Thursday, August 28, 2014

(Audio)book review: Fool by Christopher Moore


Written by: Christopher Moore

Published: 2009

Audiobook read by: Euan Morton

Synopsis: A man of infinite jest, Pocket has been Lear's cherished fool for years, from the time the king's grown daughters—selfish, scheming Goneril, sadistic (but erotic-fantasy-grade-hot) Regan, and sweet, loyal Cordelia—were mere girls. So naturally Pocket is at his brainless, elderly liege's side when Lear—at the insidious urging of Edmund, the bastard (in every way imaginable) son of the Earl of Gloucester—demands that his kids swear their undying love and devotion before a collection of assembled guests. Of course Goneril and Regan are only too happy to brownnose Dad. But Cordelia believes that her father's request is kind of . . . well . . . stupid, and her blunt honesty ends up costing her her rightful share of the kingdom and earns her a banishment to boot.

Well, now the bangers and mash have really hit the fan. The whole damn country's about to go to hell in a handbasket because of a stubborn old fart's wounded pride. And the only person who can possibly make things right . . . is Pocket, a small and slight clown with a biting sense of humor. He's already managed to sidestep catastrophe (and the vengeful blades of many an offended nobleman) on numerous occasions, using his razor-sharp mind, rapier wit . . . and the equally well-honed daggers he keeps conveniently hidden behind his back. Now he's going to have to do some very fancy maneuvering—cast some spells, incite a few assassinations, start a war or two (the usual stuff)—to get Cordelia back into Daddy Lear's good graces, to derail the fiendish power plays of Cordelia's twisted sisters, to rescue his gigantic, gigantically dim, and always randy friend and apprentice fool, Drool, from repeated beatings . . . and to shag every lusciously shaggable wench who's amenable to shagging along the way.

“...Heinous Fuckery, most foul!”

The minute I finished reading Lamb I wanted to read more of Christopher Moore but I am reading books so slowly at the moment, that it felt unfair to all the other authors crowding my shelves and remaining unread. So I jumped onto Audible and had a look at which of his books were audiobooks and surprisingly there were only two, Fool and The Serpent of Venice. And since The Serpent of Venice is a sequel to Fool, the choice was rather obvious.

Fool is Moore's interpretation of Shakespeare's famous tragedy King Lear* from the perspective of Lear's fool, Pocket**. It's not a faithful interpretation, at least not in the strictest sense, it borrows from other plays and mixes up some of the history but Moore channels the Bard where it really matters, i.e. foul language and sex.
"This is a bawdy tale. Herein you will find gratuitous shagging, murder, spanking, maiming, treason, and heretofore unexplored heights of vulgarity and profanity, as well as nontraditional grammar, split infinitives, and the odd wank . . . If that's the sort of thing you think you might enjoy, then you have happened upon the perfect story!"
It is HELLA bawdy guys. Lots of T&A, dirty puns and crude innuendo, and since the language is much more updated than your traditional Shakespearian play you tend to actually notice exactly how filthy it is. There's a lot less "wait, was that meant to be dirty?" "why does Hamlet want to still his head in Ophelia's lap? Am I reading too much into this? (no)" and a lot more cackling at Pocket's nastiness. Because I was listening to an audiobook I didn't note down any of the truly hilarious dirty bits and Goodreads has completely let me down (for shame readers, where are your priorities?) but trust me, dirty.

So the book obviously has that going for it but you don't need to be a borderline pervert to find enjoyment in the story. It's got a lot of the other good Shakespearian elements, subterfuge, witches and demanding ghosts and really fantastic language. It's no Shakespeare obviously, but Moore does a brilliant job in creating a book that bursts off the page with its colourful*** language. The audio reader, Euan Morton, was one of the best I've come across so far. I looked him up and he's a stage performer which makes complete sense. He has absolute control over the writing, drawing sentences out or hitting the enunciation on certain words to really emphasise the writing. There was a particular repeat  line that just hit me every time, when Pocket would say "Moi?", said I, in perfect fucking French", and it shouldn't be that funny but Morton's line read is so brilliant that I would be caught by surprise and laugh out loud every single time. I love to read Shakespeare, but it really is so much better when it's performed. I felt the same with Fool, it might not be in iambic pentameter and it might technically be a book but I wholeheartedly believe that listening to this book is the way to go.

But back to the actual book. Pocket is a perfect fool. He is the quintessential Shakespearian fool, ruthless, smart, hilarious and constantly outwitting everyone and playing them against one another. Isaac Asimov once said that the great secret to the fool is that he isn't a fool at all, and that's the beauty of this book. It's twisted the well known story so that the fool is in the background of every scene, pulling the strings and putting words in everyone's mouth. Pocket might seem like the man in court with the least power, just a man with a puppet and black silk clothes, but he's got a finger in every pie. Nothing happens without him knowing about it and with his protégé Drool (who can mimic every voice he hears perfectly), he has every tool at his disposal to take power, wreak havoc or convince someone to fall in love with him - whatever he wants really.
“Perhaps there is a reason that there is no fool piece on the chessboard. What action, a fool? What strategy, a fool? What use, a fool? Ah, but a fool resides in a deck of cards, a joker, sometimes two. Of no worth, of course. No real purpose. The appearance of a trump, but none of the power: Simply an instrument of chance. Only a dealer may give value to the joker.”
This book is first and foremost a funny, funny book but it also has a hell of a lot of heart. Pocket isn't simply a mischievous trickster trying to make trouble for everyone. I mean he is, but there's also more to it than simply acting to move the plot along. Throughout the book we get glimpses into his childhood, and his early days in the castle with Cordelia, the little princess who didn't talk until he came to work for the king. It's still pocketed with humour, but these moments help round out all of the characters and give them a purpose so they aren't simply replicas taken from Shakespeare's page.

