Friday, August 30, 2013

Book Review: The Drawing of the Three (Gunslinger #2) by Stephen King

The Drawing of the Three (Gunslinger #2)

written by: Stephen King

Published: 1987

Synopsis: After his confrontation with the man in black at the end of The Gunslinger, Roland awakes to find three doors on the beach of Mid-World's Western Sea—each leading to New York City but at three different moments in time. Through these doors, Roland must "draw" three figures crucial to his quest for the Dark Tower. In 1987, he finds Eddie Dean, The Prisoner, a heroin addict. In 1964, he meets Odetta Holmes, the Lady of Shadows, a young African-American heiress who lost her lower legs in a subway accident and gained a second personality that rages within her. And in 1977, he encounters Jack Mort, Death, a pusher responsible for cruelties beyond imagining. Has Roland found new companions to form the ka-tet of his quest? Or has he unleashed something else entirely?

Since this is the second book in the series you can expect a certain amount of spoilers from the first book. Also, you should go read my review of The Gunslinger (book #1).

"There were too many shaky hands holding lighters near too many fuses. This was no world for Gunslingers. If there had been a time for them, it had passed" 

I actually began this book months and months ago, but when I read through 250 pages in the space of an afternoon I decided it was best to try and slow it down a little. Somehow that meant leaving it on my bedside table for 3+ months which, now that I've finished it, I can't believe I managed because you guys, The Dark Tower series is so freaking good.

The first book was something of an enigma to me. The basic plot was straight-forward enough, but I spent the whole time trying to decipher the hints and teasers for the rest of the series. Because it's definitely the kind of book you come back to after completing the series only to go "of course! How did I not see that before!" In any case, I spent the whole book wondering and questioning everything, which was great but also kind of exhausting. This book on the other hand is a lot more grounded in the current action and a lot less fantasy based. I mean, as less fantastical as a book with "lobstrosities" (lobster like menaces) and doors to different time periods in New York can be.

And the doors to New York are awesome. One of the things I loved most about this book is the world-jumping. I'm still not sure where/when this series is set, it could be a future Earth or a parallel Earth or something completely different* - but one thing is for sure, it's a world apart from what we know, and our world is as alien to Roland as his is to us. When Roland "jumps" from his world into another via one of the doors, he is struck by the unsettling differences and similarities between the worlds. He can understand what people are saying, most of the time. He can recognise certain items, but others are completely foreign to him. And because we spend most of the book in or around Roland's head it's just as unsettling for us since we hear his interpretation, and not what is actually said...if that makes even a lick of sense. It's like Chinese whispers, and it is a really effective way of forcing you into the dead centre of the narrative.

But the differences don't only exist for Roland. The three characters Roland finds through these three doors, Eddie, Odetta and Jack, are from three different decades in New York. This leads to some confusion and problems between them. References aren't always recognisable, words have different meanings and their priorities are worlds apart. It adds a whole different level to the story, instead of just wondering if the people from our world can survive in Roland's world (or with Roland), you begin to wonder if they can survive each other. Not that there's necessarily a level of danger between them (well...), but I found myself wondering if their chasm of differences would cause further problems down the trail. I really liked the three people Roland found through the doors. Or, well, no. I didn't like them like them, but I found them to be fascinating characters moulded and shaped by the version of the city that they call home. There's Eddie, a heroin addict in the late 1980s who is barely keeping his head above the waves. O/detta, a black woman with a split personality during the civil rights movement who is equal parts compassion and aggression. And Jack Mort, a villainous psychopath in the vein of King's best creeps. Jack's section of the story just gave me the heebies the whole time - but the way his part ties into the rest of the narrative was magnificent. You're meant to hate Jack Mort, feel conflicted about Odetta and feel connected to Eddie. Although, it is possible I only feel a connection for Eddie because he reminds me so much of Jesse off Breaking Bad (which is hardly a bad thing), but aside from Roland he's the most fleshed out of the characters in this book and he quickly became my favourite of the three.

And Roland. Poor, tough, sweet Roland. It is ridiculous how much I like the guy. He's the quintessential lone cowboy; tortured soul, rough past, in built sense of justice, travelling alone but craving company, knows that the right thing will probably result in his death or the death of the ones he loves but continues anyway. *sigh* I just really, really care about him, and in this book he spends much of it close to death after an attack by a lobstrosity so I spent a lot of the book with my hand to my mouth stressing out. I was a little worried that with him so weak and ill the narrative would grind to a halt, but since he exists inside Eddie/Odetta/Jack in their worlds and doesn't rely on his actual physical strength we get to see him thinking and acting fast, forging connections (somewhat badly at times) with the three, and being comically out of step with the world around him.

This book is really hard to review because I feel like there's so much more to mention, but it all needs so much explanation and what I've tried to explain, I've explained badly. And yet, none of it is discussed extensively or with lengthy exposition scenes in the actual book. That's part of King's success as a writer, and not just in this series. He's able to create complicated worlds with extensive rules which you understand almost instinctively. I know I hark on about how great Stephen King is every time I review one of his books, but the guy deserves way more respect than he's ever given. And this series just really, really pushes that point home. Truth.

*I just know those of you who've read the series are laughing at my dismal attempts to decipher the book!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Learning to Love A Sunburnt Country, or Australian Fiction for Newbies.

So last week Laura reviewed one of my favourite books, Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner. Ethel Turner is a bit of a hero of mine. At a time when "Australian" children's books were mostly written by British dudes who had never been to Australia and were always about a recently transplanted English kid who tumbles through the bush and finds himself at the pointy end of an aboriginal's spear and does some Boy's Adventure stuff and ends with a rousing game of cricket. Ms Turner called bullshit on this because Australian children are not like British kids, as she details in the intro to Seven Little Australians.
If you imagine you are going to read of model children, with perhaps a naughtily inclined one to point a moral, you had better lay down the book immediately and betake yourself to 'Sandford and Merton' or similar standard juvenile works. Not one of the seven is really good, for the very excellent reason that Australian children never are. 
In England, and America, and Africa, and Asia, the little folks may be paragons of virtue, I know little about them. But in Australia a model child is--I say it not without thankfulness--an unknown quantity. It may be that the miasmas of naughtiness develop best in the sunny brilliancy of our atmosphere. It may be that the land and the people are young-hearted together, and the children's spirits not crushed and saddened by the shadow of long years' sorrowful history. 
There is a lurking sparkle of joyousness and rebellion and mischief in nature here, and therefore in children.
And in a single introduction an entire national identity was born. Well, we had our national identity pretty well sown up before this book was released in 1894 but it reiterates the most important parts pretty spectacularly. And the book only gets better, so read it please. All of this is a long way of saying that it is thanks to Laura and Alley that I'm writing this post because they both said they were devastated they hadn't read more Australian fiction and were weeping rivers of tears and asking would I please help them? Or at least that's how I remember it happening.

