Friday, 25 October 2013

Friday Link Dump: Bookish Cocktails, Instagram Paraodies And Tom Hanks Being Tom Hanks

-Shameless self promotion: I joined BuzzFeed recently and have written a few posts if, you know, you want to check them out... There's History According to Tumblr, 100 Parks and Recreation GIFs, 21 Signs You're Anne Shirley, 25 Times Disney Face Characters Were Adorable, 10 Australian Celebs Before They Were Famous, and The 39 Stages of Being a Bride. (BuzzFeed)

-Closer to home (as in, this blog), I'm getting caught up on book reviews and wrote three this week for books I loved: Stardust by Neil Gaiman and Six Impossible Things and Wildlife by Fiona Wood. (This blog!)

-Reynje from Wordchasing did an awesome post about the Melbourne locations seen in Six Impossible Things, which author Fiona Wood expanded on. (Wordchasing,

-Find book recommendations similar to what you've read and liked on Go Book Yourself. (Tumblr)

-I would like many of these bookish things in my home. (BuzzFeed)

-And I would like many of these bookish cocktails in my belly. (BuzzFeed)

-Apparently they are remaking Little Women and this could be really bad. (Crushable)

-Jamie Dornan, a.k.a. the incredibly hot Huntsman from Once Upon a Time has been cast as Christian Grey. Which makes me actually want to see the movie. Oh god. (Hypable)

-Here are some web series that will appeal to fans of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, apparently. (Hypable)

-Pitchfork Review Generator: in case you need inspiration for your snark. (Pitchfork Review Generator)

-I love Hocus Pocus and I was very happy to find out I am Winifred. Which Sanderson sister are you? (BuzzFeed)

-This artist has been doing drawings of Disney characters dressed up as other pop culture icons and it's awesome. (Tumblr)

-Hot guys of history. Oh yeah. (Tumblr)

-MamaMia Spoilers is my new fave Twitter. (Twitter)

-I am in awe of this Deadspin writer's ability to monitor 10 screens at once and get work done and wow. My eyes hurt just looking at a picture of his set up. (The NY Times)

-Here are some people that are already winning at Halloween. (Junkee)

-10 reasons why TV is better than film right now. I kinda have to agree - I watch waaay more TV shows than movies these days coz the latter just haven't been as good. (The Guardian)

-I'm loving these two Instagram parody accounts: Satiregram and Thisisrealstagram. (Instagram)

-Salted caramel is the best. Make ALL the recipes. (BuzzFeed)

-Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock playing chopsticks on a big (or, er, Big) piano is my favourite thing ever. Followed closely by Sandra Bullock rapping. (YouTube)

-I am super excited to watch The Grand Budapest Hotel. It looks so fun. (YouTube)

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Review: Wildlife by Fiona Wood

Note: Wildlife is a companion novel to Six Impossible Things. While there are no explicit spoilers in this review, you may be able to guess what happens between Six Impossible Things and Wildlife. Just in case you’re really allergic to even the hint of a spoiler.

My favourite kinds of stories are the ones you can relate to. The stories that leap from the page, wrap their arms around you and say, “It’s OK, you’re not alone.” Wildlife is one of those books. I connected with so many aspects of this story – the grieving process, the struggle to fit in, the best friend who is really a bitch, the nervousness and excitement that goes along with first relationships, the loneliness that is being a teenager – there is so much in there. The only other author that has represented the teen experience so authentically, with such raw emotion, is Melina Marchetta. Yep, I’m putting Fiona Wood up there with Ms Double M herself. That’s how much I loved this book.

I almost couldn’t read it. I got seven pages in and discovered something that made me sick. I seriously had to hide the book - I was so devastated, I couldn’t even look at it. After a day or so I finally forced myself to pick it up again and I’m so glad I did. The writing was exquisite and as much as I hated what had happened, it was beautifully dealt with.

Lou from Six Impossible Things is at the centre of this sad story, and her isolation and despair are palpable as she comes to grips with her grief in the middle of nowhere, at a school camp where she knows no one. The short, unfinished sentences that open her chapters in the beginning of Wildlife perfectly encapsulate the breathlessness of depression – the pain so deep, so overwhelming, that it numbs you and leaves you unable to speak or even function properly. It’s utterly heartbreaking, but importantly it’s also incredibly cathartic, as you watch Lou slowly heal and find her way back to contentment, if not complete happiness.

Lou’s intense grief and loneliness are perfectly balanced by the alternate chapters that focus on Sibylla’s story. While she is dealing with her own problems, they’re not as dark as Lou’s, and in comparison her story is light and fun. She has a new, hot boyfriend who is pressuring her to move fast, her best friend is acting strange, and her oldest friend is strangest of all. It might sound like this kind of plot would contrast too starkly with Lou’s chapters, but actually they’re wonderfully integrated. A similar sense of isolation underpins both characters’ experiences, and ultimately they both represent significant life events, for better or worse.

