Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dear America...Grammar and metaphor

I had to come out of my self-induced exam hibernation to share this little video with you. David Mitchell (Peep Show) explains the error of several metaphors that have been "Americanised" on behalf of the Queen. Very funny stuff!

Flipback books, hot or... what?!

One of my favourite indie bookstores tweeted the other day that they'll be getting the revolutionary new "flipback books" into their store in a month or so and then linked to this website. Apparently these books are the new new way of the future (since Ebooks are the new way of the future) because their slim size and sideways style print means that they're the size of a mobile phone and much easier to carry around than your regular size books. I'm not sure I'd go so far as to call it revolutionary but there are a few decent titles now available in this format so perhaps when they arrive in store I'll take a look and see if they're worth all the hype. Here is the promotional video they're showing on their website, take a look and see what "readers" think about it.

So what do you think? Clever bit of ingenuity to try to accommodate to the changing lifestyles of readers or simply a desperate attempt by the publishing industry to compete with the ebook market (as some Youtube commentators seem to think)?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Review: Alice in the Country of Hearts

Alice in the Country of Hearts (manga)
By QuinRose

Published in: 2008

Synopsis (via GoodReads): In this inventive retelling of the Alice in Wonderland story - manga-style! - Alice wakes up to find a white rabbit wearing clothes. The rabbit forcefully drags Alice into the rabbit hole, where he turns into a young man with rabbit ears.

* I'd like to apologise because this is going to be a review of books 1-3 because I read them back to back and I'm having trouble distinguishing between them!

Alice in the Country of Hearts is a multi-book manga series that gives the Alice in Wonderland story we know and love a nice big twist. Not quite as meek and submissive as the original Alice Liddell this Alice didn't fall down the rabbit hole when out of curiosity she followed the white rabbit, instead she was kidnapped by the white rabbit and taken to a Wonderland quite different to the one we know.

Wonderland is divided into four lands overseen by Julius Monrey in the clock-tower (safe ground), Blood Dupre- a mafia boss from a family known as the Hatters, Heart Castle ruled by the Queen of Hearts and Gowland in the Amusement Park. The Hatters, Hearts and Gowland are all feuding about one thing or another and for the most part it is rather dangerous to make your way across the land in fear of treading upon the wrong side of the division. Because if someone catches you on their land the general rule is to shoot first, ask questions later.

This isn't so much a problem for Alice, as everyone seems rather taken with her, and for good reason. It appears that Wonderland is a manifestation of her deepest desires. From the start Alice is depicted as being extremely jealous of her sister Lorina and the elegance that seems to come to her so naturally. Within Wonderland Alice, who normally feels silly and slight alongside her sister, is the object of every one's attention and they all fall head over heels in love with her, something that begins to annoy her almost instantly when she realises that this is the reason the White Rabbit captured her.

The first book is mostly spent exploring Wonderland and getting to meet all of the characters, most of whom are some form of hybrid human/animal, for instance the White Rabbit is a (handsome) man with rabbit ears and the Cheshire cat is a punish young man with cats ears and a tail.They're all rather charming and sweet (though there are the occasion standoff-ish types too) but almost to the point of absurdity. I couldn't help but feel like the whole thing was a bit of a mockery of that super attentive and almost stalkerish type of boyfriend that has been popping up a lot in YA thanks to Twilight. 

Books two and three focus on a mystery that Alice is determined to unravel, investigating why everyone is so cavalier about death and exactly what it is that Julius does as the clockmaker in Wonderland. The first book was enjoyable but it is in these two books that the storyline and the characters really begin to be developed and it becomes more than just a bit of quirky Japanese manga. I was drawn to this series purely because I'm a big fan of Alice in Wonderland and I thought the covers were cute and I was quite surprised at the level of development in the story and the depth and complexity that the characters evolve into.

I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys manga and is a fan of adaptations that aren't completely reliable to the original text. Apart from the character names and the Wonderland location this is a very different story, but it is an enjoyable one none the less. I'd also recommend that if you give it a go and are feeling a bit on the fence about the story after book one, hold on and give book two a go before you give up completely.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A brief pause

So from 9am tomorrow I'll be taking part in a week long 'exam' for one of my uni classes. Since I'm going to have my hands pretty full with that I'll only be posting a couple of posts that I've already organised and written. There'll be no memes except Gabe's new Wildcard Wednesday and my Potter Countdown (check under challenges if you want to take part and want the week's topic) and only one or two reviews, depending how much time I have to fix them up. I'll be back to regular posting next Tuesday so I'll see you all then with a Top Ten Tuesday and hopefully a review for American Gods if I get the time to finish it this week!

Have a good week everyone, can you believe we're almost at June already!?!

My Favourite Cover : Bram Stoker's Dracula

I still haven't actually read this yet (I know, I know!) but as soon as I saw this cover I simply had to have it! The cover art is done by the fashion illustrator Ruben Toledo, who also designed covers for a multitude of other classic texts as part of a Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition set. I've also seen the Alice in Wonderland cover he did and thought it was Divine. It wasn't because of Toledo that I bought this edition (I didn't know who he was till I cracked open the cover and saw the little bio), but because I was immediately attracted to the orange and pink cover with the black silhouette drawings on both front and back. The pages are also slightly shorn and uneven and when combined with the paper cover it almost feels like a personalised manuscript rather than one of those mass produced bland editions you see in high school libraries (no offence!). It probably isn't everyone's cup of tea, but it certainly is mine and I can't wait to read it!

*Sorry about how dark the pictures are, I brilliantly decided to take them at night!

Friday, May 27, 2011

My irrational, down right mental fear and me: A get to know me post

I've decided that every Friday along with my Fanart Friday posts and the occasional blog hop/FF post I'm going to start rotating between a personal piece and a discussion piece. I had a brilliant discussion piece in my head and I kept repeating it while I walked home from the bus so I wouldn't forget it and what do you think happened when I sat down behind my computer? *poof* The idea vanished. Since it was so great I've decided to start this new structure with a personal post in the desperate hope that it somehow makes its way back into my brain sometime between this Friday and next!

Since I'd been discussing my big huge gigantic fears the other day thanks to the seed planted by Gabe over at GabrielReads I thought I'd expand it out and give you guys all the details about exactly how pathetically afraid I am of the dark/unknown/things that go bump in the night.

All of those fears are joined into one tangled mess of terror for me, I have no issue with night-time, in fact it is the time I thrive as I am most certainly a nightowl. My problem comes once I've decided to go to bed and turn all the lights off. Until I was 16 I would flick the light switch to the off position and bound over to my bed as quickly as possible and leap into the safety of my doona without touching the floor directly around my bed. Once in bed I'd turn to face the wall and stay like that. I couldn't ever turn around because as I lay there awake I'd tell myself things like "OMG imagine if I turned around and there was just this creepy like old woman witch beside my bed staring at me" or "What if I turn around just in time to see my bedroom door close shut and know there's no way out?" Yeah, me and my imagination are best friends!

