Sunday 29 April 2012

Bookish Fun: Lit Major Lemur

My blog (and I) need a bit of a fun injection, and what better way than with a craptastic meme? Presenting... Lit Major Lemur.

Thursday 26 April 2012

Talking Point: Twisty Faster Hates You

So it seems I'm all ragey this week. I promise I'll get back to regular bookish blogging soon. I've never really done a post like this before because, well, this is a book blog - but then, it's also my blog. And I just had to express my thoughts on Twisty Faster's brand of feminism, as exhibited on her blog I Blame the Patriarchy. I apologise in advance for all the caps.

Twisty's view is that all women are being oppressed by THE PATRIARCHY. Patriarchy is oppressive to women - and, dare I say, men - but the thing is, the closest Ive ever felt to really being oppressed is when I started applying her values to my life and was subsequently made to feel inadequate as both a feminist and a women. Twisty claims that all men hate women, and yet some of her rigid statements are more misogynistic than anything I've ever heard from a man. She actually oppresses women, by:

-Claiming femininity is bad. She says that to perform femininity by using makeup, shaving your legs and so on, is placing patriarchal restrictions and conventions on yourself, reinforcing THE PATRIARCHY that rapes and murders women. The only solution is to reject all forms of traditional femininity. Oh, and if you actually like makeup and dresses? Clearly youve been brainwashed by THE PATRIARCHY! Because as a woman you cant possibly have the ability to think for yourself and make your own choices. Youre just a victim of THE PATRIARCHY!

Because telling women theres only one valid way to be a woman is totally feminist and not something THE PATRIARCHY would do at all.

-Saying that women should not have the legal right to consent. Im not kidding. She claims that if women have no right to consent, then technically all intercourse is rape, unless the woman says otherwise. Apparently this gives a woman more power. I totally see how taking away a womans right to consensual sex is empowering her.

Heaven forbid a woman should actually enjoy sex with a man. Coz men are EVIL and only out to RAPE you. They all hate you and could not possibly love you. Sex could never be a loving connection between two equal, consenting adults. If youre a woman, you only want to be penetrated because THE PATRIARCHY has indoctrinated you. It couldn't ever be because you enjoy it or, yknow, its part of your biology or anything crazy like that. Didn't you know? Sex is all about the mans enjoyment, not the womans.

Because making women feel like they should be ashamed of wanting or enjoying sex is totally feminist and not something THE PATRIARCHY would do at all.

-Saying that women should never, ever enter into a relationship with a man because men are EVIL and they hate all women and they just want to RAPE you. Also, you lose your personal autonomy as soon as you enter into a heterosexual relationship, because you couldnt possibly stay independent as that relationship must become your whole life and, by the way, the man secretly hates you and just wants to DOMINATE you and you, being a helpless victim of THE PATRIARCHY, are incabable of resisting or having any kind of agency. In fact, youll also stay in your relationship for way too long because your brain has been so destroyed by THE PATRIARCHY and such close contact with a man that you no longer have the ability to think or feel for yourself. You especially cant love a man. Love was invented by THE PATRIARCHY to keep women subordinated. Love can only exist between two women, because women are awesome (as long as they're not feminine) and men are all evil and dumb.

Because claiming someones sexuality is invalid is totally feminist and not something THE PATRIARCHY would do at all.

I could go on, but frankly Ive already given way too much time and energy into stewing over this batshit crazy woman. I refuse to let her make me feel inadequate as a woman or as a feminist. Isnt feminism all about women having the freedom to make choices about their own lives and their own bodies? About men and women being treated equally? Respecting everyone as a human being, regardless of gender (or class or race or sexuality, for that matter)?

Well, call me crazy, but that's always what I thought feminism was. If Im wrong then I guess Im not a feminist. I always hate it when women say Im not feminist, but I believe in equal rights, because, hello, that is feminism; but with women like Twisty around I dont blame people for wanting to avoid the title.

