Change the links you have in your Google Reader or on your blogs. I am no longer blogging at this address.
My new blog will be found here: www.notinthepink.com
So go subscribe and visit! And I'll be posting some reviews and fun stuff over the weekend. :D
Friday, 5 March 2010
Monday, 1 March 2010
I'd like to wish my fellow Welsh peeps a Happy St. David's Day today.
Being 23 on St. David's Day is quite sad because, other than wearing a leek or daffodil, it's usually a pretty normal day.
Back when we were kids, we all came to school in a traditional Welsh costume (which was hideously embarassing at the time). Lessons were called off to sing Welsh hymns in the morning and have a big Eisteddfod. Then we'd have cawl and welsh cakes for dinner, and in the afternoon we'd do some old-fashioned Welsh dancing.
At the time it was such an annoying thing to do. Now I miss it. We don't really do anything as adults. We just get up, get dressed, put our leeks and daffodils (or, if your work place allows it, rugby shirts) on and go to work. Boring. :P
I still get pretty shocked when my English friends tell me they never celebrate St. George's and never did as kids either.
I couldn't imagine a childhood without the embarassment of an old-fashioned costume.
Anyway, as it's St. David's Day, and I'm under no illusions that Wales isn't quite a forgotten country when it comes to the UK, I'm going to set you all a challenge.
Everyone knows lots about England. A lot of Americans know a lot about their 'Scottish or Irish' roots. But Wales always seems to be forgotten. Probably because we're so small.
I challenge you today to find out a little bit about Wales. It doesn't matter where you're from. Just give yourself a bit of extra worldly knowledge today and find out some nuggets of information about my home country. :)
Posted by Ceri at 10:56
Sunday, 28 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:
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
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
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?
ON THE SUBJECT OF BOOKS . . .
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
Tuesday, 16 February 2010
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
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?
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
Thursday, 11 February 2010
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
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.
Title: This Boy's Life
Author: Tobias Wolff
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
Title: Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs
Author: John Lydon
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
Wednesday, 20 January 2010
Title: Wicked 2: Legacy & Spellbound
Author: Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguié
Review written for: The Bookbag
Review: Holly Cathers has returned, and this time, she's more powerful than ever. The war between the House of Cahors witches and House of Deveraux warlocks still rages on, and only one side will eventually triumph.
Having had just a short amount of time to adjust to her new position as the head of ... (click here to read more)
Title: Interview with the Vampire
Author: Anne Rice
Plot: One night, a boy sits down with a stranger to hear the story of his life.
What makes this stranger's life story so interesting, however, is that for over 200 years he has been living as a creature of the night - a vampire.
And so the stranger begins a tale of hurt and betrayal, love and passion, good and evil.
Review: It took me a good three months to read this book from start to finish. I first read Interview with the Vampire while I was in my teens after seeing the film, and I'd forgotten how heavy Anne Rice was as a writer.
In some ways she reminds me of John Steinbeck. Not in theme, but in style. Her pages are filled with description that, at times, aren't broken down for a long while. Perhaps it's my lifestyle that makes me tired the majority of the time, but I find books like this quite long-winded if I just want a quick read while on the train to work or while waiting at a doctor's office. As a result, I'll feel my eyelids start to droop quite quickly if the paragraphs aren't broken down enough. As I said, I'm tired a lot of the time because of my lifestyle but Rice's writing didn't help matters.
Nevertheless, I took a small break from it over Christmas, and was eager to come back to it. This time around I finished it no problem. Maybe I needed that time away from it to breathe.
Interview with the Vampire has quickly become a classic in vampire literature. It's not hard to see why. Rather than the sparkly, friends-and-lovers-of-people creatures we read about in today's novels, the vampires in this book are as they should be: scary, dangerous monsters.
Louis, the title character, is a wonderfully complex character. His struggle to come to terms with the change between human and immortal, and the terrible guilt he feels towards his desire to kill, is fascinating. It is Louis' journey to find a proper peace of mind and discover where he lies in the balance of things that we follow with equal wonder and excitement.
