Sunday, 28 February 2010

TSS: February 2010

. . . In Books

The first book I finished in February was John Lydon's autobiography, Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs.

As a huge Sex Pistols fan (from the '70s - don't get me started on what they've become) and a PIL fan, I'd been looking forward to this close-up look at what really happened during the UK's punk movement from the eyes of the infamous, 'outspoken' frontman.

This book didn't disappoint. It's exactly what I was expecting and more. Full of insight and anecdotes from additional musicians and journalists, it was one hell of a page turner and a must-read for a music fan. Other than that, there's not a lot I can say here that I didn't already say in my review.

I finished reading This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff soon after Rotten.

This was another book I'd had in the back of my mind as something I'd wanted to read ever since I saw the film adaptation with Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert DeNiro. The film is superb and the book is wonderfully written.

I read Wolff's short story 'Bullet in the Brain' back in university and, having already heard of him from the film, was even more eager to dive into his writing.

He wasn't a disappointment. This is a great introduction, not only to Wolff's life, but to his writing. I'll definitely be on the lookout for more from him. Tales of awkward adolescence, dreaming of a better future, mixed with horrible domestic abuse, is told in an inspiring but brutally honest story.

This is another must read. A great start to reading for February.

Unfortunately that great start didn't last.

Guilt Trip was okay. Nothing special. Nothing mind-blowing. In fact, missing a lot of detail that I felt was needed. The subject of teenage suicide is introduced during the first quarter of the book but never explored any further. A young boy tries to kill himself ... but we never really find out why or anything else about that character.

That's very frustrating.

Plus, I'm usually all for main characters being unsympathetic and greatly flawed (for me, it makes them more human) but that got annoying really quickly in this. Ali comes off as a whiney self-indulgent brat. I'll be the first to admit that when I was a teenager, I was awful to live with. I was so moody and snappy - what teenager isn't? But Ali takes that to a whole other level. She helps to save Daniel Feeny's life but isn't interested in going to visit him or having anything to do with him afterwards.

In fact, she goes out of her way to avoid him. Why? What a surprise! It's never explained.

What a shame this story wasn't explored in greater detail. What a disappointment.

This is the first book I've read to review for Bookgeeks.

Unfortunately this was a disappointment too.

I've been wanting to explore the 'angel' genre for some time as I feel a strong need to take a break from my beloved vampires whose stories are being used for all they're worth these days. Angels sounded different. I'd never read a book that had an angel. (Other than Jodi Picoult's Keeping Faith which kind of touches on that subject.)

I have no doubt in my mind that there are interesting angel-themed stories out there but, unfortunately, this isn't one for me.

I know for a fact that there's a fan base out there for this kind of stuff. I know there are people who will love this book and its upcoming sequels. However, I'm not one of them.

How can I describe it? You know those Mills & Boon stories that all basically have the same plot and are very steamy and romantic and you know you can always turn to them for exactly what you're in the mood for? (Not that I've ever read one - I just studied them in my 'Genre Fiction' module at uni (a module which I soon dropped) .)

Well, I know for a fact that there are Mills & Boon-esque supernatural and fantasy stories out there right now. Those that are a little more steamier than your standard s&f tale that features a love interest. This is one of those books.

The story revolves around a vampire hunter who is hired to hunt down an archangel. Unfortunately, that would-be action-packed adventure is overshadowed by said vampire hunter and her chemistry with (another) archangel that has hired her.

Confusing yet boring. It's not something I find sexy. It's not my thing. But ideal for others.

I'm in the middle of writing the review for it at the moment. I'll post the link once it's up.

I started The Stand at the beginning of the month and am still reading it.

Not only did I have other books to review for other websites (which takes priority) but this is one freaking thick book!

My copy (which is the uncut version) is 1421 pages long. Phew!

I'm really enjoying it so far. King's never disappointed me. I've been a fan of his from around the age of 12-13. For the last 2 years I've made it my own personal challenge to read all of his novels and short story collections in chronological order. It's bound to take some time as there's a heck of a lot of writing and I'm not the fastest reader at the best of times.

Never the less, I'm enjoying myself. :)

I'm 3/4 of a way through this and, so far, it's the best thing I've read all year. It's probably one of the best things I've read in months and months.

This is the follow-up to Girl With a One Track Mind - a book I loved and recommend to EVERYONE.

