Friday, March 29, 2013

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - Readalong Post 2

Wow. This post ended up super ragey. And there are a couple of minor spoilers (just about this book), I couldn't help myself in my Umbridge/Percy rage. So just tread carefully newbies.

I might have complained about the angst last week but by the time I get to chapter 13 I'm well and truly over it, which is good because it means I can get appropriately riled up with Umbridge and her punishment, which is actually torture and I'D HAPPILY POKE HER STUPID EYES OUT WITH SCALDING POKERS YOU STUPID EVIL HAG.

Umbridge. Is. The. Worst. Voldemort is evil in the sense that he's the bad guy and therefore must be, but Umbridge is actually evil. Whyyyy is she like she is? I've never really understood her motivation in this book. Because forcing a child to WRITE LINES WITH THEIR OWN BLOOD is not proof of you believing the school is run poorly, it's proof of your INSANITY. Is she supposed to be indicative of ministry folk? Does Fudge know what she's doing? And approve it? And she's meant to be rile up the Slytherin hate right? What with her hatred of "half-breeds" and fondness of torture and why she hates all Gryffindors, even the ones who don't believe Harry *cough* Seamus *cough*?  I know the first time I read this book I was expecting to find out she was chums with Voldy, and maybe doing a Crouch 2.0 thing. But nope, just a major evil bitch.

I guess JKR just wanted it to be VERY clear who was on Harry's side and who wasn't. Because we also get that maddening owl from Percy, who was always a pretentious piece of shit but crosses over into complete dicknose territory when he writes to Ron. Did anyone else think Percy might be imperius'd when they first read this? Because he was always the worst Weasley, but he seemed pretty friendly with Harry at school and always respected Dumbledore but suddenly he's really aggressively "herp derp Dumbledore's senile, derpity Harry's dangerous". I was pretty disappointed when it's revealed NOPE Percy is just a power hungry asshole happy to turn against his family for a shitty assistant role. Ugh, Percy is second only to Umbridge.

This is turning into such a rage post. I swear I didn't set out to be so shouty. My last point is a little rage-y but much less shouty. Mainly because it involves Hermione, so it's more disappointed than angry. So I am completely Team Ron about the house elves. Regardless of your thoughts about elf slavery, tricking them into taking clothes is SUPER unfair. Does Hermione actually think that the second they pick up her knobbly little hat the spell would be broken and they'd start a group sing along of George Michael's Freedom? You're supposed to be the smartest witch of your year, how are you so naive? And while we're on Hermione, lady you need to lay off Luna. Just because she believes in things you don't doesn't mean you treat her like garbage.

Although kudos to JKR for the subtle integration of the religious/atheist divide and neat little commentary on it featuring two of our favourite witches. I love when Luna calls out Hermione on her shortsightedness, because that's absolutely one of Hermione's biggest flaws - just because you can't see something doesn't mean it isn't possible. I mean, I guarantee Hermione thought magic was bullshit before her letter arrived. I'd also like to think it was a subtle dig at the folk who were railing on HP for being satanic - it's sad that their imaginations have shriveled up and are unable to digest fun anymore. Tolerance guys, it's not just a song by the Sorting Hat.

But it's OK Hermione, I still love you. But you Umbridge? And Percy? Nope you are forever on my shit-list.


*I'm sorry but Malfoy is NO GOOD. His childish attack on the Quidditch pitch just proves that he's a shitty person and NOT just a product of his parent's intolerance.

*Let's spare a thought for the poor souls in charge of collecting dragon dung for a living.

*So Hogwarts is a public school right? I mean, that's the only way the ministry would be able to impose so many rules and force Umbridge onto the staff right? Which means that Hogwarts fees would be all/mostly subsidised by wizarding taxes.

*I didn't even mention Dumbledore's Army! Egad! I want to be part of that club! I'll take Zachariah Smith's place because he is a poo-face.

*Hagrid's back! And how much do you want to know how his dad stuck with his mum for 3 years if she was anything like the giants Hagrid mentions!?

"Hollywood can not live up to the power of imagination"

In honour of Game of Thrones' return to TV, here is the wonderful Axis of Awesome (the band who brought you 4 Chords - if you haven't seen that yet then what are you waiting for?') and their brand new song Rage of Thrones. 


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Best Australian Blogs - GIVE ME YOUR VOTES!

Guys, I have a favour to ask. It's only a little one and it'd mean the world to me.

 I am entered into the Best Australian Blogs competition and I would very much like to win People's Choice, so I need you to vote for me! It'll take you less than a minute and would earn you MASSIVE brownie points, and actual brownies if you'd like!

So all you need to do is head to the voting page (link in the picture above and in the button on the side of my blog) and select my blog. It's listed as Nylon Admiral on the bottom of the third page, and then you just need to include your details and done! It's open until the 30th of April, but why not get it over and done with now? You will earn my eternal love, and I'll devise a rap song about your pretty face that I'll sing every night before I go to bed, and eventually pass on to my children.

So with the prospect of brownies and eternal rap songs on the line, you wouldn't not vote for me right? Right!

Lee Pace thanks you too

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (and a fantabulous giveaway)

Ready Player One
Written by: Ernest Cline

Published: 2011

Synopsis:It's the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune--and remarkable power--to whoever can unlock them.

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?

Stay tuned for the giving away-iest giveaway at the end of this review.