I have a few, shall we say, quirks when it comes to things I can do at night (besides that lovely little bedroom/sleep time routine, which I don't do anymore thank god). I can go into the bathroom and look into the mirror without any problem at night UNTIL all the lights have been switched off. If I get up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet I can't look in the mirror at all, even if I do turn the lights on. This is thanks to a wonderful friend of mine who in year 9 told me a horror story about a woman in a mirror who steals souls or something like that, not to mention all the urban legends about people like 'Candyman' and 'Bloody Mary'. This isn't a huge problem for me at my current house but at my mum's place there are about three mirrors in every room because she buys and fixes up those big antique wardrobes and dressers that all have majorly large mirrors on them. On occasion if I've just seen a horror movie or have been thinking about one I'll even avoid looking into windows at night 'cos you never y know what'll be reflected in it behind you, or what will suddenly pop up into view from outside!

I should probably state that this isn't as bad as it sounds, I'm not in a perpetual state of fear as soon as the lights go out. For the most part I'm fine although I guess it's always at the back of my mind because every once and awhile a noise that I'd normally recognise and have no trouble with is suddenly the catalyst for a range of crazy demon/ghost/serial killer thoughts. It's really my fault for watching horror films and reading horror novels, they plant the seed that comes back to haunt me, whether that's the noise on the roof in Signs, the TV in The Ring or the demons/possessed people that crop up so often in films/books.

I have had a few real world experiences that haven't helped with my fear of the dark/unknown, I'll tell you two of them, one is pretty funny (now) the other still terrifies me to this day.

1. I was laying in bed when I was about 17 or 18 trying to get to sleep when I heard the weirdest sound, sort of a thump but also kind of squishy that was coming from the ground. Unable to look and check it out I scrunched my eyes shut and tried to force myself to stop thinking about the man with the knife on the floor. (what else could it be right?) I heard the noise two more times and I was seriously starting to panic and considered going to my sister's room, but there was no way I could risk touching the ground in case someone was actually there. I continued to lay there stiff as a board, when suddenly I felt a tug at my blanket. My heart literally jumped out of my throat and I nearly died. Unable to move off my bed and trembling I pulled my legs in close to me, my eyes now wide open with terror. Then suddenly something had my leg, I screamed and kicked out at it until my mum came rushing in and turned on the light. Trying to catch my breath I tried to tell mum something had grabbed my leg, looking around my now empty room (you know how well those serial killers can hide) my mum calmed me down and smoothed out my, now, crumpled and tangled blanket. Out of the tangles jumped this giant green tree frog which landed high on my wall out of our reach. I felt significantly better knowing mum got a shock (even if she didn't over react like me!) but still felt rather stupid that I'd been terrified for a while half hour about a frog! Still rather frazzled and sure as hell not sleeping in a room with a rogue frog I went and slept in my brother's bed (he was three at the time)!

2. The way my bedroom was set out the head of my bed was backed against the wall under the window. On one side of the window was one of those old AC units that sit in the window frame so the other side of the window (the bit above my bed) would only open about 15cm (about 6 inches for all you non-metric users) wide. Because of my major paranoia and insane imagination I'd had several freakouts imagining someone sticking their hand through the window and touching my face while I slept so I never had that window open, ever. It was fairly early, about 8pm but I was lying in bed reading a book for class. My bedroom was on the other side of the house from where everyone else was, so all the conversation, dishwasher and TV type noises didn't reach me and it was dead quiet. As I read I heard my window slide open slowly and then suddenly bump against the AC unit, meaning it was open as wide as possible. I flipped out, rolled off my bed and stealth crawled out of my room breaking into a sprint as soon as I passed the door (not looking back I might add) and screaming as I ran to the rest of the family. My sisters and brother thought I was lying (or being my usual imaginative self) but my mum went out to investigate with a torch. My window was indeed open and about 3 metres away (8 foot-ish) across the driveway that ran beside my bedroom against the fence all the plants had been squashed as though someone had stood on them while they jumped the fence. Needless to say it was a good while before I was comfortable sleeping in my room again and I rearranged it immediately so my head was no where near that window!

So there you go, a nice long detailed post about the shambles that is my life, at night at least! Next week I'll put up a book discussion for you all to join in on and give you a break from my insanity! Feel free to let me know about any of your fears in the comments, especially those irrational fears like the one I just described!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fanart Friday: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

One addition of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies that I really enjoyed were the illustrations that featured in it every now and again, depicting some of the more butt-kicking zombie smashing sequences. So I figured I'd hop onto Deviant Art and see if anyone else had built on those few illustrations and drawn some of their own fan art of the Bennett sisters and Mr Darcy fighting for Queen and country (actually it would have been King and country back then wouldn't it?!) and knocking in some zombie skulls. There were quite a few but here are my two favourites for all of you to see. Click on the link beneath the pic to see them full size and check out the rest of the fabulous artist's creative works!

By Boo21190
By Kusta

Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
By Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Published: 2009
Synopsis (goodreads): Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, is an expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead.

I'm sure I've mentioned once or twice on this blog or in the comments of other blogs my dislike for Jane Austen, well the dislike I felt after passing out from reading a chapter of Pride and Prejudice about 7 years ago. However because everyone raves about her so much I thought I'd better give it a try, but if I was going to do that then why not amp up the action a little and read the altered version by Seth Grahame-Smith that features zombies. Surely that'll keep me awake...right?

So what did I think? Well the zombies were an interesting addition. I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this novel, nor how exactly the zombie storyline would be woven into the original tale. For the most part the splicing of the old with the new worked fairly well although there were the occasional zombie reference or alteration of the original text that I found to be a little messy and awkward, but I guess that would be expected from a feat such as this. It did seem to remain fairly true to the original, however as I previously admitted I haven't read the original I've only seen the BBC adaptation (which I believe to be quite close) and I certainly recognised not only scenes but entire chunks of dialogue from the series in the book.

Before I began reading I had wondered about the author's intention with the zombie plot, whether it'd seem contrived or gimmicky, the result of a guy merely trying to cash in on the zombie trend and make the most out of the freedom of public domain texts. Surprisingly though I thought it worked quite well in reinforcing Austen's original character traits and themes (again this is an assumption made from the BBC series and the general talk I've head). I thought this was so especially regarding Elizabeth, she now has a superior external strength, talent and ruthlessness to her character which I think better exemplifies her qualities of uniqueness, strength and courage that Austen had originally depicted her with.

