Tuesday 30 October 2012

Top Ten Kick-Ass Heroines

If you haven't already, you need to watch the BAMF Girls Club

1. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games trilogy. If you looked up kick-ass in the dictionary, there'd be a picture of Katniss.

2. Lisbeth Salander from the Millenium trilogy. She may be socially inept, but she's intelligent, feisty and sure knows how to get revenge.

3. Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series. Without Hermione, I'm pretty sure Voldemort would still be around... and Harry probably wouldn't be. The boys wouldn't have gotten anywhere without her.

4. Anne Shirley from the Anne of Green Gables series. Oh, Anne-girl. I have a special place in my heart for the little ginger. She belongs on this list purely for the moment she broke her slate over Gilbert Blythe's head - although she's all other kinds of awesome, too.

5. Lizzie Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. Lizzie doesn't have to be a zombie slayer to kick butt: she does it classic-style, with her sharp tongue and fine eyes.

6. Josie Alibrandi from Looking for Alibrandi. I love all of Melina Marchetta's heroines, but Josie is special to me because I grew up with her. Sure, she's kinda annoying at times, but I adore Josie for her passion and her ability to fight for what she believes in.

7. Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre. C'mon, the freaking book is named for her. How kick-ass is that? What's even more kick-ass is Jane's self respect: She demands to be treated as an equal, and won't compromise herself or her values for anyone (even the swoony Rochester).

8. Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout is everything I wasn't as a kid: tomboyish, brave, unafraid to speak her mind... but I think she's amazeballs. She packs such a big punch (in more ways than one) for someone so small.

9. Rose Hathaway from the Vampire Academy series. I read this series straight after Twilight, and it's safe to say Rose is the antithesis to Bella Swan. Forget falling for vampires - she stakes them! And, uh, just falls in love with her teacher instead... moving on.

10. Matilda from Matilda. Look at that, another title-worthy character. Matilda is intelligent, brave, cheeky, strong-minded and magical - and her favourite thing in the world is books. What's not to love?

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

Monday 29 October 2012

Mag Monday: Cleo November 2012

Cleo, November 2012

  • Hello, are we in 1995? Also: I can't stand Lara Bingle. Surprisingly I actually kinda like the cover.
  • I love the six-page feature on body image and Photoshop. It's a hot-button issue and magazines cop a lot of flak about it - in some cases, it's justified, but in many it's not. There's a lot of misunderstanding about what Photoshop is used for, especially here in Australia, where body shapes and sizes are very rarely altered, unlike some overseas magazines (where a lot of the buzz about the issue generates from). This leads to well-meaning people sending negative emails, Facebook posts, or in this case, starting/signing a petition, which can be incredibly frustrating when they don't have the facts and don't bother to check them. This is what happened when Jessica Barlow, a 20-year-old student, started "The Brainwash Project" and decided, seemingly arbitrarily, to target Cleo. When Cleo responded by saying they didn't in fact alter women's body shapes and did include "real" women every month, Jessica didn't change her stance. So the editor decided to do this feature, revealing what exactly Photoshop is used for (colour correction, contrast, shadows, non-permanent marks like bruises etc) and what goes into all the images in the magazine (it's a lot more complicated than most people think). Media intelligence can only ever be a good thing.
  • I liked seeing the article on Pussy Riot, even if it felt a bit late to the party (one of the drawbacks of monthly magazines, unfortunately).
  • It's the swimwear special,  and Cleo breaks the up-front styles down into destination inspiration, which is fun: Morocco (lots of prints), Tahiti (tropical florals), Rio De Janeiro (bold block colours), Sydney (apparently we're stuck in the '90s), California (Sunset Strip-inspired prints), Amalfi Coast (bold florals) and Saint Tropez ('50s-inspired). I liked that the first main fashion is a poolside shoot featuring the gorgeous, curvy ex-Top Model star Tahnee (I even spotted some cellulite and thought take that, Photoshop-bashers!), but the following two shoots feature blonde, skinny models, which is a little bland if not disheartening.
  • 'New-gen nails' jumps on to the nail art bandwagon, which I won't complain about. Love!
  • The story of three young women who each got melanoma, and another two who lost loved ones to the disease, is a timely reminder to be sun smart.
  • 'Meet the new superheroes' is a fun feature on kick-butt women in pop culture, and what we can learn from them.
  • I groaned at the title 'The simple secret to feeling happier', but actually found the advice about not comparing yourself to others to be quite helpful.
  • 'The never-ending work day' covers an issue that is probably quite prominent these days, and offers fantastic advice on leaving work at work.
  • 'Why every body is a bikini body' is an awesome headline (what is a bikini body anyway?!) accompanied by a great feature about learning to feel comfortable - and even confident - while you're wearing a bikini in public. I've gotten better as I've gotten older - mainly on holidays, where I won't know anyone - but I definitely don't feel comfortable with my "bikini body" these days. Going to the beach is not so fun when you don't feel good.
  • 'Resident evil' is a serious feature about child abuse which includes two case studies. It's an issue that's not often covered in women's magazines, so it's good to see it here.
  • It's fab to see a feature like 'Ditch the deadline diet' in Cleo - coz we all know they never work and are so not healthy for your body or mind.
  • 'Why all boobs are great' by Guy Mosel seems dubious on the surface but is actually a lovely opinion piece on not judging your own body by what others think - or what you think they think.
  • I love pretty things - whether it be clothes, accessories or objects for the home - so the 'Home improvement' spread really appealed to me. And I'm pretty sure I need this teapot.
  • Other features include 'Beach confidential' (Bondi lifeguard confessions); 'The Robsten effect' (Why are we so invested in celebrity relationships? Spoiler: Coz we feel like they're our friends);  'Ready to rumble' (the lives of female pro wrestlers - grrrl power!); 'The summer of safe love' (you can never have too much contraception talk); 'My family's fitness trick'; 'Get an A+ in dating' (one writer actually attends "dating" school); 'Open relationships: One couple reveals all'; 'Jump over your sex hurdles' and 'Find your new career here'.
Rating: 3.5/5

Sunday 28 October 2012

Review: The Jelly Bean Crisis by Jolene Stockman

Story time! When I was at uni, I did a buttload of work experience to try and figure out what I wanted to do. The first time I stepped into a magazine office, it felt right. No, it felt amazing. You know what I did all week? Photocopied. Filed. Did some more photocopying. Transcribed an interview. More photocopying. More filing. When Friday came 'round and my week was over, the editorial co-ordinator gave me an early mark. It made me sad. I wanted to stay. I had loved every second of those menial tasks. Because I was in the same room as the people who made magazines. I was helping them, in however small a way. I felt special. I looked around and thought "I could do this, for real."