Louis' problem is that he was never really given a choice. As a human he suffered from terrible grief over the death of his brother, and wished for death to come to him too. A vampire heard his pleas and came to his aid. As a result Louis now has questions that he can't find the answers for.
If vampires are Satan's children, as he belives them to be, how can he achieve a confident state of mind and enjoy an eternal life as those immortals around him can?
His vampire creator, Lestat, is one of my favourite characters in literature. Lestat has such mystery to him. We don't know where this creature has come from. We know nothing of his history and why he keeps Louis in the dark about the secret to his 'curse.' Is Lestat merely disappointed by the answers or is he, himself, also a confused wanderer, struggling to find companions to shield the pain? If so, why? Again, where has he come from?
It is Rice's ability to create characters with such unbelievable depth and mystery that make her a mistress of her craft. While Louis' narration keeps us intrigued to find the answers he's been searching for, it also provides a one-sided view of many spectacular characters (Lestat, Claudia, Armand) that we long to hear more about. Louis' description of the glances and feelings he gets from these characters don't do them justice: We want to get inside their heads too.
I really can not wait to read the second book of The Vampire Chronicles. The Vampire Lestat should hopefully bring to light a lot of Lestat's backstory. I guess that's also why I'm slightly apprehensive to read it too. Do I really want to get rid of all this mystery that surrounds him? At the moment I'm deeply sympathetic towards him because I have an idea in my head of a poor lost soul, struggling to make sense of the immortal world himself, but hiding it better than Louis. The Vampire Lestat might shatter that image.
Moving on, though, in spite of the initial trouble I had with getting into Anne Rice's reading, once I picked up the book again, I whizzed through the rest and discovered I really enjoyed it. I love the characters, I love the story. I love that it spans over 200 years so effortlessly; Louis doesn't mention how much time has passed between each incident but you get the idea when he makes occasional brief references to what's happening around him.
The fact that his story begins in the eighteenth century, and the vampires' ways of travelling the world in coffins in carriages, is reminiscent of the old and original classic vamp tales like Joseph Le Fanu's Carmilla or Bram Stoker's Dracula. A real history is built there and the old image of vampires being terrifying creatures of the night who leer outside your window is restored.
In a world where vampires go back to high school to fall in love with the quirky outsider or head cheerleader, it's refreshing to revisit a story like Interview with the Vampire where traditional vamp rules apply. Sunlight kills them. They kill people. It's rare to find that kind of scary vamp novel that I love nowadays. (Though Let the Right One In seemed to be the recent exception.)
Overall, an excellent read. It lost half a mark in the rating just because it took me so long to get used to Rice's fierce writing style. If you haven't yet read it and are a fan of vampire novels, get on it. So much depth and such brilliantly fleshed out characters. A real classic.
About the Author: Anne Rice is a best-selling American author of gothic and later religious themed books. Best known for her Vampire Chronicles, her prevailing thematical focus is on love, death, immortality, existentialism, and the human condition. Her books have sold nearly 100 million copies, making her one of the most widely read authors in modern history. - Taken from Anne Rice's Fantastic Fiction page.
Sunday, 17 January 2010
'Tis the first Sunday Salon of 2010! Huzzaaaah!
And I thought I'd kick this off by listing a few of my goals (or new year's resolutions) this year. :D
1) Reviewing, Reviewing, Reviewing
Those of you who follow me on Twitter (do it!) will know that my attempt at writing a book review last night was an aggressive one.
I haven't reviewed in so long that I'm out of practice and find that my writing's ... lacking something. Talent, perhaps?
I need to get back into the habit. Especially as I also volunteer to write reviews for a wonderful website called The Book Bag. (Oh ... yeah ... and that whole ambition to write reviews professionally comes into play too.)
So one of my goals is to write reviews for at least 80% of the books I read this year, and at least 50% of the films I watch.
And I need your help with it. If you see my list of 'Books read' (on the left side bar) growing but haven't seen a review since the dawn of time, poke me. Nudge me. Kick me! Make sure I'm reviewing. This blog provides perfect practice for the writing career I'd love.