The thing is, the reason I got so fired up is because her and people like her attempt to - and sometimes succeed - in invalidating my life choices. I know I shouldnt give someone else that much power, and I guess Im trying to take it back with this post. Because even though my gut reaction is that this woman is totally irrational, and hey, I LIKE lipstick and pink floral dresses and painting my nails and marriage and romance and family and MEN (and still, believe it or not, consider myself a strong, intelligent woman, and a feminist to boot), I began to question whether I actually like those things or – *gasp* - have just internalised the misogynistic views of THE PATRIARCHY. I started to worry that maybe being feminine is bad – maybe by putting on makeup, Im reinforcing a stereotype that is damaging to woman. Then I realised that maybe Im actually breaking the stereotype by showing that caring about girlie things doesnt make you vapid or submissive, and that being with a man doesn't negate your independent identity or your equality.

To me, feminism should be about broadening womens options, not replacing one limited set with another. It should not be about eschewing femininity, but rather expanding its definition and reinforcing the notion that there's more than one way to be a woman – or a man, for that matter.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Talking Point: Say No To Drama

Is anybody else exhausted by all the drama up in here lately? It was kinda amusing at first, in the way that, say, Toddlers and Tiaras is. You know, the trainwreck factor. But it feels like it never ends and it puts a serious downer on blogging. Because I just. Don't. Get. It. Aren't we all here to have fun and share our love of books? I know that's why I started my blog. Receiving ARCs never even entered my mind. I just wanted to keep a record of the books I'd be reading anyway.

Maybe that's the problem. When a blog becomes more about page views, relationships with publishers and getting free stuff, then there's pressure to perform above and beyond. Trouble is, if you don't have the originality or talent to do that, what do you do? Well, apparently, some plagiarise. Which is not OK on so many levels. It astounds me that some people would defend it as an "accident" or a "mistake", as thought it's harmless. It's not harmless. Taking somebody's ideas and passing them off as your own is fraudulent.

I've had posts plagiarised in the past. I confronted the blogger in question, and she admitted that she had taken my ideas but said she didn't realise she was doing anything wrong. She did seem truly sorry so I only asked that she give me credit if she were to use my ideas in future. In hindsight I wish I'd been a bit more forceful. Because it seems absurd that she didn't know that it was wrong to steal somebody's posts. Plus I think I received credit on maybe one post. The previous posts that she had plagiarised remained up, with no indication that they had not only been my ideas, but much had been my content. She changed the titles of the posts so they sounded different to mine, but the content remained. I tried not to let it bother me and continued to do my own thing, but I have to admit I did feel angry whenever I would see someone commenting on a post of hers that had started as one of mine saying how awesome or original it was. These days I mostly try to ignore that blog.

But what really gets me about plagiarism is, what's the point? Why bother having your own blog if you don't have anything original that you want to say? If you have to steal somebody else's ideas or content to create posts, then what are you getting out of it? Is it page views? Free books? Again, I just don't get it.

I love my blog because it's a platform to express my own views and feelings about books and bookish things. It's been an amazing way to connect with other like-minded, awesome people. That's what I'm here for. How about you?

Monday 23 April 2012

Reading Icons: Christopher Walken

"I do the same things every day. Exactly the same. I eat at the same time, I get up at the same time, I do the same things in the same order. I read. I have coffee." - Christopher Walken

Wednesday 18 April 2012

The Movie Was Amazeballs: To Kill A Mockingbird

I finally watched To Kill a Mockingbird. Wow. I wasn't going to post about it because, just wow. It's perfect, and I don't know if there's much more I can say about it. But I'll try.

I was surprised, to start with, at the opening credits - usually with old movies you assume they'll have those basic flash-card titles that go on forever. Not this one (I guess it's not that old, hey?) - the opening credits, showcasing what we later find out to be Jem's box of treasures from Boo, sets the nostalgic, innocent tone wonderfully and instantly pulls you in.

