Thursday, May 29, 2014

Breaking up

If you've been around these parts for a while, you'd know that I have something of an obsession with all things Joss Whedon (except Dollhouse. Never Dollhouse...). BUT.

(And this is a big but. Not to be confused with MY big butt)

As a result of spending the past TWO YEARS blogging about Buffy and Angel over on Snark Squad, I'm a little bit exhausted thanks to all the crap that tends to accompany Whedon's shows. So Whedon and I? We're breaking up for a little while. At least until The Avengers: Age of Ultron comes out next year.

Here's why:


K xx

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

TFiOS survival guide

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I saw The Fault in Our Stars tonight, courtesy of Deidre, who got free tickets and wasn't able to go. Everything was all very secretive - we had to hand our phones in at the door, and our bags were searched for other devices capable of recording. Which is understandable, given how much of a BFD this movie is.

Given that it doesn't come out anywhere in the world for at least another week, I'm not going to tell you anything about it, except that it's excellent. Instead, I hereby present you with my essentials for surviving The Fault in Our Stars:

1. Waterproof mascara
Let's be honest: crying during this movie is inevitable. I actually managed to avoid full on crying until way later in the movie than I thought I would, but it's still best to plan ahead. No one wants to make their inevitable hot mess status worse by having giant streaks of mascara all over their face when the house lights come back up!

2. Tissues
See also: point 1. Even if you get through the movie with minimal crying, you'll need tissues at some point. For me? It was right at the end to deal with the inevitable watery snottiness that goes along with crying. For someone near the front of the cinema who sobbed dramatically through approximately 80% of the film, I suspect it was pretty much the whole thing.

3. Water
Crying causes dehydration, yo. Feel free to replace with booze if you're at a cinema that allows that sort of thing. Although you should still have water because booze causes dehydration too.

4. Clothes that won't show the tear marks
Yeah, there was one particular scene (a scene I won't name for fear of spoilers) that tipped me over the edge from tearing up into full blown tears. And due to the fact that I was already teary, the first I knew of the actual crying part was that several tears landed firmly on my shirt. Basically, don't wear anything that you don't want watermarked.

5. A mirror
Whether it's in your handbag or in the bathroom, you should probably check that the waterproof mascara mentioned in point 1 did its job before you head out.

6. Chocolate
It helps with the feels. Trust me.

On a scale from Team Heartless Cow to Uncontrollably Sobbing Girl In The Front Row, how much do you foresee yourself crying during TFiOS?

K xx

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

TTT - Banned and challenged books

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

This week is a freebie topic, and I'm usually pretty awful at coming up with my own topic for these things. You'd think that given how much I love books and lists, I'd be good at marrying the two together, but apparently not. I dithered around with half a dozen topics, and eventually decided that it was a good opportunity to talk about books that are regularly banned or challenged in school and public libraries, particularly in the US. 

I don't know what it is about the US, but y'all love to ban you some books. Good Lord... Australia's not entirely innocent either - American Psycho is still banned in Queensland and can't be purchased or borrowed by under 18s in all other states - but the American Library Association records about 500 challenges or requests for bans each year. If you want to find out more, you can click here. As always, all images are from Goodreads. 

1. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

This is STILL consistently in the top 10 banned and challenged books every year. You'd think after 50-plus years - and after the Civil Rights movement - that people would be used to its contents, but apparently not. SIGH. It's gone from being contentious for discussing rape to being contentious for using racial slurs. And look, I get it. But you can't rewrite and sanitise history. Plus, it opens up discussion opportunities in the classroom about racial inequality at the time and in the present. Which is far more valuable than giving kids a boring, politically correct book to read. 

2. Harry Potter - J.K. Rowling

This was a big one back in the early 2000s, with parents regularly complaining to librarians and teachers that the book promoted Satanism and was against family values and was anti-Christian blah blah blah. Oh my God, get the giant stick out of your arse and just be happy that your child is reading, will you? Some of the most religious people I know adore everything about this series. So quit burning it (seriously) already.

3. The Diary of a Young Girl - Anne Frank

Seriously, people?? It was already heavily edited by her father prior to publication, and people are STILL complaining about it? And before you go thinking that this was contentious a million years ago, NOPE. Last year. Apparently a parent decided that Anne being all "Huh. I have a vagina" was too pornographic for her daughter to handle. Her DAUGHTER. Yup. That happened.

