Thursday, August 11, 2016

I aten't dead

So I have a folder in my Feedly that titled "Possibly Dead". It's where I put all the blogs that I love reading and don't want to unsubscribe from, but which haven't been updated in over six months. And it's not that I assume the blogger may have died, because that would be creepy and wrong. No, I just assume their blog is dead.

I never used to understand how people could just stop blogging, particularly when they were bloggers who posted really regularly. Because blogging was such a huge part of my life and their lives and it seemed weird that they'd suddenly just...give it up.

And then I basically became one of those people.

I currently have 314 unread posts in my Feedly. And I haven't blogged in months (except on Snark Squad...). The main reason I stopped blogging is that I didn't have anything to say. Which is weird, because I've changed jobs and gone to VidCon and spent three weeks in the US hanging out with a lot of wonderful internet friends and become completely obsessed with Seattle and also Little Miss A is reading Harry Potter(!!!!!!!) and my YouTube channel has like 1,650 subscribers, which is at least 1,400 more subscribers than I ever had here.

I have half a dozen Classics Club books that need to be reviewed, and any number of other things that I could talk about.

And yet.

Admittedly, the main reason why I've been putting off reviewing the Classics Club books is that this is my 1,000th post. And I felt like it needed some kind of recognition. But it felt kind of weird to be celebrating 1,000 posts when my blog is basically on life support.

But finally, I'm doing the thing. Celebrating - albeit in a small way - the achievement. Flexing my typing muscles again.

I aten't dead, friends (yes, that's a Terry Pratchett reference). Blogging may not be a regular thing for me any more, but I *will* do my best to avoid ending up in your Possibly Dead folder.

K xx

Monday, May 16, 2016

Eurovision 2016 wrap up

My poor little blog has been dying a sad and pathetic death over the past six months or so. Early last year, I was averaging a couple of posts each week. Now, I'm lucky to hit two posts a month. For the most part, it's because I haven't had a lot to say. But it's also partly because I've been spending way more time and energy on the Youtube side of things, which leaves very little time for, you know, using my words.

Still, after recapping the past four years, I couldn't let the Eurovision song contest slip by unnoticed. I've been horribly sick all weekend, and so didn't have the energy to do a full recap. So instead I present to you my 2016 Eurovision prizes.

On the whole, I thought this year was pretty disappointing. It was like everyone realised that with the US and China watching for the first time, and Australia for reals competing, they had to tone down the crazy and actually seem serious. There was a truly shocking number of ballads, and while some of the costumes were utterly cracked out, it was more...Beyonce than Lady Gaga. Which, frankly, was a major let down.

Still, there were a few highlights, so let's talk about those.


She's like a tiny human disco ball of energy, with diverse back up singers, fun dance moves, and a decent tune.


Not only was it one hell of an outfit on its own, but it included an on-stage costume change. And you guys know how I feel about an on-stage costume change.


This one was a little tough, but I had to give it to this year's Eurovision champion. I wasn't a huge fan of her song - though it's a very important song and I totally understand why it won - but the projections that accompanied her song were stunning.


When this started out, I was all "Blah blah, you're just copying last year's winner". But then he took it to the next level, and I was gobsmacked.


It's a headdress made out of nearly 80 bobby pins. I mean, it looks pretty amazing. But WHY.


Dear God, Germany, we need to talk about cultural appropriation. I'm sure she's lovely but this outfit had nothing to do with her song and was just a bigass distraction.


Holy hell, girl. I'm STILL astonished you didn't have a nip slip on stage.

HEY, DON'T I KNOW YOU: Lithuania

It took me a while because he now looks like a llama, but Donny competed in 2012. It's always nice to have repeat performers.


She was literally on fire. No amount of fireworks or fire-curtain-things can compete with a smoking bodice.


I actually really liked our song, but there's a chunk in the middle there where it looks like Dami's been borrowing tech from The Avengers, and I still don't understand it.


The dude in the crop top armour/football gear had basically escaped from Rocky Horror, and it was HILARIOUS.

