Monday, June 30, 2014

The Angel Awards

There's no Movie Monday post today, because I got distracted by season 2 of Orange Is The New Black and kind of forgot to watch a movie over the weekend. Womp womp.

ANYWAY.

A few weeks ago, we fiiiiiiiiiiiiinally finished recapping Angel over on Snark Squad, as I mentioned last week. And part of our wrap-up process was making videos about our best and worst episodes. Well. *I* made videos about my best and worst episodes. Lor and Sweeney both broke the rules and decided to do their best and worst arcs and moments instead. And seeing as the arcs and moments are FAR more memorable than the episodes, I figured I'd pull together my own list of arcs and moments.

And to make it more exciting, I decided to give awards to the best and worst things, kind of like the Oscars and the Razzies rolled into one only with a TV show that went off the air ten years ago. Makes perfect sense, right? Right.



Did you watch Angel back in the day? Would you agree that the arcs and moments are more memorable than individual episodes??

K xx

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Update all the updates

Sooooo. It's been a while since I've talked about anything besides books and movies, huh? I guess that means it's time to give you guys a few updates on some stuff that's happening...

1. WE FINISHED ANGEL OMG
Yes, a couple of weeks ago, we officially posted our very last Angel recap over on Snark Squad. Since then, we've wrapped things up and, while I still have one more video to make on my own channel because Lor and Sweeney were dirty cheaters and changed the rules after I'd made my wrap-up videos, we are FINISHED with the Buffyverse. Which is crazy exciting.

But don't fret - you'll still see plenty of me over on Snark Squad. We're nearing the end of season 1 of Supernatural, and I'm working on TWO super secret projects over there as well. One will launch next week, while the other won't go live until October. But we've already started writing because we're weirdos like that.

2. I'M GOING TO ENGLAND OMG
That's right, I've booked a plane ticket and I'm heading to Old Blighty for three weeks in September! Well. More like two and a bit weeks in England and five or six days in Portugal, but whatever. It's pretty damned exciting either way. There will be all kinds of family shenanigans, and I plan on catching up with/meeting some of my favourite people. It's going to be pretty interesting, I suspect. Especially as I haven't been to the UK in 12 years, and on that particular occasion I spent all of about six hours in London!

3. I JOINED MEDIAVENGERS OMG
So after an increasing amount of weirdness and insanity on Tumblr, my BFF Kim decided that she was going to move MediAvengers to Blogger and reinvent it. And she asked me to join her, which UM DUH. So you can now find me over there on the regular, being all meta about the media pieces that Kim creates around Marvel Cinematic Universe events and characters wheeeeeee. No, but seriously. Check it out. It's pretty cool.

4. I'M GOING TO CANBERRA OMG
Not QUITE as exciting as some of the other news in this post, but Mum and I are heading up to Canberra next weekend for a few days to catch up with people and meet new babies and probably freeze to death. And to go to the bakery in Holbrook, because that's pretty much the only reason to spend seven hours on the Hume Highway...

5. I HAVE A JOB UNTIL THE END OF THE YEAR OMG
Admittedly, it's only one day a week, but that's better than zero days a week! And a year working in the one place definitely looks better on my CV than two months or four months, so YAY.

6. I FINALLY FINISHED WATCHING CHARMED OMG
It only took me the better part of seven months to get through eight seasons!! And one of these days, I'll actually get around to blogging about seasons 4-8 to fit in with the ones I've already done... But for now? I've very happily moved onto Friday Night Lights. Although I don't think I'll be sharing All The Thoughts about that one. Mostly because it seems far too much like hard work!

So. What's new with you guys?

K xx

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

TTT - Cover Trends I Like/Dislike

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

Today's topic is to do with book covers. The stuff we like. The stuff we don't like. I'm kind of a cover snob, and therefore, there's more on this list that I DISLIKE than anything. All images from Goodreads.

The Stuff I Like
1. Amazing typography.
Let's be honest, this pretty much started with The Fault in Our Stars. I suspect typography will be on a lot of lists today. And with good reason! Font choice/layout can make or break a cover for me.

2. Covers that are minimalist, but not boring. 
We all know the boring minimalist covers - they tend to grace the classics at your local library. You know, the ones where it's just a plain cover with the title and author printed on it, and maybe a border? Yeah, I'm not talking about those ones. I'm talking about covers like the black covers of Michael Grant's Gone series. Or Eleanor & Park. Or More Than This.

3. Object covers
As a general rule, I'm not a huge fan of putting people on the covers of books. Especially photographs of people. Because I feel like you're inevitably doomed into picturing that face in your head when you read the book. So putting OBJECTS on covers is something I'm a pretty big fan of. Like the above. I didn't like the book, but the cover is great.

4. Fantasy covers actually being decent
Exhibit A (1995)
Exhibit B (2014)
Does that even make sense? You know what I mean, though. Fantasy covers are often pretty awful (see Exhibit A). Even on books by big-name authors, the covers can be...cheap-looking. Sort of like they were drawn in someone's basement in between rounds of D&D. But recently? There's been a shift towards giving fantasy books absolutely incredible covers that won't look dated in approximately 30 seconds (see Exhibit B). YAY.

