Friday 30 March 2012

Talking Point: Books You Read For School

Alison Can Read and Rebecca Books both recently posted about the books they were forced to read for school, and I thought I'd join in on the fun! I've started with Year 7 because, frankly, that's about as far back as I can remember (also, do you even have assigned reading in primary school? I remember "quiet reading" time where we could read our own books but that's about it). This is definitely not a complete list, but I guess these are the texts that made a dent.

Year 7

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare: This was the year after Baz Luhrmann's movie came out and I was still totally obsessed with it - and Leonardo Dicaprio - so I was thrilled to be studying it. I even brought in my own copy of the play (which I had because it was attached to the screenplay, which I had because I was THAT obsessed with the movie - and with Leo). I was subsequently yelled at by the English teacher for not reading the same copy everyone else in the class was reading. And that's about all I remember from those lessons.

A Fortunate Life by Albert Facey: I remember being mildly fascinated but mostly bored. I should probably reread it as an adult.

Year 8

Lockie Leonard, Scumbuster by Tim Winton: Now this was a book I could get behind. I loved the Lockie books back in the day - especially all the young romance, pashing and even the odd bit of petting. So scandalous!

Year 9 

Macbeth by William Shakespeare: I actually enjoyed this play. I didn't enjoy the craptastic audio version we had to listen to for weeks - the experience has put me off trying audio books to this day.

The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier: I wouldn't say I enjoyed this book, but I certainly valued it. It opened my eyes to the Holocaust for the first time and provided a chilling but insightful account of life for a group of Jewish kids during World War II.

Year 10

Brother in the Land by Robert Swindells: This book gave me nightmares for a long, long time. I found it so disturbing - I still shudder to think about the plot. It didn't help that we were reading it around the same time that the September 11 terrorist attacks happened, and I was petrified terrorists were going to attack us with nucleur bombs. Fun times. 

Year 11

As You Like It by William Shakespeare: The only one of Shakespeare's comedies I've ever read. Judged purely on this, I prefer his tragedy.

Year 12

King Lear by William Shakespeare: This was probably my favourite Shakespeare in high school. It's such a twisted, awesome tale. It was also the one I studied in the most depth, seeing as it was a whole unit for the HSC.

Emma by Jane Austen: Studying Emma was my gateway into reading Austen. I absolutely adored it - and the fact that we also got to study Clueless because it was based on the book. Definitely my favourite English unit from school! I enjoyed it so much I immediately read Pride and Prejudice. I told my English teacher, thinking he'd be impressed, but he just scolded me for not reading widely enough. Note: this was the same teacher who yelled at me in Year 7 for bringing in my own edition of Romeo and Juliet. What a guy.

What were your favourite (or least favourite) "forced" reads from school?

Thursday 29 March 2012

Bookish Buys: Babylit

I saw these on Reading Teen and just had to post about them. Babylit is a range of books that are, well, baby versions of classic literature. They are board books for ages one and up. I think it's a wonderful idea and the books themselves are so freaking adorable. The only one I'm not sure about is Romeo & Juliet - I'm guessing the original ending is absent, but still, I don't know that it's a story I'd want to introduce kids to at a young age. I love the others though - especially Pride and Prejudice, of course!

Check out previews of the books - and/or purchase them - here.

Thursday 22 March 2012

Bookish Buys: Happy Hunger Games!

It's reaping day! A.k.a the official release day for The Hunger Games movie. Woo! To celebrate, I've rounded up the most Tribute-tastic merch for this week's Bookish Buys.

Hunger Games paper cute by The Art of Isabel Talsma

Key chain by Rae Jewellery Designs

Katniss' quiver by Shelby Isaac

Nesting dolls by Rachel Anderson

Mockingjay pin by The Bird & The Bee

Propaganda poster by Cafe Press

Effie's wig tee by Cafe Press

Mellark Bakery tee by Cafe Press

Real or Not Real bracelet by Chasing at Starlight

Drink bottle by Cafe Press

Mug by Cafe Press

Shameless Plug
The April issue of Girlfriend magazine (a.k.a. my place of employment) has Jennifer Lawrence on the cover, posters of Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth and a few Hunger Games-related features inside (including my highly scientific analysis of Gale vs Peeta).

My thoughts on the movie

The Movie Was Awesomesauce: The Hunger Games

Warning: This post contains a lot of fangirling and CAPS and not a lot of coherence because ALL THE EMOTIONS.

