Friday, 31 May 2013

Friday Link Dump: Death, Fonts And The Best GIFs Ever

-Markus Zusak reveals why he used Death as a narrator in The Book Thief. (Tumblr)

-BuzzFeed compiled some of the best book-related memes in 25 signs you're addicted to reading, plus revealed what you can do with all those books you're done reading. So many cute crafts, so many books sacrificed. (BuzzFeed)

-This is kinda old but I just discovered it - College Humor's Font Conference, where Times New Roman is boss, as he should be. Meanwhile this is their version of a horror movie, Sims style. (YouTube)

-The stories behind the most gorgeous gem stones of all time are quite fascinating. (NY Mag)

-Yearbook Yourself is the most fun I've had all week. Ahem. (Yearbook Yourself)

-Internet pros reveal their favourite GIFs. I have so many I love, but if I had to choose a fave it would probably be this slightly NSFW one. (Refinery 29)

-This adorable dog doesn't realise his size. (Reddit)

-I love this montage of awesome dance scenes from movies. (YouTube)

-You will not be able to get through this post without trying to tickle your screen. And you won't be able to get through this post without squeeing at least twice. (BuzzFeed)

-I love Flavorwire's response to the obsession with Portia de Rossi's face in the latest season of Arrested Development. I also looooove this compilation of famous authors' annotations in classic novels. (Flavorwire)

Friday, 24 May 2013

Friday Link Dump: Puppy Gifs, Book Lists And Food Porn

Hello lovely readers! Sorry for the lack of posting in the last couple of weeks, it's been quite hectic in my real world. For instance, I turned 27 AND celebrated my first wedding anniversary. Cue musings on the shortness of life and other fun stuff. But you're here for links, and by golly, do I have some for you:

-BuzzFeed lists some books you should read in your 20s.

-Prepare to have your mind blown by the handwritten outlines of famous authors.

-The Review Locker compares the cast of three The Great Gatsby adaptations. It seems like the new one has some winners. I can't wait to see it!
-I'm really keen to see About Time, which looks like The Time Traveler's Wife in that it involves time travel and stars Rachel McAdams, but it's British and therefore more awesome.

-I've been watching so much Parks and Recreation, and it's great food porn. And amazeballs in general. You know what else is amazeballs? A Storm of Swansons, which is what you get when you cross Parks and Recreation with Game of Thrones.

-You can now insert Tobias from Arrested Development into your own photos and video. It's incredibly addictive and entertaining.

-Here are 100 insightful and often hilarious behind-the-scenes shots from famous movies.

-I wish the Disney Princess Academy would happen. I want to go to there.

-Taking your bra off at the end of the day really is the best feeling ever.

-When I discovered Owl Turd comics I was entertained for hours (well, many minutes, at least). Meanwhile here are what random tweets look like as a comic.

-Fashion in History is a pretty AND informative Tumblr.

-Pets on Roombas makes me really want a Roomba. And an adorable pet to ride it. 

-Richard Armitage with Cats is probably the best Tumblr in existence. Next to Puppy Gifs, of course.

Review: In Falling Snow By Mary-Rose MacColl

In Falling Snow tells the story of two amazing women: Iris, who travels from Australia to France during World War I to bring her little brother home, and ends up helping to run a hospital in Royaumont Abbey that’s fully staffed by women (including the doctors); and Grace, Iris’ granddaughter, who as a doctor in 1970s Australia is still facing the same kind of sexism her grandmother’s co-workers experienced decades earlier.

It was the WWI aspect that initially drew me to In Falling Snow, and the story of Royaumont Abbey is a fascinating one. Although Iris is an invention, many of the characters are based on real people and Royaumont really was an all-female WWI hospital. The tenacity and bravery of those women is absolutely awe-inspiring. Still, while I admired the idea of Royaumont, I did find some parts of the chapters set there a little slow. The little details about how the place worked were interesting but distracted from the overall story for me. Iris herself was a bit hard to connect with as a young woman, as she seemed quite reserved, but I felt for her as an ailing old woman looking back on her life. As the story progressed and I gained further insight into her character I admired her all the more and understood why she was telling her story in this way.