JUST POPPED BY ON MY WAY TO SOMEWHERE ELSE: This one was a three way tie.

Armenia looks like she's about to compete in a rhythmic gymnastics competition.

Poland looks like he's on his way to defend the barricade.

And Israel? Yeah, I'm pretty sure he's on his way to a Fall Out Boy concert.


I actually really liked this one. But it's definitely not Eurovision-y. It's Nashville-y.

BEST MOMENT OF THE COMPETITION: Mans taking the piss out of Belarus and his singing-naked-with-wolves routine by appearing on stage like this:

BEST SONG: Love Love, Peace Peace.

Look, I know it was the taking-the-piss song that they did at interval as a joke. But this was definitely the catchiest song of the entire event, and I liked it a hell of a lot better than anything that was competing this year.

So. There you have it. On the whole, I thought this year was pretty disappointing, and I'm glad I didn't bother getting up at 5am to watch it live.

Did you watch Eurovision this year? What did you think??

K xx

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 is part of the classic dystopian triangle, along with Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four. It was the last of the three to be published, and the last of the three that I read. And I don't QUITE know how to feel about it.

It's the story of Guy Montag, who's a fireman. Except that in this weird, dystopian world, firemen don't come to save you from a fire. No, they come to burn down your house with you inside it. Why? Because you happen to own books. Why burn people who own books? Because books cause unhappiness and conflict in society, and they encourage people to think for themselves.

Except then Guy gets his hands on a book for the first time, and it changes his entire life.

I think my problems with this book was twofold:

1. I reads its 200-odd pages over the course of nine days, rather than reading it in one solid sitting. So from one day to the next, I'd forget a lot of the details of what I'd read and have to decide between backtracking to find out the details or press on regardless and have a few moments of confusion; and

2. It's the kind of book that's great to study in high school, where you have an English teacher pointing out all the symbolism and meaning and major turning points. And because I didn't have that, I finished the book feeling like I was missing something, missing what it is about this book that makes people love it so much.

The ending was pretty action-packed, but the middle was a little...draggy for me. So while I liked it, I'm not entirely sure I understood it. Because sometimes my brain doesn't deal so well with stories that have a lot of layers to them. And this was a prime example of that - the problem here was definitely me and not the book.

Have you read it? What did you think??

K xx

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoevsky

I knew literally nothing about this book when I added it to my Classics Club list. All I knew was that I wanted to read more Russian literature, and that seeing as I've read Tolstoy and Chekov in the past, Dostoevsky seemed like the next logical step.

I had pretty high hopes for this when the back of the copy I borrowed from work described it as something along the lines of "the most accessible novel of all time". It...was not. I should really know by now that the word of academics on the back of Penguin Classics is to be taken with a hefty dose of salt. But no.

This book is the story of Raskolnikov, an indebted student who comes up with a theory that extraordinary people should be outside the law because they add value to society. In order to prove his theory - and counter his money issues - he decides to kill his pawnbroker. Except when he goes to kill her, he finds that her disabled and well loved sister is there too. So he kills her as well. The rest of the book is basically documenting his spiraling guilt and how this changes him.

I really loved the first fifty to one hundred pages of this book. It was tense and a little disturbing, and I was totally on board with it. And I loved the last hundred or so pages, where Raskolnikov's guilt finally drives him to breaking point.

But the 400-odd pages in between? Yeah, that was a little rough. It was slow and - as with my experience of reading Tolstoy - full of lengthy side plots involving characters I didn't really care about. Everyone seemed to have five hundred different names and nicknames, and I struggled - especially when I was only reading 25 or so pages a night - to keep all the characters straight in my head.

So overall, this came out at middle of the road territory for me. I'm glad I read it, and I can see why so many people rave about this book. But I definitely wouldn't describe it as "accessible".

Have you read it? What did you think?

