Thursday 29 May 2014

"'She knew how to keep her own secrets in spite of her innocent ways and her curly hair.'"

Blessed folk of the readalong! I am back! My deepest apologies for missing last week, I was busy plotting nefarious murders investigating missing friends and whatnot because clearly, I'm more of a Robert than a Lucy.* Especially if this is anything to go by:
"Sir Michael Audley made that mistake which is very commonly made by easy-going, well-to-do observers, who have no occasion to look below the surface. He mistook laziness for incapacity. He thought that because his nephew was idle, he must necessarily be stupid. He concluded that if Robert did not distinguish himself it was because he could not."
I DO NOT DISTINGUISH MYSELF BECAUSE I AM LAZY. This is my biggest flaw (probably). I'm not saying I'm the geniusest genius, but I am better than the minimum wage job I currently have. I am feeling more and more akin to Robert every week (that's Robert with the amazing job that he doesn't have to work at. But eh.)

ENOUGH ABOUT ME AND MY TROUBLED LIFE. I can't even remember what happened last week, because of that not writing it down thing, but let's go back to the start of this week's section... Ah. Ok. Can we please talk about women and this book? Obviously it's written by a woman, but MEB seems to be the kind of woman who doesn't like other women very much. There's the evil Lucy, the fab but unmarriable Alicia, the perfect Clara Tallboys who, let's face it, looks like a man, and... That's it. Plus, there's Robert, her mouthpiece, who has decided that he doesn't like women very much (DUH) and says shit that I can't tell if I like very much or not, like this:
"To call them the weaker sex is to utter a hideous mockery. They are the stronger sex, the noisier, the more persevering, the most self-assertive sex. They want freedom of opinion, variety of occupation, do they? Let them be lawyers, doctors, preachers, teachers, soldiers, legislators- anything they like- but let them be quiet- if they can."
Because like... Yay to women being capable of such jobs, but boo to us having to sit down and shut up just because we're allowed to do them? Robert goes off on a few rants like this in this section, and with every one, I can feel my love for him withering and dying, which is cool because he's still like this with George:
Oh, poor George.

Plotwise- Robert is pretty good at the sleuthing, I have to say. He's traced Lucy back preeeeetty far, and she's basically admitted everything to him with her face and is now going to have him sectioned, which seems like a cool plan (or, sorry, a 'cool plan') AND THEN we get to see things from Lucy's POV. DO WE LIKE THIS? I think I do- it's interesting that, although she's clearly a villain (DUH) there's a definite sense that the things she's done, at least in her mind, haven't been extremely premeditated and have been spur of the moment decisions for her own advancement. Spur of the moment like pushing George down the well? I THINK SO.
ALTHOUGH- even though we clearly all believe this is definitely true, the way she talks about murder in her own brain does make me the tiniest bit doubtful that this is what has happened (I know!) because she still seems so horrified by it. Pre-burning the pub down, that is.

Let's talk about that for a sec- can we make predictions? I think Luke is totally going to burn to death (side note on Luke: How much is he a wife-rapist? He totally is. I am so sad for Phoebe and that is why I long for his death) while Robert will escape by heroically smashing through a window and falling to the ground with barely a scratch on him. Or he'll go blind and then Clara/Alicia will love him so much that his sight returns. Whatever.

"Poor little creature; poor unhappy little golden-haired sinner; the battle between us seems terribly unfair. Why doesn't she run away while there is still time?"
Yes, Robert. The battle between you and a woman you suspect is capable of murder is incredibly unfair. Why don't YOU run away now, before she MURDERS YOU? Moron.

*Typing this has actually amused me quite a bit because my two managers are called Rob and Lucy and I've only just realised this. In a real life scenario... I'm probably still more of a Robert, to be fair.

Sunday 25 May 2014

Sunday Sundries: I don't even know.

Ugh, this has been both the longest and the shortest week ever. Shortest because I've had no time to do things that I actually like doing (reading, watching tv in bed, eating actual meals) but long because shit's been happening that I don't necessarily want to happen, or that I've decided to do myself but that is DRAINING MY MIND*.

So, this week: I've worked extra hours, in the form of two whole days (I'm not complaining! I understand that normal people have full time jobs) and the rest of my time has been spent at the hospital with my dad while the doctors refuse to release him even though the rest of his recovery could totally happen at home but what do I know, I'm not a doctor. I basically haven't been at home before about 8.30pm all week, and my dinners have basically just been cereal. It's been pretty lame, and to say that I'm frazzled doesn't even cover it.

I can almost define this week as a series of things I've failed to do. I've failed to cook. I've failed to run. I've failed to keep my room looking like anything other than a tip. I've failed to keep up with a readalong. I've failed at staying awake during Breaking Bad (First time EVER). But the things I have done have been more important than the things I haven't, and I'm really aware of that. I've been there for my dad. I've worked more so I don't have to worry so much about money. I managed to make a cake for my dad's birthday (yep, a lovely hospital birthday). I DID run, when I was sure I was too exhausted to. I did that. And that's more important.

And now I'm getting all weird and reflective in a blog post. It's ok, you should probably just ignore me for the moment, and until things calm the fuck down and stop giving me no time to think. I've had so little time to do things this week that this evening, when I've had hours to do stuff, I've been flying from one thing to the next, not properly focusing on any of the things and leaving things half done, or not even that. This blog post has been onscreen for about 3 hours, and it's not even long!

