Wednesday, February 27, 2013

“I’m going to lie this one right on the line, right here, right now: I’m pro big pants. Strident feminism NEEDS big pants. Really big. I’m currently wearing a pair that could have been used as a fire blanket to put out the Great Fire of London at any point during the first 48 hours or so. They extend from the top of my thigh to my belly button, and effectively double up as a second property that I can escape to at weekends. If I were going to run for parliament, it would be solely on a platform of ‘Get Women In Massive Grundie’s’.” Caitlin Moran, How to Be a Woman

I read English at university. Feminist essays, theory, history and literature were mandatory and I gorged on them until I'd have mental heartburn. Some were easy reads, others were so dense in academia I would spend so much time reading and re-reading paragraphs that I would eventually cast aside whole essays and theory. The literature side was a little easier, but I had never really been of the opinion that all men are out to penetrate, rape, violate, oppress and destroy women-kind and so although I respected the arguments and would cite them regularly, I kept finding that I needed something a little level headed; a writer who was angry at the same things as me. A feminist of the common-folk... 

Cue Caitlin Moran.

How to be a Woman is an interesting memoir. It is a selection of memories, collated as a sort of scrap-book of her womanhood. Okay, that sounds a little complicated, it's like, scenes from her life that lead to her being a woman, does that sound a little easier? She discusses this in both a biological and psychological sense. 

She is aware that feminism has stagnated, and that it needs to be wrestled back from the academics, the university debates and PHD theses. She is also calling for women, all types of women, from all sorts of backgrounds, educations, classes, races, cultures, religions and nationalities to actually start TALKING about feminism and the role of women in our society. It shouldn't be left to just the academics, it should include all women, and men can join in too! This isn't feminism as it is shown to be by the media... man-hating and all that jazz, it is how it should be, a movement that allows a platform for all types of women to be represented.

Caitlin Moran has been writing for the Times since she was in her teens. Her articles are known for their sarcastic and comedic tones. What makes Moran so good is that she talks about things that we have all thought about or commented on, things we have complained about or laughed at, and discusses it openly, without shame or modesty and says things in ways we probably wouldn't have the guts to. 

How to be a Woman though is not for everybody. I readily admit that. I enjoyed it so much because I found her writing witty... I may not have agreed with everything that she said but I still enjoyed the insight into her experiences. There are stories in this book that are just so funny. I mean, I actually laughed out loud because they were so brilliant (her wedding, for example, the episode of her and her sister dumping her then, musician boyfriend) and there are stories which are uncomfortable (her abortion and childbirth experiences, eating disorders, and sexism in the workplace). She tells her stories openly, and then sprinkles a little feminist theory over it... by sprinkle I do mean like a few grains here and there - I promise, you won't even know it's happening. 

Some of her theories, assumptions and conclusions I sometimes find a little floppy but I can overlook it because she writes with such pizazz, because writing is really what she does best. There are a few paragraphs in this book that I'm just awed by. She is a word smith extraordinaire and if Moran is to be celebrated for anything it should be that!

In effect, Moran has managed to write a feminist manifesto... and it kinda feels like she didn't really mean to! I enjoyed it greatly, and by greatly, I mean... GREATLY. I hope you enjoy it too. There is crass and vulgar language throughout and some detailed scenes that may make you laugh, cry or queasy, but I'll tell you something, the fact that it is coming from a woman kind of makes it refreshing. I promise, although the book is distinctly British, it is not alienating in the least. Also, men may like this too (hint, hint)... I'm just saying!

Let me know what you thought if you've read it, or what you think once you do.  
I imagine I'll be re-reading this in the near future.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Eeep! Another excellent challenge!

This challenge politely requests that we put together a musical playlist for our book of choice.

I've been peeking around Twitter which has seen a flurry of playlists being tweeted all over the place and they are BRILLIANT. You must check our their awesomeness!

I'm currently reading How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. I know, random, and I thought, well I'm going to do my playlist on this marvellous piece of nouveaux-nouveaux-feminist writing! Everybody is designing a playlist for a mind-blowing array of fiction, well I, stubborn and so totally engrossed in Moran's awesomeness - will put together a playlist, especially for her contribution to feminism! 