I had never heard even the teeniest inkling of info about this book until Laura mentioned she was reading it and everyone was like "IT IS SO GOOD" and I was like "hmmmm, colour me intrigued". And then I read Laura, Alley and Alice's reviews and I thought " yup, this sounds like the book for me". But then I sort of forgot about it. Not for long mind you, but I was distracted enough that I didn't race onto The Book Depository and buy a copy. If I hadn't headed to my Sydney holiday at around this time it's possible this book would have ended up earning a permanent place on my TBR, but fortunately I happened to stop into the greatest of all bookstores (Kinokuniya) and it was right there. Right by the entrance, in a neat little stack basically daring me to buy it. And I don't let dares pass me by (actually I do, buy-this-book dares are about the only ones I'm brave enough to do) so I snatched that little baby up and took it home. And then uni stuff happened, and Laura warned me about how addictive it is so I decided to keep it as a reward for meeting my huge deadline. That deadline was last Tuesday, and by Tuesday night I was well and truly under the spell of Ernest Cline and the pop-culturaliest book that ever did be. And by 2.30 Thursday morning I had finished it.

And it was good. Oh my god, was it good. It was an extremely FUN read, probably the most fun I've had reading a book in a long time and the first book in even longer that I honestly considered putting down because I wanted it to last while also obsessively turning page after page because I just couldn't wait. And I didn't even peek ahead, which I almost always do. It's just a genuinely enjoyable read full of nerdy quotes and references to obscure (and not so obscure) 80s games, movies, songs, and other junk while somehow managing to never feel too Frankenstein-y. I guess it's probably to do with the writer being a major 80s geek himself, and pouring his love and obsession into his book - but it's still a feat that deserves much praise, because there aren't too many authors who can work in this many references and not feel like you're reading the question cards of an 80s edition of Trivial Pursuit.

So basically this book is a John Hughes coming of age story combined with a Dungeons and Dragons campaign with a little synth-heavy music thrown in for good measure. Wade (known as Parzival) is living a shitty life in an even shittier world. All the things going wrong in the world right now, famine, global warming, war, the economic meltdown, have finally come to a head in the not-to-distant future, and the world has chosen to retreat into a video game. Released in 2012, the OASIS is the ultimate in virtual reality, and in the future school, work, and all free time is spent revelling in a world that couldn't be. The creator of this program, James Halliday, was a sort of video game prodigy and on his deathbed announced his final game- a quest to win the ownership of the OASIS, and all of his fortune. Wade is just one of the many people trying to win that prize, and it's his journey from solving the first clue to the home stretch that we follow in Ready Player One. 

OASIS is such a phenomenally awesome (though not new) concept. When you're plugged in you can visit a universe of planets. Some are made to replicate the tv canon of sci fi worlds (Firefly, Star Trek, Star Wars, BSG), while others are designed to mimic the cosy suburban life of Earth as it was. You can battle creatures to raise your level and take quests to find magical items to add to your inventory. You can visit dance clubs which have impossible gravity fields and dance floors in the middle of the air. You can make your avatar just like you or you can make them taller, stronger, beardier. It's basically your average game of Dungeons and Dragons (or similar RPG games) in a vitual space and I TOLD YOU D&D WAS COOL. I can't really blame people for retreating into this bliss, especially when there is no sign-up cost and you can get the virtual reality kit free when you sign up for school. If I was living in a world that was made up of stacks and stacks of mobile homes and all sense of decency and democracy had vanished I'd probably be the first one in there from sun up to sun down. But I also really like that amid Wade living it up virtual style, the implications of living this kind of virtual life are also raised. Aside from the fat, pale nerd kid living in their parent's basement issue, there are the indented workers, people who have raised horrendous debts in the OASIS and to work it off basically live as slaves working for the largest ISP organisation in America. These issues are woven into the refence-laden quest and help move it from Awesome Book to Awesome Book with a Message (sort of).

I'm not going to bother mentioning any of the flaws in this book, first because they're pretty minor and second, this was Ernest Cline's first book - so the awesomeness far outweighs any novice mishaps with style and exposition. But also, I don't really care. When a book is this much fun, and has you reading well past the time you're normally counting Zzzzz's it doesn't really matter if a few plot holes come along, or certain characters are a little questionable (Art3mis, I'm looking at you). There are bits of Messages and Points and what-not, but they aren't really the point. They're the milk with the cocoa-pops. Technically (mostly) good for you, but not why you poured the bowl in the first place.

Printed on my cover is a quote from USA Today which says that this book is "Willy Wonka meets the Matrix". And that is pretty perfect. It's fun, and fast-paced (around the occasional info-meteor) and the stakes are high and it's quirky and technical and very in-the-know. The references reach pretty wide at times, plucking from literature, technology, film and music (mostly 80s but ranging from 60s to 00s) but really, it's very possible that you'd end up feeling like you were reading a different language if you weren't familiar with the main reference points. But even when I hit a reference that I didn't get, I never felt like the book was lording that over me, instead Ernest Cline, much like the wizardly James Halliday wants to share his favourite things, he wants you to learn about them and get equally addicted. Basically this book is the internet. The internet in book form. The internet in book form following the structure of an 80s film. WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE HUH?




Monday, March 25, 2013

Monday Links

*The latest in Mean Girls mash ups - Mad Men/Mean Girls. LOVE. (Via Mean Mad Men)

*Because Harry Potter is on (most of) our minds - here's an article that questions why Hermione is the only one who ever gets revenge. Thoughts guys? (Via MuggleNet)

*I have a friend. She is a wonderfully talented illustrator. She just created a series of three illustrations titled "togetherness" showing three different couples sleeping. It's adorable, and wonderful and you should go shower her with praise. (Via Lauren Carney Art)

*Here are some of film's best break up lines. These Super beat the "Welcome to Dumpsville, population You" line one of the boys in year 8 used on his girlfriend. Boys, amirite? (Via Flavorwire)

*These bookplates are so amazing. I would love to have a personalised set of bookplates, and if that means becoming famous then look out world famous I will be. (Einstein's are definitely the best) (Via Buzzfeed)

*Like comics? Course you do. Here's Brian K Vaughan's (Y: The Last Man) newest digital comic, The Private Eye, which you are free to pay as little (or as much) as you like (Via Panel Syndicate)

*Tilda Swinton is sleeping in a box. For art. At MoMA. (Via Uproxx)

*These camoflage/wallflowers portraits are awesome, and I want to do one. It seems...right. (Via Flavorwire)

*Stay tuned tomorrow, I'm giving away a copy of Ready Player One plus *something*. You are all welcome.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - Readalong Post 1

Alright, first things first. I don't really like this book. Except that I do. I actually love a lot of this book, but the shouty angst make it really hard to truly enjoy.

