Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday Links

^^Jennifer Lawrence being awesome and candid about X-Men and Silver Linings Playbook and acting. (sort of via Belle's Bookshelf - it's part 2 to her part 1)

*This twitter account NAILS the Sex and the City narration and I would totally see a SATC sequel if this person wrote it! (Via Jezebel)

*I really liked this article from Gary Soto about why he decided children's writing wasn't for him. It's kind of insane. (Via The Huffington Post)

*A fantastic essay about Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye and censorship. (Via The Millions)

And because today marks the end of Breaking Bad *sob* here are a bunch of Breaking Bad links. Some spoilers will exist in all of them if you aren't up to date.

*Aaron Paul's love for his wife is a beautiful thing -although I find the 'pretty bird' nickname a little weird (Via Buzzfeed)

*Internet Film School: Breaking Bad and focus (Via AV Club)

*Breaking Bad mash-ups are the best mash-ups. I think the Nirvana/pink bear shirt is my fave (Via Buzzfeed)

*The cast of Breaking Bad unveil some character secrets and motivations. Possible spoilers if you aren't up to date. (Via Buzzfeed)

*Someone remade the song "Jesse's Girl" to "I Wish I Wasn't Jesse's Girl" - poor guy, but they're right, it's dangerous dating Pinkman! Definite spoilers. (Via Uproxx)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Book Review: The Pilo Family Circus by Will Elliott

The Pilo Family Circus 

Written by: Will Elliott

Published: 2009

Synopsis: "You have two days to pass your audition. You better pass it, feller. You’re joining the circus. Ain’t that the best news you ever got?” Delivered by a trio of psychotic clowns, this ultimatum plunges Jamie into the horrific alternate universe that is the centuries-old Pilo Family Circus, a borderline world between Hell and Earth from which humankind’s greatest tragedies have been perpetrated. Yet in this place—peopled by the gruesome, grotesque, and monstrous—where violence and savagery are the norm, Jamie finds that his worst enemy is himself. When he applies the white face paint, he is transformed into JJ, the most vicious clown of all. And JJ wants Jamie dead!

Challenges:  RIP VIII

“The classic definition of slapstick runs along the line of, "Funny is someone else ramming his face repeatedly into a brick wall.”

When I decided to take part in RIP VIII I knew it was the perfect opportunity to finally read The Pilo Family Circus. Tom had bought it a few years ago and had raved about it, but for whatever reason it continued to sit unread on my shelf. Maybe it was the clowns thing, for some strange reason I've always found clowns terrifying.

Oh right, that's why.

So anyway, when RIP VIII was announced I immediately started this book so that I couldn't pass over it yet again. And while I liked it, I didn't like it for the reasons I thought I'd like it and it wasn't nearly the terrifying clown nightmare I'd been expecting.

But first a note about the author Will Elliott. Elliott is from my adopted home city Brisbane, so there's a certain level of squee for me reading this since I know the streets he's talking about and I can work out which hotel or club he's mocking based on the hints he gives which is awesome because I normally haven't been to the places in books I read. At the time of writing this book, Elliott had recently been diagnosed with schizophrenia and I think that adds a fascinating level to the novel. He's said that the book is in no way autobiographical, but considering the crux of the story is a young Brisbane male who "shares" his body and mind with a psychotic clown and has to try and find a way to extricate himself from the situation - I think it's safe to say that his own experiences aren't entirely divorced from the novel.

So if you read the synopsis up yonder, it seems like it has all the ingredients for a terrifying clown-filled horror novel that will have you literally shaking in your boots. It's actually a lot more of an absurdist dark comedy that plays with horror and thriller tropes than anything truly terrifying. And I actually think this played out a lot better than anything I expected to read. The real beauty of this novel is that so much is written matter-of-factly, "oh clowns wandering the streets? We are in New Farm afterall, no big deal" that it's only when you put it down to take a break or eat dinner that you realise how bat-shit crazy it actually is. The majority of the novel takes place in a circus that exists in some metaphysical space between Earth and Hell, where centuries-old circus folk put on shows for "tricks" (people on earth who wander into this show from an earth-bound circus or fair) because that's their job. Yes they're also doing it to collect the tricks' souls, but that's not nearly as important as putting on a Good Show. Add to this the co-owner of the circus, Kurt Pilo, who looks wolfish and eats teeth as snacks, one of the clowns is engaged to a fern, there's a yeti that eats glass which makes him sad, souls can grant wishes and murders are a regular occurrence. And while writing all of this makes me feel like I'm stuck in some kind of fun-house mirror room, in the book is just is. It's a circus that has something to do with Lovecraftian demon creatures, so of course things are crazy. Of course, everyone tries to kill each other. Of course the clown face paint transforms Jamie into the demonic JJ the Clown. Of course, there's a character called fishboy who is just lovely. Of Course, the circus is somehow responsible for WWII. It all just makes complete sense while you're caught up in the narrative, it's only back in the real world that the images start to seem warped and twisted.

While I say this book is more of a dark comedy, there are still instances of horror and suspense, so if you're horror-wary maybe don't run to your library for this book too quickly. The opening scenes that are set in Brisbane, where Jamie goes from hotel concierge to unwitting clown recruit, are brutal and tense. After picking up a bag of mysterious crystals that the clowns dropped (some kind of drugs, Jamie supposes), Jamie's house is destroyed, his housemate is kidnapped, he's poisoned and he sees the clowns in the basement of his hotel with a lit match preparing to blow the whole thing up. And this is only the first 20 or so pages. There are two more returns made to this above-world in the novel, and in both of these scenes the grotesquery and horror that seemed so normal in the circus was thrown into sharp relief. Will Elliott has a pretty sick and sinister underside, and considering this was his debut novel and he was in his early 20s when writing it, it's damn impressive how well he manages to accomplish all of this.

