Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Review: The Running Man by Stephen King/ Richard Bachman

The Running Man
Written by: Stephen King (published originally as Richard Bachman)

Published: 1982

Synopsis: The Running Man is set within a dystopian future in which the poor are seen more by the government as worrisome rodents than actual human beings. The protagonist of The Running Man, Ben Richards, is quick to realize this as he watches his daughter, Cathy, grow more sick by the day and tread closer and closer to death. Desperate for money to pay Cathy’s medical bills, Ben enlists himself in a true reality style game show where the objective is to merely stay alive.
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When the Hunger Games film came out every man and his dog compared it to Battle Royale and The Running Man. Battle Royale I was familar with, but all I knew about The Running Man was that it was one of the books that Stephen King published under his pseudonym and it was supposed to be pretty good. I made a mental note to check the book out sometime, and when I was looking for books to download for China it popped up in my head and I couldn't think of a better book to read on a holiday.

So it turns out Richard Bachman really is Stephen King's grittier alter-ego. Though I found this book a little clumsier than King's regular style, it had a darkness and an anger which I can't really place in another King book that I've had the pleasure of reading. The anger, typically portrayed through the anti-hero Ben Richards as he runs for his life and the lives of his wife and daughter, had a frantic energy that kept the momentum of the book racing forward, building to an impossible height before the final bang at the end. It was faster, harder and more intense than King usually writes, though many of King's stylistic techniques were retained. It makes for an interesting albeit bizarre read, purely to decipher and try to decide whether you would have recognised Bachman as King when it first came out.

Ben Richards also makes for an interesting character. Though he's only 28 years old, he seems much, much older. But I imagine that was sort of the point. In the lower classes in the future you grow up quick. A 7 year old kid he meets while on the run is the same again, if you retain the innocence and naivety of youth you'll never survive. You need to be cynical, headstrong and independent if you want to keep afloat in a world that doesn't care about you anymore. The America of the future is purely a world for the very rich, the poor are only wanted for as long as they can be placated with dope, work in the factories or volunteer for the free-vee games.

Ben doesn't like his lot in life. He hates that his young wife has to turn tricks to keep their baby girl fed, but it seems he doesn't hate it enough to toe the line and follow orders. He despises the free-vee, and the drug-like effect it has on the lower and upper classes alike, yet it's straight to free-vee that he turns when his baby needs medication. Cynicism, anger and pain boil just below his surface, and once his application to the Games begins he can't keep the lid on it anymore, it keeps spilling over and doesn't stop until the book does. It's a venomous and ugly attitude, and it infects the book and, to an extent, the reader. Though you get swept up in the action of the story, the anger and animosity of this story is hard to forget and makes for difficult reading at times.

So the running man... what is it exactly? Like The Hunger Games and Battle Royale, this is a world that enjoys making certain people suffer live on television. However in The Running Man the games are a volunteer program (for cash) and are comprised of countless games, some more harmless than others, though all designed to humiliate and potentially kill all who take part. After a full day of interviews, tests and countless lines, Ben finds himself picked for the Running Man competition - a competition mainly designed to weed out the most angry, anti-authoritarian and dangerous people in society for a hefty reward. Basically you go on the run, and people who spot you can report you for money, kill you for more money, and watch the TV to see the "hunters" track you down and eliminate you in the most TV friendly way possible. For each hour you remain alive, your family receives more money and if you last a certain amount of time you get to return home to your family. That outcome isn't likely though, in fact, thanks to the power of the television studio, you're basically only going to stay alive for as long as they think will get them the best ratings.

Ben goes on a ripper of a spree. Once he realises how dirty the studio plays, doctoring a picture of his wife to make her look like a disgusting drug-addled prostitute for instance, he fights back just as hard. He's ruthless and calculated in his approach, and his creative (and horrifying) tactics make for riveting reading. Along the way he meets a range of different people, some who want to help, others who want nothing to do with him, all who open his eyes to the horrors of the world outside of his own particular bubble. Even for the upper classes it isn't roses and sunshine. While they have it infinitely better, they're also controlled, drugged and kept in the dark.

Because it isn't aimed at young adult readers, this book probes all of the dark nooks and crannies that The Hunger Games simply couldn't. It's a dark (super, super dark), angry, aggressive and captivating book that, though flawed, deserves to be read if you're a fan of the dystopian televised monstrous games trope, or even if you aren't.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Holiday Photo Diary: Beijing

Beijing was a whirlwind of food, walking, waterways and the stunning Forbidden City and Great Wall. I didn't have long in any city I visited, but Beijing felt the most rushed. Most likely because it's the city in China to visit, what with Mao's Mausoleum, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall and the overall mix of old and new in the one place (HISTORY!).

As luck would have it my phone nearly ran out of battery on the train ride up to Beijing, so I had to hide it away in case I desperately needed to contact someone and about 10 minutes into my visit to Tiananmen Square the low battery light began to flash on my camera! As a result I've mostly got photos of the Forbidden City, as well as a couple I manage to snap along my walk that day before it died just as I arrived at the Hutongs. The worst thing about it was that it meant I had no camera for the Great Wall, and with my phone literally on its last legs (so little battery I could only see the camera button, but not the image it was taking) I wasn't able to snap any of the breathtaking photos that I should have taken. Le sigh. We can't win them all though can we?

Beijing was stunning, the Forbidden City was so phenomenally huge and maze-like and full of details that absolutely blew my mind. Most of the pictures below are of individual details or aspects of the buildings that took my fancy, and hopefully they convey just how gorgeous this site is. Also, very burnable. Just about every sign which mentioned the history of "whichever" building/hall/temple mentioned it being built, burning down, being rebuilt, burning half down, fixed up, renovated, burned down, rebuilt. Someone should really have taken fire away from the Ancient Chinese!

The courtyard at my hostel!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Books and travelling

Although I haven't really been to too many places, I love to travel. I love getting swept up in the excitement of a new town or city or country and finding myself completely outside of my comfort zone. I think this is why I've chosen to travel around Asia before I headed over to the USA or Europe, it's a completely foreign culture and way of life and that makes the meanderings and exploration that much more exciting.