This book explores what happened to 'Abby Lee' (or Zoe Margolis) after Girl With a One Track Mind was published and The Sunday Times 'outed' her. It explores what happened when everyone in Margolis' life suddenly knew all the intimate details of her sex life and how it affected her relationships, her career, and her confidence.

This is a really inspiring woman. She embraces her sexuality and femininity and isn't afraid of who she is. Her blog is here. Go visit! Now! And read both books. (The follow up is released this Friday.) The writing can be a little graphic at times but it's not overtly pornographic. Mostly it's just fun musings and thoughts that come from a woman with a high sex drive; A woman who isn't afraid to say, 'If men think about sex all the time, why can't we?'


. . . In films

I have a week to finish my Oscar Watch. Here's my progress:

Avatar (2009)

I enjoyed this much more than I expected.

I like James Cameron. He makes big films with interesting stories. This was a lot like The Abyss in the sense that it had a story that should make every person reflect on how destructive the human race can be.

It clearly mirrored the story of the Native Americans and how 'the white man' took over their land with no thought for anyone.

Predictable but an important story. I hate it when people say, 'Ooh, in the future we'll be able to live on so-and-so planet.' Why? So we can destroy that like we destroyed Earth? Ugh.

Visually absolutely stunning!

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (2009)


This was incredible. I'd heard it described as a modern day Color Purple.

And WOW. This needs to be seen by everyone.

So touching. So moving. So heartbreaking.

No words can describe how incredible this film is.

If you get a chance to see it, do it. In fact, go out of your way to see it! This deserves any awards it gets. Mo'Nique's performance in particular was absolutely amazing. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up from me.

Up in the Air (2009)

Not the most uplifting film in the world but had quite a few funny moments and, overall, was a good watch.

George Clooney is on top form as always (God, he's just oozing that 'old Hollywood' quality, isn't he?) and Anna Kendrick was both hilarious and moving.

I'd say this is well worth the watch. A lot of realism to each character and storyline but not a film to watch if redundancy has hit you hard recently (It centers around a man whose job is to fire people). Overall, really well-written, beautiful to watch (even though a lot of it is centred around airports, the visuals are never dull or ugly).

Films left to watch before Oscar Night:
1) The Blind Side (2009) (One I'm looking forward to ... though I don't actually know anything about American football so usually tend to stay clear of films that heavily feature this.)

2) District 9 (2009) (I like sci-fi films. I can't wait.)

3) An Education (2009) (I love Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard so I'm saving this until last.)

4) The Hurt Locker (2009) (I'm a pacifist and don't believe in war. This could be hard one to watch.)

5) Inglourious Basterds (2009) (I love Quentin Tarantino. How could I not want to watch this?)

6) A Serious Man (2009) (I have started watching this but had to stop. It didn't snag my interest and I didn't 'get' it. I'm going to try again though.)

7) Up (2009) (I loved the trailer so I'm looking forward to it.)

While I'm on the subject of films, I do have to recommend one for all you book lovers out there.

Yes, the big girly in me got around to watching Bright Star this month and wept like a baby. This is the story of John Keats and Fanny Brawne's passionate and tragic relationship. I love Abbie Cornish. Ever since I saw her in Candy (another must-see), I've followed her career. And Ben Whishaw isn't too bad to look at too. ;-) This is a must-see for films lovers, period lovers, romance lovers, and poetry lovers. (And fans of Keats but that goes without saying.)

Oh *gushes*. I loved this film. I have no comprehensible explanation. I'd gush too much if I tried to explain myself further. Just watch it.


. . . In Life

February hasn't been the greatest month for me in my personal life.

Not only did I lose my grandmother but I made a few decisions that affected me and my best friend badly. Do I regret these decisions? Sometimes. But que sara, sara. What will be, will be. You never know what the future holds.

On the plus side, I've been more focused on my career aspirations, have managed to get a few more freelance jobs, have been looking at universities/schools to go back to for the future, and have a clearer idea of where I want to travel.

Very vague for this section of TSS, eh? Well ... right now my personal life is a confusing mess and can be overwhelming at times but thankfully I have two wonderfully supportive parents, a whole heap of good friends (in real life and online), and you guys. You guys and your comments always bring a smile to my face so in a way you've helped me get through some of my toughest times this month. Thank you. xxx


Thursday, 25 February 2010

. . .

So once again I am speechless.

Except to say, you know how annoying it is when really irritating money-grabbing film producers with no real artistic merit decide to remake classics that don't actually need remaking?


Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Review: Guilt Trip by Anne Cassidy

My review for Guilt Trip by Anne Cassidy is now up here.

Without getting into too much detail, I just want to say that I gave this book a 3 Star Rating, not a 4 star. My 3 star rating was being generous too.

I found it very hard to express what I thought of this book. It's haunting and poignant in places but fails to live up to what the 'present day' scenes promise, which is a book full of depth, mystery and humanity. The scenes set in the past were very disappointing and the only reason I couldn't put the book down was because I was waiting for it to improve. It didn't!

I think my editor sensed my inability to get this across clearly, got rid of a few criticisms, focused more on the positive and brought the rating up.

But, yeah, I just wanted to establish that I wouldn't bother reading it unless you're between the ages of 16-18 and living in Britain. Then you might find some sort of connection with it. Otherwise, just don't bother.

Monday, 22 February 2010

The Sunday Salon (on a Monday)

This is because I was working yesterday and too exhausted to blog about anything by the time I came home. :P

I've been in work all day today too but feel guilty towards most of you guys who I'm subscribed to because I lagged behind in checking out your blogs this week and, as a result, came home to 1000+ unread posts on my Google Reader and promptly marked them all as 'Read'.

I'm a devoted follower to most of you, though, so will be checking out the posts I missed the next time you blog. :)


Today's Sunday Salon is mostly about film! (Don't worry - there's a bit about books at the end! Scroll down if you can't stand the film talk.)


Yeah, most of you who have followed me for a while now (and I do love you) will know that this blog isn't just a book blog. I also post about my bigger passion in life - films.

Now, books and films do tend to fight it out over what holds my attention more and where my heart belongs.

I love books. I'm a devoted reader.

But films are my passion. Films are what I'm obsessed with, what I can quote at the drop of a hat, and what I can talk about for hours and hours without getting bored (though the same usually can't be said for the person I'm talking about them too.)

That being said, as a film buff, I can honestly say that I HATE THE OSCARS.

The award season is the vainest, stupidest part of the year for film. All these films that sneak in and get a limited release at the end of the year (to a private audience featuring mostly film critics) are hailed as the greatest thing to hit our screens since celluloid was invented.

I just hate it.

One of the main things I really dislike is that the majority of these films are specifically made for Oscar consideration.

Just like a lot of summer blockbusters are made to pull the audiences in with their dazzling sfx and explosions, these films are always centred around one individual's - usually the underdog - struggle to overcome something fierce in life. They use the epically lame and dramatic music to bring a tear to your eye before you realise that this is Hollywood real, not real real.

When did this kind of thing start happening?

I first really noticed it when The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was released last year. This is based on a book by F. Scott Fitzgerald but was being advertised as the biggest vanity project I'd ever seen.

Constant moving images of soft lensed 'beautiful-looking' Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, falling in love, were displayed on TV Screens, Billboards, around the internet. Why couldn't this have been released in the summer if it was such an epic tale? Because it wouldn't have had a chance for consideration.

I still haven't watched it, but I've heard that it was quite the disappointment. I'll get around to it, eventually.

My point to this whole Oscar rant is that every year for the past couple of years, I've boycotted the award season. I refuse to watch actors being paraded around like prize ponies, claiming that 'their art' is important. (But clearly not as important as your vintage Chanel shoes, right?)

But then this year, I realised that, as a film buff, I'm missing out on films that might actually have a good reason to be considered.

One of my favourite films of the past couple of years is Juno.

It's so witty and clever and has such a good story - You'd be a fool not to miss it.

But this film garnered its awards too. If I hadn't seen it before the award season started, I might have completely missed it.

This was a small independent film written by a first-time writer and no huge superstars. But it had an incredible story and such a great script.

No-one ever thought this would be in line with some of the bigger Oscar contenders. But it was!

That just goes to show that sometimes the academy use their brain and actually think outside of the box of dozens of films that are being shoved down their throats for consideration during the last couple of weeks of each year.

So ... (Yes, I DO have a point!)

I have decided that this year, being the film geek I am, I am going to set myself a challenge watch every film that has been nominated for the BEST MOTION PICTURE OF THE YEAR award this year! That way, rather than bitching about the films nominated, I can make a proper decision based on my own opinion of whether or not these are deserving of such an Oh-so-grand accolade.


