Friday, January 31, 2014

Picnic at Hanging Rock - Joan Lindsay

Given that the 26th of January is Australia Day, it seemed only appropriate that - as that was the day I started my first book for Classics Club - it be something Australian. I went with Picnic at Hanging Rock, a book that I hadn't read in approximately 15 years.

Picnic at Hanging Rock is a somewhat notorious Australian classic, because many people are under the (erroneous) impression that it's a true story, despite the fact that it was published in 1967, and also because after Joan Lindsay's death a final chapter was released that was meant to explain everything but which instead was (apparently. I haven't read it and don't plan to) a bit of a trainwreck.


On Valentine's Day 1900, a group of schoolgirls go, as the title would suggest, on a picnic at Hanging Rock. The hot afternoon sends most of the party to sleep, but a group of four girls decide to go exploring. Several hours later, one returns in hysterics. At around the same time, it's discovered that one of the teachers is also missing. A massive search ensues, but no sign of the three girls and the teacher is found. A week later, a young well-to-do Englishman and his coachman - who had seen the girls heading off into the bush on Valentine's Day - conduct their own search and find one of the girls. The others are never seen again.
Hanging Rock in 1902. Source.

This covers the first half of the book. The second half details not so much the search for the girls - though it does include some police investigation - but how their disappearance impacted on those around them over the subsequent months.

For me, the story itself isn't particularly scary. Some teenage girls walk into the bush and don't come back, big whoop. Where things get scary is not knowing what happened. By leaving their disappearance open ended - did they get kidnapped? Murdered? Lost? Disappear into an alternate universe through a stone circle?? - Lindsay is forcing the reader to draw their own conclusions. But the story is such that - at least in my case - your brain can't quite decide what the most likely reason is, and you find yourself lying awake at 1.30am thinking about the story and trying to work out what happened for yourself.

The characters tend to be a little same-same-but-different - all the good characters are beautiful and thin and loved by everyone around them, and the bad characters are fat and ugly and universally disliked. My favourite character, hands down, was Albert. He's such a stereotypical Aussie country boy, from his language to his actions to the fact that he really doesn't care about class and just treats everyone the same. He's a fabulous counterpoint to all the well-to-do characters.

It's a quick read, clocking in at just over 200 pages and - despite giving me a somewhat sleepless night pondering the mystery - is well worth the effort.

Have you read it?

K xx

Thursday, January 30, 2014

New Zealand - the "let's go to Mordor" edition

Previously, Ness and I went to Rotorua, which smelled bad but was pretty cool. Also, I got a hot chocolate with Harry Potter's face on it.

Our second morning in Rotorua, we headed to the Fat Dog Cafe for breakfast, which is a decision that I highly recommend. The cakes looked amazing and I strongly considered having cake for breakfast, but instead decided that porridge was the healthier option. I also ordered a hot chocolate, which didn't come with Harry Potter's face but which DID come with hundreds and thousands:

After breakfast, we hit the road and headed south for Wai-o-tapu. We got there just in time to see the tail end of the geyser eruption - unlike the ones at Te Puia, it's set off by adding a catalyst so that it goes off at the same time every day.

From there, we headed through the "thermal wonderland" as it's termed in the brochures, and a lot of it WAS pretty amazing despite the fact that I was a little miss cranky pants due to poor clothing decisions and a warmer than expected day:

From there, it was back on the road heading south. We stopped off at a couple of places along the way when the brown tourist signs on the highway tickled our fancy. At some, we didn't even get out of the car because there was an unexpected fee. At others, like Huka Falls? We were pleasantly surprised:

Two Olympic swimming pools worth of water go over the falls EACH SECOND. And the water was so pretty!!

We ploughed on to Taupo where we stopped for a wee spot of cake and some photos of the lake...

...then spent the rest of the trip driving in the rain.

Eventually, we arrived at our destination - Mount Doom. Okay, fine: Whakapapa Village in Tongariro National Park. Said destination caused us no small amount of giggling which you'll understand if you know anything about Maori pronunciations.