The Stuff That Can Go Either Way
5. The ballgown
Sometimes it works, as above. Other times? It just gives off an impression that the entire book is just going to be one girl's journey to become a pretty pretty princess. Which I guess I should be grateful for because at least it acts as a warning sign that I probably shouldn't pick it up in the first place... (*cough* The Selection *cough*)

6. Close-ups of random body parts
They can be absolutely amazing, or just plain weird... This one is kind of a combination of the two, depending on how long you stare at it for...

The Stuff That I Wish Would Go Die In A Fire
7. Decapitation
Oh my God, do I hate this trend. WHY. WHY ARE THERE SO MANY HEADLESS (or partially headless) PEOPLE ON BOOK COVERS???? It needs to stop.

8. New Adult covers

That's a pretty broad thing to hate, I know. But I've read some INCREDIBLE blurbs for NA books, and then looked at the cover and been firmly on the nope train. Because if I see one more new adult book that features generic white people kissing? I will scream.

9. Models who don't match the character descriptions
Look, I'm not saying that they have to have three freckles on their left cheek and purple eyes. But if we're told like three pages into the book that the main character is blonde and there's a brunette on the cover, or you've told us for two books that she has dreads and they put that curly haired ginger (above) on the front of the book, I *am* going to be confused.

10. Movie tie-in editions
I know that these boost sales like whoa. But I really don't like it when the only version that's available (or at least the only version that's available for less than $30) is the one that has the actors' faces all over it. Because it stops you from picturing the characters for yourself, even if you didn't see the movie. This happened to me with Our Mutual Friend earlier in the year. I've never seen the mini-series but because I have the tie-in edition that has glossy photos in the middle, I couldn't help but picture Paul McGann and Keeley Hawes and David Bradley the whole time I was reading the book. Which is NOT what Dickens had in mind!

So. What cover trends do you love/hate?

K xx

Monday, June 23, 2014

Movie Monday: The Fault in Our Stars


Okay, y'all. It's been out for a couple of weeks now and most people who are going to see it have done so. So let's talk about TFiOS, shall we?

Source
What I loved:
- Pretty much everything.
- The script. So much of it was lifted directly from the book and it worked really well.
- Nat Wolff. Holy crap, he stole the show in every scene he was in.
- Laura Dern and Sam Trammell. You got a far better sense of how Hazel's illness effected their daily lives on screen.
Source
- Cannulas and oxygen tanks and artificial limbs all over the place! OH HAI, VISIBLE DISABILITIES!
- It was one of the most authentic-to-the-book adaptations I've ever seen.

What I wasn't expecting:
- How funny it was. Sure, the book has its funny moments. And I think part of my surprise about the humour of the movie was that it had been a couple of years since I'd last read the book. But the movie was
FUNNY. And not just one or two funny moments. Like, at least half the movie was funny.
This was way funnier than it should have been. Source
- Which moment would actually tip me over the edge into crying. I'd teared up a few times before then, but Isaac's eulogy was what threw me into the full on ugly cry.
- For them to have randomly made Hazel and Gus a year older in the movie than they are in the book. I'm not really sure why they did that, to be honest. But whatever.

What I was a little disappointed about:
- That we didn't get Hazel and Gus brainstorming what to say in the advert for the swingset.
- That we didn't get "Hump the moist cave wall". Admittedly, it would have interrupted the flow of the movie to have that happen after Gus' death. But surely they could have put it in somewhere else??
- "I lit up like a Christmas tree, Hazel Grace". I thought for SURE that moment would make me cry. But no...

SO. What did you guys think? Was it as good as you thought it would be? Did it live up to the hype? I NEED TO KNOOOOOOW.

K xx

Friday, June 20, 2014

YA books that will change your world view

Last weekend, the lovely Cait from Notebook Sisters made a list of 30 YA books that changed her world view, which was, in turn, based on a list on the same topic done by Epic Reads. Cait asked in her post what her readers would add to the list, and rather than writing the world's longest comment, I figured I'd write a blog post about it. And then stuff happened and here we are nearly a week later WHOOPS.

ANYWAY. I've read 12 of Cait's 30 books, and a mere 6 of Epic Reads' 30 books, which is pretty pathetic considering how much I love YA. And I didn't want to give you a list that was filled with books that only half deserved to be on there in my opinion, so I'm topping my list out at 20 books. Because of reasons.

Code Name Verity - Elizabeth Wein
A book that will teach you about friendship and sacrifice. Also a book that will tear your heart out and jump on the pieces.

Tomorrow, When the War Began - John Marsden
Those of us who live in the city are pretty much screwed if there's a war. The country kids? They'll be okay.

Pushing the Limits - Katie McGarry
Seeing things in black and white isn't always a good thing.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling
Bravery can come from the least expected places. And friendship can overcome pretty much anything.