The list is as follows:

1) Avatar (2009)
2) The Blind Side (2009)
3) District 9 (2009)
4) An Education (2009)
5) The Hurt Locker (2009)
6) Inglourious Basterds (2009)
7) Precious (2009)
8) A Serious Man (2009)
9) Up (2009)
10) Up in the Air (2009)

So far, I've seen one of them. I went to see Avatar with my dad the other week. The review will be up soon.

I'm quite excited about this, actually. How many people actually sit and watch the Oscars (I won't actually be watching them this year :P but you get what I mean) having watched all of the nominees?

So my question to you, lovely readers, is:

Have you seen any of the films up for consideration this year? What did you think of them? And which one do you think will win?



So, I noticed yesterday that I have 49 subscribers. I don't know how many of you still bother to read this blog but that is amazing.

I can't believe people actually want to read the crap I write. :P

So, as a treat to you to show you how grateful I am to you for putting up with me, when my subscriber list hits 50, I'm going to be putting on a mini sort of competition thing to celebrate my vanity. It's really that I'm going to give a couple of you a treat to show you how much I love yous.

It'll probably be a while. We still have to wait for that 50th subscriber but watch this space . . .

Have a good week. x x x  

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Wordless Wednesday


Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Twilight Incident

In work today, something nearly made me physically sick.

I work in a jewellers and, today, a woman came in with her mother and her 13-year-old son, looking for a longer charm bracelet than the one she was wearing. She wanted to add more charms and there wasn't enough room on the bracelet she owned.

While looking at the selection my supervisor showed her, she proudly displayed her original charm bracelet and said, "It's my Twilight bracelet!"

My supervisor said, pleasantly, "Ah, really?"

The woman giddily went on: "I've got the wolf head. I've got the bat. I've got the heart. And I need to get this one for her graduation ... And this one for the wedding night because he gives her a special charm in the book but I can't put it on the bracelet yet because I have to wait for the film release ... And I've got all the books ... And loads of posters up ... "

Yeah, it didn't end there.

I could help but look at her 13-year-old son with pity.

It's one thing to be a fan of a series of books ... even if they're not actually aimed at your age group. (My darling friend, Michelle, could tell you all about that. ;-) )

It's even fair enough to get excited about the release of the film adaptations of your favourite books. (I mean, christ, I couldn't stop jumping around waiting for the release of The Time Traveler's Wife adaptation.)

But ... to be a forty-something year-old woman who collects shit like this and gushes in such a sickening way as though Twilight will forever go down in history as THE. BEST. STORY. EVER! is ridiculous.

I could forgive 'tweens and young teenagers for pulling this kind of stuff off. I mean, the series is written for them and I remember how unbelievably crazy I was for Leonardo DiCaprio after the release of Romeo + Juliet and Titanic. That's just what teens do. They collect tokens of their devotion towards some poor sod under contract to act as the perfect boyfriend figure in public.

But, seriously ... It's unbelievably sad how many women there are who look at the Twilight series - those stories about a sparkly emo vampire and an emotionally retarded teen - as though it symbolises something missing from their lives.


I can understand that this sounds completely horrible to this customer but I don't care. This wasn't just "I'm a fan" or "I'm a big fan". It wasn't even "I love this series so much!" This was take-my-breath-away, glazed-eyes swooning over the name of it. I wondered what her 13-year-old boy thought about it ... considering he probably goes to school with a bazillion fans too.

I was listening to a recent Hamish and Andy podcast and they had loads of guys phone in about how they'd had girlfriends dump them after watching Twilight.

Yeah, so I don't know what my point is.

Probably that anyone over the age of 21 who finds themselves spazzing out like this needs to get a grip. ... And maybe a boyfriend. ... And a life.


I'm leaving you with this because it's just hilarious.

A fan of the series recorded their reaction to the New Moon teaser trailer last year. That was hilarious enough because she couldn't care less how geeky she looks (Good on 'er!).

But then this group of guys filmed themselves watching her.

Oh, hilarity ensues.


Monday, 15 February 2010

Monday Randomness

So ...

Everyone's starting their Monday morning posts by describing how wonderful their Valentine's Day was.

As someone who recently made the decision to become single and had her first V day alone in four years, I'd just like to say:


I hope you choked on your chocolates and your roses gave you hives.


Right. *phew* I think I got that out of my system. My apologies but I went into Starbucks yesterday and hadn't really realised, until now, how utterly disgusting and gooey people in love are.

