Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Book Review: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Creatures

Written by: Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Published: 2009

Synopsis: Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything

Challenges: Urban Fantasy for Book'd Out's Eclectic Reader Challenge

Ok, I'm going to put my biases where you can see them. I dislike A LOT of YA, mainly because YA seems to be full of fantasy romance books a la Twilight. 

Twilight ruined a lot of things for me, vampires, YA, romance...it's a bad series, and it spawned a bunch of imitators which made delving into YA even harder. I know this isn't fair - sure there are Twilight imitators, but I unfairly group any book that has ties to Twilight, fantasy elements, mythical creatures, romance plot, forbidden love etc, into the 'nah-uh no way' basket. I'm trying to break this habit because it isn't fair on the authors who work hard on their books to be ignored because of an author that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with them. Perhaps I'll find out that I'm not cut out for this genre anyway, but for now I'm trying really hard to push those judgements away and look at the book objectively.

Enter Beautiful Creatures. This is a series that shares some clear ties to Twilight, there's the boy and girl with the unavoidable bond, the character with the mythical secret, a family (or two) that forbids the relationship, and a sense of danger that surrounds the couple and the town. I really wanted this to be the book to change my mind of the genre, and while I enjoyed a great deal of it, today isn't the day.

So a lot of it is par for the course, our narrator Ethan feels out of place in his backwards Southern hick town. But he's not actually an outsider, he's firmly part of the cool crowd. He's a natural on the basketball team, he's dated the second hottest girl in school, and he seems to have a pretty decent group of friends. But he's desperate to get out of there and separate himself from this world as soon as he turns 18. On his first day back at school he hears talk of a new girl, and coincidentally he's been having dreams about a girl he's never met and shock,  be still my beating heart, he realises she's the girl from his dreams, literally. She's the opposite to everyone at his school. Where all the girls are cheerleader cookie cut-outs, Lena wears a lot of black, has a weird charm necklace and drive around in her Boo Radley-esque uncle's hearse (GET IT SHE'S DIFFERENT). Ethan desperately wants to get to know her, but she's not so eager to reciprocate, or so it seems anyway. Oh, and aside from dreaming about her, it turns out Ethan and Lena can speak to each other telepathically. Because they're made for each other. Clearly.

Having Ethan be our narrator is an interesting decision, and it does definitely separate the book from being a complete Twilight clone, but I'm not so sure the authors have met many teenage boys. Granted, I've never been one myself, but he's so sappy and flowery and dramatic and focuses way too much on describing what Lena is wearing that particular day. I did like hearing his story and seeing him deal with the loss of his mother and his shut-in father, but you could have changed the name to Ethania, the girlfriends to boyfriends, and basketball to softball and there wouldn't have been much more editing needed. His internal conflict is interesting in theory, but there's a weakness to how it actually plays out. The main conceit of their relationship is that she's different, the town dislikes different, if he sides with her he becomes different too. But he whines so much about how the people at school are shallow and not really people he wants to identify with, I don't really understand why it's a big deal if he can't spend lunch times with them any more. It seemed more like he was there because he had nowhere else to go, and now he does have somewhere else to go, so what's the problem?

Now, Lena's world and conflict is far more interesting, though still flawed. She's a caster (i.e. witch) and the construction of this world was an interesting one. Each caster has a unique form of power in addition with the general witchy ability to move objects and so forth. Some are healers, some are able to see through time, others can assimilate other powers and some, like Lena are 'naturals' which means they're quite powerful and uh, can do things to nature? I think? In the caster world you choose whether to be either light or dark, but in Lena's family a curse chooses it for you at 16. So regardless of how good and kind and thoughtful Lena may have been for 15 years, 11 months and 29 days, if fate decrees she's going to be evil, she's going to be evil. Understandably Lena gets pretty angsty about this, and much of the novel deals with Lena coming to terms/not really coming to terms with this at all.

I wish they'd made Lena and Ethan friends instead of a couple, because a lot of the plot choices made around the concept of their burgeoning love felt forced. What Lena needed was a friend, and much of the conflict in the book could still have existed if they were friends not lovers. Ethan still would have antagonised the town by choosing to be friends with the weirdo, their families could still try to keep them separated, and the stakes for her 16th birthday would have remained the same. It also would have eliminated a great deal of the length, which this book could have used, and that would have actually been rather revolutionary for a paranormal YA.