But what I don't love about travelling is sorting out how I read while I'm on holiday. Normally I've always had to bring physical books. When I head home to Cairns my carry-on luggage consists of my phone, my wallet, my iPod and at least two books and probably one magazine. More often than not there is at least one more book in my suitcase. When I've headed around Australia on short holidays it's much the same, but at least I have the luxury of being able to find second hand book stores (if I'm lucky) or airport newsagents (if I'm unlucky) to top up my reading materials if I pack the wrong books (and I always pack the wrong books).

Heading to a foreign country makes this a little more complicated. Book stores may be in ready supply, but English language books are much more difficult to find, especially if you don't want to waste hours hunting down stores and distracting you from the real sites. In Japan we were lucky and found quite a few book stores that stocked English books, although they were always far more expensive and in small quantities. In China my searches were hopeless, except for one book cafe (where there were no staff working - at least not visibly!) in Beijing all the book stores I came across stocked Chinese books and Chinese books alone.

This trip I decided to go digital and digital only. I was tired of my bag being weighed down by books I rarely got the chance to read, so I downloaded a selection of books and comics onto my phone ready to read. To be safe I downloaded a bunch of both, some that I needed for challenges (The Phantom of the Opera), some that I'd been wanting to read for awhile (Les Miserables) and others by authors I knew I could read in any mood (So much Stephen King!). The fact that I had 15 books to choose from was a fantastic benefit, since it meant I could pick and choose and never feel guilty for the trinkets and clothes that I wouldn't be able to fit into my suitcase because I brought the books. The downside was the fact that a Kindle my phone ain't, and my phone chose to run low at the least helpful time possible. I arrived at the Shanghai train station at 9.30am, found out I wouldn't be getting on a train until 2.30pm and my battery died at around 10.30am, leaving me 3 hours at the station and 6 hours on the train with NOTHING to read!  To make matters worse I foolishly decided that I wouldn't bring my phone charger with me, so I had another 6 hour train ride to struggle through before I could charge my phone again. And as luck would have it, I couldn't find a single store selling phone chargers or books in the three days I was phone and book-less.

So what's the solution? Bring a combination of physical and digital? Leave the mobile behind and make sure to bring a kindle?  I can't say I missed the weight of a physical book in my bag, but I've never been so desperate for a book as I was on those two long, lonely train rides...I read my China Lonely Planet basically from cover to cover over and over again!

What do you do when you travel? Physical, digital or a mix? Or do you leave the books at home altogether?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Holiday Photo Diary: Shanghai

 What is there to say about Shanghai? Because my sister lives there I had an insider's look into the city. I knew the restaurants and street stalls to visit, where there was the best shopping (for the lowest price), and which bars had ladies night and free cocktails. But the most fun came from just walking around and poking my nose in everywhere. The location of my sister's apartment is ridiculously amazing, and a 5-10 minute walk to most of the sites in Shanghai, so I was able to take in a lot each day. I still managed to get lost several times, but it was those deviations that led me away from the skyscrapers and down the streets with house after house of families with their clothes hanging out their windows, or the kids toys piled up beside the balcony or meat being butchered on tables outside (kinda gross actually).

Shanghai is a very modern city, but modern in ways that seem like they're taken from the pages of a science fiction novel. The Radisson hotel, the Oriental Pearl, the New World Emporium ..they're all extravagant and curvy and surreal, creating a patchwork skyline that's probably my favourite so far.

There aren't as many sites to see in Shanghai as there are in Beijing and Hong Kong, but that didn't mean I was ever left wondering what to do. Just taking in all the galleries and museums would have required a full week alone! It's the little streets of restaurants, or the YuYuen Gardens or the fun fair smack bang in the middle of People's Square that will keep you searching and hunting around Shanghai for hours on end, although the shopping isn't bad either!

On my last full day, Sian and I took a trip up to Hangzhou (about 45 minutes by bullet train) where there was a huge lake and 1000s of people and police. It turned out it was a fireworks festival that evening, and even though it was only midday, everyone was settling down on picnic blankets to make sure they got the best spot possible. The crowds made it hard to see everything we wanted to (the buses were packed beyond capacity) and it was also the one day where we didn't have perfect weather, so it was kind of a wash, but there are a few photos included at the end of our day. It was also the only place where people stopped taking sneaky photos of me, but ran straight up to Sian and I to have group pictures taken. It's kind of weird to think I'm going to be on their computers or in their photo albums for years to come!

Dumplings at Yang's in Shanghai

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Holiday photo diary: Hong Kong

Even though I spent 18 months living in Hong Kong as a kid, every minute in Hong Kong was exciting and a total sensory overload. There was so much to see, to do, to eat...I tried my best, but with only 4 days I really didn't stand a chance!

On the Thursday night I flew in and we spent the late evening (because apparently no one ever sleeps in Hong Kong) wandering the streets, taking a late dinner and grabbing a cocktail at the bar across the street. Friday was spent at Disneyland during the day, and then at the night markets. You wouldn't believe how many stalls there were selling sex toys, and how much business they were doing - really strange. Saturday was spent heading up to Victoria Peak for the amazing view, and then wandering around Hong Kong proper, following a trail of streets and temples listed in a handy little guide our hostel had. On burning feet we headed to the Avenue of the Stars to eat ice-cream and watch the light show (which was cancelled). And then on our final day we caught a ferry over to Lantau Island (my old stomping ground) and made the pilgrimage up to the Tian Tan (big!) Buddha and Po Lin Monastery.

It was an amazing long weekend, we had perfect weather, managed to never get lost, and somehow lucked out with the crowds at most of the places we visited. I didn't get a chance to visit my old apartment building, but there was so much I didn't get the chance to see (and seeing it as an adult is SOOO different!) that I'll be heading back soon and will take a visit then.

Breakfast at the Charlie Brown Cafe!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Holiday Photo Diary: Hong Kong Disneyland

Like most kids I grew up with Disney movies, and like most kids I desperately wanted to go to DisneyLand. Unfortunately no such place exists in Australia, but luckily for adult me they've popped up in a few near-ish locations that also happen to be holiday destinations of mine! This was my sister's first time at Disneyland and she was as giddy with excitement as I had been on my first trip (I went to the one in Japan two years ago) . There really is some truth to the "happiest place on Earth" moniker, and while you can bleat about consumerism/money-making ploys all you like, it's incredibly hard to be cynical in a place as amazing as this.