As with Six Impossible Things, the secondary characters are a highlight in Wildlife. There were a few that I loved, and a couple that I hated, which was just as it should be. I adored both main characters. Sometimes I just wanted to shake some sense into Sibylla, but I think that’s because I identified with her so much and, you know, I’ve got hindsight and all. Lou I just wanted to hug and squish and make all the problems go away. My heart still hurts for her.

Wildlife is pretty much the perfect teen book. It is so incredibly realistic, while also being touching and inspiring. It's a fun, easy read, but it also explores very important and deep issues. It will make you feel happy and sad and worried and excited and so many things all at once. It will tear you apart into tiny pieces, before patching you up again, just as whole, but not quite the same.

Rating: 5/5

Fine Print
Published: June 2013, Pan Macmillan
Get It: Bookworld

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Top Ten Unique Character Names

1. Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. So pretty much all the names in this book are the best - Jem Finch, Scout Finch, Boo Radley... but Atticus is the most memorable of all.

2. Uriah Heep from David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. Dickens had a knack for unique names. There are sooo many to choose from, but Uriah Heep is up there for me because it perfectly encapsulates the creepy, icky character it's meant for.

3. Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. The name is so brilliant he only needs one.

4. Hans Hubermann from The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. Such a friendly, delightful name for a friendly, delightful fellow.

5. Lady Amalthea from The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. A lovely name befitting a unicorn in human form.

6. Bastian Balthazar Bux from The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. Not two, but THREE alliterative names. It doesn't get much better than that.

7. Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride by William Goldman. Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

8. Bellatrix Lestrange from the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. Rowling's writing is filled with one-of-a-kind names, but Bellatrix Lestrange's is my fave.

9. Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. I didn't love the book but I do love the name. It's a strong name for a strong character.

10. Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote. A light, lyrical name for a deceptively dark and complex character.

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

Review: Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

This book is adorable. It’s the coming-of-age story of Dan Cereill, who is feeling a bit overwhelmed due to the fact that his family not only has no money, they are also no longer a family – his dad has come out as gay and left Dan and his mum to flounder with a failing cake business in the drafty house they were lucky enough to inherit from a great aunt. Throw in the fact he has to change schools and has developed an instant crush for his next door neighbour, Estelle, and it’s not hard to see why Dan is a bit of a mess.

Poor Dan. I really felt for the guy. His life has done a 180 and the way he tries to deal with everything is by turns heartbreaking and heartwarming. He does some really awful things sometimes, and you can’t help but cringe from the sidelines, but he’s a young, silly boy who is just trying to make sense of the world. And, not gonna lie, I’d probably be tempted to do the things he does if I had the opportunity, too. I’m nosy like that.

While I had sympathy for Dan, I really adored the secondary characters, from the boarder out the back to Dan’s best mate Fred to his new friend Lou and especially to Howard the dog. They are all realistic and complex and completely likable. You’ll want to pay attention to these characters. They enhance the story so much and are an important part of it.

Wood deals with even the trickiest subject matter with heart and compassion and a good dose of humour. Six Impossible Things is funny, witty, lighthearted and just a lot of fun.

Rating: 4/5

Here is a playlist of all the music mentioned in the book. 

Fine Print
Published: 2010, Pan Macmillan
Get It: Book Depository

Monday, 21 October 2013

Review: Stardust by Neil Gaiman

This was my first Neil Gaiman book, and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t get to it sooner. I watched the movie years ago and quite liked it, but I loooooooved the book. From the opening line, “There was once a young man who wished to gain his Heart’s Desire”, I was hooked.

Stardust is a fairy tale for grown-ups. It follows Tristran into the land of Faerie on a quest to find a fallen star for his lady love, Victoria. When he gets there he finds the star is not exactly what he expected it to be, and there are more than a few speedbumps in his journey. It’s an exciting and entertaining ride filled with a range of fantastical characters and all kinds of magic.

Gaiman infuses Stardust with a wonderful fairy tale feel through his whimsical and lyrical use of language. This book reminded me a little of The Last Unicorn be Peter S. Beagle and The Princess Bride by William Goldman in the evocative, magical world it creates and its beautiful, vivid imagery. The story itself is fun, amusing and even a little sad at times. The different threads that seem totally unrelated in the beginning all converge in a lovely way and everything comes together wonderfully. It’s an absolute delight to read.

I loved the extensive cast of characters, both the good and the bad. The ghostly brothers of Stormhold were hilariously macabre, and the Lilim were the kind of baddies you love to hate. Tristran was adorable if a bit hopeless and selfish at times, and Yvaine was not only beautiful but funny and fierce. I even liked Victoria more than I expected. I only wish that more time was spent on Tristran and Yvaine’s developing relationship – vast amounts of time and many adventures are skipped over in a few sentences, and we don’t actually get to experience their growing feelings towards each other. I understand the book would have been much longer if these were included, but it would have been nice to witness a little of it.