My Playlist

  1. The Prodigy - Firestarter
  2. West Side Story - I Feel Pretty
  3. Kelis - Caught Out There
  4. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Californication
  5. Muse - Feeling Good
  6. Ray Charles - Hit the Road Jack
  7. The Beatles - Eleanor Rigby
  8. Rage Against the Machine - Killing in the Name Of
  9. Shania Twain - That don't Impress Me Much
  10. System of a Down - Toxicity
  11. Cypress Hill - Insane in the Membrane

I've included the videos below if you need to refresh your memory! Whilst reading this book I've had all of these songs suddenly pop in to my head. It was always a sign it seems, haha! Enjoy!

P.S It seems that I fail at feminism. The majority of singers are men.

I'm putting this up late - but no matter, it's all awesome and so is the lady I have interviewed for this here blog post. 

She's an author, she's awesome, she loves to cook, write, and most importantly she loves to read (oh and she loves cats!).

So, here it is, the fabulous interview swap. It's time to get to know Amanda Leigh @ Girl With a Pen and a Dream

1. Why did you begin blogging?

I began blogging because I always wanted to be an author and I heard authors should try to build a strong web presence so I started this blog. It seemed only natural to blog about books and writing

2. Have you always read or did you get in to it at a certain age?

I always loved reading. I learned to fully read on my own when I was 8 and that's when reading by myself took off. Before that, I would always be asking other people (mostly my mom) to read to me.

3. What is your absolute favourite genre? 

That's a tough question. I'm not sure if I have one. Then again, I am quite partial to reading Young Adult.

4. What clich├ęs do you LOVE in books?

Cliches? I'm not sure. Is having a love story in the book a cliche? I am sucker for a good love story. Also, for a good paranormal element.

5. Can you honestly say that you have a favourite book? If you can, what is it?

I can honestly say I have 2 favorite books lol. The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. But if you're asking me to choose 1, it would have to be The Outsiders.

6. Do you remember the first book you read?

I think that the first book I read on my own was called A Chair For My Mother. I read that towards the end of 2nd grade, I believe. It was definitely one of the first books I read.

7. What do you think about audiobooks? Are you a fan?

I do like audiobooks. I have The Outsiders and many of the Harry Potter books on C. D. and those are great. I downloaded Linger by Maggie Stiefvater on my iPod and enjoyed that too. When I was in middle school we listened to Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli while we were in the car. So yes, i do like audiobooks. :) I am a fan.

8. As an author, are you currently writing anything new?

Right now I am working on editing the first draft of what will be probably be the length of a romance novella. It's called My Heart Is Yours. I am also starting to work on a young adult paranormal romance that, very generally speaking, is about a vampire and a witch that fall in love.

So there you have it! Please, go check out Amanda and shower her with love, she's a book blogger extraordinaire and so if you want something new to read, you just found it!

The second challenge is totally amazeballs.

We have to grab a few books off of the shelf, arrange the titles in to a poem and share it with you wonderful people. 

So, here's mine. I am currently living in the Middle East and have left the vast majority of my books back over in the home land, haha! So - I grabbed what I had... and did what I could. Enjoy!

Milk Eggs Vodka,
We need to talk about Kevin,
...the other hand,

Moab is my washpot
of mice and men,
My booky wook
of mice and men

And there you have it. Nonsensical but awesome nonetheless I am sure you'd agree! Haha! Make your own and feel free to post them below - I can't wait to see them all!

It is a super-awesome day today. Today, is finally, the official start of the Book Blogger Love-a-Thon. A day where book bloggers unite to show some bookish love and appreciation to our fellow bloggers. It is also an opportunity for you lovely readers to come across new blogs to read, bloggers to make friends with and new authors to stalk!

So we've been given four categories that we rate our fellow bloggers sites. Please go have a looksie - I'm sure you'll love them as much as I do!

Best Reviews

What Red Read
This is a great blog! Her reviews are details, amazing and full of personality! I hope you enjoy as much as I do!

Mab is Mab
Mab. Is. Awesome. I pop on to her page, on average, about seven or eight times a week... just in case I missed anything! We worked together while we were teens many moons ago and shared a love for books and films... and being opinionated! Haha!