And before some of you start to wail about Harry being through so much, and adolescence is a bitch and how'd I react if an entire school thought I was a mental liar, let me just say, I get it. I understand why Harry is as he is in this book, I feel for him and I empathise with all the swirling emotions, hormones and craziness going through this head. That doesn't mean I want to read about a 15 year old sulk around with his hands shoved in his pockets. I went through that thank you very much, I don't want to do it again. And it isn't just Harry. Ron and Hermione are just as shouty and angsty and annoying in this book to me, and again I get it, but I do. not. want.

Moving on!

I'm not really sure why Ron is made prefect over Dean or Seamus or Neville (OK, maybe I get why he gets it over Neville). As far as I can tell he doesn't do much/at all better than the others in class, and he's broken so many school rules he probably should have been ineligible (although Gryffindor's motto probably reads "we break rules and you love us for it" in Latin) but I really love that he gets the badge. It's a very awwwww-y moment when he gets the badge and gets all red-eared and Mrs Weasley is still super proud of him even though she's had 25 other sons get better badges, but it's also step 1 in 'Ron gets on top of his issues with being the youngest male Weasley and lack of confidence'. Ickle Ronnikins is growing up, and this develops nicely from GoF where he had to confront his feels of inadequacy about being The Boy Who Lived's best bud.

So. Does anyone have a clue how the OWLs work? It can't be 1 OWL = 1 class, because an earlier book mentions Percy getting something ridiculous like 30# OWLs, and since Hermione cracked taking something like 12 classes how could that work? Also, Ron says (p205) that Fred and George got 3 OWLs each, which would mean what? They didn't complete 4 of their exams? In which case how could they possibly be let into their next year at Hogwarts?

The grading system is:
Exceeds Expectations
Troll (although this might have been a joke?)

So one option is that each grade is attributed a number of OWLs, so O=5 and D=1 (assuming T is a joke) in which case that would mean Percy got 6 O's, but of the subjects Harry and Ron are taking 7 are compulsory (Transfig, charms, potions, DADA, herbology, astronomy, history) and Percy would definitely have taken at least 3 extras, surely. And back with Fred and George they should have at least 7, assuming they failed all of them and didn't get higher than a D. All I can assume is that when they say they "got an OWL" they mean they got an O-grade, which still doesn't make sense with Percy's 30 OWLs but it's starting to hurt my brain, so I give up.

Extra stuff:

*"Fred and I managed to keep our peckers up somehow" (p205) This might only be funny to me because I don't know how far this slang has spread, but in Australia a pecker is a penis. Rowling's lewd humour continues!

*I really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really want to know what Dudley sees/feels when the dementors attack.

*I love the ministry bits in this book, like them colluding to expel Harry by changing rooms and trying him in front of the full Wizengamot, or by hiring Umbridge as DADA (I'll probably scream and rant a lot next week after Harry's detention). Fudge is a pathetic little weasel, and it's great to have an adversary that isn't Voldemort, even if that doesn't remain the case all book long.

*I am firmly anti-Dursley but I really feel for them when Big-D is returned to them post-dementor. That must be a parent's worst nightmare.

*I love that Mafalda Hopkirk ends her letter which tells Harry that he's being expelled and is going to a disciplinary hearing with "Hoping you are well" (p30).

*Tonks is awesome, I would love to have the opportunity to change my appearance. How could you not become a spy?

*Mrs Weasley's fight against that boggart is heartbreaking, and just another example of the families and loss motif I mentioned last week.

*I listened to this section on audiobook, and damn that sorting hat song is so bad out loud. When I read it I can pretend the meter and rhyme works better, but it really, really doesn't.

Till next week, when I get on my soapbox and yell about Hermione (shock! gasp!) and how Umbridge is the most evil and scary villain in the series....

#Ok, I exaggerated. I just check and he got 12 OWLS, so the idea is that 1 OWL = 1 class but I still call bullshit because Hermione only gets 11 OWLS and with divination and muggle studies (which she dropped before OWLS) would have had 13 BUT she needed a time turner and that was supposed to be this big deal because she's a super achiever. How'd Percy and Bill manage it then HUH?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Monday Links

*There's a new web series starting which sets Game of Thrones in a high school and I am fully on board after that first episode. The fact that they made the Starks hipsters because they follow the old gods and ways? Genius. That's the first episode above and the second episode was just released.

*So now that Kickstarter has granted the wish of every Veronica Mars fan, I'm hoping that this potential rumour will pan out and we'll see a Pushing Daisies film too. (Via Uproxx)

*Quiz time: Spongebob or Nietzsche? (Via Buzzfeed)

*Some wonderful person compiled the 100 best quotes from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It's a little text heavy, space light but it's worth it if you're familar with the show (Via Mandatory)

*An amazing South Korean artist, Airan Kang, created these gorgeous illuminated books. They'd make the best wall feature. (Via Flavorwire)

*I'm after any/all advice you can give me for our Nth American holiday at the end of this year. Know an amazing bar, or bookstore, or an alley used as a set in an obscure 80s film? I WANT THEM ALL! (Via Me!)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - Readalong post 4

Oh my god, this section of the read was SO emotional. So much happens and all of it is INTENSE. I don't know how I'm supposed to write a coherent post, or one that isn't just the Emma Stone crying into ice cream gif over and over and over. But here it goes...