You guys. YOU GUYS. The Hunger Games movie is HERE! And it is AMAZING. It's everything you expect it to be. I think I love it as much as the book. Well, almost.

The cast is perfect. Jennifer Lawrence is brilliant, as expected. As soon as you see her pull back that arrow for the first time, it's like, "Oh hey there, Katniss." Liam is fine as Gale - he doesn't get a massive amount of screen time, to be honest - but Josh Hutcherson, oh my goodness, JOSH HUTCHERSON! He blew me away as Peeta. I'm not gonna lie, I had my doubts about him - mostly superficial, it's true - but he nailed it. His Peeta is full of depth, emotion, humour and charm - gah he's just so great.

The supporting cast are also fantastic. Elizabeth Banks is hilarious as Effie, Lenny Kravitz is fah-bulous as Cinna, Stanley Tucci is PERFECTION as Caesar, Wes Bentley is chilling yet surprisingly sympathetic as Seneca, Woody Harrelson IS Haymitch (and the wig isn't even distracting), Donald Sutherland is eviltastic as Snow, Willow Shields is adorably helpless as Prim and Amandla Stenberg is completely heartbreaking as Rue.

The sets are wonderful and really bring to life the world of the book, and the costumes are truly spectacular. There was clearly so much attention to detail, and the Capitol costumes in particular are standouts. As for Cinna's creations, let's just say that those who were disappointed by Katniss' fire dress in the trailer will be pleasantly surprised in the movie. The filmmakers definitely kept some secrets hidden. The one thing I didn't really like was the shaky camera movements, especially at the start, but it wasn't a major problem.

As for the story, it was remarkably faithful to the book. Some things are cut, of course, but for the most part I didn't miss anything. There were also a few changes or additions that I thought were really effective. I'll outline them below - beware, there'll be some spoilers.

Changes that worked
  • I really liked the "behind the scenes" aspect of the movie, with the frequent cuts to the gamemaker's room, as well as Caesar's commentary. It definitely strengthened the realism of the world. I particularly enjoyed the fleshing out of Seneca's story, and I actually felt really sorry for him by the end. The insight into Snow's motivations was also great.
  • Even though it was kinda sad - but understandable - to have no Madge, I thought the way the Mockingjay pin was exchanged between Katniss and Prim made the whole thing more meaningful than it was in the book.
  • The cut away to District 11's reaction to Rue's death was powerful and gave a hint at things to come.
  • Rue's death was slightly different and not quite as gruesome as in the book - it was kind of a relief not to have to see that on screen. As it is, it's still quite brutal.
  • The muttations didn't have the Tribute's features (I didn't really get that in the book, TBH).

Changes that didn't work (for me)
  • I wish the importance of the bakery scene was made a little clearer, as well as Katniss' feelings for Peeta. I wanted MORE KISSING in the cave scene, especially the kiss where Katniss realises she does feel something for him. I also missed Peeta's realisation at the end that Katniss was playing the game. A friend of mine who hasn't read the books was totally confused about the fact that one second Katniss is angry at him, and the next she's all affectionate. They do develop the idea that if they're a couple, people will like them, but perhaps the reasoning behind Katniss' actions wasn't as obvious if you haven't read the books.
  • There were a few cuts to Gale in key parts, but I wish they'd bulked his part up a little more, and shown him looking after Katniss' family and/or being interviewed by the TV crew. Again, my friend who hasn't read the books was like, "Gale is barely a character! Why is he made to look like one of the main three?!" And I kinda agree.

Changes that had no major impact
  • The Avox story was missing.
  • Peeta injures his leg, but doesn't lose it.
  • Jennifer Lawrence's singing voice isn't amazing, like Katniss' is supposed to be, but it's really only a superficial difference.

Rating: 4/5

Have you seen the movie yet? What did you think? 

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Bookish Fun: Bitches in Bookshops

You gotta love book nerd humour...


Read so hard librarians tryin' ta FINE me­,
They can't identify me,
Checked in with a pseudonym, so I guess you can say I'm Mark Twaining.
Read so hard, I'm not lazy.
Go on Goodreads, so much rated.
Fountainhead, on my just read, gave it four stars, and then changed it.
Read so hard, I'm literary.
Goosebumps series, TOO SCARY!