I actually touched on this subject earlier this year in an Armchair BEA post about children's literature. I wrote specifically about picture, children and YA books written by Australians, although not necessarily take place in Australia. So I might use that as a jumping off point, and write a series of posts which cover the early history of fiction in Australia (because it's fascinating), as well as looking at more contemporary authors and culminating with the mother of all lists. I'll try to keep from going overboard but I spent A LOT of time at university studying just this so it's possible I'll go too far (sorry not sorry). Also, because I'm pretty proud of a lot of our female writers (did you know the first novel published in Australia was written by a woman?) it's possible this will be a super biased list and you should probably check out the Australian Gov site for a more complete history.

So even if you only really want to read contemporary Australian books you should probably still read some of the writings of our bush poets. Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson are the two main dudes in this category. You've all heard the song Waltzing Matilda right? Well that's a Banjo Paterson poem and along with The Man From Snowy River is probably one of the most famous Australian bush poems.  Paterson and Lawson were pretty different when it came to their writing, Paterson favoured a romantic approach to working and living in the bush, seeing it as a motivating strength to our national identity while Lawson was more of a realist and tended to be a little bit more political with his poems. If you have some time you should check out the shit they used to throw at each other either through their poems or the articles they wrote for Australian papers. Also, Henry Lawson was the son of noted suffragist and feminist Louisa Lawson which is probably why Henry turned out so damn stellar, and is still considered Australia's greatest writer.

Speaking of feminists and Henry Lawson. Miles Franklin (pseudonym for Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin) is probably one of Australia's most noted female authors. She's best known for her 1901 novel My Brilliant Career which she wrote as a TEENAGER. She then passed it on to Henry Lawson who gave it to his publishers and BOOM. She bequeathed her estate to create the Miles Franklin Literary Award which is THE award to win if you're an Australian author, and a pretty good place to look if you're after books that are about Australia and by Australians. And still speaking of feminists and Henry Lawson, READ BARBARA BAYNTON. She's amazing. She basically grabbed all of the bush poets by the ear and said "what about the ladies huh? How do they fit into this idyllic view of life in the bush?" (except Henry Lawson whose short story The Drover's Wife covered similar ground - told you he was stellar). If you read anything in this list make it her short story The Chosen Vessel, (originally titled The Tramp) which is basically a harrowing gothic-esque short story about a woman alone on a bush homestead who is harassed and threatened by a passing tramp. It's terrifying and reminds me a lot of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. If you want to read more of Baynton (and I suggest you do) get hold of Bush Tales which is a collection of short stories that includes The Chosen Vessel and Squeaker's Mate (equally good and terrifying). This review from ANZ Lit Lovers covers more than I could ever hope to.

 Joseph Furphy writing under the name Tom Collins published the novel Such is Life which remains one of Australia's best known and regarded novels. It's written in the vernacular of the day, so it can be tricky to get into (think Trainspotting) but it's a humourous, realistic (realism being the 19th century genre du jour) novel that presents something of an all encompassing look at the Australian way of life. The title, by the way, comes from Ned Kelly's supposed final words as he was about to be hanged. David Unaipon was 1000 kinds of awesome. Not only was he a writer and an inventor (trivia fans -he's on our $50 note) but he was indigenous. And this is a big deal because he was the first published indigenous writer, and he was responsible for breaking through a lot of the "savage native" stereotypes that existed at the time. He was often referred to as the Australian Leonardo Di Vinci which is a killer compliment to give a scientist.

Ruth Park is technically from New Zealand, however she began writing after she moved to Australia to marry author Darcy Niland. She was a prolific author, owing apparently to the lack of books in her life growing up. Her book Playing Beattie Bow was a favourite of my mums and she passed that down to me as soon as I could read. However I think her book The Harp in the South was probably her most famous novel both in Australia and internationally. And because I'm completely shallow, you should check out her picture because dayum the lady was stunning.

Who else needs mentioning? Henry Handel Richardson (pseudonym for Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson) was a novelist best known for her 1910 coming of age novel The Getting of Wisdom. Marcus Clarke's novel For the Term of His Natural Life explored life as a convict in early Australian settlement. May Gibbs wrote the beloved Snugglepot and Cuddlepie children's stories and Dorothy Hewitt was a poet, playwright and novelist followed by controversy. Then of course there is poet Dorothea McKellar whose second verse of her poem My Country gave Bill Bryson the title for his travel book on Australia.
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
And I think I'll end this post here, not only because it is already HUGE but because you can find most of these authors online and for free (especially the short story and poetry writers) and the next bunch will necessitate library and book store searches. But hopefully this has been somewhat interesting and you don't feel like I've just regurgitated a bunch of essays at you. This is actually my favourite era of Australian writing because it's so fundamental to the writing of contemporary Australian authors and contemporary Australian society. I don't think people tend to think of Australia as a place for progressive thought especially early in our history (and for the most part, as a country, we weren't) but the most prolific authors from this era were all republicans, nationalists, communists, feminists and were constantly challenging the societal norms of the day. And that's something to be proud of.

Next week I'll look at authors who published after WW2, and I'll follow it with a final post that'll basically just be a list of books to read I think. If any Aussie bloggers are reading let me know if I've missed anything out or gotten any of the details wrong.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday Links

*It's my birthday in less than a month and I am EXCITED! It's funny how friends and family seem to get steadily less excited the older they get, I guess the increasing numbers is scary, but I love birthdays and I start to get excited at around the 6 week mark. And it's not even the presents thing, or at least, it's not just the presents thing that I love. It's a day for *me* and me alone (shhhh other x million people born on September 15) and I can do whatever I want, and I can do it with the people I love and care about and it's all just wonderful. Just felt like sharing this rather useless tidbit with you all before launching into the regular Links post.

*Here are a bunch of famous artistic works created in exile. Some are more self-imposed than others *cough cough* The Rolling Stones avoiding taxes *cough cough* but still. (Via Mental Floss)

*I found this Book Riot article on framing devices in WW2 books to be really interesting, and something I'd never really noticed before - or at least not consciously. (Via Book Riot)

*True Blood is the silliest show on TV, but I still love it. Here's a delightful little article about how Jason Stackhouse is actually the show's greatest creation. (Via Flavorwire)

*Bryan Cranston has been cast as Lex Luther in the next Superman movie!! I totally called this on Facebook a month ago! I'm really excited, especially since we already know he can do menacing bald guy. (Via News)

*Speaking of acting and superheroes. Here's Simon Pegg having a cheeky poke at the people who went crazy when he posted a picture of himself next to an Ant Man standee. (Via Uproxx)

*HP Lovecraft's birthday was last week - here's a nice little celebration of some of his creepiest book covers (Via Flavorwire)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Movie Trailer: The Book Thief (2013)

The Book Thief is one of those books that seems to divide readers, but I think since a lot of the typical complaints (the prose, the narration, maybe even Death?) are obviously absent in the film it might end up liked more than the book. Assuming of course that they don't make a complete ass of the story. But also, can I just say how impressed I am that they're using German accents? I don't know enough Germans to know if they're actually good accents, but it's better than the generic English accent most films pass off as European right?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Movie Trailer: How I Live Now (2013)

I had heard they were planning on making a film out of Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now but I somehow missed all the casting news and production details until the trailer came out (as usual). Anyway, it's been awhile since I read the book but it looks like it's remaining pretty close to the text and Saoirse Ronan is always a good casting choice so it could be a decent little YA film.

