Friday, 30 November 2012

Friday Links: The BSC, The Hunger Games and Google Poetry

New photos of Sam Claflin as Finnick, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta and Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss in the watery arena (a.k.a. Hawaii) in Catching Fire have emerged. They look awesome. Also awesome: This Hunger Games/Mean Girls mash-up.

Flavorwire has listed 10 TV shows that are better than the books they're based on. I totally agree about True Blood and The Vampire Diaries, but I haven't read any of the others so I can't really judge. Even though that was my aim for this year, with my own challenge and all. Sigh.

If you like charts, you might want to check out this data on 50 Shades of Grey (specifically, the sex scenes). Apparently, the first book is 13 per cent sex, the second is 11 per cent and the third is eight per cent. But you don't have to wait as long to get to the sex scenes in the final two... so there's that.

Did you know David Levithan started out as an intern working on The Baby-Sitters Club? In honour of the BSC's 30th birthday, he's done a Q&A with Ann M. Martin for Scholastic. Super cute.

Who knew Google suggested searches could be so poetic? And hilarious - but we all knew that part.

I would really love to know how some people's minds work. Like what kind of mind goes, "hey, you know what would be a great idea? Taking celebrity mug-shots and giving them a 1920s makeover". An awesome mind, that's what kind. An awesome one.

I loved looking at these vintage photos of Australian kids, especially all the Christmas shots.

This super-cut of Barack Obama in relaxed moments will make you smile.

YouTube Clip of the Week
Poor puppy is never going to get his toy back.  

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Top Ten Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2013

I'm not big on the book news; I tend to be pretty clueless about what's coming out and when, but there are some books I can't wait to get my hands on in 2013...

1. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children 2 (currently untitled) by Ransom Riggs. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children almost became one of my favourite books... until it ended on a massive cliffhanger that drove me nuts. So needless to say I've been waiting for the sequel for awhile.

2. Just One Day by Gayle Forman. I looooved If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman, so I've been eagerly anticipating her next book.

3. Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris. OK, I haven't been excited about the Sookie Stackhouse books for awhile. But I'm excited for this one because it will finally bring the series to an end, and answer the question once and for all - will Sookie end up with Eric? She better.

4. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins. I love, love, loved Anna and the French Kiss and really enjoyed Lola and the Boy Next Door, so I predict good things for the final book in Perkins' trilogy.

5. The Hybrid Chronicles 2 (currently untitled) by Kat Zhang. I really enjoyed Zhang's debut novel, What's Left of Me, when I read it recently, and I can't wait for the sequel.

6. The Boss by Abigail Barnette. Not content with pointing out how terrible 50 Shades of Grey is in her hilarious, brilliant recaps, Jennifer Armintrout (under the name Abigail Barnette) has decided to publish a feminist romance as the antithesis to the abusive dynamics found in the popular tome. Best of all? She's publishing it for free on her website, in serial form. It sounds awesome.

7. Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff. The plot sounds really intriguing - a young girl is haunted by her best friend, who pushes her to investigate her death and the other mysterious murders in their town. Plus the cover is super pretty, and I'm superficial like that.

8. Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak. The Book Thief is one of my favourite books, and this will be Zusak's follow up. It's been a long time coming, and I anticipate amazingness.

9. Prodigy by Marie Lu. The first book in this series, Legend, was pretty decent, and I've heard the sequel is even better.

10. When We Wake by Karen Healey. About a girl who gets cryogenically frozen and reanimated 100 years later, this is one dystopian/sci-fi that sounds unique and has a lot of potential.

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

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Review: The Reluctant Hallelujah by Gabrielle Williams

It's three days till Dodie finishes school forever, and her life is in chaos. Not because of school, but because her parents have gone missing and she's discovered that they've been hiding something in their basement. Something that millions of people would love to get their hands on - including some very Bad Guys. Now Dodie must transport The Thing from Melbourne to Sydney with her little sister, an acquaintance and two strangers in tow... and the Bad Guys on their tail.

I'll be honest: I didn't think I was going to like The Reluctant Hallelujah. A couple of reviews from Goodreads friends suggested it really wasn't my cup of tea, especially after I found out what The Thing is. It sounded bizarre and like the book was about shock value more than anything else. But I already had the book on my shelf, and so when I was looking to clear space on there, I decided to read it so I could get rid of it. I would have just gotten rid of it, except I was mildly curious about how The Thing would pan out, and it's a pretty small book so it was only a small investment in terms of time.