I did three more weeks of work experience at different magazines, with varying degrees of mundanity. At one place, pretty much all I did was get coffee and take trips to the mail room, with a side of sorting out cupboards of products and old magazines. I still loved every second. It was exciting. I soaked up everything I could about the way things were done and knew that it was a career I wanted to pursue. I knew that I might be getting coffee now, but eventually, if I got lucky, I'd be writing and seeing my work in print. That was the end goal, and I knew I had my work cut out for me to get there.

I then spent six months working for free as an intern. I was thrilled to do it, travelling for nearly three hours each way just to get to the office. I learnt as much as I could while I was there and did everything I could to make myself useful. It paid off. At the end of the six months, I got a part-time job related to my internship. Eight months later, on the day I graduated uni, I got a full-time job as features writer for the magazine I'd interned at. I was able to skip the entry level position and go straight into what was pretty much my dream job. I felt incredibly lucky. I was incredibly lucky.

Why am I telling you this? To give a bit of context as to why, despite really wanting to like The Jelly Bean Crisis, it just didn't work for me. I thought the idea was cute - a high schooler named Poppy, someone who has always saved the best jelly beans (and everything else in life) for last, has a mini-breakdown and decides she wants the best now. So she has a "gap month" and embarks on a variety of work experience placements to figure out exactly what she wants. The thing is, she already knows what she wants - she wants everyone to instantly recognise her brilliance and give her the top job straight away. This kind of entitled attitude drives me nuts. I see it all the time. We have at least two "workies" in our office every single week. We never make them get coffee, but they do a few mail runs each day in addition to putting together their own mini-magazine that gives them a taste of every department. Many of the workies are great - excited to be there, keen to ask questions and learn as much as they can. But then there are those who get pissy when they find out they're not going to get a chance to interview a celebrity, style a photo shoot or automatically get their work published. A couple of times, girls have cut short their five days - five days that many wait a year to get the chance at - because they think the work is beneath them. Let me tell you, this is not the way to impress people, especially if you might want to work in the industry down the track. Because everybody starts at the bottom, and sticking your nose up at work even the editor had to do to begin with does not make you special - unless you count being a speshul snowflake.

This is exactly the way Poppy acts throughout the book. At every single workplace - and she goes through a few in her month - she's shocked that she actually has to start at the bottom. She judges everything and everyone, and finds that it's all below her. She doesn't really give anything a proper chance, moving on quicker than you can say "I quit". The thing is, it's not really a problem for her, because each time she manages to find a new position immediately, with little to no effort on her part. Which is completely unrealistic, not to mention infuriating. And it literally teaches her that you can "get in anywhere, if you just ask". Maybe I'm jaded, but the world just does not work like that.

Poppy's poor attitude alone may have been tolerable (though probably not), but in addition to that, she was also kind of a bitch. She made snarky, nasty comments about pretty much everything - including the woman who actually enjoyed her mundane job at the cookie factory, or another who dared not to shave her armpits. Then there was the way she treated the whole concept of counselling. I'm paraphrasing, but she's basically like: it's for crazy people, ewwww. Yep, that's a really helpful way to frame a vital service - not to mention mental health issues - especially to a teenage audience who might already feel like freaks if they have mental health problems, and embarrassed about seeking counselling, even when they really need to. The idea that this might turn off even one teen from seeing a counsellor, or might make someone feel bad if they do, was very unsettling for me.

I just did not like Poppy, so it was a struggle to get through hundreds of pages in her company. The secondary characters were OK, though a little flat overall. I did really like Poppy's grandmother - she was strong, independent and feisty. She was the highlight of The Jelly Bean Crisis for me. I feel terrible for not liking this book - like I said, I really wanted to - and also strange because it seems like everybody else does. Seriously, look at all those glowing reviews! I feel like I must have read a different book - or my personal experience just had a dramatic effect on my enjoyment of it. I think The Jelly Bean Crisis would be great for teens who are trying to figure out what they want in life, and it would probably give them some good ideas and things to think about. It just wasn't for me at all.

Rating: 2/5

Fine Print
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Source: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. 
Published: August 2012, CreateSpace
Get It: Amazon

Review: Preloved by Shirley Marr

First things first, I have to get some disclaimery stuff out of the way: I received a copy of Preloved from the author, because I won a competition to have a cameo in the book. BAM that's right I'm like totes famous.

The reason I'm mentioning this is not to brag (much), but so that I won't be accused of sekrit bias. Well, maybe I still will be, minus the sekrit part. But I promise I would have loved this book just as much if I had just randomly picked it up at a book shop. Bookworm's honour.

That's right, I loved this book. Like any good nerd, I have a passion for '80s pop culture. Preloved not only features a protagonist with an affinity for '80s pop culture (we first meet her when she is dressed up as Princess Buttercup from The Princess Bride - be still my heart!), but it also features a ghost from the '80s. A hot boy ghost from the '80s. Oh heeeey there Preloved, I think you might be my book soul mate. Can we be BFFs?

Speaking of BFFs, Amy is, like, totally tubular ('80s slang FTW! Uh, I mean - righteous, dude!). She was feisty and smart, but what I loved most of all was that, as she mentions herself, she is the kind of character who is normally relegated to sidekick status, while her bestie, Rebecca (more on her in a sec) is the star of the show. Not so in Preloved, and it is really refreshing. Too many YA books these days seem to have characters that are same old, same old, so when a uniquely awesome protagonist comes along, it's, like, bitchin' to the max (are you sick of the '80s slang yet? NEVER! Oh, that's just me?).