So if you're after a Halloween read that won't continue to haunt you post-Halloween, then I wholeheartedly recommend you take a closer look at this one from Will Elliott. Entertaining and well written with brief moments of pure horror, The Pilo Family Circus is still more likely to make you laugh than run for the bedcovers.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Monday Links

So I was thinking about doing a birthday post, but then I felt a little weird being like "LOOK AT ALL THE STUFF PEOPLE BOUGHT ME! LOOK!" so instead I decided to leave as a small section at the start of my Monday Links post. Considering how much I read I actually very rarely get any books or bookish things, but this year was pretty splendid in that department. I received Fangirl from my sister, NOS4R2 from my friend Luke, Tom bought me a bitchin' new kindle, his parents gifted me money which went towards a neato Game of Thrones kindle case from etsy, and Laura not only wished me happy birthday on every social media platform in existence, she sent me a package full of goodies!

Eeeeek look at all the birthday awesome!

So THANK YOU Laura and everyone else for making my birthday extra super special this year!

Onto the links!

*This series of photos takes old crime scene pictures from the 1920s etc and superimposes them onto the location as it exists today. It's fascinating, but be warned there are some graphic images. (Via fstoppers)

*One of the girls from the Blurred Lines video game is going to be in the new Gone Girl film. Also, is anyone a little weary about how that book will translate to film? (Via Filmdrunk)

*Stephen King has explained why he dislikes Kubrick's film so much, he finds the portrayal of Wendy misogynistic. (Via Jezebel)

*I know this isn't news for anyone, but here's the interview with Rainbow Rowell discussing the absurd censorship of E&P. (Via The Toast)

*Did you know that in Russia there is a cat that wears a bowtie and works in a library? Well there is, and spoiler alert: it's adorable. (Via Buzzfeed)

*Jamie Lee Curtis is heading back to horror with a new TV show. (Via Jezebel)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Book Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor and Park

Written by: Rainbow Rowell

Published in: 2013

Synopsis: Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.


“Don't bite his face, Eleanor told herself. It's disturbing and needy and never happens in situation comedies or movies that end with big kisses.”

Ok, it's been two weeks since I read Eleanor and Park and I think maybe I've given myself enough distance to write an actual review. If I'd tried to do this a week ago I'm pretty sure this post would have just been a series of SQUEEE gifs and quotes from the book. I can't guarantee that I'm not going to devolve into that even now, but I think I might be able to get a few lucid thoughts out before I melt into a puddle of book happiness.

This book is every bit as good as you all told me it was. The characters are warm and imperfect, the writing is sharp and the music references made me want to disappear into my room for a day with only my CDs as company. It's a delightful and gorgeous book unlike almost any YA I've ever read, but it's also really, really sad!  By the time everyone started posting their E&P reviews I had read Attachments and knew that I loved Rowell enough to not want any spoilers, small as they may be. So I'm pretty sure I skimmed most of the E&P reviews I came across, either that or none of you expressed just how stab-in-the-heart sad this book is, because I was not expecting it at all.

So I should probably rewind a little for those of you who haven't read the book yet. E&P is all about Eleanor and Park, two high school students who get stuck next to each other on the school bus and slowly begin to like each other. Eleanor is new to the school, a chubby red head who dresses like a washing basket exploded on her. Park is a thin Korean-American who listens to awesome music and reads excellent comics, and is tolerated by the "cool" kids in spite of all of this but not entirely accepted either. Park doesn't like that Eleanor sat next to him because, as we all remember, school buses are political. But as he sits there reading his comics he notices that she's reading them too, and ever so slowly he starts to lend her comics and then music and before you know it they're holding hands and in love.

Which leads to the sad stuff. Eleanor's life is depressing as hell. She's just moved home after having spent a year living with friends of her mother after her step-dad kicked her out of the house. They're dirt poor, living in a tiny house where she has to share a room with her four siblings and the bathroom doesn't have a door. She has to tip-toe around her step-dad, who is a real piece of shit who emotionally and physically abuses Eleanor's mother. Her real dad is remarried and disinterested, she has no other family nearby, and nowhere to turn. She dresses the way she does because they don't have the money to buy her a new pair of jeans, and she doesn't want everyone to see the holes. And then Park arrives, and he's this shining beacon to her representing all the amazing things that exist in the world that are just outside her and her families grasp. His parents are still together and love each other, he lives in a nice home with his grandparents next door and he has a walkman and comics and batteries! And that just makes it so much sadder, because her life seems even more turbulent compared to his idyllic existence and it's the first big hurdle the two have to cover as a couple. There is the most beautiful scene between Park and his mother about Eleanor and life in a large, poor family, and it is the most perfect encapsulation of parental love and it made my heart explode with emotion.

But lest this talk of sadness send you running for the hills, fear not! It is sad, but it's not about the sadness. It's not even about young love, well it is, but not entirely. What it's really about is navigating that turbulent period between 14-20 where you're trying to find out who the hell you are. I think once you hit 23 you start to look back at your mid-teens nostalgically, remembering how easy school was, how enjoyable it was not having bills or a job and getting to spend all of your free time at the beach. Any issues you went through, the bullies or the unrequited love, they just seem trivial and silly when compared to the things you deal with now. But the thing is, no issue is going to be trivial as a teen because you're not really a person yet, you're the sum of your parts. You're still defined by your parents actions (hello Carrie, you know what I'm talking about) and position in life, and that makes finding your own identity really freaking hard. You can try out different styles and sub-cultures - maybe you try out elizabethan blouses, maybe you frolic in fields or you rage against the machine and curse everyone around you - but everything is so unstable and chaotic and it can seem like everything and everyone is working against you. Add in hormones and teenage love, where any love is the love... It's like trying to reach a broken light bulb by balancing books and boxes on a dodgy old chair - it's always just a second from crumbling and taking you down with it.