If you're fond of Shakespeare or bawdy tales or laughing a lot then you should hunt out this book and give it a read. Or a listen, because even if you've never been a fan of audiobooks I'm certain this one will change your mind. I'm off to download the sequel now, although I'm trying hard to hide my disappointment that it isn't simply a full length version of the play a group of travelling performers told Pocket about, Green Eggs and Hamlet.
“We've been rehearsing a classic from antiquity, Green Eggs and Hamlet, the story of a young prince of Denmark who goes mad, drowns his girlfriend, and in his remorse, forces spoiled breakfast on all whom he meets.”


*Which is a much better and much shorter time than the original title Shakespeare used "The True Chronicle of the History of the Life and Death of King Lear and His Three Daughters". Oof, get an editor dude.

**It's been a long time since I've read Lear, but I'm fairly sure he's just called Fool in the play right? 

***And not just colourful = crude language.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Graphic Novel mini-reviews #22 (SUPERHEROES AHOY)

Captain Marvel: Down (Volume 2)

Written by: Kelly Sue DeConnick, Christopher Sebela; Illustrated by: Dexter Soy, Filipe Andrade.

Published: 2013

My Thoughts: I gotta say, I really dig what Kelly Sue DeConnick writes. In this volume Captain Marvel faces her mortality...sort of. It turns out that the highs that come with infusing Kree with human DNA, like flying and self-healing and super-strength, come with some devastating lows. And Cap M is my kinda lady when it comes to dealing with this drama i.e. she doesn't. She's suffering a major case of denial and is stubborn as all hell. Filipe Andrade does most of the art in this volume (all but the first issue I believe) and I love it so much. It's not what you'd expect in a big name superhero comic, the proportions are all out and it's very stylised, the sort of style you'd normally see reserved for covers, but I thought it was amazing. It reminded me a lot of Ben Templesmith, who is hands down my favourite comic artist.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Avengers (Volume 1)

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis; Illustrated by: Steve McNiven, Yves Bigerel, Michael Avon Oeming, Sara Pichelli

Published: 2013

My Thoughts: With the GotG film creeping ever closer, I decided to dip into the comics once again. This one is from the newest run and focuses mostly on Starlord, who he is, where he came from, the gigantic dick of a father he has... I don't know if the story behind Starlord's parents is canon prior to this comic or invented for it, but I thought it added an interesting motivation for his character. The group dynamic is so much fun, they are all so prickly and angry (which is great) yet they all clearly care of each other (awww). It's my favourite mix of sarcasm, bravado and tender moments.

Aquaman: The Trench (Volume 1)

Written by: Geoff Johns; Illustrated by: Joe Prado, Ivan Reis

Published: 2012

My Thoughts: Before the New 52 release, I have to admit that I was one of the people who'd mock Aquaman. He's just a little old fashioned for a 21st century context y'know? This volume basically took that idea and ran with it. We see Arthur/Aquaman dealing not only with his decision to step down as king of Atlantis but come face to face with the humans he's chosen to protect who mock him mercilessly. There's a scene where a blogger accosts him at a restaurant and asks him how it feels to be no-one's favourite super hero. Ouch. So this comic is perhaps more for Aquaman doubters and newbies, introducing you to him and his girlfriend Mera (NOT Aquawoman, thank you very much) as well as covering a lot of Aquaman misinformation (i.e. He doesn't talk to fish, he doesn't need to be in the water to help). I loved it, and will definitely be reading on.

Friday, August 15, 2014

6 Degrees of Separation: Gone Girl

Today was the first time I heard about the '6 degrees of separation' meme hosted by Annabel and Emma. I've been looking for some content to help fill my weeks now that the HTBAG readalong is over and this seemed like a fun challenge. The rules are pretty simple too.

So here we go!

Gone Girl was fine. I found myself quite wrapped up in the story as I read it, but the more time that passes the less I think it was really anything substantial. Be that as it may, it's memorable for many things. The relationship between the married couple, the dark twists that abound the narrative and the absolutely horrendous people that populate the cast.

Horrendous people? Surely you're talking about the cast of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections! I had a brilliant time reading this book with a group of bloggers last year, but ye gods were the people awful. Awful yes, but at least they weren't alone in their awfulness. The family that destroys-your-will-for-life together, stays together.

A better, although no less sinister, family are the sisters (and their poor uncle) in Shirley Jackson's novella We Have Always Lived In The Castle. For two young women they've been through a lot and are well acquainted with the flurry of emotions that follow the death of a family member(s).