Has anyone else read the book? I remember not loving the narration (first person, no punctuation, occasional txt speak) so maybe making it a film will actually improve it!

Top 10 Tuesday: Things That Make my Life Easier as a Blogger

Hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

1. Twitter
Sometimes it really sucks being an Australian blogger. Take for instance right now with Bout of Books, I'd love to take part in the twitter convos but they're right in the middle of my day and as much as I love to procrastinate I really shouldn't! But that hasn't stopped Twitter from being an awesome blogging tool, whether to get word out about my reviews and giveaways, to lament or celebrate the ending of a favourite book (or TV series - Hello Breaking Bad obsession!), to talk bookish and non-bookish things with blog friends or to send gushing 140 character love letters to authors - it's the MOST great! Honestly, if I wasn't a blogger I don't think I'd even bother with twitter, but since I am, it's a part of my day to day life.

2. Goodreads
I know everyone got really worried when Amazon bought out Goodreads, but I've got to be honest, they'd have to go realllllllly off the rails for me to turn my back on them. Aside from being a fun place to connect with other readers, this site is a god send for tracking my progress and reading stats. If I'm at the book store and want to buy something I can scroll through my 'To Read' list and check out the books that have been lingering there for awhile, or if I find a book that looks interesting I can get an idea what my blogging friends have thought of it as well as the rest of the reading community. Just...keep clear of the comments on some (most) reviews because damn, people can be nasty.

3. Net Galley
I'm pretty new to Net Galley but I'm really loving it as a place to find new galleys to read and review AND to see what's trending with other bloggers at the moment. My reading preferences vary pretty far from the popular reads but it's nice to keep on top of the latest reading preferences for other bloggers - mermaids seem pretty in right now right?

4. The Kindle App
I don't have a Kindle (or any kind of e-reader) but if I'm sent a review copy 9 times out of 10 it's in ebook form. Thanks to the kindle app I can actually read on my phone (and considering how flippin' huge smart phones are now that's absolutely fine!) or my boyfriend's tablet rather than have to boot up my laptop and sit in front of the screen to read. Computers are not conducive to imaginative reading - blame it on the news and my PhD I guess? My reading speed has picked up astronomically since making this switch, and it means I always have a book with me, no matter what.

5. Etsy
This might not seem like an obvious choice, but when I host a giveaway (which, granted, is not too often) I like to include a secondary little gift along with the book. Because Etsy is populated by awesome crafty people, you can find pretty much anything you want, and they'll usually package it up sweetly so you can send it directly to the winner. Also, if you're the kind of blogger who wants business cards or personalised stationary, you'll be hard pressed finding a greater range at a better price than what's available on Etsy.

6. Instagram
Like Twitter this is just a fun way to connect with other readers and bloggers. Things like the Estella Society #Estellagram photo challenges are a great way to look at your reading and blogging in a new way, and readalongs and readathons are only made better when you share your progress and reading piles and snack choices! And I just really like looking at how other bloggers live #SwearImNotAStalker

7. Audiobooks
I'm still pretty new to audiobooks, but they're SO great right?! If you've been to this blog before you'll know  about my struggles to balance my PhD with reading and reviewing, and audiobooks are the perfect way for me to get some reading done without sacrificing research time. Plus there are some books, autobiographies for example, which I think benefit exponentially from having the author reading them.

8. My phone!
This sort of ties into the Kindle App, but thanks to having a smart phone I can reply to comments on my blog, read and comment on other blogs, update my goodreads, read new books, make notes about the book I'm reading or record quotes, add important dates into my calender, receive and reply to emails instantly....Yeah, I think you get the picture. It makes being a busy gal oh so easy.

9. You guys 
Nawwwwwww! But seriously you guys rock! If people didn't comment on my reviews and posts from time to time, include me in discussions on twitter, or comment on my Goodreads progress, well I don't know if I'd still be blogging. It can be a pretty solitary hobby at times, especially when you're all the way over in Australia, but it's the community that makes it all worth while. So thanks a bunch for being awesome people.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Bout of Books Master Post

Bout of Books

It's Bout of Books time everyone! I know a lot of you are posting insanely huge book piles and novel length goal lists but things are going to be a little bit smaller here on my end. Basically, I've been in a little bit of a reading slump recently, what with trying to balance it with uni and work and life, so I'm hoping this will help tease me out of that slump and back into my regular reading habits.

So this is my pile of Bout of Books to-reads. I don't plan to read them all, and I probably won't even start them all, but they're the books I want to dedicate this week to reading. Some are books I really really want to read (Eleanor and Park, A Dirty Job), some are books I should have read by now (Smoke and Mirrors - I started it in January, put it down in February and have about 40 pages to go!) and others are there because they must (Skeleton Crew - It's not a readalong/readathon without some King).

My goals for Bout of Books: 

*Read at least 50 pages each day. With my commute, lunch break and an hour or so in the evening I should be able to do this easily. I hope.

*Take part in at least 3 of the challenges during the week.

*Keep you all up to date with my reading progress each night

*Visit 2-3 new blogs each night.

*Avoid too much internet-y distraction.

And that is that! I'll be back tonight to update my reading progress below and maybe a challenge or two.

Happy reading!


Monday isn't exactly over yet, but I have plans to watch a DVD with my boyfriend (and the new Breaking Bad - WOOO!) so any pages read will probably be negligible and I'll just add them to tomorrow's tally.

So, onto my progress thus far;

Total pages read this challenge: 151 pages
Books read from today: Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde, Oldboy by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi
Books finished: 0
Challenges participated in: 'Book Bucket List' hosted by Sarah of Sarah Says Read, 'Pairathon Challenge' by Nikki of Book Pairing
Blogs visited: Actin' Up with Books, Life Merging, Tiny Library
Time spent on the internets: 1.5 hours

I really liked Sarah's challenge, I've thought long and hard well before today about what my bookish bucket list, and I don't think it's a list that'll ever be completed. I probably took the weenie way out a little and answered in the broadest way possible but shhhhhh, it's definitely something I want to do.
What is one bookish thing you want to do before you die? OR what is one thing you want to do before you die that was inspired by a book you read?
My answer:
I think I’d like to dedicate a European holiday to really bookish things. I wouldn’t worry about the Eiffel tower or Piccadilly Circus – I’d just go to all those amazing libraries you see pictured online all the time, and visit the favourite writing areas or homes of my favourite authors or legendary book settings. To take 3 weeks or a month to travel around doing this would be AMAZING!