I need more sleep, and less things to do. Basically.

But that's enough about me. Here's what I'm giving you the gift of- some links that I've been collecting on my phone for AGES now that might be of interest, or that are at least of interest to me. Plus, you know, I want to have less pages open in the safari app. Makes sense, right?

Aaaaand I definitely thought I had more than that, but apparently not! The donut one is the really important stuff though. Like, seriously. Get on that.

I'll hopefully make more sense next week. But don't count on it.

*Deliberately vague on that one. Sorry, kids.

Friday 23 May 2014

Devouring Books: The Harm In Asking by Sara Barron

I mentioned a while ago that I'd accepted a couple of books for review for the first time and it was all very exciting. I've always been very, very cautious about doing this, partially because I've got SO many books already that I'm like 'ughhhh, what if this sucks and I could have been reading something awesome and then I have to spend even more time SAYING stuff about it and ugh'; and partially because I'm always concerned I'll feel obligated to be even vaguely nice about it even if it sucks because, you know, I'm nice.

I'm not going to be vaguely nice about this book. I am going to RAVE about it because, seriously, it's hilarious. When I got the email about it, I figured, you can't go wrong with a book of funny essays, and whilst that's almost definitely not true, it was definitely the case for The Harm in Asking. I read it during the 24 Hour Readathon, and it wasn't a hardship to get through at all- I laughed, and I laughed, and then I laughed some more. And I'm not talking the kind of laughing where you sit and smile and are laughing a bit in your head- I'm talking actual out loud laughing, which hardly ever happens for me when I'm reading. When it does, I take note.

The Harm In Asking is essentially a memoir in essay format, mining gems from Barron's past for comedy value and the awesomeness factor, and generally being hilarious. It's the kind of book of essays that Hannah Horvath from Girls* would probably like to write, except she doesn't really have enough self-awareness, or self-deprication to do it. Barron's essays, whilst self-absorbed (very Hannah), contain juuuuust enough awareness that the things she has done and the ways she has thought are ridiculous so that it doesn't get annoying, or awful, or anything but, you know, funny.

I know what you're thinking. This is a book of essays about a person you've never heard of. Why should you care about her life when you could just read, say, Why Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and find out more about Mindy Kaling? Well. You should definitely read Mindy's book too**, but you should definitely read this too, because where else are you going to read about someone's chronic and hilarious farting issues, their myriad of unsuitable and INSANE roommates, that time this guy she liked asked her to be his pimp, and her issues with needing sympathy and A LOT of acknowledgement and recognition. Which she recognises is a problem.

The main appeal of these essays, or at least the main reason I found them funny, is that Barron gets into a lot of situations because she's trying to be cool, and messes them up so badly that she ends up being horribly uncool instead. This kind of secondhand embarrassment is something I find really funny, not least because, you know, it happens to all of us! But at least this one isn't. I also massively appreciate that Barron talks about things that women aren't really 'supposed' to talk about- farting, masturbation, having an imaginary dog... Ok, that last one probably isn't something anyone should talk about...

Essentially, I came away from this not necessarily liking Barron, but kind of believing she's basically the most hilarious person ever. It seems like she'd be exhausting to hang out with (not because she makes you do loads of ridiculous shit, but because of that acknowledgment thing) BUT that it would be worth it because of the hilarity. As I've said, without the self-awareness that she has, this could be awful, but because Barron is aware of the ridiculousness of her actions, she can point it out to her reader and go 'look! Look how ridiculous I've been!' and you see it and you laugh. It's pretty great.

And if all THAT isn't enough to convince you that you want to read it, let's have some quotes:

"I hoped to meet a woman of this description and to make of her a ladylove. For to begin my lesbian exploits while I was in college? While I was in New York?
I could think of nothing more unique."

"The sister was not amused.
'What the fuck?' she screamed.
And then I farted in response. It was not intentional. It was merely the choice my body made on my behalf."

"Tattooed women have an air about them that says, 'I have lived.'
We all have, of course, it's just that my unexceptional variation on the verb involved frequent masturbation and a deep-seated fear of throwing up."

I mean, right? Go and read this. I have given it my seal of approval and also laughter. It's pretty great.

*From me, this is a compliment, but I get that she's not everyone's cup of tea. But stick with me on this, it's going to be great.
**Even if I can't mention it without saying how much the title essay annoys me. It annoys me so much!

Monday 19 May 2014

Devouring Books: The First 20 Minutes by Gretchen Reynolds

Ever since I've started running, I've become increasingly interested in reading books about exercise in general, and running in particular. The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer* was offered to me as a Kindle Daily Deal, and in my sleep addled state (I should not read emails about books early in the morning) went 'oh, it's only 99p? Sure, I'll have it', bought it, and expected never to read it ever because Kindle books are so easy to ignore.

I'd love to say there was some grand and excellent reason for my starting it, but if there was I really can't remember it. I'm pretty sure it was something like 'oh, I only have my Kindle with me? Let's see what this book about exercise has to say' and then, you know, I started reading. And then I had to carry on because, seriously, Gretchen Reynolds? Is HILARIOUS. This is ostensibly a book about science, specifically the science behind exercise and its effects on the body, and it could have been really really really boring. But Reynolds makes sure that doesn't happen because she's basically my favourite person in the world right now.