It was missing some of the subtlety of the original which is to be expected when you chuck zombies into the mix, but overall I thought it quite a charming book. My favourite parts were definitely when the zombie inserts were juxtaposed with some of the more heavily focused aspects of the novel such as propriety and manners which I thought was brilliantly done in the scene at the first ball. An attack from a horde of zombies force the girls into the "pentagram of death" "stepping outward in unison- each thrusting a razor-sharp dagger with one hand, the other hand modestly tucked into the small of their back," (page 14).

Often having seen the movie, or in this case series, before reading the book ruins my ability to visualise the characters how I'd like to, however either it's been long enough since I've seen the series for it not to overshadow, or the slight alterations Seth Grahame-Smith made to the characters were great enough to change them from their depiction in the series. I had no problem letting the book spark my imagination in terms of character appearance and accent etc except in the case of Mr Darcy. Perhaps because of the universal acknowledgement that Colin Firth is Mr Darcy, I couldn't visualise anyone else and it was only his voice I ever heard saying Mr Darcy's lines. This wasn't a problem though, it actually added to the comedy quite substantially to imagine Colin Firth running around in a suit and top hat decapitating zombies with a katana.

I did enjoy this book, but at times I did really have to force myself to keep reading, setting myself page goals I had to reach before I put it down. I don't think I'll be picking up the original, at least not anytime soon. I think this was close enough for me to grasp the intentions of Austen without having to fall asleep one more trying to read it. I've heard complaints from Austen fans that they found this gimmicky and didn't feel like they needed to read the whole thing and I'd say they'd probably be right. If you know the story and read it often the addition of the zombies might seem quaint and comical at the start but it doesn't alter the plot enough for it to really engage someone who knows the book well, or at least that's how I (the Austen novice) feel.

That said the book is well written and for the most part I though Seth Grahame-Smith did an amazing job seamlessly combining his words with Austen, although once more I have to remind you I haven't read the original so an Austen fan might be completely opposed to everything I say here! The zombies gave it that push of action I really needed so that I could get through it because this is a book from an era I tend to steer clear of, in a writing style I tend to dislike on a subject I can't stand, so the fact I got through it (even with the help of zombies) is quite remarkable to me!

Rating: 3.5/5

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

New Challenge: MS Readathon

When I was a kid I used to take part in the MS Readathon every year. For 30 days I'd read as many books as I could get through as my friends and family sponsored my efforts. I loved taking part in this challenge because it basically gave me an excuse to keep my nose in a book for 30 days straight but it had a greater purpose than simply providing me with some pleasure.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a serious and debilitating disease which affects the communication between the nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Three times more women are affected than men and the average age for diagnosis is just 30 years old. There is no known cure and for some MS means life in a wheelchair with extremely limited control over their body. My uncle is one such sufferer.

For much of my life my uncle has been aware of his MS but before that he was an active and sporty kid and teen who spent more time on a variety of sports fields than anywhere else. He was diagnosed earlier than most but it wasn't until about 10 years ago that it really began to impact on his life. His health declined and he's now restricted to a wheelchair and living with my incredible grandparents, but he's never let it get him down. His amazing positivity and mad sense of humour is a testament to his character and he's one of the strongest and most interesting and amazing people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing.

So it was for him that I used to scramble through those books each year as a kid and it's for him that I'm doing it again now. An adults edition of the Readathon called 'The Novel Challenge' will be running for 30 days in August and I've signed up to take part. I'm not really comfortable using my blog as a platform for raising money, what I really want to do on here is to raise awareness and hopefully motivate any Aussie bloggers into taking part and any international bloggers into hunting down whether such a challenge exists in their area.

The other thing is an appeal for book titles to read during this challenge! The titles I'd been planning to read for the 'Book to Movie' and 'Books I Should Have Read' challenges will also go towards this challenge but I'm eager for some new titles to add to my Readathon TBR list and I want you guys to help me out there!

I'll be updating posts daily through August but you can also go to my fundraiser page to check out my progress. Wish me luck guys!

Wild Card Wednesdays

Gabe over at Gabriel Reads has created a brand-spankin' new meme for everyone to take part in called 'Wild Card Wednesdays'.

"This is how it works. Every Wednesday I'll put up a prompt, but it won't be like the prompts you've seen before. Wildcard Wednesday requires bloggers to use their imaginations, to take what they read and use it in a new and unique way."

This week's prompt: What would your boggart be and how would you defeat it?

I'm not taking part this week because I simply have no answer. I am such a massive scardy-cat, I'm terrified of absolutely everything but up at the top of my list is probably 'death,' 'things that go bump in the night' and my rampant imagination (one reason I dislike the dark so much). While I'm very aware of my fears I've never been able to think how I could possibly convert them into something hilarious enough to make the boggart version of that fear disappear, in fact I suppose my real problem is that I'm not sure how I'd actually manifest my fears into some single object (apart from death). So since my creative juices are letting me down I'm simply going to recommend that everyone heads over to Gabe's blog and takes part in this new meme right away and I'll join you all next week!

Harry Potter Countdown: Favourite characters

 Each Wednesday until Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows part 2 comes out I'm going to dedicate a post to an aspect of the series. Anyone who wants to join in is welcome, just let me know in the comments! Today's topic is: My favourite characters and why I love them.

Every week when I take part in The Broke and The Bookish's 'Top 10 Tuesday' challenge I struggle to choose which Harry Potter character to use. Regardless of the week's topic I can always think of at least 2 HP characters that perfectly embody what the challenge is asking. As much as I love the characters of Harry Potter, just once I'd like to get through a list without referencing this much beloved series of mine so I'm going to try and get as much out now as possible in hope that it frees the space in my next few TTT posts for other worthy books/characters!

1. Dumbledore
When I first started reading HP I liked Dumbledore mostly because he just seemed like a cool guy, lenient on students when they made silly mistakes and determined to help them to choose the right paths in life. Dumbledore is amazing for a multitude of reasons, he's wise, intelligent, caring, brave, a snappy dresser and has a wicked wit. But the reason I love him is because he's fallible. He isn't the archetype hero/mentor who is absolutely perfect. In his past he messed up, big time, but he learnt from it and he didn't let it define him. That was something you didn't really learn until the final book but at the same time I think it was something you instinctively always knew about Dumbledore, from that bittersweet smile when he sees 'socks' in the Mirror of Erised in the first book you learn he has his secrets, a past we know barely anything of and that he is made up of a complex series of layers.Plus those twinkly blue eyes that see right through you and always seem a little sad...perfect.

2. Peeves the Poltergeist
I was so sad when he was eliminated from the films because he was one of the most comedic elements within the series. His songs were charming and wickedly clever and as annoying as he could always be relied upon to fought for the right side. He doesn't have Dumbledore's noble qualities or wise words and I don't have any deep reasons why I love him, I simply do, in all his mischievous glory!