We grabbed a couple of maps about short walks from the ranger station then checked into our far-too-fancy-for-the-likes-of-us accommodation:

After locating our room, we decided that rather than spending what was left of the afternoon there, we'd spend it in the lounge with a drink. And, just before it got dark, the rain and mist cleared, giving us a pretty fabulous view of Mount Ngauruhoe:

Next up, we strap on our hiking boots to take the One Ring to Mount Doom go on a little hike. It's more exciting than it sounds, I promise!

K xx

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Review - The Gospel of Loki

The Gospel of Loki
Joanne Harris
Hachette Australia

4 out of 5 stars

Everything I knew about Loki prior to reading this book was courtesy of this dude:
Okay, so it was courtesy of Marvel, but whatever. Same difference, right? And everything I knew about Norse mythology came from a misspent youth in which I played too much Age of Mythology (man, how good was that game??).

All of this is a rather long-winded way of saying that I went into this book with only the most cursory knowledge of Loki, Asgard, and North mythology as a whole. What I did have, however, was a love of Joanne Harris' writing, which has been kindled over the years by the Chocolat series.

The Gospel of Loki is, as the name suggests, the Norse myths retold from Loki's perspective. It spans all of Norse mythology from Odin becoming the Allfather to the fall of Asgard and Ragnarok. As Loki points out at the beginning of his narrative, history is always one sided. Who's good and who's evil is determined by the victors, and passed down through the generations. Odin is, Loki tells us, not the most reliable of narrators, and he's here to set the story straight.

Of course, it follows that Loki is ALSO not the most reliable of narrators. What follows is an incredibly biased but enormously entertaining version of the Norse myths. Loki is cocky and mischievous, but also full of "it wasn't my fault" and "what else could I have done?". While his bias shines strongly throughout the story, the humour of the writing wins out, making the reader cheer for Loki long after it's become apparent that we probably shouldn't be.

One of the things I found most interesting was Loki effectively referring to himself and the other gods of Asgard as celebrities. Throughout the story, the gods hang out in Asgard, largely oblivious to what's happening in Midgard. But periodically, they decide to go and check it out where they quickly discover that they have a huge number of fans, that people expect great things of them, that when things don't happen as your fans expect, they can turn on you very quickly.

The writing was absolutely beautiful from start to finish. I'm not usually a highlighter when I read on my Kindle - I have 95 books on my Kindle and 6 highlights - but with this book I felt like I was highlighting constantly because the writing was so brilliant (I just checked and I have 8 highlighted passages. Given my highlighting history, that's pretty epic). It's frequently modern sounding, not only from the discussion of celebrities and fans, but through the use of terms like "chillax". These aren't the stodgy, long-winded myths of the books your grandparents gave you as a small child.

Where it lost a star for me was in the depiction of the gods other than Loki and Odin. They tend to be a little one dimensional, particularly Heimdell whose sole purpose seems to be hating Loki. Still, given the biased narration and the sheer number of gods in Asgard, it's not surprising that some of them would be a little on the underdeveloped side. In addition, there isn't really an overarching story for the first two thirds of the book so much as "Loki played tricks on the gods/got into a scrape. Here's how it turned out." Which, don't get me wrong, was still a really fun read and lets the "gospel" concept shine through. It was only Loki's mentions of revenge that gave me a sense that it was building towards anything.

Final verdict? A thoroughly enjoyable story told by a clearly biased but still lovable narrator, and filled with beautiful writing.

Does this sound like something you'd want to read?

K xx

Disclaimer: I received a free ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The Gospel of Loki will be available in Australia February 25th (February 20th elsewhere in the world). 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

TTT - Top Ten Worlds I Wouldn't Want to Live In

It's time to link up with the Broke and the Bookish again!

Today's topic: Top ten worlds you would never want to live in, or characters you'd never want to trade places with.