Park might seem to have the perfect life with the perfect family, and it's true that he doesn't have to deal with the same god-awful shit that threatens Eleanor's entire existence but he never feels like he truly belongs with the kids at school or his family. And so we get to see two very different teenagers stumble around in the dark trying to find the pieces to their own personal puzzle discovering that, oh hey, maybe we're pieces for each other's puzzle too. And that's where it gets sweet and simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking. Because how many teenage loves last? I remember dating a guy in year 11 and thinking "I wish I'd met him in my mid-20s because there's no way this can last". Now that I'm in my mid-20s I laugh at how unsuitable that guy would be for me now, but the fact remains, there's something so melancholic about teen love. But it's also entirely engulfing and it's a credit to Rowell that she can completely capture this obsessive side of teenage love and instead of making me roll my eyes, makes me remember my own silly, obsessive teen loves.
“You think I'm cute?" He said thickly, pulling on her hand.
She was glad he couldn't see her face. "I think you're..."
Beautiful. Breathtaking. Like the person in a Greek myth who makes one of the gods stop caring about being a god.” 
See, adorable! And not a single eyeroll from this cynic!
You can be Han Solo," he said, kissing her throat. "And I'll be Boba Fett. I'll cross the sky for you.”
Adorable AND pop-culture announcements of love?
“The first time he'd held her hand, it felt so good that it crowded out all the bad things. It felt better than anything had ever hurt.”
Wait, no, that's too much, STAAP IT RAINBOW, you're killing me!

 I think Tika really nailed it in her review where she said the book made her heart "sore and soar" because yes, that's exactly what it does.  It's a book that gives you a gorgeous look at young love, the trials of young-adulthood, family life and navigating music and style and self identity. But it's also so much more than just that. I can't imagine how you could read this book and not look back at your own teenage years, your loves and fights and parental dramas. It reconnected 25 year old Kayleigh with 15 year old Kayleigh and it gave me a better appreciation for my journey through those emotional and ridiculous years. I'm always weary to say something is perfect, but damn, if this book isn't perfect it's really freakin' close. It's a definite must-read for everyone.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Graphic Novel Mini-Review #14

Ten Grand (issue #1)

Written by: J. Michael Straczynski, Illustrated by: Ben Templesmith

Published: 2013

My Thoughts: I will buy anything Ben Templesmith adds his name to, so perhaps my opinion is terribly biased, but I did love the crap out of this comic. I found this story of a depressed and end-of-his-tether ex-crime-enforcer who will now take on any job for the right price really engaging, and Templesmith's art has a key role in that. The darkness and lonliness of the text and story blends gorgeously with Templesmith's style and colour palette and I can't wait to see where this cult-investigation heads.

Axe Cop: President of the World (Volume #4)

Written by: Malachai Nicolle; Illustrated by: Ethan Nicolle

Published: 2012

My Thoughts: Written by a kid and illustrated by his older brother, this series is the most amazing and wonderfully bizarre thing I've ever read (check out their website and youtube stuff too!). In this volume Axe Cop (soon to be played on TV by Nick Offerman) is president of Earth and after one million years of peace, the bad guys are back and ready to kill everyone and take over Earth. The stuff this kid comes up with is crazy creative, and it's kind of sad to think one day he'll grow up and outgrow it all, but until then drink in the weird guys, it's delicous.

Oldboy (Volume #1)

Written by: Garon Tsuchiya; Illustrated by: Nobuaki Minegishi; Translator: Kumar Sivasubramanian

Published: 1997

My thoughts: I really love the Korean movie that is based on this manga series, so I thought I should check out the series to see what the film missed out or changed. But because I know the basic narrative structure and plot sequence I found this book a little boring. It's well written, well illustrated and I can see it's leading towards the juicy stuff, but at this point it's too much set up and not enough stuff. Definitely good enough for me to continue on with though, just make sure you loan/buy the first few volumes at once.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday Links

Before the news broke of JK Rowling writing a new series of films set in the HP world my Monday Links was already shaping up to be heavily HP related and now it all makes sense! So enjoy these mostly HP related links and let me know in the comments what you think of the news from JKR, yay or nay? (I mean clearly it's yay, but is it the yay you were wanting?)

*Blackmilk is selling a range of Harry Potter themed swimmers, dresses and tights. If they weren't a gazillion dollars I would buy them all in a heartbeat. (Via Blackmilk)

*Charlie Hunnam was named as the uh, lucky (I guess?) actor set to play Christian Grey in the 50 Shades film. I couldn't give a shit about the film, but this post of why he's perfect for the role (i.e. Charlie Hunnam in a suit, Charlie Hunnam basically naked, abs, abs, more abs) is my kind of post. (Via Eonline)

*I thought this article about how Daniel Radcliffe has made Harry Potter "disappear" was great - I'm so glad the kids from HP, or the main trio at least, don't seem to be having too much trouble shedding their wizard robes for other roles. (Via Buzzfeed)

*It seems that there's going to be a bunch of new TV shows starting soon all based on books or characters from books. None really jump out as must-watches, but some good be pretty interesting takes on the sources. (Via Word and Film)

*I know you know I love Hermione, and I know you love Hermione, but let's just bask in the Hermione-ness of this particular link. (Via Hello Giggles)

*Horns premiered at TIFF last week and has been getting favourable reviews (from genre critics, which if you've read the book is understandable) but it looks like it might take awhile to get to our cinemas. (Via Uproxx)

*Ummmm, a Harry-Potter themed Myers-Briggs personality infograph?! I'm Neville :) (Via Huffington Post)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Book Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone

Written by: Leigh Bardugo

Published: 2012

Synopsis: The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfill her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

Challenges: RIP VIII

I can't remember where I first saw this book, it was probably on a Bout of Books or Top 10 Tuesday post, but I was instantly attracted to the Russian aesthetic of the cover and added it to my Goodreads TBR. On a whim last week I bought the kindle edition. After the giddy highs of Eleanor and Park I felt like I needed some light YA to negate a complete reading crash, so buy it I did and I ended up reading it in about two sittings.*

In a lot of ways it's a very traditional fantasy YA. There's a female protagonist who is strong in constitution, even though she's plain and wimpy looking. She's come up from nothing, so she's not afraid to fight for what she wants, once she works out what that is. She has a male best friend who she secretly loves but they seem to be drifting apart. There's magic, sort of, and a end-of-days type peril that hangs over the community. There's a mysterious and dashing older man, a grumpy trainer guy, and a beautiful girl who has trash for a soul. And yet, even though there were all of these overused tropes and characters crowding into this little book (the first in a trilogy) I actually kind of dug the hell out of it. Sort of.