Outside of the two protagonists though, the quality of the characters go both ways. Lena's evil cousin sounds like Juliet from Lollipop Chainsaw, Ethan's dad was unfleshed out (but could have been fascinating) and the rabble-rousers in the town were conveniently one-dimensional. Ethan and Lena's guardians on the other hand, Amma and Macon respectively, were pretty great. Amma is the bossy Southern housekeeper that you always read in books set in the South, but that doesn't make her sassiness any less fabulous. If Ethan's father had been a little better developed, her role as Ethan's surrogate mum could have been even more dynamic. Macon, Lena's uncle, is basically the male equivalent of Amma in every sense, and the casting of Jeremy Irons in this role makes perfect sense. Again, the relationship could have used a little development, but there were a few moments between them that just shone.

It's those few glimpses that make me think that the series could perhaps go on to some pretty great heights, as long as the authors strive to challenge the genre and themselves, rather than just settling back into comfortable mediocrity. I had some issues with this book, clearly, but I was engaged most of the way through the 500+ pages. It didn't tick all the necessary boxes for me, but I could see how people could love this book, and if you've ever enjoyed books in the paranormal/fantasy/YA genres it's probably just the book you're looking for.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Monday Links

*This cracked me up. 49 Reasons why The Notebook is the worst movie ever (Via Buzzfeed)

*Heck yes. An awesome post on why "b" movies (read: genre films) are just as worthy for awards as traditional films. Suck it Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Via Flavorwire)

*I think we're all aware how utterly grim most Grimm fairytale stories were, but here are 5 that take the cake. (Via Cracked)

*A review of Pet Semetary, perhaps one of my favourite Stephen King books (Via The Guardian)

*Two posts from Book Riot about Terry Deary's misguided speech on libraries, one by Amanda that punctuates his mind-boggling statements with Scarlett O'Hare gifs, and one from Rita about how we can help our libraries (Via BookRiot).

Friday, February 22, 2013

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - Readalong Post 1

First things first, did everyone get their wands? I've kind of forgotten who I sent them to, so I've completely lost track of who has posted on twitter that it arrived, and who hasn't. Unless they got lost in the mail, you should have them by now...I hope!


I have been excited to get to this book since the readalong started, not because it's my favourite (although it is a good one) but because I now, finally, get to use this gif...

Voldemort just be stutting with Nagini, doin' what he do.

So I've been very busy with uni work and had no time for reading, so I decided to dust off my audiobooks and listen to this book read by the wonderful Stephen Fry. I know Americans seem to be super into your guy (blanking on the name here) but Stephen Fry is top narrator of all time (not including Morgan Freeman. I would pay a lot of money to listen to Freeman read HP). But, it does make noticing the bizarre little details a little harder, because listening and making furious notes sorta defeats the whole purpose of using the audiobook in the first time.

POA will always be my favourite book, but I think this might be my favourite book intro. Since she already had a legion of fans, and she knew they were getting a little older, it's like JK decides she can afford to experiment and doesn't even mention Harry for 19 pages. That chapter with Frank, Voldemort, Nagini (pumped for Nagini - god I love her) and Pettigrew sets up so much, not just for this book but for the rest of the series. We hear about V's most trusted follower, we see Pettigrew's hesitance (he's such a coward that I find it impossible to feel anything but sadness for him), we are introduced to the house and a bit of back story which will be important come book 7, we get a scar connection between Voldy and Harry and VOLDEMORT IS A PHYSICAL THING AGAIN.

Anyway, awesome first chapter aside this first quarter was definitely more action packed than any of the previous three books. We do get a little exposition but was everyone aware that prior to HP it was incredibly rare for children/young adults to re-read books before reading the next in the series? JKR changed reading habits, people were so excited when the next book finally came out that they'd read them all so that they were as up to date as possible. So that's why HP has a lot of that exposition, not because there were people starting at book 4, but because publishers were used to people needing reminders in the first two or three chapters because it might have been a year or so since their last read. I wish I could share the link that discusses this, but it was part of an assignment years ago and I wouldn't even know where to start. Anyway, I thought it was a neat little titbit.

The World Cup is AMAZING. I love the Quidditch games in every book, so this is basically just one of those scenes on roids, but I also love, love, love the Portkey (new travel technique! Yes!), the issues with wizards trying to blend in but not doing a particularly good job, the amazing tents (I'd be so into camping if I had one of their tents), the ministry folk (does anyone else see Ludo Bagman as a fatter, older brother to Lockhart? Because I do), the leprechauns and veela, and the intense scene in the woods post-game. Those death eaters are nasty pants.

