Sunday 30 September 2012

Review: Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

This was the creepiest book I've ever read in my life.

I was expecting it to be moderately creepy. I've seen the American movie adaptation, Let Me In, and it had a couple of spooky moments but overall it didn't really make me jump. I liked the friendship that blossomed between a lonely, isolated boy and the vampire girl that had moved in next door. Aside from, you know, the bleeding from every orifice and the killing and all that, it was actually kind of a sweet story. I thought the book would be pretty much the same. It wasn't. It really, really wasn't. Forget making me jump - it practically made my hair turn white.

The story about the loner boy and vamp girl is still there, of course, but each character is definitely more creepy than their movie counterparts. Oscar, who is severely bullied, wears a sponge in his pants to soak up urine as he's constantly wetting his pants, and you feel sorry for him until he reveals his scrapbook of serial killers and starts fantasising about hacking up other kids. OK, they're his bullies but... he's one creepy little boy. No wonder he and Eli, the little vampire, get along so well. Eli, of course, is even creepier, with the ability to sprout not only fangs but wings and claws. Not to mention she's a perpetually prepubescent bloodsucker with a paedophile in tow.

Oh yes, the creepiest of the creepy - Eli's "father figure" isn't a little boy who followed her and got old, as in the movie - he's a paedophile who bribes her for sex with blood. It made me feel physically sick. But that's before things got really messed up... Cue a string of murders, people being accidentally turned into vampires, and an "accident" involving acid and attempted suicide, followed by one of the most violent attacks I've ever had the discomfort of reading, and this book makes for a painful, sickening and incredibly terrifying read.

As a horror, it works wonderfully. It's compelling and masterfully told. It contains probably the most bloodcurdling baddie I've ever come across (and I'm not talking Eli), and vividly gruesome imagery that stays in your mind for a long time. But it is not enjoyable at all. I like horror, I really do, but so much of this book made me cringe (read: hide under the covers). I still don't really know what to think of it or how I feel about it. It was a good book, but left me so deeply disturbed. Frankly, I'd rather not really think about it at all, ever again...

Rating: 4/5

Friday 28 September 2012

Bookish (And Other Awesome) Links: The BSC, Mr Darcy and Trolls

Awful Library Books: the place where terrible books go to live.

These videos about the history of certain words, told in animation using paper cuttings, are awesome.

Only one of these facts about The Baby-Sitters Club blew my mind (Kirsten Dunst was a cover model for Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls!), but it's still a fun list.

Three words: Darcy paper doll. Go now. Lizzie is there too.

The story of how one man confronted his online troll. You'll never guess who it was. Intense reading. On a lighter note, this parody video about trolls made me chuckle.

As if my obsession with Joseph Gordon-Levitt wasn't already intense enough, Buzzfeed handily compiled a list of every gif from his Magic Mike dance you will ever need. And oh, will you need them.

The greatest moments in Australian history - Lego-fied. Not surprising that it's heavily sports-oriented, though I appreciate the The Castle inclusion.

The 50 most romantic photos of all time are as lovely as they sound.

Speaking of lovely, the gallery of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward will renew your faith in celebrity love. Plus Paul Newman was a total fox.

While we're on that subject - Alec Baldwin was, like, such a Baldwin when he was younger. 

I was obsessed with the Little Giants as a kid, so this kind of destroyed my childhood memories.

Have you ever seen Flamingos do their mating dance? Move over, Swan Lake...

Random YouTube clip of the week

Thursday 27 September 2012

Bookish Buys: Wedding Table Numbers and Custom Book Art

Before my wedding, I got lost in the world of wedding blogs and every now and then I'd surface with one (thousand) things I wanted to do for my own wedding. One of those things was table numbers made from books. The (now) Husband took one look at the picture I had as inspiration and said, "I can do that". I was skeptical, but surrendered a book I knew I wouldn't reread with the proviso that I would be able to, if I wanted to, after he was done. I was blown away by the result, and needless to say he ended up doing all of the table numbers for our wedding. He also made a "true love" pop-out which we used as a prop in photos and also sat on the bridal table, plus a "where we came from" sign that sat with photos of our parents and grandparents on their wedding days. We completed the decorations with pink and ivory flowers in assorted vases and stacks of books in shades of of pink, green and blue, tied up with ivory ribbon. We also put a baseball on each table, to represent The Husband's favourite pastime, and asked the guests to sign them as lovely mementos in addition to our guestbook.