She's pretty much the reason I'm reviewing this book at all and not just keeping it quietly to myself, because I know that a book about exercise isn't really going to be that interesting to most of you (although it totally should be and this is actually the best so you should definitely read it) BUT Reynold's voice is just so excellent that I couldn't let this one pass me by without comment. In my research (google) for writing this, I discovered that she's the Phys Ed columnist for the New York Times, which makes sense because her writing is excellent and her sense of humour impeccable.

So. Before I turn this post into a series of quotes by Gretchen Reynolds, let me just tell you a teeny bit about the book. More or less, it's a collection of all the latest studies into exercise and what it does to the body, and how they refute a lot of myths about exactly how you should exercise. There's also stuff about genetics and what they mean for exercise, as well as gender differences and aging and all sorts of other interesting AND useful stuff. Whilst I was mostly highlighting Reynold's awesomeness while I was reading, I was also highlighting things that actually seemed important and useful to remember. The book is also cleverly structured so that, at the end of each chapter, the most important information is in numbered lists, which means that it'll be easy to go back to and get a little refresher about what I should be doing, and not doing. Basically, it's been well worth its 99p.

But, most importantly, I wouldn't have finished it at all if Reynolds hadn't made everything sound so interesting and funny, so here's to her and her awesomeness:

"The Swiss... yodel through 9,650 steps a day and, despite the ready availability of Lindt chocolate, have a national obesity rate of barely 8 percent."
"In a study from New Zealand, a group of untrained men in their twenties were brought into a human performance lab and allowed to determine the intensity of their warm-ups on stationary bicycles. They spontaneously started competing with each other and were subsequently too fatigued to complete a cycling power test, a result that may say more about 20 year old males than about the hazards of a too strenuous warm up."
"Painful as it may be, skip that celebratory post-workout gelato, unless you are one of those exercisers who worry about keeping weight on, in which case keep your problems to yourself."
"Overtraining is particularly common, in fact, among people who are most dedicated to their training (I've never overtrained.)" 
"[on a study that showed aged mice who exercised remained young compared to the ones who didn't] While Dr. Tarnopolsky, an athlete for most of his life, was relieved to see that the active aged mice had kept their hair, his graduate students were more concerned with the animals' robust gonads. Their testicles and ovaries hadn't shrunk, unlike those in the inactive elderly mice. 'I think all my researchers exercise now,' he said." 
And that, my friends is only a snapshot of her wit and hilarity. I never expected this book to make me laugh, but it did that, as well as teaching me some pretty interesting things about exercise. Let this be a lesson to you: Kindle Daily Deals are awesome and well worth bankrupting yourself for when all those 99ps add up...

*that's the only time I'll be typing out that whole title, if that even is it's whole title... Is the second part just, like, a mission statement?

Sunday 18 May 2014

Sunday Sundries: But Seriously, Where Does The Time Go?

This isn't going to be one of those 'OMG, it's the middle of May ALREADY?' kind of posts, because I think we've all seen enough of them to last a lifetime. Having said that, I had an actual 'how is it the 16th May already?' moment on Friday because wasn't my birthday about a week ago? No, it was not.

Here are some life things that are happening at the moment- I worked extra hours this last week because work is really busy and I'm a sucker and, more importantly, a poor sucker. In my non-working hours, from Thursday, I've been going to the hospital to see my dad who has an infection (which he gets a lot, so it's not a crazy huge deal, but it's still stressful and it was the first time I'd been back to the hospital since my nan died there, which was difficult) and, you know, trying to keep running and do useful things.

This isn't really a post about that, either. I know where this past week has gone (Work. Hospital. Work. Hospital.) but I really don't know where the 5 and a half weeks since my birthday have gone, passed in a blur where, somehow, I haven't even found the time to watch Breaking Bad, or really anything of anything. It's not necessarily a bad thing, and I like the fact that time is going faster than it did for the first three months of the year (syrupy, slow grief time) but I'm constantly asking WHERE HAS MY TIME GONE?!

I have a few explanations. Firstly, I don't live with my parents anymore. I know, DUH, but this has made a big difference to the amount of time I have because I have to do so much more life admin now. Making dinner, doing washing, washing up, putting stuff away, food shopping... all the little bits of stuff that I need to do to keep going that all eat away at the time I have to do stuff like watch Breaking Bad and, like, read stuff. I'm not complaining about this at all, because I do love living not with my parents, but this whole losing time thing does take some adjusting to.

Next- I don't drive. So this means that whether I'm doing life admin, going to work, or pretty much doing anything, I have to leave earlier than a normal person, and will return later because I have to stick to the timetables of public transport rather than my own. Again, I'm not complaining, and actually I don't mind the amount of time I spend on buses because (as long as I'm not basically asleep) I can get some reading done and make that time useful. That's really the advantage of not driving- I can do useful things whilst actually in movement, which is kind of cool.