As for Rebecca, wow, I couldn't stand that girl. She is so pretentious and self-centred, and I caught myself thinking, "Amy, why are you friends with this airhead?!". But of course, I totally get it. I was the sidekick in high school to a girl who would ditch me when someone cooler came along, did things just to be seen as cool, craved the attention of boys (and got it), and subtly put me down to make herself feel better. I didn't really see it at the time - she was just my best friend. But in hindsight, wow. It's no wonder I wanted to reach into the book and shake Amy for putting up with Rebecca's crap - but, of course, she has to realise for herself that she's worth more, and this became one of my favourite parts of her journey.

Another of my favourite parts was Amy's relationship with her mum. At the beginning she has difficulty connecting with her mother, and doesn't have a lot of tolerance for her mum's extensive superstitions (which, BTW, were another fun, unique aspect of the book), but as she finds herself actually being haunted, she has to increasingly turn to her mother for help and comfort. I loved seeing their relationship grow and develop as they learned to understand each other better. I felt for Amy's mum and her fear of losing her daughter. It was so real and incredibly touching.

I just realised I've gotten pretty far into my review and I haven't even talked about Amy's love interest, Logan, yet. I think this is because, while there is definitely a love story there, Logan and Amy's relationship functions less as the main plotline and more as a vehicle for Amy to grow and explore her own life and how she feels about herself and the others around her. There is no  "ZOMG, INSTA-LOVE, 2GETHA 4EVA" crap here - and I loved it.

The only complaint I have is that I wish there was more - certain parts seemed very brief and I would have liked more details, especially regarding the backstory with Logan and the flashbacks to how he died. But Preloved as a whole was a lot of fun. It's unique and quirky, but it also has a lot of heart. It's such a refreshing read; I'd definitely recommend it to anybody who is tired of the same tedious YA stories and characters that keep appearing. Basically, Preloved is totally radical, dudes!

Rating: 4/5

Eye Candy
Logan is named after Logan Bruno from The Baby-Sitters Club (as if I could love this book any more!), and I always pictured Logan as Zack Morris. So this Logan managed to look like him too. And at the risk of outing myself as a The Sleepover Club watcher (hey, I was young! It was a guilty pleasure! It was last year), I imagined Amy as looking like Hannah Wang.


Fine Print
Published: April 2012, Black Dog Books
Get It:  Bookworld

Saturday 27 October 2012

Bookish Buys: Halloween Puppehs

I was going to make this post about literary costumes in honour of Halloween, but then I thought - you know what would be more awesome/hilarious? DOGS IN COSTUMES. And here we are. The poor dogs - some of them look like they need a pint of dog beer after the trauma and humiliation of being forced to wear these things...

Harry Pawter from Gypsy Eyes Clothing
Thing One/Two from Little Dog Fashion
Frankendog from Paws Point
Queen of Hearts from Paws Point
Little Red Riding Hood from Down Under Dog Designs
Dracula from Down Under Dog Designs
Sherlock Holmes from Down Under Dog Designs
Snow White from The California Chi
Robin Hood from Dog in a Fez

Friday 26 October 2012

Friday Link Dump: Mad Hatters, Fairy Tales and Ryan Gosling

This real-life Mad Hatter's tea party looks crazy fun. Hats! Stilts! Masks! Facepaint! TEA!

The Real Housewives of Westeros. YES.

A possible Twilight TV series? NO!

This is what would happen if fairy tale characters lived now... and were 20-something. Hilarious.

This girl has some of the most amazing (if completely impractical) pop culture-inspired nail art I've ever seen. I can't even pick a fave, there are so many brilliant pieces here.

If you would like the illusion of horror movies destroyed, look at these behind-the-scenes pictures from iconic films. Most are hilarious but some are mind blowing - namely, Gizmo from Gremlins is actually a giant.

Ryan Gosling had swag even at age 12, wearing a denim shirt and pronouncing his words like "oot" and "aboot". 

That sound you hear is me drooling all over my keyboard thanks to these cake batter ice cream sandwiches.

YouTube Clip Of The Week
Every time I think Tom Hanks can't possibly get any more awesome - he does. 

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Review: Forgotten by Cat Patrick

I've been wanting to read Forgotten for awhile. The idea of a girl whose memory reset every night so that she had no recollection of the past, yet could see the future, sounded kinda like 50 First Dates awesome. If I had've read it a year ago I might have really liked it. A year ago, I was much less jaded and much more forgiving of things like, say, love triangles and insta-love. But now? Now these things are enough to make me not read a book at best, and throw it across the room at worst.

The good news is this book features no love triangles. The bad news is it features a helluva lot of insta-love. You see, London (our protagonist) meets a guy she has no future memory of, and falls in love with him on the spot. But because she can't see him in her future, she figures there's no point in wasting time, so she leaves him out of the notes she writes for herself every night so that she can "remember" the past. The next time she sees him it's like the first time for her - and bang! Insta-love again. Eventually she starts to write him into her notes, but that just makes things worse - it makes her all excited to see this guy she doesn't actually know (having zero memories of him), and then when she does KABOOM! Insta-love AGAIN. And again and again and again. And it's not just your run-of-the-mill "he's the one" insta-love, either. It's the lip-biting, breath-taking, swoon-worthy kind of insta-love, where she has to notice how gorgeous his eyes/jawline/hair/abs/toenails are every freaking time he appears on the page. It's all so tedious.

What I did like about Forgotten was the mystery. London "remembers" a funeral, and as she tries to figure out whose is it, her past begins to unravel and the real reason behind her memory issue comes to light. Too bad this mystery takes a back seat whenever her boyfriend is around. I'm parapharsing, but legit something along these lines happens in the book: "OMG someone I love is going to DIE! Oh hey Luke, you've got nice pecs, let's make out".

London's relationship with her friend Jamie also frustrated the hell out of me. London can see some terrible stuff in her bestie's future, but she does very little to try and stop it. I understand the idea that she doesn't want to interefere too much in others' lives, but for the most part it seemed like actually, she was just more interested in her own love life than anyone else.