Perpetual Reads
Holy moly, this reviewer is awesome. She is seventeen and is a FANTASTIC blogger from Bulgaria. Her reviews include quotes and even a playlist... i.e. what music she listened to whilst reading it. She's details, varied and great!

Best Book Discussion Posts

ParaJunkee's site is awesome. It is full to the brim with excellent discussion posts, with excellent information, advice and news. If you want to chat, ParaJunkee's View is the place to be!

The Bookish Brunette
This blogger is quite simply brilliant. She knows what she likes and she likes what she knows. She's too the point, excellent and awesome.  She does interviews, cover reveals, reviews and book news. Enjoy my friends, enjoy it all!

What Red Read
Ms. Red has made another appearance here because her discussion posts are out of this world! Just go cruise around her site, you won't regret it!

Best Blog Design/Layout

I can't even describe its beauty! Just go... go, go have a look!

Perpetual Reads
This is minimalist, beautiful and awesome. 

Reach for the Stars... and the Books 
This blog is a super cute one! All blue and white and positive. 

Best Bookish Reads

Elizabeth May Writes
Elizabeth May is the author of The Falconer which comes out very soon. She's a brilliant read, and I always enjoy her blog posts. She gives a great insight in to the writing process. She's a photographer and model (for book covers) as well! Elizabeth May is just super talented!

The Misanthropologist 
I accidently came across this blog a while back, and it is great. I love it! Truly. I could read it all day. Book reviews and general bookishness. It did not start as a book blog, funnily enough, but became one. Just go, I cannot give due credit to its brilliance.

Katie's Book Blog
This is a great bookish blog. She writes with passion, is devoted to her blog and extremely devoted to her followers. Enjoy!

And there they are in all their glory! Go visit. You may just fall in love too! 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Feature and Follow Friday is a Blog-Hop hosted by ParaJunkee and AlisonCanRead

What you have to do is follow the hop, the two hosts (as a courtesy) and then go and discover new and old bloggers! Enjoy their writing, follow them and expect them to do the same for your awesome blog. It is excellent for discovering new reading material and trying to get your writing out there too!

So the question this week is;

Q. We always talk about the books we want. Let's turn this on its head. What books have you given other people lately?

The last book I gave somebody was 'The Hunger Games' I gave it to a seventeen year old girl I was tutoring in English after she finished her final exam as a "congratulations you are free" present. She's not read it yet. She was coming back from a visit to Iran and read the first chapter in the plane... and then promptly fell asleep, haha! I'm sure she'll start reading it soon... maybe.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

“...he looked to her like an absurd twentieth-century Hamlet, an indecisive figure so mesmerized by onrushing tragedy that he was helpless to divert its course or alter it in any way.” Stephen King, The Shining

Holy moly. I think I almost had a bookish heart-attack reading this book. 'Fo realz yo' I actually had to turn it off a few times and start listening to something completely different so I could ACTUALLY sleep (y'know, because some people actually have to go to work!).
I'm not sure whether The Shining just had a pulse and expressed my own deep rooted and illogical fears, or whether it was the coming together of the movie with the book that was freaking me out. Either way, I really was biting my nails for a week. It took me so long to listen to this, and the real reason, the honest reason was some nights I was just feeling a little too vulnerable (haha, I sound like a lunatic) and needed something light hearted. 

It was absolutely impossible not to think of this face every time
Jack Torrence was mentioned
So the book goes like this. The Torrance family, on the verge of being down and out, take up temporary residence in the Overlook Hotel. Jack, the patriarch, is the Overlook's newest caretaker. He is in charge of looking after the building and its grounds during the winter months when snow pretty much cuts it off from the world. Danny Torrance, a child with psychic abilities is not feeling too thrilled, and in fact is being haunted by terrifying dreams about the Overlook, and what may be waiting for them. Jack loves the Overlook, desperately, but the Overlook is a personality in itself, and it is greedy and wants Danny, and it will do anything to get him.

The Audiobook
Campbell Scott is the narrator for this book, and what a narrator he is! In fact, as a narrator I'd easily give him 5*, he is EERIE, fantastic, believable and I kid you not sometimes he was able give me goosebumps. In fact, it was weird, there were even times when I would swear he sounded a little like Jack Nicholson's Jack Torrance. The presentation is excellent. I downloaded it from Audible and of course, as usual it was delivered promptly to my phone and I  enjoyed it. 