K xx

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde's only novel is a deliciously creepy one, full of the dangers of extreme vanity and always seeking out the beauty in life. My first exposure to this book was approximately a thousand years ago when my little brother's Year 6 teacher(!!!) made it assigned reading for their class. Which, WHAT?!?! Obviously, he couldn't get through it himself, so Mum read it aloud to him and I picked up bits of the story from that.

But I digress.

This is the story of Dorian Gray, a beautiful young man. His friend, Basil Hallward, paints Dorian's portrait and rapidly becomes obsessed with his subject, seeking to spend time with him at every opportunity. But once Dorian meets Basil's popular and somewhat foppish friend, Lord Henry Wolton, who believes that life should be spent pursuing beauty and enjoyment, he becomes equally infatuated and has little time for Basil.

In a moment of weakness, Dorian gives up his soul so that his portrait will grow old and ugly while he remains young and beautiful. What follows is nothing short of scandalous, both for the time of publication and today.

At the beginning of the book, Dorian is basically a blank canvas, easily influenced by those around him. It's his infatuation with Lord Henry's attitudes that ultimately leads him to give away his soul. As time passes and the loss of his soul has more and more of an impact, he becomes a deliciously evil and cold character, almost sociopathic despite having the face of an angel.

It's a book that's full of Wilde's typically beautiful writing, a hefty dose of homoeroticism, and some truly incredible characters. It's not one that I'll read regularly, but it IS one that I'll come back to over the years because it's such an astonishing piece of fiction.

Have you read it? What did you think??

K xx

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez


I'm going to be honest, friends: this book was MAJOR struggle bus territory for me. M.A.J.O.R. And really, I should have known that going in. Not long after I first published my Classics Club list, a friend emailed me to warn me about this book, and to emphasise the need to read it in physical form so that you could easily flip to the family tree five million times while reading. And hooooooooo boy, was he right.

This book tells the story of one family living in a small town in rural South America over several generations and one hundred years. It's part epic history, part magical realism, and it's a story told completely without dialogue.

It took me a while to wrap my head around the fact that one minute, it felt like historical fiction and the next, there'd be a plague of insomnia and no one in town would sleep for years, or a character would come back from the dead, or it would rain non-stop for months and yet nothing would flood, or a character would suddenly get blown away with the wind while pegging out the washing. In short, it was bizarre.

But ultimately, the magical realism elements were the least of my problems with this book. The lack of dialogue made it a very slow read for me. And that family tree moved completely invaluable, because every generation of characters has THE EXACT SAME NAMES as the generation before it, and it's impossible to keep track of the characters. Especially when one of the Aurelianos ends up having seventeen sons with seventeen different women, and ALL SEVENTEEN OF THEM are named Aureliano. Seriously.

Add in the fact that it features grown men falling in love with pre-teen girls and waiting for them to reach puberty before insisting on marriage, and aunts ending up in sexual relationships with their nephews, and it really wasn't an easy book to read. Or an enjoyable book a lot of the time.

There's essentially no plot a lot of the time - it's just a long rambling history. And while the writing was often beautiful - and don't get me wrong, there really were some BEAUTIFUL moments - there just wasn't sufficient payoff for me to find this book anything but a struggle.

Have you read it? What did you think??

K xx

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Agnes Grey - Anne Bronte

Agnes Grey, written by Anne, the most overlooked Bronte sister, tells the story of a young woman who decides to become a governess after her father speculates and loses all their money. She works first for a horrible family with horrible children, then for a family with teenage daughters more in need of a companion than a governess. And then she falls in love, because of course she does.

In a lot of ways, this book feels a hell of a lot like Jane Eyre Light. Agnes isn't as passionate or compelling a character as Jane is, and there are - thankfully - far fewer mentally ill wives hidden in the attic. But Agnes is still quiet and loyal to those she loves, exactly like Jane.

It's quite a short book, and at times the story falls flat simply because it IS so short. Certain scenes could easily have been expanded upon to truly bring life to the characters. The writing, while it lacks Charlotte's turn of phrase and Emily's dark passion, is compelling in its own way. And despite being Jane Eyre Light, I found myself invested in Agnes' story and wanted her to get a happy ending.