Cat Patrick has a smooth writing style, but unfortunately Forgotten is full of plot holes and unbelievable twists. I know with any story - but especially one like this - you have to be able to suspend your disbelief, and I can do that to a certain extent, but it still has to be logical within the world that's built. There were a few things that I just couldn't swallow. I was really disappointed with Forgotten on the whole. I do still really love the cover, though (hey, I wanted to end on a positive note!).

Rating: 2.5/5

Spoilery Talking Points
  • How does nobody know about London's condition except her mum and her best friend? How does she even go to school - wouldn't she be better off home schooled? And as if her mum would've - or should have - let her go to summer camp when she was younger with a condition like hers! Little, illogical details like this drove me nuts.
  • One big illogical detail really made me mad, though - the whole "whoops, we buried the wrong body" thing with her little brother. No, just no. What kind of authorities would be like, "we found some bones, your son is missing, so it MUST be him, we don't have to run tests or anything, oh no." Right.
Eye Candy
I pictured Lily Collins as London and Sean Faris (circa Life As We Know It) as Luke. Coz they're pretty like the characters.

Fine Print
Published: 2011, Hardie Grant
Get It: Bookworld

Top Ten Books To Get In The Halloween Spirit

We don't really celebrate Halloween here in Australia, but man I wish we did. It seems like such an AWESOME holiday. Dressing up and eating junk food? That's like the best combination ever. Still, there's no reason why I can't get into the spirit at home by dressing up and eating lollies watching scary movies (or just Hocus Pocus), and reading some Halloween-worthy books...

1. Carrie by Stephen King. OK, I'm sure pretty much anything by Stephen King could go on this list. But having only read a few of his books, this one is probably my fave.

2. Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist. This books scared the bejeezus out of me. It features one of the most horrific villains I've ever come across. Just thinking about it sends shivers down my spine.

3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. The green-faced, bolt-necked monster is a Halloween staple (well, judging from movies and all), but the original book is one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking tales I've ever read.

4. Preloved by Shirley Marr. For those looking for a more light-hearted read, Preloved is a super fun book featuring a hot ghost from the 80s.

5. Drink Slay Love by Sarah Beth Durst. This one is another lighter, fun story, but I think it's Halloween-worthy purely for the fact that it features vampirse who actually like to feed on humans. Well, until a random unicorn is thrown into the mix, anyway... like I said, it's fun!

6. 1984 by George Orwell. Is there anything more terrifying than Orwell's interpretation of the future? Especially the ending... it still haunts me, years after I read it.

7. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Dorian trades his soul for eternal youth and beauty - which become the mask that disguises the horrors lurking within. Creeeepy.

8. The Children of Men by P. D. James. This is another novel that has stayed with me years after I finished reading it. It's a haunting tale of humanity gone wrong.

9. Pet Sematery by Stephen King. Another King, I know, but seriously - undead toddlers are the freakiest thing ever.

10. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. This makes the list purely for the creeptastic photos that appear throughout. It does start out pretty scary, but a third of the way in there is a massive shift in tone. I still loved the book, although it wasn't what I was expecting.

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

Monday 22 October 2012

Mag Monday: Cosmo and Frankie

Cosmopolitan, November 2012

  • I'm not a massive fan of Kim Kardashian, but I love this cover. Her face looks a bit weird but her body looks beautiful and I adore the swimsuit she's wearing. I also love the colour combination, it's fresh and fun. 
  • There's a timely, in-depth and sensitive feature on rape that reinforces the important truth that it's never the victim's fault, even though we as a society tend to lean that way. It also offers practical advice, underlining the importance of talking to someone - anyone - if you've been assualted - even if it's a helpline like 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).
  • Changing gears completely, it always astounds me when people are willing to go in a national magazine to talk about their sex lives. Seriously, who wants their parents or co-workers to see a photo of them next to a headline like "we have sex up to five times a day!" or "we love skype sex!" Talk about TMI.
  • 'What does $50 buy you around the world?' is a really interesting feature, and quite unique - I haven't seen it done before, which is always a plus. I was amazed that the Pill only costs $15 a year in Sweden (!), but strangely less surprised that you can buy an apple the size of a child's head in Japan for $26. Meanwhile, one cocktail costs $50 in Dubai - the same price of 10 months' worth of rice in China, or a goat in Africa that that can provide up to five litres of milk a day for a family. Kinda puts things into perspective, doesn't it?
  • 'The blended orgasm' has possibly the most off-putting sell ever: "They did it with smoothies, they've done it with soup... now they're doing it with orgasms." Anyhoo, the actual feature is about "The Holy Grail" of orgasms: a combined "C-spot" and "G-spot" climax. Moving on...
  • A great career feature about loving your work profiles author Jessica Shirvington (she says the key to getting published is finding the right agent - she had a three-book deal within two weeks of signing with her agent), designer Belinda Macphereson (she used a credit card to fund her start-up period - eek!) and entrepreneur Aimee Marls (founder of TOM Organic pads and tampons - she got the idea from a school project!).
  • The 'Cosmo clicks' mini-mag inside claims to be "your ultimate online edit". It's broken down into fashion sites, celeb Twitters, Cosmo staffer bookmarks, international blogs, travel sites, fitness sites and lol-worthy pages. I got excited when I saw this inside, because I obviously love the interwebz, and I especially love finding new stuff to waste my time with do online, but I was really disappointed with the execution. Most of the sites included were, like, so 2009. I'm talking Buzzfeed, Reddit, Someecards, Texts From Last Night, Cute Overload and I Can Haz Cheeseburger. This is like internet 101 for people who have never been past the Google homepage.
  • 'You'd never eat one of these would you?' (with pictures of chocolates, labelled as various STIs) is a clever execution of a feature about the risks of unsafe oral sex. A lot of teens (and, I'm guessing, adults) don't really consider the need for protection when it comes to oral, so it's good to see awareness being raised here.
  • There's plenty of pretty bikini candy in their swimmer special - broken down to the best cut for your shape.
  • Being totally obsessed with nail art at the moment (like the rest of the female population), I loved the beauty feature on different DIY trends.
  • Other features include 'Is it time to kill the hashtag?' (#never); 'Put the O in phone' (how your phone can help your sex life - no, it doesn't involve the vibration setting); 'There are more people addicted to love than to alcohol and drugs'; 'Find your happy place in a fortnight' and 'Kink is the new black' (obligatory 50 Shades-related feature).
  • Overall, this was a more enjoyable than average Cosmo for me, but it didn't blow me away.