And then, finally. I have a mini iPad now. I didn't think I'd use it that much, I thought it would mostly be a novelty thing, but actually I kind of use it for everything. Plus, The Sims is a thing on it now and that is the hugest time suck ever. I can literally wake up in the morning and lose at least half an hour of my life looking at my phone and then switching to the iPad. It doesn't feel like I'm wasting time when I'm doing it, but it definitely feels like it when it's 11pm and I haven't done anything useful in the day other than completed 5 candy crush levels and created a new Sim.

I probably had a point somewhere in there, but I don't really know what it was anymore. I guess the thing is this- I am willing to sacrifice time to make sure all the life admin stuff gets done, I don't have much of a choice about the public transport thing, but I can definitely limit the amount of time I spend staring at screens and whatnot. Not that that's not a perfectly legitimate leisure activity- it totally is, but when I'm doing it at the expense of other things that I do actually really want to do, then it becomes an issue.

What about you? How do you make yourself STOP PLAYING THE SIMS and do other things? How can I regain time? WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?! (Don't worry about that last one, I can't even answer that.)

Thursday 15 May 2014

"'Why, I can't help smiling at people, and speaking prettily to them. I know I'm no *better* than the rest of the world, but I can't help it if I'm *pleasanter*.'"

It's Wednesday night and I'm tired and have a limited amount of time to write this, so let's make it snappy!
Not... That kind of snappy.
Question 1: Lady Audley has totally murdered George, right? At the very least she knows where he is, but she's murdered him, maybe? It was total genius to send that telegram to her dad to tell him to tell anyone who asks that George has gone back to Australia (how are you going to prove that didn't happen in the 19th century? It's not like George has stopped updating Victorian Facebook) and totally annoying that Robert being on the case makes her faint because FFS we don't just faint all the time! What is it with women in books?!
Question 2: Who is the narrator? I suspect this isn't even going to be a thing, and the narrator is just calling Lucy 'My Lady' out of respect, but wouldn't it be cool if this was being narrated by some servant or whatever, and at the end they're all like 'and it was I, the Butler, who discovered all the things!' 
This probably isn't going to be a thing.

Question 3: How excited am I that Robert is kind of turning out to be the hero of the piece? I can actually answer this one, it's very. Even though it means he has to do some work, I think it's sweet that Robert wants justice, or an answer, or something, for his one true love. I'm just going to gloss over that bit where he said he'd lock up his daughters til they were suitable for marriage and then basically sell them because UGH, no Robert.
Question 4: Can we somehow rescue Phoebe from her MURDERY CRAZY HUSBAND? I'm not sure that those two haven't passed out of the story forever, except actually Phoebe will probably be back because of her creepy twin-ness and the fact that she's been compared to a ghost already. FORESHADOWAMUNDO?

Question 5: "'You think her sensitive because she has soft little white hands, and big blue eyes with long lashes, and all manner of affected, fantastical ways, which you stupid men find fascinating.'" Is Alicia now my personal hero? Is this true for all pretty women all the time? Should we not judge people by their appearances but by other stuff instead? 
Question 6: "The lazy bent of his mind, which prevented him from thinking of half-a-dozen things at a time, and not thinking thoroughly of any one of them, as is the manner of your more energetic people, made him remarkably clear-sighted upon any point to which he ever gave his serious attention." Um... Am I Robert Audley? Because I sort of kind of might think like that a little bit, sometimes. Shit.

OK, I'm sure you'll all have many more interesting things to say about this week's chapters, and I shall be excited to read them all, but for now, I am out. Good day to you all, I say, and try not to marry your cousins or get hat feathers in your eyes.

Wednesday 14 May 2014

Devouring Books: Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs by Jeremy Mercer

There are some books that put you in a certain place, at a certain time; and make it seem so enchanting that you never want to leave. When this happens in fiction, it can be heartbreaking to finish the book and be pulled out of that world, but when it happens in non-fiction, you leave with the dizzying idea that maybe, just maybe, you could actually live in that world, or at least something close to it.

This brings me to Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs. It's partially a memoir of a certain time in Jeremy Mercer's life where, due to some poor personal decisions, he ended up close to penniless in Paris and without many options. With all due respect to Mercer and his, you know, life, though, I wasn't really in it for that. What I was really in it for was the snapshot of life in Shakespeare and Company, an English Language bookshop in Paris that's also kind of a Socialist utopia, run by the AWESOME George Whitman, who let writers stay they for free, as long as they worked on their craft and agreed to help out around the shop.

Let me just repeat that: A bookshop. In Paris. That's also a Socialist utopia. If you don't think this is my ideal setting for life, then it's possible you don't even know me at ALL, internet!

As I've said, I was so wrapped up in the feel of the book (well, the feel of the bookshop, really) that I probably couldn't tell you that much about what happens in it. There's a lot of poverty, a lot of out of date advice on how to eat really cheaply in Paris and some drunken exploits by the Seine, all that kind of thing. What I can tell you, though, is that I want to be one of George's starving artists, even if he is kind of crotchety and mean at me*. Crotchety and mean is my favourite, right Bill Bryson? Mercer does a really good job of capturing the people and the feeling of living in Shakespeare and Co, and makes the bookshop, Paris and (to a lesser extent) being a little bit poor ever so appealing.