Oh man, with so many dystopian YAs floating around as well as reading so much urban fantasy, it was kind of a struggle to keep this list to only ten!

1. The Hunger Games series, Suzanne Collins
Merciful Zeus, I would not want to live in Panem. Between having to deal with the government representatives, scraping out an existence, and having to watch 23 kids die on national television every year (and possibly being one of them), it's a giant barrel of NOPE.

2. Any world created by Simon R. Green
Don't get me wrong, I love Simon R. Green's writing. But the worlds he creates are freaking terrifying at times. There are evil sorcerers and demons waiting in the forest and people who can basically smile and it rips your skin off. So yeah. Even if I had Hawk and Fisher AND Eddie Drood on my side, no thank you very much.

3. The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham
I love this book a lot. But there is no way in hell I would want to live in a world where everyone except a handful of people is blind and being killed off by giant meat-eating plants.

4. The Gone series, Michael Grant
Trapped in a giant bubble with only people under 15 with limited food supplies and kids with a tendency to get murdery? Uh, pass.

5. The Chaos Walking series, Patrick Ness
I love the world that Patrick Ness has created, but having to hang out in a world where everyone can hear everything that guys are thinking ALL THE TIME? Definitely not a place I want to be hanging out.

6. The Kate Daniels series, Ilona Andrews
The world that's been created in this series is absolutely fabulous. But I just know that I would end up as collateral damage from some kind of vampire/shifter/necromancer showdown. So yeah, no.

7. The Cahill Witch Chronicles, Jessica Spotswood
A world where women have to hide what they are and decide at seventeen whether to get married - and who they're going to marry! - or to become a nun? Nope nopeity nope nope.

8. Anything featuring zombies
Zombies are one of my personal squicks, so any book that involves zombies is a world that I automatically don't want to live in. Because I'm a wuss and they creep me out like whoa.

9. The Uglies series, Scott Westerfeld
A world where you're basically forced into having masses of plastic surgery at the age of 16 so that the government can control you? NO THANKS. Especially when after the surgery, all the characters become indescribably annoying in their shallowness.

10. The Fifth Wave series, Rick Yancey
I would be 10000% terrified ALL THE TIME. That is all.

So. What world would you not want to live in?

K xx

Monday, January 27, 2014

Movie Monday: Muriel's Wedding

It was Australia Day yesterday, and so it's only appropriate that I watch one of the greatest Australian films of all time - Muriel's Wedding. If you haven't seen it, SHAME ON YOU. Go and watch it immediately.

Reasons why Muriel's Wedding is awesome:
1. Toni Collette. She is absolutely fantastic from start to finish.
2. ABBA.
3. The hair, oh my God.
4. Rachel Griffiths. AMAZING.
5. Watching Charles and Diana's wedding on a loop at work.
6. Brice's awkward attempts at dancing.
7. Matt Day. He's just adorable.
8. The Hibiscus Island talent quest.
9. Bill Hunter, even though he's an asshat.
10. Jeanie Drynan. She's amazing. Betty is the most completely and utterly heartbreaking character. She's effectively shat upon by every single character, and will inevitably give you All the Feels.
11. Being "rescued" by naked American sailors.
12. Insane bridesmaids dresses
13. Joanie. She's hilarious.
14. Deirdre's bonkers outfits.
15. This scene:

16. Finding a husband in the newspaper.
17. Toni Collette's facial expressions.
18. Sophie Lee. Oh my God, Sophie Lee.
19. Muriel's insane wedding tiara thingie. It looks like it's made of tinsel.
20. The bridesmaids trying to walk down the aisle in time to ABBA. Hilarious.