So I ended up barely reading today. Uni was hectic, the bus was full so I had to stand and since Tom's not well we ended up watching a few episodes of American Horror Story and having an early night. But I did get up to the super exciting roller-coaster climax bit of Lost in a Good Book, so I'm pretty sure I'm going to manage to get it finished tomorrow. And then I think I'll start on E&P because EEEEK RAINBOW ROWELL! But I should probably try and finish Oldboy before I start something new because I have 10,000 half read books sitting in my house right now.

Pages read today: 47
Total pages read this readathon: 198
Books read from today: Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde,
Books finished: 0 (but I'm so close to done with Lost in a Good Book!
Challenges participated in: 0 from Bout of Books, but I did do Top 10 Tuesday
Blogs visited: Sarah Says Read, Devouring Texts, Book Nympho
time spent on the internets: too much

Oh and also, I came across this delightful video of a group of librarians who put together a videoclip for the Beastie Boys' 'Sabotage'. It's fantastic.


Wednesday was a pretty quiet reading day, even if I did manage to nearly hit the 100 pages mark with my reading. I was at the meaty end of Lost in a Good Book and I went from reading on the bus to reading while I walked from my bus to my office, to reading at my desk while waiting for my computer to boot up, to sighing and putting it down when I finally finished it. I really liked this book, a great deal more than the first in the Thursday Next series (and I liked that one plenty), and the last 100 pages of the book was just a whirl of action of humour and pathos. I never expected this series to bring out many emotions, but 20 pages before the book finished I had a few tears welling in my eyes. So that's my first book down, wooo! I'm on to Eleanor and Park next and the second half of Oldboy, and with the rate I'm reading (wayyyyy higher than I was expecting) I'm thinking I might get three books finished! WHAT! But yeah, so aside from my morning engrossment with the climax of Lost in a Good Book most of my spare time was spent writing up a few reviews that I've been umming and ahhhing over and taking part in Ellie's challenge. I think it's still going so you should take part if you haven't already because what reader doesn't love thinking about going into a book store with a bunch of money to buy any book they like? NO ONE THAT'S WHO!

Pages read today: 84
Total pages read this readathon: 282 pages
Books read from today: Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde,
Books finished: 1
Challenges participated in: TBR pile hosted by Ellie of Musings of a bookshop girl
Blogs visited: I Blog for Books, Heydor Reads,
time spent on the internets: Not too much, and most of it was spent on Ellie's challenge and writing up a couple of reviews.

Ellie's challenge questions and my answers:
1. Which 5 books are at the top of your TBR pile at this moment? 

2. If I gave you a wad of cash and sent you into a bookshop right now, which 5 books would you buy to add to the stack?

 P.S. It's totally my birthday in less that a month, *hint hint* ^ books I'm drooling over ^ *hint hint*


So Thursday was kind of crazy. I finally got the guts to start E&P (I was terrified that a/ it wouldn't live up to my love of Attachments or b/I'd love it too much and then have no more Rowell to read) and once I started...I didn't stop. Well, kind of. I started reading on the bus, fell in love but somehow managed to keep it in my bag until the trip home and THEN I just kept reading. This is exactly what I did when I read Attachments, and even though I'm pretty sleepy today I totally wouldn't change a thing. If you haven't read E&P then DO IT! It's such a beautiful, sweet, sad book and I love it's guts. I'm a little worried about reviewing it, because I'm pretty sure it'll mostly be italics and capitals and SQUEEES and ZOMGS, but that's future Kayleigh's problem and I don't give a shit about that bitch. haha.

Pages read today: 325 pages
Total pages read this challenge: 607
Books read from today: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Books finished: 2
Challenges participated in: None today
Blogs visited: None.
Time spent on the internets: Like 20 minutes? Not much anyway!


Today was a pretty small reading day, partly because I didn't want to start another book so soon after finishing E&P and also because I had so much else happening I only had my lunch break and half an hour before bed to spend reading. I started Skeleton Crew, but since the first short story 'The Mist' is actually novella length I decided to read a couple of the later short stories during my lunch break instead. I read 'Here There be Tygers' and 'The Monkey', both of which were really short and a little meh about. 'The Monkey' ended up pretty creepy, but I found the first few pages really draggy, so it took awhile to get into. Before bed I decided to try and finish Oldboy, which I did. This is book 1 of 7, so not a whole lot happened at all really - or perhaps it feels that way because I've seen the film so I know what's coming, but it felt very much like a first chapter and I'm kicking myself for not buying book 2 at the same time so I could have progressed into the more meaty part of the story. Not book related at all, but still super awesome was the way I spent my Friday night. A few friends came over and we spent the night playing board games, 'The Resistence', 'City of Horror' and 'Galaxy Truckers'. All three are extremely fun and very easy to pick up the rules for (which was important since we had a newbie playing with us) but everyone should play 'City of Horror' - you have to try and survive the zombie apocalypse by killing zombies and/or voting for people to be thrown to the swarm. It gets very alliance-y and shouty and fun.

Pages read today: 129 pages
Total pages read this challenge: 736 pages
Books read from today: Skeleton Crew by Stephen King, Old boy by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi
Books finished: 3
Challenges participated in: None
Blogs visited: Lit Nerd, Potterhead Reviews
Time spent on the internets: Half an hour.

Happy weekend reading guys!


Just a teeny tiny update for today. my reading has decreased a little bit over  the weekend, what with work and family lunches and watching movies with the boyfriend, but it's still above my goal average. So yay! I'm mostly through 'The Mist' which is pretty good, a little lovecraftian and a whole lot Kingian. And actually, the film based on it is pretty accurate in terms of keeping to the story. It's not a great film, but compared to the drek that often gets made when King is adapted to film this is pretty solid. I'm eager to get to the end of the story because I know the film changed that, and King has actually said he preferred the way the film ended. I should be able to get the story done by the end of Bout of Books, it's just a pity that I think I might be just short of 1000 pages read overall. Oh well, still a lot better than I expected!

Pages read today: 79
Total pages read this challenge: 815
Books read from today: Skeleton Crew by Stephen King,
Books finished: 3
Challenges participated in: None
Blogs visited: The Space Between,
Time spent on the internets: 1 hour


I might not have hit 1000 pages (so close! only 112 pages off!) but I came so much closer than I expected, and I had a whole lot of fun doing it. This week was a blast, and also READING SLUMP OVER!

