Friday, 29 June 2012

My Wedding: The Readings

Wedding photography by J Roberts Photography

As you may or may not remember, I had a hard time choosing wedding readings. In the end, we gave our readers a few options and they chose what they wanted to read. It turned out perfect, so I thought I'd share what we ended up with:

All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, by Robert Fulgham
(Read by my mother-in-law)
"All of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do, and how to be, I learned in Kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sandbox at nursery school.
These are the things I learned...
Share everything.
Play fair.
Don't hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don't take things that aren't yours.
Say sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Give them to someone who feels sad.
Live a balanced life.
Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day.
Take a nap every afternoon.
Be aware of wonder.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere.
And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together."

From The Bridge Across Forever by Richard Bach
(Read by my brother)
"A soul mate is someone who has locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we're pretending to be. Each unveils the best part of the other. No matter what else goes wrong around us, with that one person we're safe in our own paradise. Our soul mate is someone who shares our deepest longings, our sense of direction. When we're two balloons, and together our direction is up, chances are we've found the right person. Our soul mate is the one who makes life come to life."

The Art of Marriage by Wilferd Peterson
(Read by our celebrant)
"Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens.
A good marriage must be created.
In the art of marriage the little things are the big things...
It is never being too old to hold hands.
It is remembering to say "I love you" at least once a day.
It is never going to sleep angry.
It is at no time taking the other for granted;
the courtship should not end with the honeymoon,
it should continue through all the years.
It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.
It is standing together facing the world.
It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family.
It is doing things for each other, not in the attitude
of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy.
It is speaking words of appreciation
and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is not looking for perfection in each other.
It is cultivating flexibility, patience,
understanding and a sense of humour.
It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.
It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow.
It is finding room for the things of the spirit.
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.
It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal,
dependence is mutual and the obligation is reciprocal.
It is not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner."

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Review: The Dubious Salvation of Jack V. by Jacques Strauss

I picked up The Dubious Salvation of Jack V. in our resort's convenience store whilst on our honeymoon, and was so intrigued by the blurb (and the cool cover), I impulsively bought it.

I knew nothing about the book going in - in more ways than one. Not only was I completely unaware of the book itself, I embarrasingly knew very little about its setting - South Africa during apartheid. Of course, I had a vague understanding of what had happened - I knew about the racial segregation and Nelson Mandela - but when apartheid ended I was four. In the many years since then there hasn't been a particular occasion that has called on me to learn more. Until now.

Which brings me to Jack V. Narrated by 11-year-old Jack, but with the occasional perspective of his adult self, it reads like a confessional memoir. Individual events and characters are vividly and often poignantly portrayed, twined together with threads of nostalgia, wistfulness and regret. There's a beauty in the storytelling and a frankness that packs a powerful punch, whether it be hinged on sadness or hilarity (or sometimes both at once).

Where the story failed, from my completely personal and ignorant perspective, was in the fact that there was an assumed knowledge of the background events. In creating a narrative of what it was like to live in South Africa during the last years of apartheid, Strauss keeps his focus narrow, even whilst commenting on major events or people. This is the tale of a boy who grew up in this context - it is all he knows, and to him there is no need to explain. It might make him cringe, it might make him sick, it might make him do hateful things, but it is what it is. It is his world.

This won't really be a problem for many, and normally it wouldn't really have been an issue for me, either - I would have put the book down, did some intensive googling, and come back to the pages armed with a lot more knowledge than I previously held. But being stuck (happily) on an island with no access to my old friend Google (unless I wanted to pay $25 a day, pffft), I had to go on being ignorant. Which was incredibly frustrating - mostly because I felt like I was missing references and meanings that I should have understood, or that would have been more powerful if I had known more (which I totally do now, BTW. Thank you, Google).

It's telling that my lack of knowledge, while irksome, didn't greatly effect my overall enjoyment of the book. Jack V is a quick and entertaining read, though not always an easy one. In keeping with the realistic tone of the whole story, the ending is somewhat open-ended, without a clean sense of closure that I usually prefer. Much like life, I suppose.