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
Love can find you when you least expect it. And sometimes? Your hero is actually an asshat.

The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness
Be grateful that no one can hear your thoughts.

Saving Francesca - Melina Marchetta
The people you thought were your friends can be just as toxic as internet trolls. And the people you thought you'd never EVER be friends with? Can be just the people you need in your life.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Mark Haddon
Just because someone doesn't act the way you expect, doesn't mean they're not just as human as you.

Speak - Lauren Halse Armstrong
Sometimes, the things that are the hardest to say? Are the things that need to be said the most.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor
Your exterior can change. It's what's inside that counts. Also, family doesn't end with blood.

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
Friendships can be made in the most unlikely of places.

Love and Leftovers - Sarah Tregay
The book that made me realise that maybe poetry isn't as bad as I thought it was.

Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell
Don't judge people based on surface appearances.

Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher
Your words can have consequences you wouldn't even anticipate.

Cinder - Marissa Meyer
What others see as a weakness can actually be your strength.

Divergent - Veronica Roth
Pigeonholing people is bad.

Rose Under Fire - Elizabeth Wein
There were non-Jewish people in concentration camps, and their stories are important too.

Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins
Sometimes, biting the hand that feeds you gets you an equally shitty hand.

My Life Next Door - Huntley Fitzpatrick
Your parents are human too, did you know?

Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver
It's never too late to change.

What YA books have changed your world view?

K xx

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Classics Spin: No Name - Wilkie Collins

Source
I was pretty damned excited last month when the Classics Club Spin came up with #1, because it meant I got to read more Wilkie Collins. And Wilkie is one of my absolute favourite Victorian authors. (Course, I was also excited because it means I can continue to procrastinate over reading Heart of Darkness. Which just means that the spin result was a double win)

The edition above, I should mention, isn't the edition that I read. No, I - poor, underemployed person that I am - read the free Kindle version. Lord knows what little pearls of wisdom I missed out on by not having endnotes! SIGH.

ANYWAY.

No Name tells the story of the Vanstone sisters, who find themselves disinherited when they discover under tragic circumstances that they're illegitimate. Unlike many of Collins' other works, including The Moonstone and The Woman in White, the big reveal happens quite early on. The rest of the book is dedicated to how the two sisters handle the loss of their substantial inheritance, though we focus primarily on the younger sister, Magdalene.

The story, though sensationalist at the time, has far less of the supernatural style elements that his other work tends towards. So in The Moonstone, we have mysterious hypnosis and death by quicksand. In The Woman in White, we have mysterious lookalikes and deep dark secrets that must be taken to the grave. Here, however, we just have a very determined young lady assisted by some quasi-relatives with dubious morals.

And holy mackerel, is Magdalene determined. Homegirl is in dire need of a sassy gay friend to talk through things with, because WOW.
Source
As is always the case with Wilkie Collins novels, the characters were absolutely phenomenal. While there were numerous occasions when I wanted to sit Magdalene down with a cocktail and a "Girl, no" conversation, you still have to admire the strength with which she stands by her convictions. Mrs. Lecount is the height of sneaky creeptastic-ness. Captain Wragge lives firmly in the grey zones between right and wrong. There are moments throughout when you can see that underneath all his schemes, he knows when to do the right thing. But he also knows when to take advantage of people and how to twist them around his little finger.

Mrs. Wragge is just in desperate need of a hug. Miss Garth is supportive no matter what. Frank Clare is a jerky mcjerkface and I really wish it was possible to punch fictional characters in the face, because that's what he deserves. And Noel Vanstone, weak and easily manipulated, deserves much the same.

I loved the way the story unfolds through specific scenes at very different locations, which are interspersed with letters written between the characters. The writing was great, and the whole thing gave a fantastic sense of how dependent Victorian women were on their male relatives. While it definitely wasn't my favourite Wilkie Collins novel - it's a LITTLE longer than was absolutely necessary, probably because it was serialised and Magdalen, as I said, got a little bit much to deal with at times - it's definitely well worth the read.

Have you read it? What did you think?

K xx

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

TTT - My Winter TBR

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

TECHNICALLY, this week's theme is "books on my summer TBR", but hey. I live in the Southern Hemisphere, you guys. It's freezing cold and summer is almost six months away. So I felt weird about titling this post with the official theme as a result.

ANYWAY. Whatever the season is, here's my TBR for the next few months! (All images from Goodreads)

1. Fairwil - Alysia Gray Painter

I have been waiting on this one for approximately EVER, and I'm so freaking excited. I'm beta reading the first three-quarters of it at the moment, and I can't wait to get my hands on the final final version in the not-too-distant future! 

2. Landline - Rainbow Rowell

OH MY GOD, I AM DYYYYYYYYYYYYYING TO GET MY HANDS ON THIS. I was so sad when the only ARCs on Netgalley were for people in the UK. Like, RUDE. At least there's only a couple more weeks to wait???