In this Russian stand-in there exists a shadow fold. What is this shadow fold you ask? Well, dear reader, it is basically a giant black cloud that slashes down the centre of the country, isolating the two sides from each other. You can cross it, but there are creepy bird-like creatures that live inside it that delight in ripping your flesh from your body. So to cross it you need the Grisha. They don't guarantee your survival, but they do weigh the odds a little closer to your favour so that you can get across to do your trade and buy all of the supplies that your side of not-Russia can't produce. The shadow fold is an ever present shadow, literally and figuratively, looming over the country. Nothing can really progress while the country is split like this and much of their time is spent fighting not-China and not-(haven't worked out what this country's stand in is yet).

So who are these Grisha folk who can protect men from scary beasts? The Grisha are basically magicians. Some are healers, some are soldiers, and some are even dressmakers. Their magic is discovered when they're young (say 11...) and they're sent to a training school where they're taught to use their powers and are then enrolled into the army, where they protect the country. Their magic isn't really magic though, it's basically a manipulation of physics.
What looked like magic was really manipulating matter at its most fundamental levels. Marie didn't make fire. She summoned combustible elements in the air around us, and she still needed a flint to make the spark that would burn that fuel.
So maybe they aren't technically magic, but it still looks cool and it's not something just anyone can do. Which is where Alina comes in. When we're introduced to Alina she's a pale, weak map maker for the army who is not pretty. In fact, people seem to have a real issue with her looks, so much that it's like they're enduring some tremendous burden just to speak to her. But as it turns out there's more to our meek mouse of a protagonist, as a botched trip across the fold forces her to reveal a power she didn't know she even had.

Instantly Alina is thrust into the spotlight. As a sun-summoner (the only Grisha of this kind) she holds the power to eliminate the fold, and is therefore very valuable to not-Russia and all the countries who are using the fold for their own advantage. She's taken to the Grisha school, where everyone's treated like royalty - a far cry from her childhood as an orphan and adulthood in the army. She's treated less like a student and more like an equal to the Darking, leader of the Grisha and mysterious man who May Not Be What He Seems. She struggles with her lessons, comes to a realisation and then begins to excel while also starting a relationship with Mr Darkling.

Whether she's called Alina, Katniss, Triss, Lyra or Clary - this is a character you all know pretty well if you've read any YA. But maybe because my childhood was so empty of YA books full of young women coming to terms with their own identity and the world they live in (that weren't based in the 1800s) I'm happy to keep reading these characters for a little while longer. Sure I wish they'd switch things up a little, maybe expand on the whole premise and add some depth to it, but female protagonists were so rare in fantasy/dystopian fiction for so long that I think we're owed this. And while Alina herself is a little forgettable, I did enjoy the journey she went on. From trying to fit in with the fancy Grishas at the school, to coming to terms with her power and letting go of the past. She has a road to follow, and even if it's one that's well-trodden it's a pleasure to follow nonetheless.

There's a predicatable love triangle which I can't even bring myself to discuss because COME ON his name is The freaking Darkling, what do you expect? And a shadowy priest-to-the-king called the Apparat who immediately reminded me of Grima Wormtongue. Even now I can't work out how good or evil he was, but he set off all my creep alarms immediately, mostly thanks to the line about him smelling "faintly of mildew and incense - like a tomb" - so well done there Ms Bardugo. And there's some class war stuff within the Grisha, but also between the Grisha and the regular population which I expect will be covered in the next book. And don't take too much notice of the Russian-esque names, because none of it is based on actual naming conventions in Russia (Alina Skarkov should be Alina Starkova for instance) but who really cares since it isn't actually set in Russia.

Shadow and Bone felt like so many other books out there (HP, LOTR, His Dark Materials, The Chrestomanci series to name a few) but it oddly didn't ever feel derivative to me. Yes there are similarities, and it definitely relied on YA standards for the plot and character types, but it felt more like a book by a woman who has read and learnt from these books rather than someone just converting fanfic to a manuscript. This might work against it since it isn't really anything new, but it also adds a certain warm familiarity to the characters, or a natural weariness to others. The writing and pacing is tight, the world is colourfully described and the shadow fold is a thing of nightmares. It's unlikely to become your favourite book, but if you're looking for some light YA fantasy to pull you out of a reading funk then this might be the book for you.

*Partly because it was so short/easy to read, part because I enjoyed it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fill Your Ears With Australians, Or: A Guide to Australian Music

My next post on Australian contemporary fiction is taking a really long time to write because, as it turns out, there is a shit load of fiction out there and condensing it into a decent sized post is HARD. So to placate the masses and keep you all from hopping on board a QANTAS flight and arriving at my door with pitchforks (although if you do this with cupcakes instead of pitchforks I will greet you with open arms) I'm going to give you a post on Australian music.

What! Australians have music?! OF COURSE we have music, what do you think we listen to while we ride around in kangaroo pouches and eat vegemite?

So I'm guessing you've all heard this song...

