Thursday, August 30, 2012

Movie trailer: Great Expectations

While I knew a new adaptation was imminent, I had no idea there was a trailer out already (Thanks Bookish Belle)!! It's always hard to tell from a trailer, but it looks like they kept most of the story intact and really emphasised the dark and moody vibe the book had. Also, how great is it to see Helena Bonham Carter in a non-Burton film? As great and as suited as she is  to those roles, it's refreshing to see her spread her wings a little.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Top 10 Tuesday: Bookish secrets!

Hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

1. I'll often read the last line (or last paragraph, or last page) of a book when something tense is happening earlier on. And more than once I've flipped through the book looking for a favourite character's name to know that they aren't going to die. It's a terrible habit, and more than once I've spoiled the entire story...but I can't quit it!

2. I'd rather buy a book than loan it from a library. If I borrow a book (from a library or a friend) I feel obligated to read it, and that usually ruins it for me. If I buy it, then I feel free to take my time and get to it when I get to it. Unfortunately this has resulted in bookshelves that are 40% full of books I haven't read and probably won't, if I'm being honest, ever read.

3. If it has a person's face on the cover, I probably won't buy it. Unless it's a book I need for a class I will avoid these covers like the plague. I'll search for weeks for a typography, abstract or plain coloured cover and even pay more if it means it's faceless! Oh and don't ask me why, I have absolutely no idea where this weird aversion came from!

4. I'm irrationally precious about some books, but others I'll happily annotate, dog-ear and crack the spine. There's no reason for this, they could be expensive, cheap, signed by the author, for a class, new, second hand...some books just seem more...special...than others.

5. I guess my next secret should probably be that I annotate books. Perhaps it's because I'm a researcher and my life would be infinitely more difficult if I couldn't make notes in my books as I go, but sometimes I just HAVE to underline a quote, or note a particular style of writing I like.

6. I'll probably judge you by the book you're reading on the bus/train/bench. I know I shouldn't, but if I see you reading a trashy romance novel, 50 Shades or a book I hated I will instantly judge you (sorry!).

7. I'm a notorious skimmer if I find myself bored. I skimmed all the songs in Lord of the Rings, the first 2 or 3 chapters of Harry Potter (before I fell in love and re-read it over and over!), and dialogue scenes in books that aren't quite doing it for me.

8. I really like the idea of poetry, but I just can't read it. I find it infuriating and boring and the second I see a poem my eyes slip off the page and focus on something (anything) else.

9. I really want to support local sellers, but Amazon and The Book Depository draw me in all the time. Considering they're usually 50-75% the cost of non-second hand booksellers here in Australia, it's really hard to resist their charms. Interestingly though, I will always buy my comics local and never online.

10. A bit similar to the face covers, my series have to match. They can't be a mix of hard and paper back, and they can't be a collection of different editions. I spent 2 hours rummaging through the Lifeline Book Fest tables searching for a complete set of The Lord of the Rings that matched, and I've got two collections of Harry Potter - the child and adult editions!

Mini-graphic novel review #8 Batman edition!

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Written by: Frank Miller, Illustrated by: Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley

Published: 1986

My Thoughts: Imagine if Batman wasn't the young, fit vigilante we're used to, but an old, cynical and retired man who has decided to return to his previous life when crime in Gotham reaches dangerous new heights. Batman was never infallible, but old age and lack of practice increasingly causes Batman problems as he attempts to round up Gotham's criminals. I really enjoyed the approach this comic took, and the art is quite good, but it wasn't as amazing as people had told me it was. Maybe that's just to do with expectations, or because I'm not a big Frank Miller fan in general, but I've enjoyed other Batman comics more than this one. Still one to read if you're wanting to read the iconic Batman comics though.