So things to note,

*The attention to detail is phenomenal. Nothing is not thought of to the Nth degree, everything fits into the area's theme, from the lights to the bins to the staff's costumes...they're perfect.

*If I could go back in time (and change my brain chemistry) I'd become an engineer and find a way to become the chick who designs and creates the rides for places like this. Seriously, how good would that be?!

*Space Mountain rocks. It was down for construction when I was in Japan, so I was doubly-psyched to see it open in Hong Kong. The photo snapped of Sian and I our second time (we decided to do the vulcan salute/hand thing) was hilarious, but stingy me couldn't be hassled with the cost of the picture.

*Can anything really beat a carousel?

*Halloween is clearly the best time to visit Disneyland. So many pumpkins, Nightmare Before Christmas things, and a marching band dancing to thriller!


Sisters on the carousel. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Review: Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Full Dark, No Stars

Written by: Stephen King

Published: 2010

Synopsis: Is it possible to fully know anyone? Even those we love the most? What tips someone over the edge to commit a crime?
For a Nebraska farmer, the turning point comes when his wife threatens to sell off the family homestead.
A cozy mystery writer plots a savage revenge after a brutal encounter with a stranger.
Dave Streeter gets the chance to cure himself from illness - if he agrees to impose misery on an old rival.
And Darcy Anderson discovers a box containing her husband's dark and terrifying secrets - he's not the man who keeps his nails short and collects coins. And now he's heading home . . .
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Prior to heading overseas, I decided to save myself suitcase space and only bring digital books to read, this turned out to be a terrible idea but I'll save that for another post, another day. Full Dark, No Stars was one of the books I decided to read on my trip, and was a fantastic way to pass the time on the 6 hour train from Shanghai to Beijing...while my battery lasted.

Full Dark, No Stars is a collection of four short stories/novellas. Tapping directly into what Stephen King is good at, all four stories take a look at the human reality of a variety of crimes and situations. What happens when a wife of 30 years discovers her husband is a serial killer. Is it actually as simple as going to the cops? What about her son who has just put all of his money, energy and heart into starting a new advertising company, how would this news impact on him and his career? And who would actually believe that she had no idea, for 30 years, that her husband was routinely raping and savagely murdering young women? This is the crux of the fourth story, A Good Marriage, and the other three stories explore similar twists on common stories. As King says in the afterword,
"I have tried my best in Full Dark, No Stars to record what people might do, and how they might behave, under certain dire circumstances. The people in these stories are not without hope, but they acknowledge that even our fondest hopes, (and our fondest wishes for our fellowmen and the society in which we live) might sometimes be in vain. Often, even."   
And this is definitely the beauty of this collection. Each are very, very different stories, and each character handles their particular situation uniquely and encourage a variety of results, but you can't help but see the similarities which tie all four stories together. The hope that King speaks of, but also a certain power that comes from accepting the events they've been straddled with and resolving it in their own (not always conventional) way.

1922
The first story takes place, surprise surprise, in 1922. After his wife inherits 100 acres from her father and decides she wants to sell up and move the family to the city, Wilfred James decides the only option available is to kill his wife. And the only way he can kill her is with his 14 year old son, Henry's, help.  That's a pretty dark story in and of itself, but what this story is about is how this single event, disturbing and despicable as it is, tears the family (and other families) apart. Writing the full story out as a confession 8 years after the murder of his wife Arlette, Wilfred no longer lives on the farm and is convinced that his wife is haunting him and trying to run his life into the ground. Because it's all taking place in the past, Wilfred has a level of self-awareness to his storytelling which adds rich dimensions of shame, sadness, and wisdom that would have been absent if it had been told as it happened. The ending is especially grisly, but perfectly concludes a long and turbulent story.

Big Driver 
Tess is a mystery writer with a distaste for flying and a penchant for short-cuts. When she's offered a short-cut home from a speaking arrangement, she takes it immediately and hits the road. Unfortunately for her, a serial rapist and murderer regularly traps the road and Tess finds herself the latest victim of 'Big Driver'. Miraculously managing to survive, Tess scrambles home but flips backwards and forward over what to do next. If she goes to the hospital and the police, her name will hit the headlines in a big way and her life and career will never be the same again. Interviews about her books will always come back to the question of her rape, news sites will question whether she was 'asking for it' (just look at her promo pic - where she has bare-skinned shoulders and come-hither eyes) and she'll never be able to escape the events that happened the night before. Basically, Tess goes through the trauma that countless women who have been sexually abused go through every day. If you report the rape, will they believe you, will your friends treat you differently, what if the guy finds you again, what if they dredge up that night in college where you had a threesome and use it against you... In some ways the after events (or at least the fear and confusion of the after events) are as terrifying as the rape itself.

Fair Extension
Dave Streeter is riddled with cancer and has very little time left. When he dies he'll be leaving his solid, decent job, loving wife and two children behind - and it isn't fair. A chance meeting on a street behind the Derry Airport introduces Dave to Mr Elvid (care to rearrange that?) who offers Dave a life extension, he is in the business of extensions after all. The catch is that the 'badness' has to go somewhere, and if it isn't contaminating Dave's body he needs to direct it to someone he hates. The person Dave hates most in the world though? His best friend, Tom Goodhugh. Dave spent high school studying for the two of them, only to have Tom steal his girlfriend and go on to have a much more successful life in every single way. The story doesn't travel the way you'd expect it to, in fact the ending is kind of sudden and strange...but also satisfying. It's a much more straightforward story than the rest in this book, it's lighter (although still pretty dark), funnier and almost feels at odds with the rest of the book, yet also blends perfectly with the overall tone of the book.

A Good Marriage
As mentioned above, this story is about a wife and mother who discovers that her kind, quiet and loving accountant husband has been a serial killer for 40 years. And not just any serial killer, this is a man who hunts down women, rapes, mutilates and murders them and then taunts the police about the crimes. Partially inspired by Paula Rader (wife of the BTK serial killer -Dennis Rader) who instilled disbelief when she claimed to have had no idea about her husband's other life, this story charts an aspect I've never thought of before. Even after she's found out the truth, she's amazed to still feel love for the man when he speaks or smiles a certain way, because she's spent 30 years loving that particularly mannerism. While she knows he needs to be turned in, she has to wrestle with what this says about her, her children, and the life she's lead. How could she not know, and what does it say when she still feels love for a man who has destroyed the lives of countless women and their families? She feels like one woman split into two, and the story filled me with an incredible empathy for what she was going through, and now I can't help but think about the woman or the families behind the countless criminals I've read about or watched on the news.

