have anything to do with the main story... It's really annoying. And yes, I understand that I can read any of them at any time, but that doesn't stop me being pissed off for the people who did have to wait! PLUS it has taken me a year to get to it, and there are another 9 books until the last three and yeah. Even THAT is quite a long wait.
  4. It's SO LONG- Seriously, a book that only really has 160 important pages REALLY doesn't need to be 845 pages long. It just doesn't. And I understand that King is all 'enamoured' with Roland's world or whatever, but seriously, the minutiae of this feels really really unnecessary. I could honestly sum up the story for you in a couple of sentences and you'd probably get just as much out of it as actually reading it. To be completely fair to it, I will say that the second half of the story is better than the first half, but maaaan does that first half drag...
  5. It's not even that important!- I feel like the whole story is supposed to reveal a lot about Roland's psyche and why he acts the way he does and is SO SERIOUS all the time and so on, BUT it honestly feels like the whole GIANT story is just a prologue to something that happens in the last few pages and has maybe 4 pages dedicated to it. And I might be overstating that a tiny bit, BUT the two events are at least AS important as each other, if the other isn't more important. And it's just BOGGLING to me why he would structure things like that, because you do realise you just devalued your ENTIRE book, right dude?!
  6. The bits with the gang are a bit not-good- Because obviously THESE are the parts that he chooses to keep brief... Pretty much all that happens with the main characters is that they escape the perilous situation they were in at the end of The Waste Lands, they go into the world of The Stand (which is actually really cool and yessss I do like your crossing of stories, Mr. King) and settle down to listen to Roland's story, there are some WEIRD and unnecessary references to The Wizard of Oz for some reason, and then some showdowns that SHOULD be dramatic but really aren't at all. Like, it's laughable how non-dramatic they are. And then that's basically it! 
I just... Yeah, it's annoying. But a few points- the story is very much not-my-thing, so I was never going to like it THAT much anyway, I definitely don't remember being as pissed off by it when I was reading all 7 books in a row (apparently I have definitely spent too much time away from The Dark Tower!) and I don't know but there might be things that are important in it. I think what I'm saying is, don't be put off by The Dark Tower because this book sucks, because it might not suck for you! It might be exactly your thing. But I definitely feel like I'm just going to be reading the first and last few pages of it from now on, and if you were going to skip a book in the series? This would be the one to skip.