Animal Farm, Jane Eyre
Barnes & Nobles, Foursquare it
No TV, I read instead
Got lotsa Bills, but not bread

Read so hard, got paper cuts
On trains while you're playin' connect the dots
All these blisters from turning pages
Read so hard, I'm seeing spots

Your Sudoku just can't compare
Nor Angry Birds cos lookit here
My Little Birds is getting stares
This print's rare.

Read so hard, I memorize, The Illiad... I know lines.
Watch me spit, classic lit, epic poems that don't rhyme.
War and Peace, piece of cake, read Tolstoy in 3 days.
Straight through, no delays.
Didn't miss a word. Not one phrase.

Read so hard librarians tryin' ta fineee me - That shit cray x 3
Read so hard librarians tryin' ta fineee me -- That shit cray x 3

He said Shea can we get married at the Strand
His Friday Reads are bad so he can't have my hand
You ball so hard, OK you're bowling
But I read so hard, I'm JK Rowling

That shit cray
Ain't it, A? What you readin'?
AQ: DeMontaigne.
You use a Kindle? I carry spines.
Supporting bookshops like a bra, Calvin Klein.

Nerdy boy, he's so slow
Tuesday we started Foucault
He's still stuck on the intro? He's a no go.
It's sad I had to kick him out my house though --
He Mispronounced an author - MARCEL PROUST

Don't read in the dark
I highlight with markers
While laying in the park
And wearing Warby Parkers
Marriage Plot broke my heart
And it made me read Barthes
I special ordered a
A softcover not hard- HUAH?AHEHA?!

Read so hard libraries tryin' ta fine me x 2

I am now marking my place
Don't wanna crease on my page
Don't let me forget this page
Don't let me forget this page
I may forget where I left off so I'll use this little post it...
I hope it doesn't fall out, I hope that it stays stickie...

I am now marking my place
Don't wanna crease on my page
Don't let me forget this page
I got bookmarks at home
But I forgot one for the road
AQ: I got a bookmark I can loan
La Shea: Know how many bookmarks I own?

I am now bookmarking my page x3
Don't let me forget this PAGE....

Monday 19 March 2012

Review: The Double Shadow by Sally Gardner

The Double Shadow is about memory: the way it shapes you, makes you and sometimes breaks you. It follows the lives of two families in the lead up to World War II, each haunted by memory in different ways. The Rubens are rich but miserable, thanks largely to Arnold Ruben's overpowering obsession with creating a memory machine, a device that will allow the user to wipe away bad memories and live forever in happy ones. His daughter, Amaryllis, is deeply affected by the fact that she herself has no memory of the time before she was eight. The Pascoes, on the other hand, are poor but loving, their contentment occasionally interrupted by Mr Pascoe's withdrawals into the vivid memories of his battle experiences in World War I.

The way the two families fates become intertwined is central to the story, but The Double Shadow is one of those books where the less you know going into it, the better. Because the way the story is slowly unravelled, skipping back and forth in time and between character's viewpoints, makes for a fascinating and gripping mystery. It's based on a a truly unique premise, something which can't be said too often these days, and which is thankfully followed through by accomplished world-building and a powerful sense of setting.

The extensive cast of characters are also superbly drawn and well-developed. It's hard to know at first who to trust and who to like, but this ambiguity only makes them all the more intriguing. Through her exploration of memory and emotions - and the way the two are so often intertwined - Gardner gives the reader insight into why her characters (and, by extension, people in general) act the way they do, so even the most despicable characters evoke some empathy, if not any sympathy.

The Double Shadow is a fanciful and thrilling example of what is so wonderful about stories; it transports you to another time and place so effectively, it makes you sit up and think, "this is why I read."

Rating: 4/5

Eye Candy
I pictured Felicity Jones as Amaryllis and Andrew Garfield as Ezra Pascoe.


*This review also appears at Sassi Sam, under my IRL name.

Reading Icons: Pretty Little Liars

I've been reading Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard, which makes me want to throw things - but that's a whole 'nother post. The reason I'm bringing it up now is because it got me searching for pretty photos of the TV show cast, and I discovered a surprising amount of the girls (and guys) reading - and not just text messages, but books! Actual books! See...

Blogoversary Giveaway Winners!

 Thanks to everyone who entered my blogoversary giveaway. Congratulations to the two winners: Hanna from Booking in Heels, who scored a copy of The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens; and Patricia from Book Exhibitionism, who's opted for The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Happy reading!