Pages read today: 73
Total pages read this challenge: 888
Books read from today: Skeleton Crew by Stephen King,
Books finished: 3
Challenges participated in: hosted by Dana of Little Lovely Books
Blogs visited: Musings of a Bookshop Girl, Devouring Texts, Tiny Library
Time spent on the internets: 1 hour

One of my goals this readathon was to make time to visit some new blogs and see how everyone else is doing with their reading and goals. Given that I'm in Australia and the twitter chats happen at less than convenient times for me (damn you time zones!), the blog visiting has been the main way for me to keep active in the Bout of Book community. I haven't been able to go to as many new blogs as I would have liked but I've managed to visit a new blog or two practically everyday, and I'm pretty ok with that! Dana at Little Lovely Books has created a great final challenge that perfectly ties in with this little goal of mine!

Dana's challenge asks for us to make a list of 5 bloggers that you found during this Bout of Books. 

My list of new found bloggers and blogs:
Ellie at Lit Nerd,
Kaylie at Potterhead Reviews
 Life Merging
Sam at Tiny Library
Heydor Reads,

Wrap up:

So here is where I remind you what my goals were for this week and how well I did or didn't do. And actually, I think I did pretty splendidly!

*Read at least 50 pages each day. I actually read under my goal on Tuesday (only by 3 pages though) but I averaged 127 pages each day which makes up for it I think! I probably wouldn't have come close to this if I hadn't read E&P, but there you go - further proof that book is amazing!

*Take part in at least 3 of the challenges during the week. I ended up taking part in 4, all of which were a lot of fun and a welcome internet distraction each night.

*Keep you all up to date with my reading progress each night. Tick, tick, tick. I was a little chattier in some of my updates than in others, but you guys probably preferred the shorter ones!

*Visit 2-3 new blogs each night. If I go by averages again I got this one ticked off, although I missed out visiting any blogs completely on Thursday night. But the main point of this goal was to try and visit new blogs and keep abreast of everyone else's progress and I think I would consider this one a success even if I only made it to one per night.

*Avoid too much internet-y distraction. I had a whole mess of other distractions this week, but aside from some time spent writing reviews and filling in these posts I actually managed to keep my nights internet free. That was an achievement in and of itself considering how much time I usually spend online and it was nice to distance myself a little.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Book Review: World War Z by Max Brooks

World War Z

Written by: Max brooks

Published: 2006

Synopsis: The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. World War Z is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years.

Ranging from the now infamous village of New Dachang in the United Federation of China, where the epidemiological trail began with the twelve-year-old Patient Zero, to the unnamed northern forests where untold numbers sought a terrible and temporary refuge in the cold, to the United States of Southern Africa, where the Redeker Plan provided hope for humanity at an unspeakable price, to the west-of-the-Rockies redoubt where the North American tide finally started to turn, this invaluable chronicle reflects the full scope and duration of the Zombie War.

"Ignorance was the real enemy, and cold, hard facts were the weapons"

So remember in my WWZ film review when I said;
Zombies don't sell. What sells is the story that the zombies facilitate, a story about people surviving, solving problems, dealing with their shit and looking badass while they do it.
This is that story. And even though there are probably a few (*ahem* a lot *ahem*) of you going "yeah but no, zombies blechhh", this is still one of those books that I suggest to everyone. Because it isn't about the zombies, they factor in of course and there are definitely some tense and scary scenes, but it's really about how the world survives an attack of proportions we'd never imagined possible. And it's brilliant, like really truly undeniably brilliant.

Over the course of 8 sections (Warnings, The Great Panic, Around the World and Above etc), Brooks tells the story from the early days of the infection to the final fights to take back our planet. Each section is made up of a series of recollections, eye witness accounts from  doctors and scientists, generals and soldiers, politicians and filmmakers, conscripts and families. People who were there, were integral to the events, and who have their own personal story to tell. But best of all, this story is universal. It's not just told from the American perspective (although a large portion of it is), you read accounts from people in China, Australia, Cuba, Canada, India, Iran and Israel, and you get to see how each country reacts to the threat and deals with the aftermath. The result is a rich and complex story.

Brooks clearly did a great deal of research about the politics, culture and history of each country in WWZ, and so the unfolding of each story reflects the characteristics which make up that country's national identity. North Korea, unsurprisingly, disappears off the map completely. Cuba's lengthy history of civil tension and difficult relations with America becomes a strength when faced with the zombie threat and the influx of American immigrants escaping the zombie-infested US. Parts of Europe returned to the middle ages, choosing ancient battle weapons and the safety of castles over modern technology. And America's recent involvement in a different war weighs heavily on the political and social reaction to the early zombie reports.

The result is a very realistic story. When you hear that Russia returned to a theocracy and is using the weakness of the rest of the world to try and return themselves to their former strength you don't blink twice. When you read that Israel was one of the first to accept the early reports and initialise a self-quarantine, and that the reasoning is that their past made them cautious and unlikely to discount any report no matter how unlikely, you can accept it. Everything is connected to actual historical events and cultural perspectives, so you can't help but wonder whether that's actually how it would happen if we woke up to an influx of zombies tomorrow.

This carries over into the human interest side of the story as well. From the way the zombie infection likely spread from the first reported case in China;
 "China used to be the largest exporter of human organs on the world market. Who knows how many infected corneas, infected pituitary glands...Mother of god, who knows how many infected kidneys they pumped into the global market. And that's just the organs! You want to talk about the "donated" eggs from political prisoners, the sperm, the blood? You think immigration was the only way the infection swept the planet? Not all the initial outbreaks were Chinese nationals."

To the role politicians and public figures, such as the English royal family, played in encouraging hope;
 "They were viewed very much like castles, I suppose: as crumbling, obsolete relics, with no real modern function other than as tourist attractions. But when the skies darkened and the nation called, both re-awoke to the meaning of their existence. One shielded our bodies, the other shielded our souls"

 To the reaction of soldiers in this new war-zone;
"It's fear dude, just fear and you don't have to be Sun freakin Tzu to know that real fighting isn't about killing or even hurting the other guy, it's about scaring him enough to call it a day. Break their spirit, that's what every successful army goes for, from tribal face pain to the "blitzkrieg" to...what did we call the first round of Gulf War Two, 'shock and awe'? Perfect name, 'Shock and Awe'! But what if the enemy can't be shocked and awed? Not just won't, but biologically can't?"