On another, far less D&M note... I didn't know how to segue into this so I'm just going to put it out there... The narrator is an 11-year-old boy who has just discovered what his own body can do. Think about it. It actually is kind of central to the story and his character, but even still, after fifty or so pages, I was like, enough with your penis already!

Rating: 3.5/5

Fine Print
Published: 2011, Jonathan Cape
Get It: Basement Books

Author Jacques Strauss discussing his book:

And a very, erm, interesting book trailer:

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Top Ten Books On My Winter TBR List

Photo by Michelle Tribe

Since it's not exactly summer in the Southern Hemisphere, I had to amend this week's Top Ten Tuesday topic, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. But it's a timely topic anyway, as I just signed up for the Quarterly Reading Challenge with the YA Book Club on Goodreads (coz, y'know, I'm not doing enough challenges), which has put a few specific books at the top of my TBR pile. Before the end of August, I hope to read...

1. Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys. I've been wanting to read this for awhile, and as it satisfies the Cybil Awards and "war zone" criteria for the Quarterly Challenge, I figure now's a good time to finally get around to it!

2. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. This has rave reviews on Goodreads and I'm intrigued by the plot. I don't think I've ever read a dragon book before! Plus it comes out in July, so it meets the "new release" criteria for the Quarterly Challenge as well as helping me tick off a book for the YA Contemporary Challenge.

3. The Jellybean Crisis by Jolene Stockman. The title and cover are totally adorable and the plot sounds interesting. Plus Jolene herself is super lovely. It comes out at the beginning of August, so like Seraphina it fits in with the two challenges mentioned.

4. Touch by Jus Accardo. This one has been on my wishlist for awhile but I finally ordered it last week. Handily, it has a boy on the cover (unusual for YA), meeting another requirement for the Quarterly Challenge.

5. Saving June by Hannah Harrington. I haven't come across one single blogger who doesn't like this book. It's been in my TBR pile for aaaages so I want to get to it soon.

6. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Another one everyone LOVES - I actually pre-orderd TFIOS, but have been too scared of the sad to read it yet. I think I just need to suck it up and dive in.

7. Flawless by Sara Shepard. Even though I hated Pretty Little Liars, I've been told the series gets better, so I want to give the sequel a go - and actually make progress in my own challenge.

8. Preloved by Shirley Marr. The cover is gorgeous, the concept is brilliant, and Shirley herself is awesomesauce. Plus, I have a cameo appearance! Can't wait to get stuck in to this one.

9. Cinnamon Rain by Emma Cameron. Ever since reading The Weight of Water, I've been meaning to get my hands on some more verse novels. This Aussie release seems like the perfect choice for my second foray into the genre. It also fits in with the Aussie Women Writers and Aussie Author Challenges.

10. Drink Slay Love by Sarah Beth Durst. Although I have major vampire fatigue, this one sounds like a unique take on the genre, and it's gotten great reviews from bloggers I trust. I've had it in my TBR pile for awhile so I want to knock it off.

What's at the top of your TBR list?

Monday, 18 June 2012

Review: The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

The Neverending Story was one of my favourite movies growing up, but embarrassingly, I didn't actually realise it was a book until recently. I ordered it from Book Depository as soon as I found out, and finally got around to reading it on my honeymoon.

This has been a hard review for me to write because I'm so torn about this book. Or, rather, The Neverending Story feels torn to me - because it was like reading two books, the first part of which I absolutely loved, while the second part gave me mixed feelings. Interestingly, it's the first half of the book that the movie is based on - while the sequel, The Neverending Story II, is based on the latter half of the book. Perhaps my experiences with the movies shaped my reading, but there was a cut-off point midway through the book that felt like a good place to end it. Unfortunately, it just kept going, taking on a far different tone that really did make it feel like a different book. At that stage, the title The Neverending Story felt quite fitting - and not in a good way.