So despite the inevitable comparisons to its more well known cousin, Agnes Grey is definitely worth the read, if only to the experience of reading all three Bronte sisters.

Have you read it? What did you think??

K xx

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Diary of Anne Frank - Anne Frank

I first read this book, as so many of us did, in my early teens. And at the time, I don't think I really appreciated just how significant a document it actually is. So I'm incredibly glad that I chose to reread this book as part of my Classics Club project.

It's always hard to review published diaries, because no matter how well-known they are, the fact remains: the author never intended them to be read by anyone other than themselves. Diaries are a place to dump the emotions you can't discuss with anyone, the thoughts you need to just get out so they're no longer floating around in your brain. Especially when you're a 14 year old girl.

So you'll find hundreds of reviewers out there complaining about how whiny and annoying this book is. Which, in some ways, I understand. Anne's a 14 year old girl. And to some extent, ALL 14 year old girls are whiny and annoying.

But I'd like to see any of those reviewers trapped in a tiny apartment with seven other people for YEARS, constantly fearing for your life, not knowing whether you'd be caught or blown up in an air raid, or starve to death if something happened to the people who were protecting you. I'd like to see those people go through what Anne Frank went through, and still retain the amount of optimism that flows through her writing. Because it really is astonishing.

It's not always an easy book to read. But it is a hugely significant one, capturing not only what life was like for Jewish people in Holland during the early stages of the war, and just how quickly things changed, but in capturing very clearly what life was like for one small group in hiding, and the lengths that people were willing to go to in order to keep them safe.

So yes, Anne was an occasionally whiny and annoying 14 year old girl. But considering that she was a 14 year old girl writing a diary? Her writing was often poignant and astonishing, and this book should remain a must read for everyone.

Have you read it? What did you think??

K xx

Monday, January 4, 2016

Lysistrata and Other Plays - Aristophanes

I first heard of Aristophanes at some point in high school, while studying something cheerful like Antigone or Medea during VCE. And in comparison, Greek comedy sounded like a hell of a lot of fun, which is why I figured I may as well add some to my Classics Club list, especially after hearing Lysistrata referred to as essentially a feminist story.

This collection started with The Achanians, which is essentially arguing for peace during a long war with Sparta. Next came The Clouds, which basically takes the piss out of the Greek philosophers. And finally, I came to Lysistrata, which features the women of the various Greek city states deciding that the quickest way to end a war is to withhold sex.

Of the three, I think The Achanians may have been my favourite. All three featured a hell of a lot of dick jokes, but The Achanians also involved a lot of poking fun at the other city states, which was still pretty damned funny thousands of years later. That said, Lysistrata is definitely a rare classic in that it's very female dominated and revolves around women having agency over their bodies, so it was definitely a pretty great read as well.

I had a few issues with the translation in this one. Obviously, a lot of the humour wouldn't translate well to modern English - thankfully, Penguin always provide plenty of footnotes on that front! - but Alan H. Sommerstein made the decision to make the Spartans have stereotypical Scottish accents and mannerisms, and the Corinthians have stereotypical Irish accents and mannerisms. Which DID work moderately well - it gave a sense of how the Athenians felt about each of their neighbouring city states. But at the same time, it was totally bizarre to have characters with Scottish accents talking about Zeus and Athena and Poseidon.

On the whole, this collection was funnier than I was anticipating - I thought it would be more like Shakespeare's comedies, where they're hilarious in person but on the page, they tend to be pretty dry, so I was pleasantly surprised to find myself laughing out loud while reading it, and I'm definitely glad I put it on my Classics Club list!

Have you read it? What did you think??

K xx

Friday, December 11, 2015

Lady Audley's Secret - Mary Elizabeth Braddon


I first read this book back in my undergraduate days. I went through a big Wilkie Collins phase after studying The Woman in White for first year English, and so I took to loitering around the 823.8 section of the university library to see what else I could dig up of a similar ilk. Obviously, Braddon and Collins weren't far apart on the shelves. Plus, one of the Wilkie Collins books I read included an "if you like this, try _____" section at the back. This was one of the books listed.