2) TBR Pile
As of January 1st, 2010, there were 50 books on my TBR pile.
I managed to read 50 books in 2009 so there shouldn't be a problem.
My big reading goal this year is to see the end of my TBR pile. It needs to disappear so that I can start buying new books from my wishlist. XD
3) Weight loss
As I blogged about before, I want to lose weight.
By December, I want to have shed two stone and have toned up. This isn't so much a vanity thing as it is a personal quest to health and fitness. I eat healthily (with the exception to a lot of birthday cake and Christmas choccies); I need the fitness. It'll also give me a chance to try and make my Asthma better. :)
I've rejoined the 100 mile challenge that Trish from Trish's Reading Nook is hosting and, this time, I'm determined to do it. Treadmill starts tomorrow morning!
4) Savings Just another personal goal for me but this year I plan to open a savings account and start saving towards what I really want to do: Travel.
I've been planning these travels for the last ten years. It's about time I put my head down and really do it.
That, and I also need a new computer. I'm trading this old Dell PC in for a 'Desktop Replacement' laptop. Unfortunately I know nothing about computers ... but lucky for me, my better half is a computer nerd.
If any of you do recommend some excellent laptops (price within reason - I only make minimum wage), please leave it in the comments for me. :)
I don't know how far I'm going to go with this one but I'd really like to learn how to play the guitar.
I played violin for eight years and, as a result, can read music. I'd love to be able to play guitar and there's nothing stopping me. (Other than the inevitable cost of a purdy new guitar.)
Smiling makes me feel good.
But I don't do enough of it. I'm also very quick to voice my (grouchy) opinions on certain matters (and people) ... and can regret it because of how I sounded and may have come across.
I want to strive to think before I speak and better myself as a person. :) <3
I got two more books for my birthday last week:
My friend, Philippa, got me the restored edition of Sylvia Plath's Ariel, while my brother bought me Ancient Gonzo Wisdom: Interviews with Hunter S. Thompson. I swear these are two people who know me so well. These were the perfect gifts.
I also wandered into Waterstones, found myself a little birthday treat and bought This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff.
I've always been a fan of the film and have wanted to read this for years. Especially after having read a short story by Wolff called Bullet in the Brain whilst in uni.
That's about it for the first Sunday Salon. I really want to get back into my blogging, full force, so you might start to see the occasional meme pop up as I try and ingratiate myself back into the book blogging and film blogging community.
I do have a question for those of you who are still lovely enough to follow me, though. :)
Is there anything in particular you'd like to see from my blog this year? Anything I could do more of? Anything about me you'd like to know? Any features I could do?
I didn't start this blog to please people. I started it to amuse myself. But I figure if people are taking the time to read my words, I might aswell ask what they'd like to see.
Leave it in the comments. :) TTFN. xx
Saturday, 16 January 2010
Author: Norma Fox Mazer
Plot: Sarabath Silver isn't like the rich kids at her new school. She isn't driven to school in her dad's new Bentley from their multiple-roomed mansion, and allowed to go out on shopping sprees with her friends.
Sarabeth lives in a trailer park with her mum, where hard work and budgeting are number one on the agenda. Her mother is determined her daughter will grow up to have a better life. And Sarabeth doesn't let a thing like money stop her having fun as a regular teenager.
At school she manages to make friends with a group of popular girls, who Sarabeth imagined to be leading perfect lives. However, as her new friends begin to confide in her, she soon discovers that something is very wrong and that Patty, the blonde of the group and most known for her unpredictable moods, has been keeping the most painful secret of all.
Review: The one YA book I remember from my teen years is Silver by Norma Fox Mazer. I can't think of any other book I devoured more.
I recently came across it, covered in a mile high of dust, after having neglected it for the last 8 years or so and decided to re-read it with a new adult perspective.
While the story's clearly a bit dated (modern YA lit is now filled with references to mobile phones and facebook), the strong message of teen friendship still shines through and is what's important.