Batman: Knightfall (Volume one)
Written by: Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Illustrated by: Jim Aparo, Norm Breyfogle, Graham Nolan and Jim Balent

Published: 1993

My Thoughts: Holy shit you guys! THIS COMIC IS AMAZING! I know I throw that around sometimes, but seriously, this comic is all awesomeness and then some. The (loose) source material for Dark Knight Rises this comic takes place after Batman's experienced great emotional, physical and psychological pain and is not at the top of his game. As he struggles to round up the gang of Batman villains that have escaped the asylum, Batman comes up against the monstrous Bane, a criminal with only one desire: to kill the Batman. The pathos of this comic is astounding. I'm a huge Batman fan from way back, but this comic hit me right in the feels. It humanises Batman and adds about a million levels of complexity to his story. Batman is one of the greatest superheroes for a number of reasons, and this is the best vehicle for demonstrating that.

Batman: The Long Halloween
Written by: Jeph Loeb, illustrated by: Tim Sale

Published: 1999

My Thoughts: Spanning 13 issues, The Long Halloween covers the mystery of Holiday - a serial killer who kills a different member of Gotham's criminal underworld each holiday. Each issues focuses on one of these murders, and the attempts made to solve the case by Batman, Harvey Dent and Commissioner Gordon. It's a fun collection which reintroduces some of the more well-known Batman villains (think Joker, Riddler, Poison Ivy etc) and themes each issue around the holiday in question - Valentine's Day, April Fool's Day, Christmas and so forth.Perhaps most interestingly though is the focus on relationships, whether business i.e. between Batman, Dent and Gordon, mob bosses Falcone and Maroni  or The Scarecrow and the Mad Hatter, or personal i.e. between Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, Dent and his wife, Gilda, Falcone and his sister. Also, the art in this one is sensational. Very moody and dark - a little noir-ish, perfectly depicting everything that makes Batman, Batman.

Batman/Planetary: Night on Earth
Written by: Warren Ellis, Illustrated by: John Cassaday

Published: 2003

My Thoughts: Seriously one of the greatest crossover comics ever! Planetary is a Warren Ellis series about a trio of "archaeologists of the unknown" who solve weird crimes/are generally pretty badass. This volume has the team head to a Batman-less Gotham City to investigate a killer named John Black who they believe was once experimented on at 'Science City Zero'. When they track him down (after a neat little cameo from Dick Grayson and the Joker -who's a good guy!) it turns out he has the ability to distort reality, and the Planetary team find themselves face to face with various iterations of Batman. The camp 1960s Batman, the Frank Miller bad-ass Batman, the "classic" Batman and a couple of others. It's amazing to see how much Batman has changed as different writers/artists have taken him on, especially considering how much Batman I've been reading lately. Worth it just for this neat little premise, but the writing and illustrations are solid too!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday Links

*An incredble (and weird) series of portraits Bryan Lewis Saunders created while under the influence of a variety of drugs. (Via Bryan Lewis Saunders)

*Concept art for the (unlikely to ever happen but damn I wish it would already) Sandman film. Art work by Jill Thompson. (Via Uproxx)

*In the wake of all the crazy rape "discussion" coming out of the US, here's an Australian article that looks at "the many types of rape as defined by the world's politicians and celebrities. It'll make you laugh, but mostly it'll make you cry. (Via The Vine)

*A collection of photos of buildings that are so bizarre that they seem to defy the law of physics. (Via Atlas Obscura)

*A tumblr that renames books with a more honest title. My favourite? David Foster Wallace's Consider the Lobster is renamed Beating the Dead Horse to Death with a Large, Unweildy,Enormous, Heavy Thesaurus Until the Equine Corpse No Longer Breathes Life.  (Via Better Book Titles)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cat "sings" Game of Thrones theme!

To insane not to post here! A remix of a cat "singing" the Game of Thrones theme!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Review: Waiting For Daybreak by Amanda McNeil

Waiting for Daybreak
Written by: Amanda McNeil

Published: 2012

Synopsis: What is normal? Frieda has never felt normal. She feels every emotion too strongly and lashes out at herself in punishment. But one day when she stays home from work too depressed to get out of bed, a virus breaks out turning her neighbors into flesh-eating, brain-hungry zombies. As her survival instinct kicks in keeping her safe from the zombies, Frieda can’t help but wonder if she now counts as healthy and normal, or is she still abnormal compared to every other human being who is craving brains?