4. Looking for Alaska - John Green

This one doesn't get banned because of Alaska's fate. Oh no. It's contentious because it's basically considered a "gateway drug" to lewd behaviour because it features teenagers drinking and smoking and making out and swearing. WHATEVER IS THE WORLD COMING TO??? Teenagers NEVER do any of those things in the real world, right??? *headdesk*

5. 1984 - George Orwell

Another one that falls into the "Seriously?? We're STILL challenging this??" pile. This one was banned outright in the USSR, and is still regularly challenged or banned in US schools for being pro-communist (ironic, considering it was banned in the biggest communist country on earth) or anti-government. Um. So it's anti-government, but it's still pro-government, just not the government you approve of? My head hurts. Just let your kid read the damned book already.

6. Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson

So you don't want your kid reading a book about rape, I get it. But considering 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lives and considering I've heard stories of many MANY boys complaining that the raped protagonist is "whiny and should just get over herself", it's essential that books like this remain in libraries, schools and classrooms, regardless of its controversial content.  

7. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins

Again, I totally understand why it gets challenged. It's an incredibly violent series with some pretty horrific concepts in it. And, thanks to the movies, younger and younger kids are wanting to read them. But there are ways around it rather than just demanding that they be banned outright. I work in a primary school library, used by kids from age 6 to age 12. We have The Hunger Games series, but they're kept behind the circulation desk and are only loaned out to kids who are mature enough to handle the subject matter at the discretion of the librarian. Demanding that it be banned is an excessive reaction, especially in a high school library!

8. Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher

So...you want to ban a book about suicide for being a book about suicide? Um. What. Look, I get that it's serious subject matter. But teenagers need to know that their actions can have major consequences, that something that seems insignificant to them can be a huge deal to someone else. And this book shows that perfectly. 

9. Letters from the Inside - John Marsden

This one was pretty contentious in Australia back in the early to mid-90s. It's the story of the pen pal friendship between two teenage girls, one of whom is in prison and the other of whom has a seriously creepy older brother. It's pretty dark, and I can understand why people didn't want their lower secondary kids reading it. But the fact remains, sometimes family members ARE insanely creepy and you DO need someone to talk to about it, even if that person happens to be in prison. 

10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky

Look, this wasn't one of my favourite books. I found it pretty meh, to be perfectly honest. But I can understand why a lot of teenagers adore it. It tackles a lot of difficult subjects simultaneously, including child abuse and same sex relationships, so it's understandable that parents aren't too keen on their kids reading it. But the fact remains, it's a coming-of-age novel, and every teenager will likely find SOMETHING in there that they relate to personally. 

Which of these have you read? Do you think they should be banned in schools?

K xx

Monday, May 26, 2014

Movie Monday - 27 Dresses


Um, hi. It's been a while since I've done Movie Monday courtesy of getting distracted by other things... And now let's jump back into it with a cheese-tastic rom com!

Reasons why 27 Dresses is awesome:
1. Katherine Heigl. She may have gone off-the-rails-bonkers in recent years and made some TRULY terrible choices of roles, but this one is definitely her best.
2. Bennie and the Jets and incredibly wrong words.
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3. Vindictive slideshows.
4. James Marsden. Okay, so his character is really squinty and wears sneakers all the time, but he's pretty hilarious.
5. The sarcasm.


6. Smiley face pancakes.
7. Malin Akerman. Okay, her character is pretty awful for the majority of the movie, but she's got a good heart.
8. Accidentally screaming swear words at a 50th anniversary party.
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9. Judi Greer. I love her in pretty much everything she's in, and this is no exception.
10. PUPPY!! The dog is stupidly cute.
11. The ridiculous parade of dresses.
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12. The end credits in newspaper form.
13. No, but seriously. So. Many. Ugly. Dresses.
14. Making all the brides wear their ugly bridesmaids dresses at her wedding.

Plus, the following quotes:
- "I feel like I just found out my favourite love song was written about a sandwich."
- "Wanna find the ugliest stuff in the store and register Tess for it?"
- "What about you? You don't have any needs?" "No, I don't. I'm Jesus."
- "Do you also go around telling small children that Santa Claus doesn't exist? 'Cause someone needs to blow that shit wide open."
- "What the hell is that??" "Theme wedding." "What was the theme? Humiliation??"
- "Must be so hard to watch your younger sister get married before you." "Yes. Then I remember that I still get to have hot hate sex with random strangers and I feel SO much better!"
- "Who was that and where can I get one?"
- "Love is patient, love is kind. Love means slowly losing your mind."
- "You tell him the truth or I will." "No, you won't. You wouldn't hurt a fly and you definitely wouldn't hurt me, I'm your sister." "That was yesterday. Today you're just some bitch who broke my heart and cut up my mother's wedding dress."
- "Can you PLEASE find someone else to be creepy with??"
- "You got them champagne glasses and a bottle of Cristal." "Any way she's actually gonna believe it actually came from me?" "Maybe. Wrapped it like a car ran over it." "Nice touch."
- "Oh, I'm a really very good...caulker."