When I lived in Hong Kong everyone, and I mean everyone would sing this when my family arrived to things. I mean I get it, it's like the most Australian music video ever made while also being the silliest and most stereotypically Australian thing EVER. Now this might shock you, but not all of our music is about vegemite and chunder and not all of our musicians rock out in school uniforms. In fact, when we music, we music WELL.

So here are a bunch of bands that I love that herald from Australia. Some of these you'll have probably heard of, some you'll have heard without realising it (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds- the band playing on the radio when Harry and Hermione dance in DH), and others that are probably rarely heard of outside of our insular little island home. This list will be way biased by my particular tastes and in no way comprehensive, but I'll try my best to include a wide-ish range. And most of these bands, if not all of them, can be found on Youtube. So grab a Crown Lager (not a Fosters - ENOUGH with that stereotype), open up your ear-holes and get ready for some rollicking good Australian tunes.

 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Of all the musicians in Australia, Nick Cave is definitely my favourite. Early Nick Cave (circa The Birthday Party) has a bit of a Ian Curtis/Joy Division sound, although he shed the post-punk style when he got a little older. He's literary, prolific and dark. He's a phenomenal songwriter, and while I love his singing I think I might like the songs that are basically spoken poetry set to music best.

Also listen to: Into My Arms, The Carny, Tupelo

The Angels

The Angels are best known here in Australia for their song "am I ever going to see your face again" which has become something of a pub anthem. Fact of the day: people usually insert "No way, get fucked, fuck off" when the titular line is sung (yeah Australia!). Anyway, they're a really solid pre-grunge, post-punk rock band - just killer music basically. I think they were known as The Angels of Angel City or just Angel City over in the US.

Also listen to: After the Rain, No Secrets, Fashion and Fame

Paul Kelly

 A really prolific singer-songwriter with a HUGE discography that's just solid gold. I guess his sound is mostly a sort of bluegrass/folk cross - he's been named Australia's Bob Dylan - but it also crosses into straight rock. He collaborated with the Indigenous Australian band Yothu Yindi back in the 1990s to produce the song Treaty, a mix of traditional Aboriginal sounds with rock and funk. It ended up way more popular and influential than I think any of them ever imagined.

Also Listen to: Dumb Things, Darling it Hurts, Before to Long

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu

Speaking of Yothu Yindi, Yunupingu started out in that band before eventually releasing his solo album Gurrumul in 2008. Most of the songs are in his native tounge, and if you buy any of the music I list here make it this album, it's just so unbelievably beautiful.

Also listen too: Gurrumul History (I was born blind), Marrandil, Bayini


Silverchair were MY band for so, so long. They were 15 when their first album was released, which is insane. What were you doing at 15? I know I sure as hell wasn't released a gunge album. They've evolved a lot since they hit the scene in the early 1990s, which is probably why they lasted so long and it's amazing to listen to them grow and develop their style each album. Also, if you try and suggest they're ripping off Nirvana I will rip your head off - seriously.

Also listen to: Ana's Song, The Door, Freak, Israel's Son


If you've watched 6 Feet Under, Sia's song "Breathe Me" is the song that accompanies that epic final conclusion. She's a fantastic singer in her own right, poppy and bright with the exact right amount of melancholy or pessimism mixed in occasionally, but she's also written songs for or collaborated with international musicians from just about every music genre around.

Also listen to: Kill and Run, Buttons, The Girl You Lost to Cocaine

Midnight Oil 

I'm not a huge listener of Midnight Oil, but they're one of those bands that legally I think you have to include in a list of Australian music. They're a socially-conscious alternative band and their songs are among some of Australia's most iconic protest songs. The clips are also worth watching if only to see Peter Garrett (singer) and his weird body awkwardly dancing.

Also listen to: Beds are Burning, Power and the Passion, US Forces


Oh Wally De Backer, you sure know how to make music. I'm sure all of you have heard "somebody that I used to know" but Gotye has been around making amazing music for a lot longer. He's one of those musicians who plays ever instrument ever and god damn if his music isn't the sexiest music my ears have ever heard. Seriously, listen to "puzzle with a piece missing" and tell me it doesn't ooze sex.

Also listen to: Learnalilgivinanlovin, Easy Way Out, Puzzle With a Piece Missing


One of my only claims to fame is that I once had coffee with Powderfinger guitarist Ian Haug on his birthday. He's one of my old housemate's uncles and I was pretty stoked to be dragged along that day. They're one of Australia's biggest rock bands and they're pretty much universally loved here. It's pretty chilled-out rock, perfect for a summer day in the pool with a beer at your side.

Also listen to: My Happiness, My Kind of Scene, Pick You Up


I'm noticing a bit of a theme on this list, older post-punk or grunge male bands and female vocalists. What can I say, I likes what I like. Washington falls into the female vocalist category, she's got the prettiest voice, dances frequently in spangley jumpsuits and seems like a really cool chick.

Also listen to: How to Tame Lions, Clementine, Cement

The Living End

Ah The Living End. Along with Silverchair, Pennywise, Frenzal Rhomb and (shudder) Korn, these guys were my transition away from the Spice girls and boy bands (all of them - so many boy bands), so they have a special place in my heart. Their punk/psychobilly sound is also wicked fun to dance to, especially if you're as bad a dancer as I am and basically just jump up and down.