Each story is a unique view on a common story, and the result of four such dynamic tales is a book that forces you to consider the wider ramifications of crime, justice, revenge and murder. Add Stephen King writing at his best and you have a must-read book that really...must be read. Each story is pretty dark and harsh in the telling, but they are mostly free from supernatural horror elements, so if you've been waiting for something a little different from King which will still perfectly demonstrate whether you'll like his style, this book will fit the bill.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday Links, China edition

So since this is supposed to be my holiday extravaganza week I thought I'd do Monday Links a little differently. Instead of bookish/funny/kitsch links, I'm going to link to a bunch of must-see places around China that aren't super bolded in your Lonely Planet and some sneaky hints for would-be travellers.


*If you find yourself in Shanghai make sure you visit the Propaganda Poster Art Centre. It's really hard to find since it's a basement in an apartment-style building, but once you find it (keep trying, it took me three walk bys!!) you'll be glad you did. For 20RMB (approx $3 AUD) you gain entry into a wonderful little gallery space which is floor to ceiling authentic posters from the Shanghai Ladies (1920s) to the Cultural Revolution (1960s) to modern art which samples the iconic Chinese propaganda style. After you finish you can head next door to the gift shop to buy postcards of the most outrageous, creative and downright bizarre posters or purchase a piece of propaganda art history for yourself.

*For about the price of a basic Australian hotel, you can stay in some of the nicest hotels in Shanghai. But if you'd rather save your money for the markets or food stalls, just take a trip up to the restaurants and bars in many of these hotels. The best one to visit? The Radisson. Situated right in the heart of Shanghai, it has an amazing view which can be photographed from the rotating restaurant or viewed from the bar (where the cocktails are pretty reasonably priced too!).

*Tianzifang is a wonderful restaurant and shopping maze of streets in Shanghai. Here you can find some of the more unique and kitsch gifts for friends, unbelievably coffee shops, and the wonderfully unbelievable 'More than Toilet', a bathroom themed restaurant that simply must be visited, no excuses!

*Hotels and hostels are not in short supply in Hong Kong or Mainland China, but it can be nerve-racking picking one considering how many scams/dodgy deals exist (HK especially). So here are the two hostels I stayed in on my trip. In Hong Kong I spent my time at the Hop Inn (cheap in $AUD but mid-range in $HKD) which was centrally located in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. We were directly above the bustling shopping streets, and walking distance from the ferries, museums and subway stations. Each room is individually designed by an artist and clean, comfortable and spacious. In Beijing I stayed at the Heyuan International Youth Hostel and it was relatively well located. There wasn't too much in walking distance, but it was right by a metro station, and 5-10 minutes by train to all the big city attractions. It was very cheap ($13AUD for a night in a female dorm) and had a bar, restaurant and hang-out area attached. The best bit though is the traditional courtyard part, so pretty (check out my Beijing photos later this week).

*Nanluogu Xiang is a fantastic little hutong (narrow street) in Beijing chock full of food stalls, clothes stores and souvenir shops. It's a must visit, and would best be appreciated while visiting the other nearby hutong around the Drum tower. There are a few of the streets right on the canal, and at night the bars/restaurants have gorgeous little rooftop areas you can sit and have a quick drink or meal while looking on over the lights, people and water.

*Scams. Unfortunately these are in high supply all over China. Some of these I encountered myself, while others I was simply told about by my sister and her housemates.

-If you're in People's Square, the Pedestrian Street or YuYuen Gardens in Shanghai or around Tiananmen Square or The Forbidden City in Beijing be wary of young people who claim to be students/learning English/tourists to the area themselves. They might just start up a convo asking where you're from, or by asking you to take photos of them, but their informative conversation (actually a gold mine, don't fob them off because they'll give a few good ideas of nearby must-sees) soon veers into a suggestion to either grab a coffee/drink or to visit a tea ceremony/art exhibit together. Basically their endgame is to get you to visit the store they're hired from so you can pay exorbitant prices for art or tea ceremonies. The tea ceremonies are quite lovely, so if you do find yourself dragged alone try and haggle them down to 10RMB tea (which might still be too expensive to be honest) or just leave.

-The Great Wall brings out a huge amount of scams, and it isn't as simple as booking a tour to avoid them. Many "tours" (even the ones sold through hostels and hotels) take you to the wall, to lunch and the Ming tombs...but they detour through shopping centres or temples where they make it seem like buying is the only option. These tours will often be very expensive and the time on the wall and at the tombs will be very short in contrast with how long you spend shopping. If you book a tour just be sure to ask the booker exactly where you will be taken and what is included as part of the tour.

-If you decide to forgo the tour and find your own way their be wary of men dressed in the bus uniforms coming on and leading you off the bus and into their (very expensive) mini-van. I don't know if this is common in all areas or just Mutianyu. It will cost about 100RMB each way, so if you have a group then it works out pretty cheap, especially considering the driver will wait for you at the top of the wall and drop you straight off at the bus station, but beware nonetheless.

-Haggling, just a quick note. If you're a Westerner you can almost be sure you'll always pay too much, but don't be scared to haggle. Start at half the asking price, and be firm and don't let them push the sale through if you aren't sure you want it. If they don't go cheap enough and you walk away and they don't call out after you, then you went too low. Also, a good yardstick on whether to haggle is that if there are prices in the store, haggling probably isn't encouraged, but if there are no signs, go for gold!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Shanghai Panorama

click to enlarge


Shanghai has a wonderfully odd skyline, as this picture attests. On one side of the river it's super modern and futuristic, and on the other (the Bund) it's regal and old and historic. Just one of the many reasons I loved it here.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Holiday Instagram Snaps

Next week is going to be the official (dum da da da!) show and tell of holiday snaps, meandering thoughts and must-go locations in China. But as a bit of a sampler for what is to come (and probably what you'll all be wanting to avoid like the plague!) here are a collection of the Instagram pics I took over my super-short but super-awesome 10 day holiday.