Sorry to just pull-quote at you, but I find it all so fascinating that I just can't help myself. Plus, I think it does a pretty good job (especially the last one) of showing how it's more about the people and less about the zombies. Instead of the soldiers being scared of undead monsters, they're confused and terrified by the fact that all of their training is now for naught. The pilots are grounded because the zombies can't launch air attacks, missiles aren't as effective on the undead, and strategies and formations have to be redesigned to best target an enemy that can only be taken done by a shot to the brain. Every system is shaken up and no one is confident or sure of themselves. And this is a big part in why the world is overrun so quickly. Sure new conflicts and wars come up now and again, but everything is so formulaic, they hit them, they hit them back, they use drones, they use drones back etc etc ad infinitum. Any time the rules aren't followed, like with the terrorist attack on the world trade centres or in this case of a zombie infection, we're met with chaos and panic.

Though the book is made up of a selection of eye-witness accounts loosely formulated into a chronological order, it's not just a chaotic or academic form of storytelling. Early accounts will be acknowledged or built upon by interviewees later in the book or facts from one stories are discounted as fiction in another. Basically it's a living document, full of rumours and fears and anger but most of all there's a sense of hope and of our perseverance as a species. There's a lot of stuff in this book which is pretty cynical and it's clear Max Brooks has a pretty low opinion on the bureaucratic aspects of government, banking, big Pharma, the Hollywood elite etc, but it's just as clear that he has a great deal of respect for actual people and the strength of constitution which is inherent in all of us. So while it's a book about the (almost) end of the world, it's also pretty damn uplifting.

So yes, this is a zombie novel and there are some terrifying stories that had me twitching in fright but those sections are small and not worth passing on such a fantastic and illuminating book. Max Brooks touches on so much of what makes up our modern culture - racism, reality TV, politics, scams, scepticism, and weaves it into a book which tells us as much about ourselves as it does about a zombie threat. So go and read this already, or get hold of the audiobook because it's read by the most amazing people (Check out Alley's review for details), but don't watch the film. Or don't only watch the film. And don't even think about passing on it just because it's a zombie book or I'll be forced to sick my zombies on you Michonne* style.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Winner of the Horns Giveaway!

A bunch of you stuck your hands up for the Horns giveaway I announced last week and I wish I could buy all of you a copy but alas, alack I can not. I will however be buying a shiny new copy for one of you, that lucky-duck being......


Alley!! (What Red Read)

Yay! Enjoy your copy of Horns and your extra not-really-related-to-horns-at-all gift!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Monday Links (on Tuesday)

*Breaking Bad as a middle-school musical. These kids KILL it, especially Jesse and the Gus Fring "Are you a chicken like the chicken I sell in my chicken shop" song. This is how you win at being a kid.

*There are a bunch of books mentioned or pictured in OitNB, and buzzfeed rounded them all up for you (Via Buzzfeed)

*I know most of us are big on the "THE BOOK IS ALWAYS BETER" mantra, but here are 5 books that the authors actually thought were better than their original work (Via Cracked)

*The internet went a little crazy last week when Peter Capaldi was named as the next doctor (apparently people think he's too old or not "hot" enough - boo to them), but this article accepts the casting and argues that it's Moffat needs to move on. (Via Zap 2 it)

*Here are 28 things JKR has revealed about Harry Potter characters since the books ended. #18 is actually a point we raised in the readalong - I bet she answered that after reading our posts! (Via Buzzfeed)

*Writers as architects, a series of architectural models inspired by literary texts made by SOA students. (Via NY Times)

*I reviewed Horns last Friday and LOVED IT. Loved it so much, in fact, that I'm offering a copy + goodies to one lucky person. Just head to the post for details. (Via Me!)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Movie Trailer: Her (2013)

This just looks like an adorable, interesting movie. Love Spike Jonze. Love Joaquin Phoenix. Love Amy Adams. Love, love, love.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Book Review: Horns by Joe Hill (and a very neat giveaway)


Written by: Joe Hill

Published: 2010

Synopsis: Once the righteous Ig had enjoyed the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned musician and younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, he had security, wealth, and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more—he had Merrin and a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

But Merrin’s death damned all that. The only suspect in the crime, Ig was never charged or tried. And he was never cleared. In the court of public opinion in Gideon, New Hampshire, Ig is and always will be guilty because his rich and connected parents pulled strings to make the investigation go away. Nothing Ig can do, nothing he can say, matters. Everyone, it seems, including God, has abandoned him. Everyone, that is, but the devil inside. . . .

Now Ig is possessed of a terrible new power to go with his terrible new look—a macabre talent he intends to use to find the monster who killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It’s time for a little revenge. . . . It’s time the devil had his due. . . .

**stay tuned down the bottom of the post for the giveaway details**

"From small things, mama, big things one day come"

Oh you guys, this book is such a treat to read!

I am a big fan of Joe Hill. Not only does he come from a pretty stellar family (he's Stephen King's son) but he's also the writer of one of my absolute favourite graphic novel series, Locke and Key. And his novel-length fiction is just as engrossing as his graphic novels. He's a breath of fresh air. He clearly knows and respects the weight and history of the horror/supernatural genre and yet he never falls back on tired tropes or imagery. He's brilliant and this book is brilliant and life is brilliant... Too much?

I picked this one up after finishing the somewhat disappointing Gone Girl, and I was kind of amazed at how similar they are. I mean, they're totally not since this is a supernatural thriller and Gone Girl is a pretty traditional crime/neo-noir, but there are some real similarities in the plot and this one is SO MUCH BETTER. Both books are about a couple where the woman goes missing/is murdered, the husband/boyfriend is suspected, it turns out maybe the story of their relationship isn't quite as it seemed, the husband/boyfriend goes on a hunt for the real perpetrator to clear their name. But unlike Gone Girl which relied heavily on twists to count for character and narrative development, Horns is a gorgeously dark and human story that made you feel for the characters and invest in their story. It has a few twists, but they're not about swerving the story onto an unexpected trajectory, they're there to add a dimension to the story, to give you the final piece of the puzzle and to take the story to the satisfying conclusion it had been building towards.

The story follows Ig (or Iggy, short for Ignatius) a year after the rape and murder of his girlfriend Merrin. Ig was immediately suspected for the crime given his weak alibi (he was sleeping off a hangover in front of an abandoned Dunkin' Donuts) and the very big, very public fight they had the night before. And while a fire that decimated the evidence clears him officially, public opinion in their small town is that he (literally) got away with murder. So the book opens with Ig waking up with a blinding hangover and horns. Ig's first assumption is that they're a hallucination brought on by a tumor, but when he goes to show his housemate-kind-of-girlfriend and she spills a waterfall of secrets and insecurities he begins to piece together that these aren't just figments of a diseased mind.

This first part of the novel is especially phenomenal. As Ig gets more panicked and upset about his new accessories, he gets a glimpse into the minds of the people he thought loved and supported him. I won't spoil what they reveal exactly, but it's dark and absolutely heart-wrenching to see the pain and torment that Ig goes through as he realises he has no one and nowhere to turn. It isn't written as a dark and tormented story (or not overly so), but when I put it down to go to sleep that night I just felt unbelievably sad for Ig. He felt real and tangible and I just wanted to give him a hug and tell him it'll all be ok. He's so young, and he was so in love and happy and was due to fly to England to start his career the day after Merrin was murdered, and now his whole life is frozen. He can't start his career, he can't start a new relationship, he can't move on. He's stuck and is tormented by his loss and to find out that no one is on his side? So. Sad.