I remember at the time thinking that it didn't really compare to Collins' writing, and I was probably right. Mary Elizabeth Braddon isn't QUITE in the same class as Wilkie Collins. But despite being the lesser writer of the two, she still manages to spin one HELL of a story.

Lady Audley's Secret revolves around Robert Audley, a young barrister. Accompanied by his friend George, he pays a visit to his uncle, who's recently married a much younger woman. When George disappears mysteriously shortly thereafter - with a trail of clues leading to suggest that he may have returned to the Australian goldfields - Robert gets it into his head that his new aunt is involved.

So he takes it upon himself to start investigating Lady Audley's past. He rapidly discovers that things don't entirely add up, especially when he takes into consideration the circumstances of George's disappearance and the fact that George left without leaving any plans in place for his young son. As the story progresses, Robert finds himself in an increasingly dangerous quest for the truth.

I really enjoyed this book. It was definitely a page turner as far as I was concerned, full of great characters and exciting adventures. Sure, Lady Audley's secret turns out to be a little bit of an anticlimax. But Lady Audley herself is a fabulous and incredibly conniving character, who'd probably be classified as a sociopath in the modern world. And I honestly can't work out if I think her fate was well deserved or not.

On the whole, it was a very enjoyable and occasionally creepy mystery, and I'd definitely recommend checking it out, especially if you like Wilkie Collins' writing.

Have you read it? What did you think??

K xx

Saturday, December 5, 2015

November reading wrap up

Another month in which I continue to be terrible at blogging. I'll remember how it works one of these days, you guys. Hopefully...

In the meantime, let's wrap up my reading month!

Books read: 35. It's beyond ridiculous.
New vs rereads: 18 vs 17. HURRAH. Although this was mostly the product of a decision to spend the last 6ish weeks of the year rereading my favourite books rather than rereading things I'm only half interested in because I feel like I have to.
Most read genre: This one was the product of much work, but it's not contemporary!! It is, in fact, a tie between sci-fi and fantasy.

Favourite book: As far as rereads are concerned? Persuasion by Jane Austen, because it's my favourite book of ever. If we're talking new books? I suspect The Martian by Andy Weir has taken out my favourite pick.
Least favourite book: Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich. Totally unnecessary Christmas special-y novella that suddenly added a bunch of paranormal elements to an existing world with zero explanation.
Favourite cover: OH GOD SO MANY TO CHOOSE FROM. I'm going to make it a three way tie between the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling, Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray, and Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas.

Diverse Books Project: It's...going. I've been making a concerned effort to pick books from outside the western world, especially the US, UK and Australia. But it's proving difficult to find (read: physically get hold of, not discover) books that are set in Africa, Asia, and South America that AREN'T literary fiction. And where time limits are involved, literary fiction isn't usually my friend...

In November, I ended up reading 2 graphic novels, 2 non-fiction books and 31 novels. There are links to all of my Goodreads reviews below.

5 stars

Persuasion | Soulless | Every Breath | Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone | Gone Girl |

4.5 stars
Cress (Lunar Chronicles, #3)Manners & Mutiny (Finishing School Series Book 4)
Cress | Manners & Mutiny | Ten Thousand Skies Above You | Winter | Attachments | Sabriel | The Martian |

4 stars
NimonaBrave New World Career of EvilBecause You'll Never Meet Me
Nimona | Brave New World | Career of Evil | Because You'll Never Meet Me | Trafalgar | The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf | Lady Audley's Secret | A Breath of Frost | I Kill Giants | Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets |

3.5 stars
Pyramids (Discworld, #7)
Pyramids | Monument 14 | Uprooted | The Flywheel |

3 stars
Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse, #9)21 PromsPreloved
Dead and Gone | 21 Proms | Preloved | Shadow of the War Machine | Swahili for the Broken Hearted | Sky on Fire |

2 stars
Visions of Sugar Plums (Stephanie Plum, #8.5)
Visions of Sugar Plums | The Ice Limit | End of Days |

What did you read in November?