3-4. Remus Lupin, Sirius Black
I love hearing about all of the Marauders when they were young and adventurous and bulletproof (at least in the way all teens think they are) mainly because they are in such direct contrast with the men we know when they enter the HP story in book 3. When they were young and before they'd seen what darkness was possible they were on top of the world and nothing could bring them down, but after Pettigrew's betrayal and the death of James things begin to unravel. Sirius is so angry that he is unable to see the world as anything other than black and white and Lupin has given up on ever believing that he's as good as everyone else simply because of his "furry problem". It makes me so sad to see those two characters because the flashbacks show how beneficial their friendships were and what potential they had for full and happy lives . I love these two because of their adoration and protectiveness of Harry, dedication to one another (and the memory of James) and general 'goodness',  but also because they conjure up more feelings of sympathy and empathy than any other character in the series.

5. Luna Lovegood
I love, love, love Luna. I loved her dreamy, full of whimsy attitude. As 'off with the fairies' as she may seem she is a together lady, highly intelligent (she was in Ravenclaw after all), highly attuned to emotions and deeply loyal. I found her almost tortuously earnest and always felt a certain level of protectiveness towards her, like she was my beloved little sister. She always seemed to be slightly on the periphery of scenes and I used to silently plead that the others would wake up and realise exactly how important they were to her as it was obvious to any reader. The scene in the final book when Harry sees their portraits on her bedroom ceiling with friends written all around them is heart-wrenchingly sad and beautiful. I just wished they'd fully accepted her as quickly as she accepted them.

By G672
6. Severus Snape
I never truly believed that Snape was all bad, I mean sure, I disliked him for much of the series for being such a moody bastard, but when he killed Dumbledore I knew he was as devastated at having to do it as the rest of us were that it happened. I'll admit that I wasn't sure what was going on with him for much of the final book but deep down I knew that he'd never betray Dumbledore's memory. While I always enjoyed his involvement in the story it was until book 6 that I began to really see the complexity and depth that abounded his character. It wasn't until he'd died and Harry was witnessing his memories and everything clicked into place that I truly fell in love with him as a character. He lived with such sadness and internal conflict for all of his life and Harry must have been the hardest thing to see day in day out, a reminder of what he both loved and hated. Similarly I loved the dedication and loyalty she showed Dumbledore, even after his death. It may have started off as a way to save Lilly's life but I think he truly was Dumbledore's greatest confidant and friend.

These are just six of my favourite characters (and not specifically my top 6 favourites) but I thought I'd leave it here and perhaps pick up later with the rest of them. I definitely notice a theme, I'm drawn to the characters that show a complexity and a duality within them, whether that be good/bad, happy/sad, inside/outside etc.  So how about all of you? Who are you favourite Harry Potter characters and why?

Next week: The relationships in Harry Potter, which worked and which do I wish Rowling never even attempted?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Lied About

 Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

1. I lied about reading Wuthering Heights... In grade 10 I had to read it for a class assignment but it annoyed me so much that it took me ages to get through it. So about halfway through it I jumped on Sparknotes and watched the film adaptation. I got a good enough overview between these sources to get through my assignment with a decent enough mark. I felt bad though so after it was over I finished the book...Ugh, I should have just left it half finished.

2. I lied about reading Twilight... Last year I had to read it for a popular fictions/popular cultures class I took and in the class discussions I said that I hadn't read it before, however I had actually read the complete series the year before. This actually reminded me of a post I read awhile ago over at Alison Can Read where she said that it wasn't fair that people feel bad for enjoying or loving a book (in both this case and her post - Twilight) because of a particular public opinion. I wasn't embarrassed because I loved the book (in fact I disliked the whole series), but I was worried that people would make snap judgements about me as a person and as a lit student because of this association.

3. I find Sonya Hartnett over-rated... Sonya Hartnett is one of Australia's golden literary daughters and at uni everyone raves about her. She's alright. She puts too much emphasis on description and not enough on plot in my opinion and is a little bit floofy for my taste, but her books are short enough that when they're prescribed reading I can get through them easily enough. However whenever a conversation is started in class and everyone pipes up with how much they worship her I just slump down in my seat and keep quiet.

4. I didn't originally like Harry Potter... I mentioned this in an earlier post but when I first picked up Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone I was soooooo bored. It wasn't until I skipped the first five or six chapters and the action began to pick up that I could settle into it and begin to truly enjoy what I was reading. Once I was hooked I could go back and reread the start of the book without the same issues but it amazes me when I look back and think how close I was to just chucking it in altogether!

5. I couldn't finish Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness... I had to read this for a class at uni but I couldn't get past the first chapter. I'm not even sure what it was exactly but I had absolutely no interest in finishing this book. I've heard people rave about this book and I usually smile and nod and mumble indistinct noises in reply before changing the subject fast. My taste in writing has changed quite a bit since I was supposed to read this so I'm considering giving it another crack but the dislike I had for it originally is holding me back.

6. I lied about reading and liking Janet Evanovich's One for the Money... A friend gave me a copy of One for the Money for my birthday a few years ago knowing that I like books but not knowing any more than that. I read the back cover, flipped it open and read the first line, closed it and pushed it away. It sat neglected in my book shelf until a friend's birthday came up and I wrapped it up and passed it on. It was much better suited to her and she enjoyed it quite a bit! I only had to lie the one time to the original gifter and simply said I'd enjoyed it and that was all she needed, it has never come up again!

And that is all from me. I simply couldn't think of any more literary lies. The only other possible addition would be a blanket holding of my tongue and forced smile when friends discuss books and authors I really dislike but that I don't feel like getting into a debate about. That doesn't happen too often, more often than not I'm placed in that situation about music or films instead. And the reason I don't respond is because they're fair weather readers, they don't care why they should be reading my authors over theirs so it isn't worth the awkward conversation!

How about all of you? Did you find a full 10 literary lies?

Review: Porno by Irvine Welsh

By Irvine Welsh

Published: 2002
Synopsis (via GoodReads): In the fag-end of his youth, Simon 'Sick Boy' Williamson is back in his native Edinburgh after a long spell in London. Having failed spectacularly as a hustler, pimp, husband, father and businessman, Sick Boy taps into an opportunity, which to him represents one last throw of the dice.  In the world of Porno, however, nothing is straight-forward, as Sick Boy and Renton find out that they have unresolved issues to address, concerning the increasingly unhinged Frank Begbie, the troubled, drug-addled Spud, and, most of all, with each other.