Krum seems evil but is actually being controlled, Cedric dies, Wormtail loses a hand, Voldemort is back, Moody isn't Moody but is actually Crouch Jr and is responsible for all the shit that happened this year and Fudge refuses to listen to reason and has Crouch kissed by the dementors. Did I forget anything? Oh yeah, Voldy got his gang back...

Aw yeah.
The reveal of Moody not being Moody was insane to me first time round, and even now 10+ years since it's release I'm still a little WHA--- every time I get to it. The thing is, except perhaps for Lupin, Moody is easily the best DADA teacher they've ever had, and it's thanks to him that they learn a lot about defending against curses, hexes, spells, and get the great advice of CONSTANT VILGILANCE. And he was pretty great outside of lessons too, dancing at the Yule Ball, helping Neville after the Unforgivable Curses class, and of course, turning Malfoy into a ferret. So was Crouch simply doing a really good job of acting like Moody because he needed to convince everyone for a full year, or did he actually enjoy being a teacher? I know he seemed pretty evil in his big ass monologue, but I can't help but think that maybe he revelled in the opportunity to actually do something.  He was 19 when he went to Azkaban and he's spent all this time locked in his house, and Winky seems pretty sure that he was actually a good kid (aside from the obvious) so maybe he actually, at least on some level, really enjoyed the whole thing. I also feel like it would have been easier to have Crouch Jr (CJ from now on) polyjuice as his dad, which would also give him access to Harry during the competition but also access to the ministry. Surely long term that'd be the way to go?

I remember when this book came out and there was a tonne of publicity about the fact that one of the characters was going to die. I can't remember if JK specified it was a secondary character or what, but I do remember feeling a little betrayed by it being Cedric. Sure, he's become a bigger character in this book but it was only so they could kill him off and get a reaction from everyone. I thought it might be someone we actually had developed a relationship with, even if it was still a secondary character, someone like Neville (NEVERRRRRRR). Of course, JK goes and shoves all this in my face over the next three books by killing SO MANY PEOPLE and reducing me to a blubbering mess approximately once every 15 pages. SO YOU WIN THIS THIS ONE JK.

I love how much this book deals with family and loss, and how much they can impact on who you become. You have people like Harry and Neville and even Hagrid who are defined by their loss probably because it came at such a young age, but then you also have people like CJ and Voldemort who were so resentful of their fathers that they let it twist them into hideous monsters bent on destroying other families. We see several stages of the destruction of the Crouch family, grief tear at the Diggorys and the fear of loss through Percy and Fleur at the second task. It's all very emotional and sad and makes you want to just curl into a ball in a corner somewhere and cry for all these fictional characters and their problems, but then there's the other side of it where you see Sirius's love and devotion to Harry, Moody comforting Neville (while actually being the torturer so it's a little messed up) or the Weasley's unofficial adoption of Harry. When Harry finds the Weasley's waiting for Harry before the final task and then has them surrounding his hospital bed, it's so wonderful to think he's finally found himself a family. And when Mrs Weasley hugs Harry at the hospital wing?
Mrs Weasley set the potion down on the bedside cabinet, bent down, and put her arms around Harry. He had no memory of ever being hugged like this, as though by a mother. 

 And when you compare these heartbreaking scenes with those at the start of the book at the World Cup or the courtroom scenes in the pensieve, it's an effective way to indicate the loss and fear and emotional turmoil that is to come now that Voldemort's back. Because as we have seen and will come to see, it's the family that really suffers during these wars, not the individual. They put the dark mark over a house so any returning family knows instantly that their loved ones are dead, sons, daughters, husbands etc die trying to fight against Voldemort, and punishment is not doled out on the person who offended Voldemort, instead it's everyone s/he loves that suffers. It's all very traumatic, and it only gets darker and more intense as the series goes on. This is such a great YA series, because it's about so much more than witches and wizards riding brooms and hexing each other in hallways - there's so much substance and thematic intent and it'd be impossible not to take a few life lessons away from it.

and tragic.
Anyway, that got SUPER serious and sort of went into a dark place so to alleviate the mood here's Lee Pace's amazing face.


*"I no more suspect Madame Maxime than Hagrid," said Dumbledore, just as calmly, "I think it possible that it is you who are prejudiced, Cornelius" - BOOM

*Sirius was only two or three years older than Crouch Jr when they both went to jail so why is it so shocking that C.J was 19?

*"I'd probably say I had big bones if I knew what I'd get for telling the truth" - Hermione, telling it like it is.

*I feel like it's the scene after the pensieve when Harry and Dumbledore's relationship really gets started and they're both a little more open with each other.

*I love when Dumbledore gets that glint in his eye when Harry tells him about V getting around the protection spell - it just says so much about his character.

*Wormtail is treated pretty poorly considering V wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for him. And how exactly is C.J more loyal? He escaped jail and pleaded his innocence during his trial - I don't see how Wormtail is such a failure in comparison.

*Snape knows about Neville's parents, HE KNOWS and still treats Neville like shit for no reason other than to be a dick.

*It's pretty impressive how quickly Voldy and co get their plan sorted considering Wormtail only escaped Hogwarts 11 months ago. Credit where credit's due guys.

*Let's take a moment to remember David Tennant was Crouch Jr in the film.

*There's something messed up about Hermione keeping Skeeter locked up in a jar in beetle form.

*Harry's line to the twins about needing a laugh is so insightful but also really sad. He's 14, he shouldn't be thinking about things like that.