The Story
So, this story is really scary! Not because it is a bare all horror story but because it is almost Hitchcockian in its style, in that less is more, and it had me at my wit's end! Honestly, the parts I found so horrifying really were the parts that just did not reveal too much. Stephen King is just so good at doing it. [The part that had me turn off the audiobook because I was so freaked out was the moment Jack closes the door to 217 and King describes the hurried footsteps of somebody coming after him and then rattling the doorknob... oh my goodness, I almost died.]

The story unfolds at a leisurely pace. King does not rush his narrative at all and gives the reader plenty of time to be slowly terrified. I think the best part of the novel is that growing sensation of dread, the same way that Danny is teased by his dreams we, the readers, are constantly teased by King. When you think something awful is going to happen, sometimes you're right and want to cry a little, sometimes you're wrong and you curse King for freaking you out.

What I found interesting about the novel, in comparison to the movie is Wendy. Wendy, played by the wonderful Shelley Duvall is a semi-weak, floundering and unassuming character, whilst King's Wendy has a lot more oomph to her, and speaks her mind... a lot! Although I also greatly enjoyed Duvall's (Kubrick's) version of Wendy, I was surprised by King's version... and much preferred her. There are also lots of different themes and scenes that are added and taken away by Kubrick in the movie, and I know die-hard King fans spit on the movie but y'know what? I think it's an awesome re-imagining of the book. The movie and the book itself are so embedded in our culture now that we should all pay homage to its epicness. Forgive me Stephen King for only just getting around to reading it.

So if I thought the book was so epic why, oh why did I only give it 4 stars? Well, it's actually because when I completed the book (the movie ending is completely different to the book ending) I didn't feel wholly satisfied. I wanted something else to happen. It's not that I like tidy little endings all the time, I don't expect that, but this novel seemed to need it. Anywho, I loved it - and I hope you will too. Please don't message me with complaints about nightmares though... you take full responsibility for any reading you do... (even if I recommended the books, haha!)

Mini-Soapbox Moment
People kind of roll their eyes when you talk about Stephen King - it's as if you consider Mills & Boon novels to be high-literature. I think what is forgotten about Stephen King is that he is an artist, just a study of his language alone would blow your mind. If we forget the excellence of King's command of our humble language, then he can easily become a joke, and I think that's so sad, he's completely taken for granted because the majority of people (I've met anyway) barely consider the language when they read and focus on the story alone (which of course is important! But language is too!!). Rant over. So my point is, is that give Stephen King a chance and just look at the language and I promise you, I double promise and Brownie promise that you'll see King in a different light! 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Laura Kasischke wrote an excellent piece for Huff Post the other day entitled Playground Tales: Fifteen Horror Stories My Classmates Told MeShe is the author of If a Stranger Approaches, a collection of short stories chronicling the way in which playground tales can change. In the Huff Post article she writes a list about the horrifying tales that she'd heard as a child. So I loved this idea and promptly contacted my friends and family for their own memories!