The story remained remarkably faithful to the book. There were a few changes, naturally, with numerous minor plots edited out. I missed Mrs Dubose's storyline in particular, but I understand why hers and others' stories were missing - what enriches the book would have bogged down the movie. As it is, we're left with a very powerful telling of the two major plots - the court case and Boo. There wasn't a lot added to the film, with the bulk of the scenes coming straight from the book, but what was added, I liked. The early introduction of Mr Cunningham, and his interaction with Scout, for example, made the later mob scene even more effective. I also appreciated the way the trial was introduced pretty quickly, and we got to see more of Atticus' perspective.

But the most outstanding thing about To Kill a Mockingbird was, of course, the cast. OK, Gregory Peck was too young to be Atticus, technically - but with his performance, it didn't really matter. He was Atticus - dignified, wise, kind, intelligent and loving. The kids were also brilliant in their roles - exactly how I pictured Jem and Scout. Robert Duvall's young apperance as Boo Radley was short but memorable, and Tom Robinson was tragically compelling. Bob Ewell was skin-crawlingly creepy; my only small gripe (and this is probably going to sound petty) was that his teeth seemed too white and straight for someone as rough and poor as Bob.

All in all, I loved this movie. I'm just sad I waited so long to watch it! But it's OK, I know I'll be rewatching it for years to come.

Rating: 5/5

Review: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Monday 16 April 2012

Reading Icons: Elvis Presley

"When I was a boy, I always saw myself as a hero in comic books and in movies. I grew up believing this dream." - Elvis Presley

Saturday 14 April 2012

Note-Worthy: Best Australian Blogs 2012 Competition

Shameless plug alert: My blog is entered in to the Best Australian Blogs 2012 Competition. If you love me (hi, Mum!) or my blog, it would be supercalifreakinawesome if you could vote for Belle's Bookshelf in the People's Choice Award. The blogs are listed alphabetically over five pages - handily mine is on the first page. As bribery In appreciation, I give to you... Ryan Gosling gifs.

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Review: Thyla by Kate Gordon

Tessa is brave, strong and never cries. That is all she knows about herself after waking up in the bush near Hobart, Tasmania. Taken to hospital by a policewoman named Connolly, whose own daughter went missing in the bush, Tessa begins to slowly piece together who (or what) she is. The truth further unravels after she's sent to the elite boarding school Connolly's daughter disappeared from, and she begins to realise how interconnected the events are.

Thyla had the potential to be a great mystery, but I was disappointed that a major plot point seemed to be given away in the dedication. The title is also a big fat hint, if you know what it means (I didn't before reading it). Having an idea of what Tessa was meant that the big chunk of the book it took for her to figure it out was pretty damn frustrating. Still, I remained intrigued by the other mysteries: how Tessa ended up in the bush with no memory, how the memories she did have seemed to come from another time, and what happened to Cat. Unfortunately - without giving away any spoilers - the payoff was kinda anti-climatic for me.

I did appreciate the unique, very Australian take on the paranormal that Gordon creates in Thyla. However, the extensive dialogue explaining the world and mythology - at times when you wouldn't exactly expect characters to just stand there talking - felt forced. Plus, some things just didn't add up (more on that in the spoilery section below). The second person narration could also be jarring at times, as it wasn't consistently sustained throughout the novel.

What I loved about Thyla was the setting. There's something about Tasmania that is definitely spooky. It's so old, cold and isolated. The historical buildings and surrounding mountains and bush are the perfect breeding ground for the paranormal. Gordon effectively evokes these surroundings, creating a claustrophic atmosphere that heightens the tension between the characters who are stuck at the boarding school together.

I also liked that the inevitable love story took a backseat to the central mystery. While Tessa got all starry-eyed and distracted every time a certain guy was around, I liked the fact that at least he wasn't all she thought about. Tessa herself was likable enough, although I did get a bit over being told she was brave without her actually acting so. Thankfully, she eventually came through.

Overall, Thyla is a solid Aussie take on the paranormal genre, and I'm keen to see how the story develops in the sequel, Vulpi.