Rowling and Math Update

*Bill hasn't been at the school for 5 years - how does this fit with our age calculations, I can't remember what we'd decided about the older Weasley's ages?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

10 Reasons Why You Should Watch Pushing Daisies

I only discovered Pushing Daisies last year but it took me all of one minute to fall head over heels in love with it. It seems to have received a resurgence in popularity recently, something I'm guessing is a result of star hottie Lee Pace snapping up a bunch of film roles lately (Twilight, The Hobbit, Lincoln). Anyway, I was taking a stroll through the Pushing Daisies Tumblr tag and I had an urge to collate a post urging all you Pushing Daisies neophytes to get into this show ASAP. But because pictures speak louder than words (and absolutely not because I'm lazy), this is going to a post full of gifs and screenshots rather than lengthy proclamations about the merits of this show.

The Premise
Ned, our adorable eyebrowed leading man, is a pie-maker with the gift of bringing the dead back to life. With a touch of a finger he gives them life, with a second touch they die again for good. Together with grumpy PI Emerson, Ned solves crimes by reawakening the dead and asking who their murderer was. One such victim turns out to be his long lost childhood sweetheart, Chuck, a girl so sweet she gives me cavities every time I watch her on screen. He brings her back to life, falls in love, but alas can never touch her or else she'll die for good this time. Pies, murder and lovely love ensue in this clever, quirky and heart-warming show.

Check out below for the goodness...

Monday, March 11, 2013

Monday Links

*^The Bad Lip Reading series of Youtube videos are amazing (check out Twilight for some insane lols) and since I detested everything about this version of Spiderman I wholeheartedly recommend this one.

*Because it's Monday and we all need some cheering up, here are 30 of the happiest facts care of Buzzfeed. Some are definitely heart warming, some are weird, and most are animals. (Via Buzzfeed)

*Say what you will about Russell Brand, his piece on addiction was actually pretty fascinating (Via Spectator)

*What fictional characters should be risen from the dead, so to speak, and get brand new series to star in? (Via The Guardian)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Film Trailer: The Bling Ring

I'm sharing this trailer purely because it has Emma Watson in it and I'm so obsessed with our HP readalong right now that anything involving the cast from the film is BIG NEWS right now. So in this film (based on 'actual' events) Hermione and her pals break into celebrity homes to steal fancy shit so they can also be fancy. I...I am confused about how I should feel here. On the one hand it is Sophia Coppola and Emma Watson, on the other hand it's based on a news report of an event that happened to Paris Hilton 5+ years ago and may be guest starring Hilton herself. I just want to think that Hermione would only make good life choices, so this will be awesome right?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Young Americans

It's only March but already I am super excited for the end of the year! The flights are officially booked! From the 28th of November till the 4th of January Tom and I will be making our way around North America!

So, we know we're definitely going to visit New York, Toronto, Montreal and Boston but since we're flying into and out of L.A we're also considering visiting San Francisco and maybe Washington DC. It all depends on time though.

 Our trouble now is deciding where to go exactly, and when. Do we do New Years in New York or in Toronto? Where do we spend Christmas? Are there festivals or events that we really should see while we're over there? Where's the best skiing? For beginners? What are the best hostels or hotels in these cities? Do we fly or take buses/trains? Are there sites we should visit for cheap flights?  What are the local must see spots that we won't find in the lonely planet guides?

This is where your fancy faces come in. I am eagerly hoping you'll all add your advice in the comments section so that this end of year trip can be the most amazing one possible. Also, if it's possible to catch up with any of you that'd be wonderfully wonderful! We can drink drinks and visit book stores and get into loud debates over the merits of whatever book is popular at the end of the year. It will be brilliant! And to return the favour, if you ever decide to visit Australia I will send you super long emails filled with the best places to visit and how to save money in this very expensive country of mine.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - Readalong post 3

Ok, so before I get into this section proper I have a new theory on an old discussion. We have talked endlessly about school fees and I have come to the conclusion that yes, they do have fees. My reasoning is that if they didn't, why would the Weasleys be so poor? Sure they have 7 kids, but they spend 9 months away from the family home being fed and housed, so aside from a lump sum at the start of each semester for new books and gear they should have a fair amount to spare while school's in. Surely a ministry wage is enough to support two people at home, with money leftover to save for the start of semester. But since they seem to be struggling with money all the time, there must be some other factor gobbling up their funds. Of course, Mr Weasley could have a secret gabbling addiction, or Mrs Weasley could be funnelling 100s of galleons a year into Lockhart books....


Dancing at the Yule Ball
This section is awesome and terrible (poor Hagrid!) for a number of reasons but it's remarkable to me because it's when the lightbulb finally went off that Hermione and Ron were totally in love and the would-they-wouldn't-they thing would be going on between the two of them until they finally stopped being stubborn and just kissed each other on each other's mouth. I just wish they wouldn't be so nasty to each other in the meantime, come on guys, can't we all be friends?

But poor Hagrid, a wonderful night of dancing is soured when he comes clean to his tall lady love and she shuts him down (seriously woman, who are you kidding?) and then is made even worse when that bitch Skeeter (seriously, I hate her so much, and not in a gurl-you-so-bad kind of way) slams him in that "article". Not only is it further proof that wizards are dicks, but it's Hagrid. He's like a grown up Neville, YOU DO NOT HURT HIM OK! So it makes my heart swell when HRH finally force their way in and join forces with Dumbledore to convince Hagrid he's actually quite a lovely fellow and he shouldn't listen to mean ladies with lying quills. It makes me want to cry when he talks about his dad and why he thinks Harry will win. He's such an earnest character, I love him so, so much. And how great is it when he ends his self-imposed banishment and comes out all 'whatevs like I even care' and proves he's a kick ass Care of Magical Creatures teacher. He's like, unicorns? Screw you old lady, I'm going to catch some baby unicorns which by the law of the internet are 10,000 times cuter than old stinky adult ones. And then I'm going to show these stupid kids nifflers which are adorable AND like shiny things - so they're like two wins in one. Suck it fools.