Wizard Archie = Iggy Pop
This is not a good book for promoting the awesomeness of wizards. You have Voldemort killing a poor old man, the twins tricking Dudley into eating one of their charmed sweets, then the whole house elves thing both at the World Cup and at school, and of course the whole death eaters parading humans in the air thing. Yikes. They should get the ministry marketing department on this stat. It's nice to have outsiders like Hermione and Harry, because they really emphasise how messed up wizard thinking is. Sure everyone was shocked at the death eaters thing, but everyone just shrugged off the Winky issue except Harry and Hermione. Harry didn't get super into the whole thing like Hermione did, but he still noticed it and was still perplexed by the whole Dobby-wants-payment thing. Also, yeahhhhhh Dobby, standing up for Elf rights - you deserve that cashesh son, so you take it!

I. Love. Moody. He is amazing. In year 5 I had a teacher called Mr Taylor. He was the most sarcastic, and black humoured teacher I've ever had. When I was finishing at the school to move up to Cairns he wrote in my going away card to watch for falling coconuts because they will kill me, but are also perfect for making horse noises, and he once told a kid that if he didn't behave he'd hang him out of the window by his shoelace. Anyway, he was the sort of no-nonsense, kind of mad dude that I think of whenever I read a scene with Moody. Mr Taylor would not have hesitated to turn one of us into a hamster if we attacked someone with their back turned. And I'm sure he would have totally dug a magic eye and crazy Einstein hair and a limp. And since I'm avoiding spoilers (major ones anyway) I can't wait for the final week of GoF reads so that we can start a really big discussion about Moody as teacher. Oh yes.

It's been a few weeks since I took a trivial matter and blew it into something way bigger than it rightfully should be. This week I'm wondering about kitchen utensils.

Where does Molly get her fry pans? Do wizards sell them, or do they drop into the nearest shopping centre and pick one up? The same with cutlery, plates, cups etc. Because if they buy them from muggle shops then there's no reason why everyone should have so much trouble with muggle money and customs. Which I guess means they buy them from wizard stores, but where do they make their frypans? Do they buy supply from muggles or do they make them themselves? Considering how stone age-y the wizarding community is I don't imagine they have fry pan factories, but they'd be so expensive if they had to make them in the traditional metal work way. They could magic it, but they say that you can't just magic food it has to come from somewhere, so does apply for all materials? Can you conjure up a fry pan if you have some copper or aluminium on hand? But what about that time Dumbledore conjured up a chair just by drawing one? I hope this haunts all of you and causes you as many headaches as it's causing me. This shit is ridic.

Food for Thought

*If the Veela had a quidditch team they'd win so hard.

*I really enjoy that Ron uses his omnioculars to watch some guy pick his nose over and over.

*It sucks that the World Cup didn't have a bigger role in the GoF film - it'd be spectacular.

*I always imagine Krum as this big and domineering jock - even though everything JK writes contradicts that.

*I love the little mention of Mundungus and his scheme to squeeze money out of the ministry.

*If I went to Hogwarts I'd go through the barrier at platform 9 3/4 differently each year. No inconspicuous leaning on a trolley and sliding through...I'd moonwalk through.

*I love the dynamic between McGonagall and Dumbledore, they're such a perfect pair. Like the scene where Dumbledore gets distracted and starts to tell a joke at the feast and only stops when McGonagall reigns him in. They're a powerhouse duo, and deserve a sitcom.

*I'm pretty sure I'm just a lady Ron, because I still giggle when Ron asks to see Lavender's Uranus in divination.

Lady Ron Out.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Guest Post: Olga Godim, author of Lost and Found in Russia

Welcome to the first guest post of 2013 guys! It's my pleasure to introduce you all to Olga Godim, author of the brand-spankin' new book Lost and Found in Russia. Below the line Olga has offered up a brief synopsis of her book (more details can be found here) and a fascinating interview between her and the protagonist, Sonya. Enjoy!

Thank you, Kayleigh, for inviting me to your blog. The occasion is a happy one – the release of my first novel Lost and Found in Russia. It is a contemporary women’s fiction, encompassing the exploration of mother-daughter relationship and a travel story.

After the shocking revelation that her daughter was switched at birth 34 years ago, Canadian scholar Amanda embarks on a trip to Russia to find her biological daughter. Intertwined with Amanda’s account of her journey is the story of Sonya, a 34-year-old Russian immigrant and a former dancer, currently living in Vancouver, Canada. While Amanda wades through the mires of foreign bureaucracy, Sonya struggles with her daughter’s teenage rebellion. While Amanda rediscovers her femininity, Sonya dreams of dancing. Both mothers are searching: for their daughters and for themselves.