The house in We Have Always Lived In The Castle plays an important role in the narrative. Similarly, the house is Neil Gaiman's novel Coraline has its own special place between the pages. It is rife with magic and hidden passages and old and evil things and presents our Coraline with a novel worth of adventures and scares.

A few years ago Coraline was turned into a cracking good film, and after a couple of years of production delays and arguments between lead actors and directors, World War Z finally made it to the big screen to generally good reviews. The film had nothing on the book though, which managed to tell a terrifying and emotionally charged story about a world succumbing to the onslaught of undead villains. Perhaps the defining feature was the collection of short eye witness accounts that make up the novel. It's these differing perspectives, those of politicians and generals and filmmakers and doctors, that adds a level of humanity to the story that's often absent in zombie and end of world stories.

And finally, also utilising the multiple narrator format is George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones. Switching between different lead characters found in various parts of warring Westeros, this series manages to tell dozens of different stories within the larger patchwork narrative.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Movie Review: These Final Hours (2014)

These Final Hours

Released: 2014

Directed by: Zak Hilditch

Starring: Nathan Philips, Jessica De Gouw, Angourie Rice

Synopsis:  It's the last day on earth, twelve hours before a cataclysmic event will end life as we know it. James makes his way across a lawless and chaotic city to the party to end all parties. Along the way, he somewhat reluctantly saves the life of a little girl named Rose who is desperately searching for her father. Stuck with the unexpected burden of responsibility, James is forced to come to terms with what really matters in life as the final hours tick away. (Via Roadshow and IMDB)


About a month ago Tom and I were watching TV and saw a trailer for a seemingly big-budget Australian end-of-the-world film. If you're American I'm sure you're used to seeing trailers for your films on TV all the time, but Australian films rarely have much screen presence, unless they're a co-production with America (Daybreakers for example). A lot of other countries (especially around Asia) are very nationalistic when it comes to their home cinema but if you ask most Australians they'd say Australian cinema sucks, but that's because we so rarely see it unless we hunt it down. Instead it silently slips into cinemas and only makes a splash when it then makes waves at overseas film festivals. Which is ridiculous because we have some of the best funding schemes for filmmakers in the world, and have some of the best production and VFX companies in the world and yet your average Australian probably could only name The Castle if they were asked to name an Australian film*. But enough of a rant about film consumption and production in Australia, none of you care about that and it has zero to do with this review. Basically, Tom and I were shocked to 1) see a trailer for an Australian film on TV, 2) see that it looked like a big budget blockbuster (rather than the art house or broad comedy that usually gets made here) and 3) that we had heard absolutely nothing about it. While a lot of Australians may not know much about the films made here, we pride ourselves on getting out and seeing a lot of them. So to have never heard of this one was a little mind-boggling.

These Final Hours is basically an end-of-the-world film quite unlike most end-of-the-world films. Where most usually involve scientists or politicians or some honest hard-working American who just wants to keep driving his truck and listening to good ol' country and western music trying to thwart the coming disaster (volcano, meteor, global warming, sharknado), this movie has accepted the fact that we are fucked. We can't send some crack team of astronauts to blow up the meteor or force it to change course, we can't survive the impact and we can't even rest easy knowing that Australia is a million miles from everywhere else on the planet. Instead, because of our relative isolation we end up watching the world die. A radio announcer visits us in voice over at certain parts of the film to let us know that Canada is gone, all of South East Asia, South America. It adds a level of hopelessness that's rarely seen except in post-apocalyptic films (The Road is a perfect example) - what the hell do you do for you final 12 hours when most of the world is already dead? How do you do anything when you know that your death is looming heavily above you and that you can't do anything to change it?

For James (Nathan Philips - Wolf Creek, The Bridge), the answer is to go to one final party and get so hammered that you don't even see or feel the end coming. Others turn to suicide, to looting, to God, to living out the deviant acts that they repressed (or perhaps always did, but did under the cover of night) before they knew the world was over. The first 10 minutes of the film shows James driving through Perth to get to his party and passing over-turned cars, dead people lying on the road, people clutching each other in prayer circles and desperate attempts to survive the impending doom (wrapping the house in aluminium foil - to stop the heat?). James ignores the people calling for help as he drives to his destination, until an altercation with a mad man with a machete forces him to ditch his car and run to find a new one. This is where he finds Rose, a young girl who has been abducted by two of the grossest men you'll ever see. These are the guys who have chosen to live their final hours by ruining the final moments of others. James may be apathetic to the situation at large, but even he can't ignore the cries of a small girl about to be viciously attacked. The rest of the film is part road film, part drama, part thriller and a lot more nuanced than I expected. It's a film of choices. James has to choose between his original plan for oblivion or to help Rose find her father so she can face the end with him. Does he leave her at her dad's car and hope he returns, or does he take her with him? Does he leave her with his sister, or does he take her to her aunt's? How exactly does he want to end his life and does it even matter? All the while the end of the world is creeping closer.