Boy, am I glad I didn't just throw it in the donation bag. Perhaps because I already knew what The Thing was, it didn't blindside or shock me as it did with others, and I think this helped me to enjoy the book more. I already knew the weirdness I was heading towards, so I was happy to go along for the ride. And really, when you think about it, The Thing isn't any less realistic than say, vampires and werewolves falling in love with teenagers. I mean no offence by that if you know what The Thing is; it's just the way I was able to suspend my disbelief and enjoy the book.

While The Thing was the driving force behind the road trip (ahem), and faith was a central theme of the novel, the most interesting part to me was Dodie's own personal journey, and her relationships with the other characters. I loved Dodie's voice; it was distinct and smart, but still very real. All of the characters felt authentic to me; they weren't perfect, but that was part of their appeal. There was one little part that irked me: when Dodie comments she's glad to have a guy with her, because he can be strong and read maps. Generalising, much? But that was a really minor disappointment in an otherwise gorgeous book.

The Reluctant Hallelujah has a bit of everything: family drama, mystery, road trip fun, suspense, romance, humour, whimsy and oh, so much heartbreak. It's been awhile since a book affected me so much and made me ugly cry, and I think it's because I felt so connected to the characters. That, and Gabrielle Williams' beautiful writing. The symbolism in the end, and the way the story connected back to The Thing, made it all the more powerful. Despite the fact I'm generally a fan of happy endings, I appreciated the way Dodie was still kind of struggling towards the end, and grappling with issues of faith, love and identity. It was nice to see that she was on her way to healing, but it was even better that everything wasn't neatly tied up in a cheesy package. It felt real, which is something, considering the very surreal plot. Although The Thing isn't usually my thing, I'm so glad I gave The Reluctant Hallelujah a chance -  it's an absolutely beautiful book.

Rating: 4/5

Fine Print
Published: February 2012, Penguin
Get It: Bookworld

The Movie Was... Meh: Breaking Dawn Part Two

So. I've ended my relationship with The Twilight Saga. It's over. And not a moment too soon.*

Last night I dragged the Husband along to see Breaking Dawn Part Two, and I can't say either of us were particularly excited about it. I HATED the book, especially the second half, but I felt like I should watch the movie to, you know, get a sense of closure. The Husband just came along because he's a good sport. He subsequently slept through half the movie.**

As I mentioned in my post about Part One, I had a lot of problems with the book, which in turn meant I had a lot of problems with the movie(s), seeing as it's the same story and all. There were a few redeeming qualities,but not many. Spoilers ahead!

What I Liked
  • The lullaby was played during the opening credits AND Edward actually plays it again to Bella and Renesmee. It's quite sweet. 
  • The sex scenes were OK. Lots of facial close-ups. I guess they had to keep it PG or whatever. Sigh.
  • Bella bashing up Jacob when she finds out he's imprinted on her daughter. Though her screaming about the Loch Ness Monster nickname was cringey, as is everything else about that name.
  • Unlike in the book, Charlie actually wants to know what has happened to Bella. She refuses to tell him, and he gets really frustrated. I couldn't stand it in the book when Charlie went from a caring father to someone who was all "don't want to know", so I was really glad they changed it in the movie.
  • The end, when Bella shows Edward her memories, was sweet, and the flashbacks provided a nice sense of closure.
  • It was cool that they featured everyone from the saga in the credits, even if they didn't appear in this movie. It was a nice way to finish it off. Although by the end it started to feel a bit soap opera-ish, with the actors turning and smiling towards the camera.
  • There was more action than there was in the book, but...
What I Didn't Like
  • Of course it wasn't real action, it was just Alice's vision. I knew that going in, because I had read spoilers. The Husband, knowing nothing about the book or movie, said he thought that was going to happen anyway, because there was no "flash" of Alice's vision otherwise. But when the "twist" was revealed, everyone in the theatre laughed and there was more than a few cries of "are you serious?!" and "you've got to be joking!" I don't think many people were very impressed. I certainly wasn't. It's still lame that there's all that build up and nothing essentially happens. They're freaking vampires and werewolves, and no one dies? Yaaaaaaawn.
  • RENESMEE. Everything about that character is The Worst, including the CGI - that baby was so freaking unrealistic, it was laughable. Literally. I couldn't take any scene with her in it seriously. When she finally turns into a real girl, she's too big. And the whole Jacob thing is still incredibly creepy, no matter how they try to make it seem like it isn't. The vision that Alice gets of Jacob and Renesmee together in the future is not only cheesy, it also doesn't make any sense - Alice can't get visions of Jacob OR Renesmee, which is why she can't just show everyone it's going to be fine in the first place.
  • Bella looks good, but everyone else in the cast looks pretty terrible. The styling, hair and makeup was once again totally off for pretty much everyone. Edward was not hot. Which defeats the main purpose of the movie, really.
  • Bella's narration was unnecessary (hello, Captain Obvious!) and distracting.
  • Everything turns out perfect. Too perfect. It's boring. I blame Stephenie Meyer.
Rating: 2/5