3. Isla and the Happily Ever After - Stephanie Perkins

I'm a liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiittle bit nervous about this one because last I heard, it didn't have an Australian publisher. So I might not be able to read it the second it comes out. At least I can always order it from Book Depository if the worst does happen and a publisher isn't sorted out between now and August??

4. The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet - Bernie Su and Kate Rorick

I NEED THIS LIKE I NEED AIR. Seriously, you guys. I've been having Lizzie Bennet Diaries withdrawal symptoms for over a year now, and I'm pretty sure I've read all the fanfic. ALL OF IT. I can't justify ordering the DVDs when the entire series is on Youtube (I know, bonus content. But I'm poor, yo), but this? This I will be forking out the $10 for.

5. Heir of Fire - Sarah J. Maas

Teeeeeeeeechnically this one doesn't come out until September. But I got approved for an ARC, and therefore I will be reading it sometime between now and the release date!! And let's be honest - it'll probably be closer to NOW than to the release date. Because of reasons.

6. Magic Breaks - Ilona Andrews

The Kate Daniels series is quite possibly my favourite urban fantasy series these days. And I cannot WAIT for the new one to come out next month! 

7. Since You've Been Gone - Morgan Matson

This one came out in the US months and months ago, and I've been in utter agony watching everyone rave about it. It's fiiiiiiiiiinally being released in Australia next week and I'm pretty damned excited about getting my grubby little hands on it! 

8. Between - Megan Whitmer

If you're not following Megan on Twitter, you really should be. Because homegirl is HILARIOUS. And I cannot WAIT to read her book! (The Kindle edition of which is even available for preorder on Amazon Australia. THANK GOD)

9. Sisters' Fate - Jessica Spotswood

Oh my God, after the cliffhanger that Spotswood left us with at the end of the second book, I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. 

10. Masquerade - Kylie Fornasier

I heard about this one at Penguin Teen Australia, and I've been pretty intrigued by it ever since. I mean, how can you pass up something that's billed as Gossip Girl meets Downton Abbey set in eighteenth century Venice?! Plus, LOOK AT THE COVER.

What's in your [insert season here] TBR pile?

K xx

Monday, June 16, 2014

Movie Monday - the musicals edition


Okay, so we've talked about my favourite soundtracks and my favourite scores already. So now let's finish the trilogy by talking about my favourite musicals! Typically in a musical, the songs advance the story in some way, sharing the inner feelings of the characters. A few of these don't quite fit that bill, but I'm counting them as musicals anyway because most of the music is sung by the characters. So...yeah.

Pitch Perfect

Come on, like you can pass up that big final number. I'm sure I'm not the only one counting the days until the sequel comes out.

Les Miserables

Sure, the movie version had its problems (*cough* Russell Crowe *cough*). And Bring Him Home is ALWAYS awful because it's way too high for anyone but Colm Wilkinson. But Do You Hear The People Sing? Was absolutely phenomenal.

Singin' in the Rain

If you don't love this movie and its amazingly ridiculous dance routines, I'm not sure we can be friends any more. Also, if someone could find me a pair of the shoes Debbie Reynolds is wearing in that video, that'd be great.

Mamma Mia

Okay, so Pierce Brosnan's singing should be banned for the sake of humanity. But this movie is just SO MUCH FUN. And Meryl Streep recorded the vocals for this in ONE TAKE. Which is pretty damned amazing.

Phantom of the Opera

One of these days, I'll get around to covering this one properly. But for now? It's a pretty spectacular adaptation of the stage show. And Gerard Butler is surprisingly great as the Phantom.

Rock of Ages

This movie falls firmly into so-bad-it's-secretly-good territory. It's utterly ridiculous, and I love it.

Hairspray

Fabulousness from start to finish, with amazing costumes to boot. (Please excuse the weird Portuguese voiceover at certain points during that video. It was the best I could find...)

Moulin Rouge

Sure, it ends in major ugly crying. But it's so stinking good OMG.

Grease

Okay, the flying car thing at the end is utterly ridiculous. As is the change-your-entire-personality-for-a-guy theme that it has going on. But damn, it's great.

High Society

I have an irrational soft spot for this musical version of The Philadelphia Story. I mean, how can you pass up Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly being ridiculous?!

What are your favourite musicals?

K xx

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Marauders Assemble

Remember how I said last week that I finally got a new phone? Yeah, I took full advantage of the fact that it's a fairly recent and pretty popular model to ACTUALLY GET A CASE FOR IT.

I tried to get a case for my old phone when I first got it, but because it had just been superseded by a new version, the only cases on the market were plain and boring. So I never bothered to get one. Which was fine, except that by the end of the two years, the camera was pretty scratched thanks to my tendency to slide my phone around on the bench...

NOT THIS TIME, THOUGH.

In my typical can-make-major-decisions-in-a-split-second-but-agonises-for-days-about-tiny-things fashion, I found THREE cases that I really liked and couldn't decide between them. So obviously, given that they were like $7-$15 each on Etsy, I bought all three of them.