Plus, the following quotes:
- "You're terrible, Muriel."
- "Can you look at that dry cleaners over there, please?"
- "I have to tell you something... I'm a parking inspector."
- "I've got a job interview next week. An apprentice locksmith."
- "What am I supposed to do? I'm a briiiide, I'm supposed to be euphoric!"
- "I hope the photos help your sister out of that coma!"
- "Give her a blank cheque for the cosmetics." "A blank cheque? How much for?"
- "Why don't you come have a drink with us?" "You want to have a drink with me?" "Well, yeah. We wouldn't want you to spend the entire holiday alone. It's not like in high school where you should feel you're not good enough to talk to us." "I don't." "If I feel you've changed, I'll tell you. I'm honest. Unlike some people, I tell it like it is." "The truth? I tell the truth too. Nicole's having an affair with Chook. Muriel saw them fucking in the laundry room on your wedding day. Stick your drink up your ass, Tania! I'd rather swallow razor blades than have a drink with you. Oh, by the way... I'm not alone. I'm with Muriel."
- "I had cancer... it's all right, they cut it out." "You were so full of life." "I'm not DEAD, Cheryl."
- "Deirdre Chambers, what a coincidence!"
- "Did Perry interview for the police force yet?" "Yes, but they said he couldn't join because he was too tall."
- "Bikkie?" "Maybe after...later."
- "Mariel, how did you feel when Kieran Perkins took gold for Australia in Barcelona?" "...Who?"
- "I'm married. I'm beautiful!!"

Do yourself a favour and watch it immediately. (You can stream it on Netflix and everything, America!)

K xx

Friday, January 24, 2014

Classics Club

When I was writing up my bookish goals for 2014, one of them was to read at least one classic that I'd never read before. Shortly after writing that list of goals, I stumbled across The Classics Club. When it comes to classics, I have a tendency to stick to my safety zone and reread the same things over and over again - Persuasion, Jane Eyre, pretty much anything Dickensian. In short, nineteenth century English stuff, because the Victorian era is my jam. This, I have decided, is an excellent opportunity to branch out, and also to revisit some classics that I had to read in high school or university but which I haven't revisited since.

The goal of The Classics Club is to read at least 50 classic books within a five year period and review them all. I'm planning to read 60 in just under five years, so by 1 January 2019. I've tried to include a good mix of stuff, though I couldn't entirely force myself away from my beloved nineteenth century English literature. Still, I've included some stereotypical American high school reading, some things I was forced to read in high school, a decent dose of Australian classics, some "true" classics (in the Greek and Roman sense), and a little smattering of some of my favourites that I haven't re-read in years (and therefore haven't reviewed before).

Without further ado, here's my list (alphabetically by author's surname, of course):

  1. Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
  2. Lysistrata - Aristophanes
  3. Emma - Jane Austen
  4. Mansfield Park - Jane Austen
  5. Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
  6. Lady Audley's Secret - Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  7. Agnes Grey - Anne Bronte
  8. Shirley - Charlotte Bronte
  9. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
  10. The Seagull - Anton Chekov
  11. For the Term of His Natural Life - Marcus Clarke
  12. No Name - Wilkie Collins
  13. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
  14. Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe
  15. A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
  16. Our Mutual Friend - Charles Dickens
  17. The Pickwick Papers - Charles Dickens
  18. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoevsky
  19. The Lost World - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  20. Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier
  21. Middlemarch - George Eliot
  22. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
  23. Passage to India - E.M. Forster
  24. The Diary of Anne Frank - Anne Frank
  25. My Brilliant Career - Miles Franklin
  26. North and South - Elizabeth Gaskell
  27. She - H. Rider Haggard
  28. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
  29. The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne
  30. The Odyssey - Homer
  31. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
  32. The Portrait of a Lady - Henry James
  33. Lady Chatterley's Lover - D.H. Lawrence
  34. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold - John le Carre
  35. Picnic at Hanging Rock - Joan Lindsay
  36. The Prince - Niccolo Machiavelli
  37. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  38. Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery
  39. 1984 - George Orwell
  40. Cry, the Beloved Country - Alan Paton
  41. The Mysteries of Udolpho - Anne Radcliffe
  42. The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
  43. Macbeth - William Shakespeare
  44. Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
  45. The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
  46. Dracula - Bram Stoker
  47. Uncle Tom's Cabin - Harriet Beecher Stowe
  48. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
  49. The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
  50. The Fellowship of the Ring - J.R.R. Tolkien
  51. The Two Towers - J.R.R. Tolkien
  52. The Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien
  53. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
  54. The Way We Live Now - Anthony Trollope
  55. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
  56. The Aeneid - Virgil
  57. The War of the Worlds - H.G. Wells
  58. The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
  59. A Room of One's Own - Virginia Woolf
  60. The Chrysalids - John Wyndham
Have you read any of these? What should I start with??