The wall of my room in my Hong Kong hostel.
What I could see outside my hostel window in Hong Kong
A cool cider as we wait for our ferry on Lantau Island, HK
HK Disneyland by night
Coffee at the Charlie Brown Cafe (Hong Kong)
Hong Kong
Awesome bike racks in Shanghai
Shanghai Museum (a must visit!) and the National Holiday flower beds.
The Great Wall (just before my battery died!)
Accidental shot of my shadow at the Great Wall, but I kinda like it!
Prettiness in a Shanghai market stall
Shanghai streets and locals
My last meal (and best)...Chinese BBQ, so amazing!




Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mini-graphic novel reviews #10 Doom Patrol bonanza

Doom Patrol: The painting that ate Paris (Volume 2)
Written by: Grant Morrison, illustrated by: Richard Case, John Nyberg.

Published: 2004

My thoughts: Surreal, bizarre, balls to the wall crazy! The main story is about a painting that eats Paris. Actually devours the entire city and plans to do the same to the rest of the world. Doom Patrol come face to face with the evil brotherhood of Dada in a series of art inspired worlds and try to save the world from the weirdest kind of destruction possible. This series is so much fun, but it's also well written, well constructed and illustrated perfectly. Also, there's a fantastic scene with superman + co which is giggle-icious.



Doom Patrol: Down Paradise Way (Volume 3)
Written by: Grant Morrison, illustrated by: Richard Case, Mike Dringenberg, Mark McKenna, Jamie Hewlett, Steve Yeowell,  Rian Hughes.

Published: 2005

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this volume, but it's probably the most confusing of the bunch so far. Or at least the story that takes place off Earth is. There's a crazy conflict that involves a whole bunch of religious ideology, and surreal concepts of battle that just threw me for a loop. Really interesting, but I had to re-read sections and pay a lot more attention than I typically do.




Doom Patrol: Musclebound (Volume 4)
Written by: Grant Morrison, illustrated by:Richard Case, Mike Dringenberg, Mark McKenna, Jamie Hewlett, Steve Yeowell, Rian Hughes.

Published: 2006

My Thoughts: I read half of this one, put it down and came back 3 or 4 weeks later. As a result I feel like the two halves were much more separate than previous volumes. As is to be expected this volume was crazy and crazy good. The Brotherhood of Dada and this time Mister Nobody has a new team of bizarre super-villains to help him do his dastardly surreal deeds. As though antagonising anyone who says how 'strange' or 'weird' this series is, Grant Morrison introduced a LSD plot with the Brotherhood and man - that shit gets crazy.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Movie trailer: Hansel and Gretel (2013)



I'm a little on the fence about this one. On the one hand it could be ridiculously bad (think Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) or it could be a kick-ass retelling of a well-known fairytale. I'm not sure the trailer really points one way or another, but I'm hoping for the latter - if only to preserve Jeremy Renner's streak of good (if not always great) roles.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sherlock Holmes: The Final Problem

Sherlock Holmes: The Final Problem
Written by: Arthur Conan Doyle

Published: 1893

Synopsis: Sherlock Holmes strives to destroy Professor Moriarty who is at the bottom of half the evil in London while the criminal genius vows the same for the detective.


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OMG I FINALLY GOT THE CHANCE TO READ ANOTHER BOOK FOR THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN CHALLENGE!!!! I know right! And it took me like 20 minutes to read because I had no idea this one was only a wee teeny tiny baby of a story and all of a sudden my kindle phone app was like "yo Kayleigh you're 78% complete" and I was like "but I'm only halfway to uni, what the hell Arthur Conan Doyle?!"

It's going to be really hard to review this story, and not only because of the teensy size. This is the one and only Sherlock Holmes/Arthur Conan Doyle story I've read. All of my wisdom on the subject comes from the fantastic Steven Moffat series Sherlock and all the old films that used to play at midday on a Sunday. So there are certain parts of this book that I especially liked because I could completely visualise Benedict Cumberbatch saying the lines in that droll voice of his. Case in point;
"My dear Watson, you evidently did not realise my meaning when I said that this man may be taken as being quite on the same intellectual plane as myself. You do not imagine that if I were the pursuer I should allow myself to be baffled by so slight an obstacle. Why, then, should you think so meanly of him?"
So maybe my man B.C would have a slightly more modern line reading, but because I have his characterisation still so fresh in my head I read those lines with all of the the annoyance and peevishness that are so characteristic of his incarnation of the character, where, perhaps, you guys (if you haven't seen Sherlock or are more familiar with the original Conan Doyle series) see none of that stuff and I'm just projecting.

That aside, this really is a thoroughly good story. It's short, to the point and rather emotional. Writing two years after the events that take place, Watson (who I was visualising more as Jude Law than Martin Freeman surprisingly) finally decides to recount the events that transpired between Sherlock and Moriarty, because people are trying to paint Moriarty as a good guy and not the criminal mastermind he actually was. In the short story Watson describes how on edge and aware of looming danger that Sherlock was, and his decision to leave the country for three days until the police would be able to arrest Moriarty and the rest of his criminal crew. Tagging along because, well, because he's Watson, he heads off with Sherlock in what will be their final trip together.

Because he's writing from the perspective of knowing what happens, and being devastated by the events (this is all in the first few pages, so no spoiler warning needed!) Watson's account is rather melancholy and depressing. He recalls moments when Sherlock displayed signs of fear or apprehension which he then pieces together to demonstrate that Sherlock was always aware how this adventure was going to end. It has the advantage of not only showing Watson's tender affection for the world's greatest detective (and at times the story reads like a long eulogy) but also showcasing Sherlock's talent as the world's greatest detective AND his level-headed acceptance of how things will/could be. He does his best to avoid death, but he accepts this reality and doesn't let it stop him from spending three more days with Watson, see the world and crush Moriarty's crime syndicate. That's a dude I can respect.