  1. My best friend told me a story about her older cousins. One of her cousins brought home a wee-gee board. They started to talk to what they believed to be a spirit. Sat around the wee-gee board they asked for proof that they were really talking to a spirit and so the spirit answered that they should go check 'the mirror' (there was a mirror at the top of the stairs, a huge one) they walked around the house checking all the mirrors and when they reached the bottom of the stairs the mirror slipped off the wall and smashed down the stairs. 
  2. The Three Fingered Doll: One day the father of a family buys his little girls an old antique doll. The doll's left hand has only three fingers. Each night a family member dies from scratches all over their faces... three scratches. Eventually they figure out that it is the doll killing them all, but it's pretty much too late.
  3. Bloody Mary: I was told that a particular bathroom in our school was haunted by the ghost of Queen 'Bloody' Mary. If we went to the bathroom, closed our eyes and stared in to the mirror and say 'Bloody Mary' three times... she would come and slit our throat. Needless to say we never managed to say her name a third time.
  4. Our friend told us that his big brother said that one day he was home alone and his parents left the hoover (vacuum) out. He swears that when he went to turn off the hoover he found that it was not plugged in... 
  5. We had a super skinny neighbour. My best friend at the time, Rebecca, told me that her mum had told her that she had seen our neighbour eating mice out of bins.
  6. Our friend mentioned today that he was told a story when he was a child that he's never forgotten. He was told that a man who lived in a village 'back home' wanted to build an outhouse. He chopped down a tree, and built the outhouse where it had been. One night he went to use the toilet and never came back. The family searched and searched for him. They went to the outhouse and found him there, dead, with his hands and feet turned backwards; killed by a spirit who had lived in the tree.
  7. One day my best friend's brother was looking out of the window during a lightning storm. All of a sudden lightning struck the window, hitting her brother, and that is why he wears glasses (yes, she actually did convince me of this story at the ripe old age of 10).
  8. A friend of mine was absolutely convinced that her house was haunted by three witches. One witch had just a pair of legs, one witch was a torso, and the third witch was a floating head, and she said that they would stand in her fire place. 
  9. When I was a tween the band Incubus was starting to get noticed. One of their songs references 'spontaneous combustion'... there were plenty of stories of family members of teachers and ex-pupils spontaneously-combusting all over the place.
  10. I had been told... many, many times, that when I pour boiling water down a sink I should pray, because if I hurt a spirit who is sitting there he may attack me.

I'm intrigued... what stories did you hear from your friends as children? Please leave your comments below, I can't wait to read them!

Props to Huff Post for being awesome and inspiring this post

Thursday, February 14, 2013

It's Friday again and I thought that I'd participate in this blog hop again! It's hosted by the fabulous Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.

So, today we have an activity we can participate in... and I thought, hell yes, yes, I will participate!

It goes something like this:

ACTIVITY:  Write a letter to your favorite character. Rant, rave or gush…just pretend like they are real and you just want to let them know a “few things”. – Activity courtesy of author, Kelly Walker

Dear Toru Okada

I hope you're well.

I was wondering if you could answer a few questions, please find them below.

  1. Why do you enjoy sitting down wells? Is it the quiet? Is it the darkness? I mean, you almost died down one once... just sitting there, sleeping. You didn't really enlighten us during your lengthy hallucinations.
  2. Did you ever find that blasted wind-up bird? Did you throttle it. I would have.
  3. Why do you only fall for very strange, emotionally deranged and sexually unbalanced women?
  4. Do you still rate passing men's balding heads?
  5. Why do you never seem to have any control over your life? Do you enjoy being a floater?
  6. Did you ever try to lick that mark on your face yourself? Did you get any visions or impressions?
I love you. I do. But you're weird. I just wanted a few answers so that I may love you more.

Many thanks,

That was a letter to my favourite crazy, in Haruki Murakami's The Wind-up Bird Chronicles.

In a Nutshell:
In a continuation of the previous instalment Harry Potter and his friends set off on a quest to locate and destroy Lord Voldemorte's Horcruxes. At the same time they are all intrigued by the Deathly Hallows, a super-brilliant wand, a resurrection stone and a fabulous invisibility cloak. At the same time as trying to maybe find those three things they also need to try not to be caught by Voldemorte's posse... as they've taken over the ministry and Harry is first on Lord Voldemorte's hit list. What ensues is a lot of popping in and around dramatic landscapes, arguments, a humungous battle as Harry Potter and friends must defend Hogwarts from the oncoming war.

The Audiobook:
Oh Jim Dale... you served me well. You were really brilliant, and if I ever meet you I will applaud right in front of you... on my own, like a cheesy 80s movie. He was awesome. Very good. As good as man with a deep voice can be. I absolutely loved his narration pretty much all the way through. I made a few comments regarding his lady voices - but well, that can't be helped can it?

The Story:
Wow, what an epic piece of fiction. It was great. I enjoyed it immensely. 
The writing was fabulous although at times it did feel a little drawn out, but I totally forgave Rowling just because it was so awesome.
I am glad it ended as it did. It couldn't have ended any other way (I'm not talking about the epilogue by the way). The story was a true coming of age story with the final battle being that fateful moment where they all had to become adults. 
I was quite surprised about how the final battle compared with the movie... and even the death of Lord Voldemorte. It seemed like a total anti-climax compared to the epic movie fight scenes. 
The thing I found hardest and found it a little too much... was the fact that pretty much everybody kinda died. I know there are thoughts a plenty as to why Rowling did this, but I just thought it was just too much. It's like nearly everybody who came from his father's generation i.e. his father's friends all just died. Maybe I'm just a big wimp... but it was overwhelming.