Frankie, November/December 2012
  • This is my favourite magazine cover OF ALL TIME. The photo doesn't do it justice - it's embossed so it looks and feels like it's actually been hand-stitched. It's so pretty and tactile. The cover is to celebrate Frankie's 50th issue, and the magazine is mega-sized to boot. Love, love, love.
  • Now Frankie is a magazine I can always rely on to inform me of awesome new websites (especially those I can spend cashola on). Like Little Shop, Hello Polly, Able and Game and Hug Me Harry.
  • 'Hey boy, hey girl' is a short but interesting feature on Sweden's introduction of the gender-neutral pronoun "hen", and the pros and cons of the policy.
  • 'Goodbye, friend' is a personal essay about how friendship break-ups can be just as hard as relationship break-ups. I really connected with this piece coz I'm still kinda devo about a friendship that fell apart last year.
  • As someone with hoarderish tendencies, I also loved the feature 'Stuff does matter', specifically: "It's OK to love something just because it makes you feel good... on a very basic level we need very little, but on an emotional level we need things to enrich our life. We need things to make us feel good. We need stuff that gives us tactile experiences. We need things that are beautiful. Beauty is important in the world... You should think about how things are going to fit into your world and if they're going to make you happy. 'Do I need this?' isn't as good a question as, 'Am I going to enjoy having this?'" I could go on but then I'd be quoting pretty much the whole article. Instead, I'm just going to link to the writer, Megan Auman's blog. Eff yeah, stuff!
  • 'The science of crying' is a fascinating piece on what happens to your body and brain when you cry. It makes crying sound so awesome I feel like watching Beaches right now.
  • 'Misery chicks' is a delightful ode to the sarcastic '90s girls like Daria and Darlene (and the women who played them).
  • 'High-flying flunks' profiles famous people who failed before they succeeded - including Thomas Edison, Agatha Christie and Walt Disney. Interesting info and gorgeous illustrations.
  • 'You look relatively stylish' is a lovely pictorial in which five designers share photos of the style icons in their own families.
  • 'Let's make cake' is a really awesome section featuring six classic "almost-never-fail" cake recipes (with pretty pictures and all): sponge cake, chocolate cake, orange madeira, carrot cake, coffee banana cake and fruit cake.
  • 'The Meryl Streep fan club', accompanied by a breautiful illustration of the actress, immediately made me smile. I luuuurve Ms Streep, so I really enjoyed this list of her greatest hits. 
  • 'Young adult' highlights some classic YA books, which obviously aligns very well with my interests. Authors included are Robin Klein, S.E. Hinton, Judy Blume, Maya Angelou, Ruth Park and John Marsden (three out of six made up a big part of my tweendom).
  • 'Mamma's choice' hands the decision of the topic for the article over to Frankie's contributor's mothers, leading to Benjamin Law writing about his mum's perfume collection (which hilariously turns into a discussion of how smelly his family is), David Evans rather touchingly chronicling the lack of stylish clothing available for women over 50, Marieke Hardy giving some insight into her rather exposed relationship with her mum, and Rowena Grant-Frost's heartwarming account of her memories of the Australia she experienced as a child, made unique by the fact that, although born here, she mostly grew up in Germany. It's a really sweet feature all round.
  • I may have done an inner fist pump when I read 'The cheese platter', which features six steps to the perfect - you guessed it - cheese platter. I'm a bit obsessed with cheese lately so I found this advice very useful - although to be honest I'll probably break all the rules next time I need them. To hell with clockwise formations - just give me the cheese.
  • Other features include an interview with Beth Ditto, 'The relationship relic' (letting go of souvenirs from exes); 'Our little farm' (six people talk about life on the land); 'The pixel trade' (one man traveling around Australia for free by trading his photography services for food/shelter/transport); 'Sharpest tool in the box' (basic tools everyone needs); 'Pink walls and displaced identities' (a pictorial on Transcarpathia, a region in the west Ukraine); 'So you want to be gay' (one man's experience of coming out) and 'Draw your desk' (five artists, y'know, draw their desks).
  • This issue of Frankie left me feeling really happy. As much as I love magazines, this isn't a very common feeling when finishing many of them. So big props to Frankie for a wonderful 50th issue!

Sunday 21 October 2012

Review: Pale by Chris Wooding

In Pale, people have the ability to come back from the dead using a special formula known as the Lazarus Serum. Problem is, it turns you into a "Pale" - your skin, hair and eyes go white, and you're shunned by society to the point that you're driven to slums on the edge of the city, unable to get or keep a job. It's even difficult for the kids to attend school, because bullies like our protagonist Jed and his best friend beat them up if they try. Seriously - this is how the book opens. It's not a good way to make a character likeable or even sympathetic.

Jed, like his family and friends, hates Pales, and declares he'd rather be dead than become one. Dun dun dunnn. Before you can say "foreshadowing", he's in an accident and wakes up Pale. His precious girlfriend loved him so much she couldn't let him die... but she doesn't love him enough to stay with him as a Pale. Yep, Jed's world is turned upside down; his family and friends wish he was dead rather than this super white version of himself. Luckily, the boy he and his mate were beating up in the beginning doesn't hold a grudge, and takes him under his wing.

The concept for this novella is great, but it's just too short to develop it effectively. It's like the skeleton of a story, without any meat to give it life. The characters are flat and the plot is predictable. I also found the world-building to be lacking and unrealistic. For instance, Jed's father is a lawyer who specialises in repossessing Pales' property coz they're technically 'dead'. The thing is, the Lazarus Serum has been around for awhile, so wouldn't the government have done something by now to change the law to protect the Pales somehow? I mean, the serum is so prevalent that it's in the freaking first aid room at Jed's school, yet nobody has done anything to deal with the consequences of that serum? It's like society is all, "Yay! Down with death! Except we don't want to know about you if you come back from it." I can understand certain parts of society being bigoted against Pales, but everyone? It just doesn't make sense. Especially because those Pales were once family and friends and presumably somebody made the decision to use the serum on them. They can't all be like ridiculous Sadie, Jed's girlfriend, who rejects the product of her own decision. Seriously, no matter how much you hated something, if the choice is between having the love of your life, or your child, be that thing, or be dead, wouldn't you rather them be alive?