So. Thoughts? Love it or hate it??

K xx

Thursday, May 22, 2014

I Read YA

In addition to being National Library and Information Week in Australia, and Literature Week at work, the teen division of Scholastic has declared this to be I Read YA week.

Yes, I'm 31 years old and I read young adult fiction. Of the 110 books I've read so far this year (no, that's not a typo), 50 of them have been young adult books. I'm on number 51 at the moment.

I read YA because it covers all genres. I read YA because it gives me amazing stories in fabulous settings. I read YA because it can give you light and fluffy and deep and serious all in the same book. I read YA because it handles the big topics in ways that everyone can relate to. I read YA because there wasn't really a lot of it around when I was an actual teenager. I read YA because it's constantly surprising. I read YA because it matters.

Twenty YA books that have stayed with me and that I would recommend in a heartbeat:
1. Code Name Verity - Elizabeth Wein
2. Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell
3. My Life Next Door - Huntley Fitzpatrick
4. Paper Towns - John Green
5. Pushing the Limits - Katie McGarry
6. Saving Francesca - Melina Marchetta
7. Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver
8. Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins
9. The Enemy - Charlie Higson
10. Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher
11. The Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy - Laini Taylor
12. The Abhorsen trilogy - Garth Nix
13. Croak - Gina Damico
14. The Lunar Chronicles series - Marissa Meyer
15. A Breath of Frost - Alyxandra Harvey
16. Tomorrow, When the War Began - John Marsden
17. Harry Potter - J.K. Rowling
18. The Throne of Glass series - Sarah J. Maas
19. The Leviathan trilogy - Scott Westerfeld
20. The Chaos Walking trilogy - Patrick Ness

Do you read YA?

K xx

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Same same but different

Do you ever watch one version of a particular story and you absolutely adore it to the point where no other version can even quite compare because It's Just Not Right? Yeah, I experienced this again over the weekend when I watched The Philadelphia Story. Which isn't to say The Philadelphia Story is a bad movie - it's pretty great, in fact, and totally deserves the Oscars that it won.

BUT.

It's not High Society, which I fell in love with about 15 years ago. While The Philadelphia Story may feature Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and James Stewart all being amazing, it doesn't feature Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra singing utterly ridiculous songs and dancing around like loons. So while we get this:
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We don't get this:
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Or Louis Armstrong playing the trumpet. Which is a shame, because he's awesome.

Admittedly, this is something that mostly occurs with adaptations of the classics, because they're the ones that get new movie/TV versions every year. But there are a few other adaptations that spring to mind here:

Pride and Prejudice
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Always the 1995 version. I have an irrational hatred of the Keira Knightley version, which may have something to do with Matthew Macfadyen (ugh) and that ridiculously awful foot fondling scene that was added to the American release to demonstrate that they actually did get married. In short, six hours of Colin Firth? YES. Two hours of Macfadyen? LOL NOPE. And don't even get me started on the 1940 version and its awful costumes. (The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, I should mention, is a close second to the 1995 version)

Vanity Fair
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I have an undying love for this incredibly silly story and its deeply flawed anti-heroine, Becky Sharp. But when it comes to film versions of it, the 1998 BBC version starring Natasha Little captures Becky's playfully sneaky nature much better than the 2004 movie starring Reese Witherspoon. Also, the music is excellent.

Sense and Sensibility
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The BBC miniseries from 2008 is pretty damned good. But it just can't compare to the 1995 movie, which has a lot more heart to it along with that delightfully ridiculous scene of Emma Thompson's hysterical sobbing. Plus, Hugh Laurie's eternal sassiness.

Psycho
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I can't believe anyone would actually prefer the 1998 version of Psycho. Because it was TERRIBLE. Man, what was it about 1998 and terrible remakes? The original, on the other hand, is an absolute classic for a reason: it's phenomenal.