But let's go back to the beginning - which, as I said, I adored. It tells the story that every '80s or '90s kid will be familiar with - Bastian Balthazar Bux is a bullied boy (alliteration FTW!) who takes refuge in an attic with a magical book that follows the young warrior Atreyu as he battles monsters and rescues dragons on his quest to save Fantastica (not Fantasia, as it is in the movies) from the Nothing. It's a wonderful story in itself and also in the way it's written as a homage to stories. The asides that showcase Bastian's thoughts and actions as he reads will be recognisable to any reader. It's a book about the enjoyment of books and the importance of stories, which is just lovely.

But that story reaches its resolution halfway through the book. We're then taken on an entirely different journey, as Bastian enters Fantastica himself and is revered as a saviour. The magic he's given there, and the actions he takes, cause him to literally lose himself, as he forgets everything but his first name and must somehow still find a way back to "what he truly wants" (to love). I think Ende was trying to balance out the first half of the book here and send the message that it's important to use stories not just to escape, but also to enrich reality, so you don't lose yourself or what really matters along the way.

That's all well and good, but the problem for me was that I just didn't enjoy the story all that much. Bastian goes from being someone the reader can sympathise with to, well, a complete turd. As soon as he enters Fantastica things don't feel right; after spending hundreds of pages anxiously following Atreyu and Falcor's journey, they're nowhere in sight and he doesn't give them a second thought for quite some time. He's no longer a reader, too wrapped up in his own adventures to worry about their fate. Unfortunately, I was still a reader, and I wanted to know what had happened to them, dammit.

It's downhill from there for Bastian, and for me as a reader. There were some lovely moments and many new fantastic, whimsical characters and settings along the way, but with such a horrid main character I found my interest in his adventures waning and I was impatient for the whole thing to be wrapped up.

Overall, I liked the book, but I didn't adore it the way I thought I would. If I was to rate it as two separate books, as it felt, I'd give the first half 5/5 and the second 3/5. I guess that averages out to....

Rating: 4/5

I just had to post this. Oh, the hilarity nostalgia...

Coming Up
I'll be revisiting the movie for the first time in nearly 20 years. Let's see how time has treated it... 

Reading Icons: Matt Bomer

Can we just talk about Magic Mike for a minute? It stars Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Joe Manganiello and Matt Bomer as male strippers. As in men who take their clothes off. For our viewing pleasure. That right there has already guaranteed that I will watch this movie. Possibly multiple times. It's like a smorgasbord of hot bodies. Add in the fact its genre is "stripper buddy comedy" (pretty sure that's a first) and I think you've got the makings for the greatest, most craptastic movie ever. I can't wait.

Oh, you came here expecting to see pictures of, like, books and stuff? OK, OK, twist my arm...

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Bookish Fun: Fictitious Dishes by Dinah Fried

How awesome is this photo series by Dinah Fried? So creative and unique. My favourite is Oliver Twist, because it represents a major turning point in the book and is such a powerful image. Dinah says:

"The photographs in this series, Fictitious Dishes, enter the lives of five fictional characters and depict meals from the novels The Catcher in the Rye, Oliver Twist, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and Moby Dick."

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Oliver Twist

See the whole series here.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Easy, Fun Beach Reads


1. Bridget Jones's Diary be Helen Fielding. This is one of the few books that have ever made me literally Laugh. Out. Loud. It's light, fluffy, easy fun, with bonus Darcy. 

2. Anything by V.C. Andrews. It's the literary equivalent of a deep-fried Mars Bar: as junky as you can get but deliciously bad. 

3. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead. After going on a massive post-Twilight vampire book binge, I have well and truly overdosed on the genre and now avoid it more than Edward Cullen avoids sex sunlight. However, Vampire Academy remains one of my favourite YA series and one that I still recommend and occasionally reread. 

4. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. It's Toddler's and Tiaras meets Survivor with an extra helping of awesomeness. It's easy, entertaining and intellingent to boot. 

5. Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles. This Romeo and Juliet-esque tale (with a happier ending, natch) is completely cheesy but completely fun. 

6. Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson. This adorable summer road trip story is so perfect for the beach, I actually took along Matson's follow-up, Second Chance Summer in the hopes that it would be the same (the title also hinted to good beach reading. Alas, it wasn't exactly - but that's a story for another post). 

7. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. This book is one of my all-time favourites. The romance and humour make it perfect for warm days lazing about on the sand - with the downside that it will totally make you wish you were in Paris instead! 

8. Cargo by Jessica Au. While it's not as light as the others on this list, I had to include Cargo because it always makes me think of the ocean. And not just because of the cover - Au evokes life by the seaside so effectively, it's like you can almost smell and taste the ocean air while reading. Taking it to the beach would create the perfect real-life atmosphere. 

9. Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Ann Brashares. Four girls share magical pants to stay connected during a summer apart. This was my gateway book for YA as an adult, and I'll always have a soft spot for it. 

10. The Princess Bride by William Goldman. It's got everything: "Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles." Whether you're sick in bed or sunning yourself on the sand, Goldman's satiric fairy tale is perfect for any situation.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Review: Messy by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (a.k.a. The Fug Girls)

I'm back from my honeymoon island adventure* and although it was super amazing, I'm excited to be home and have the internet again**. Oh, and see my family and friends. That too.

I'm also really excited to get back to normal life. Y'know, with NO WEDDING TO PLAN. Seriously, I'm almost happier about that than actually being married. Almost. My wedding was lovely and perfect and wonderful, but the six months leading up to it? Not so much. It's unbelievable how much time and energy and effort goes into wedding planning - you don't realise until you're in the middle of it, having a meltdown over whether the placecards should be ivory with dusty pink piping or vice versa, and by then it's too late. Of course, I wouldn't change a thing about my wedding, but I sure am glad I never have to do it again. It feels good to have my life back, coz now I can get back to the really IMPORTANT things. Like spending it on the internet. Ha! Seriously, though, in the midst of wedding madness I didn't have a lot of time for reading and blogging, and I really missed it. I'm thrilled to be able to do it, like, proper again. Starting with this post, even though it might not seem very proper because it's supposed to be a review and so far I haven't even mentioned the book. Let's get to it, shall we?

After being disappointed by Spoiled, the Fug Girls' first foray into fiction, I wasn't sure I was going to bother with its sequel, Messy. But when I was searching for a fun and fluffy read to take on my honeymoon, Messy stood out to me as the perfect choice. And it was, with just the right mix of humour and hijinks making for an easy, breezy beach read.

I don't know whether it was my lower expectations, the shift in character focus or the fact that Cocks and Morgan's fiction abilities have developed since their first book (probably all of the above), but I liked Messy a lot more than Spoiled. Instead of focusing on naive and new-to-Hollywood Molly, Messy centres around Max, a spunky, green-haired outsider who loves to mock the superficial world that surrounds her. Snarkiness is what Cocks and Morgan do best, and the wit that makes Go Fug Yourself so brilliant shines through Max. When she takes a job as a ghost-blogger for her friend Molly's spoiled, attention-seeking half-sister Brooke, you know exactly what will happen - and you know it will be hilarious. While Cocks and Morgan don't deliver anything revelatory, they sure know how to entertain.

My husband*** even read it, after he'd burned through the two books he brought along on the honeymoon for himself (one he couldn't get into, another - The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - he couldn't put down), plus another of my supplies (Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey). I asked him what he thought, to which he responded, "It filled in the time." After further prompting, he said, "It was a good, light read. I didn't learn anything from it."

That pretty much sums it up, folks. Messy is fun. Just fun. Which is all it needs to be.

Rating: 3/5****

Eye Candy
As per Spoiled, plus I pictured AnnaSophia Robb as Max and Josh Hutcherson as her love interest, Brady. And OMG, I just realised when I was googling their images that they are the cast of The Bridge to Terabithia and my subconscious is weird.

P.S. Speaking of eye candy, here is Messy in Fiji:

Fine Print
Genre: Young Adult
Published: June 2012, Allen & Unwin
Get It: Fishpond

*If you take adventure to mean doing a whole lot of nothing. It was awesome.
**I now know what people did before Google. They just DIDN'T KNOW things. It was not awesome.

My life for the past two weeks.

***ZOMG, I have a husband. Still getting used to that.
****I also gave Spoiled 3/5, and I liked Messy more, but I think I was just being generous with the first rating, to be honest