And then we have the second task, which Harry only just manages to make it to, and it's perhaps my favourite task because it best shows Harry as Harry will come to be. Even when he's a little bit stupid (or a lot. I mean seriously dude, did you actually think Dumbledore would kill students to punish you for failing? Hogwarts safety precautions are lax but not that bad) first and foremost he is loyal, noble to a fault (there's that stupidity thing again) and brave. It's just as important to save a stranger as it is his best friend, and no competition is worth enough to leave people potentially in danger. It manages to show both his faults and his virtues, and paves the way for his often stupid but always well-meaning and brave decisions in the next three books. I also really love that the mer-people are creepy and that they're led by a woman. Those scaly folk know what's what.

Extra thoughts for your dollar

*Just to add to the house elf debate from last week, on p331  Dobby uses the term enslavement to describe the house elves situation.

*I'm really glad Fleur is brought back later, because I disliked her A LOT in this book, but I hated disliking her because I knew I was being told to feel that way about her. At least later she has a bit more substance to her character, so if you still hate her you're hating her on your terms.

*I like how responsible Sirius is in this book. He's the adult Harry needs in his life.

*Does anyone remember reading whether Skeeter was based on a real journo? I felt like that Hermione scene with the hate mail was probably based off mail she received (howlers excluded obvs) after some journo bashed her for dating Gordon Ramsay or something. (she didn't date Gordon Ramsay did she? I just make that up, and I think I'd die if she actually did)

*You become a prefect for the bathroom right?

*Why does Cedric have to be so cryptic with his help? It's not like Harry was like, "hey Cedric, to prepare for the first task maybe take a jump in a volcano - it'll be like that but mobile"

*For some reason I always imagine Ron's dress robes are really slim fitting, like Morticia from the Addam's family. No idea why, but it's hilarious and I recommend you all do the same.

*I can never decide how I feel about Hermione's 'transformation' at the ball- it's too close to the slew of 90s films   about the ugly girl becoming beautiful enough for the handsome guy, but was actually pretty all along and why does she need to take off painter's overalls to be considered beautiful huh? Although I respect Hermione being like, 'yeah dude too much work, I'll save that shit for my wedding or something' - because I know those feels lady.

Is everyone psyched for next week's final installment, also known as that-time-when-the-evil-dudes-got-real-chatty-and-talked-on-and-on-and-on-for-several-chapters?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

My Whirlwind trip in Sydney: Harlequin, Kinokuniya and Anish Kapoor

Last week was pretty rocking. Or two days were anyway. On Wednesday I hopped on a plane and flew down to Sydney for the Harlequin blogger summit, and I extended my trip to spend Thursday with a friend checking out some of the galleries and museums.

I flew in early so that I'd have a chance to check out Sydney and man, I landed on the most gorgeous day possible. The sun was shining, and I had the best time walking from Central Station down to Darling Harbour, popping into book stores and clothing stores that Brisbane could only dream of having. Number one stop along the way was the most wonderful book store ever, Kinokuniya. I must have spent an hour and a half in there easy. Amazingly I made it out with only Ready Player One, but believe me when I tell you how hard it was not to spend several hundreds of my cashesh on all the amazing books, comics and toys they had.

At Darling Harbour I checked out the bridge and the Opera House, (it really was nice of the town planners to situate the two biggest tourist destinations next to one another) and even though I've seen each of them countless times before it's hard not to get caught up in the excitement of all the tourists hanging around the harbour.

Darling Harbour
A quick trip to my hotel to drop off all my stuff and then it was Summit time! Harlequin were nice enough to invite me, along with about 30 other bloggers to their offices in Chatswood for an afternoon of drinks, books and gossip. When I walked in I was met with a room of chairs covered with red bags. The Harlequin team had collected together a gift bag that excited us bloggers a whole bunch. Thanks to Harlequin I now am the owner of;

The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa
With All My Souls by Rachel Vincent
Wicked Kiss by Michelle Rowen
Saving Grace by Fiona McCallum

and a flash drive filled with the romance e-book titles for the whole month of March. And not so bookish, but equally great, was an umbrella - because the weather in Sydney had been less that sunny for the week or two previous.

Harlequin gifts. 
But the afternoon wasn't just about gifts. The team took us through the titles that were being released over the next few months, and introduced us to the new Community page that they've started up. Then author Rachel Vincent regaled us with talk on her books series, her less than smooth trip in Australia and a few teasers about what we can expect from her in the near future. She was very talkative, personable and funny, and wonderfully honest about the difficulties and problems that writing entails. While Rachel signed books, answered questions and posed for photos the rest of us mingled and got to know the people behind the blogs. It was a little awkward at first, mostly because so many of us don't go by our actual names or use photos as our icons - but once the conversations started (thanks to some wine and tasty treats) it was great to talk blog designs, new books, awkward author interactions and a bunch of other blogger topics.

After the afternoon wrapped up, we continued the conversation up at the Chelsea Hotel over more drinks and dinner. Rachel Vincent joined us for a brief spell, and I had a great time speaking to Belle (Belle's Bookshelf), Michelle (Maree's Musings ), Bree (All the Books I Can Read ) and Shelleyrae (Book'd Out) amongst others. I don't know anyone in Brisbane who blogs (about books or anything) so it was nice to finally have people to talk to face to face about blog related issues, but it was nice to also discuss weddings, degrees, living in the city and all the other things that go on in the lives of 20/30 somethings girls.