What I found interesting about this book, while I was a teenager, was that it touched on themes I'd never come across before. One of Sarabeth's new friends, Patty, is being sexually abused by her uncle and her mother refuses to believe her. This is an unfortunate situation that millions of children find themselves in to this day, and it's important that we have books like Silver to support those that feel scared and alone.
Issues like this aren't brought up enough in literature or film. While children might seen an advert or poster giving them information about what or who to turn to if they're being abused, a fictional - and relatable character - in a book or a film might give them the extra push they need to speak out. Especially if that character leaves them feeling less isolated.
Another message - maybe not quite as prominent but equally as important - is that of pre-judgement. Sarabeth's upbringing leaves her feeling somewhat vulnerable to the 'rick kids' at school. She imagines that they have everything they could ever want in life and are the very definition of 'perfect.' What she discovers about Patty teaches her that it doesn't matter what you have or own in life, or even where you come from. Money doesn't necessarily buy happiness and, while Sarabeth and her mother aren't always financially stable, they have the closest relationship.
If I ever have daughters, I'd like them to read this. It's a YA book from my own childhood and one that I still love and think is very well-written. The issues I mentioned are treated with some delicacy but enough emphasis is placed on what's important.
I'd recommend anyone who enjoys a piece of YA lit to give this a go. As I said, it's a little dated, but it has plenty of heart and a good message.
About the Author: While visiting Norma Fox Mazer's website to look for information on her, I was saddened to discover that she passed away in October from brain cancer. She was 78 years old.
Norma Fox Mazer was an American author who is best known for her books for children and young adults.
She was born in New York City but grew up in Glens Falls, New York, with parents Michael and Jean Garlan Fox. Mazer graduated from Glens Falls High School, then went to Antioch College, where she met Harry Mazer, whom she married in 1950; they have four children, one of whom, Anne Mazer, is also a writer. She has also studied at Syracuse University. - Taken from Mazer's page at Fantastic Fiction.
Wednesday, 13 January 2010
I don't take part in the Monday Musings meme but a lot of the book blogs I visit do. This week they were asked to post pictures of their bookshelves.
I love seeing pictures of people's bookshelves. Bookshelves and whatever little trinkets are on there say so much about a person.
I thought I'd do the same.
Of course, there is one thing. I don't actually have any bookshelves.
My room is the size of a kennel and, as a result, can only fit a wardrobe, single bed, mini cupboard and a tiny desk on wheels inside. This leaves me with very little room for anything else.
Consequently, my books are piled up, wherever I can fit them. Look at all the dust!
My TBR pile serves as a sort of bed-side table, squeezed between my bed and mini-cupboard.
It's currently complete with a bottle of Baileys I got from my brother for my birthday, a box of Maltesers (another birthday gift) from my boyfriend, a bag of Galaxy Minstrels (a Christmas stocking gift), a box of Lush bath smellies (a birthday gift from my other brother), and several asthma inhalers!
Books I've read! Squeezed between my wardrobe and a random wall.
This pile is adorned with two identical chocolate selection boxes I got for Christmas (one from my parents, one from the in-laws), my camcorder, and camera charger.
More books I've read. These are piled on top of my mini-cupboard.
Here they're complete with a couple of CDS (Wow! Remember those?) and a large collage of pictures of my boyfriend and me that has been framed.
The other side of my wardrobe pile. Lots of DS Games and part of a Russian doll.
Book reviews to come very very soon. :D ... And thank you all for your wonderful birthday wishes. I had a wonderful (drunken) time. ;-) 2010 is starting out really well for me.
In the meantime, I was sorting through my old university coursework and came across this piece I submitted for my Creative Writing modules. I got a good response from my lecturer and my friends at the time but, now that I read back, I'm not sure what to make of it. hehe.
So, I'm going to post it and see what you guys think.
Crystal clear water fills the empty tub. My palm touches the surface, letting the heat send tingles through to my fingertips, and I watch as the bubbles dance around my skin, performing their own ballet to the beat of the waterdrops.