A couple of weeks ago I reread and reviewed Trainspotting in anticipation of this read and fell in love with the story Irvine Welsh crafted all over again. Basically I had no idea how this sequel could even hope to measure up against one of the finest novels I have ever read. I began this book with trepidation because we all know how easily a badly written sequel can spoil the original previously loved novel. I needn't have worried, I should have trusted Welsh to deliver a superb and extremely well crafted novel, as he always has in my experience and certainly did this time.

A lot has changed in the time between Trainspotting and Porno, both with format and the characters. The characters we knew at their worst in Trainspotting have aged 10 years and given up the drugs (well they've given up heroin at the very least) that defined them the first time we met them, and as they've matured (*ahem*) and attempted to launch careers and families so has the narrative grown from a series of fragile short stories into a full-length novel.

The cast of 1000s remains but we only hear directly from five points of view now, Sickboy, Spud, Rents, Begbie and newcomer Nikki (although none of the characters respond too happily to their childhood/junky nicknames). Of the five Sic-sorry, Simon is the protagonist (or should that be antagonist?) and clear focus of the story. Returning from a failed attempt at everything in England he jumps at the chance to buy his Aunt's pub for cheap, believing he can reinvent it and himself as the entrepreneur with the sharp suit and high powered friends he believe he should be. Knowing the people he knows leads him down a very different path, a visit to a friend's amateur stag porn night leads him down the pornography path and sets the direction for the book to take.

The characters are the characters we loved (and loved to hate) in Trainspotting but a much, much darker version. They may have families, jobs and be off the junk but they're basically older more F'd up versions of themselves, and without the drugs (or the friends with drugs) they have a sincere lack of aims or goals left in their life. There is simply an absence of anything. There is almost an extreme nihilism in this novel, as Mark says himself, "The raison d'etre of our class was simply to survive. F**k that; our punk generation, not only did we thrive, we even had the audacity to be disillusioned," (page 365).

Begbie, fresh out of a decade behind bars is angrier than ever. He is almost completely consumed by his hatred and paranoia and is a ticking bomb just waiting to explode. Danny (Spud) is still struggling with drugs and battling almost crippling depression and dangerously low self-esteem. He's now a father and a loving partner but he's still a screw up in the eyes of many and struggles to believe he can amount to anything. Simon (sickboy) is a narcissistic, arrogant, manipulative, compulsive liar who only thinks as far ahead as the next scam. Mark (Rents), well Mark is surprisingly stable. After leaving with the bag of cash at the end of Trainspotting he settled down in Amsterdam, got off all the drugs (other than alcohol) and became part-owner in a successful nightclub. But he's basically a straight version of who he was in Trainspotting, disillusioned, argumentative and untrusting.

Once again the characters are the crux of all of the problems, they're a group of men stuck together mainly because they have noone else to turn to, but there is also this perverse connection linking them to one another so that they can never truly hate or separate from one another. Throughout the novel they're constantly bringing each other down in esteem, riling each other up, pitting one against another, and teasing out all of those dark and dangerous qualities. Returning again to Mark's rant partially quoted above he also said; "Now what I fear isn't the heroin, it's not the drugs, but this weird symbiotic relationship we have with each other. I'm concerned that it has a dynamic which will draw us right back into the slaughter," (page 365). 

The book is fantastic, and I subscribe most of this praise to the new full-length format. We're now able to glimpse the full extent of the characters we met in Trainspotting and they are fleshed out completely into complex, detailed characters who I both loved and detested simultaneously. This book would be nothing without the foundation built in Trainspotting and while I had been weary about whether a sequel was actually necessary I found this further examination of the characters to be amazingly interesting, cathartic and fulfilling.

I know I've mostly spoken about the characters here, but don't take that to mean that the plot is in anyway faulty or less important. It is an incredible journey we're taken on through it, with both soaring highs and depressing lows and the ending is simply superb, those last three pages... (well I'll let you read it for yourselves!). I highly recommend this book to anyone who read and enjoyed Trainspotting and for those of you who haven't read either I suggest you head down to your library now, these are two books that are not to be missed.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Review: The Five Fists of Science

The Five Fists of Science (graphic novel)
 By Matt Fraction and Steven Sanders

Published: 2006

Synopsis (via GoodReads): True story: in 1899, Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla decided to end war forever. With Twain's connections and Tesla's inventions, they went into business selling world peace. So, what happened? Only now can the tale be told - in which Twain and Tesla collided with Edison and Morgan, an evil science cabal merging the Black Arts and the Industrial Age. Turn of the century New York City sets the stage for a titanic battle over the very fate of mankind.

The Five Fists of Science infuses fun, science, mad characters and giant robots to create an extremely enjoyable steampunk-ish graphic novel. The creators, Fraction and Sanders, appropriate some well-known members of the scientific, creative and political scenes to act out their wild tale that is only slightly based in fact. On the good side you have Mark Twain, the fast-talking, money hungry writer/salesman, Nikola Tesla, the shy and quiet scientific genius with OCD and Bertha Von Suttner, a rather proper radical, who attempt to manipulate and scare the world leaders into peace with their Tesla-made and operated robotic monster thing (and make a bunch of money with it at the same time). On the other side you have the dastardly Thomas Edison and his personal scientist monkey boy, the always hungry Guglielmo Marconi.

It's an incredibly short read which is a little disappointing as the ending seems to come a little too soon, but definitely an enjoyable one. The infusion of fact and fiction and the joyful character assassination and manipulation of some of the 19th century's best known characters makes for an interesting tale that almost forces you to pick up a history book or jump on google to work out what, if anything, is factually correct.

The accompanying pictures are of a fantastic quality, very detailed and expressive, but they fall slightly to the dark side occasionally and sometimes it can be a little hard to discern the details.The addition of the steampunk element works incredibly well with the 19th century setting and the scientific nature of the tale. 

Overall I thought it was a fun read, a little too short for my liking but the amusing characterisation of those 19th century landmark members of society more than makes up for that.

Rating: 3.5/5

It's Monday, what are you reading?

It’s Monday!  What Are You Reading is where we share what we read this past week, what we hope to read this week…. and anything in between!  This is a great way to plan out your reading week and see what others are currently reading as well… you never know where that next “must read” book will come from!