Rating 3.5/5

Spoilery Talking Points
  • When Tessa follows Rin and her friends as they head out for a night bush walk, they handily pause from their apparently urgent activity to dicuss a bit of history at length. At this point, we're not supposed to know what they - or Tessa - are. Rin mentions something about the thylacines being smart when they let humans think they had all died out. Combined with the reference in the dedication to "Tessa the tiger", I figured that Tessa was a thylacine - a were-tiger (of the Tasmanian variety). Well, of course, she is - but apparently they don't transform into actual Tasmanian tigers - they're half-human, half-tiger hybrids. So they couldn't let humans think they've died out, when humans don't know they exist in the first place... right? OK, it's a minor point and I'm probably being nit-picky, but it bothered me.
  • As I mentioned, I was glad to see the romance take a backseat. Which is why I was kinda disappointed that it totally took the wheel at the end. Probably because it had been a subplot, I wasn't majorly invested in it, so the way it was all of a sudden brought to the forefront - raising more questions than conclusions - was slightly frustrating.
  • I really didn't like Cat. I know she's the focus of the next book, so I'm hoping seeing things from her perspective will help. Coz as it stands I think she's a selfish biatch.
Eye Candy
Publishers seem to love putting pretty blonde girls on the cover of books, so I was surprised that, when the main character is actually blonde, they put a very obviously dark-haired girl on the cover. I'm assuming it's meant to be Rin - either that, or they didn't care what Tessa actually looked like. Anyway, I pictured Cariba Heine as Tessa, and James Sorenson as Perrin.

It's Aussie Author Month! April is all about promoting Aussie authors as well as supporting the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. Check out the links for more info.

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Review: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

I grew up on a steady diet of The Wizard of Oz movie, but, embarrassingly, never read the book. Until now. Sadly, I didn't love it. It was quirky but it lacked the whimsical sense of fun that I was expecting. I know it's not fair to compare it to the movie, but with the story so ingrained in my brain, it was hard not to. I was amazed at just how different the two versions were. I knew that in the book, the famous slippers were silver, not ruby, but I didn't expect so many other things to have been changed.

The same basic plot is there, of course. Dorothy and her dog Toto get whisked up in their house in a tornado, travelling from Kansas to the land of Oz. She immediately wants to go back home, and has to travel to the Emerald City along the Yellow Brick Road to request the help of the great wizard Oz. Along the way, she picks up friends in a Scarecrow who wants brains, a Tin Man who wants a heart, and a Lion who wants courage.

But while the movie intertwines the worlds of Kansas and Oz, as the latter is a manifestation of Dorothy's subconcious, the book presents all the events as real within the world of the story. Dorothy really does travel to the land of Oz. While there, her adventures are a series of disconnected incidents with no cohesive thread - other than the fact that Dorothy wants to get home, of course. The Wicked Witch of the West does not hound Dorothy out of revenge or a desire to claim the silver slippers as her own. In fact, she doesn't even appear until the second part of the story. She attacks Dorothy and her friends purely because she's wicked.

Given the fact that L. Frank Baum states in the introduction that he wanted to create a modern-day fairy tale without the violence and horror of traditional stories, there was a suprising amount of gore and death. All of the characters, Dorothy included, attack others in gruesome ways with few qualms. Granted, it's often in self-defence, but it's still pretty disturbing. This didn't help me connect or sympathise with the characters. On top of that, they all repeat themselves so often (the Scarecrow on his lack of brains, the Tin Man on his lack of heart and so on) that it gets quite tedious. I know it's a children's story, but I got tired of reading the same things in every bit of dialogue.

There were some wonderful parts to the story, of course. A highlight for me was the charming china village. The prose is lovely. Perhaps I would have adored the book if I had read it as a child. As an adult, I wanted it to be half the length and twice as enchanting.

Rating: 3/5

Monday 9 April 2012

Reading Icons: Jennifer Lawrence

I could only find one photo of Jennifer Lawrence reading, but I love it so much I had to post it anyway.