As a professional journalist, I decided for this blog post to offer you an interview with one of my protagonists, Sonya.

Olga Godim(OG): How and why did you become a dancer?

Sonya: I always danced. When I was three years old, I entertained my parents’ friends by dancing in the middle of the room. We have a photo – it’s so funny. When I was about six, I started taking folk dance lessons at our community centre and I loved them. My first recital was a Moldavian dance (I was about eight.) People applauded, and I felt like a goddess, enraptured by my success. We lived in Moscow, Russia, at that time. When I was ten, my mom took to me to the Moscow Ballet School, and they accepted me. I like ballet and I was good at it, but I always liked folk dance better. So a couple of years before graduation, I transferred to their folk dance division. Upon graduation, I started dancing for the Petushko Folk Dance Ensemble. We traveled all over Russia, to Hungary, China, Finland. The best years of my life.

OG: Do you have a photo of you dancing?

Sonya: Several. I also have a painting – an artist friend, a very talented guy, painted me performing a Spanish dance. It’s very flattering, better than I am, but I’m very proud of this portrait. Here it is.

OG: It’s beautiful. You should continue dancing. After you immigrated to Canada, did you try to find a job as a dancer?

Sonya: No. I was already over 30 when we emigrated. I thought I was too old to start a new dancing career. Besides, my English wasn’t too good. I just work to pay the bills. I work at a burger place in a mall and I care for a paralyzed woman, Jane. I hate burgers, but to my surprise, I like working with Jane. She is a wise, no-nonsense woman. She is very ill and very courageous, no whining. She is urging me to go back to dancing, and I’m really tempted.

OG: What do you like best about working for Jane?

Sonya: Everything. Every day, when I come, we engage in a match of insults. We insult each other. It’s like a competition: who can come up with a more elaborate, more imaginative insult. Jane made me learn English. We studied a dictionary of Shakespearean era insults together. It’s fun. And I dance for her. She makes me remember what I am.

OG: So what kinds of folk dance can you perform? Irish dance?

Sonya [laughing]: No, no. Well, it’s not really folk dance I do. It’s called character dance. Folk dance is very simple. It was what people danced in villages during celebrations, at least in the past they did. It was more about participation than skills. Character dance, on the other hand, is a stage dance, a show, like ballet. It uses folk tunes and some of the movements of the genuine folk dances, but it also uses the entire range of ballet movements. Character dance is always choreographed and it’s performed by the dancers trained in classical ballet.

Here are a few examples of character dance. These recording are not of our ensemble, but of another character dance troupe in Moscow, famous around the world – Moiseyev Ballet:

Russian dance, Sicilian TarantellaSpanish dance Aragonese Jota

OG: You said Jane is urging you to go back to dancing. Will you?

Sonya: I don’t know. It’s complicated. A new career requires an infusion of money first, and I don’t have any. Maybe I could get a loan from the bank. Jane has another crazy idea. [Sonya laughs again. She seems embarrassed.] She said I should strip-dance, perform at some night clubs. I never considered such an idea before, but maybe… I have to explore the possibilities. I can do it, I’m sure, I can perform any kind of dance, and my training is superb, but… my mom and sister will disown me. I heard the money is good, so… maybe. I’m torn.

OG: The opinions of your mom and sister are important to you?

Sonya: Yes. Our family is very close, has always been. My daughter’s opinion too. I will talk to her, see what she thinks. My daughter Ksenya is only fourteen, but I wouldn’t make such an important decision without consulting her. Her respect is everything to me.

OG: Are you close with your daughter?

Sonya [sighs]: We were. Now, she is going through a teenage stage. It’s like a swing: today – perfect, tomorrow – not so much. But we both try. We love each other very much. Let’s not talk about it. It’s a depressing topic

OG: Okay. Can your mom and sister help you financially to launch your new career?

Sonya: No. Nobody in my family is rich. My mom lives on a small pension. My sister has two twin sons - toddlers. Her husband works like crazy – he is a computer person – but he doesn’t make that kind of money. We are just normal people. [She blushes.] Jane offered me a loan. She wants so much to see me perform. She is rich and can’t even use her money, the poor woman, because of her severe disability. She enjoys when I dance for her. Maybe I’ll accept her loan. It will make her happy.

OG: What did you like about being a professional dancer?

Sonya: When I danced, I could lose myself in music and movements. I’m not good with words; I express all my emotions through dance. It’s an amazing experience. And it’s my gift to the people who watch me dance. I’ve never been stage-shy. I love giving the gift of my dancing to others.