Anyway, I'm getting into ranty territory now, so I'll wrap this up. It suffices to say that I was left pretty unsatisfied with Pale. It was a quick read, but I didn't feel like I got anything from it other than frustration. The premise is great but the story itself isn't.

Rating: 2.5/5

Fine Print
Published: September 2012, Stoke Books
Source: Netgalley
Get It: Book Depository

Saturday 20 October 2012

Review: Carrie by Stephen King

Carrie is an iconic horror story that just about everybody knows the ending to. I think even before I saw the movie as a teenager, I knew what happened - that image of a blood-drenched Sissy Spacek framed against a wall of fire is so pervasive in pop culture it's hard to escape that knowledge. So it's to Stephen King's credit that, even for a reader armed with an awareness of exactly what's going to go down, Carrie remains a compelling, engaging and suspenseful page-turner.

A large part of this, I think, is due to the figure of Carrie herself. Although she is responsible (spoiler warning if you've been living under a rock) for the death of hundreds of people, she is no monster. She's not even a Frankenstein's monster - sympathetic, but a monster nonetheless. She's actually incredibly human; a real (albeit strangely gifted) person who has been pushed and pulled and ground down and hurt for her entire life. Abused at home and abused at school, Carrie has no escape, until Sue and Tommy offer her a lifeline. It's no wonder then that when that lifeline appears to her to actually be a trap, she snaps. It's a very human reaction. We've all known someone like Carrie - or felt like her at some point. Without, you know, the whole telekinesis thing.

Indeed, for me, one of the most horrific parts of the book was at the very beginning, in the infamous shower scene. Carrie is the victim here, and the screaming, screeching girls around her are terrifying - but not because they are monsters. They are human too, having a very visceral reaction to Carrie's menarche. While sympathising with Carrie, the reader - like the teacher in the scene - is also disturbed by her. We recognise that the girls are being horrible, but again, like the teacher, we can understand their reaction. And that is what makes it so frightening - it reflects the monsters that are within us all, providing a critique of our discomfort with female sexuality as a society.

It's significant that it's Carrie's period that unlocks her telekinectic abilities. It gives her power and the ability to finally stand up for herself. King is careful to maintain sympathy with Carrie through to the very end. Even in the midst of her rampage, we have Sue, who has more right than anyone to be horrified by Carrie, reminding us that she was just a girl - an innocent girl, even, who was mistreated by the whole community in some way or another. There is a definite sense that prom night is a fateful evening - that the people of the town signed their own death warrants by their nasty actions. Even while you recoil in horror at the gruesome events on the page, there's an undercurrent of vindication. After a lifetime of being forgotten at best and attacked at worst, Carrie's name is literally on everyone's minds. She will no longer be ignored. It's the ultimate revenge against a society that seeks to control and repress female power.

Rating: 4/5

Spoilery Talking Points
  • There's one part of Carrie that still kinda has me puzzled. Sue, worried that she may be pregnant, connects with Carrie in her final moments. Immediately after, she starts bleeding. It was unclear to me whether she had a miscarriage or just finally got her period. Was Carrie enacting a final attempt at destruction, or salvation? Was she hurting Sue or helping her? I started thinking about the connection between Carrie's period at the beginning and Sue's bleeding at the end. I thought perhaps it was significant that Sue has finally experienced how Carrie felt the whole time - she sees into her mind, and then she bleeds. Sue is left, the sole survivor, to carry on. Was Carrie passing her the "torch"? I guess it's open to interpretation. I still haven't decided myself. 
  • The one death I was really sad about was Tommy's. I thought he was a great character, and really likable. Interestingly, he died not at Carrie's hands but at Chris and Billy's. Poor Tommy. Poor Carrie!

Friday 19 October 2012

Friday Link Dump: Game of Thrones Art, Literary Foods and Awkward Moments

This typographical Game of Thrones fan art is pretty awesomesauce. Speaking of Game of Thrones... can season three come out already?! I need me some Jon Snow action.

I don't know about you, but whenever I watch or read about a character eating something, it totally makes me want to eat it too (what, just me?). Luckily Quirk Books has compiled a list of some literary foods you can try in real life. I might steer clear of the green eggs and ham though...

I was addicted to Goosebumps as a kid. These days, I'm addicted to TV shows like Dexter, The Walking Dead and American Horror Story. The fact that this post combines those two addictions (in an incredibly clever way) makes me way happier than it should.

So I didn't realise that the dorky guy from NCIS is THACKERY BINX from Hocus Pocus and now I know and my mind is blown. Also, Hocus Pocus is the best movie of all time a great movie.

Watching Law and Order can sometimes feel like playing Where's Wally? with celebrities. Check out this super-cut for just some of the surprise cameos.

I love me some Gossip Girl fashion, so I found this post about the iconic style moments of the show by the Fug Girls super fun. This is the reason I tried to wear headbands for like three weeks in 2008. It was a painful time.

On a more sombre note, this gallery of photos from a psychiatric hospital in the 1930s is quite chilling and heartbreaking. It looks like something straight out of a horror movie.

Back to bright things, I dare you to look through this gallery of the the best wildlife photos of the year and not say, "woah!".

Awkward situations are always funny when they're happening to other people (or, er, animals).

Rose and violet flavoured fairy floss? Yes, please.