This movie, especially the opening 10-20 minutes made me think of the film The Purge. The Purge is incredibly lopsided and while the basic conceit is interesting (one night where crime is legal a year) it is handled really poorly. You just cannot make me believe that people who are so happy to go out and murder and rape would be willing to hold off for 364 days of the year. Nor can you make me believe that the effects of this free for all, vandalism and looting and the destruction of homes and businesses doesn't cripple local economies. Unlike The Purge, These Final Hours places that basic concept into a more believable setting. Are people necessarily going on murder sprees? No, but when you know the world is ending and you life has a very clear expiration date your emotions would be boiling over. Would you maybe go to far when you fight with someone over a petrol pump? Maybe someone throws a bottle at you and you react instinctively, releasing all of your frustration and fears as you punch the person over and over. Rather than have people just randomly moving past the moral taboo of murder without a second thought, you show the very likely events that transpire when people are being ruled by fear and fuelled by alcohol or drugs or whatever they choose to use to cope with the world crumbling around them. It's raw and ugly and depressing as hell, but it made for a compelling film.

From the trailer (placed at the end of the review for anyone interested) I hadn't expected this film to be as Australian as it was. But despite the bells and whistles it's still as depressing as all Australian drama. I mean, if you find The Road depressing, welcome to Australian cinema. We defined the concept of bleak and our landscape helps reinforce that. It's desolate and sparse and if you expect anyone to be alive at the end of an Australian drama... ha ha you're cute. But they always manage to raise some intriguing ideas and questions, usually unique to Australia. Isolation is a common theme in Australian films because we are a very isolated country. We're cut of from the rest of the world by oceans and we're cut off from each other by distance. People aren't lying when they joke about their nearest neighbour being 5 kilometres away. If you aren't in a Capital city, you're surrounding by a whole lot of space and not a lot else. So the fact that this film takes that inherent truth of our national identity, that we're alone, and magnifies it so we literally become the last people left on the planet hits incredibly hard. Can you think of anything that would make you shut down faster than knowing every other country, every island, every person on the planet is gone?

These Final Hours is written and directed by a relative newcomer and is remarkably tight considering that. There are a few hiccups with pacing and some of the dialogue but for the most part the film is a remarkably sombre and thought-provoking thriller** with some absolutely gorgeous cinematography. I have no idea if or when this film will be released overseas, but if you get the chance I'd highly recommend giving it a watch.

If you want to know a little more, the interactive website is really well made and definitely worth a visit. It adds a little context to the film's setting as well, which isn't crucial to viewing the film but definitely adds some extra dimension.

*So if an Australian tells you there aren't any good Aussie films slap them in the face and tell them to do their homework. I could give them a list of 50 films off the top of my head that are made in Australia and shit all over anything else made worldwide. 

**Is it a thriller? That's how it's classified on IMDB but I think it actually falls closer to drama.

Monday, August 11, 2014

How To Build A Girl Readalong #5: "Christ, being a reformed bitch is going to cost a fortune in stamps"

Welcome to the final week of the readalong for Caitlin Moran's first fiction novel How TO Build A Girl. I'm a little sad to be writing out the following for the last time (unless there's a wrap up post next week?) because I've really enjoyed reading this book with everyone. All the different lifestyles and perspectives we each have have made this a really illuminating read. So for the final time, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU dearest Emily for hosting, Harper Collins for providing and Caitlin Moran for writing.

SPOILERS obviously, but if you've made it this far through the posts I'm not sure there's a whole lot to spoil!

Perhaps the best thing about this novel is that it is the perfect encapsulation of a moment in a teenage girl's life. Not every girl's life will take this particular path but the building blocks that make up this story? The experimentation, the reinvention, the feelings of hopelessness and confusion, the hormones, the misunderstandings, the outside influences - EVERY girl, all across the globe experiences those things as they try and make it through high school and adolescence alive. It's a difficult time for anyone, but girls have this added layer of expectation that you don't see with boys. An expectation to be an expert in relationships but also to go straight from daddy to husband without giving away the milk for free (god how I hate that saying). An expectation to be more together and adult. You read countless stories of boys assaulting girls or some other stupid stunt and giving the excuse that they were "young, drunk, stupid" but you don't see that same level of sympathy with girls. Instead they were asking for it or they should have known better. It's enough to make your head spin.