My final thoughts on Harry Potter will be coming up soon! Don't hold your breath though, as it won't be coming up in three minutes, you may have to wait a little longer than that!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

This movie was on my Upcoming Movies that Have Tickled my Fancy post. I had written... and I quote 
"I'm terrified that this movie is going to be some sort of crazy Twilight type of thing - but I'm hoping it will definitely be on par with Zombieland (which I enjoyed immensely). The premise is simple. The world is now full of, and run by zombies, there are few people who are actually alive. Strangely, a zombie and a real-life girl, fall in love and put in to motion a series of events that may just save humanity!"
and I was right... painfully so. It really is some strange rendition of Twilight. I find it quite bizarre that we're watching so many movies these days, that when we get down to it, are about necrophilia. 

So anyway, Warm Bodies. It's Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet gone wrong. R (he can't remember his real name) is a zombie who seems to be a little different. He has an internal monologue that is witty and hopeless but he is unable to express himself verbally and even finds it hard to do it physically. He's living in a world of zombies, but there are pockets of survivors around who are delicious and sometimes come out of hiding for food, medicine etc etc. Julie (the daughter of the president/leader of a group of survivors) ventures out with a group to find medicine. Unfortunately her boyfriend is eaten by R, and R falls in love with Julie through the memories he acquires from eating her boyfriend's brain. Love starts to change him and eventually it begins to touch the other zombies too. Suddenly a revolution has started that will change the future of the earth.

I found this movie a little uneven, and sometimes even a mess. There were some parts that were funny, and I did giggle, but ultimately it was slow, the CGI was... bleurgh, and unfortunately it really did border on boring a few times. The audience in the theatre seemed to really enjoy it. They laughed at all the right places (of course as we were coming out I realised that we were in a theatre with a bunch of teens).

Unfortunately the zombies just did not do it for me. In the movie there are zombies and there are  'bonies'. Bonies are what zombies turn in to when they give up... they kind of just rip their faces off and just become a bunch of skeletons who walk around eating everyone. It was all a little... confused. Y'see, at the beginning of the film we are told that zombies are slow, and take a long time to get anywhere, but then, if there is brain about they're suddenly sprinting and are super-beings. The bonies, they're fast too. Well, I don't know, the concept of the zombie had rules that they didn't follow and so as an audience member I didn't find them credible.

Although I had my reservations going to see the movie (originally we had been going to go watch Django Unchained again), it was interesting to see how this film kind of pandered to the necrophiliac swoonings of present YA books and culture. It seemed to be a movie created to cash-in on this buzz but at the same time try to be clever and Indie-ish. Unfortunately it failed. A sell-out is always going to be a sell-out no matter how you dress it up.

Nicholas Hoult seems to do as best as he can playing a corpse with little to no dialogue (although we do have the internal monologue playing over key scenes), but there are times that even he forgot what it was he was doing (maybe he was bored too). It's my opinion that Teresa Palmer is the star of the show, and that she really showed a brilliant range of emotion and carried the dialogue well. It's not her fault that the story didn't really make much sense. 

The soundtrack was actually one of its most redeeming features and that is something worth listening to again I think, for all of you guys who are inclined that way.

So my conclusion? Well, the best way to describe how I feel is disappointment. This really could have been awesome, but it wasn't. They even had a Shakespearean balcony scene which was an awesome nod in the right direction but otherwise it just didn't deliver. The action scenes sucked, and there just was not enough gore for a zombie movie. Strangely, although it was a love story - it was kind of uncomfortable and was far from believable  It is being commended as being something new - but really, truly, I did not find anything new in it at all. Sad, but true.

You may completely hate my review, maybe I'm being a little harsh? I don't know - but let me know what you think! Did you dislike it too? Did you LOVE it? If you did, I wanna hear why!

The trailer is below for those of you who are scratching your head wondering what movie I'm talking about!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Good Morning everybody!