OK, you're probably wondering about now why this post is titled "bookish buys" when it's all about my wedding. Well! The husband had so much fun creating the table numbers that he decided to continue doing it, and set up an Etsy store for custom orders. He has also started creating some adorable characters. So this post is kind of a shameless plug, but I figured I spend plenty of time promoting other people's Etsy stores, I should be able to promote The Husband's. I'm biased, but I love what he's created. Although I don't like seeing books cut up, they're all second-hand AND if you really want to, you can pop the characters/letters back into the book and it's still readable, give or take a few words. So, you know, no books were (seriously) harmed in the making of these projects. Check out his store, Custom Book Art, if you're after table numbers or book art, and message him for requests if you have any. The characters he's done so far are Peter Pan and Winnie-the-Pooh, but I have it on good authority that he's got Allie and Noah from The Notebook and Sherlock Holmes coming up.

Winnie-the-Pooh book art
Peter Pan book art
Wedding photography by J Roberts Photography

Monday 24 September 2012

Mag Monday: Flaunt Magazine

Three reasons I want need to get my hands on the new issue of Flaunt magazine:

1. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is on the cover and in a gorgeous spread. Every day he inches closer to Ryan Gosling crush status (helped along by things like this).

2. Kit Harington, swooooooooooooooooooon. 

3. Rashida Jones looking smokin' and talking about intellectual sexuality, whatever that is.

Sunday 23 September 2012

Review: Stuart: A Life Backwards By Alexander Masters

I don't even know how to begin reviewing Stuart: A life Backwards. Well, I guess I should start at the beginning - which, of course, is actually the end of Stuart's story. Don't worry, it's not as confusing as it sounds. The book opens with Stuart Shorter, an "ex-homeless, ex-junkie psychopath", telling the author of his biography, Alexander Masters, that it's "bollocks boring". Alexander, having worked on the manuscript in question for years, is understandably frustrated, and questions Stuart's expertise (or lack thereof) on the matter. Stuart's response? "Make it more like a murder mystery. What murdered the boy I was? See? Write it backwards."

Thankfully, Alexander took Stuart's advice and rewrote the book, and so begins a journey back through time to discover not just the cause of the death of Stuart's innocence, but of Stuart himself - he died of probable suicide before the second version of the manuscript was complete. I know, it sounds completely dreary and depressing - and it completely is at times - but more often than that it's totally entertaining and even inspiring. Which sounds a bit morbid in the same paragraph as suicide, but I guess it shows just how strange - and brilliant - this book is. A bit like Stuart himself.

In theory, Stuart shouldn't work as a hero. He's vulgar, violent and a little bit (OK, a lot) mad, spending much of the story either homeless or in prison. But he's also charming, wise and strangely moral in his own way. It's this paradoxical nature that makes him so fascinating and, ultimately, likable. In Alexander's capable hands, Stuart's character jumps from the page, his voice captured perfectly so that you feel as though he's right in front of you.

One of the reasons Alexander seems to have been able to capture Stuart so well is because he appears to have developed a strong and genuine friendship with his subject. Some might question how appropriate this is for a biographer, but it works. In fact, one of the loveliest  aspects of the book is the unlikely friendship between the middle class, sheltered writer and the irrepressible vagabond. That's not to say it's an easy relationship. Alexander is frequently uncomfortable in Stuart's company, and even more frequently irritated. But through his honest and amusing account of his reactions and thoughts, Alexander makes Stuart accessible and real. These humourous encounters also act as much-needed breaks from the flashbacks to Stuart's earlier life, which gets darker and more disturbing the further back we go.