Yes Johanna makes mistakes. Yes she takes risks. Yes she's far from being a responsible adult. But she's learning. And the best way to learn is through trying, and you really can't fault her for that.  She tries promiscuity and drinking and self-harm and being a mean reviewer and wearing top hats everywhere and some of it sticks and some of it she learns from and moves forward (Self-harm - the world will come at you with knives anyway). It's how we grow up, it'd be nice to think we can all make the right choices all the time but it simply isn't feasible. Even if it was, the right choice for one person is the wrong one for the next.
The thought I can't have is "I don't want to do this" - because how do I know if I don't want to do this? I'm still terra-forming me. 
That whole final section is full of gold and for nothing else this is why this book is important. Because when I see the comments people make on facebook or under articles it seems like people forget what it is to be a teenager, even when those years are still fairly clear in their rear-view mirror. It doesn't matter how perfect our parents are, how fortunate we are or how excellent a group of friends and teachers we had - everyone goes through this cycle of change. It's how we get to know ourselves. We change our hair style or colour, we experiment with styles of clothes and types of music, hell maybe we experiment with other people. It's different for everyone of course, but the observations in this final section really hit home for me.
So what do you do when you build yourself - only to realise you built yourself with the wrong things? You rip it up and start again. That is the work of your teenage years - to build up and tear down and build up again, over and over, endlessly, like speeded-up film of cities during boom times and wars. To be fearless, and endless, in your reinventions - to keep twisting on nineteen, going bust, and dealing in again, and again. Invent, invent, invent. 
I remember thinking a friend of mine was a complete hypocrite because in 9th grade he was only interested in Metallica. Metallica was the band, he worshipped and adored them and couldn't see the value in any other type of music. He actively criticised most other genres and railed about how he'd always be a Metallica fan. Then in grade 11 he made a switch to electronic music and completely cut ties with his former obsession. It was only a couple of years later that it clicked that Metallica had been his older brother's favourite band, and like my sisters both seemed to adore the same things as me until they got a stronger footing and took their own paths, he had simply piggybacked on his brother's interests before progressing on his own.

What I'm saying basically, is that while people aren't wrong to feel worried for Johanna and her choices, there's absolutely nothing wrong with what she's doing. Sometimes the experiments we make as teens have serious consequences but that still doesn't make the original experiment wrong. Perhaps she was having sex for the wrong reasons* and she was definitely crazy to spend more than 5 minutes with the big-mouthed dickhead Rich but once she got to a certain point she stopped it. She wasn't always comfortable with their relationship (if you want to go so far as to call it that) but you can only pull a rubber band so far before breaking it. She got to a point, in this case the threesome with Emilia and Rich's continued lack of respect and she stopped it. Because while she's still terra-forming, she's formed enough to know that this definitely isn't what she wants.
"I was objectifying you" I continue, trying to suppress the sobs that will ruin this soliloquy of outrage. "I have a score card for shagging nobs. I'm on a fucking bonus run for banging you. I'm getting high fives down at the Working Men's Club. We make our own amusements on the council estates. I'm not your 'bit of rough'. You're my bit of posh"
I feel Things were going to happen to me last night that I did not like - and I stopped them. I have never prevented my own doom before! I have never stood in the path of certain unhappiness and told myself - lovingly, like a mother to myself - no! This unhappiness will not suit you! Turn around and go another way!
Is Johanna about to stop having casual sex? No, because she doesn't want to stop. But is she going to be more active in putting her own wants forwards? In letting a man know what she is and isn't willing to do? ...Maybe. It might take a few more heartbreaks and moments of embarrassment before she's able to be completely forthright with men, but she's certainly on the right path. And even then there will be countless more moments of confusion and turmoil as she embarks on relationships or casual sex with guys, even if she is completely upfront with her desires. But each moment will help her to evolve and become a better, stronger and more complete person.
You are a midwife to yourself, and will give birth to yourself, over and over, in dark rooms, alone.
I mentioned on Alley's post last week that I was hoping that Johanna wouldn't fall pregnant. Not because it's not a reasonable response to her activities (especially as most of us mentioned, there was no talk of protection being used) but because it would sour everything that came before it. It'd turn the whole thing into some kind of after school morality play, and we've been witness to plenty of those. Instead we get treated to a girl who makes mistakes and suffers some consequences but for the most past escapes it all unscathed, a woman fully grown. She's smarter about men, about her writing, about money, about her body and appearance. Although it seems she's not smarter about her brother, whether because she's wanting to protect him or she's actually that oblivious. Personally I think she's just oblivious, because they share so many intimate details of her sex life that I can't believe she wouldn't pull him into the cupboard to discuss why they're going to be visiting gay clubs. As smart and as grown up as she has become in a relatively short space of time, she still has a lot to learn. Especially when it comes to other people.

On a final note, John Kite is officially a Decent Dude. Huzzah!

Not only does he give wrap her up in a bear hug when she needs it the most and spend a wonderful day at the zoo helping her forget the nonsense that was Rich Hall but he's also incredibly level headed when she finally moves past her embarrassment and asks about what happened while she was in a gin haze that day.
"It's just the age thing right now babe. Too young...Not you, Dutch - me. I'm far too young for you. I'm hopeless," He sighs
So for now she has gained a good friend and surrogate older brother.  And John Kite has Dutch and a fancy new fur coat cape.

And since I've been rather serious this post, I thought I'd sum up with some of my other highlighted quotes (oh god, there were so many)

~Why can't I press a litmus paper to Tony's sweaty brow, when we're fucking, and see if it turns pink for love - or blue for casual fuck? ... Why has science not attended to this matter?

~As Rabindranath Tagore advised parents, "Don't limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time"

~I'm quite startled by how small Dadda sounds. Small, and oddly lonely. Like a busker who's been chucked  out of a pub for annoying the other customers, and is now standing outside. I suddenly have a terrible pang of sympathy for him. He was so happy making these songs - but they come across so sad.

~Am I? Was I amazing? Is what I just did amazing? If I think about it, what happened here tonight was that Tony Rich had sex with someone pretending they were Tony Rich. I don't think I was here at all.