*Seriously, I'm contemplating getting rid of the books. Maybe I'll give them one last hoorah before I dump them, but I think it would just be painful.
**Random anecdote: Before leaving for the movies, I was mucking around and threw some glitter at the Husband. It didn't really wash off. He had to walk into a Twilight movie as sparkly as Edward. Teehee.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Friday Links: Say hello to your friends...

Sad news today: prolific Australian author Bryce Courtenay has passed away. He posted a YouTube message thanking his fans a few weeks ago; it's absolutely heartbreaking.

The rest of this post is pretty silly, and there's no good way to segue, so my apologies, and here goes...

In honour of the first 20 The Baby-Sitters Club books getting released as ebooks, Ann M. Martin has named her favourites from the early series. Out of these, Boy-Crazy Stacey was totally my fave. I always liked the Claudia and Stacey books the best.

These bookish houses make me drool. My dream is to have a house with a beautiful library one day. Sigh.

Book Depository has compiled a list of the prettiest books in their collection, just in time for Christmas. I wish I had a kid to buy for so I could get some of the amazing pop-ups... or maybe I should just treat myself. Coz we all know I'm secretly nine years old at heart.

Laini Taylor gives five great writing tips, and some good advice for life, really:  "The main thing I’ve learned is that we all have to learn to work with - and appreciate - the brain we’ve been given, and not waste time wishing things were easier."

This is what season one and two of Game of Thrones would would like as old-school video games. (Spoiler: Awesome. And hilarious).

I love Robert Pattinson in interviews. He says the craziest things. He must give his publicist nightmares - or, at least, Summit's publicists. Especially with the statements he makes in this supercut of his thinly veiled disdain for the Twilight franchise. Gold.

Some sports show hosts in the US slipped an amazing amount of The Princess Bride quotes into their half-hour show, and it's the best sports show I've ever seen in my life. It's even more awesome that apparently it wasn't planned. I'm not into anything to do with sports, but I might be if they were like this all the time.

Here are the names for things that you didn't realise had names. Natiform, anyone?

True story: The Mighty Ducks totally taught me that Iceland is green and Greenland is covered in ice. Here are 32 other reasons the series rocked.

Marlon Brando sure was beautiful when he was young. Here are a bunch of photos of him, being beautiful. 

Michael Fassbender massaging Ryan Gosling = the bromance you never knew you wanted. Speaking of Ryan Gosling, click here if you want to rub his boner. Ahem.

Russell Brand interviewed two members of Westboro Baptist Church and made them look like the hateful idiots they are. Aside from being hilarious, he makes some very good, intelligent points.

Hot guys + babies = ovary explosions.

Love music history and/or pixelated gifs? This blog is for you.

YouTube Clip of the Week
Pink is amazeballs.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Bookish Buys: Quirky Bookshelves

Being, y'know, big pieces of furniture, some of this week's buys are on the exxy side... but I figure there's no harm in ogling.
OOO My Design


Old and Cold

Brianna Kufa

Life Unscripted

Wood Curve




Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Top Ten Books I'm Thankful For

1. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. For allowing me to inhabit a world full of quirky characters that felt so real and so dear, I was left wanting more after nearly 1000 pages.