After the evening it was back to the hotel for a good night's sleep before day 2 of my super-short adventure. It really was a darling hotel, there are a few pictures on my instagram account, but they don't really do it justice. It was a preserved house from the turn of the century filled with creature comforts, personal balconies and the warmest welcome I've received at a hotel for quite a while. If you like the white sterility of Hiltons and Co you'd probably hate it, but I love how much character it had. It was also situated in leafy Chatswood, so it was like leaving the city - while only being a 10 minute train ride away.

The view from the seat on my balcony
Thursday my friend Ollie came up from Newcastle and we spent the day wandering around the city, and visiting the Powerhouse Museum (a must visit if you're ever in Sydney, it was my FAVOURITE place as a kid) which is a science and design museum housed in a huge old warehouse, and the Museum of Contemporary Art to see the Anish Kapoor exhibit. If you haven't heard of Anish Kapoor, he's an artist that like to make your head hurt. Or that might not be his goal, but it's certainly the result! He creates amazing installations and pieces which play with your idea of perspective and make it impossible to know if what you're seeing is, in fact, what you're seeing. There is a lot of work with mirrors and I had a wonderful time snapping the weird reflections of Ollie and I in these pieces. Two of my favourites were a large round mirror that was fragmented and showed a fly's perspective of people around/in front of it. But when you found the sweet spot, you were roughly recreated with these fragments of yourself, and the ambient sounds around you were dampened while your voice was amplified.

My next favourite was a HUGE mirror outside the museum. And when I say huge I mean mind-bogglingly huge and I still can't process exactly how it would have been transported there. It both completely fit in its surroundings and completely at odds with it - I'd love to see it in even more of an odd location, like a park or nature reserve, I'm sure the effect would be amplified even more.

That's me reflected in the big mirror on the right.
And that just about wraps it up. I said goodbye to Ollie and to Sydney and trekked it out to the airport once again. And aside from a brief freak out at the airport when I tried to plug in the wrong code into the self-service desk and thought I'd accidentally booked for the wrong day it was a pretty smooth trip home.

It was super fun to spend two whirl wind days in Sydney, and I must thank Harlequin for giving me an excuse for taking the trip! The summit was amazing, and I'd be the first to put my hand up if they were to host another. Thanks Harlequin!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Book Review: The Children of Men by P.D. James

The Children of Men

Written by: P.D. James

Published: 1992

Synopsis: The human race has become infertile, and the last generation to be born is now adult. Civilization itself is crumbling as suicide and despair become commonplace. Oxford historian Theodore Faron, apathetic toward a future without a future, spends most of his time reminiscing. Then he is approached by Julian, a bright, attractive woman who wants him to help get her an audience with his cousin, the powerful Warden of England. She and her band of unlikely revolutionaries may just awaken his desire to live . . . and they may also hold the key to survival for the human race.

Challenges: Dystopian for Book'd Out's Eclectic Reader Challenge

In place of the challenges I usually do (and fail) each year, I decided to set myself a few goals instead. I wanted to read a more diverse range of books and I wanted to make time to re-read books, something I haven't done much of since starting this blog. The Children of Men was a book I enjoyed a lot the first time around, and when I was looking for a short read to take down to Sydney with me this seemed like the perfect opportunity to see if I liked it as much second time around.

The short answer is yes, oh my god yes I enjoyed this the second time around. In a short book P.D James manages to create a dystopian future that is both horrifying and interesting while also filling it with characters that are at times jarring but always well developed and complex. I hesitate to hold it up against titles like 1984 or Fahrenheit 451 but the future The Children of Men portrays is equally chilling. Our race, no longer able to reproduce, is slowly waiting to die. That in and of itself is fascinating, and a large part of the book is almost a character study of how the protagonist Theo and the people around him choose to handle this truth. How do you work when you know in 20 years 90% of the population will be gone. Why do you keep gardens kept or buildings maintained? Why do you bother with sex and marriage if there can be no children? Why should we be contained by laws if we're all going to die soon anyway, and there will be no one to inherit the mess? Adding to this conceit is the real world potential that James introduces to the narrative. Prior to the mass infertility there had been a noted slump in the amount of children born across Europe. Factor in women choosing career over family, the AIDS epidemic and the worldwide consideration that perhaps a slump would be welcome considering how polluted the world is with our numbers. Perhaps mass infertility will never happen (exactly how it occurred is never explained) but by adding those real world elements it's hard not to stop and think 'what if''.

While I found the world to be amazingly interesting, it was the people that made it most fascinating. There are the Omegas, the last people born before infertility spread across the world. How do you live when your whole life is spent in an unwanted spotlight, a constant reminder that the human race failed and have since given up on living? They're portrayed as surly, mysterious, pretentious, uninterested, beautiful, heart-breaking - the whole gamut of complex and unwanted characteristics, yet retaining a level of sympathy both to us, the readers, and the characters in the book. In a world that hasn't seen a child in 15 years, people have had to turn that attention elsewhere. Some turn to pets, who they baby and coddle and hold birthing parties for. Others, much more darkly effected by their lack of fertility, turn to porcelain dolls as their baby substitutes. They walk their 'children' around in prams and smile brightly as people look over the edge at their little darlings and tickle their fragile china chins. There's something so bleak and desperate in that image, and James manages to paint a ghastly picture of these 'mothers' in a scene that Theo witnesses one morning on his way to work. It's such a brief moment, but it says so much about the world, the psychological state of those left living, and of Theo as he (fails to) react to the situation. It's just one example of how James uses the people in the book to say what needs to be said, a perfect exemplar of the show don't tell rule of story telling.