Thursday 18 October 2012

Bookish Buys: Out Of Print Clothing

I'm kind of in love with all of the products at Out of Print. They use iconic book covers to make really cool tees and stationery. PLUS for every product purchased, they donate a book to a community in need through their partnership with Books for Africa. Amazing! These are some of my fave items (a.k.a. WANTS!):

Pride and Prejudice journal

The Great Gatsby fleece

Jane Eyre tee

Animal Farm tote

Moby Dick journal

Literary coasters

Ebook covers (not available yet)

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Top Ten Contemporary YA Authors

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is a toughie for me because I'm not a big genre reader, but I have been gravitating towards contemporary YA a lot lately so I thought I'd list some of the awesome authors I've come across...

Sure, it may look completely random and irrelevant, but contemporary YA makes me happy and so does this gif. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

1. Stephanie Perkins. Anna and the French Kiss completely blew me away, and although I didn't enjoy Lola and the Boy Next Door quite as much, it was still great. I can't wait for Perkins' next novel, Isla and the Happily Ever After, to come out.

2. Melina Marchetta. One of my favourite authors of all time. I love the way Marchetta captures authentic emotions and experiences and creates such wonderful, well-rounded and realistic characters. All of her contemporary fiction is fantastic, but On the Jellicoe Road is probably my favourite.

3. Ann Brashares. I've mentioned before that it was The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants series that introduced me to YA and made me rethink my previous (judgmental) stance on it. It was such a fun and touching read. I've been meaning to reread the series for awhile, especially with the last installment that's come out, but I've heard some spoilers so I'm kinda scared.

4. Gayle Forman. If I Stay is kinda supernatural, but its sequel, Where She Went is more contemporary. I adored both books and their characters, but I especially appreciated Adam's point of view in Where She Went.

5. Libba Bray. I have a ridiculous amount of love for Beauty Queens. I thought it was clever, hilarious and so much fun. I've wanted to read more of Bray's books every since I read it, but sadly for me I haven't gotten around to it yet.

6. Morgan Matson. I loved Amy and Roger's Epic Detour; the characters were likable and the story was so much fun, while still maintaining some serious aspects. It made me totally want to take a road trip around the US and eat lots of hamburgers. Second Chance Summer was also a great read, and utterly heartbreaking.

7. Simone Elkeles. I wasn't sure whether I should put Simone on the list given the recent hullabaloo around the way she responded to one of her reviews, but the truth is I absolutely loved her Perfect Chemistry series so she deserves a spot here. Sure, it's totally cheesy and predictable, but it's also completely addictive and fun.

8. Judy Blume. 'Nuff said.

OK, I'm out. Unfortunately I haven't read enough contemporary YA to have a complete top ten (though it's probably the genre I've read the most!). Because I'm kinda OCD and can't have an incomplete list, here are two contemporary YA authors I want to read.

1. John Green. I know. I haven't read any John Green. Yes, I'm hanging my head in shame.

2. Sarah Dessen. Now my whole body is hanging in shame.

Who are your favourite contemporary YA authors?

Sunday 14 October 2012

Note-Worthy: The Silvey Experience

Warning: Excessive and incoherent fangirling ahead.

You guys, you guys. You guys. This week I met Craig Silvey. The person who created one of my favourite books of the year - nay, of all time.

When the lovely Eleanor Rigby alerted me to the fact that Craig Silvey would be in Sydney promoting his new novella The Amber Amulet this week, I literally squeeed out loud (squee-ed? Squeed? Whatever, there was lots of squee). The Husband looked at me as if to say, "What is it now?" and when I explained between gasps and squees that Craig Mother Effing Silvey was going to be in our city in a matter of days, he raised his eyebrows and nodded as if to say, "You're kinda cray but I kinda understand". He loved Jasper Jones too so he was keen to come along, although not quite as excited as me.

We got to Shearers Bookshop a little early and decided to grab a light dinner at the cafe there before The Silvey Show was due to start at 7pm. It was about 6.30pm and I was minding my own business, munching down on my ham and cheese croissant as The Husband talked to me about something - I can't for the life of me remember what it was now - when over his shoulder I spotted none other than the Jasper Jones author himself. He was chatting casually to the owners of the bookshop. I think I must have cracked some sort of goofy smile because The Husband asked, "what's so funny?" I tried to communicate to him, while keeping my squees on the inside, that ZOMG CRAIG SILVEY IS LIKE TWO METRES AWAY RIGHT NOW BUT DON'T TURN AROUND IT WILL BE TOO OBVIOUS AND ZOMG IS THIS REAL LIFE... The Husband turned around, not very subtly, and took in the sight. His conclusion? "Hey, he's wearing pretty much the same outfit as me." Yes dear, he is. I already noticed that. I love you a little bit more now.

Anyhoo... I was debating whether to choke down the rest of my croissant and ambush the poor author, or go hide in a corner to avoid embarrassing myself, when he and his entourage slipped away upstairs (spoiler: it would have been the latter option). So I finished my meal with dignity before buying a copy of the gorgeous little The Amber Amulet. We then grabbed our seats to wait for the official arrival of The Silvemeister (as I have decided to call him, coz I'm presumptuous like that). He finally appeared on the mezzanine above us, which formed a nice "pulpit", as Silvey commented. To start things off, he did a reading from The Amber Amulet, which was brilliant, and then he discussed where he got the inspiration for the novella from. It was fascinating to get insight into the way his mind worked and the process through which his idea developed;  especially how he could get the story of a little boy who roams his neighbourhood as The Masked Avenger from thinking about carbon and oxygen and diamonds and physicists. It sounds random, but when Silvey explained it, it made complete sense. Basically, it's about how we're all connected - quite literally, we're all made of the same stuff. Stardust, to be exact - in reference to Lawrence Krauss. It wasn't just the ideas he was discussing that were interesting though, it was the way Silvey put them; he has a completely engaging manner and a wonderful way with words. It gave me goosebumps.

After he had finished the audience was given the chance to ask questions. I was too chicken to ask any, but one man asked if Silvey had had a good teacher that inspired him to read and write, to which he answered no, his English teachers were pretty crap, but there was a local writer who became a mentor to him after he sent him his first ("terrible" - as if!) manuscript. He said he was always a big reader because, growing up in the country, there wasn't a lot to do or see, so reading was his way of accessing other places and adventures, from the safety of his home, of course - important, he says, because he was a big coward (so nothing like The Masked Avenger, he reckons). He said he didn't have much guidance in terms of what he read - he pretty much read anything and everything, though this caused a slight problem when he was scandalised upon reading A Clockwork Orange at the age of 12 - he'd been enticed by its bright cover.