One of the best things about the book, really, is the people. As in any situation, living in a bookshop in Paris is only as cool as the people you're living with, and Mercer writes about such a range of characters that you almost feel like he's made them up. There's the secretly insane American, the crazy sexy woman he loves, the chef at the Australian embassy who feeds the starving writers, the eccentric English poet who they can't quite get to leave. Each one of them adds something to the feel of the book, and in spite of all their drama and combined neuroses, you kind of want them to be your friends, too. Each one of them adds something to the book, as I'd imagine they also added to the bookshop and to the picture of this amazing Parisian adventure I have in my brain.

Basically, I realise, I've told you nothing about the book ('as always!' I hear you cry) but you know what? I think that's ok. I think it's best that you go exploring through Paris on your own, and when you need a place to rest your head, Shakespeare and Co will be there for you. At least in the Paris of your brain. Or should that be my brain..?

*George died in 2011 aged 98 (!), so this part of the dream is, you know, impossible. George's daughter Sylvia runs the shop now, and I don't know if she lets anyone and everyone sleep there now. But let's pretend she does.

Monday 12 May 2014

Devouring Films: Harry Potter 3-8

Oh heyyy guys, remember when I watched the first two Harry Potter films, said mean things about them and then never mentioned them again? Yeah, me neither, but it happened and then I watched 6 more movies in less than a week, and then went on the Harry Potter Studio Tour and enjoyed it a lot more than, well, any of the movies, which is pretty weird, if you ask me.

But anyway- for the sake of consistency and summing things up, and because I still haven't processed the awesomeness of the Harry Potter Tour, here are some really brief thoughts on the rest of the films.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

This was the first of the films that I actually kind of, well, liked. There I was, all ready to liveblog(ish) its ridiculousness, but then Aunt Marge got blown up and I was impressed and also, you know, I loled. There were a lot of things I could have complained about, but I kind of just decided to go with it and ended up enjoying it plenty. Lupin was well cast, Dumbledore was so disappointing, and the dual climaxes were great. A personal highlight was Snape standing in front of the kids when Lupin got a bit... Wolfie, but that's just because I have an Alan Rickman fetish. However- there was not enough stuff in Hogsmeade! I'm pretty sure we never get to see Honeydukes, and how amazing would that set have been? Really amazing, is the answer.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

I've probably said this before, but Goblet of Fire is my favourite book of the series. I think it's the best structured, the ending is still SO good a bazillion readings in, and just yeah. It's great.
The film is not so great. It starts ridiculously, where they're AT the Quidditch World Cup but you don't actually get to see any Quidditch, and it doesn't really get any better from there. I wanted to like
it so badly, but I really just didn't. I don't even think that the three tasks of the Triwizard Tournament we done particularly well, and I feel like it should have been difficult to fuck them up since they were cinematic to start with. And apart from that... Look, I know that the House Elf subplot seems unimportant, but it's actually integral to so much that happens in the later books (ESPECIALLY The Order of the Phoenix) and, well, we kind of need it. A lot of time is spent on the Yule Ball, and that seems ridiculous, and I'm only glad they kept in the Prefects Bathroom because if they'd missed that out, I would be piiiiissed. I think, overall, I was so disappointed by it because I love it so much,
which isn't necessarily an unexpected thing (and actually I could say that about all of the films, really).

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I liked this more than the Goblet of Fire, but that's really the best I can say for it. This film is really where the House Elf omission comes into play because there's basically a glimpse of Kreacher and NOTHING ELSE, even though he's kind of instrumental in Sirius's death. That whole thing was ridiculous, and just falls apart if you really think about it, which I guess isn't expected of people who go and see blockbusters. The thing I was most pissed off about with this film, though, was being denied the chance to see Neville's parents (and, let's face it, Lockhart). So so so many characters stories are marginalised in the films, and I get it- it's all about Harry. But Arthur is still attacked, we could still have seen him in hospital, and it would have been incredibly moving to see Neville in the context of a boy who never really knew his parents either. It pissed me off, you know, a lot. And a lot more emotion is written off at the end too- without the conversation in Dumbledore's office after Sirius dies (without even having made Ron and Hermione prefects so he can go 'you see Harry, I thought you had more than enough responsibility to be going on with'), without the mirror that Sirius gave him that he could have used to check he was ok, without the conversation with Nearly Headless Nick... It's like every decision to cut something out was made to remove as much emotion from the equation as possible and I just... No. Dammit, films.
But still. At least they kept in Hermione saying Ron had the emotional range of a teaspoon. That made the cut. Oh, and Grawp. Because I'd much rather have seen FUCKING GRAWP than Neville's parents, Fucking films.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

I don't hugely mind this film because I think it's a bit of a filler book, and there are
a couple of fun elements, namely luck-drunk Harry and Jim Broadbent- even though I kind of wanted him to be Fudge, he was pretty awesome as Slughorn. But. There are so many omitted Voldiememories that Dumbledore having Gaunt's ring is never actually explained, and the Voldiehistory is never fully given. A HUGE oversight is in never showing Snape's full role in the death of Harry's parents, so you never really feel the depth of his guilt (a lack of depth in these films? Never!) and never the depth of Harry's hatred. But that's ok, because I'm pretty sure we all wanted tons and tons of teenage angst that wasn't really in the books, as well as a completely invented fire at The Burrow because they couldn't be bothered to explore the rift between Percy and the rest of the Weasleys. And let's not even talk about Bill and Fleur because we'll get to that with the next film, so for now let's just be sad at how much Tonks and Lupin and their love is missed out of the films.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One