Using the power of the horns to try and avenge Merrin's murder, the book becomes equal parts badass revenge thriller, somewhat comical allegorical depiction of inner demons, and a sensitive portrayal of loss, love and turbulent life events. It covers so much ground, and yet it's such a contained and understated book. Or, I guess to put it another way, it's a much deeper and more thoughtful book hiding just under the surface of a contemporary supernatural thriller. Slotted within the primary narrative are two sections which take place in the character's past. The first is about the start of Ig and Merrin's relationship at 15 and the second I can't mention without spoiling the story, but it begins 6 weeks prior and leads up to Merrin's murder. Both are engaging and interesting and are when a lot of the twists are revealed, but both lasted maybe a smidge too long for me. I connected with current day Ig so much that if I was away from that section of the story too long I missed him, and I found myself rushing through to get back to the current day story. Which I guess is less a complaint about the back stories and more a double thumbs up to the engaging central story, but yes, that's a thing.

Sidebar; do you want to another reason why Joe Hill is the most awesome? If you read my Monday Links posts I linked to a buzzfeed post a couple of weeks ago about the connections that exist between Stephen King's books. Joe Hill, doing his dad proud no doubt, added some connections between his books and his dads. What!! For instance, a nice and easy one is a brief mention of Derry, a fictional town in Maine which has appeared in around 18 King stories and books. A second is more of an homage, but awesome nonetheless. In Horns Merrin's older sister died of an aggressive form of cancer at age 20. She became angry and nasty as her disease progressed and seemed to hate Merrin, which is undoubtedly a nod to the character Zelda in Pet Semetary, who is easily one of the scariest characters in any Stephen King books (seriously, I get scared just remembering her). So yep, Joe Hill is great. /sidebar

When I was about 40 pages from the end I contemplated putting the book down and walking away for awhile. I just wasn't ready to say goodbye to the story and all the characters. Of course I didn't put it down because I needed to know how it ended, but there was a brief tug-of-war where I considered it for like 20 seconds. But instead of feeling sad when I got to the end, I felt a sense of closure. It doesn't wrap up neatly or with an overly happy ending, but it was the right ending for the story and the characters and it felt good. *sigh* I just love this book SO MUCH and I can't recommend it enough. You all really, really, REALLY need to find a copy and read this book. If you were all having birthdays tomorrow I'd buy you all a copy and force you to read it immediately so we could all discuss how amazing it is and form the greatest Joe Hill fan club ever. Except I can't since I'm not a Rockefeller (is there a more modern rich person I should compare myself to here? Warren Buffet? Mitt Romney?) but I am going to offer one of you the opportunity to read this book on my dime. All you have to do is shout out about wanting it in the comments and in a week or so I'll pull names out of a hat and you'll be named Queen/King of the Nylon Admiral Giveaways. And I might give you an extra little present if I can think of something suitable for this book, otherwise it'll just be chocolate. It'll probably just be chocolate.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Movie Trailer: Romeo and Juliet (2014)

This trailer came out a few weeks ago and I put off watching it because, eh, do we need another Romeo and Juliet? But I was procrastinating and it was there and boom, watched it. Anyway, it looks...good? Hailee Steinfeld is basically the perfect Juliet (visually) and after True Grit I'll follow her to the end of the earth. It also looks like they've aged down the cast which is somewhat unexpected since Hollywood usually avoids the whole "oh yeah they were like 13 years old thing" since it isn't quite as sexy as adults dying for each other. But then there's a bunch of actors from TV shows Gossip Girl, and maybe they'll be good but maybe they'll be like they are on Gossip Girl. So I guess it could go either way.

And while we're on the subject, can we also move past the whole "Romeo and Juliet isn't a love story" pseudo-intellectual argument that springs up* around the making of these films? Because it is a love story. It's first and foremost a tragedy, but love and tragedy go hand in hand in literature so let's all just calm down alright?

*I made the mistake of visiting the IMDB message boards for this film. *shudders*

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Book Cookbook: Harry Potter and ALL THE FOODS!

If you follow my instagram and twitter you probably would have been inundated with my drunken and slightly blurry photos documenting my (*ahem* very successful *ahem*) Harry Potter party. Somehow I have never thrown or been to a Harry Potter party before, which is CRAZY because I love HP and costume parties, so that makes this party all the more special. Also making it more special is the 6-month long HP readalong all the cool kids took part in this year. I kept cracking jokes about plumbing and wand/wangs and realised no one understood what I was going on about and that made me so sad and I wish you'd all been able to apparate into my house and we could have hung out and argued about Sirius and the Marauders and had way too many butterbeer jelly-shots.

Me at one point in the night thinking about you guys
But I did my best to have an awesome night and that wasn't really so hard because I have great friends who are ridiculously wonderful costume-thinker-uppers and I don't think anyone came in a typical school uniform and bathrobe costume (actually, my sister and Chris did, but shhhh). We had Trevor the toad and Errol the Owl, Luna Lovegood, Dobby, a pimpin' Lucius, and the sorting hat (which looked unfortunately like a KKK costume) and a bunch of others, most of which are documented on my instagram for posterity. And then there was Tom and I, the party throwers, dressed up as post-book 7 Frorge and Sirius Black's wanted poster. I think it's things like this that prove we're made for each other.

So we had Wrock* playing, played through the first 3 films and reenacted scenes, playing Quidditch pong and drank A LOT. And, of course, we ate a lot too. It wouldn't be Harry Potter without some tasty tasty food. And this is where it turns from a "look how much fun I had!" post into the second edition of The Book Cookbook, because I'm going to share 3 recipes that featured at this party.

“Yeah, well, food's one of the five exceptions to Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfigurations," said Ron, to general astonishment.”
Anytime we have a themed party (which has only recently become a thing) we try to make our food fit into the theme, so when we had our medieval party we had mead, mulled wine, salt bread and turkey legs. In this case we decided to go the finger-food route and covered a table with sherbet lemons, pixie sticks, acid pops (just sour chuppa-chups) polyjuice potion** bottles of honey mead plus snitch cupcakes, butterbeer jelly-shots and pumpkin pasties. All were amazingly delicious, and while not exactly the food from the books they all fit into the magical HP world of tasty stuffs and are 100% necessary for any future HP parties you're planning.