To me this story was all about Watson and Sherlock and the enduring bond between these two men, but for most (especially if I take into account the film/TV versions of this story) it's all about the rivalry that's set up between Moriarty and Sherlock. And for good reason. They're two sides of the same coin, brilliant, determined, intuitive, commanding and a little mad (although maybe in Moriarty it's more than a little). In the early pages of the story Sherlock recounts their brief meeting to Watson, and it's this fantastic intellectual game of chess, where each plays on the other's move and tries to take command of the situation. The back and forth between them is dynamic yet civil - building the tension required for the rest of the story. It's like a meeting between two muzzled lions, if the two lions went to Oxford and wore neckties.The interesting thing that this story sets up is the respect that they have for one another, they clearly disrespect one another's line of work, but they respect the mental prowess of one another and the thrill that this hunt (for want of a better word) will entail. They're two of the most intelligent men alive, and finally they've each found their match. In other circumstances they could be wonderful friends (and you know that fan-fic has been written).

I'm sad this was quite a short read, because that would be the only fault I have about it. Because it's so short,  there isn't a huge amount of detail about the events - especially since Watson isn't present at the infamous Reichenbach Falls when the two men have their final face off. However because of the tone of the book, and the reason for Watson finally putting pen to paper, it doesn't diminish the quality of the story, it just leaves me wishing for more.



Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Top 10 Tuesday: Books I Can't Believe I Haven't Read



Top 10 Books I can't believe I haven't read yet, but are sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read. (hosted by The Broke and The Bookish)



1.
 IQ84 by Haruki Murakami
This was on the top of my list last year when my mum asked me about books I wanted for Christmas, but I still haven't taken it down to read. I think it's the size of it that's put me off. Considering how little time I have for reading at the moment, a book that momentous would take me months. I think I need to  just jump in and give it a go - anyone have any tips to help me out here?

2. 
Portrait of a Serial Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed by Patricia Cornwell
True crime is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine, and anything that deals with conspiracy theories is 1000x better. Jack the Ripper is a case that intrigues me, and the fact that we'll never truly know one way or another strangely makes me want to read even more on the subject. This book had been on my TBR list for months before I came across a copy in my local second hand bookstore, but since then I haven't submerged myself into the dark and grimy underworld of Victorian era England.

3
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Another big-ass book that's intimidating to the time conscious. This historical fiction novel has received some amazing reviews by some of my favourite bloggers, and one day I'll get to read about a childless Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey and the ambitious Thomas Cromwell but this day doesn't appear to be on the horizon just yet.

4
Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg
When I heard that Simon Pegg (of Shaun of the Dead, Spaced and Star Trek fame) had written a book about his life as a nerd I knew I had to have it. Soon after buying it I picked it up with the intent of reading it but it just didn't happen. This is the kind of book I really have to be in the mood for, and at the time I just couldn't get into it. Eventually though, I'm sure, the time will be right for a nerdy autobiography.

5
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
When I read The Hunger Games earlier this year I couldn't help but notice the parallels between it and one of my favourite Japanese films, Battle Royale. I'd known the film was based on a book, but until I read THG I really didn't have the necessary motivation to get myself a copy of the book. I did start this book, but like Nerd Do Well, I just wasn't in the groove for it and stopped around page 15. I will definitely get back to it, what I read I liked, but it's a big book and smaller books are just so much more appetising when there's so little time to spend reading!

6.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
I desperately want to read this book before the film (starring Keira Knightly and Jude Law) comes out, but the size and Russian-ness of it intimidates me something crazy. I once picked up Crime and Punishment at a library and tried to read it, but I think the amount of names (and similarities of said names) means I'd probably have to read with a pen and paper beside me in order to keep my head above water!

7
Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada
Writing about life in Berlin under the Nazis, Hans Fallada's Alone in Berlin was suggested to me as a must read when I finished The Book Thief. I bought it immediately after reading some of the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and then...nothing. I don't know if I was burnt out after reading The Book Thief (so sad!!), or if I just wasn't in the right frame of mind for what is definitely going to be a devastating and dark book (it is about the Nazis after all) but I haven't yet gathered up the courage I need to give it a shot. I will though, I've heard it's absolutely amazing.

8
The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
I love a good science fiction/fantasy/horror and if there is one person who is sure to write one of the best science fiction/fantasy/horror novels around, it's John Wyndham. In The Midwich Cuckoos a strange object appears in a village, knocks everyone unconscious, and then disappears...after leaving all of the females pregnant. Furthermore, this is supposed to be a sort-of-origin story for the phenomenal Warren Ellis graphic novel series Freak Angels.

9
Under the Dome by Stephen King
To be fair, I have about 10 Stephen King books in my shelf that I can't believe I haven't read yet, but most of them are second hand copies of his lesser known novels. Under the Dome was bought new with the intention of reading it immediately. Since I bought it I think I've read 4 or 5 King novels...maybe it'll be next?

10. 
Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
I'm not sure how I came across this one, but the synopsis captured my attention and broke my heart a little. Dealing with the loss of his mother, a young boy turns to his books for comfort. Part fairy tale, part coming of age story, part emotional roller-coaster this book has a bit of everything and I know that when I find the time to read it I'll absolutely love it. Or at least, I hope so!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Monday Links

*I love reading letters and telegrams from the celebrities of old, so here is a letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald where he responds to hate mail. If only everyone responded to hate mail so scathingly yet eloquently! (Via Brain Pickings)

*New (to me) Tumblr alert! On The Bro'd is Jack Kerouac's seminal novel 'bro'd' up! (Via On The Bro'd)

*Also, while you're in the new-blogs-to-follow frame of mind, here's Joe Hill (author extraordinarie and son of the King himself) blog. Read it, bookmark it, return everyday. (Via Joe Hill)

*These are some of the greatest newspaper corrections you'll ever see. Seriously. (Via The Vine)

*Caleb Crain questions whether the critic is free (The Paris Review)

*Peter Stothard (head judge of the Booker Prize) is not a fan of book bloggers. Apparently we aren't do the future of literature any favours. But John Self took it upon himself to argue in favour of bloggers, and address many of Stothard's concerns. What do you think?  (Via The Guardian - Against - For)

*Character names can make or break a book. Or at least they can for me. Here's an interesting article about literary names, how they impact the writing process and their significance. (Via OUP Blog)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Movie Trailer: Beautiful Creatures (2013)


I haven't read any of the Caster Chronicles books, but I stumbled across this trailer on IMDB and I was intrigued. I'm not sure if the film combines all four books into the one film, or if it's the first in a new series of films but any film that combines Emma Thompson with Jeremy Irons, a Florence and the Machine song and some sort of supernatural countdown tattooed on a wrist will always peak my interest. Will I read the book before I see the film? Probably not, but if you've read them then let me know in the comments if it's something I should be getting from the library or not!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

BRB in Shanghai.