You can probably guess what happens, although perhaps not all of it. Let's just say it's horrific and graphic and made me feel physically ill. While it makes Stuart all the more inspiring, it also reinforces the great tragedy of his tale. If he was that brilliant, in his own way, after all he'd been through - imagine the kind of man he would have been if the "boy he was" hadn't been murdered.

Excuse me while I go pick up the broken pieces of my shattered heart from the floor.

Rating: 5/5

Favourite Quotes

"If Stuart is a freak... it is because he has had the superhuman strength not to be defeated by this isolation. It is because he has had the almost unbelievable social adroitness to be able to fit in smoothly with an educated, soft-skinned person like myself and not make me frightened half to death. If Stuart's a freak, I salute freaks." 

“For a moment, I believe, there was a stillness. A shocking realization by all things - beetles, dormice, the spiders spinning their webs in the moonlight, even the hot metal of the tracks and the wind in the trees - that Death had just shrieked past like a stinking black eagle and made off with a remarkable man." 


Friday 21 September 2012

Bookish (And Other Awesome) Links: Finnick, Bookshelves and Literary Pin-Ups

Sam Claflin is the perfect Finnick. I will not hear any detractors. He is Finnick. The end.
PS. Sorry, I didn't mean that. You can detract if you want. But that is pretty much exactly how I pictured Finnick so to me, he is perfect. Jena Malone, on the other hand, is nothing like how I pictured Johanna.
PPS. While we're on the subject of The Hunger Games, this supercut of Jennifer Lawrence interviews is the greatest 12 and a half minutes you'll spend all week. The girl needs to do a comedy, because her timing is genius.

This Harry Potter/Mean Girls mash-up is as awesome as it sounds. I don't know how I lived my life til now without it.

If you like judging people by their bookshelves (let's face it, who doesn't?), you will love this Tumblr. Share your your own shelf if you dare.

Literary Pin-Ups have to be the sexiest kind. Now you can mark off 2013 with a new one each month.

Keep this list of literary insults handy for next time you're in a fight with an idiot (or someone you want to make feel like an idiot). I might take it with me next time I venture on to the Amazon forums...

I want to go to every bookstore on this list. Drool.

This behind-the-scenes look at the Game of Thrones special effects will BLOW YOUR MIND.

Ever wanted a floorplan of the apartments from your favourite TV shows? Here you go.

Random YouTube Clip Of The Week

Monday 17 September 2012

Mag Monday: Who, September 24

I was pretty excited to pick up this issue of Who because it features two of my favourite things - a Best & Worst Dressed special and a celebrity wedding.

The spread of Blake Lively and Ryan Reynold's wedding (after less than a year together!) was fun, with lots of description from "sources" and some shots of the estate where they wed. It looks absolutely gorgeous. Unfortunately, there are no shots of the apparently "beaming" couple - Martha Stewart nabbed exclusive first rights to those, which I was surprised about, considering all the secrecy of Ryan's first wedding to Scarlett Johansson. I guess Blake loves the publicity more. They make a cute couple, but is it jaded of me to think their marriage won't last more than a year?

As for the style special, I gotta say I was a tad disappointed. Nothing really stood out as particularly amazing. Or even particularly bad. Maybe the likes of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj have eliminated the shock value of crazy fashion. It's just the norm now. But here are my thoughts on Who's picks for best and worst dressed...

Top Ten Best Dressed
1. Blake Lively. I'm actually really surprised to see Blake at number one. She does have good style, but definitely not the best. I guess it doesn't help that every time I look at her I just think of Boobs Legsly, thanks to Go Fug Yourself. 
2. Diane Kruger. A natural choice; she's absolutely stunning and is always well groomed. I wasn't convinced by the pictures chosen, though - I feel like she's done better.
3.Charlize Theron. Meh.
4. Gwyneth Paltrow. I can see why she made the list. Say what you will about Goop - she takes risks and always looks good.
5. Kate Middleton. Should have been number one, IMHO.
6. Miranda Kerr. Of course.
7. Emma Stone. I absolutely adore Emma, but I don't know if she deserves to be in this list. Her style is a bit hit and miss.
8. Sarah Jessica Parker. I used to love her, but I have zero interest in her or what she wears these days.
9. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. She is beautiful, but I don't think she's well-known enough to warrant her place here. I have no idea what her style is actually like aside from the few pictures on the page.
10. Angelina Jolie. Ugh. I'm a hater so I'm probably not the best judge. OK, she does dress well, if a little boring. 