Also Listen to: Prisoner of Society, All Torn Down, West End Riot

Other awesome bands worth checking out (the links go to Youtube clips of my favourite songs)
Skyhooks - Australia's ultimate glam-rock band.
The Go-Betweens - brilliant Brisbane indie rock group from the 70s.
The Church - everyone knows "Under the Milkyway" right? Yeah that's these guys.
Australian Crawl - just great 80s music.
The Hoodoo Gurus - another iconic Aussie pub rock band.
Regurgitator - I dare you to sit still while you listen to these guys, awesome techno-y alternative music.
Daddy Cool - iconic Australian band from the 1970s, bluesy rock.
The Easybeats - found these guys when I was going through my Beatles phase.
Frenzal Rhomb - frenetic and jocular punk rock.
Eskimo Joe - alt-rock, reinvent their sound slightly for each album's theme.
The Temper Trap - lyrically strong rock? They're just super great.
Mental as Anything - new wave group, transports you straight into an 80s film.
Matt Corby - ex-Aus Idol contestant with one hell of a voice. Gorgeous when singing acoustic.
Split Enz - Technically from NZ, we like to claim these new wave/art rock dudes as our own.
Crowded House - Ditto. Shares a few band members as S.E but here they're more lyrical and ballad-y.
Seeker Lover Keeper - a trio made up of Australia's best current female singer-songwriters.
The Triffids - A post-punk band with a lot of love for Australian-specific imagery in their lyrics.
The Saints - A crazy influential punk band known internationally, rubbed shoulders with The Ramones and The Sex Pistols.
The Grates - Really energetic band with short, punchy indie-pop songs.
Architecture in Helskini - A really fun band. Energetic pop-dance I guess?
Hunters and Collectors - an artier form of pub rock. Some really stellar songs.
The Jezebels  - Gorgeous female vocals, fantastic drummer, a really tight indie band.
Tame Impala - Super 70s vibes.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Film Trailer: The Double (2013)

The Double is Richard Ayoade's new film starring Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska (still have no idea how to pronounce her surname). It's based on a short story by Dostoyevsky about a man who thinks that he has a double who is stealing his life. The trailer is super artsy and gorgeous, so it'll be interesting to see how it actually looks as a film. It just premiered at TIFF so I have my fingers crossed that we'll get to see it at BIFF, because it doesn't really look like a film that's going to get a wide release here in Australia (FOR SHAME).

Monday, September 9, 2013

Monday Links

*^So the new Robocop trailer is out, which got me to thinking. When people complain about remakes and reboots, is it truly because they're annoyed that Hollywood isn't coming up with new and original programming or because they don't want to see something they love and respect tarnished by a new actor/story/director? I'm sure it's a bit of both, but it's interesting to see people on facebook and twitter get outraged over the trailers for some remakes but seem happy or excited for others.

*Patrick Stewart, ball pit, marriage announcement, awesome. (Via Uproxx)

*Since it's September now (WHAT? HOW?) that means it's time to think about Halloween costumes. And since kids in costume are always way cooler and cuter, here are a bunch of literary costume ideas for children. (Via Buzzfeed)

*Mental Floss rounded up 5 intense historical one-liners from the Spartans to Oppenheimer. (Via Mental Floss)

*I can't believe I forgot to post this a few weeks ago but OMG! The Burrow has been assessed by a real estate agent to determine its worth. That must be an awesome place to work. (Via Book Riot)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Book Review: Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde

Lost in a Good Book (Thursday Next #2)

Written by: Jasper Fforde

Published: 2002

Synopsis: The inventive, exuberant, and totally original literary fun that began with The Eyre Affair continues with Jasper Fforde's magnificent second adventure starring the resourceful, fearless literary sleuth Thursday Next. When Landen, the love of her life, is eradicated by the corrupt multinational Goliath Corporation, Thursday must moonlight as a Prose Resource Operative of Jurisfiction, the police force inside books. She is apprenticed to the man-hating Miss Havisham from Dickens's Great Expectations, who grudgingly shows Thursday the ropes. And she gains just enough skill to get herself in a real mess entering the pages of Poe's "The Raven." What she really wants is to get Landen back. But this latest mission is not without further complications. Along with jumping into the works of Kafka and Austen, and even Beatrix Potter's The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies, Thursday finds herself the target of a series of potentially lethal coincidences, the authenticator of a newly discovered play by the Bard himself, and the only one who can prevent an unidentifiable pink sludge from engulfing all life on Earth.

Since this a sequel don't get your panties in a twist if I reveal some plot details about the previous book. Also, why not read my review for the series' first book, The Eyre Affair

'But this is preposterous!' Shouted Hopkins as he was dragged away. 'No,' replied the magistrate, 'this is Kafka'. 

Is this the most British series to ever be written? I think the only possible answer is a resounding YES. I could basically taste the tea and crumpets as I read Thursday's current adventure and I'm 90% sure the Queen waved at me on page 192. This is by no means a criticism, it's utterly delightful actually and maybe one of my favourite aspects of the book, but I don't think I've seen the words  "oh I say" "hear hear" and "pip pip" in greater quantity since The King's Speech. At its best it's like one long really great Monty Python sketch, filled with in-jokes and self-deprecation and adorable British stereotypes like bumbling men in tweed suits, bowler hats and monocles. And it's maybe possibly that a lot of that imagery is in my head only and not actually part of the book, but if that's the case I highly recommend you do things my way because it's BRILL (the most English word that ever did English-FACT).*

I was left feeling a little mixed after reading The Eyre Affair, I enjoyed most of the story without really being sure if I liked it enough to continue the rest of the series. I came across Lost in a Good Book on an especially disappointing library trip (everything I wanted was wait listed, how's that even possible?) and thought "why not". I still have a few issues with the series, but for the most part I think I am officially a Thursday Next convert. They're fun and bright books that manage to combine light literary references, humour and crime adventures in one delightful package. Thursday Next is a great protagonist, she's feisty, intelligent, funny and sarcastic. Her somewhat anti-authoritarian attitude (she must have been a nightmare in the army) is the root of most of her problems, but she takes responsibility for her role in this and that alone makes her a better protagonist than a lot of the other female protagonists featured in crime fiction - which is a pretty small batch to begin with.