GUYS! Right now I'm somewhere in there ^ !! Well, I'll actually be in Hong Kong when you read this, but soon, SOON, I'll be in Shanghai visiting my sister and absorbing as much culture as possible. I've scheduled a few posts for the two weeks I'm away, so there'll be reviews and Monday Links as usual but I'll be unable to comment until I get back. Hope you all have fantastic fortnights full of fun things because I know I will!! Keep an eye on my Twitter (@Murphy_Kayleigh) and Instagram (@kleemurphy) for pictures because there'll probably be an absolute overload!



*Photo credit from here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Review: Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

Alice in Zombieland
Written by: Gena Showalter

Published: 2012

Synopsis: Had anyone told Alice Bell that her entire life would change course between one heartbeat and the next, she would have laughed. From blissful to tragic, innocent to ruined? Please. But that’s all it took. One heartbeat. A blink, a breath, a second, and everything she knew and loved was gone.

Her father was right. The monsters are real….

To avenge her family, Ali must learn to fight the undead. To survive, she must learn to trust the baddest of the bad boys, Cole Holland. But Cole has secrets of his own, and if Ali isn’t careful, those secrets might just prove to be more dangerous than the zombies….

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Before I begin my review I need to address two issues that you really should know before going into the book. First, the zombies are not zombies. They're cannibalistic spirits, so they're closer to revanants than zombies. For most people this probably won't matter because they still manage to wreak havoc, but if you're a zombie purist this will probably drive you nuts. Secondly, Alice is Zombieland is just a title, there is very little connection between this book and Alice in Wonderland, which I found really disappointing. There is a white rabbit which pops up from time to time as a cloud, and a very, very minor thematic connection but I was hoping it'd be more of an undead retelling of Alice in Wonderland so it just wasn't enough for me.

Moving on from that though, I'm torn about this book. There are some real issues in terms of characterisation, plot structure and the writing style, but I ended up enjoying myself for most of it. Key to the success was the protagonist, Alice. The book begins while her family is still alive. Her sister is an enthusiastic and glowing 8 year old and her best friend despite the large age gap. Part of the reason for this is the fact that their father is crazy. He believes that monsters walk the Earth and he's gone to great lengths to protect his young family. Alice's mother is stuck somewhere in the middle, she loves her kids dearly, but her complete adoration and trust in her husband puts her at odds with her daughters much of the time. One or two chapters in, a car accident results in the deaths of the entire family, Alice excluded. She moves in with her grandparents and has to transfer to a new school, and all of a sudden her father's safety precautions no longer apply. She can stay out after dark if she wants to and make plans with friends, but she doesn't feel free - the guilt of living while her family died hangs heavily over her head. It isn't a perfect character, but Gena Showalter does a pretty remarkable job of creating a teenage character suffering through the loss of a loved one. In the first section she essentially shuts down, unable to even cry, and puts herself into dangerous situations trying to find answers to her family's deaths. As the book continues though, she finds purpose and slowly begins to heal from her loss.

Aside from Alice and her grandparents (they only feature fairly briefly, but I really enjoyed them) most of the characters are walking clich├ęs  Her new best friend Kat is almost embarrassing, speaking in one-liners and overly obsessed with her appearance. She's the kind of stereotypical teenage girl you'd expect your out of touch mum or grandma to write. Later in the book attempts are made to add depth to her character but they don't work because of the earlier efforts which basically render her a cartoon character. Similarly, all of the boys that feature in this book, bar one, are bad boys. They're covered in piercings and tattoos and frequently show up at school covered in bruises. I know piercings are common enough, but how many 17 year olds do you see decked out in tattoos? Maybe it's more common in America, but it just seemed ridiculous to me. Also, can we move past the 'bad boys are irresistible period' already? It's gone on long enough. Most YA books I read either infantilise the characters or turn them into mini-adults, and this one basically chucks a bunch of college-aged adults (appearance-wise at least) into a high school and acts like it's natural. I'd hazard a guess that the reason Showalter does this is because of the heavy emphasis on sex and romance in this novel. Showalter is best known for writing paranormal and contemporary romances, and all of the characters in this book have a heavy focus on getting into the pants of someone else. I know 16-18 year olds have sex, but at times it felt really creepy reading about the sexual attraction Alice has for the lead bad boy, Cole, (there's a scene in a bar that's especially bad) and felt like it would have been more at home in a Mills and Boon novel.

Which leads me onto my next concern, there are some parallels between this book and Twilight. A new girl to school find herself irresistibly drawn to the 'bad' boy. Trouble seems drawn to her, her new best friend is obnoxious, there is a second guy that doesn't get along with the 'bad' boy, the 'bad' boys close friends are overly protective and hate the new girl...it's not just me right? I suppose you could argue that many YA books follow this general pattern, but considering it has a supernatural element these similarities just seemed glaring and hard to ignore.

The story itself was pretty interesting, although it had problems of its own. Regaining conscious for a brief moment during the car accident, Alice saw what looked like people dive into her father's body and come out eating his flesh. Because this seemed to suggest her dad wasn't so crazy after all it becomes a fixation of Alice's as she tries to find proof that she hasn't just gone crazy herself. As she investigates, she meets a group of zombie hunters and learns a few things about the zombies that help answer some questions but also raises a whole slew of new questions. About two minutes into the book one big question loomed, "if zombies are present why doesn't everyone notice a huge amount of corpses appearing each night?" During her investigation into these undead spirits, Alice learns that because they're in spirit form not everyone can see them, and as a result the deaths that they instigate (which seem relatively small to be honest) are blamed on wild animals. The members of the zombie hunter troop are all able to see the zombies, but are also equipped with another talent. In order to fight the zombies they need to also be in spirit form, which is something they can train themselves to do. This is perhaps one of the more bizarre elements of the story - people who not only can leave their bodies to fight zombies, but whose weapons can also be transferred to spirit form? But it does work, kind of. Along with a few other factors which unfold as Alice grows to know this other zombie-fighting world, it's still bizarre and but makes for a different take on a fairly typical narrative structure.