~I've read Rimbaud, yes, but I'm still not sure how to pronounce his name - surely it can't be Rambo? But if it is, I've got fifty Sylvestor Stallone jokes read to go. 

~Rock 'n ' roll is a terrible babysitter, baby

~So this is the point of self-harm! I marvel. It is translation of emotion into action! It is simpler! It's admin! It's just paperwork!

~Every book, opera house, moon shot, and manifesto is here because someone, somewhere, lit up silent when someone else came into the room, and then quietly burned when they didn't notice them. 

~You'll find the tiny, right piece of grit you can pearl around, until nature kicks in, and your shell will just quietly fill with magic, even while you're busy doing other things. 

And so ends the readalong. Like I said above in the intro blurb I've found this readalong especially interesting because as a group we're all so completely different. Some of us are barely older than Johanna, some of us have kids, some of us have experienced the same depression and poverty as people in Johanna's life. But where ever we are currently in our life, we all seem to have taken away something from this book which is to Caitlin's credit as a writer. Overall I was really impressed with this novel. I do wish it had been a little less overtly autobiographical and the tense shifts were distracting at times, but for a first time novel I think it hit more high points than low. So thanks again for being such interesting, perceptive ladies - it's going to be sad to not have a collection of posts to read every Monday.

**I don't think she was, for the record. Or at least not completely. A large part of it was clearly just a healthy sexual curiosity. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Book review: Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1-5 by Rick Riordan

#1 Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (2005)
#2 Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters (2005)
#3 Percy Jackson and the Titan's Curse (2007)
#4 Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth. (2008)
#5 Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian (2009)

Written by: Rick Riordan


“It's funny how humans can wrap their mind around things and fit them into their version of reality"

A few weekends ago I went home to Cairns for my best friend's hens night. It was my first trip home in two years (WOAH) which unfortunately meant that I completely forgot how much the flight sucks. It's only a little over two hours, so by the time you factor in take-off and landing, you can only have electronic devices on for maybe half the flight. Which is a complete drag, and I always forget to bring a physical book with me to fill the time. Luckily my little brother has a bookshelf full of young adult novels that I probably would never read otherwise. It's how I ended up reading The Hunger Games two years ago and how I ended up reading Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

I get pretty envious of my little brother. Where I had Baby-Sitter's Club and Sweet Valley High*, his shelves are stacked with Divergent, The Hunger Games and Eragon. I had a few iconic female characters (mostly from Harry Potter) but he has a mix of female warriors, reluctant leaders and intelligent strategists. I was basically forced to move up to adult fiction if I wanted to read something that was smart and creative, but my brother has the best of both worlds. He can read classics if he wants to, but he can also read modern young adult fiction that's actually pretty fantastic. I might be slightly outside the intended demographics for most of the books on his shelves, but it's always fun to have a look at the worlds that have been built to get kids excited about reading again.

Enter Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. I mostly grabbed this book off the shelf because I vaguely remember catching parts of the movie on TV awhile back and enjoying it and I ended up racing through it on my flight and picking up the rest of the series for a steal on my kindle. The bottom line here, really, is that these books are a heck of a lot of fun. I raced through The Lightning Thielf like I raced through Harry Potter when I was 13. If I had started reading it at night I'm certain I would have stayed up far too late telling myself I'd read "just one more chapter" before coming to the end and closing the book with a happy sigh.

And when it comes to books for kids (and Percy Jackson is probably best recommended for kids 10-13) that's pretty much all that's important. A book that can excite you and entice you and make you utterly exhausted for school the next day?

Is shirtless David Tennant inappropriate for a review of a kids book? DON'T CARE

But like the best children's books, Percy Jackson is also just a really decent series. It weaves ancient Greek mythology with the struggles of the modern school kid. Our protagonist, Percy, has been kicked out of every school he's ever attended. But when he discovers he's actually a demigod, the faults from his mortal life turn out to be the strengths of the godly blood that runs through his veins. His dyslexia is because his brain is tuned to Ancient Greek and his ADHD is because he is required to think 10 steps ahead in a battle scenario. Riordan thought up these books when his son, who has dyslexia and ADHD, asked for bedtime stories that focused on Greek mythology. I love when books take something that is perceived to be a disadvantage and gives another perspective. Does becoming a demigod magically mean Percy's dyslexia vanishes? No, but at least when he's struggling at the regular mortal schools during the year he has something to help him persevere and push through.

There are a lot of similarities to Harry Potter in Percy Jackson, from the young, dark haired 11 year old who discovers he's actually far more special than he ever thought, to the brainy female best friend and the funny, loving best male friend, to the adult mentor that has a slight sad edge to him. But perhaps the only one that's important is that there is a wealth of information behind the rather simple adventure narratives. Sure we've all heard of Hercules** and Zeus and Olympus, but can we all catch the minor references to classical Greek stories and monsters? When we hear the name Calypso do we all know instantly where that story might lead? If we hear about a hero being led through the labyrinth do we know which hero that was, or how that story ended? I went through a major Greek myth phase when I was about 12, but even still I kept my phone next to me so I could Google names or hints about appearances that didn't immediately spring to mind. It's not as full of easter eggs as Harry Potter, but seriously, what is?