Hosted by: Book Journey

Last week turned out to be far busier than I'd expected it to be so it took me alllll week to get through Porno by Irvine Welsh (review up tomorrow) but I'm expecting a quiet one this week so hopefully I'll make my way through all the books I list up here!
1. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith (wouldn't you love to share an author's credit with someone like Austen?!)
Graphic Novels:
2.  Fell Written by Warren Ellis, illustrated by Ben Templesmith

Audio books:
3. The Call of the Cthulhu and other stories by H.P. Lovecraft

Reference books/uni work:
4. The Gospel of the Living Dead by Kim Paffenroth

Dear readers can I ask you a question? I want to know if you'd like me to review the books I'm reading for my thesis or if that sounds tedious/boring/dull etc. Obviously it won't be any of the dense theory books but some of the books I'm reading at the moment are really interesting anthologies of essays by amazing academics and I'm more than happy to share, I just don't want to risk putting you all to sleep! Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

My Favourite Covers: Lord of the Rings

I mentioned in my post yesterday my love for retro book covers so I thought over the next few weeks I'd share some of my favourites. To start with I thought I'd share my wonderful 1974 Unwin editions of Lord of the Rings. I had been searching for a copy of these books because I wanted to reread them but all of the ones in store were either the movie editions or the ones with the plain black covers, plus having to buy all three of them new was going to weaken my wallet substantially. I came across the Two Towers copy when I was at Bookfest, the annual (sometime Bi-annual) Brisbane second hand book fair, and fell absolutely in love. The cover art and font is synonymous with the seventies and the pattern across the bottom of each book just grabbed me. Two hours later I had somehow managed to find a copy of all three LOTR books in this edition and snapped them up (a whopping $6 for all three) and they've been sitting proudly on my bookcase ever since!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Judging the book by it's cover

In anticipation of the upcoming Books to Movie Challenge I thought I'd write a post about my second greatest fear when it comes to movie adaptations of books, the movie poster book cover. After yesterday's Follow Friday Quirk post it seems I'm not alone in this dislike of the inevitable release of the movie edition of the book. Even if I love the film and think it did a tremendous job I can't bring myself to ever buy one of these editions, but with the growing number of film adaptations and the popularity of them, it seems to be getting harder and harder to find a copy of a book that doesn't have the movie poster slapped across the cover.

I know this isn't something you're supposed to admit to, but I certainly do judge a book by it's cover. If I've already heard about the book or been recommended it it doesn't matter so much, but if I'm browsing unknown titles I'll shy from covers with photos, that cartoonish style prominent in chick-lit or amateur-ish or over-the-top photoshop graphics. They might be fantastic books, I have no judgement against the author, I simply squirm whenever I see a cover like that. I think it is one of the reasons I shy away from the paranormal YA and adult fiction that is so prominent at the moment (that and the links I am constantly making between them and Twilight). Perhaps another part of it is that I see some of those graphics as linked with romance fiction (of the Mills and Boon variety) and I certainly don't want anyone (even strangers on the bus) to paint me as a romance reader and I guess that reflects back worse on me than it does the books.

The covers that catch my eye generally have very little in the way of graphics or images, I love covers that have large text (like the Cormac McCarthy cover above) or block colours (the Popular or classic Penguin) and I think that's partly because those covers don't tend to date and look trashy like pictures can, but also because that particular aesthetic appeals to me. Some of my favourite book covers in my bookcase are from the 50s/60s/70s and have bright and bold abstract patterns (on a paper cover which also is a preference of mine) which reflect very little on the content of the book, but age magnificently.

Back to the movie editions, part of my disdain, apart from the photographic cover it invariably has, is that I feel like it cheapens the book. It places the prominence on the movie rather than the original creative work and becomes just another marketing ploy to sell more tickets. It always has "Now a major motion picture starring X" emblazoned across it, and usually a nice big picture of the lead actor right in the middle. Most film adaptations, even the ones we all respect and enjoy, shift from the book's original content and I feel like when the movie poster is put on the cover it is heralding the movie version of the book over the original author's intention. When I was younger I always wondered whether those editions were the original text or the text altered to fit the book. Wouldn't you be pissed if you'd loved a film and bought the book only to find it was extremely different, and then where does the blame go?

Perhaps I don't really have a rational reason to dislike movie editions, and perhaps it is purely because I'm extremely shallow when it comes to which book covers go into my bookshelves but I just can't pick a movie edition when an original cover version is available. I had to hunt for a copy of I Am Legend for months to find an edition that didn't have Will Smith walking across the front, which meant avoiding cheaper second hand copies because they were the movie edition and ultimately paying more so that I could get a cover that had the graphics I liked on it's cover. Maybe that's crazy but that's me!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Follow Friday

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by the one and only Parajunkie!

Each week a myriad of bloggers answer a question that helps their readers know a little bit more about themselves. This week the question is what are 5 quirky habits or things about you? 

My answer: My life is full of weird and quirky little habits but I'll try to just narrow it down to five!

1. I can't read a book if it is the movie edition with the film poster on the cover, don't ask me to explain it, I just can't!

2. I have major issues falling asleep. I'll be so tired that I can barely keep my eyes open but the second my head hits the pillow my eyes are wide open and my mind is racing.

3. I'm extremely unadventurous with my food which I blame on my dad since his primary meal is meat and three veg and he is incredibly picky (he doesn't even like rice!).I'm not quite as bad as he is but I certainly don't seek out anything that is gastronomically out there!

4. When I'm walking along a concrete path I jump from one square to the next and can only have one foot touch each square (unless it's really long then I allow myself two touchdowns).

5. I have a thing for the underdog, for instance each year there is a Rugby league series known as the 'State of Origin' which pits Queensland against New South Wales. Living in Cairns, Queensland everyone went for QLD so I went for NSW so they'd have at least one fan watching the game up north, even though that meant being ridiculed mercilessly if they lost or hounded if they won.

So there is my list, what are some of your quirks?

Book blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop
The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by the wonderful Jennifer of Crazy-for-Books. Each weeks bloggers unite to tackle the same question with a multitude of inspired and interesting answers.

Question: If you were given the chance to spend a day in a fictional world, which book would it be and what place would that be? 

My Answer: While J.K. Rowling's magical world came to mind my final answer would have to be the worlds created by Diana Wynne Jones in her Crestomanci series. Her world relies on the idea that at every major event there are at least two possible outcomes, and rather that it simply being one or the other, the world splinters and creates two side along worlds where both outcomes are a possibility. So there are worlds similar to ours where the scientific path was chosen while a similar world exists where magic rules. No one knows how many worlds exist, but the guess is they're somewhere into the hundreds and each world is unique and amazing. There are water worlds with mermaids, worlds with dragons soaring across their skies and hundreds of unique languages, religious systems and magical powers. If I had a day I'd run from world to world experiencing as many amazing magical places as possible, accruing as many magical memories as I possibly could!

Fanart Friday: Harry Potter edition #1:The Marauders

For my first Fanart Friday I'm posting some pics of my favourite gang of mischief makers, The Marauders! These pictures are all the works of fabulous artists I found via Deviant Art and they all bring such a unique perspective to the extraordinary boys who make up the Marauders gang! Click on the links below the picture to see the pictures fullsize and while there why not check out their other work, both Harry Potter related and otherwise, they are all incredibly talented and I am more than a little bit jealous!