K xx

Monday, November 30, 2015

Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

This book was part of a very long list of suggested reading that my English teacher handed out when I was in Year 10. Obviously, given that "dystopian" wasn't really a genre in 1998, my teacher told us that it was a classic sci-fi story, and I immediately dismissed it as too boring to read because sci-fi novels meant spaceships, and that meant snoozeville. 

Oh, fifteen year old Kirsti. How foolish you were. 

In a lot of ways, it's not surprising that this book ends up on banned books lists as often as it does. The dystopian society that Huxley created is a fairly disturbing one. Humans are grown in laboratories, and their social status determined before they're even created. Those doomed to be menial Epsilons are cloned dozens of times and bred to be stupid and unquestioning, living only for the drugs provided to them by the government. Meanwhile, the Alphas and Betas receive hours of subliminal messages as children about how much better it is being their caste. 

All children are encouraged to participate in "erotic play", which creeped me out more than a little bit, and the whole society has a very casual attitude to sex. Relationships are discouraged in favour of a string of hook ups with people at your own level in society, and the whole world is basically a capitalist's dream.

The "real" world - where people form relationships, have children, and grow old - is confined to reservations for Indigenous populations, and these reservations are treated almost like a zoo by the Alphas and Betas. And yet it's the "noble savage" character who shows the most signs of what readers at the time of publication would consider a civilised attitude. He quotes Shakespeare, is disgusted by the decadence and throw-away attitude of the "civilised" world, and wants nothing more than a monogamous relationship and to know his father.

It's a disturbing book a lot of the time, and the ending was particularly chilling. Basically, I was expecting to be bored by this, but I found it the complete opposite.

Have you read it? What did you think??

K xx

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger

This book has been on my radar for years. I think the first time I heard about it was that Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts movie, Conspiracy Theory, in which Gibson's character can't calm down unless he has a copy of it, and in which the government apparently uses library patron histories to identify serial killers based on who borrows The Catcher in the Rye. Or something?? I haven't seen that movie in years, so I may be wrong.

Anyway, I put off reading this book for YEARS because a tiny part of my brain was convinced that if I borrowed it from my local library, I'd be flagged as a serial killer. But basically, all I knew about the book was that the main character is called Holden Caulfield, and it's J.D. Salinger's only novel.

And I kind of wish I'd left it that way. I was on the struggle bus with this book essentially from the get go. The opening few chapters - the stuff before Holden leaves school - reminded me a lot of Dead Poets Society, and more specifically Charlie. Seeing as Dead Poets Society is one of my favourite movies, I was moderately interested in the story.

But then Holden left school, and things went rapidly downhill. We're trapped in Holden's head for endless pages with few other characters to break things up. And this was hard for me, because I didn't like Holden AT ALL. He's full of rich white boy problems, where everything is someone else's fault. Holden always thinks he's in the right, despite however much evidence is stacked up against him. Essentially, I couldn't stand him or the narrative style.

I REALLY didn't like the writing. Admittedly, it's a product of the time. It's set in the late 1940s and is told by a teenage boy, so the amount of misogyny that comes through in the story is almost to be expected. But the amount of repetition in the writing drove me up the wall. Holden will make an observation about another character, then insert an anecdote about that character doing the thing he observed them doing, then repeat his observation. Like, "The girl could dance. [Insert long winded anecdote about said girl dancing here] I tell you, the girl could dance."


By the end of the book, I just flat out didn't care, and when it featured a total non-ending on top of all the repetition and angst and misogyny that I'd already had to wade through, I was tempted to throw the book across the room.

I feel like this is a book that's more enjoyable if a) you study it in school and can unpackage all the things that Salinger is trying to say, or b) you're an angsty teenager when you read it. So maybe if I'd read this as a teenager, I'd see the appeal. But as an adult? NOPE.

On the plus side, this book marks the half way point for my Classics Club project!

Have you read it? What did you think?

K xx
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