So, I stumbled across this great Friday tradition over at ParaJunkie's Blog and thought that I would hop on to the wagon and have a go! Every Friday two bloggers are featured on Alison Can Read and ParaJunkie and a question is asked. What we do then, is answer the question and cruise around reading other people's answers but also, come across a variety of blogs!  

I'm always looking for some new and awesome reading material, and always wanting people to find me, so this is a great idea!

Q: Happy Mardi Gras! If they were throwing the HOTTEST books off of a Mardi Gras float -- what would you do to have them throw to you…?

I'm not nearly as creative as those of you who have answered this question and so I imagine I would just look like this little ball of cuteness, all wide-eyed and excited, ready to lunge and grab any books that come my way (I remember hearing this a lot at basketball practise as a teen)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I had originally saved this post for when I went to the cinema to watch Django a second time, but we're actually off to watch something else (shhhh, don't be so impatient, I'll let you know soon!)

This film certainly caused quite a stir. 
I had expected something so explosively controversial that I waited on the edge of my seat to be horrified and shocked. What I found was a classic example of a Quentin Tarantino film! I went in to see a Tarantino movie... and that is exactly what I got. I think those who went in to the movie expecting anything different were kidding themselves.

I am a massive Tarantino fan. I've seen all his films I have all the soundtracks to all the movies. I'm sad that way, but I can't help it. I find his work so refreshing. His movies don't take themselves so seriously, I find the dialogue to always be brilliant and witty, and of course the action scenes are both grotesque but poetic at the same time!

Django Unchained is no different. It features a slave in America, who is bought by an ex-dentist (now a bounty hunter) to help track down three brothers. Although the dentist abhors slavery and acknowledges that he's being a complete hypocrite for partaking in this act of of buying Django for his own means, he promises that when the job is done Django will be a free man. When Django is freed he tells the good doctor that he wants to track down his wife. And that is what they do. Lots of carnage follows of course.

The soundtrack was awesome. There were times during fight scenes where Tarantino would just blast a rap tune, or at other times rockabilly type music or gospel inspired songs. It was all simply in his style and fit in a way that only a Tarantino film could pull off.

I didn't find the movie as gory as Kill Bill Vol. 1 - 2. I mean, Kill Bill was out of this world in terms of violence and blood. But the violence in Django Unchained was different because the violence was against those who could not defend themselves (such as the slaves), and those scenes in particular were very uncomfortable to watch. 

Django Unchained is both outrageous and audacious in it's subject matter but it is also a bromance in that it features two men, riding around on horses having strange conversations and looking out for each other. This is something that I feel has been ignored in the reviews that I've read. 

The movie is based in the south, the pre-civil war south, and features the many different ideas we have about the south in pre-civil war times. Tarantino does not mask the stereotypes but instead takes advantage of them. The film was quite like reading a comic book as are most of his films. 

Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz are absolutely brilliant and believable and although the rave reviews have all commended Samuel L Jackson's performance I wasn't that keen to be honest as I found his to be the most uncomfortable performance of all. Leonardo DiCaprio's role as the deplorable Calvin Candie... slave owner and Francophile, is pretty amazing. He's just so loathsome and his character did not express ideas or beliefs that were routinely spouted in those times. Calvin Candie holds a particular interest in phrenology (and uses it to justify his views of the African slaves) and also the revolting sport of mandingo fighting. DiCaprio really is scarily believable, and gives Candie a look and feel of a young man who has grown old before his time.

Now, I've heard that part of the controversy was the constant use of the 'N-bomb' that littered this film... and it did! It was all over the place. But it didn't seem out of place. After all, it is 'The South', it is pre-civil war times, it is plantation owners and Ku Klux Klan members, and those who believe in phrenology... it is also Tarantino, remember how much the 'N-word' was used in Jackie Brown? Context is important, I feel (not that I believe this film to be historically accurate).

I've pored over Quentin Tarantino's defence of this film, I've also read his own very blunt views about how the US is still dealing in slavery (go have a read, his views are intriguing), and he's also pointed his finger towards countries in the world where you can see slavery openly practised. His views, opinions and arguments do not seem to me, to be those of an ignorant fool who has no respect for the past.

I thought that this film was good. Very good in fact. I enjoyed the writing, the shooting, the production in general. I enjoyed the performances, the soundtrack and the comic book feel. I also like the trailers. 