Confession time. Considering I spent last year writing a thesis about zombies, and am currently 6 months into a PhD on the same subject, I usually detest zombie books. I'm not really sure why, I've never had a bad experience with zombie fiction but for whatever reason it doesn't fill me with the same joy and excitement that zombie films and video games do. So I went into Amanda McNeil's Waiting for Daybreak a little reticent, but hoping- as I always do- that it'd change my mind. Within a few pages I was pleasantly surprised, and knew I hadn't made a mistake accepting this book for review.

Yes there are zombies in Waiting for Daybreak (referred to as the Afflicted) but they are more a backdrop for the events surrounding protagonist Frieda, than a focal point. Affected by anxiety, depression and self-esteem issues (to name a few), Frieda has never felt like she truly belonged in society. Thanks to the zombie outbreak though, society basically no longer exists and Frieda actually seems to be doing OK. Much like Justine (Kirsten Dunst) in the film Melancholia, Frieda always felt like her world was falling apart, so when it actually happens emotionally she's better prepared than most people. Armed with only her cat for company (best survival partner ever!) Frieda lives her life day by day, cultivating plants on her roof, reading up on canning and fruit preserving for the coming winter, rearranging the house to better prepare for potential zombie know, the usual. But when her cat gets sick, she's forced out into the ruins of the city she called home in a desperate attempt to save her only friend, and perhaps herself too.

On her trip to the animal hospital, Frieda comes across another unaffected person, the first she's seen in about a year. Mike is around her age and attractive - and not just in a "haven't seen a person in over a year" kind of way. Although he does have a barbed wire tattoo - so maybe the zombie apocalypse has more to do with the attraction after all! They decide to stick together and during their lengthy (and dangerous) trip to the hospital the two of them bond over their pre-zombie eccentricity and post-zombie attraction. Of course, it's not all smooth sailing. Frieda's pre-zombie anxiety and self-esteem issues return full force, and Mike has his own share of issues to deal with.  The biggest question in this book is not whether they can survive an attack by the zombies, but can they survive themselves and each other?

I loved that Amanda McNeil took something that's currently in vogue and twisted it to explore the psychological issues of the book's characters. Frieda only survived the initial attack because of a 'black-out' after a particularly upsetting date, and her continued existence seems to hinge on her ability to survive alone and outside of society. Mike seems to be in a similar boat. A question raised often through the book (whether in text, or just in my mind while reading) is why are the only two people left alive (at least who have run into one another) people who have a history of mental illness and self harm? As the synopsis asks "Frieda can’t help but wonder if she now counts as healthy and normal, or is she still abnormal compared to every other human being who is craving brains?" In the first half of the book Frieda's current stability is demonstrated by juxtaposing a series of current-time interactions with zombies and maintaining her fortified apartment with flashback scenes from before the zombie outbreak where she was much more fragile mentally and emotionally. After Mike is introduced their relationship serves as the catalyst for unease, tension and uncertainty. The constant threat of zombie attack only adds greater stress as the two struggle to maintain a relationship in their crazy broken down world.

The book is written in the first person, and for the most part I thought it was of a high quality. There were a few instances where the dialogue between Mike and Frieda was a little cringe-worthy, and a couple of continuity/plot issues (why was the first zombie able to get into the house when Frieda locks it for the rest of the book?) but the structure of the story and execution of it was enjoyable and interesting. The first encounter between Frieda and a zombie/afflicted was fantastic, full of tension and very visual - exactly what a zombie novel needs to be- and set the tone perfectly for the direction the rest of the novel was heading. Because of the zombie threat, any time Frieda ventured outside I was sure a zombie was going to pop up from behind a car and maul her, and Mike's arrival sent all kinds of warning signs flashing (zombie 101, don't trust handsome men with barbed wire tattoos when zombies are running around!). So while I did have a few problems with the writing, they weren't significant enough to damper the overall quality of the book.