K xx

Thursday, January 23, 2014

New Zealand - the "what is that SMELL??" edition

Previously, Ness and I chased hobbits.

After leaving Hobbiton, we drove down to Rotorua, and arrived in time to abuse the hotel's free wifi, and discover that we could basically only get signal for said wifi if we sat on the bench of the kitchenette right next to the door. We walked into town for dinner and detoured past some hot springs for a little look, where we promptly discovered that hot springs smell like a combination of fart and wet dog with an unwelcome side of steam that means you're WALKING THROUGH STINKY CLOUDS OF STINKINESS. In short: ew.

Anyway, we had dinner (I had chicken strips because I'm a grown up), then wandered down towards the lake where we promptly froze to death from the wind and high tailed it back to the hotel. But not before admiring this cool church:

The following morning, we drove into town for breakfast, where I was presented with this BOWL of hot chocolate:
I'm a little sad it didn't have a lightning bolt scar...

Once we'd finished stuffing our faces, we jumped in the car and headed out to Rotorua's number one tourist attraction (according to TripAdvisor, at least) - the redwood forest. We picked one of the walking tracks that was an hour or so, and headed off into the forest. It was, excitingly, the one place in town that doesn't smell like wet dog farts, which I suspect is part of why it's so popular.

The trees were pretty impressive, and the whole walk was gorgeous. Plus, the redwoods kept making me think of Redwoodian, which gave me squees.

In the afternoon, we headed over to Te Puia. After returning to the Kiwi House THREE TIMES, we finally got to see one moving around, and it was the greatest thing ever. I have no photos, sadly, because NOCTURNAL. But rest assured, kiwis are adorable and my second favourite thing ever (the first being red pandas, obviously).

We took the guided tour around the site, past gloopy mud pools and geysers and a recreated Maori village, to displays of Maori weaving and carving techniques.
Bloopy mud.

The whole thing was really well done, and we had plenty of time left to look around at our own pace between the tour and the Maori cultural performance, which included a haka, traditional songs, and poi dancing, which was pretty fabulous:

It was only 4.00 by the time we finished there, so we parked by the Rotorua Museum (which we didn't have time to go to, but the building is REALLY PRETTY), and wandered around the lake for a while.

Next time, we go to a fabulous cafe for breakfast, then head south in search of more stinkiness and a dirty great volcano.

K xx

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

101 in 1001 update

I now have a slightly terrifying 60-something days left of my challenge, and there is no way in hell that I'm going to complete the remaining things on the list. However, a large number of them require money to complete, and when I wrote the list, I was kind of working on the assumption that I would be gainfully employed for the duration of the challenge, rather than for almost none of it...

I haven't yet decided what to do about the ones that I can't complete due to lack of funds. I might roll them over to the next list, or I might just feel guilty about not completing them. Or maybe I'll try and achieve them in a half arsed, cheater-y fashion. I just don't know...

ANYWAY. Let's talk about some of the stuff that I've crossed off or progressed in recent months but haven't updated you on.

6. Watch the AFI Top 100 Movies 2007 edition.
I've crossed another five titles off the list - On the Waterfront, Chinatown, Shane, Apocalypse Now and 12 Angry Men - and the only one I really enjoyed was 12 Angry Men, which was brilliant from start to finish. I didn't mind Chinatown or On the Waterfront. Shane was kind of dull, and Apocalypse Now was so long and painful that it made me want to shoot myself. Also, the water buffalo scene nearly made me vomit. So...yeah. That brings the total to 47. A bunch of the ones that are left are kind of hard to find, so I REALLY doubt that I'm going to finish this by 1 April...