OG: And the applause?

Sonya[smiles]: Of course. But that’s all part of the whole. People’s applause is their thank you. It means they liked my gift. It makes me all warm and bubbly inside.

OG: What did you dislike about being a professional dancer?

Sonya: Well it’s not an easy profession. We have to practice a lot. There are sweat and pain and traumas. But even all that is part of what I like. I don’t think I dislike anything about being a dancer. Traumas are professional hazards. They are a price you pay for the privilege of dancing. You don’t like them; you accept them, like mosquitoes. You pay such a price in any profession.

All the rest is perfect. I like performing and I like practicing. I don’t dance now, but I still exercise every day. I have a barre in my bedroom and I do ballet class every day.
I do dislike one thing though: in large prestigious ballet troupes, like the Bolshoi, for example, the competitions for roles are ferocious. There is backstabbing and envy. I hate that. I never worked in a ballet theatre and I never wanted. Character dance is mostly an ensemble show, with some solo parts. [She grins.] I always performed solos, almost no ensemble parts. But nobody begrudged me for that. Everybody was happy for me.

OG: Then why did you leave the ensemble?

Sonya: I wanted to leave Russia. The situation there was very unstable, still is. Too much crime, too much poverty, too much danger. I worried every day about my daughter’s safety. I wanted to give her better chances in life. If not for her, I’d never have left the ensemble. I would still be dancing. Of course, the poverty issue is still relevant, but we’ll muddle through somehow. Canada is a good, safe country to live in, and my daughter has a much brighter future here. I don’t regret my immigration.

*Olga Godim is a writer and journalist from Vancouver, Canada. Her articles appear regularly in local newspapers, but her passion is fiction. Her short stories have been published in several internet magazines, including Lorelei Signal, Sorcerous Signals, Aoife's Kiss, Silver Blade, and other publications. In her free time, she writes novels, collects toy monkeys, and posts book reviews on GoodReads.* 


A huge thank you to Olga for taking the time to share this interview. If you'd like to learn some more about either Olga or her book Lost and Found in Russia you can find her at:

*Eternal Press 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Monday Links

*^The Norwegian Army Harlem shaking. I don't know why I find it so wonderful, but I've watched it like 10,000 times already.

*Twitter reacts to the pope retiring hilariously (Via Uproxx)

*Here are 20 words that were named for people.

*Happy Endings is one of my favourite comedies on right now, but sadly it looks like it might be cancelled :( But here are a bunch of gifs which show how amazeballs this show is (Via Buzzfeed)

*Acclaimed director Stanley Kubrick is sure to have count some of history's seminal films as his favourites right? Citizen Kane, Metropolis, White Men Can't Jump... (Via Film Drunk)

*Not particularly surprising but Dr Seuss had a penchant for bizarre hats. #6 is my favourite I think. (Via Flavorwire)

*More Harlem Shaking. This time by the Happy Endings crew. Seriously, watch the show.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - Readalong Post 2


I'm really excited to discuss the second half of this book (because it is GREAT!) but it also means that we are about to move on, which is sad.

*double sigh*

Grumpy Tommy Lee Jones gets it.
Eeeeeeenough of feeling sorry for myself though! I am PSYCHED to talk about the rest of this book!


Malfoy gets his daddy to bully some Ministry dudes to kill an animal so that he can stick it to Hagrid and the Gryffindor trio, which is SICK. Lupin's a werewolf AND is friends with a serial murderer (TWIST, he isn't really) AND was best-buds with Harry's parents. The Dementors are HORRIFYING, that scene by the lake is INTENSE and I don't know how I slept after reading it as a kid. Harry and Ron and Hermione are friends and then they aren't and then they are, oh wait, now they're not friends anymore. But now they are. McGonagall gets carried away at a quidditch game, and Trelawney makes an actual prediction.

Oh and Snape is all;

Ummm, is Pettigrew naked through that whole part in the Shrieking Shack? Or do their clothes transform with them? I'm thinking they must since McGonagall transforms in front of their transfiguration class and that would be WEIRD. But it also seems weird that his clothes just transform into fur or something while he's a rat? For 12 years?  On another note, it must be extra upsetting for Ron to find out his rat was Pettigrew. Scabbers sat in his pocket and slept in his bed, and probably saw Ron cry or practice writing Mr Ronald Granger is pretty script. There is also a good chance he masturbated in front of that rat. Although I hope he didn't because that's creepy.