Unexpectedly, although they weren’t what interested me to begin with, I found myself falling in love with Grace’s chapters and growing impatient to get to them. Even though it was still set 30-40 years ago, it was a more recognisable setting and a situation not too far removed from what women still face today (unfortunately). Grace’s struggle to balance work and family, especially when things went wrong, is one I think many women can connect with. I don’t currently have kids, but the tension between wanting a career and wanting to take care of a family is something that already plays across my mind. I can only image how tough it is for women actually doing it. While In Falling Snow shows how far we’ve come, at the same time it also reveals how little has really changed.

There’s a few twists in this book which I saw coming but I don’t want to spoil them for others. Even though I predicted what would happen, the story was still compelling to me. It’s quite an emotional journey, as you’d probably expect from a generation-spanning war tale. The setting of WWI France is beautifully rendered, and I really, really want to visit Royaumont now. Overall this is a gorgeous book; I definitely recommend it for fans of historical fiction.

Rating: 4/5

-Fascinating photographs and footage of the real women of Royaumont.
-Author Mary-Rose MacColl discusses writing the novel.

Fine Print
Published: 2013, Allison & Busby
Source: I was provided with a review copy of this book from The Book Depository in exchange for an honest review, as part of their affiliate program.
Get It: The Book Depository (Belle's Bookshelf affiliate)

Friday, 10 May 2013

Friday Link Dump: Coverflips, Face-melds and Disney Students

-Maureen Johnson challenged her Twitter followers to flip the gendered design of famous books, with very interesting results.

-The CW picks up more YA-inspired TV series.

-Here's what Disney characters would look like as modern-day college students.

-Beyond Blue released a great ad about anxiety this week, while Hyperbole and A Half is back from a long hiatus to discuss depression in her own awesome way.

-Interspecies friendships are probably my favourite thing ever.

-Closely followed by these face-melds from Team Coco.

-I also got a giggle out of this The Walking Dead bad lip read.

Review: Adorkable By Sarra Manning

You may or may not have noticed I’ve been in a massive reading slump lately. Which has put me in a blogging slump. Or maybe I’m just in a general slump. Anyway, while I have read some great books, it’s been a long time since a book made my heart sing (would it be more or less cheesy if I said that was a One Direction reference?). But this book. THIS BOOK. It made my heart smile and sing and break out into a random dance number like an extra in Glee. It was just so much fun. I was totally swept away, and loved every second of it. I may have actually let out a squee.

It’s not that this is a perfect book. If I had my proper reviewer hat on, I’d point out that Jeane, a teen lifestyle blogger/superstar, is a mega bitch most of the time and drove me a little nuts, while Michael Lee, the smart, popular jock, used way too many cutesy slang words, or that their respective cheating exes act like complete turds and are forgiven way too easily – especially by Jeane. She even begs for forgiveness from both of them for being a cow, which she was, but which in this situation (if not in others) she actually has the right to be. But I’m not wearing my proper reviewer hat today (it actually got lost in the wash), so I won’t mention any of that.

Instead, I’ll talk about the fact that there are a lot of really adorable interactions between Jeane and Michael. Including the ones where they’re ripping each other to shreds. Because it’s a hate-turned-grudging-like-turned-possible-love story, and those are my favourite kind. The chemistry is heart-poundingly awesome, while the sex scenes are so refreshingly real they should be used by all YA authors as a guide for how to do it right. I’ll also mention the extensive use of the Internet as more than just a passing reference, but an actual device through which the characters interact, just like normal teenagers. Sure, some of the references might make the book date very quickly, but for now they enhance its authenticity. I’ll also highlight Jeane’s vocal and unashamed feminism, her unique looks and her success, plus Michael’s frank - if sometimes unpleasant – honesty and his lovely and very present family, and lots of other little things that you just don’t see in so many cookie-cutter YA romances, and were such a delight, mostly because they were so true to life. Finally, though this is very much a “light” and fun read, I’ll point out that it’s sprinkled with an emotional authenticity (I feel like I’ve used that word way too many times in this review, but Adorkable really is just so authentic!) that gets under your skin.