Snitch Cupcakes

“The long game was ended, the Snitch had been caught, it was time to leave the air...”
My sister Rosie is a mad cupcake decorator, so clearly when I found the recipe/design for Snitch cupcakes on Mugglenet I sent it her way. And she did an amaaaazing job! The cupcake part is pretty much up to you, the original recipe just called for a box-cake, but you could make them from scratch in any flavour you like. The decorating is equally easy, basically you need two shades of yellow (or gold) icing (Rosie went buttercream, but the flavour/type is up to you) and some melted white chocolate. All the directions are laid out step by step on the Mugglenet recipe page, so get on it guys!

This picture is from
Pumpkin Pasties
"'Hungry, are you?'
'Starving,' said Harry, taking a large bite out of a pumpkin pasty."
We were already pretty drunk when my friend Rocco finally showed up after playing chauffeur to his girlfriend and some of her friends, and his arrival was all the more sweet because he came carrying a container full of homemade pumpkin pasties made fresh by his girlfriend. I'm not a huge fan of pumpkin usually, but these are so good. They're made with pumpkin, walnut and feta (and some other tasty additions) and they were the perfect pick-me-up for a group of drunken Harry Potter characters. They're also decidedly non-themey food, so there's no reason not to make them for dinner or lunch or a non-HP party you're throwing. The recipe (because I know you're all desperate for it) can be found here.

Butterbeer Jelly-shots
"Harry drank deeply. It was the most delicious thing he'd ever tasted and seemed to heat ever bit of him from the inside."
So clearly I had to make butterbeer because it's not a wizarding party without it, but I decided to make jelly-shots because the drink recipes I found seemed so sweet that I couldn't imagine anyone actually drinking more than half a cup. Plus making jelly-shots always feels vaguely science-y, so i got to pretend I was in a potions class when I whipped them up the night before (you know I used my wand). I got the recipe from here but tweaked it slightly, instead of cream soda (which we don't get here in Australia) I used root beer since I figured that might dilute the sweetness a little, and instead of vanilla vodka I just used vodka I already had mixed with about half a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Also, if you're vegan/vegetarian and don't want to use gelatin you could absolutely use something like agar agar instead. And helpful hint, since it's butterbeer flavoured and you're probably going to be making this for a HP party, try and find some of those silicone ice trays in appropriate HP shapes (I'm thinking lightening bolts would be awesome) because that'll make them more fun and awesome than just regular rectangles.  IMPORTANT: These taste amazing but holy crap you don't notice they're alcoholic at all, so be careful how many you shove in your mouth - I got us all very, very drunk very, very quickly.

So get your Ron on and eat and eat and eat and eat and eat!

He knows what's what

*Wizard Rock, there are some crazy good playlists on YouTube

**Luke tried to infuse vodka with Jelly Belly jellybeans and basically the colours all ran and turned into a murky red-brown gloop. It looked foul, but tasted pretty amazing.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Monday Links

*^Game of Thrones reimagined as the Buffy opening credits. Love it.

*Lessons we can all learn from Spike Lee's Kickstarter project. Or, if you're famous and you want to use Kickstarter you should do a little preparation (Via The Dissolve)

*Orange is the New Black and transgender characters in film and TV. Fascinating article, plus lots of stuff about Sophia and Laverne Cox. (Via The Daily Beast)

*Up close and personal with Game of Thrones fashions. The detailing is gorgeous. (Via Buzzfeed)

*16 quotes from authors about writing for children (Via Mental Floss)

* "The Lolita Legacy", an article about controversial contemporary novels that follow in Nabokov's footsteps (Via Readings)

*Here's the article the real Larry wrote about Piper's experiences in jail. Really interesting read for anyone loving OitNB at the moment (Via NY Times)

*Artist and writer Molly Crabapple visited Guantanamo Bay. Equal parts fascinating and upsetting, it's an important read. (Via Vice)

*Why are female alcoholic writers treated so differently from their male counterparts? (Via Flavorwire)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Happy (belated) 33rd Birthday Harry Potter

Two days ago marked our beloved messy haired seeker's 33rd birthday. To commemorate this occasion, here's Simon Pegg dressed as Ron singing happy birthday. It's everything it should be and more.

Truth in Journalism

This short film starring Ryan Kwantan (Jason from True Blood) and directed by Joe Lynch is a very, very, very cool take on a much-loved Marvel character. It's dark and gritty, shot as a black and white documentary in the 1980s, and well worth a watch when you have 17 minutes to spare.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl

Written by: Gillian Flynn

Published: 2012

Synopsis: On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn't doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn't do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

Challenges: Romantic/Suspense for Book'd Out's Eclectic Reader Challenge

I was so careful about reading reviews for this book. I avoided reading anything beyond "i liked it" "I didn't like it", but even so I knew that this was a book full of twists and turns and "OMG YOU WON'T SEE IT COMING". And that was a problem, a really big problem, because I was always on the defence, never trusting the characters or any of the narration and waiting, always waiting, for the big shocks that were supposed to throw me backwards off my chair. And ultimately this left me feeling pretty meh about the book.

You see, with a book like this you really need to know nothing about it. Even knowing that there are twists is sufficient to put you on guard enough that you refuse to take anything at face value, and this book desperately needs you to take it at face value for it to work. You need to go into it believing everything you're reading, not questioning it and looking for the red herrings. Yes you might know it's a thriller, but if it wasn't for the myriad of professional and blogger reviews excitedly proclaiming the multiple twists the first half of the narrative would leave you thinking it was a very traditional whodunnit.

Once I got past the fact that it wasn't going to have the desired effect on me (silly me waiting a year to read a book this popular!), I actually began to enjoy the perversity of the story and enjoy the twists not for being startling but for what they added to the characters and narrative. Gillian Flynn really pushes the envelope, and while I don't think she's always successful, the direction she takes the story is rather brilliantly dark.

That said I did find the first half of the book incredibly slow going, revisiting a lot of standard thriller/missing wife tropes and full of overly flowery and ultimately useless language. Case in point this line from page 79, part of an old diary entry from Amy;
"Nick got home just after four, a bulb of beer and cigarettes and fried-egg odor attached to him, a placenta of stink"
Whenever I came across a line like this I just wanted to grab Flynn by the shoulders and scream REALLY? Considering both narrators (alternating between Nick and diary entries from Amy) are supposed to be writers and one is a journalist no less, the adjective-per-sentence rate is atrocious. Everything gets into a better rhythm by the halfway point, the writing tightens up and the pace quickens, but there are times in that first half which are really difficult to get through.

So all in all, this book is a bit of a mixed bag. By now if you haven't read it, it'll basically be something of a let-down no matter how determined you were to remain unspoiled - but that doesn't mean it isn't worth a read, or that you won't ultimately end up enjoying it. Just know that at this stage the popularity of the book will tarnish any opportunity to come at it with clear eyes, don't expect too much, don't set too much by the twists and just sit back and enjoy the soap opera madness.


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