Cats, zombies, tricky relationships, GI Jane references...this book has a little something for everyone!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Link

*Peter Norman is one of the greatest Australians to ever live. He's the Australian in the above photo, and after taking a stand for racial equality he became something of a pariah back in in 1960s Australia. Because he refused to denounce John Carlos and Tommie Smith (pictured above), Peter wasn't allowed to return to the Munich Olympics, and struggled to find work for the rest of his life. The Government has finally decided to officially apologise to the late Peter Norman, and recognise what most of us have always known...Peter Norman is a magnificent human being and a wonderful role model.  (via The Nation)

*Book sculptures often blow my mind, but these ones from Artful Living are divine...and for sale! I sure as hell can't afford them, but I like to visit the store to see the amazing bookish art being created! (Via Artful Living)

*In the lead up to September's Brisbane Writers Festival, a twitter story event (Many Writers, One Story) was created for some amazing writers to take part in. Here's the final product. (Via Brisbane Writers Festival)

*Harlequin Australia has just launched an open manuscipt portal to try and find some fresh Australian voices. So Aussie writers/aspiring writers go take a look! (Via Harlequin Escape)

*Here's a (kinda long) interview with Ian McEwan about his new book, life in the 70s and a whole bunch of other stuff (Via The Guardian)

*If you're in the UK I'm sure you've heard of the Tony Nicklinson euthanasia case. Tony suffered a stroke in 2005 and now suffers from locked-in syndrome. He's now petitioning for his right to die with dignity. When I lived in Hong Kong Tony's daughter Lauren and I were inseparable, and I was devastated to hear that they were having to go through any of this. Please sign the petition and show your support for a loving father and amazing man, who only wants to have the same rights as you or I.  (Via Change)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Movie trailer: 3,2,1 Frankie Go Boom

This one isn't a bookish film but I had to post the trailer here because 1) Charlie Hunnam, 2)Lizzie Caplan and 3) Ron Pearlman in drag.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Review: Curbchek - Reload by Zach Fortier

Written by Zach Fortier

Published: 2012

Synopsis: Curbchek-Reload is a darker account of the streets as they were worked by Zach Fortier, a dangerously deranged cop. Welcome back to the inner city and the twisted mentality of Zach Fortier. Patrolling the streets, broken and mentally damaged from years of urban violence, Zach fights a loosing battle to maintain a hold on reality. Join him in the passenger seat of a police cruiser for more of the darker and meaner side of life: The inner city. In Curbchek-Reload you get a front row seat to an attempted murder of a cop, suicide attempts, rapes, and DARK cop humor. Curbchek-Reload - Fasten your bullet proof vest and buckle your seatbelt, it is gonna be a wild ride!

Curbchek Reload's tagline is "Curbchek's darker, meaner cousin" and hoo-boy is that on the money! Following the already dark and gritty 2011 release of Curbchek (my review here), Curbchek Reload ramps everything up a level, the cops, the criminals, the anger and frustration...everything that made the first book interesting, albeit disturbing and heartbreaking, is back but with a vengeance.

Once again Fortier embraces a loose chronological formation, with each chapter encompassing a self-contained story that illuminates the difficulties that come with maintaining law and order, Fortier's own fallibility, and some insight into the general ills of today's society. Curbchek was pretty bleak, but much of the book centred around Fortier and his own personal demons. Curbchek Reload, however, is much more about the bureaucracy and bullshit that stops police from being able to do their job, and how frustrating this is for the men and women on the front line. Like many of the books I've been reading lately this isn't a particularly happy book, but it provided a valuable insight into a world that, in all honesty, I'm unlikely to ever see first hand.