2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. For giving the world Mr Darcy and Lizzie Bennet, arguably the greatest hero and heroine of all time, forming the greatest love story of all time.

3. Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta. For being a good friend throughout my teenage years; for making me laugh and cry; and for making me feel like I wasn't alone, that what I was feeling was normal, and it was all going to be OK.

4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. For being so beautiful it moved me more than any other book ever has, and for teaching me that Death isn't such bad company - at least for a few hundred pages.

5. The Princess Bride by William Goldman. For bringing me joy every single time I read it.

6. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. For teaching me that being a freckled, kinda strange, imaginative and talkative red-head is awesome, no matter who calls you "Carrots" (especially if people call you "Carrots").

7. Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Ann Brashares. For snapping me out of my judgey, anti-YA ways.

8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling. For distracting me when I was stranded at Heathrow airport for two days with a chest infection and a broken rib and no idea when I'd be able to get home.

9. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. For putting me in the Christmas mood every year... and for The Muppet Christmas Carol.

10. Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright. For making me so mad I just had to express my anger - and so I started this blog.

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

Monday, 19 November 2012

Review: Two and Twenty Dark Tales: Dark Retellings of Mother Goose Rhymes

This collection of short stories reimagines the nursery rhymes we all grew up with, giving them a "dark" twist. I was expecting some pretty dark stories, considering how creepy some of the original rhymes are (there's lots of talk of falling and breaking bits and missing limbs and all sorts of fun). Some of the tales really delivered, and I was loving the anthology for the first half of the book, but by the end I have to say I felt rather unsatisfied.

My favourite tales were those that adapted the rhymes in really creative and refreshing ways. These included "Sing a Song of Six-Pence" by Sarwat Chadda, a gritty, fantastical take on the "four and twenty blackbirds";
"Those Who Whisper" by Lisa Mantchev, which had a whimsical, fairy-tale feel to it;
"Tick Tock" by Gretchen McNeil, a great horror story that I wanted more of; and
"Sea of Dew" by C. Lee McKenzie, an incredibly bleak modern take on "Winkin, Blinkin and Nod."

Unfortunately, some of the other stories seemed a bit of a stretch in relation to the original rhyme they were based on; they seemed to have been written first, then tied to one of the rhymes almost as an afterthought. Plus far too many of the stories relied on the "mysterious boy" trope, with the female protagonist's life suddenly turned upside down when she meets a strange (and gorgeous, natch) guy. They just felt really unoriginal, not only in the context of the other stories in the anthology, but also in the general YA landscape that's rife with insta-love and perfect, paranormal boys.

The collection as a whole was entertaining enough, but for me it just didn't live up to its amazing potential.

Rating: 3.5/5

Fine Print
Published: October 2012, Month9 Books
Source: I received a review copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley.
Get It: Amazon

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Book to TV Movie: Stuart: A Life Backwards

I first heard of Stuart: A Life Backwards when I saw the trailer for the movie on TV. It looked dramatic, intense and brilliant - especially thanks to the acting of Tom Hardy, from what I could tell - so I was definitely intrigued. Then I kind of forgot about it, until I came across the book at the library and knew I had to read it. It quickly became one of my favourite books of the year, and after reading it I knew I had to watch the movie asap.

 I finally got my hands on it (ahem, it's on YouTube) and I have to say my first impression from the ad was correct - it's dramatic, intense and brilliant. Tom Hardy is an AMAZING Stuart. He embodies the character in a literal, physical way; changing his posture, body language, facial expressions and even his voice. He captures Stuart's humour and heart, but doesn't shy away from his incredibly dark side. Hardy's performance is so raw, gritty and utterly heart-wrenching that it's difficult to watch at times, but you can't look away all the same. He's completely compelling.

Also brilliant is Benedict Cumberbatch as Stuart's biographer, Alexander. He's spot-on as the middle class intellectual, perfectly delivering his wry observations and air of nervous affection around his subject. It's the odd couple that Alexander and Stuart form that is placed at the centre of the movie, and amongst a helluva lot of horrible back story, it's a joy to watch. Hardy and Cumberbatch have a wonderful chemistry.