But - and I feel a little overreacting-fun-hating feminist-y even bringing it up - I'm a little trouble by the relationship aspect of this story. In my review of The Eyre Affair I was a little dismayed at how much of the plot revolved around the angsty will-they-won't-they relationship junk with Landon, ending with the two of them marrying spontaneously. I don't have an issue with her being in a relationship or even with the characterisation of Landon (and both of these are depicted much more effectively this time around), but... how do I put this? Without Landon there is no Thursday. He is the motivator for the entire plot to go forward, and while she isn't lamenting the end of their past relationship in this book, he is the entire reason she does anything. She finds herself part of the Jurisfiction forces (more on this later) because she needs to find a way into The Raven to save him, she goes back in time because she needs to try and save him, and she won't consider going sideways in time because it would mean he's not part of her life for a year. And maybe it's just because I felt their relationship was forced in the first book, but at this stage it kind of feels like the author was like "what motivates women to be kickass awesome people? Oh their husbands, of course". And Thursday isn't the only woman depressed or forced into action because something happened to the man in her life, it's the same for at least 4 other women (who I won't mention for fear of spoilers) and it's just, really Mr Fforde? We couldn't have at least had one book where Landon sat home drinking tea while Thursday did her literatec duties? I don't know, I'm completely aware that I'm overreacting to a bit of a non-issue, especially since I honestly really like Thursday's character outside of this, but it just feels like a crutch, like "ok I will write a female protagonist but I need to have a guy within reach because writing women is hard".

So with that off my chest I can get back into praising the book, and I really did like it. Truly-ruly. In Lost in a Good Book the plot is a little all over the place (but in the best kind of way). It opens with Thursday suffering through a series of heavily censored interviews and televised events to (not really) discuss the changing of the Jane Eyre ending events from the previous book, enjoying marital bliss, finding out from her time-travelling dad that the world is going to end in a week, discovering a long lost Shakespearian play and being hounded by the Goliath Corporation to release Jack Schitt from Poe's poem The Raven. Get all that? It's a pretty heavily plotted book, but most begin as small threads that slowly build and expand before coming together pretty neatly towards the end, and they aren't nearly as erratic as I just described it.

Thursday's job as a literatec makes me giddy with excitement (a literary detective? UM YES PLEASE) but in this book we're introduced to jurisfiction which is just SO much better. Jurisfiction is mostly made up of fictional characters who police books. They keep an eye on bowdlerisers (terrorists intent on removing salacious content from books) and grammacites (monster-y creatures that literally eat parts of the text), they keep an eye on the unfinished and unpublished manuscripts and a number of other delightful literary tasks. And they do all of this by page jumping between books or stopping in at the library (that houses all books that are and ever will be) that is overseen by the Cheshire Cat. They have a footnote phone to communicate with characters in their texts, which is then used in this book and the whole thing is so bookish and meta and delightful. Oh and Thursday is apprenticed to Mrs Havisham. Can you even imagine? These books are basically porn for readers and book lovers, and it's for us alone. If you aren't a reader or a writer I can't imagine you liking the quirky little bookish references or bits of literary whimsy. You either wouldn't recognise the references, wouldn't appreciate the nerdy love for books that this series espouses so heavily or it might just seem a little silly. But you'd be wrong, and missing out on a great book.

What, you need proof? Fine, it just so happens I came to this review prepared.

On book jumping into Poe:
His books are not fixed; there is a certain oddness that goes with them. Most macabre Gothic fiction tends to be like that - Sade is the same, also Webster, Wheatley and King. They have a way of weaving you into the story and before you know it you're stuck there.
On being a literary character:
“I would so hate to be a first-person character! Always on your guard, always having people read your thoughts!”
On Wuthering Heights:
“I was on HPD--Heathcliff Protection Duty--in Wuthering Heights for two years, and believe me, the ProCaths tried everything. I personally saved him from assassination eight times.” 
And because I'm not sure how else to wind up this review, and I don't feel like I've fully impressed on you how fun and silly and great this book even outside of the literary-ness, I'm going to leave you with one final quote:
“How fishy on the fishiness scale? Ten is a stickleback and one is a whale shark."
"A whale isn't a fish, Thursday." 
"A whale shark is--sort of." 
"All right, it's as fishy as a crayfish." 
"A crayfish isn't a fish." 
"A starfish, then." 
"Still not a fish." 
"This is a very odd conversation, Thursday.”
See. Witty and wonderful, just like I told you.

*Did I just break the record for most superficial British/English stereotypes in a paragraph ever?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Bookish A-Z Survey

Because I'm hardly one to pass up the chance to remember those ridic chain letters from the 1990s in book blog form, here are my A-Z answers! Thanks to Alley and Sarah for posting this!

Authors you've read the most books from: I don't even need to go to my bookcase. I know it's going to be Stephen King, and it's always going to be Stephen King because for every book I read he publishes another 20.

Best sequel ever: Ummmmmm, shit. I'm going to say A Clash of Kings because I didn't think my love of Game of Thrones (which was heightened by the TV series) could be matched and ACoK trounced it.

Currently reading: Skeleton Key by Stephen King. I often find his short story collections a little hit and miss in quality but I also feel like they're the best look into how his mind forms ideas and plays with tropes so, yeah, awesome.

Drink of choice while reading: Whatever is in the fridge?

Ereader or physical book: Since I use my phone to read ebooks I'd probably have to say physical books because I find it hard to read anything for too long on my phone, but ebooks for travelling are where it's at.

Fictional character that you probably would have dated in high school: I feel like this is one of those questions which will haunt me when I'm in therapy in a few years. I'm going to say Charlie Weasley because OF COURSE Charlie Weasley. Although I've had crushes on the entire Weasley family at some in my life.

Glad you gave this book a chance: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. I'm not the ultimate fangirl for this series yet, but after avoiding it on the bookstore shelves for years I'm glad I finally got over my aversion to popular books and gave it a shot. It's a really fun series.

Hidden gem book: Maybe Night Country by Bryce Courtenay. It's a teeny tiny, difficult to find book that's about a moment in his childhood which impacted his life and outlook.