I leave behind a trail of musty clothes and dip my toes into the warm liquid, setting aside all my usual inhibitions about who I think I am, letting my naked body be free. I am one with the water; it consumes every grimy piece of dirt that attaches itself and slides along my skin with more tenderness than any man has ever shown to me.
All I have to do is finger the blade of an old razor to remind myself why I’m still alive. The sting of the rusted metal against the dark fuzz that covers my leg is enough to make me flinch. Pain is not a comfort to me. Not like it used to be. I won’t let anything touch me. I am a closed book. My chapters have long since ended.
My head is under water and I hear the fierce pounding of my heart ringing in my ears. My lungs expand, waiting for their new breath of air to come, while I float like a foetus still holding on to the safe walls inside its mother. Here the world cannot abuse me. I cannot abuse myself. I am at peace with the notion that soon I will reawaken and find a new day to start afresh. I will forget about those that scorn at my deformities.
When I resurface, nobody is there. Now all I have to cling on to are the thick, white substances that shoot from clear bottles, absorbing themselves into my pores, creating softness that I never thought I’d find. I want to smell like a fresh posy and attract attention when I walk into a room. My gels and soaps work with me to improve my life, to create something spectacular inside.
Saturday, 9 January 2010
Today your not-completely-sane blogger friend turns 23. Eep!
I'm definitely reacting to it better than I did last year. Last year, the clock struck midnight and I cried. I really did not want to be 22.
But, this year, I'm more comfortable with myself, have better goals, and am generally happier.
Which is why I'll be spending the day indulging in a trip to the cinema, some games of bowling, and over-the-top drinking!
This really does look amazing, doesn't it?
I thought the original trailer looked 'Wow!' This looks simply incredible. Visually stunning. A stellar cast consisting of:
Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Sheen, Stephen Fry, Anne Hathaway, Christopher Lee, Matt Lucas, Tim Spall, Crispin Glover.
And, of course, on top of that mix, it's directed by Tim Burton. Do you ever get the feeling that certain stories are just meant for some people. Lewis Carroll and Tim Burton = What a combination.
Expect to see me first in line when this comes out.
Third book challenge of the year I shall be joining will be The Tudor Book Challenge.
This should be easy for me. It takes a year and I'm taking part in the easiest level. I love anything to do with Tudor history. Love it.
This challenge takes place between January 1, 2010 and December 31st, 2010.
The Challenge Rules:
- You may read your books in any format – e-books, audio books, electronic reader books, and printed books are acceptable.
- You are welcome to use the books you read for the Tudor Book Challenge in other challenges (where applicable).
- Books can be fiction or non-fiction, but they must be about or inspired by Tudor England. If you do not know much about the Tudor dynasty, that’s okay. That’s part of what this challenge is about. If you’re lost, try the Tudor Book Resource for some Tudor book suggestions. You can find even more Tudor book suggestions here.
- You are not required to post a list of the books you intend to read. You may choose them as you go.
- Bloggers and non-bloggers alike are welcome to participate in the challenge. If you do not have a blog, you will need to review the books you’ve read on some book-related website: i.e. GoodReads, Amazon, Borders, etc. and send in the links (via comments) to be eligible for the prizes. I need to be able to verify that these books were read by you.
There are four levels for this challenge:
King or Queen – You are the ruler of your dominion. You will read at least 11 Tudor-related books.
Nobleman or Noblewoman - You are honorable, indeed. You have earned your title by agreeing to read at least 9 Tudor-related books.
Courtier – You are a rising star in the royal court. You have decided to read at least 7 Tudor-related books.
Commoner – Your role in the kingdom is small but mighty. You are going to read at least 5 Tudor-related books.
I have quite a lot of Tudor related books on my TBR but I'm not a fast reader so I'll be a Commoner for the duration of this challenge. :D
This is being hosted by Michelle from Benedictionary and, if you still want to sign up, go to this post here.
I'm really excited about this challenge. I should be able to do it. And ye Gods, I will! :D