Although I’m a massive fan of Happily Ever Afters, I actually really liked the bittersweet ending of Stardust. This fairy tale is for adults, after all, and we know that as wonderful as things can be, there is always pain and sadness and loss. So the ending was quite fitting and still happy in its own way. Everyone who loves magic (and frankly who doesn't?) will enjoy this book.

Rating: 4.5/5

Fine Print
Published: 1999, Headline
Get It:  Book Depository

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Top Ten Books I Was "Forced" To Read

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The first time I read this was for a book club. I probably wouldn't have read it otherwise - the idea of Death as a narrator kind of freaked me out. But I am sooo glad I did because it's now one of my faves.

2. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. This was another book club pick that I ended up loving. I wasn't really into dystopia at the time so I probably wouldn't have read it otherwise.

3. Emma by Jane Austen. I had to study it for Year 12 (combined with Clueless for a unit about adaptations) and although it was painful to pick apart at times I still love it.

4. Paradise Lost by John Milton. I would never have picked this up if I hadn't been forced to for one of my classes at uni. I was surprised by how much I liked it. It's gorgeous.

5. Le Morte d'Arthur by Thomas Malory. I have always been fascinated by the Arthurian legend so it was awesome to read and analyse this for uni.

6. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Unknown. I had never even heard of this before I had to read it for class. It was love at first read.

7. Evelina by Fanny Burney. I had to study it for a class on the history of women's literature at uni and it was so much fun. Lord Orville, sa-woon.

8. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell. I totally would have read this even if I wasn't "forced" to for uni, but it was awesome to be able to count it as "work".

9. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. Yes, I was kinda forced to read this. My friend had been telling me to do it for years and I resisted. One day I picked up the second book and started reading. I hated it. It took another couple of years for my friend to convince me to try again and start from the beginning. So I did. And I was blown away, natch.

10. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares. When I was at uni, studying my English Lit degree, and frankly a bit high-and-mighty, I looked down my nose at my friend who was in love with YA books - and the Sisterhood series in particular. Then for my birthday she bought them for me. So of course I had to read them. And of course I loved them. Off my high horse I fell - and not a moment too soon.

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

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Audiobook Review: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, Narrated by Jeremy Irons

Brideshead Revisited is the tale of Charles Ryder, a middle-class atheist and budding artist, and his relationship with the rich, Catholic Flyte family who own the beautiful Brideshead. The first part of the book focuses on Charles' connection to Sebastian, until his attention moves in the second part to Sebastian's sister Julia.

I immediately fell in love with Brideshead Revisited in the beginning. I adored Sebastian and his love of life, and was saddened when he succumbed to despair and alcoholism. I also liked young Charles, and the excitement and fun he and Sebastian brought out in each other. Their early romps are quite hilarious, and the deterioration of their relationship - and of Sebastian himself - is heartbreaking. Sebastian's behaviour is incredibly frustrating at times, yet you can't help but sympathise with him, as he struggles with his sexuality and later his addiction in his staunchly Catholic, controlling family.

I liked Julia much less than Sebastian, which meant I didn't love the section focused on her. I found her hard to connect with, and I didn't understand the motivations for many of her actions. And I really couldn't stand the older Charles. The way he treats his wife and children is despicable. He repeatedly refers to the kids as "her children", showing zero interest in seeing or even hearing about them. More time is spent describing one meal he eats than his own family! But despite my frustration with both Charles and Julia, I did want them to have a happy ending. So, without spoiling too much, I was pretty exasperated by the turn of events (though I shouldn't have been surprised - the book starts with Charles alone, before he reminisces on his time with the Flytes).

But even though I was quite impatient with the last part of the book, I can see why this is a classic. While it is quite period-specific in many ways, the overarching themes are timeless and remain relevant today. There's still that struggle with growing up and trying to find yourself, the grappling with your beliefs, sexuality and mental illness, the desire to find love and friendship, the struggling to fit in with your family and especially the bittersweet sensation of nostalgia.

I have to say, my favourite aspect of Brideshead Revisited was the exquisite language. There are some stunningly beautiful sentences and passages. I listened to the audiobook version narrated by Jeremy Irons, and it was dreeeeeeeeeeeeamy. His rich voice and melodic tone perfectly matched the lyrical prose. Quite a few times I had to rewind a section, just so I could listen to it again. It's the kind of language and narration that makes you happy sigh. Just gorgeous.

I've been torn about how to rate Brideshead Revisited, because while the language and narration was lovely, and I adored the first section, I really hated the last part. Unfortunately my dissatisfaction with that section knocks off a star. I'd still recommend everyone give it a go at least once - especially the audiobook version.