Important moment in your reading life: I think that would have to be reading The Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys by Christopher Fuhrman. That's the book that changed reading for me. I read it at 11 or 12 and it just switched something on in my brain. Reading it now is like visiting an old friend so I can't even tell you if it's a good book because to me it's perfect and I have zero objectivity.

Just finished: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell and I'm still feeling waaaay too much to say anything.

Kind of books you won't read: Anything with a Stephenie Meyer or EL James recommendation on the front? I don't know, I've read and liked books I wouldn't have imagined liking but I definitely stay away from that supernatural faux-erotica genre.

Longest book you read: I can't be bothered actually checking book lengths but it's gotta the The Stand by Stephen King. And I'm so grateful to the second hand bookseller in Tasmania who recommended it to me when I was hunting for a new King book to read and made sure to recommend the longer/full version of the book. High five dude.

Major book hangover because of: Attachments and Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. They're just so wonderful it's hard to move onto something else straight away.

Number of bookcases you own: 5. And I need more because the damn things are so over-stacked I can't find anything.

One book you've read multiple times: The Harry Potter series. I reread it just about every year and I don't think anything else even comes close.

Preferred place to read: Just vegged out on the couch at home. With snacks within easy reach preferably.

Quote that inspires you: I'm really bad with the whole favourite literary quotes thing which is why I'll never get a literary quote tattoo. But I'd probably say something from Lord of the Rings, they're overused for a reason.

Reading regret: I can't really think of one. It makes me sad to think I'll never get a chance to meet some of my favourite authors like Richard Matheson and Bryce Courtenay but that's hardly a regret. I watch a lot of TV which cuts into reading time but I don't really regret that either. Not being better at writing reviews?*shrugs*

Series you started and need to finish: I'm always a little hesitant starting new series because they're such a commitment, so at this point I think the only series I've started but haven't finished is Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series. Which I definitely will get through. Eventually.

Three of your all-time favorite books: I DON'T KNOW! I'm going to go with Four Fires by Bryce Courtenay, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson and The Stand by Stephen King, but don't hold me to that.

Unapologetic fangirl for: Rainbow Rowell and Warren Ellis. They are my jam.

Very excited for this release: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I'm pretty bad at keeping up to date with book releases, but this one I've been eyeing off for awhile.

Worst bookish habit: Reading the last page. I don't really know why I do this, I just tend to head back and read the final line or paragraph way before I should. Maybe I'm just impatient. *shrugs some more* But this is one reason ebooks are awesome, it's too much work to cycle through pages and back to where I was, so I just don't do it.

X marks the spot! start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book: Needful Things by Stephen King.

Your last bookish purchase: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. The cover art is gorgeous and I felt like reading some YA, so bam, purchased.

Zzz-snatcher. Which book kept you up way late?: I feel like I've answered Rainbow Rowell and E&P way too much during this but it's the only appropriate answer. Once I started E&P I didn't put it down until it was finished, and it was totally worth being exhausted the next day at work.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Monday Links

*I didn't really understand the world's meltdown last week with Miley Cyrus's MTV performance, and I think Jon Lajoie (from The League - such a great show btw) summed it up pretty well with this song.

*A personal trailer took to Instagram to show how all those before/after fitspo pictures are faked. (Via Brobible)

*Did Post Secret publish a murder confession? I saw the secret and immediately thought WTF, a quick google search showed a lot of other people did too (Via Gawker)

*If you're lucky enough to live in or near NYC, Flavorwire has ranked the NYC libraries fall literary events for you. (Via Flavorwire)

*Speaking of NYC, I'm keeping this post of awesome bookish things here in anticipation for December! (Via Buzzfeed)

*I decided to start a series about Australian literature, the first post about our earliest writers is up and waiting to be read. (Via ME!)


A couple of years ago Tom and I walked through Bookfest with a copy of Stephen King's Danse Macabre and bought all the books that he recommended. Well, maybe not all of them, but we bought a lot. Needless to say, even though I loved adding 30+ horror titles to our bookshelves, I still have plenty of them sitting there unread. Enter RIP VIII! If it hadn't been for a miscommunication on Instagram where I thought Laura was saying RIP to books she was chucking away, I probably wouldn't have known about this event (or at least, I wouldn't have known about it until today when I saw everyone's posts for it), so I'm chalking that up to fate and that I HAVE to take part. Because even horror books get sad when they sit unread on shelves. 

Since it's over two months I'm going to aim for 'peril the first', which means you'll be seeing at least four horror book reviews up around here. Since my shelves are so well stocked with unread horror I'm not going to have a definite read list but I did put a photo on instagram of possible reads.

Ira Levin -Son of Rosemary*
Stephen King - The Dark Half
Joe Hill - 20th Century Ghosts
Clive Barker - The Hellbound Heart
Ramsey Campbell - The Doll Who Ate His Mother
Will Elliott - The Pilo Family Circus
Bram Stoker - Lair of the White Worm
Various authors - Horror omnibus

I'm going to try and keep it from becoming an all out Stephen Kingathon, so between every King book I'm going to read two non-king books. This way I'll get to read some Will Elliott, Clive Barker, Bram Stoker, Ramsey Campbell as well as the King. And because I'm a firm believer of 'go big or go home' I'm also going to take part in 'peril on the screen' and 'Peril of the short story' - that way I can also knock out a bunch of those unread horror anthologies and unwatched horror films that I keep buying. Two birds please meet one stone.

And since I know that a lot of you aren't as into horror as I am, I'm going to try and keep my regular non-horror reading up as well. I've got at least two non-horror reviews written and ready to publish, so even if I don't technically read any non-horror over the next two months it'll seem like I have. And if you do super-like horror and have been sad that I haven't posted more of it in the past, may I direct you to my actual horror blog? I've not been too good at updating it recently, but I think this might change that somewhat.

*This is supposed to be TERRIBLE, but I couldn't help myself.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...