7. Go out for New Year's.
I'm not sure what possessed me to put this on the list, because crowds freak me out, drunk people are annoying as all hell, and getting home would be insanely expensive and a total nightmare. Still, I left the house on New Year's Eve and went to see Desolation of Smaug with Deidre and her husband. Getting home required me to go through the (already packed) city centre, so TECHNICALLY I went out for New Year's. Although by midnight, I was at home and watching Iron Man. Because reasons.

9. Write a short story/novel.
I'm going to go ahead and count the 2,000-ish word one shot fic that I wrote a while back as a short story. Sure, it's kind of cheating, but it's a story and it's short so...yeah.

21. Get a job.
I honestly didn't expect it to take this long, but I HAVE A JOB!! Technically, I only have a job one day a week for the next ten weeks. But it might turn into something more permanent (emphasis on MIGHT) and it's better than the nothing I had before, right??

39. Clean out my closet.
DONE. With an extensive amount of help from Little Miss A and her insistence on me doing a fashion parade of the "maybe" pile, I got rid of a truly terrifying amount of stuff:

40. Go to ten new museums.
I was sitting on 8/10 before I went to New Zealand, and went to the Kaori Museum, the Auckland War Memorial Museum, and Te Papa while I was in the land of the long white cloud. Done and dusted AND stretch targeted.

45. Go on a roadtrip.
I've been on numerous trips to Canberra over the past two and a half years, as well as several day trips around Florida last January. However, I think our jaunt around New Zealand fits the bill most appropriately for this one. Sure, we knew where we were staying every night, but we took our time, stopped off at look outs, navigated from questionable maps, and generally made the most of things. Plus, there was one day where we had literally no plans, and just drove wherever we felt like. We ended up driving about 500km and I got sunburnt in the car. OBVIOUSLY.

68. Go hiking.
Okay, so it wasn't overnight or carrying a tent or whatever. But I wore hiking boots, carried a Goretex jacket, water and provisions. So I'd say that "tramping" in Tongariro National Park totally counts. Full story to come. Eventually...

79. Buy an expensive piece of jewellery for my 30th.
Yeah, the "expensive" part kind of got left by the wayside due to funding issues. But I *did* buy myself a ring not long after my birthday, so I say it counts.

#96 - Save all coins smaller than 50c and go shopping at the end
Last time I gave you an update on this, I had $14. I think I'm now up to about $30. WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEE, SHOPPING SPREE!!!!!! Oh wait...

99. Try 5 new cocktails.
I'd already crossed four of these off the list, two of which were completely disgusting. The fifth, however? AMAZING. If you're ever at the Chateau Tongariro, I highly recommend having a Black Forest hot chocolate in the lounge.

51 down, 5 in progress, just over two months to go. Um, eek?

K xx

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

TTT - Top Ten Things on my Reading Wishlist

It's time to link up with the Broke and the Bookish again!

Today's topic: Top Ten Things On My Reading Wishlist (if you could make authors write about these things you would. Could be a specific type of character, an issue tackled, a time period, a certain plot, etc.)

You'd think this would be an easy one, but I actually found it really tricky to pinpoint things that I'd love to read. Still, I managed to come up with ten, so let's get on with it, shall we?

1. More YA books/series without love triangles.
There are no words for how much I hate love triangles. Especially when they're actually a couple and then a dude who got butthurt because the girl didn't pick him (see also: Twilight). But they seem to be de rigueur these days for some reason. Still, it would be FABULOUS to see the obligatory love triangle disappear forever.