So I went out with two of my friends and got drunk. :) 'Twas fun.

Anyway, was there a point to this post?

Probably not.

But while I'm here, I'd like to mention this book I'm reading at the moment. I chose it to review for Bookgeeks and, while I'm not really that into it, know that there'a a huge fanbase out there for this kind of stuff.

But I spotted the US cover and compared it to mine, which has the UK cover, and thought, 'Wow. If I'd seen the US cover, I'd have probably never looked twice.'

Isn't it amazing how we try not to judge a book by its cover but so do?

So, here's my question...

Which cover do you prefer? And would one make you more inclined to pick it up and read the back than the other? And why?

UK vs US


Friday, 12 February 2010

Toy Story 3 Trailer #2

I was 8 when Toy Story came out. I was 12 when Toy Story 2 came out.

Now, I might be 23 years old, but I've waited 11 years for this, and hell yeah, I'm seeing it!


Thursday, 11 February 2010

BTT: Encouragement

How can you encourage a non-reading child to read? What about a teen-ager? Would you require books to be read in the hopes that they would enjoy them once they got into them, or offer incentives, or just suggest interesting books? If you do offer incentives and suggestions and that doesn’t work, would you then require a certain amount of reading? At what point do you just accept that your child is a non-reader?

In the book Gifted Hands by brilliant surgeon Ben Carson, one of the things that turned his life around was his mother’s requirement that he and his brother read books and write book reports for her. That approach worked with him, but I have been afraid to try it. My children don’t need to “turn their lives around,” but they would gain so much from reading and I think they would enjoy it so much if they would just stop telling themselves, “I just don’t like to read.”

I don't have children so I have no first hand experience of encouraging them to read. I've always known that when I have children, I'll be reading to them from a very early age so that they have that early memory of books and reading connected to the warmth and love that I gave them.

I always remember my dad reading me bedtime stories and it's well-documented in my family that I'd come home from nursery school (at aged 3) and drag my big basket of books to the nearest parents, demanding that every one of those stories be read.

My parents are voracious readers. I've never seen them not be in the middle of reading something. Our house is filled to the brim with books! I imagine it's where my brothers and I got our love of reading. We look up to our parents when we're children and want to be like them. If we see them doing something like reading, we'll want to copy them.

Plus our Junior school organised book clubs - We'd take a catalogue home every couple of weeks, tell our parents which books we wanted, we brought the money in, and the school would send away for the books for individuals. It was exciting.

I think in order to introduce children and teenagers who don't read to something they'd sit down with is to find out their interests. There's always a book they'll have something in common with.

If they're a big fan of certain films that are based on books, that's always a good way to turn them to reading aswell. :)  

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Weekly Geeks: Fun Facts About Stephen King

This week’s theme is: fun facts about authors.

1. Choose a writer you like.
2. Using resources such as Wikipedia, the author’s website, whatever you can find, make a list of interesting facts about the author.
3. Post your fun facts list in your blog, maybe with a photo of the writer, a collage of his or her books, whatever you want.
4. Come sign the Mr Linky below with the url to your fun facts post.
5. As you run into (or deliberately seek out) other Weekly Geeks’ lists, add links to your post for authors you like or authors you think your readers are interested in.


I decided to do my Weekly Geeks fun facts on Stephen King as I'm currently reading The Stand (I've become paranoid whenever someone sneezes or coughs around me now) and I've been reading King's books since I was about 13 so he's one of my all-time favourites.

So here goes . . .

- Stephen Edwin King was born September 21st, 1947, in Portland, Maine. He also grew up and went to college in Maine which is why most of his stories are set there. He sticks to a place he knows the ins and outs of.

- King graduated from the University of Maine in 1970 with a Bachelor of Science in English. He then went on, later in life, to teach Creative Writing there.

- King's first novel, Carrie, was published in 1974 and later made into a film. Originally he threw the uncompleted manuscript out after becoming discouraged with the idea. His wife, Tabitha, rescued it and encouraged him to finish it.

- To date, King has had a total of 48 novels published.

- In the late '70s/early '80s, King published a series of novels under a pseudonym, Richard Bachman, as an experiment to see whether he could replicate his own success again. He did. And Bachman was later exposed as King's pseudonym. This led to a press release announcing the death of Bachman from 'cancer of the pseudonym'. In 2007, King published an old manuscript of Bachman's, Blaze, and announced that all proceeds would go the charity for 'cancer of the pseudonym', in memory of Richard.