There's a lot to be said for having split the last book into two films. It means that I get to moan less about the things they've missed out which is good because it means I can moan more about other stupid shit. Like let's try this: oh hi Bill, nice to meet you, it's very important that we know you've been mauled by a werewolf and Fleur still loves you for it, even though that was a storyline from book six that isn't even important anymore. But, I guess we still need your wedding for, like plot. And hey Tonks and Lupin, nice to see you except oh, yep, you're gone again. Ok. SO. The whole bit in the Ministry of Magic was really good. The bit in Godric's Hollow was especially creepy, and Ron stabbing the Horcrux was great. The set pieces, basically, were really good, and Dobby's reappearance to die was, you know, accurate but slightly odd because we're supposed to care about Dobby why at this point? If this film didn't have so much Bellatrix, I would be even more pissed.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two

There are a few things I hate about this film. I hate that weird flying bit with Harry and Voldie near the end, I hate that we don't get to see Fred's death, I hate that Luna's role as the one who really protects and sees what Harry needs is taken away, and I hate that Neville's moment of glory is taken away by a scrabbling chase of the snake. But the rest of it? It's kind of not that bad, I guess. I'm down with Snape's memories, even though I don't think the films as a whole do enough to make you hate Snape, so there isn't as much to be redeemed. The scene in Kings Cross with Dumbledore is pretty good, and the bit in the woods definitely made me teary. If there's one thing the films do do well, it's showing how deeply the loss of is parents affects Harry and everything he does, so there's plenty to get teary about. The end though, on the bridge? That was fucking ridiculous, right?

So. I think. I probably did, in the end, kind of enjoy the films more than these mini reviews let on (as in, more than not at all) but I just feel like they could have been so much better- I'm not asking for them to be as good as the books, because how could they be, but still, I wanted them to be better. What I'm kind of looking forward to is a complete reimagining of the films- maybe with one director taking her vision of the books the whole way, maybe putting a little COLOUR into them, and maybe just doing them... Differently. Harry Potter is just such an enduring story that I can bear these films better if I think of them as the first attempt of an imagining of the books, rather than the definitive one. If they can remake Spiderman and Batman all the damn time, then why not this?

Harry Potter TV show ftw, anybody?

Sunday 11 May 2014

Sunday Sundries: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

As I might have mentioned two or three or, you know, 57,000 times, I've taken up running as a thing that I do. I realise that this isn't that remarkable a hobby, millions of people do it every day, but for me, it's nothing short of miraculous. I have never been able to run. Never, ever, ever, ever. I never thought I'd be able to, that I'd just be an enthusiastic walker for all of my life, but I started the couch to 5k programme, I stuck with it even after the first day when even my ribs felt bruised and I felt like I was dying, and I'm now three runs out of the programme, still going strong. Here's what I've learnt along the way.

  • Nothing is harder than starting: Nothing. Deciding to go on the first run is one thing, actually doing it is another. For me, at least, the unknown is the scariest, but in this case, you just have to do it and get it done and then you know. For me, the most soothing thing was doing it in the park near my house, so I knew I could go home if I had to.
  • Sometimes, you have to just stick with it: After that first run, when I felt like I was dying, I wasn't sure that I was going to continue because oh man, pain is horrible. Weirdly, it was my nan's hairdresser, who I happened to see two days after the first run, who said 'but if you give up, all that pain will have been for nothing and you'll have to do it again if you want to start again.' That really spurred me on to continue, and stayed with me even when it got really hard.
  • All other runners are your friends: I'm serious about this. When you cross paths with another runner, it's just natural to smile at each other, and it feels very "yay us!" (But not in a gross way). It's gotten so that I smile at runners even when I'm not running, and I may have referred to all runners as my friends. All the time. It's a little bit weird.
  • People smiling at you while you run is very encouraging: It's why I smile at runners, because maaaan, they are doing something hard. It feels like a tiny little reward anyone looks at you happily while you're running, even if they're probably smiling at something else, I don't know!
  • Endorphins: It takes a few runs for the endorphins to really start (although I felt so pleased with myself the first time that I was preeeetty cheery) but maaaan, they are awesome. They can pretty much carry you through the day, and completely make you want to keep doing it.
  • Week 4 is a killer: This is specifically about the couch to 5k programme, and shiiiit. Week 4 is so hard and will probably make you want to give up, endorphins or no. If you're doing it and week 4 is an asshole to you, just rest assured in the knowledge that it really does get easier and you'll never have to do week 4 again.
  • Sports bras are really important: Unless you want to run around grasping at your breasts, you'll want a good sports bra. I'm not exaggerating when I say it's my most important and indispensable bit of running kit.
  • The Nike Running App is very good: I've been fairly wary of Nike my whole life, so it irks me to recommend one of their products, but I did recently learn that they were instrumental in getting the women's marathon into the Olympics, so they get this shout out for their (free...) app. Once you're done with couch to 5k (if you even go that route) it's a really good way to track your runs, keep track of how you felt on each run, and other fun stats that will appeal if you're a bit of a nerd and like numbers. This is absolutely me.
  • Sometimes you have it be told something you already know to really absorb it: This is true in all of life, I know. But here's my story: I finished the couch to 5k programme and it was like I forgot how to run completely. I had no stamina, I had to keep slowing to a walk... It was not good. I asked my housemates boyfriend (who is doing a phD in sports science, so is very handy in such situations) what I could do to improve my stamina, and he told me to go slower, for longer. Go slower. For longer. And I knew it, and I'd almost grasped it the few times I'd had really good runs, but I just needed to be told it that one morr time to really get it. Which reminds me...
  • Find your pace, and stick to it: I just thought you might need to hear it too.
  • Above all, enjoy it: There's really no point in doing exercise you don't enjoy, and this is no different. I'm jot going to say that running is always a pleasure, because it isn't, but I love it a lot more than I hate it, and that's what keeps me going. That and the endorphins, the glorious things.
So yeah. That's basically everything I've learnt about running from doing running. Sometimes it's the hardest thing in the world to get up and go outside and run, but sometimes there's nothing I'd rather be doing. It's still so insane to me that this is something I do, but there it is, and I love it.