And they are MAGICAL:


Poor Ben now has a camera flash for a face, because OBVIOUSLY I'm using the Lego Marvel one at the moment. I also find it oddly entertaining that you can see Spiderman's little legs swinging in from the top left corner.

Anyway, my plan at this stage is to change cases every month so that they all get equal amounts of love. I'm thinking the Marauder's Map will be next. Yes? Yes.

Which of these would you use first?

K xx

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The carrots make it healthy, right??

I've never really been a big fan of carrot cake. It's always seemed like something healthy in disguise as a dessert. Plus, it usually has sultanas in it, and I hate dried fruit. Anyway, one of my colleagues in Canberra used to make this totally amazing carrot cake with mountains of cream cheese frosting, which instantly made the carrot cake worth eating.

Stupidly, I neglected to get the recipe from her, and I've been looking for a decent, dried fruit free carrot cake recipe ever since. I found this one while flipping through one of the cookbooks at work last week and figured I'd give it a go over the long weekend.

Here's what you need for the cake:


1 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
1 1/3 cups firmly packed brown sugar
3 eggs
3 cups firmly packed coarsely grated carrot
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons mixed spice

Start by putting the oil, sugar, and eggs into a large mixing bowl. The recipe actually says to mix them in a small bowl, then transfer them to a large bowl, but...WHY?!

Beat them together until thick and creamy:

Then add ALL THE CARROT OMG. Seriously, it was all three of those carrots from the ingredients photo:

Stir it through, then add the walnuts:

Then add the baking soda, mixed spice, and self-raising flour.

Mix it all together, and pour the mixture into a greased and lined deep 22cm cake tin. The recipe specifies a round tin, but I used a square one because the only round one we have that's big enough is springform, and pff. And yes, it NEEDS to be deep. This is a monster of a cake.

Bake at 180 degrees C (350F) for about 1 1/4 hours. Mine was gluten free so it took a little longer, as always. Leave the cake in the tin for like 10 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.


Then go out to a 30th birthday party for like five hours, get home at 11.30pm and decide to frost the cake. Obviously, you will forget to take photos of the frosting-making process... (This part is optional)

Here's what you'll need for the frosting:
30g butter, softened
80g cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 1/2 cups icing sugar

Beat the butter and cream cheese together in a small bowl until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in the icing sugar. Mix through the lemon zest with a knife so that it doesn't just all get stuck in the beaters.

We decided to cut the cake in half, given that there's only three of us to eat it. So half of the cake got wrapped up un-frosted and put in the freezer. I was going to halve the quantity of frosting, but Mum was all "PFF, WHY?!?!?!" So feel free to double the frosting. There's no judgement here...



The verdict? It's pretty freaking good, y'all. The icing wasn't QUITE as cream cheese-y tasting as I would have liked, but I feel like doubling the quantity was definitely a good idea. The cake is pretty dense but it's got a lot of texture to it that stops it from feeling like you're eating a doorstop. Or something.

Basically, it's delicious. And really, you can't go wrong with cream cheese frosting, now can you?

Where do you fall in the great carrot cake debate? Dried fruit? Or no dried fruit?

K xx

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

TTT - Books I've read so far this year

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

This week's topic was the top ten books we've read so far this year. This was kind of a struggle for me, because I'm currently reading books 125 and 126 for the year. So I had more than a few to choose from, although I automatically discounted any rereads because it felt like cheating... As a result, I'm cheating and putting a couple of series on the list, because I couldn't pick between the books.

1. The Throne of Glass series - Sarah J. Maas.
Holy hell, this series is good. And yes, this is one of those times when you should actually read the novellas because they give you so much amazing detail about Celaena's past and how she became the person that we meet at the start of the first book. 

2. The Pushing the Limits series - Katie McGarry
I've liked the odd numbered books a lot more than the even numbered books, but the whole series is pretty fabulous if you like your YA to come with a side of Real Life Problems. My copy of the fourth book included the novella, Crossing the Line, which was insanely cute and definitely worth reading. 

3. Croak - Gina Damico
I just finished the third book of this trilogy last night and am still trying to sort out all of my feels, but the first one was great. It was fun and hilarious and filled with awesome characters. 

4. My Life Next Door - Huntley Fitzpatrick
Another one that falls into the category of YA with a side of Real Life Problems. But mostly, it was indescribably cute, and I just wanted to hug the main characters.

5. Pointe - Brandy Colbert
This was NOT an easy read, thanks to the fact that it contains some seriously messed up subject matter. But it was such an incredible - if occasionally cringeworthy - story. 

6. Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia - David Hunt
This was hilarious and informative from start to finish. You can't possibly say Australian history is boring when there are books like this that present all the wonderful historical titbits to you in fabulous ways.

7. A Breath of Frost - Alyxandra Harvey
There was a lot going on in this book, but it was SO GOOD OMG. I mean, how can you pass up a trio of debutante cousins in Victorian London who discover that they're witches? I think one of the best parts of this was that even though it's part of a trilogy, the ending wasn't a cliffhanger, and the book could effectively be a standalone. 