Silvey also mentioned that The Amber Amulet was meant to be a short story, but he kept writing and it turned into a novella. He said in terms of word limits, every story should be "as long as it needs to be" and he doesn't like to aim for a particular number or limit himself. Someone asked about Jasper Jones, and Silvey said he still couldn't quite get his head around its success. When Jeffrey Wu was mentioned the audience breathed a collective sigh of appreciation - it seems he's a fan favourite, as well as an author favourite. Silvey explained that, when writing the cricket scene, it was one of the only times his affection for a character has changed the story. Initially, the scene was meant to end very differently for Jeffrey, but Silvey said, "I just couldn't do it to the little guy." Judging from the audience's reaction, I'm not the only one who appreciated the triumphant ending of the scene. It's one of my favourite parts of the book.

One lady asked, quite rudely I thought, whether Jasper Jones was "as easy to write as it was to read" and whether Silvey would write something that good again. Silvey laughed and said he's glad it reads that way, and that he hoped The Amber Amulet had the same effect. To which the woman called out, "but it's too short!" I cast her a sideways bitchface for daring to question the greatness of The Silvemeister; he, meanwhile, didn't seem to know what to say. The lady then confessed she hadn't even read The Amber Amulet, and he basically said she should and that he hoped it had the same feel and heart as Jasper Jones.

On that note, it was time to line up to get our books signed. I held my brand new copy of The Amber Amulet and gave The Husband our copy of Jasper Jones to get signed. We were third in line and I totally wasn't prepared. I handed The Silvemeister my book and, my mouth completely dry, squeaked out "great speech!" He thanked me and said he was relieved because he wasn't sure anybody else would find it interesting, to which I responded with something dazzlingly articulate like, "Oh, no, it was real good." He looked at me questioningly and I realised I hadn't told him my name. I did, and then, feeling like a total dork, I spluttered out a request for a photo. He said, "of course" and I thrust my phone into The Husband's hand and jumped around the table to Silvey's side. The Husband explained that he was, in fact, my husband, and not a random stranger I'd handed my phone over to without so much as a "would you mind?". After he took the photo, he handed over our copy of Jasper Jones and told Silvey to make it out in my name too, coz I'm not a crazy fangirl at all. I awkwardly suggested he address it to both of us because we'd both read the book on our honeymoon. Silvey laughed and said, "I'm glad I could be there", and my heart just about stopped. Nearly a week later, it's slowly returning to its normal rhythm...

Saturday 13 October 2012

Review: The Boy Who Made It Rain By Brian Conaghan

The Boy Who Made It Rain begins in the aftermath of an unspecified tragedy at a school in Glasgow. As a number of students and teachers recount the events that led up to the incident, one student is revealed to be at the centre of the action: Clem, a transfer student from the South of England. He remains a mysterious and somewhat menacing figure as we get differing interpretations of his character from the people who know him.

The initial narrators include Clem's girlfriend, her best friend, her mum, a teacher from Clem's previous school, a teacher from his new school, and one of the popular guys. It's not often that a book contains so many varying perspectives, and it's even less often that it's done well - but I was really impressed with the way each character had a distinct voice in The Boy Who Made It Rain. It was also interesting to note their differing interpretations of events, indicating that each was an unreliable narrator. Much of the first half of the novel has you trying to figure out who is right, who is lying, who was involved - not to mention what exactly happened.

Conaghan switches gears at the halfway mark, and after hearing nothing from Clem for over a hundred pages (except distilled through the others' interpretations), the rest of the book is narrated solely by him. We finally get his side of the story, as well as some exact descriptions of events as we begin to piece together what actually happened. While the writing remained strong, I have to say this is where the book started to go downhill for me.

I really didn't like Clem as a character and found it difficult to sympathise with him. I was also frustrated that the subplot that had taken up a large portion of the narration in the first half of the book - and appeared to be significant - basically went nowhere. It seemed to have no connection to the main plot, which, when it finally reached its climax, was also a bit of a let down. It sounds terrible, but I felt like after 200-odd pages of build up to what seemed to be a monumental tragedy, what happened wasn't actually that bad. I mean, it was bad, but it wasn't anywhere near as bad as I'd been anticipating. It didn't help that the description of the incident was very vague and somewhat confusing; I found it difficult to picture what exactly was going on. I think this was done purposely, to convey the confusion of the moment, but again after so much build up I was frustrated by the lack of clarity. Don't get me wrong, it's not like I wanted gory detail - but a bit more coherance, or at least an epilogue explaining everything, would have been great. Because that was the most frustrating part of all - it just ended. Of course, it's not the kind of story where everything should be tied up in a neat bow, but any kind of knot would have been good. As it is, there are a few too many loose threads for my liking. Still, I really liked the book overall and would recommend it to anyone looking for a quick and unique read.

Rating: 3.5/5

Fine Print
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Published: 2011, Sparkling Books
Source: Netgalley
Get It: Abebooks

Friday 12 October 2012

Friday Link Dump: Books About Books, Baby Animals and Judy Blume

Love books about books? Check out Flavorwire's recs.

Attention speshul snowflakes who can't handle a less than three star review: even the best get burned.

Want to know how to delight J.K. Rowling in a review and which book she keeps in her bathroom "for a giggle"? Read this awesome interview.

This bibliography-off between Judy Blume and Patton Oswalt is the reason why Twitter was invented. Or should be.

I tend to steer clear of politics on here but man, Julia Gillard's impassioned speech about Tony Abbott's misogyny earlier in the week gave me goosebumps.

You know what's more adorable than baby animals? Baby animals having baths.

As if you need more proof Tom Hanks is awesome... here it is anyway.

Speaking of awesome, John Cusack held a boom box on stage at a Peter Gabriel concert. And it was beautiful.

This is the best dog video in the history of the internet.

YouTube Clip of the Week
Who knew solving a Rubik's Cube could be so, well, hot?!