Thursday 8 May 2014

"She... was wearied out by the exertion of fascinating half the county."

I think I see what Braddon is doing now.
No no, I really do, so hear me out, readalongers. Once upon a time, Mary Elizabeth Braddon lived near a girl who was so beautiful and so perfect that it made her SICK, and so, to make herself feel better, she started making up stories about said Perfect Girl that involved her being all rich and loved but SECRETLY very very evil. I'm pretty sure that's where we're heading with this, anyway.

SO. As we rejoin the glorious Robert and ok George, they go down to Southampton (HEY I USED TO LIVE THERE) to see 'Helen's grave and, you know, maybe check in on that child that George fathered and abandoned. I'm being quite flippant about this, when actually I was very persuaded into feeling sorry for the poor widower, mainly because of bits like this:
"The quiet form which his grief had taken after its first brief violence made him as submissive as a child to the will of his friend; ready to go anywhere or do anything; never enjoying himself or originating any enjoyment, but joining in the pleasure of others with a hopeless, quiet, uncomplaining, unobtrusive resignation peculiar to his simple nature."
 BUT STILL: he did abandon his wife and child, so.

On said visit, 'Helen's Papa seems quite cagey and eager to get rid of George (and the incomparable Robert) and isn't necessarily the most grief stricken of fathers. At this point, since I'm convinced that Helen has now become Lucy and is, in fact, pure evil, I can't be sure that she didn't make some poor little servant dress up as her and then kill her so that she could have a second chance at life. WE ALREADY KNOW SHE LIKES HER SERVANTS TO LOOK LIKE HER. What if she kills again?!

I might be getting a little bit ahead of myself. But the Lady, she is so shady. I like how all the townspeople see of her is her astounding beauty, when actually she's perfectly capable of manipulating situations to her own advantage, of keeping what we can can only assume is her estranged husband far away from her (and in such COLD ways) and in generally having Sir Michael wrapped around her little finger. I think we can take from the portrait that apparently shows her INNER EVIL and the fact that the dog won't go near her that there's clearly something wrong with her, even if Robert thinks she's a pretty foxy lady.
Speaking of Robert... Early on in this section, I had a bit of a 'oh GOD, Robert's going to marry his cousin, isn't he?' when, you know, we've had quite enough of that. And even though the cousin marriage thing is sort of going on (Alicia wants to jump his bones so badly. SO badly) it's actually also more interesting than that because Robert is the kind of man of leisure who sort of can't feel things properly:
"Poor Alicia had had many skirmishes with her cousin upon that peculiar temperament of his, which, while it enabled him to go through life with perfect content and tacit enjoyment, entirely precluded his feeling one spark of enthusiasm upon any subject whatever."
So, basically Robert's kind of a rake? Only with less sex, it seems. Unless he's been keeping George company in more ways than one... (YES I SAID IT. That's what I really want to happen. Readalongs: keeping everything gay since 2011). But I will settle for his marriage to Alicia, because that lady reaaaaally needs some loving.

Sunday 4 May 2014

Sunday Sundries: Right Now I Am...

GUYS! I have been such an inconsistent blogger lately that it's crazy. And I don't even have an excuse for it. I mean, sure, I've been to Harry Potter Land (OMG. That is getting a post all of its own because seriously, it was SO much more exciting than I thought it would be) and there was that whole week where I was watching Harry Potter films and that basically took up all of my spare time, but the weeks just seem to be whizzing by me at the moment and blogging somehow hasn't happened in them.

Which is fine. But I'm still reading (WOO!) and the things to review are piling up and I want to get some thoughts on the Harry Potter films down before I forget them and have to GASP watch them again and yeah. I needs to get back on track, so here's a Sunday Sundries for you. You lucky things.

Right now, I am...

Listening to: I've been listening to Joni Mitchell (SURPRISE!) while I've been running because it turns out that Blue is a pretty good length for how far I've been having to run on the Couch to 5k programme. I was slightly concerned that it would make me hate Joni Mitchell, or associate her with really hard work or whatever, but mostly I just go 'you and me are in this together, Joni!' and just keep on running.