8. Splintered - A.G. Howard
A dark, modernised Alice in Wonderland adaptation? Uh, YES. The characters were great, the story was fabulous, and the ink it's printed with is purple. PURPLE. I have yet to read the sequel, but I've heard it's equally fabulous.

9. The Impossible Knife of Memory - Laurie Halse Anderson
This one was kind of a tough call, as I've also read Speak this year, and was struggling to decide between the two. Ultimately, though, The Impossible Knife of Memory won out for me and I'm not quite sure why. They're both excellent books, dealing with real and serious issues. So hell, go read both of them. 

10. We Were Liars - E. Lockhart
I guessed the big plot twist ending in this one, but that didn't stop it from being an excellent book with a hugely unreliable narrator. The writing is quite choppy at times, but I really enjoyed that. And trust me when I say that the less you know about the plot going in, the better.

Have you read any of these? What are the best books you've read this year?

K xx

Monday, June 9, 2014

Movie Monday - the scores edition


Last week, I talked about my favourite soundtracks. This week, I'm going to talk about my favourite scores, because a score can be absolutely iconic without containing any lyrics whatsoever.

Once again, these are in no particular order, because that's way too much like hard work!

Pirates of the Caribbean - Hans Zimmer

This score is a total earworm in all its forms. All I need is a couple of seconds of it, and it's inevitably stuck in my head for the next three days. But it's okay because it's totally awesome. Also, if you set this particular track as your alarm in the morning, you'll wake up convinced that you can do anything. WIN.

Lord of the Rings - Howard Shore 

That string line, you guys. It's just so good. And the horns. God, I love a good French horn line... There are just so many awesome themes throughout the entire score, and I love that there's effectively an individual theme for each place in Middle Earth.

Jurassic Park - John Williams

Come on, like you weren't expecting this to be on here. There's a reason why John Williams crops up on this list as many times as he does: the man is a master. This score is full of wonder and excitement and pants-shitting-there's-a-raptor-chasing-me terror, and it's AMAZING.

Gladiator - Lisa Gerrard and Hans Zimmer

There ARE a few moments in this soundtrack where, after Pirates of the Caribbean came out, I was like "Zimmer, dude. Get a new jam..." because it feels quite similar. But it's still one hell of a soundtrack, and it's capable of giving me goosebumps.

The Avengers - Alan Silvestri

I inevitably end up singing this over and over on a loop any time I watch pretty much any Marvel movie these days, which I suspect is largely due to the use of The Avengers theme in the Lego Marvel Superheroes game. But I'm totally okay with that, because it's a pretty fabulous score.

The Holiday - Hans Zimmer

Okay, so it's a cheesy romantic comedy. But it has one HELL of a score, as you'd expect with Hans Zimmer. Also as you'd expect in a movie where Jack Black plays a composer who writes movie scores... While it may be less epic than a lot of the other scores, it's still fabulous.

Harry Potter - John Williams

I don't know about you guys, but the second the tinkly notes of Hedwig's Theme started to play at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, I knew we were in for one hell of a score. And once again, Williams brought his A game.

Enemy at the Gates - James Horner

I find it really interesting that, with the exact same instruments in the orchestra, a composer can create something that sounds so country-specific (The Monuments Men, for example, had a score that just screamed "America"). This score is so tense and so undeniably Russian sounding, and it does a brilliant job of setting the mood during the Battle of Stalingrad.

Indiana Jones - John Williams

Another Williams classic with one hell of a brass line. The whole thing just has this incredible sense of adventure about it, and I adore it.

Back to the Future - Alan Silvestri

Much like the score to Indiana Jones, the Back to the Future score features one hell of a brass line and has a great sense of adventure about it. Apparently that happened a lot in the 1980s...

Star Wars - John Williams

This one is mostly here because I felt like I couldn't mention John Williams without including it. It's pretty damned iconic, and with good reason. I do enjoy it, but it's not in my top ten...

I think what we've effectively learnt here today is that I'm a sucker for a score with a good French horn line. Or that there are a handful of movie score composers whose work I'm irrationally drawn to. Or both. Maybe both...

What are your favourite scores?

K xx

Friday, June 6, 2014

"Against YA" - the rebuttal

I'm a little late in jumping on the bandwagon on this one because I was at work all day and therefore only had time to catch the occasional glimpse of Twitter. But on Slate today, an article was published stating that "Adults should feel embarrassed about reading literature written for children".

My problem here is not with the sentiment, because everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I totally understand that YA doesn't float everyone's boat. And to clarify: I'm not butthurt about this. I'm really not. I totally get where the author is coming from. But to SHAME people for their reading choices, to effectively argue that anything other than literary fiction isn't worth reading is completely baffling. So there were a bunch of statements in the article that made very little sense to me and that I think warrant addressing in some detail.