The style of the film perfectly captures and conveys the essence of the novel. Aside from the amazing performances, the timing and structure are well done, interspersing harrowing flashbacks with more heartwarming scenes at just the right intervals. The soundtrack is utilised to wonderful effect; one of my favourite scenes is when Stuart and Alexander bond over singing along (quite badly) to Babybird's 'Because You're Gorgeous' in the car (who can resist a car singalong?!). Animation is also used a few times to communicate Alexander's hilarious imaginings (like his worry that Stuart will steal everything the first time he's in his flat), and it ties in nicely with the illustrations in the novel.

Obviously things had to be left out and altered to adapt the story to fit the one-and-a-half-hour movie format, but the film is remarkably faithful to the spirit of the novel. The only thing I really missed was the scene from Stuart's stay in the country with Alexander's friends; what appears at first to be one of Stuart's fits actually turns out to be him saving the place from some robbers. It's an effective scene in the book, playing with the readers' assumptions and shining a new light on Stuart, but I can understand that it would have been cut from the movie for simplicity and time. As it is, all the key events and elements are in there, touching on all the important emotions; in the space of an hour and a half, you'll laugh, get mad, get sad, probably cry and definitely feel incredibly ill. Stuart was a remarkable man who led a difficult and short life; it's heartening that, though he didn't live to see it, his story will continue to touch many, thanks to his friend Alexander's book - and this movie.

Rating: 5/5

This interview with Hardy and Cumberbatch made me smile. Watch it after seeing footage from the movie to realise just how much Hardy transformed himself for the role. Brilliant.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Friday Link Dump: So Many Trailers! And Some Other Stuff

Stephanie Meyer hasn't ruled out more Twilight books - in fact, apparently she's already plotted out a few more focusing on Renesmee and Jacob. Ick. No word on whether the rest of The Host series is coming any time soon, but the trailer for the movie has just been released. It doesn't look amazing, except for Max Irons. Dayum.

A UK charity for abuse victims asked for donations of 50 Shades of Grey so they could use it to wipe their bums. Which is kind of hilarious. Not so hilarious is the fact that one woman is blaming the book for the disintegration of her marriage. Oh dear...

Should I read Beautiful Creatures? For some reason it's passed under my radar until recently, but now the internet is kinda exploding over the movie trailer. The cast is great but the story doesn't totally grab me from the trailer alone. Bit over paranormal romance TBH, though it's good to see the guy as the mortal for a change.

Another trailer that's making the rounds is the one for Warm Bodies. When I first heard about it I thought it was just cashing in on Twilight (with zombies) but it actually looks kinda good. The comments about R having the kind of face that could mean he's in his 20s, but could also mean he's a teenager, are particularly funny in light of the author's minor tantrum over the fact that his book isn't YA, even though it looks like it is to a lot of people.

Then there's the City of Bones trailer (what is the, Trailer Week?). I wasn't a massive fan of the book, but the movie looks pretty good. The cast looks right - even Jamie Campbell Bower. I wasn't convinced when they cast him, but judging by the trailer he does a good job as Jace.

I'm not fussed on Sookie's new "love interest" for the next season of True Blood. I guess this means they're not using Quinn, which I can't say I'm sad about. I never really liked him in the books. But ugh, enough with the faeries! Just have hot vampire sex with non-amnesiac Eric already!

Speaking of Sookie, the synopsis for the final book in Charlaine Harris' series has been released. The stuff about Eric being distant is annoying but unsurprising. I just hope they end up together in the end. Because all the other guys blow. 

The Oatmeal's latest comic on writing and content creation is both hilarious and insightful. His analogy of inspiration as a river is great, as is his advice for reading feedback and comments online (basically, it's not a good idea *cough*SPAs*cough*).

The Oxford American Dictionary has named the word of the year: GIF. Given my love of gifs, I appreciate this, but it's especially great considering the other contender was YOLO. Which I think we can all agree needs to live up to its meaning and go die.

You know how action figures/celeb dolls often look kinda fugly? This guy repaints them so they're more realistic, and they're absolutely amazing.

Will Smith still knows every word to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air rap. And it's awesome. 

I'm pretty sure Andrew Garfield is my favourite human being right now. Watch him do 10 different dances - with no music - for charity on Ellen.

This gif set is pretty much the story of my life.

YouTube Clip of the Week