"I have a huge responsibility to the fans of this incredible book and I don't take it lightly. I will give everything I have to these movies and to this role to make it worthy of Suzanne Collins' masterpiece." - Jennifer Lawrence, on playing Katniss.

Sunday 8 April 2012

Review: Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard

I've been putting off writing this review for so long because, goddamn, I hated this book. I don't have many nice things to say about it. And you know what they say...

I was really surprised at just how intensely I disliked Pretty Little Liars. I'm completely obsessed with the TV show, and I was expecting the book to have a similar appeal: four pretty friends are tormented by the mysterious 'A', who somehow knows all their secrets and manipulates events to create juicy twists at every turn. But while the basic plot is the same, the book just fell totally flat for me.

Perhaps I would've liked it better if I hadn't seen the TV show first and had nothing to compare it to. But somehow I don't think so. There were so many problems. The pacing felt unbearably slow, and while a lot of stuff happened, it actually felt like not much did. The threats from 'A' were few and way too far between, and the four main characters barely spoke to each other for the majority of the book, creating a sense of disconnection that extended to me as a reader.

This was reinforced by the fact that the girls are all so freaking unlikable. In the show, they're nice girls who sometimes do questionable things, but you root for them because, hey, they're pretty cool. But in the book I just wanted to punch them all in the face. And I'm not generally a violent person.

The access to each of their inner selves through the third person narration does them zero favours. They all come across as superficial, selfish and downright mean. Hanna and Aria were particularly infuriating. If you played a drinking game and took a sip for every time they admired their own looks, you'd get drunk pretty damn fast. This was not only annoying, it was also extremely unrealistic - especially in Hanna's case, since she's supposedly recovering from an eating disorder.

I also didn't like any of the girls' parents. They were shallow, nasty and/or bigotted. There pretty much wasn't a likable character in the whole book. This might have been OK had the plot been more interesting. It's only a short book, but it took me forever to get through because I just wasn't interested.

I'll give the next book a go, as I've been told it gets better. And I still really, really want to know who A is. But I don't know that I can sit through 10 more books of this.

Rating: 2/5

Thursday 5 April 2012

Bookish Buys: Gone Reading

Gone Reading is an online store that sells cool bookish merchandise, which is enough for me to feature them here. But there's a bonus - all their profits go to literacy-related charities! I love it. Here are some of my fave products:

Jane Austen scented candles (do you think it would smell like Darcy?! teehee)
Eat. Sleep. Read. Bookmark
Macaroon bookmark
Books to Check Out journal
Little Book Holder

Wednesday 4 April 2012

My Book Boyfriend: Jonah Griggs

Jonah Mother Effing Griggs. What can I say? He's arguably Melina Marchetta's most popular hero. A teenage army cadet and leader of one "gang" in On the Jellicoe Road, he's tough and at times brutal, but he's also incredibly brave, caring and passionate. I pictured him as Liam Hemsworth.

Swoon-worthy Quotes

How does Jonah Griggs get to be a ten? He sits on a train with me when we’re fourteen and he weeps, tearing at his hair, bashing his head with the palm of his hand, self-hatred pouring from him like blood from a gut wound in a war movie, and for the first time in my whole life I have a purpose.I am the holder of the grief and pain and guilt and passion of Jonah Griggs and as we sit huddled on the floor of the carriage, he allows me to hold him, to say ‘Shh, Jonah, it wasn’t your fault.’ While his body still shakes from the convulsions, he takes hold of my hand and links my fingers with his and I feel someone else’s pain for the first time I can remember.

When I turn around, he cups my face in his hands and he kisses me so deeply that I don’t know who is breathing for who, but his mouth and tongue taste like warm honey. I don’t know how long it lasts, but when I let go of him, I miss it already."

'If you weren’t driving, I’d kiss you senseless.' I tell him
He swerves to the side of the road and stops the car abruptly.
'Not driving anymore.

“I don't want to let go, because tonight I'm not looking for anything more than being part of him. Because being part of him isn't just anything. It's kind of everything.”

My Book Boyfriend is hosted by Missie at The Unread Reader.