By Xandrei
By Kanae
By Kittynfish

Thursday, May 19, 2011

New weekly post idea: Fanart Friday

So I'd mentioned before that I'm liking the idea of a little more structure in my blog. The memes I take part in help out quite a bit and I'm certain my upcoming challenges will as well but I decided to create Fanart Friday as a new weekly post. I always like sticking up the pictures I find around the interwebs on this here lil' ol' bloggywog so I figured why not do so with a little regularity? Each week I'll stick up 3-4 fanart creations on a particular book, or if it's a rather expansive subject (like Harry Potter) I might dedicate the post to a sub-group like the DA or the Weasleys. I'll be starting tomorrow so tune in for the all-new and all-fabulous Fanart Friday!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Harry Potter Countdown - The fantastic three

Each Wednesday until Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows part 2 comes out I'm going to dedicate a post to an aspect of the series. Anyone who wants to join in is welcome, just let me know in the comments! Today's topic is: The dynamic of the fantastic three (Harry, Ron and Hermione) and why it works.

The friendship between Harry, Ron and Hermione has been one I've envied for over a decade now. All three are somewhat new to the whole friendship thing, Dudley always scared the kids away from Harry, Hermione probably annoyed the hell out of everyone and Ron was so overshadowed by his charismatic older brothers that I bet nobody noticed him for his own merits. Yet somehow they manage to forge a strong friendship early on (well, it took a little longer with Hermione!) that exceeds any of the friendships depicted elsewhere in the series, except perhaps the friendship of Wormtail, Prongs, Moony and Padfoot.

One thing this series has taught me is the value of friendship and of working together, yet not at the expense of your own self identity. On the one hand you have Voldemort who has a legion of followers but no friends. He trusts no one to help him and as a result when the going gets tough he's surrounded  by a throng of panicking idiots wearing sheets and masks. He doesn't allow his followers any sense of identity, they're all the same to him except one has the ability to infiltrate the Auror's office or Hogwarts or has a nice big house to use as base. They're a commodity used to bolster numbers and appear menacing and to perform the bottom most level of jobs without any explanation or reason why.

The situation in a way isn't that much different on the 'good' side. While they trust one another and work together to try and defeat Voldemort there are still so many secrets which erode away at the people in the relationship. You only need to look at how hurt and confused Harry is in Deathly Hollows when he realises how little he knew about Dumbledore.

However the relationship between Harry, Ron and Hermione is different. The key to their relationship is the fact that they are three parts of a whole. Individually none of them would have what it takes to take on Voldemort but together they're like the Power Rangers when they power up and create the indestructible Voltron. This is perhaps best exemplified in the very first book when they try and beat Quirrel to the Philosopher's Stone (Sorcerer's Stone for anyone in the States). Without Hermione's cool use of logic, Harry's sporting ability and techniques and Ron's mental strategy prowess they would never have made it through. Together they got through a maze of spells that were designed to stump adult wizards, Quirrel took the best part of a year gathering the information he needed to get through the barriers. They were just kids!

More importantly though, while they recognised their own weaknesses none of them allowed those weakness to grow. Hermione hounds Harry in preparation for the Triwizard tournament and as a result his proficiency in the brand of spells he uses become the basis for his job as leader of DA, a position that Hermione recommends him for because she understands his strengths.

Basically while they have three vital components crucial to succeeding in whatever their endeavour is for that particular book they don't rest on that strength and let the others handle the other areas. They are constantly gaining strength in their weaker areas because the others are there to back them up and provide them the support and expertise they need. They constantly grow and evolve and help one another in new ways. By Deathly Hollows Hermione isn't the bookworm she once was, she's absorbed strengths from the other two, however she still isn't equipped to tackle something as large as Voldemort by herself, she still needs the other two.

By the seventh book it isn't so much about the individual strengths or weaknesses they may have, but the complete unity they've achieved means that it is completely unfeasible that together they couldn't complete what they started together. In addition to knowing spells and coming up with plans they give one another strength on an emotional level which in turn gives them a strength in their outer lives. And that is why their dynamic works, because they help one another grow so thoroughly.

I fear I've blathered on a lot with this and probably haven't got my point across too well. Hopefully I've managed to make a little bit of sense with all the gobbledygook I've bee spouting! What do you guys think? What is the crux of the group dynamic between Harry, Ron and Hermione, am I on the right track or do you think it's something completely different? I'd love to hear what you all think!

Next Week (25th May): My favourite Harry Potter characters and why I love them so much.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Top 10 Tuesday: Favourite minor characters!

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Minor characters, peripheral characters, secondary characters...people may call them different things but one thing everyone can agree on is how much we love them and how important they are to the success of the novel. You can't put all your energy into creating the lead characters and nothing into the characters that hang around the outside or you'll end up with a cast as thin and as weak as the Queen of Hearts' army of playing cards.

As important as they are I must say this has been a difficult challenge for me, because although I love them and enjoy them in the immediacy of reading about them, they often fall by the major character's wayside in the long term. So I've racked both the Internet and my brains for the minor characters that have lasted in my memory. Some of these are true minor characters who appear for a couple of pages and disappear (not without leaving their mark) while others are only construed as minor because of the largeness of the primary character(s) beside them.

The Doctor's Wife - Neil Gaiman does Doctor Who

I just finished watching the latest episode of Doctor Who 'The Doctor's Wife' which was written by that magnificent man Mr Neil Gaiman. I am a massive Doctor Who fan and have been for quite some time now, but I've never posted an actual written piece about it before because I didn't really have a literary reason to do so, but thanks to Mr Gaiman's guest-writer role that is no longer the case!

So in this episode the Doctor, Rory and Amy head outside of the universe (like a small soap bubble stuck on the side of the large soap bubble that is the universe) after the Doctor receives a distress call from a timelord friend he thought long dead. The trio land on what looks like a rubbish tip (and smells like an armpit) and the TARDIS loses power, it's soul appears to disappear. Assuming they merely need to wait for it to power back up they decide to explore and come across the biting madwoman Idris, Aunt, Uncle and Nephew (an Ood). Nephew drags the ranting, biting Idris away and Aunt and Uncle introduce the Doctor to House, the asteroid they call home which is also a sentient being.  When trying to patch up Nephew's broken voice orb thingo the Doctor picks up the distress calls of dozens, if not hundreds of other timelords. Recognising that all is not as it seems the Doctor sets off to find the missing timelords, but this is one 'adventure' the Doctor must do by himself, but by locking Rory and Amy away in the TARDIS for safety could he perhaps be putting them in harm's way?

OK that was as vague as I could make the synopsis without giving it all away, but what comes next will give away much of the episode, so if you haven't seen the episode yet and plan to then PLEASE TURN AWAY NOW!