2. More female characters who aren't afraid to hide their geek side.
There seem to be any number of books out there in which the main female character secretly loves comic books or Lord of the Rings or is really into fandom, but they're scared to tell their friends because OMG EVERYONE WILL JUDGE ME. Dude, if your friends judge you for who you really are, then they're not really your friends. I want books where they're not afraid to show off what they love, where they meet the love of their life while cosplaying or wearing a fandom t-shirt or in line for a midnight premiere.

3. More books set in Australia.
I secretly fangirl a little when I stumble across a book set in Melbourne. Everyone likes that little "Ooooh, I know exactly where they're talking about!" feeling when a book is set somewhere that they know. And yet, an increasing number of Australian authors set their books in the US or the UK or in a completely new world. I get it, I really do. I just wish there was more stuff set here. You know, YA books where the teenagers can't drive and the school year starts in February and they have to catch the tram to school wearing a uniform that includes a ridiculous hat because slip slop slap, dammit.

4. A love triangle where the guys pick each other. 
This one sprang up as an evil plan in regards to the standard YA love triangle - that it would be great to have a book where the pretty rich white girl dithers so much about which boy she likes that they get sick of waiting for her and go off together. But the more I think about it, the more it's genius. Whether they end up as a bromance who realise that the girl is clearly a moron who can't make a decision to save herself or whether they both realise that they're bisexual and end up as a couple, I think it would be a fabulous twist.

5. Dystopia caused by natural disasters.
Dystopian books at the moment seem to be predominantly of the Evil Government Screwed Us Over variety. I'd really like to see more where the breakdown of society was caused by a volcano (like in Ashfall) or a new ice age or a tsunami or an earthquake or whatever, and society has to rebuild itself from scratch.

6. More POC characters, especially in fantasy and historical fiction.
It drives me insane when I read books in which literally every single character is white and WASP-y. I've never had a single class or job or ANYTHING in my entire life that was exclusively Anglo. To write books as if that's the case is crazy. And when it happens in fantasy - when an author has created an entire world in which everyone is Anglo - I want to scream. Historical fiction is no better. England had the biggest empire the world has ever seen. You really think nineteenth century London was populated exclusively by white people? NOPE. Multiculturalism has been around since Roman times, yo. Put it in your stories.

7. More dragons.
Do I really need to say more? Dragons are awesome. (Yes, I've read Naomi Novik's Temeraire series)

8. More protagonists in YA who aren't skinny and gorgeous but convinced that they're "just okay looking" and who are shocked when all the boys want to date them.
Give me more characters who are overweight but don't need to change to achieve their dreams. Give me more girls who dye their hair blue or pink or green. Give me more boys who wear eyeliner. Give me characters who are overcoming eating disorders or who are struggling with mental illness or who have a visible disability. Give me characters who fall at all points on the Kinsey scale, whether they're struggling with it or have known for years. Give me characters who could be real, rather than a never ending stream of Mary Sues.

9. More YA books with no romance whatsoever.
I want books where the characters go on adventures or fight big battles or whatever they were going to do otherwise, but without all the "OMG, HE'S HOT. Let us face-nom" stuff that has a tendency to slip in no matter what.

10. More alternate histories or retellings of books that AREN'T Pride & Prejudice.
I love alternate histories. The ones I've read so far have been completely made of win. So why aren't there more of these? Along those lines, why is it that there are SO MANY retellings and modernisations of Pride & Prejudice but there are almost none of other classic novels? Sure, there are some that really don't work, but there are others that would be perfect. And yet...

Get on it, authors!

What's on your reading wishlist?

K xx

Monday, January 20, 2014

Movie Monday: The Hobbit - Desolation of Smaug

I rang in the new year seeing Desolation of Smaug with Deidre and Inspector Climate. It's been a month or so since it came out, and a good 75+ years since the book was first published, so I don't think anything in here can count as spoilers. Therefore, this is a jump cut free zone.

On the whole, I really enjoyed the film. It was beautifully shot and set and costumed, there was plenty of action without it feeling relentless, and I mostly enjoyed the stuff that had been added to Tolkien's original story. But there were other things that I was somewhat skeptical about and others that had me completely on the NOPE train. You want more detail, you say? No problem.