I'm just a teeny-tiny-Tarantino-bopper. Forgive me.

Monday, February 4, 2013

“You've heard tales of beauty and the beast. How a fair maid falls in love with a monster and sees the beauty of his soul beneath the hideous visage. But you've never heard the tale of the handsome man falling for the monstrous woman and finding joy in her love, because it doesn't happen, not even in a story-teller's tale.” Karen Maitland, Company of Liars

This book had been on my to-read pile for... I believe, around twelve months. I started it, stopped it, started it again, stopped again. But this time round, I knew that I would have to start it, and to finish it. It couldn't just sit around on my pile forever. 

Company of Liars is a straight up plague-time, mystery/thriller that is so epically Chaucerian I could barely contain myself. It's very Canterbury Tales(ish) in that it features a party of travellers who have been brought together by fate, each member has a devastating secret and each one is willing to lie to keep their secrets hidden (apart from one). The group is made up of an accused paedophile, a healer, a magician, two court players, a freaky child and a newly wed Scandinavian looking couple, and the leader and narrator of the company, Camelot, who sells relics. Together they attempt to outrun the pestilence (the black plague) that is ravishing Europe, and at the same time keep their secrets close to the chest.

The Audiobook
David Thorpe is the narrator for this book and he actually does a fantastic job; I was really impressed. His regional accents are wonderful as are his international accents. They're caricature accents, but they're what is needed to distinguish nicely between all the characters. The book is a long one, but he doesn't lose his way in his narration and his pace is good. The production is exceptional if course, and even listening through my phone's speaker the quality of the recording is very good indeed. 

The Story
I found the book a little difficult to get in to at first, and felt a little like I just had to persevere for the first few chapters. After the first couple of chapters though I was totally immersed and would find it so very hard not to put it on during my break times at work. Karen Maitland is an expert prose writer and I was greatly impressed the way in which she commanded both the story and its characters. 

Maitland has a scarily Stephen King-like understanding of the psychology of her characters, and obviously researched the 14th Century to bits. Superstitions, paranoia and outright nastiness is a recurring theme as the pestilence spreads and the group travel up through England. This travelling gives a brilliant insight in to the many different villages, their views, customs and their own particular brand of superstition and religious practices. Maitland does an excellent job of this. It was a SERIOUS change from the majority of historical novels I come across that always have a bunch of aristocrats, rich people or monarchs at the helm. It was a story about the outcasts of 14 century England and not only how they made money, travelled and lived but also how they tried to survive during the spread of the Black Death.

What I found exceptional in her writing was the way she explored the Black Death. It was as much a part of the story as the characters were, without it being cliched or boring. The book read almost like an apocalyptic tale;the group banded together by necessity, driven on by hope, only to be repetitively let down as more and more villages fall to the plague. 

There is a tiny-lickle bit of magic scattered throughout the novel but it is not such a major feature in the book to call it a straight fantasy, and as the magic is never really one-hundred percent confirmed (I'm not sure whether the narrator could be wholly trusted, as they are part of the company of liars after all) I guess I can say that it has moments of the supernatural?

There were parts of the book that were chilling. Maitland's ability to creep me out was quite shocking. I'm not one to check around corners after a book, or to turn on the lights, or get chills, but I did, and she did this without me even realising until I was freaked out! 

So you may be wondering why I've not rated the book five stars, and I promise, the explanation will be following very shortly. 
The secrets that all the characters possess are secrets that, in the 14 century, would have you killed... and not in a nice way either, and so as a reader I greatly enjoyed trying to guess or unearth from the clues what their secret was. There was one twist, right at the end, one secret, that I just did not see coming. In fact, I spent most of the morning getting ready for work completely concentrated on what I had missed and if there had been any clues at all? The book finishes on a bit of a cliffhanger, and the conclusion all kind of seemed out of the blue for me. 

The only way I can truly explain how I felt about the ending is by using a gif. Yes, a visual representation is the only absolute way I can highlight just how I looked this morning when I reached the end...

So I totally loved the book, I was not impressed with the ending. I can appreciate that Maitland had done so brilliantly to get us to the edge of our seats but it just didn't deliver after that. Books can do that sometimes, but I definitely recommend the novel because truly, the ride is worth the read!

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