Monday, May 16, 2011

The problem with reviews and genre

One of my biggest pet peeves is people who profess a hatred for genre fiction without actually reading it. This was an issue over and over at uni, people complained about King, Le Guin, even Tolkien because of their 'second rate' work which didn't address the highfalutin values and themes in Literature. Their blind dislike always made them look stupid, because if they'd read any genre they'd know that there are (or can be) the kind of deep themes that they profess to love so much. However since the classes were full of genre-hating Literature lovers I was the only one who noticed this glaring stupidity and ignorance. Even the teachers joined in the rant against genre, leading debates about how they'd rather make no money as a Literature writer and only be read by 10 people than make thousands, be read by millions and write genre! Now don't get me wrong I'm not hating on Literture, I love it myself but I'm also a fan of genre and I personally see no reason to distinguish between them. They both have good and bad writers and both have blindspots, neither are perfect but neither are better than one another.

The main reason I'm bringing this to my blog is because this subject is being raised in the press because of the reviews that have been circulating about the new HBO show Game of Thornes. Based on a fantasy series by George R.R. Martin this series has an all-star cast and production crew and a huge budget that allowed them to film primarily on location over in Ireland and spare no expense on costume or the battle crowds of 1000s. Because of the high profile nature of this series reviews are being put out by papers like The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and unfortunately they're being reviewed by the ignorant journalists that are probably the older sisters and brothers of the kids in my classes.

The writer for The New York Times Gina Bellafante lamented that the money of this show hadn't gone towards extending the Mad Men series in the opening paragraph. Slate writer Troy Patterson denounced the series as 'quasi-medieval, dragon-ridden fantasy crap' (the title of his piece) but then goes on to say that it isn't necessarily due to the quality of the show, but he simply doesn't like genre and does not care. In one sense I'm glad he said this because it is no longer a review but an idiotic opinion piece on something he self-confessedly says he has no knowledge of. On the other hand I'm disappointed that Slate would hand this review to someone who knowingly hates the genre and was never going to give it a fair review.

It isn't just ignorant on their part but selfish. By not reviewing the show outside of their personal opinion of the genre they are eliminating the opportunity for potential fans to tune in and enjoy it. HBO sends them the early copies of the series so that they can get their show out to the public, and they deserve to be given a fair review by someone willing to put in the time. If it is bad then fine, say that in your review, but say that because the character development, storyline, writing or production quality is bad, not simply because you have it in for that genre. I may dislike Twilight and avoid that type of vampire romance which is popping up everywhere but I give substantiated reasons why I dislike it, it isn't just coming from a place of hate.

Luckily for every one of these blind reviewers there are people who know and understand the genre fighting back. I implore you all to read the pieces by John Birmingham, Alexis Bonari, and Ilana Teitelbaum who are speaking up for genre and for reviewers who understand genre or are at least open to it and happy to research rather than simply making grandiose statements.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Harry Potter Countdown

Like (almost) all of the book bloggers online I owe a great deal to the wonderful magical world that J.K. Rowling created. With only 60 days to go until the final chapter of the Harry Potter saga goes global I thought I'd pay tribute to the amazing series with a series of my own. Every Wednesday until the film's release I'm going to dedicate a post to Harry Potter, discussing the characters, plots, language, costumes...anything and everything about the books and the films we all love so much.

It won't be a challenge per say, but if anyone wants to join me I'll be posting the next week's topic underneath each post, so by all means write a post with your opinion of the topic and post the URL in the comments section, I'd love to read them. Similarly if you have any suggestions on topics I should cover shout 'em out in the comments and I'll do my best to give them a go!

Week one(18th May): I'll be discussing the dynamic of the terrific three (Harry, Ron and Hermione) and why I think it works.

Review: Night Shift

Night Shift
Written by Stephen King

Published: 1976

Synopsis: A collection of 20 short stories written by the king of horror. Includes some of his extremely well known stories like Children of the Corn and Jerusalem's Lot.

This was my first trip into Stephen King's short stories and I absolutely loved it. I thought that the mix between the stories in terms of genre and structure was fantastic, it slipped so seamlessly from Lovecraft-esque horror to sci-fi, to heart-wrenching tales of regret. I think people tend to forget that King is not simply a horror writer because that is generally what he's famed for but this collection really showcased his storytelling talents in my opinion.

One aspect that really interested me with this novel was the insight into where some of the full length books and films started out, the seeds that lead to their making. In that sense it was almost like a sneak peek into his workshop or diary, even though they were published as stand alone stories perhaps with no intention to ever extend upon them. I've mentioned in other posts how much I love The Stand so I found the short story Night Surf extremely interesting. Rather than looking at the overarching tale of good and evil, this short story took place at the time that Captain Trips (the virus that eliminates 99% of the population) was raging through the public. The story captures the fear and desperation that would abound if we were all on the run from an invisible enemy but juxtaposes it against a group of young people who are struggling to maintain their outward appearance of 'who gives a shit' attitude as they witness the world falling apart.

As with most anthologies of short stories some stories are better than others. At times I felt like a story was a little too childish or rushed or incomplete, but for the most part I found the stories to be of a high quality. The one exception that I really didn't like was Battleground. The story takes place in Renshaw's (paid assassin) apartment when a mysterious package arrives. When he decides to open it a battalion of tiny soldiers pour out and attack Renshaw with a barrage of weapons, guns, cannons, aircraft and nuclear weapons (all teeny tiny).  I think perhaps the crux of my indifference for this story was due to the character of Renshaw. I found him a little flat, development wise. I felt like he was too much the archetype of the suave, intelligent killer, and I always find that character extremely annoying and boring. I just didn't care what happened with him, I didn't care if the tiny soldiers killed him and I didn't where they came from. I completely lacked any emotional ties with the guy and since the story was about what was happening to him I just couldn't get into it.

That was the only story out of all 20 that I had to force myself to read, the rest flowed easily and quickly and before long the entire book was finished.  Since there are such a great number of stories in this book I thought I'd list a couple that were my absolute favourites...
*Jerusalem's Lot (very Lovecraftian in feel)
*I am the Doorway (a standout sci-fi)
*Sometimes they come back (a haunting tale of fears returning)
*The last Rung on the Ladder (a beautiful tale of a brother's regret)
*One for the Road (a great bookend for 'Salem's Lot)

I probably wouldn't recommend this to people who haven't read King before, however if you have and you enjoy his work then I think this book will reinforce that love and provide amazing insight into how long some of his stories have been tinkling around in his head. Similarly if you've only read his horror then this book will open up a whole new world of King for you, while still providing the area of his that you're comfortable with to help you through.

Rating: 4/5


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