Thursday 15 March 2012

Review: Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Auggie is a 10-year-old boy who loves Star Wars, his dog Daisy, being tucked in by his parents at night, his big sister Via, and Halloween. He hates going out in public, because when people see him, they do a double-take at best, and are incredibly nasty at worst. You see, Auggie was born with an extremely rare set of conditions that caused innumerable health problems and a facial deformity that leads others to compare his looks to a burns victim, Darth Sidious, an orc and E.T., amongst other nasties.

Auggie has to face his fear of the outside world and learn to deal with it, while teaching the outside world a thing or two on dealing with him, when he goes to school for the first time in his life. As anyone whos ever been to school can tell you, it can be a bitch of a place filled with kids who are super cruel. Auggie doesnt have it easy, thats for sure, and my heart just broke for him in several places. But his kindness, sensitivity, wisdom and especially his self-deprecating sense of humour see him through and make him a delight to spend time with.

But this isnt just Auggies story. Its split into multiple parts, each told from a different point of view, and this insight into how others see Auggie – and themselves, in relation to him – is fascinating, and gives the story a depth it perhaps wouldnt have reached otherwise. My one gripe is that I wish there was more distinction between the characters voices; there is one part where punctuation (or lack thereof) is used to indicate a unique voice, but overall I didnt notice a major difference between the voices of Auggie, his older sister Via, his best friends Jack and Summer, and so on. That niggle aside, they were all intriguing, well-built characters and I did value seeing things from their perspectives.

What I liked most about Wonder was the way it tackled a subject that isnt often covered in books (at least the ones I come across). It was a refreshing, heart-warming read that will definitely make you cry – but will make you smile even more.

Rating: 4/5

Fine Print
Published: March 2012, Random House
Get It: Book Depository

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Note-Worthy: Happy Blogoversary To Me!

Today marks one year since my very first blog post. I can't believe it's been that long already! I didn't really know what to expect when I started - I certainly didn't anticipate discovering such an awesome blogging community that's enabled me to make connections with book-loving buddies all over the world. It's been so much fun and although I haven't been able to blog as much as I want to lately, it's still become an important part of my life. Anyway, enough of me rambling - to celebrate, and show my gratitude to the wonderful people who take the time to stop by my blog (that'd be you!), I'm giving away two of my favourite books from the past year. There will be two winners, chosen at random, who will each receive one book - their choice of the following:
The giveaway is open to any country the Book Depository ships to.

Giveaway has ended.

Thanks so much for reading!

Monday 5 March 2012

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

There's a passage towards the end of The Night Circus (don't worry, it's not a spoiler) that encapsulates what I love about books:
"There's magic in [storytelling]. It's in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift."
Now, The Night Circus wasn't a life-changing read by any means, but it does do exactly what a story should: creates magic. And that's not just because it's about magic (although that's certainly part of it); there's also a sense of wonder, delight and whimsy in the way it's told, in its language and construction, and in the quirky cast of characters that inhabit its pages. It's entertaining, it's mysterious and it's just plain fun.

The story itself centres around a competition between two young students of magic, for which the circus is the venue. Celia and Marco have been raised with the express purpose of defeating one another, but things get extremely complicated when their feelings - for each other, and for their circus family - come into play. They're likable enough protagonists, but I have to admit, as the book progressed I found myself less interested in their starcrossed love story and more invested in the secondary characters and the circus itself. It really is the star of the show.

I know some readers have had problems with the pacing and style of The Night Circus, and while it can be a little slow in places, I really enjoyed the winding path the plot took to get to the end. I was intrigued by the mystery of the "game" and loved the way it all slowly unravelled. But the highlight was definitely Morgenstern's descriptive language - she paints the circus in such a vivid and sensual way, you can practically smell the caramel on the air and see the stark black and white tents before you. She draws you in and makes you never want to leave. It truly is magical.

Rating: 4/5

Eye candy
I imagined Celia to look like Lily Collins, and Marco to look kinda like Lee Williams.

Fine Print
Published: 2011, Doubleday
Get it: Book Depository

Reading Icons: Johnny Depp

“People say I make strange choices, but they’re not strange for me. My sickness is that I’m fascinated by human behavior, by what’s underneath the surface, by the worlds inside people.” - Johnny Depp