Les Miserables
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Much like The Philadelphia Story/High Society, I will always take the version that includes singing and dancing. I know, taking Russell Crowe and his decidedly average singing over the brilliant acting of Geoffrey Rush seems like a total travesty, but the 1998 movie was JUST SO BORING without the songs.

Jane Eyre
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The first adaptation of Jane Eyre that I ever saw was the 1983 version starring Timothy Dalton that we had to watch in year 10 English. And it's terrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrible. Partly because Zelah Clarke, who plays Jane, is like a foot shorter than Timothy Dalton, so every time they kissed it looked like he was breaking her neck. I saw the recent movie version (the Michael Fassbender one), and wasn't a huge fan of it - movies can never do the book justice in the way a mini-series can. But the 2006 BBC version with Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens? Perfection.

The Italian Job
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This one is kind of a travesty, I know. But I actually prefer the 2003 version to the original. I don't quite know WHY, but there's just something about it that makes it fun. And the lack of an ambiguous ending is definitely a plus!

Needless to say, I am terrified about some of the adaptations that are slated for development in the next five years. Remaking The Birds? My Fair Lady? Police Academy? DIRTY DANCING?!?! WHY. WHY ARE THESE THINGS NECESSARY, HOLLYWOOD??

Do you have a preferred version of any of these? What else would you add to the list?

K xx

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

TTT - Top Ten Books About Friendship

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

Because, you know, I haven't talked about books NEARLY often enough in the past week, let's talk about books some more! Yes? YES. So. Books about friendship, you say? Let's do this thing. (All images from Goodreads)

1. Code Name Verity - Elizabeth Wein
I foresee this appearing on a lot of lists today, and with good reason. It was the first book that sprang to mind when I saw the topic, because it's a book about friendship first and foremost, and a book about girls doing awesome and badass stuff in World War II second. You want proof? Boom: "It's like being in love, discovering your best friend."

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling
Look, all the Harry Potter books are about the importance of friendship. But there's one particular moment in Deathly Hallows that, to me, perfectly sums up the friendship between the Golden Trio, and that's the moment after Ron's destroyed the locket in the forest. Ron's on his knees, crying, because the Horcrux knew his deepest darkest fears, and now Harry does too. And Harry just puts a hand on Ron's shoulder and says "She's like my sister. I love her like a sister and I reckon she feels the same way about me. It's always been like that. I thought you knew." He doesn't make a big deal about it, he doesn't try to comfort Ron. He just tells it like it is and lets his best friend know that he's there. 

3. Attachments - Rainbow Rowell
There's something so incredibly REAL about Beth and Jennifer's friendship, even though everything we see of it takes place through email exchanges. There are the random bits of nothingness that you talk about with your best friend as well as the reminiscing, the mutual hatred of certain individuals, the utterly inappropriate moments, and the big things that you can't tell to anyone else. This book is about that friendship as much as it is about Lincoln moving on with his life. 

4. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

To me, there are three distinct things that stand out when I think about this book:
1. Leisel's friendship with Rudi;
2. Leisel's friendship with Max, formed under the most difficult of circumstances; and
3. Leisel's relationship with Hans/Papa, which is more like a friendship a lot of the time.

It shows us that even when things are really bleak, friendships can help you get through it. 

5. The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
Sure, this is the story of Hazel and Augustus falling in love. But it's also the story of Isaac losing his girlfriend and his eyes more or less simultaneously. And when he does? Gus is there to help him egg her car. Similarly, Hazel isn't the only one who loses Gus. Isaac loses him too, and his eulogy - albeit delivered with Gus present and making snarky interruptions - sums it up perfectly: "When the scientists of the future show up at my house with robot eyes and they tell me to try them on, I will tell the scientists to screw off, because I do not want to see a world without him."

6. Soulless - Gail Carriger
Sometimes, friends are polar opposites. And often, friends poke fun at each other. While the story between Alexia and Ivy isn't at the heart of Soulless, it's still a fabulous friendship despite the fact that Ivy despairs of Alexia's behaviour and Alexia frequently tells Ivy that her hats are the ugliest things on the face of the earth. Because sometimes? That's what friends do. 

7. Tomorrow, When the War Began series - John Marsden
Yes, I'm counting the entire series here, whatever. This series shows you pretty much every aspect of friendship. The friend who's basically a sibling. The friend you make when you're thrown together unexpectedly. The friendship that slowly ends because one of you isn't the person they used to be. The friend who's willing to sacrifice themselves for the rest of the group. The friend who you can giggle with about silly things at night. Basically? It will give you all the friend feels you could possibly want. 