- When King overcame his addiction to drink and drugs in 1987, he came across one of his books, Cujo, that he couldn't remember writing. He had to reread it to learn what it was about as he was so heavily under the influence at the time he wrote it, he'd completely forgotten it.

- King's sons, Joe Hill and Owen King, are also published authors.

- On June 19, 1999, King was struck by a minivan on the shoulder of Route 5 in Lovell, Maine. The driver had got distracted by his dog, and King landed in a depression 14 feet from the pavement. He suffered from a collapsed lung, multiple fractures on his right leg, scalp laceration, and a broken hip.

- It was during his time in hospital that King got the idea for Lisey's Story. His wife told him she'd go home and make his office nice and tidy for his return. He panicked and told her to stay out of there, realising that if he had died, he would have left his papers and drafts very unorganised and free for anyone to look at.

- King bought the minivan that hit him and, on the anniversary of the accident, hammered it to pieces with a baseball bat.

- King suffers from a currently incurable condition called macular degeneration which eventually leads to blindness.

- King has stated that his favourite book-to-film adaptations of his work are Stand by Me, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Mist.

- In 2002, King wrote a TV mini series called Rose Red. He even made a cameo appearance as a pizza boy.

- People travel from miles around to visit King's house in Bangor, Maine, whose gates are adorned with bats and spider webs.


Review: This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff

Title: This Boy's Life

Author: Tobias Wolff

Year: 1989

Rating: 5/5

Review written for: Me

Summary: Tobias Wolff takes us through his teen years as 'Jack' while on the road with his mother, striving to find something better for themselves and a future not so bleak.

Review: I first became aware of Tobias Wolff's story as a young teen. I caught the 1993 film adaptation of this book, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert DeNiro, and was amazed to discover that everything I watched was based on true events.

Wolff's memoir of his teen years is a wonderful tribute to a time that most affected his adult life. This Boy's Life begins with Wolff and his mother travelling across the country with dreams of making it rich by finding uranium. It is a glowing, idealistic dream which distracts them from the fact that they are running away from Mrs Wolff's abusive boyfriend (who soon tracks them down).

After a few years of settling from place to place, Mrs Wolff falls in love with a man named Dwight who insists they move in with him and make a happy family. Dwight's abusive and domineering demeanor soon starts to show though, and Wolff soon discovers that if he wants any happiness, he has to work for it himself.

This Boy's Life was such an interesting read. Young Wolff isn't a perfect teen. In fact, he's a troublemaker. For every school he attends, he always seems to find the bad crowd to hang around with. Even Dwight's strict sense of discipline isn't enough to whip him into shape completely. I always enjoy narrators who aren't perfect. Toby is far from perfect. He's the kind of neighbourhood kid you'd have to watch out for; The kind of kid who'd throw rocks through your windows or steal the fenders from your car.

But he's likeable. His narration is packed with his inner thoughts that insist he hates the way he is and doesn't understand why he does what he does. He wants to better himself and go to prep school and a good college, like his father and older brother before him.

It's his lack of interest in school and his penchant for troublemaking that's putting a stop to this. He also begins to notice some of Dwight rub off on him - an angry attitude quick to put anyone down who'll do better than him.

This Boy's Life captures an adolescence so perfectly. The dreams that we have about our future and how they are altered by circumstance. Wolff is now a successful, award-winning writer but was told that he'd never amount to anything. I love hearing success stories. Teenage tearaways are never given any encouragement. If the traditional school system fails them, teachers give up and never expect to hear from these pupils again. It was the same in my school - If you didn't get A's from day one, teachers didn't bother. When these pupils can completely change their lives with newfound confidence, it makes me smile to think of how hard they've worked for it.

This Boy's Life was an excellent read about life in the '50s/60s. Being a teenager while faced with life decisions and an abusive homelife is an interesting world to dive into. I found the relationship between Toby and Arthur Gayle an interesting one. The two initially meet by getting into a fight over Toby calling Gayle a 'sissy'. They soon become the best of friends though Wolff is quick to hide this friendship because of how 'different' Gayle is - effeminate, sarcastic, smart. Wolff even mentions that one afternoon they find themselves kissing but never speak of it again. Small instances like this are perfect details for the kinds of crazy things we do during our teens that we never really understand - We just want to experiment with everything while trying to discover who we are.