Defining YA 
First of all, I think the author's definition of Young Adult ("books written for 12- to 17-year-olds") is flawed. There are many YA books that I wouldn't DREAM of recommending or lending to a kid under the age of sixteen. There are plenty of middle grade books in there to pave the way between children's fiction and full blown YA. The general rule of thumb - at least based on what I was taught in my librarianship course - is that the age of the protagonist in a YA book should give you an indication of the age of the recommended audience.

By that logic - and, indeed, as would have likely been the case during my high school years - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows would have been reserved for upper high school readers instead of being readily given to primary school aged children as it is today. This doesn't make Harry Potter into children's fiction. On the contrary, it means that primary aged children are reading material that they shouldn't be exposed to. That, in many cases, parents have no idea what they're handing their kids. Hell, just this afternoon I was discussing with my boss how she deals with The Hunger Games in a primary school library. There are hundreds of 11 and 12 year olds out there who've read the series and had weeks of nightmares as a result. But because the movie is seen in a "it has teenaged protagonists, therefore must be for children", these kids are being exposed to it far too early.

"These are the books that could plausibly be said to be replacing literary fiction in the lives of their adult readers. And that’s a shame."
Source
Um. What's to say that these adults would have been reading "literary fiction" in the first place? Who's to say they don't STILL read literary fiction? I mean, I read YA. But I also read general fiction and literary fiction and sci-fi and fantasy and adventure and fanfic and crime and paranormal fiction. Who's to say which of those is the most significant, let alone which of those has the biggest impact in my life?

Furthermore, how is literary fiction defined? Both Book Depository and Bookworld lump it in with general fiction, while Dymocks features YA books such as The Book Thief in its literary fiction category. Hell, if you look up General and Literary Fiction on Bookworld, one of the first things under best sellers is Divergent, which the author dismisses as "transparently trashy". Clearly, literary fiction is itself problematic and sometimes aimed at teenage readers.

"...my own life as a YA reader way back in the early 1990s was hardly wanting for either satisfaction or sophistication."
The author references Tuck Everlasting and The Westing Game as influential books during her teen years, while failing to mention that both of those books were first published in the 1970s and are generally considered middle grade books. YA during the 1990s existed largely in fantasy form, at least in my experience. Australian YA was a little better off, thanks largely to authors like John Marsden, Catherine Jinks, and Melina Marchetta. And all of those books stand up very nicely on reread.

"I thought, Hmm, that’s a nicely written book for 13-year-olds."
Source
Uh, yeah, I would NOT give The Fault in Our Stars to a thirteen year old. I'm sure many a thirteen year old has read it, but that doesn't mean they should have. And there are many books that fall into this category. Code Name Verity is repeatedly classified as a YA book, but I'm not convinced that the story is suitable for anyone under 17.

The author goes on to say that she had numerous "Oh, brother" moments while reading TFiOS. I'm sure many teenagers did too. There were certain moments that were overdone and a little weird, like Hazel telling 911 that "the great love of my life has a malfunctioning G-tube" (p. 245) , which is something that would be said by NO ONE EVER. Saying "oh brother" to those moments doesn't make you an adult. It makes you a critical reader.

"Most importantly, these books consistently indulge in the kind of endings that teenagers want to see, but which adult readers ought to reject as far too simple. YA endings are uniformly satisfying, whether that satisfaction comes through weeping or cheering."
Source
Okay, did you actually read The Fault in Our Stars? I'm not sure anyone who has could say that ending was "uniformly satisfying". The same goes for Eleanor & Park, of which she's equally dismissive. I'm also not convinced you could say that the "transparently trashy" Divergent trilogy could be considered in any way to have a uniformly satisfying ending. The same goes for The Hunger Games. Yes (SPOILERS), Katniss marries Peeta. But they effectively brought down one corrupt and broken government only to find it immediately replaced by other, and they both spend their lives physically and emotionally traumatised by what they went through.

Furthermore, since when are the endings of adult books NOT of the neat package variety? I've read more adult books - whether they be crime, fantasy, literature, science fiction, or general fiction - that had neatly tied up happily-ever-after endings than I have YA books. Look at the literary greats - Austen, Gaskell, Dickens, and Bronte all had a tendency to tie up all the loose ends and provide their characters with their appropriate endings - happiness and true love for the heroes, death or general misery for the villains.

"The heroine of The Fault in Our Stars finds messy, unresolved stories unacceptably annoying."
I wouldn't say anything of the sort about Hazel. Yes, her favourite book ends in mid-sentence and she wants to know what happens next. That doesn't mean she doesn't appreciate the ending. I, for instance, wanted to know what happened next in a large number of books, whether they had ambiguous endings or neatly tied up ones. It doesn't mean that I find the endings annoying or unacceptable. It's just the nature of human curiosity.