The Children of Men is fascinating, thrilling and provocative. James has a real skill for crafting a suspenseful and compelling tale that's heavy with implications but not weighty with morality lessons. But above all it's the characters that make this book worth a read, both the secondary characters that appear briefly and the primary characters who dominate the narrative. It's short, sharp and takes a stab at Neighbours which makes it even more worthy of a read. Or a re-read. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Monday Links

*I had an amazing whirlwind 2 days in Sydney last week. I was down for the Harlequin Blogger Summit and had the most wonderful time. It was insane to meet all the bloggers behind the blogs (especially those who use book covers as their blog/twitter/goodreads icons!) and I did not mind being spoiled by Harlequin one bit! If I get time I'll write up a full post about the event, but because I probably won't I'll direct you to the summary that Shelleyrae from Book'd Out wrote up (here), the one by Kat from Book Thingo (here) and the new community page at Harlequin Books, which was launched at the event and which will feature (soon?) a video of us all.

*At least one wall of books is my idea of the perfect room. These 30 spots (some you'll know, like the Shakespeare Company bookstore in Paris) are filled with books and the warm fuzzy feelings books give. (Via Buzzfeed)

*This link I found thanks to Belle over at Belle's Bookshelf, and too good not too share. It's a fascinating look into the life of a ghost writer, of SVH no less. (Via The Kenyon Review)

*Ermeghad, literary cakes. I need to make one of these, stat! Maybe the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea cake, it's insane. (Via Flavorwire)

*Hogwarts made of lego. This, my friends, is art. (Via Warming Glow)

*So as of tomorrow it'll be official, I am visiting the US and Canada in December. Woooo! I've already had a couple of amazingly helpful emails from lovely ladies filled with the best places to go/things to see/food stuff to put in my mouth - but I'm always open to more suggestions! We're going to be in Toronto, Montreal, New York, Boston and maybe Washington (D.C) and LA/San Francisco.  

Friday, March 1, 2013

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Readalong post 2

I know I called Hermione out on being not so great when it came to pets but I feel like she's really grown up in this book and showing a lot more insight when it comes to people. Like with Neville and the Moody unforgivable curses class. She noticed his unease while everyone else, understandably, was staring shocked at the display in front of them. Then she brought Harry toast so he wouldn't have to face the masses, and she believed him instantly when he told her he hadn't put his name in the goblet. Sure she doesn't have Ron's baggage to get in the way, but she was so rational and understanding and I have even more respect for her. Team Hermione for always.

 So Harry is supposed to be an amazing Quidditch player, right? But Krum is 3 years older and playing for Bulgaria (which, by the way, is clearly where Durmstrang is right?) and it isn't like you get drafted to play for a country side and are immediately their star seeker. He would have worked his way up to that, probably on a B squad, or at least a training squad for a year (at least) before they trusted a teenager for the world cup. Anyway, what I'm getting at is that even if Harry is a great seeker by Hogwarts standards, he's clearly not by competition standards or England already would have tried to get him so they could groom him to be their star.

This section of the book is very Triwizard Tournament heavy (which I keep writing as Twiwizard for some reason) and I have some questions and problems with this whole thing.

First, it is really stupid to have the headmasters as judges in the competition. I mean, either you add more judges and go by the rule of taking off the highest and lowest score and averaging the rest, or you pick impartial judges who have no reason to vote someone up or down. I don't even care if that's what the tradition is, it's been 1000 years, you're allowed to change some things up.

Second, why do it by age, why not by year level? If you make it seventh years then no one gets left out just because they had the misfortune of being born at the end of the school year, especially when they clearly know the same stuff that the other people in their year know. I guess it could be a 17 = adult in the wizarding world, and therefore no parental allowance required, but considering their kids are constantly under the threat of death at Hogwarts I hardly see parents objecting to it.

Third, why can't they excuse Harry? Is entering your name akin to the unbreakable oath that comes up in book 6? And if he technically can't pull out, why doesn't anyone advise him to just sit on the sideline and do nothing. Surely after a while they'd just disqualify or mark him as 0 points right? And why doesn't he speak up and say "guys, I sorta daydreamed about how awesome this would be, but I've only had 3 years of wizarding education and to be honest I'm not great at it, so do you think you can do something to get me out of this hell hole?"

And finally, what do the other Beauxbaton and Durmstrang students do for the year? Do they all get taught by their headmaster during the day, or do they just get a year off? And is the education system the same over there? Do they all start at 11 and go for 7 years? Or do they start earlier/later or organise their semesters differently? Also, they're kidding themselves if they think there schools are truly hidden. Sure, we could never find them. But Beauxbatons? Come on, you'd have to be an absolute idiot to not guess that they're in France somewhere. So calm down Karkaroff, mentioning mountains is not the end of the world.

Le Notes: 

*I do feel kinda bad for Harry with the entire school turning against him, but at the same time it's probably good not to have everyone instantly worship him like usual.

*The badges are especially mean though.

*Mention of Gregorovitch the wandmaker on p271. JK I love you.

*If Moody had to demonstrate the unforgivable curses did he have to use spiders? I mean jesus dude, bringing spiders into class is terrifying enough.

*Seriously, Rita Skeeter is the WORST. I hate her acid green robes and her stupid face.

*I really enjoy the Fred and George side story. It's a little darker than their usual pranks and jokes routine.

*This is the one time Hagrid's inability to keep a secret was a good thing. Pretty sure Harry would have just collapsed and died if he hadn't had prior warning of the dragons.

*I think this is the first time I realised exactly how big the Forbidden Forest is. They manage to hide 4 cranky dragons in there, no wonder it's forbidden.

*I think it's hilarious that Hermione is so dismissive of Ron and his obsession with Krum, but she was so ridiculous over Lockhart. Girl, take a good hard look in the mirror.

*Bill's pretty good, but Charlie Weasley was always number 1 in my heart. I mean, dragons. Enough said.

*Question about Karkaroff. So he was a deatheater, but he's clearly from overseas. Was there a legion of overseas wizards on Voldey's side and/or was his terror international?

Next week, the Yule Ball!


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