All in all, if you have a kid in your life (or you want to treat your inner kid) then you can't really go wrong with this series. So if you're in the mood for an action/adventure with a hint of education and Harry Potter parallels then let me enthusiastically thrust the Percy Jackson series in your general direction, okay?

*Which are both fine, but they aren't exactly great representations of variety and complexity y'know.

**Mentioned in the book as both Heracles and Hercules, for those of you who are rather pedantic.

Monday, August 4, 2014

How to Build A Girl Readalong #4 - "Think of Han Solo and Chewbacca doing it together, all tenderly after some huge intergalactic laser fight"

Welcome to another week of the How To Build A Girl readalong. Big thanks to Emily for hosting this bad boy and Harper Collins for making it possible. OBVIOUSLY thanks also need to go to Caitlin Moran for writing the book we're all talking about. If you want to join in the fun, you can pre-order the book at Odyssey. Unless you're in the UK, then you should probably just stroll down to your nearest bookstore and pick up a copy!

SPOILERS follow for everything in this book.

Guys ....




(whispers) I didn't really care for this part of the book.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed following Johanna as she experimented sexually and I thought Caitlin raised some fascinating points about traversing sexuality as a young woman but it just didn't hit the same highs as last week. Perhaps it was just that last week was so on point with the social and political commentary and Johanna/Dolly's adventures were so new and exciting. I just didn't find myself flipping the pages as quickly as I did before.

I also found that, for the first time, the tense changes were really noticeable. Before I noticed them but they never stuck out and forced me to notice them. And there were a lot of flashback-y "years later, during childbirth, I recognise the self-same noises" which works fine in How To Be A Woman but does definitely feel more out of place here. I also found some bits Like when she's dying of cystitis (which, ugh, is the absolute pits) in Al's apartment and suddenly talks about wanting to wear his cat which saunters into the bathroom with her.
I both appreciate it as an animal and would also dearly like to wear it as mittens, tippet, or hat. I would use the eyes as buttons. I want to wear this cat. This cat could be my best thing ever. 

It sort of develops into a more coherent conversation between Johanna in pain and the hapless cat, but that little section about wearing the cat just felt so out of place and bizarre to me that I had to stop reading and check I'd actually read what I thought I'd read. You want to WHAT?! LEAVE THE CATS ALONE JOHANNA.

But enough of my complaints. I'm sure everyone this week is going to talk about Johanna having sex and the issues she's come across. I'm sure I've had most of those thoughts myself but seeing it on the page was quite confronting. Like yeah, what the F men?! Sex, when you're young anyway, so often does seem to be able getting the guy off. That's supposed to sort of be enough for the both of you, if the girl also manages to climax then the guy is a hero!* Of course, this doesn't mean guys actually think this way (although I'm sure some do) but Johanna is right.
There is very little female narrative of what it's like to fuck and be fucked.
I think just about everyone mentioned this in the first week, but it was one of the very few examples of female masturbation I'd seen in a book. There were no candles or bitten lips as our heroine dreamed about her beautiful, forbidden love. It was just a straight forward depiction of a female urge. And this section reflected back onto this, because we see what happens when girls don't have some kind of outside interaction regarding sex. Johanna is well read and well acquainted with her body but she's still hopelessly out of depth when it comes to sex. You could definitely argue that because she's having sex with people almost 10 years her senior there is a power disparity which makes speaking up complicated, but I think what Caitlin is really suggesting is that while we're all fed a rather decent amount of sex in our films and books and television, it's all really in service of male pleasure. You rarely see a film when a guy asks a girl what he should do to make it more pleasurable for her, instead it's him dishing out the commands or taking control of the positions. It isn't hard to see why a girl would feel like she's just supposed to know intuitively how to make it work, or expect that her pleasure will come through his pleasure.

What I really want to talk about though, is Krissi. Or rather, his fantastic sass. I think I highlighted everything he said in this section, it was absolute gold. I wish I had been as witty an older sibling. I feel like I let my sisters down now.
"An animal, like Miss Piggy," Krissi continues. "You have the same ability as Piggy to laugh, piercingly and lengthily, at your own jokes. And," he added, leaving the room, slyly, "you've had a man's hand up your bum"
 I'm interested to see what happens with Krissi before the end of the book. Because we're gearing up for something to happen right? Johanna will find out he's gay, that's for sure, but will it be a simple coming-out-story or will it have a more sinister turn? I've known a fair amount about life in England during when the book is set but I have no idea what being gay in 1990s Wolverhampton meant. Were you likely to be ostracised by your friends and family? Or were they more accepting and encouraging by then? I know that in parts of Australia you couldn't book a single room with two beds for two men in a lot of rural Australia in the 1990s. Even if you were brothers, even if there was nothing to suggest you were gay, people were so horrified or perplexed by homosexuality that they just banned anything even tangentially related.

How did everyone else fare this week?

*Although if the stats are correct and as many girls are faking orgasms as reported, then the guys probably genuinely don't know they aren't satisfying them. Which sort of leads back into the main point that there isn't enough narrative on sex for women. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

What Kayleigh Did: July

GUYS 2015 IS ONLY 5 MONTHS AWAY. That is terrifying. I can't handle how fast this year has gone.