I know this has probably seemed like a very negative review but these issues were all glaringly clear as I read the book so I feel like it's really important to lay them down for you all lest you pick it up, read it and shake a fist at the sky screaming "damn you Nylon Admiral, damn you!" But I also want to emphasise how much I didn't hate it as I read it. Yes I noticed the awkward or strange narrative, character and style choices, and yes I did occasionally groan or shake my head but I never had to force myself to continue, and I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it. It's been a hard one to review because it's right down the middle for me, enjoyable enough but technically not great and I could completely relate if someone were to tell me they disliked it. In this instance I think I really have to direct you to the other reviews on Goodreads, hopefully they, in conjunction with this review, can help you decide if you want to give it a shot.



Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Top 10 Tuesday: Books to remember!



Top Ten "Older" Books You Don't Want People To Forget About... Or 8 Books you need to remember (and read!) and 2 that it's really ok to just forget about. Seriously, just let them go. (Hosted by The Broke and The Bookish)



1. 
The Chrestomanci Series by Diana Wynne Jones
Because of the powerful love people have for Harry Potter (understandably), The Hunger Games (understandably) and Twilight (not so understandably!) I feel like very few people are likely to find this series unless handed to them directly. The first in the series, Charmed Life, was first published in the late 1970s so they're a little older than the examples above, but they're phenomenal YA fantasy novels filled with magic, alternate worlds, dragons, multiple lives and darling characters without being too fantasy.

2. 
Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis
Things move fast in the comic world, and it doesn't take long for a phenomenal series to be knocked off it's perch by another fantastic series. Transmetropolitan is outrageous, gratuitous, dangerously honest and kicks complete ass. The protagonist, Spider Jerusalem, is a futuristic and slightly more outrageous (if that's even possible) version of famed writer Hunter S. Thompson and it really celebrates that gonzo style of journalism. It will blow your mind.

3. 
The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson
After the failure of a movie I feel like it's important to stand by the book and let you all know that it's fantastic, and interesting, and well-written, and funny and insightful and outrageous and basically everything the movie didn't quite manage to be. The Rum Diary follows journalist Paul Kemp (one of HST's alter-egos) through a debaucherous alcohol fueled adventure in Puerto Rico during the 1950s.

4.
And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs
Both Burroughs and Kerouac are (rightly) known for some prolific books, but this collaboration is possibly my favourite book from both of them. Alternating chapters, the book is loosely based on an unfortunate series of events that lead to one of their friends killing another of their friends. This book came before the momentous books they would eventually write and it provides a unique look into two young men as they try and find their writing styles.

5. 
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
This book is, hands down, one of my favourites, and it's possible that if the movie hadn't come out last year I never would have found out that it existed! It's beautiful and sad and tells an impossibly good tale of three friends growing up together. I won't say more for fear of spoiling it (it's the kind of book that is best when you know very little) but I can't emphasise enough how important it is TO READ THIS BOOK!

6
April Fool's Day by Bryce Courtenay
I'm not sure how well known Bryce Courtenay is to anyone reading this that isn't from Australia, but he's a hell of a story teller best known for telling epic stories that usually span multiple years, if not generations. April Fool's Day is epic in both in size and scope but unlike his other work this book is non-fiction and focuses on only one life, the life of his young son Damon. Damon was haemophiliac and contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion and died at 24. This book will break your heart, but it's an amazing look into the life of a young man who didn't let his illness define him or hold him back.

7. 
How I became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely
This book seemed to slip under most people's radar when it was released in 2009, but found a resurgence in popularity last year and rightly so. This book is freaking hilarious, which isn't surprising considering Steve Hely is an American TV writer currently writing for The Office. It's also biting satire of the current state of mainstream and uber popular fiction, and while it isn't perfect I'd love to see it have another spike in popularity.

8. 
A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
I know what you're thinking, this book is EVERYWHERE but that's for a good reason, it's fantastic! I included it in the list, because I'm meeting more and more people who are deciding to watch the show without reading the book, and you really must read the book! The TV show is fantastic but, and I'm sure most of you will agree, it can't quite reach the heights of the book and I doubt it ever will. READ THE BOOK GUYS!

And now for a couple of books that you can put away and forget about!

9. 
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
I'm sure there are a few of you who would disagree but this is a terrible book and it needs to disappear. Like, right now. It's had its moment in the sun (so to speak!) and it's time to let a decent book get a little bit of the glory. Want to read a love story with vampires? Read Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist, it is one of the best books to come out in recent years. Want a YA with heart? Read Harry Potter, The Chrestomanci Series or Looking for Alibrandi. There are so many better options, so why waste your valuable reading time on something that fails to meet the simplest of criteria?

10.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Perhaps I'll be in the minority with this one too, but ugh, yuk this book is terrible. I didn't like the style or story line, but where it meets the most ire from me is with the characters. They're insufferable, horrible people who never show the slightest speck of love for anyone, let alone each other. I was so close to burning down the entire world after reading this, simply because it would be the most effective way of eliminating this book forever.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Monday Links

*Planning a holiday? Why not head to visit the home of a famous (deceased) author! (via NBC News)

*Ever been confused by when to use a semicolon? The delightful Oatmeal webcomic has come up with this handy guide. The best thing? It has dinosaurs! (Via The Outmeal)

*The favourite punctuation marks of writers. (Via The Atlantic Wire)

*Love him or hate him, you've got to respect Salman Rushdie for writing a thank you to independant booksellers (Via Publishers Weekly)

*A thought-provoking and kinda depressing article about women in film and why they aren't 'essential characters'. (Via Daily Life)

*"I know who I am because of the books I've read" A note from writer/editor/columnist Emily Keeler on reading. (Via Toronto Standard)

*Writer Jonah Lehrer has recently been caught for plagiarism in his books and articles, but why did he do it? (Via LA Mag)

*Let's judge books by their covers!! Here are 50 (mostly) awesome book covers. (Via Casual Optomist)


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