I'll be on the lookout for more books by Wolff. I read his short story, Bullet in the Brain, while in uni and loved it so I look forward to getting more and more into his writing as the year goes on. I'd recommend this in a heartbeat - especially if you like teen reading. This is like a YA book but real and full of the little details that fiction would miss.  

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Review: Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs by John Lydon

Title: Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs

Author: John Lydon

Year: 1995

Rating: 5/5

Review written for: Me

Summary: John Lydon, lead singer of Sex Pisols and Public Image Limited, traces his poverty-stricken, working-class beginnings to the height of his stardom as 'Johnny Rotten', frontman of one of Britain's most controversial and influential groups of all time.

Review: I'm going to attempt to write this review without any bias but, as a hardcore Sex Pistols and Pil fan, it might prove hard to remain objective through this one.

Rotten is divided up into 'segments', not chapters, chattering the passage of time in John Lydon's life. His narration is brutal and honest, completely true to himself, and he never stops to worry about whether he should be exposing certain bits and pieces about his past and career. He just wants the fabrications of the Pistols to come to an end and present an honest account.

While the book is carried by Lydon's narration, its pages are also interjected with passages from contributors including Steve Jones, Paul Cook, Billy Idol, childhood friends, family members, Warner executives, music journalists, and Sex Pistol roadies. As a result, at times there appears to be some conflicting accounts of the Pistols' time in the music industry. Lydon acknowledges this, and doesn't care.

The truth is that these extra contributors help convey the idea of what '70s Britain looked like and how the punk movement affected all people from every class. Many people are quick to point at the Ramones as the starters of punk. Lydon and his contributors barely mention them, citing the New York music scene at the time with having no relevance to what was going on in Britain.

The Pistols wanted to break through all the middle-class bullshit about what music should be and create a scene where artistic freedom ran lose and the 'rules' of what makes a good song was forgotten. Lydon has never been out to impress anyone; He just wanted to write and sing about life for the late teen-early twentysomethings who were given no ambition or motivation or free will (surpressed by teachers, parents, or 'the system' that tells us what the natural route in life is).

The punk movement of the '70s helped to bring together these feelings of confusion and longing to express themselves, whether the youngsters were from working-class areas, middle-class, or even upper-class, rebelling against mummy and daddy.

With every paragraph that Lydon describes his time in the Sex Pistols, we begin to understand more about the state of the world 'back then' and how they caused a massive affect on music, TV, politics, and life. All conservative rules about what was allowed to be heard, to be seen, to be shown, to be worn, was thrown out the window.

Lydon even touches on the court cases that followed the demise of the Sex Pistols between himself and his manager, Malcolm McLaren, that was fought for years to hand any royalties back to the members of the band rather than the negligent McLaren.

'Punk' has since become a real commercialised word. In fact, hearing that this new band or that new band is 'punk' will be the quickest way to turn me off. What's punk about them? What are they saying and how are they communicating the way the Sex Pistols did? Pffft.

Any Sex Pistols or Pil fan should have already gone out and bought this. That goes without saying.

However, any person who calls themself a music fan ought to read this too. The punk movement was something like nothing else. How many bands like the Sex Pistols come around and change the way we think about everything? Bands that really do influence the way we think about life and allow us to open our eyes and have some rational thought?

Lydon's honesty and openness about what he believes in - whether you think it's right or not - is brilliantly gripping and a real lesson about music, life, and self-expression.  


Just when I begin to ingratiate myself back into the blogging community, something comes along and puts it to a halt.

Apologies for lack of posts here and lack of visits to your blogs too.

My family was dealt with a big blow this week. My beloved nana passed away early on Monday morning.

I'll miss her so much. She was completely full of life, spirit, and soul - everything a true Valleys girl should be. A brilliant sense of humour. And so unbelievably strong.

I think my brothers and I share the same childhood memory of my nana and her house. She loved fried food. In fact, her kitchen smelled of it. Whenever my parents dropped us off at Nana's house for the afternoon or morning, we'd all huddle together on her sofa to watch marathons of Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Willow, or Pete's Dragon, while she cooked us some bacon butties.

She loved to collect things. Her home was adorned with millions of antiques or trinkets and knick-knacks that she'd recieve or send off for. And she was a big knitter. She'd knit and make toys for all her grandchildren. Little dolls or teddies. Anything she could find a design for.

She really was amazing.

I miss you already, Nana. xxx