What I Read:

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan -review to come
Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan -review to come
Percy Jackson and the Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan -review to come
Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan -review to come
Landline by Rainbow Rowell -my review
How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran -my review
Nowhere Men by Eric Stephenson - my review

Book Stats:

50% male / 50% female
75% American / 25% International
70% ebook / 15% audiobook / 15% physical
85% fiction / 15% non-fiction
15% graphic novels / 85% novels

Wow, it's lucky I got hooked onto the Percy Jackson series or I'd have had a pretty miserable month reading wise! A really solid month of books, especially Landline, god I love that book. That book is everything. I've also been busy with the How To Build A Girl readalong which has been a BLAST so far, both in terms of the book and the company. You guys are fabulous (not that you really need me to tell you so).

 Although I've got to say I'm feeling pretty chuffed at the lack of graphic novels on my list. Not that there is anything wrong with them (obvs, since I read so damn many) but it's nice to have a list that isn't made up of 45 minute reads. I am starting the new 52 run of Aquaman though, so expect a whole lot more in my August wrap up post, haha!

I've also just started to listen to Fool by Christopher Moore on audio. The reader is brilliant, I'm sure I'd have loved to read the book properly but Euan Morton is properly excellent. If you've been thinking of picking it up, I'd definitely recommend the audiobook. I'm also slowly making my way through Cheryl Stayed's Wild. It was a quick read to begin with but my interest has dried up a bit. After the readalong ends I'll try to pick up where I left off.


Another dry month for visual entertainment. I saw plenty but meh, they weren't anything to write home about.  I was convinced to see the new Hercules and Transformers films by my friends and OMG SO BORED. I was expecting big dumb spectacles from both, at least I should be able to giggle at the stupidity, but they both nearly put me to sleep. They were completely sterile of adventure, fun and wit. Just 0 out of 0 stars.

I saw the Eric Bana horror/drama Deliver Us From Evil. It was a pretty standard exorcism film really, maybe it would have been better at home with a group of friends but it was just sort of...still. And finally, I saw Dawn of the Planet of the Apes which was actually amazing. Like, potentially in my top movies of the year, awesome. The human side of the story was fairly rote, but the story with the apes plus all of the visual effects. Damn son, that was some genuinely decent film-making.

I've mostly been comfort watching. Lots of 30 Rock, It's Always Sunny and Parks and Recreation. Although I did start watching The Witches of East End, Netflix wore me down after recommending it for about 20 weeks straight. It is hilariously camp and stars Julia Ormond so obviously everyone should also watch it.

\Anyway, every second I sit here typing is a second I can't sneak ahead and read ahead in the readalong sections. So I am OUT, yo.

Graphic Novel Mini-Reviews #21

Sex Criminals (volume 1)

Written by: Matt Fraction; Illustrated by: Chip Zdarsky

Published: 2014

My Thoughts: I was on the hunt for some new comics to get into from the ground up and I came across this little number from Matt Fraction, writer of Hawkeye and The Five Fists of Science. It's an interesting little story, absolutely unlike anything else I've read. Suzie and Jon are two very unique people. Unique because each have the power to stop time when they climax, and enter into a space (The Quiet for Suzie and something less PG for Jon) where they are able to escape from the stresses and problems of their daily lives. It's a brilliant story, raunchy, funny, bizarre and also kinda sweet. It's part love story, part journey to self-discovery, part heist story. And it looks like it's only going to get wilder and stranger as it continues.

Pretty Deadly (Volume 1)

Written by: Kelly Sue DeConnick; Illustrated by: Emma Rios, Jordie Bellaire.

Published: 2014

My Thoughts: Is there anything Kelly Sue can't do? (no)
Pretty Deadly is...pretty deadly*. It's a gorgeously written and drawn western with shadess of magic realism and a general dream-like quality that is to die for. It's part Aesop's fable, part Neil Gaimanesque modern fairytale, part brutal reality of life in the frontier. Anyway, it's about a lot of things, but boiled right down it's a story about Death and his daughter Deathface Ginny. It's a tale of retribution and origins and ugh, have I mentioned I loved it? Also, am absolutely going to Halloween dressed as Deathface Ginny this year (and next year, and the year after).

Nowhere Men (Volume 1)

Written by: Eric Stephensen

Published: 2013

My Thoughts: How could I resist a comic book that sets out as and answer the question: What would happen if we treated our scientists like rockstars? This comic seemed like it was tailor-made for me and my tastes but it fell a little flat for me. The basic story (4 'rockstar' scientists form a company together, do mad science, gain a lot of attention, maybe do some shady dealings) is solid as is the questions it raises about ethics and responsibility and scientific credibility but it just didn't grab me like I thought it would. There are a lot of shifts in time and place, as well as switches between different stories that eventually collide and I just couldn't keep on top of it all. I'm willing to give the next volume a shot just in case it was a matter of Stephensen getting into a rhythm but I'm not holding out hope that I'll love it. The volume does get bonus points for all of the Beatles references though.

*as in awesome/fantastic/great/how-the-fuck-is-this-even-real.


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