It is deeply upsetting when Harry is conflicted with the whole Dementor thing. For a 13 year old to be secretly desperate to hear his parents die because that's the only time he's heard their voices... Oh brother, that is intense. And once again I'm realising just how dark even these earlier books are. Well done JK, I don't know how you didn't completely screw me up and turn me into an emotional wreck of a child.

I'm glad Lupin is there to help Harry through all this dark and twisty stuff, but I'm also glad that Lupin acts like a disappointed dad to Harry at times. Because seriously, Snape is kinda on point with the whole "we're spending a gazillion dollars + a bunch of our time and energy and he keeps strolling off grounds because he's THE Harry Potter". The talk he gives Harry post-mudslinging match against Malfoy must have hurt a BUNCH, Lupin is the king of guilt trips;
"Your parents gave their lives to keep you alive, Harry. A poor way to repay them - gambling their sacrifice for a bag of magic tricks"
I don't know about everyone else, but I am always kinda disappointed when I get to the end and Crookshanks is still just a cat. I always thought he'd turn out to be an animagus or something, not just a smart cat that can recognise people disguised as animals. Also, I think it's normally forgotten in the excitement of that final section, but apparently animals can talk to each other. Is this an understanding of meows and barks thing, or a reading-each-others-thoughts thing?

And who can forget the wonderful scene where Hermione gets her Jerry Springer on and slaps Malfoy right in his smug ferret face. GO HERMIONE!

I could watch this ALL day.

Bits and Pieces:

*p176 - something wooshed suddenly out of the end of his wand. LOL and *snigger*

*p194 - something silvery white, something enormous erupted from the end of his wand. DOUBLE LOL and *double snigger*

*I'm so happy when Neville's vindicated. He didn't lose the passwords, Crookshanks stole them. Yeah Neville!

*Why can't they use the pensieve to see what happened at the shack? Boom, all problem ever, solved.

*I want to know why Sirius thought Lupin was the spy.

*When Percy holds back and asks Harry to win because he doesn't have 10 galleons on p191 - I feel like that's the first time Percy's come off as a regular human teenager and not someone's 80 year old pompous relative.

*Do not get me started on the 320% result in muggle studies.

*I feel sorry for anyone who gets the Knight Bus bed next to Buckbeak. Is that really the best way for him to travel?

*On p142 there's a margin note next to a passage with Fred and George that just says "love these two". I love owning second hand books.

*I always loved Hagrid, but I just noticed that he uses excessive capitalisation in his letters. HE'S JUST LIKE ME!

*I would very much like a scops owl please. 

So cute. 

Toodle oo Potter heads, 'til next week...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Monday Links

I forgot to post my Monday Links last Monday, so some of the links on here are a little old, but interesting nonetheless. Or at least I think so, and since this is my blog, yes, they are interesting.

*^Picture from the GREATEST Tumblr in existence, Les Mean Girls. (Via Tumblr)

*Interested in some ways to better your writing? Well aren't you lucky, I have some right here... (Via Writing Forward)

*Hilary Mantel shares a few rules for writers. (Via The Guardian)

*Belle from Belle's Bookshelf interviewed me for her new series of bloggers behind the blogs posts. It's a little insane how many times I reference Harry Potter in my answers (Via Belle's Bookshelf)

*I place that blame squarely on Alice over at Reading Rambo. We're halfway through HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban and it isn't too late for you to join us! Come on, it's super fun and nitpicky and full of gifs! (Via Reading Rambo)

*Because they don't always get the attention they deserve, here are 5 awesome astronauts. (Via Cracked)

*I am extremely jealous that Canada is getting a glow in the dark dinosaur quarter. If I find one while I'm over there at the end of the year I'm going to frame it. (Via Gamma Squad)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - Readalong Post 1

It's time to discuss The Prisoner of Azkaban!! 


This is easily one of my favourite books in the entire series. It's the book where I think JKR really got her groove on, the plot is tight, the characters, new and old, are interesting and full of life and it's just all around awesome sauce.

Where do I even start?

I know a book that centres around magic isn't going to be realistic, but the scenes with the Dursleys are the most deliciously absurd in the whole series. Take the Aunt Marge fiasco. I understand (though don't accept, because they're bonkers) why Petunia and Vernon are cold to Harry but why is Marge so comically aggressive towards him?  Is she just responding to how the Dursleys treat him and the lies they probably tell about him? I mean, saying that she would have sent him directly to the orphanage is pretty harsh, as is only calling your nasty little dog off after several hours of harassing a CHILD up a tree. It's bonkers but I love it - I've never liked soap operas, but this, oh yes, this is my trashy, guilty pleasure.