"But I remember, when I was a young adult, being desperate to earn my way into the adult stacks..."
Yep, I remember that feeling too. But it wasn't because young adult books weren't fulfilling my needs. It was because young adults books effectively DIDN'T EXIST once you'd gotten beyond the Judy Blume years. There was a void between middle grade fiction and adult fiction, and very few books to fill it. Perhaps this was why I clung so tightly to John Marsden and Melina Marchetta when I stumbled upon them - they gave me stories about people my age, people who lived in the real world, who didn't wear armour or fight off dragons. People who I could relate to, with their problems about school and their family dramas and their potentially problematic friendships. But this doesn't mean that I turned away from adult fiction. Hell, I read A Tale of Two Cities when I was ten, for crying out loud. It just means that I could appreciate the benefits of both types of literature.

"But the YA and “new adult” boom may mean fewer teens aspire to grown-up reading, because the grown-ups they know are reading their books."
Source
Um. Have you ever actually met a teenager?? If there's one thing guaranteed to get them not doing a thing, it's the knowledge that grown-ups are doing exactly that. Adults start using Facebook? GET ME AWAY FROM IT. My mum thinks this is cool? EW, GROSS I WANT NOTHING TO DO WITH IT. If anything, teenagers are more likely to stop reading YA and start pushing on to the next thing if only because they don't want to be associated with what their parents are reading. Furthermore, teens are regularly reading what the author terms "grown-up reading" courtesy of...oh, I don't know...HIGH SCHOOL.

"But don’t take my word for it. Listen to Shailene Woodley, the 22-year-old star of this weekend’s big YA-based film."
I'm going to go ahead and call the quote that was used in the article as - to quote an episode of Buffy - a radical interpretation of the text. If you look at the original interview with Woodley, what I suspect she was actually saying was that, at the age of 22, she feels she's too old to play a teenager. It's no different to Daniel Radcliffe making his mark by moving from Harry Potter to roles that featured him kissing men and appearing naked on stage. It doesn't mean that he eschews all things YA. It just means that he - and likely Woodley - don't want to end up as actors who are in their late 20s and still playing teenagers. Just look at Bianca Lawson - she was still playing 17 year olds at the age of 34.

In summary
Yes, there are a lot of adults reading YA today, where ten or twenty years ago it would have been unheard of. But to assume that these adults are EXCLUSIVELY reading YA is incredibly narrow-minded. As is the assumption that literary fiction is automatically superior to YA. There's an awful lot of pretentious, wanky literary fiction out there, just as there's a lot of cookie-cutter same same but different happily-ever-after literary fiction on the market. On the other hand, there's a lot of YA that's beautifully written and multi-award winning, and it shouldn't be discounted just because the protagonist doesn't have a wealth of maturity under their belt.

It seems that what the author is essentially saying is "I'm an adult and I don't like YA, so no other adult should like it either". But to put one genre of fiction up on a pedestal while arguing that another should be ignored completely once you reach a certain and completely arbitrary age is nothing short of baffling.

Have you read the article? What did you think? 

K xx

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Two years worth of randomness

I got a new phone over the weekend (fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinally!), and it wasn't until I opened the picture gallery and the text message inbox to find them both empty that I realised how weird it is that we effectively lose two years of our lives every time we get a new phone. Okay, so I didn't really LOSE the photos, because my camera was automatically synced to Dropbox. But there were some quality text message conversations in there that are now effectively gone forever. Womp womp.

Incidentally, this happened while I was getting my new phone: the girl who was helping me was all "Okay, so do you want Endless Talk or Endless Text on your new plan?" And as she was talking, she brought up the details of my existing plan and was like "Oh. You've made like ten phone calls this year. Endless Text it is!" YUP. There's a reason why I have an "I'm allergic to the phone" tag.

Anyway, in honour of my long suffering Samsung Galaxy S2, here are some of the incredibly random pictures that I now have floating around in Dropbox!

Apparently eight year old me struggled with the spelling of cooperation...

My bread had a face:

The eggs had a face:

Found at Target in Washington DC and immediately sent to Kim:

GIANT FORK OH MY GOD:

I still have no idea what the hell this postmark was, but it looks a lot like a ghost flying at me. Thanks, New Zealand:

I'm pretty sure this is the worst idea of ever:

I found Heaven. It's at Officeworks:

Yes, that's a Marvel onesie. Once again, sent to Kim:

Little Miss A decided she wanted to be Ned Kelly for a dress-up day at school. So we made her a costume:

Little Miss A was very unimpressed with my sneaky Battleship playing tactics and didn't understand how she hadn't sunk anything:

Yes, I own a Ghostface mask. And yes, a certain eight year old took it upon herself to model it on Halloween:

Nothing says "Happy Valentine's Day" quite like a little girl with murder in her heart:

MARVEL DUVET COVER OMG. Once again, sent to Kim:

Pirate Easter bunnies. On a supermarket shelf, not in an oven:

Limited edition flour is a thing?!?!:

I ordered a spinach, tomato and feta pizza on Saturday night. It was NOT what I was anticipating...

Please tell me that your phones hold an equally random collection of nonsense photos??

K xx
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