Because the two books have such similarities in terms of style I'm going to direct you to my earlier review (the link's above) for more on that, and focus specifically on several of the chapters that occur in Fortier's latest book. Each chapter, ranging in length from 2 pages to 12, examine the many elements of life as a cop. Some focus on the lighter side of things, such as pranks between cops or between Fortier and some employees at the hospital, some look at some of the menial and annoying aspects of being a cop, like the ride-a-long, and some are much darker examinations of the criminal underbelly of the city. Here are a few of the chapters that I found the most interesting, disturbing, funny or eye-opening. First though, a warning, a couple of these stories are not pleasant at all.

Chapter 8: Warned but Ignored
In this chapter Fortier was called to the house of a man who wanted to report himself as a threat. The man, though he looked innocent enough, admitted to wanting to hurt the children on his street. However, because he hadn't actually done anything the best Fortier could do was have him committed to a psych ward as "suicidal". Although Fortier explained the issue to the attendants at the psych ward, the man was released the next day when he was deemed to be an attention seeker and went on to abduct and viciously rape a girl that lived on his street. It's a heartbreaking story, and it made my blood boil to think about the poor girl who suffered such a horrendous attack from a man who knew he was going to do it. It's one of the clear issues with police (and areas of government also) where the focus is on fixing or solving, rather than preventing such atrocities. But what could they do? If someone hasn't done anything yet you clearly can't lock them away, so what's the solution?

Chapter 15: Dreaming About Lassie and the Land Shark
This was one of my favourites, the first in a string of stories about Fortier's adventure into the K9 unit. Other than knowing that training is hard work and that police dogs are awesome, I know very little about police dogs so this was informative and a nice reprieve from the devastation of much of the book! This chapter details Zach's long desire to be part of the K9 unit, as well as discussing the dog he was finally paired up with, Emo, and the difficulty Zach came across with Emo. It's a revealing look at Zach himself (the behaviour of the dogs often mirror their trainer) but it's light, funny and leads into a series of chapters that are absolutely fantastic.

Chapter 31: Sending Out Positive Energy Makes All the Difference
Two world collide in this chapter. Two well-meaning but naive young adults decide to live as their parents lived in the 1960s. Free love, no possessions, relying on the kindness of strangers and the empty railway cars for their new existence. Unfortunately times they are a-changing. and late one night the pair were attacked as they made their way back to their temporary railway car home. Choosing flight over fight, the boy ran off and left the girl to be raped, beaten and cut by a vagrant who took advantage of their idealistic and trusting personalities. The world-wearied cop knows that we're living in a different world to our parents, he's seen the anger and disgust and heartbreak that take over the streets after dark. The university-aged couple, however, were full of youthful exuberance and positivity and are full of the romantic notions of living like a Jack Kerouac character. It's sad to think that these two (amongst the 100s, 1000s, or 1000000s across the world) have had their dreams crash around them and will never trust as openly or as freely ever again.

Zach Fortier's books might be a touch dark, but I find them completely illuminating and intoxicating reads. Be mindful of the content and language, but be sure to search out a copy of this book for yourself.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday Links

*What if the 1969 moon landing had met with disaster? Here's the speech the world would have heard (via US Archives)

*Goodbye Olympics! Here are a bunch of awesome photos from the final week (via The Atlantic)

*I wouldn't mind getting lost in this's made completely out of books! (via This is Colossal)

*Here's a few creative tips to help you think like Salvador Dali (Via Creativity Post)

*"Nominalisation are zombie nouns". Interesting read for grammar/language junkies (Via New York Times)

*I changed my Tumblr address, so be sure to check me out HERE!