But it also makes it 10,000 times more exhilarating when Harry finally loses the plot and shatters a brandy glass or y'know, blows up dear sweet Marge. She's being all sassy with her crap about bad blood and bitches and runts of the litter and Harry's just fuming being all;

And BOOM! She goes the way of Violet Beauregarde. So good. SOOOOO good!

Is this the most exciting first half we've read so far? Because what do I discuss next? The giant big dog in the shadows (could it be a grim?)? Shabby old Lupin and the Dementor attack on the train? Sirius and his bloodthirsty desire to murder little Harry Potter? Hermione and her inability to show a modicum of pet owner respect?

Maybe how insanely evil Snape is in this book? Normally with Snape I'm all;

But you DO NOT humiliate Neville in front of another teacher you crazy greasy haired man. Take it out on Harry if you must, frankly his dad was a complete douche to you at school (not that that's really an excuse, seriously, pick on someone your own age) but Neville? What the hell did that small kid with the teeny, fragile self-esteem possibly do to deserve that level of humiliation? No one deserves to be imitated by a boggart and stuffed into a vulture hat more than him in that moment.

I don't want to blather on too much more, especially since I know next week's post is going to be HUGE. But can I just say how much I adore Lupin in this book? I grow to have issues with him later, but in this book he is exactly the teacher all the kids (and not just the Gryffindor trio) need. He's intelligent, warm, approachable, and flippin' great at FINALLY teaching them about defending against the dark arts. He's basically a more reachable Dumbledore, free from the whole scary headmaster-y thing. Not to mention he's got the whole mystery thing going for him at this point. Why did he ride the train to school? Why is he so shabby? Why is he afraid of magic balls? Oh HP newbies, I can't wait for you to read the next half of the book!

Tina Fey was inadvertently the perfect Lupin/Surius hybrid at the Golden Globes.

A few smaller points:

*I would absolutely travel exclusively on the Knight Bus if I was a witch.

*Chocolate - it cures my dementor sadness.

*Sorry Hermione, but Honeydukes over town history EVERY TIME.

*Poor Ginny during the dementor attack on the train. She went through hell last year, and she barely got a pat on the back.

*I Love Fred and George mocking Percy at the Leaky Cauldron, it's the twins at their most loveable and least obnoxious;
"Harry!" Said Fred, elbowing Percy out of the way and bowing deeply. "Simply splendid to see you old boy-"
"Marvellous," said George, pushing Fred aside and seizing Harry's hand in turn. "Absolutely spiffing."
*Come on Harry, invisible horses? I know he's basically spot on, but wouldn't you assume they were charmed?

*Ummmm, on p72, Hagrid didn't send you a biting book Ron, you BOUGHT yours 20 pages ago.

*Laura, do English kids actually say things like "Pop my clogs"?

*Hermione, proving to not understand the whole pet thing at all, should probably avoid the logic thing while Lavander is grieving for her bunny rabbit. Give her a couple of days and THEN tell her how mental it is to think Trelawney made a correct prediction.

Later Gators,

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sydney Blogger Catch Up

Good morning fellow bloggers!

At the end of February (Feb 27th to be exact) Harlequin Australia is hosting a summit which I know a few of us bloggers are heading to. Because it's the perfect opportunity to finally meet one another face to face Shelleyrae and I (although mostly Shelleyrae, I just put the initial call-out out) have organised a meet at the Chelsea Hotel in Chatswood, Sydney for anyone in the book blogging world who wants to come.

If you're going to be at the Harlequin summit, or are in/around the Sydney area, hope over to Goodreads and RSVP on the Aussie Book Bloggers page. Details will be updated there.

It's going to be absolutely magical to meet everyone, and finally put some faces to the writing and online personalities I've gotten to know. So hopefully you can come, and we'll all have a fancy-pants time!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Book Review: About A Boy by Nick Hornby

About A Boy

Written by: Nick Hornby

Published: 1998

Synopsis: Will is thirty-six, comfortable and child-free. And he's discovered a brilliant new way of meeting women - through single-parent groups. Marcus is twelve and a little bit nerdish: he's got the kind of mother who made him listen to Joni Mitchell rather than Nirvana. Perhaps they can help each other out a little bit, and both can start to act their age.


The worst thing about seeing a film before reading the book it's based on is that the casting choices are 99% likely to influence the way I visualise the characters. Case in point, I can't read the character of Will in About A Boy without seeing Hugh Grant. And since re-watching Love Actually this Christmas I can't think about Hugh Grant without picturing this...