I would recommend this book to anyone who doesn’t hate smiling.

Sorry Grumpy Cat, it’s probably not for you. But everyone else, go read this book.

Rating: 5/5

Eye Candy
The cover models are actually perfect for their characters, so I basically pictured them, and I tried to dig up information about who they are but alas, I couldn't find any. So if anyone knows, do tell! 

Fine Print
Published: 2012, Atom
Get It: Book Depository

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Review: Take My Word For It By John Marsden

Superficial note: I can't imagine this cover ever looked attractive, even in the 90s.

I was so excited to discover the existence of this book after reading So Much To Tell You. I was pretty blown away by that one, so I was thrilled to know there was a companion novel which, according to Wikipedia, would fill in the gaps and detail the aftermath of the first book.

Told from Lisa’s point of view, we get a little insight into how she and the other girls view Marina, the troubled protagonist of So Much To Tell You, but overall the focus is on Lisa’s own life. Which makes sense, seeing as how this is her “journal” and all. Considering the journals were a class project it was understandable that it would be used as a narrative device once again here. But while it worked incredibly effectively for Marina, I found Lisa’s journal quite ordinary. Perhaps it’s unfair to compare them, but being companion novels, it’s kind of impossible not to. The characters and events are largely the same, it’s only the perspective that changes.

I just didn’t connect with Lisa emotionally and wasn’t as invested in her story. The central “mystery” wasn’t as compelling as it was in the first novel, and it was all a bit predictable. Plus I didn’t get anywhere near as much insight into the events left out of Marina’s journal as I was hoping to. And while I’ve noted that So Much To Tell You is the type of YA novel that would appeal to readers of any age, I really don’t think Take My Word For It has the kind of cross-over factor that would make it of interest to anyone who isn’t a teen – and probably a young one at that. There is some beautiful writing, but overall it’s quite a bland book.

Rating: 3/5

Fine Print
Published: 1992, Macmillan
Get It:  Bookworld

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Top Ten Light And Fun Books

1. Adorkable by Sarra Manning. I read this recently and it's the first book in a long time that has made me really smile.

2. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. What I now measure all teen love stories against. It's awesome.

3. Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding. I've never laughed so much at a book as I did with this one.

4. Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson. OK, so it's not completely light, dealing with some pretty serious subject matter, but overall its such a lovely ride filled with fun and adorable moments.

5. Preloved by Shirley Marr. It's a ghostly love story with a heavy '80s influence. Yes, it's as awesome as it sounds.

6. Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. A fun premise set at the most magical time of year (Christmas!) in one of the greatest cities in the world (NYC, natch).

7. Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst. The antidote to wangsty vampire novels, it features a kick-butt heroine and a hero who sparkles. Guess who's the vampire in that situation (spoiler: it's not the dude).

8. Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles. It's cheesy and melodramatic but just so incredibly fun.

9. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins. I didn't love it as much as Anna, but Perkins sure has a knack for contemporary YA.

10. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. There's a surprising amount of depth to this novel, but it's still full of glossy, hilarious fun.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Friday Link Dump: Game of Thrones, and more Game of Thrones

-This book blogger asked his two-year-old to judge books by their covers. And it was awesome. (101 Books)

-This artist created colour charts out of the content of classic novels and the outcome is super pretty. (Flavorwire)

-One talented guy in the Sydney Uni bell tower played the Game of Thrones theme song and it was brilliant. (Pedestrian)

-These two sites poking fun of Game of Thrones are my new favourite Tumblrs. (Tumblr)

-Here is Jack Gleeson being quite charming and friendly and decidedly un-Joffrey like. (YouTube)

-This is what historical figures would look like today. (The Telegraph)

-What do you get when you ask Redditors the creepiest thing their kids have said to them? A lot of creepy and even more hilarious comments. (Reddit)

-I'm pretty sure this video is the reason the Internet was invented. (YouTube)

-Be prepared to be turned to goo. (Buzzfeed)