8. Saving Francesca - Melina Marchetta
Oh, hey. Two Aussie YAs back to back! In this book, Francesca learns that you can find friends in the most unlikely places and with the most unlikely people. Also that friendships can fall by the wayside when you realise that your friends aren't the people you thought they were and that maybe, just maybe, they never really liked you that much to start with. Good thing she's got those new friends to help pick up the pieces...

9. Days of Blood and Starlight - Laini Taylor
Even though Zuzana has no idea what the hell is going on with Karou, has no idea where Karou even is, and is caught up in her shiny nauseating love bubble with Mik, she doesn't give up on her friend. She doesn't have to understand everything to do what her friend asks of her, to be there when she's needed. Because sometimes, friendship is about not giving up on people.

10. Redwoodian - Alysia Gray Painter
There's a lot going on in Redwoodian friendship-wise. We get to see the friendship between Fair and Sutton in detail for the first time, and it's adorable. Fair's slowly coming to terms with her shiny new friends and old neighbours, the Overboves, as well as coming to terms with the fact that there might be something more than friendship brewing between her and Gomery. And then her favourite movie star, Prior Yates, is thrown into the mix and she has to deal with the concept of being friends with the man who is absolutely nothing like she'd imagined him to be. Fabulousness. 

What books would you put on your list?

K xx

Monday, May 19, 2014

Bout of Books wrap up

Well. My first Bout of Books went better than I ever thought it would. I never felt like I'd put too much pressure on myself, or like I HAD to pay attention to how many pages I was reading to ensure that I met my daily target. Nope. I just kept on reading and then had moments of "WTF?!?!?!" the following morning when I tallied up the number of pages I'd read the previous day.

First things first, let's recap Days 5-7. Friday and Saturday were actually pretty quiet on the reading front. I worked all day Friday and ended up only having about a 15 minute lunch break so I think I only got a couple of chapters read in that time. And a lot of Saturday was taken up with making and decorating cupcakes and then attending Little Miss A's 9th birthday party. (NINE ALREADY?!?! I can't even) As always, all images are from Goodreads.

Friday
Pages read: 202
Total pages read: 2282
Percentage of page goal achieved: 114%
Books read: Speak (finished), A Hat Full of Sky

Total books finished: 6
Percentage of book goal achieved: 85%

Saturday
Pages read: 327
Total pages read: 2609
Percentage of page goal achieved: 130%
Books read: A Hat Full of Sky (finished), Thirteen

Total books finished: 7
Percentage of book goal achieved: 100%

Sunday
Pages read: 617
Total pages read: 3226
Percentage of page goal achieved: 161%
Books read: Thirteen (finished), We Were Liars (finished), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Total books finished: 9
Percentage of book goal achieved: 128%

Wrap up
I think I can safely say that I should set harder goals for myself next time. I thought that reading a book a day would be plenty challenging for me. But considering I read two and a third books more than my goal, apparently I was wrong. And I'm STILL staggered by the number of pages I managed to get through! I do feel slightly like Thirteen was cheating, because it's a middle grade book and despite being over 200 pages, it only took me about an hour to read it cover to cover...

Still, I finished up the week having read nine books - six new and three rereads - and well underway with a tenth. I achieved my goal of reading 2,000 pages on Thursday and finished up the week more than 1,200 pages past that goal for an average of 460 pages per day.

In short, I'm already excited about Bout of Books 11, even though it isn't until the middle of August!

Have you read any of these books? And will you be joining in the Bout of Books fun next time around??

K xx

Friday, May 16, 2014

Bout of Books - Days 3 and 4


Well. Wednesday and Thursday ended up being far more successful on the reading front than I could have ever imagined! Once again, I didn't track how much time I spent reading, because it's too complicated to keep track of. I managed to finish three books over the course of these two days, read just shy of 1200 pages, and have already gone over my page goal. Which was incredibly unexpected! (All images from Goodreads)

Wednesday
Pages read: 605
Total pages read: 1489
Percentage of page goal achieved: 74%
Books read: Sea of Shadows (finished), The Five Greatest Warriors

Total books finished: 3
Percentage of book goal achieved: 42%

Thursday
Pages read: 591
Total pages read: 2080
Percentage of page goal achieved: 104%
Books read: The Five Greatest Warriors (finished), Crash into You (finished), Speak



Total books finished: 5
Percentage of book goal achieved: 71%

How's your Bout of Books going?

K xx
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