Is Will as awkward/dorky as I picture him, or is that because of Hugh Grant and the roles Hugh Grant typically takes on? And do I feel a bit torn about this book because I felt that way about the movie, or because I genuinely felt like the book fell a little flat?  I just don't know guys, I just don't know.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I came across a post on my name twin's blog (Comma Enthusiast) about Nick Hornby and all his wonderfulness and I made a mental note to read more Hornby, and then I spotted a copy of About A Boy at the amazing Book Fest. That was all the hints I needed, clearly I was meant to read this book.

I did actually really enjoy this book, and I can understand why people LOVE it, but it just didn't quite hit all the right notes for me. I mean, it's this wonderfully small narrative about a family and an interloper, and there's Nirvana love, and lies about having kids, and people struggling with being different and with depression and there are sweet bits, and sad bits, and funny bits and WHY DON'T I LOVE THIS BOOK?

I think I've narrowed it down to two main points;

1. Will will never not be Hugh Grant to me, and I never really believe Hugh Grant. Even when  he's supposed to be playing nice, nerdy, genuine dudes I always feel like he's two minutes away from doing something shady. So I think I instinctually had a hesitance about Will and how he fits into the narrative, even though I actually really like him as a character.

2. Fiona is the worst mother in the world. I could list about 10,000 things here and I think a lot of people would be like "oh but she's depressed/has mental health issues" but no, most of my criticisms have little to no bearing on her mental health. Basically, the way I see it she's made Marcus into this specific human being and then just stopped caring or listening to him. She forces her world views and music taste and food preferences on him, and when he strays from her path she just shuts him down. She acts as though she's this egalitarian mother who is friends with her son, but she doesn't let him experience or discover anything for himself. He is constantly regurgitating her opinions and her bias, and when he starts to have independent thoughts she picks fights she knows she can't lose. Sooooo yeah, Fiona is the worst* and even being played by Toni Collette in the film couldn't save her.

But in the end this is a story about Marcus. And I think you'd need to have a heart made of stone not to feel warm and protective for that weird little kid. I think Nick Hornby did an amazing job of showing how wide the gap between child and adult is, and how little adults can understand how difficult it is to be a normal kid, let alone the new boy with weird hair and glasses who sings with his eyes closed, loves Joni Mitchell and is picked on for no reason. Will acts as an intermediary for Marcus. As an adult who has never worked a day in his life, he's the best (best? hmmm) of both worlds and there's a level of growth that happens to both of the protagonists as a direct result of the strange little relationship they start up. But in the end I think Marcus mostly has to work through it and sort it out for himself, like doing the sky in a jigsaw puzzle - fumbling with similar looking pieces until something finally clicks together.

It's a very typical Hornby book in terms of style, which to me is a huge plus. There are tonnes of film and music references, very realistic and flawed characters and it's all just a little bit heart warming and fuzzy. Stylistically and narratively I think Hornby was right on the money, but whether it was the two issues I located above or a slight faltering in the concept, I don't know, it just didn't propel me to the highs of Hornby's other brilliant works.

*The one moment I actually really appreciated her was towards the end when she was talking to Will at a bar. (no spoilers) but her little confession was honest and I actually think validates some of what I said above.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - Readalong Post 2

Apologies in advance guys, I'm not really feeling this week's post topic.

And if I'm being honest, I'm also pretty distracted by the fact that next week we're looking at Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, because it is one of my favourite books in the series. Lupin! Sirius! Secret Passageways! Hogsmeade! Oh my!

So I think I'm just going to jump straight to my single liners, and hop onto your posts and be a little more vocal in the comments.

Titbits and Shiznit

*Did any of the first time readers actually believe Hagrid was the heir of Slytherin?

*Parselmouth is a stupid word. Bad JK, bad.

*I like to think that Ernie, Hannah and Justin are the Hufflepuff equivalent of the Gryffindor trio, and they have a little detective agency but they get the crappy cases like "who stole my biscuit" because the Gryffindor trio get the juicy cases against dementors and horcruxes.

*Harry has shitty luck. Like ridiculously bad.

*Slytherin's password is 'pureblood'? Wouldn't that be everyone's first guess?

*JK continues to represent the gingers with auburn-locked pre-headmaster Dumbledore.

*If nothing else, Fudge is a snappy dresser.

*Slytherin is monkey-looking? I can't decide if that's a really offensive insult or not.

*What subjects would everyone pick? I'm pretty sure I'd lock in ancient runes and care of magical creatures and avoid divination like the plague, but I'd love to see a complete list of options.

Till next week lady-faces,


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