Top 10 Worst Dressed
1. Nicki Minaj. Surprise, surprise.
2. Snooki. C'mon, that's too easy.
3. Paris Hilton. Oh, she's still around?
4. Madonna. Yeah, her outfits have been pretty atrocious lately.
5. Coco Austin. At first I was like, who? Then I realised it was Ice-T's wife. Yeah...
6. Helena Bonham Carter. I love her, so I'm completely biased. She is a bit of a hot mess, but I admire the way she has fun and doesn't give a frig what other people think of her.
7. Jessie J. I gotta agree with this. It's like she tries to be edgy but... no. Just, no.
8. Katy Perry.  Yep, she tries way too hard.
9. Lindsey Lohan. Unfortunately her style is the least of her worries.
10. Florence Welch. Oh no you di-in't. Florence is awesome and can dress how she wants. The end.

The rest of the issue is more flick-worthy than anything. By the time all the style pages are over you're on to the reviews section, and the magazine is finished before you know it.

Sunday 16 September 2012

Review: Fury by Shirley Marr

"My name is Eliza Boans and I am a murderer."

How is that for a brilliant opening line? I was instantly hooked. I love a mystery, and when a book opens with the protagonist in a police station confessing to murder, you know you're in for a good one. Who was murdered and why - and whether Eliza actually did it - is slowly divulged through flashbacks, as Eliza tells her story to an interrogator. Importantly, the pace isn't too slow; just the right amount of information is revealed at key moments to keep an impatient Gen Y-er like me satisfied, while maintaining my interest and keeping me guessing till the end. It was intense, but in a very good way.

My favourite thing about Fury was Eliza (which was handy, considering she's the main character and all). She's the opposite of a passive Mary Sue waiting to be saved. Eliza's personality radiates from the page, and as the story unfolds you see she can take care of herself - and her friends, too, for that matter. All of the characters are well fleshed-out and realistic. They're not always likable, but that just made them feel more real to me. Speaking from experience, teenage girls can be downright bitches at times - but they can also be the fiercest friends you'll ever have. I loved that Marr didn't shy away from this aspect in Eliza's friendships.

The authentic feel of the story was enhanced by the language. It's smart, funny, very Aussie and totally teen - but not in an annoying way. Eliza's narration feels natural; not like an "old person" trying to sound like a teenager. Her voice is established on the very first page; she's witty, snarky and a little bit twisted, and uses slang like "povo" and "snogged". But I don't want to make it sound like the language was all sarcastic and slang-y, because it's not. There are moments of absolute beauty and insight; my favourite was around the half way point when Eliza says, "I'm so tired, here in my head.". I hear ya, sister. Basically, Eliza spoke my language. And I loved it.

One thing about the language - or, rather, the names - is that they're inspired by famous literary characters, especially from Jane Austen. I really loved this nod to the classics, but the downside was that it could be a bit jarring at times, taking you out of the story, rather than into it. But this was a minor quibble. I really adored this book - the plot, the setting, the characters and especially its unpredictability. It's not every day you come across a YA book that has a truly unique storyline and a strong voice. But it's awesome when you do.

Rating: 4.5/5

How gorgeous is the cover of Fury? Shirley Marr has done some awesome behind-the-scenes posts about the cover (and the ones that were rejected) here and here.