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Review: A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

*cracks knuckles*

*stares at computer*

*walks away and makes a tea*

*stares at screen a bit more*

*spends an hour on Buzzfeed*

*gets sidetracked by Reddit*

*opens up review again*

*starts writing about procrastinating rather than actually starting a review*

*thinks it’s probably time to start the actual review now*

*stares at computer*

*makes another tea*

*ponders how long this can go on for*

*concludes probably not as long as A Game of Thrones*

Coz that was a long-ass book. Hey look, I’ve stopped using emotes (yes I googled that to learn what it’s called. More procrastination!). I bet you’re relieved I stopped doing that, aren't you? Not as relieved as I was upon finishing this book. Just look at my celebratory status on Goodreads.

Yep, A Game of Thrones was a struggle to get through. It was like giving birth (OK, there’s a 99.99999999 per cent chance it’s nothing like giving birth, but there’s this thing called hyperbole and I like it). I felt like I was physically pushing (note to self: probably best not to use that word after mentioning giving birth… or maybe the best idea ever?) my way through this. Much like this review. Don’t you love how much I’m rambling? No? Well you won’t like A Game of Thrones then. It’s full of rambling tangents.

I’m probably giving you the impression I didn’t like this book. Plot twist: I DID. Don’t you love surprises? If you don’t, don’t read this book. Unless you’ve seen the show Game of Thrones or been on Tumblr ever. Because then you won’t get any surprises. Yep, this book is exactly like the first season of the show. Down to the very words spoken by characters (otherwise known by smart people as DIALOGUE).

The show was amazingly faithful to its source material when it kicked off. Having loved the show, I naturally enjoyed the book. In fact, it’s a testament to George R. R. Martin’s (side not: I just typed Mountains instead of Martins. Thought you should know) writing that I loved this behemoth as much as I did, having basically seen it all before – multiple times (what, I didn’t rewatch the show a bamillion times) (OK I did) (I should probably stop using brackets now) (believe it or not, I am not drunk writing this. I maybe have just lost my mind a little bit).

Where was I? Oh, right. The book. Yes. As much as a struggle it was thanks to its length and my own brain funk (can you tell?!), it was still wonderful to be immersed in such a well-built world, populated with amazing characters. And by amazing, I mean flawed, believable, multi-faceted, complex, kick-ass, honourable, dishonourable, funny, creepy and all kinds of awesome. Seriously, I love the characters in this series. Arya is my fave, along with Tyrion, Jon Snow and Daenerys. I loved them even more in the book than I do in the show. I enjoyed getting extra insight into their thoughts and motivations, and a bit more backstory. The only thing I didn’t like was how young they were – especially Daenerys, considering some of the more sexual scenes. In my headcanon they were all older, as they appear on the show. Sorry George R. R. Martin, it was just too creepy otherwise.

My least favourite chapters were those focused on Bran. I just didn't connect with him at all, but I'm told he gets more awesome as the series progresses. I also wasn't a massive fan of Catelyn's point of view, but it was good to get a better understanding of her character. And as much hate as Sansa gets in the fandom, I gotta say I kinda love her. Probably because she's exactly like I was at that age, if I was, y'know, living in medieval/magical times. All I cared about was boys and dresses and lemon chocolate cakes. I wish I could say I was more like Arya, but I wasn't. I felt for Sansa, and not just in a certain Lady situation (though that was Heart. Breaking.). I don't get how people blame her for what went down at the end of the book - I have to admit, the timeline confused me a little with the jumping around between characters, but from what I could see Ned had most, if not all, of the responsibility - as he did in the show. Correct me if I'm wrong (seriously, I'd love to know someone else's view on this).

I'm taking a break from the series for awhile because it's quite exhausting to get through and I need a mental break. But I'm looking forward to the next one - and I'm even more excited about the books that I haven't "seen" on TV. Although I do know a lot of what happens in them anyway. Thanks, Tumblr.

Rating: 4/5

Eye Candy
Yeah, I couldn't get the show's cast out of my head. But that's OK, coz look...