A year ago (!!) I posted the video clip to Gotye's Somebody That I Used to Know and raved about how much I love the talented Wally Debacker and the music he makes. Soon after, the song left Australia and became an international hit spawning 1000s of interpretations, covers and remixes on Youtube. Now Wally has collated a bunch of them and arranged them into a wonderful mish-mash of sound. Harps, multi-peopled guitars, guitar tutorials, metal's all rather brilliant, and further proof that Wally Debacker loves music and loves his fans. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mini-graphic reviews #7

Locke and Key: Clockworks (Volume 5)
Written by: Joe Hill, Illustrated by: Gabriel Rodriguez

Published: 2012

My Thoughts: This penultimate volume is perhaps my favourite so far. It shifted back in time detailing not only the events that lead to the creation of the keys during the Civil War, but the events in Tyler, Kinsey and Bode's father's teenage life that resulted in the chaos they're now well and truly caught up in. It sets the stage perfectly for what will definitely be a mindblowing final volume, but it never loses momentum in setting the stage for what's to come. A rare skill indeed, and just further proof that Joe Hill most certainly is his father's son. If you haven't started reading this series yet, then there's something seriously wrong with you. What are you waiting for!!

Doom Patrol: Crawling from the Wreckage (volume 1)
Written by: Grant Morrison, Illustrated by: Richard Case, Doug Braithwaite, Scott Hanna, Carlos Garzon, John Nyberg.

Published: 2000

My Thoughts: This is a modern remake of a comic from the 1960s that was determined to write a superhero group unlike any others. The characters needed to be twisted up a little to remain offbeat in a modern context, but the focus remains the same; essentially this is a comic book filled with the superheroes that were previously left on the cutting room floor. Crazy Jane is schizophrenic, and each of her personalities has their own superpower, Rebis is the new form of Negative Man (from the original series) infused with his female doctor, Mr Steele is a brain housed in a robotic body after his human body was destroyed in a crash. This is a funny, irreverent and interesting series...can't wait to read more!

American Vampire (Volume 2)
Written by: Scott Snyder, Illustrated by: Rafael Albuquerque

Published: 2011

My Thoughts: Remember this one? Stephen King joined the team for the first volume, writing the origin story for the first of a new vampire species, Skinner Sweet (reviewed here). Moving on a decade (it's now the mid -1930s), Sweet is now in Las Vegas with fellow American vampire, Pearl, and surprise surprise they're up to no good! Unknowingly up against  the vampires is young police chief Cash McCogan, a loving husband with a son on the way...who has no idea what he's getting himself into. Also joining the fray is the mysterious organisation of vampire hunters known as the Vassals of the Morning Stars and a few characters that featured in the earlier volume. Anyway, get onto this series guys, it's really freaking good and it's only going to get better!

American Vampire (Volume 3)
Written by: Scott Snyder, Illustrated by: Rafael Albuquerque

Published: 2012

My Thoughts: Another volume, another decade. This volume takes place in the 1940s amid the horrors of WWII. Split into two separate stories, the first features Skinner Sweet, Pearl and her husband Henry (a non-vampire) and takes place on a small Japanese island where there's a threat of a new breed of vampire that could devastate the Allies position in the war. Story two follows vampire hunters (not naming them to avoid spoiling the volume reviewed above) as they try and source a cure for vampirism from a scientist currently trapped in the grips of Nazi soldiers in Romania. The first story is a little overly patriotic (You didn't win the war alone America!) and almost felt a little like they were trying to justify America dropping the Atom bombs, but once you get past that it's a thoroughly decent story that perfectly blends romance, action and vampires. Story two is just hands down awesome all the way!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Monday Links

*One of my absolute favourite people that I've never met, Marieke Hardy, has a blog where she writes bits and pieces about things. You should probably check it out. (Via Marieke Hardy)

*Some valuable info for writers regarding rejection, although it's an interesting (and quick) read for absolutely anyone. (Via Writer's Relief)

*More rules for writers! This time by Colson Whitehead! For the New York Times! (Via New York Times)

*Anyone else enjoying watching the Olympics? Just me? Well I don't care, here's their tumblr (Via Olympics Tumblr)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Trailer: Oz the Great and Powerful

I hate James Franco with the fires of a thousand suns, but I have to admit I'm really digging the look of this film.


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