Friday 14 September 2012

Bookish Links: BAMFs, Strange Art and Attacks of Cute

My poor blog has been a bit neglected lately, but I have big plans to get back into the swing of things in the next week. I have a few reviews coming (finally!) and some other fun features. In the meantime, here are some awesome things from the rest of the internet...

BAMF Girls Club
This new web series answers the question: What would happen if Hermione, Bella, Katniss, Lisbeth and Buffy lived in a house together? (Short answer: Hilarious amazingness).

Top Five Trashiest Teen Reads
The Vine lists what they deem as the trashiest novels for teens. Take out Sweet Valley High (I somehow missed that boat) and you have my whole childhood, basically. Thanks to Shirley Marr (who is now on Twitter!) for the link.

Speaking of Shirley, she's written this wonderful post about Operation Christmas Child. Check it out.

How to become a famous author
Warning: not actually how to become a famous author.

How to deconstruct a novel
Tips on analysing books to improve your own writing

56 Broken Kindle Screens
This project exhibiting broken Kindle screens is strangely beautiful... I still wouldn't want my new preciousss to break though.

Famous authors' school photos
So, Jack Kerouac was kind of a fox. Just sayin'.

There is a Pride and Prejudice board game
There is a PRIDE AND PREJUDICE BOARD GAME. Can you tell I'm excited?

The Stormdancer book trailer is great
I'm not usually a fan of book trailers, but this one is pretty awesomesauce.

Non-bookish (but still fun) links

Puberty is embarrassing for penguins, too

DIY Nutella. Including white chocolate. Want. Now.

Attack of the cute

Alcohol under a microscope is purdy

Someone needs to make this Captain Planet movie happen

Random YouTube clip of the week

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR List

I can't believe it's spring already! It's exciting - that feeling is in the air that things are improving (even if it's just the weather) - but at the same time it's terrifying. The year is going crazy-quick. It feels like I just wrote my winter TBR list. Embarrassingly, I didn't finish a single book on that list. I started one (The Jelly Bean Crisis by Jolene Stockman) but I haven't finished it yet. So I could pretty much just repost the winter list - but, with my TBR pile numbering in the hundreds, I think I can manage a whole new list. This time, I'm going to try really hard to get through them all before summer. So, in no particular order, I want to read:

1. Speechless by Hannah Harrington. I've wanted to read Saving June for awhile, and Harrington's second novel has been getting lots of great reviews, so I'm very keen to read it soon.

2. Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff. I feel like everyone I follow has read and loved this book. All the raving has moved it straight to the top of my TBR pile.

3. Night Beach by Kirsty Eager. I've been wanting to read a Kirsty Eager book for ages, because, well, they all sound good, plus she's Australian (local love!), and, of course, a lot of my Goodreads and blogging friends give her books great reviews. It just so happens I got my hands on Night Beach recently, so I'll be reading this one first.

4. Every Day by David Levithan. David Levithan is another author I've been meaning to read for awhile - I loved Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, which he wrote with Rachel Cohn, so it will be good to check out one of his solo works. This one has such an interesting concept - every day "A" wakes up in a different body, with a different life.

5. We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. A few people have recommended this book to me, and after recently watching the movie, I'm extra curious to read it.

6. Carrie by Stephen King. Seeing updates about the upcoming adaptation with Chloe Grace Moretz reminded me that I've been wanting to read Carrie for awhile.

7. Throne of Glass by Sarah J Mass. This book has received mixed reviews in my circle of friends, but I like the sound of the twist on the classic Cinderella tale - especially the kick-ass heroine.

8. Beautiful Music For Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills. I haven't come across a book with a trans* protagonist before so I'm super interested to check this out. It sounds great.

9. The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde. My lovely mum bought me a Kindle last week, and I've been on a mad downloading bender ever since. There are so many awesome free ebooks available! This is one of them that I'm particularly excited to read.

10. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. I've been meaning to read this one ever since I saw the trailer for the movie last year. I still haven't gotten around to it - which means I haven't seen the movie yet, either (I wanted to read the book first). I want to do both soon!

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

What's at the top of your spring (or autumn) TBR pile?