Reading: Soooo many things. Except really only one thing. Ok, so before Friday I was reading: As Always, Julia a book of letters between Julia Child and Avis Devoto because I watched Julie and Julia again on Monday and am always obsessed with it and this is basically the only book associated with it that I have left, and then of course I'm reading Lady Audley's Secret for Alice's readalong, Everything's Eventual of which I have read 2 of 14 short stories and at this rate it'll take me 7 weeks to finish, and The First 20 Minutes which is all about exercise and busting some myths about what's best to do and which I would probably find really boring if the lady writing it wasn't EXTREMELY AMUSING. But she is so it's awesome.
AND. I am reading World War Z. Which is really ALL I'm reading at the moment because OMG it's so good. Like way better than I was expecting. Especially because I picked it up once before and couldn't really be bothered with it but this time I've gone past the first 2 pages and I am SO INTO IT.
You could probably have gotten all of this information from my sidebar. Also I hope all the answers aren't going to be this long...

Eating: This afternoon (Saturday, natch) I've had a magnum and half an easter egg. To say that I'm riding a sugar wave right now would be an understatement. *crashes 5 minutes later*

Watching: I was on tumblr the other day and there was this MASSIVE Parks and Rec spoiler that would annoy me but it was too awesome and it reminded me that there were Parks and Rec episodes just out there in the world that I hadn't seen, so I'm on that now. I also just started watching It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (which is the second thing in this post recommended to me by Alley) and it's preeeeetty funny, you guys. I'm into it.

Making: TECHNICALLY I haven't started this yet, but, inspired by last week's trip to Harry Potter Land, I've bought the wool to make myself a Hufflepuff scarf. This winter I will be the coolest of all the people in the world. And this doesn't really count as making, but yesterday I repaired three bras, a dress, and finished off this skirt I've made from a dress. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

Planning: A way that I can spend the maximum possible amount of time outside this summer. Because yaaaaay, vitamin D!

Feeling: Not too bad. Fairly alright. And on Friday night I went out and had some drinks, and I honestly felt more like a normal person than I have in my whole life. (Note: I am not a normal person).

Loving: Longer days and restful nights, getting stuff that I've been putting off done, Harry Potter (especially at the moment), and the massive load of easter and birthday chocolate I still have to eat. Mmmm, sugar...

Wanting: I actually kind of want another readathon. I just fancy it now I'm in the middle of 5 books, but I think the reason I'm in the middle of 5 books is because last week's readathon made me go 'oh YEAH! Reading!' which is pretty good. I'm unofficially reading the crap out of shit. Yeah, that's what I said.

Thinking: About how shit I am at actually making things happen. I am being deliberately vague but there's a thing I really want and all I have to do is some stuff and I haven't and I just really frustrate myself sometimes. I'm working on it, but it's a really massive personality flaw, I feel.

Looking forward to: Seeing Frances's new flat (at some point), meeting my cousin's baby (at some point... probably August), picnics all summer, reading all the books. These things are not too shabby.

Tell me all about your things, please. What are some of YOUR massive flaws? Let's commiserate.

Thursday 1 May 2014

"'I hope they won't quarrel in the hunting season, or say unpleasant things to each other at the dining table: rows always upset a man's digestion.'"

Ah, another month, another readalong. And what a readalong it shall be, nay, what a readalong it is already! The intrigue! The drama! The surprising readability for its time! THIS:
"Turning to him with a sudden passion in her manner... she fell on her knees at her feet. 
'No, Lucy; no, no!' he cried vehemently, 'not here, not here!'"
 I mean... Even in CONTEXT, that was seriously dodgy, and by dodgy I mean ARE YOU TOO GOOD FOR A BLOW JOB IN PUBLIC, SIR M?! (He probably actually is. Nobility and all that). I want to say more about this book, but really my brain is just stuck on that one bit and I'm wondering if Braddon knew how dodgy it sounded and OMG I love it when Proper Literature involves unintentionally rude stuff. There's even one in Pride and Prejudice, if I remember rightly.

 SO. Can we talk about Lucy's secret, please? In my brain, I believe that I have it all figured out, but if I have then Braddon has kind of spunked* her whole story in the first four chapters and is that likely? Possibly not. But let me tell you my thoughts anyway- Lucy is George Tallboy's wife and she has a child that she has either left somewhere or who has died and she's faked her own death or at least put an announcement in The Times and... That's basically all I've got so far but it seems plausible, right? It might not make complete sense, but eh, it's the Victorians, so.
Speaking of which... The cousin thing. Guys, I feel like I need to defend England here, or possibly just,  I don't know, MYSELF because marrying your first cousin is still totally legal and I'm definitely not sure it should be because NO. Too much of your genetic material is the same, man! I'm not exactly rooting for Phoebe and Luke, but I thought they were at least ok people until Luke wanted to steal a jewel and then Phoebe DID steal with the intent to blackmail and just NO. I would say that it was their shared lineage that's messing them up, but I'm probably thinking of the children they definitely shouldn't have.

I think I love Robert Audley and that's pretty much all I have to say about that.
(Other than, isn't it CONVENIENT that he knows George? TOO convenient, if you ask me...)

Sorry not sorry for the Skarsgard heavy post. I am EXCITED for Lady Audley's ACTUAL secret, and hopefully more Robert because hey, he's awesome and I would marry him.