What I loved:

  • Smaug. Brilliant from start to finish. Dragons, much like werewolves, have a tendency to look a little not quite right in films. But not this one. Benedict Cumberbatch - who's quick to tell interviewers that he provided the motion capture as well as the voice - did a fantastic job. 
  • Lee Pace as Thranduil. Especially when he was chopping off heads.
  • The spiders and basically everything with the dwarves wandering around in Mirkwood. Creep-tastic. Plus, Bilbo got to be the hero again. 
  • Tauriel. She may be a completely made up character, but I thank all the stars in the heavens for her inclusion. Not only would it have been a total sausage-fest without her, but she's the most BAMF-tastic female character we've seen in Middle Earth thus far. Yes, Eowyn goes into battle and kills the Witch King. But apart from that, she mostly seems to lurk around making awful soup and pining over Aragorn. And Arwen, outside of her one moment of "If you want him, come and claim him!" excellence, seems to mostly turn up in dreams to keep Aragorn on his path. Tauriel, on the other hand, is captain of the guard. She goes to Laketown not to save Kili - if that was the reason for it, she'd have taken medicinal herbs with her - but to prevent innocent people from being killed because of Thranduil's decision. She does her job protecting the borders, though it's not her homeland, and she does what she thinks is right. And she does it all with truly fabulous hair. 

What was just okay:
  • Gandalf going off by himself to investigate the necromancer. It seemed a little too similar visually to his fights with Saruman and the Balrog. But maybe that's just me...
  • Legolas. While I did enjoy the fact that this lets us see how much his character changes over the year - dwarf hater here, BFFs with Gimli in Lord of the Rings - and he did have some fabulous lines, it did feel a little like they were trying to jam him into a situation where he didn't quite fit. Add in a few little situations where he gets to reprise his LOTR role as the-one-who-dances-across-the-top-of-the-enemy-and-who-slides-into-the-shot-on-a-shield and it was enough to have me rolling my eyes a little. Plus, the eyeliner was a liiiiiiiiiittle over the top...
  • The barrels scene. Most of it was really brilliantly shot, considering they would have had a limited number of opportunities. But the footage that was shot IN THE WATER? Nope. It was really low quality compared to the rest of the footage, and it stuck out like a sore thumb.

What I really didn't like:
  • Gold plated dragon. Yes, a dragon has scales to protect it. But you cannot cover an entire animal in MELTED METAL and then have it fly away without a scratch. Gold may be a soft metal, but it still melts at over 1,000°C. The temperature of lava is somewhere between 700° and 1,200°C. You can't set things up so that the One Ring (and Gollum) can be destroyed by the lava river in Mount Doom, but Smaug could be all "Nah, I'm good". Especially seeing as he has eyes and nostrils and (presumably) a butthole and that one spot where a scale fell off that wouldn't be protected. IT JUST DOESN'T WORK (even if it is visually awesome). 
  • Thorin zooming down the melted gold in a wheelbarrow. Even if it's made of a metal that melts at a higher temperature than gold, there's no way that his legs wouldn't melt off from the radiant heat.
  • "You have keen eyes, Master Baggins!". Are you fucking kidding me, Thorin? THERE'S A TEN STOREY HIGH STATUE OF A DWARF LITERALLY RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU. 
  • Bombur fighting orcs in the dregs of a barrel. It 
  • The love triangle. SIGH. Apparently Evangeline Lilly was equally pissed off about this because she said that she'd only do the movie if there was no love triangle. They filmed it all and there was nothing, then they called her back in a few months later to do some extra scenes, and BOOM. Love triangle. 
  • The ending. If they'd finished it with Smaug's little speech, I would have been fine with it. But Bilbo's "What have we done?" just smacked off "LOOK, A CLIFFHANGER!!!!!!! Come back in 12 months!". And it was completely unnecessary.

Overall, it came out at about a solid B+ for me. What did you think?

K xx
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