Rating: 3.5/5

Spoilery Talking Points
  • I couldn't figure out if Charles and Sebastian were actually in love or just loved each other as friends. They are definitely very close but it's never exactly clear how close they get (although maybe it is clear and I'm being dense).
  • I was so disappointed that Charles didn't show a lot of interest in Sebastian towards the end of the book, especially considering how close they'd been. I expected there to be a reunion or at least some kind of resolution to their relationship, so I was sad that there was no real closure there.
  • I did not really understand why Julia had to break up with Charles. If it was fine to marry Rex when he wasn't really a Catholic, why couldn't she also marry Charles?
Fine Print
Published: 2010, AudioGo
Get It: Audible

Friday, 11 October 2013

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Bookish Buys: Emma By Jane Austen

In honour of the start of Emma Approved (which looks awesome, yay!) I thought I'd search out some other Emma-inspired items. I may also do an actual Emma Approved Bookish Buys post down the track, when there is more merchandise available. For now, it's all old-school Emma, which is fine because look...

Book pendant
Book necklace

Home quote

Dictionary print

Mr Knightley necklace
Inspiring print


Love print

Knightley bangle


Proposal print

Emma print

Reading necklace


Fashion print
Pretty, no?

Mini Review: A Straight Line To My Heart by Bill Condon

I've had this book sitting on my shelf for years. I picked it up because I adored the cover and liked the concept of a budding journalist, Tiffany, dealing with leaving school, starting an internship, and of course finding love and dealing with family problems at the same time.

Unfortunately, A Straight Line to My Heart was very average for me. There were some beautiful lines, but overall I just didn’t connect with the story or characters. Which is strange, because I thought I’d really be able to relate, having grown up with journalistic ambitions of my own.

There was nothing particularly bad about this book. It's a quick read. Covering only a week in Tiffany’s life, there isn’t a big narrative arc; it’s a taste of a girl’s life, rather than a full story. That’s not to say there’s no story - a lot does happen, and there is a decent amount of closure. But it felt like it was just skimming the surface and it all left me strangely unaffected. There were some sweet scenes and some really sad ones but my heart didn’t burst or break at any point.

Maybe it was just that I wasn't in the right mood, because several of my friends have read and loved this book. All it got out of me was a resounding “meh”.

Rating: 3/5

Fine Print
Published: 2012, Allen & Unwin
Get It: Book Depository

Friday, 4 October 2013

Friday Link Dump: Hiddles, Kitties And Giggly Ron Swanson


-This is what it's like to ghostwrite popular YA series. (Refinery 29)

-Want to know what David Bowie reads? Here's his top 100. (Open Book)

-Can you guess the famous author by their face? I got two wrong, not too shabby. (BuzzFeed)

-This parody Sex and the City Twitter account is pure golden hilarious genius. (Twitter)

-This glimpse at Into the Woods makes me sooo excited to see it. (Pajiba)

-I was fascinated by this account of a brave young girl who rebelled against the Nazis. (The Toast)

-Another fascinating story is that of the transgender model who was one of the first people to undergo gender reassignment surgery. (BuzzFeed)

-I would like to go to pretty much all of these haunted places. (iO9)

-Vulture has literally compiled every time Chis Traeger said literally on Parks and Recreation. There's actually less there than I thought there'd be. (Vulture)

-Meanwhile a giggling Ron Swanson is my favourite Ron Swanson. (Pajiba)
-One of my co-workers set up an Instagram for her two adorable cats, Sassy and Purrl, and you should totally go follow it because did I mention they're adorable? (Instagram)
-This cat with a toy ice cream on his head amused me way more than it should have. (YouTube)

-Interspecies friendships are the best. (BuzzFeed)

-I really want this blueberry cheesecake stuffed French toast in my belly. (Spicy Icecream)

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Top Ten Book Turn-Offs

-Insta-love. Nothing makes me want to throw a book more than insta-love. It usually happens in books with no character development beyond the obsessive love, where each character's world is defined by their relationship. Yawn.

-Love triangles. It's been overdone more than a chicken dinner at my house (I'm really paranoid about salmonella).

-Possessive/borderline abusive guys. So many YA authors seem to think this is hot. It really isn't.

-Awful characters. I don't mind flawed characters, but there has to be something sympathetic about them that I can connect to.

-Animal cruelty. Animals in books make me scared because I can't bear it when anything bad happens to them. And it does way too often.

-Repetitiveness. The same words, phrases and - worst of all - descriptions used over and over again is ridiculously annoying. Especially when connected to how hot a character is. We get it, his eyebrows/cheekbones/big toes are really god-like.

-Terrible nicknames. I was going to say terrible names in general, but the vomitous nicknames couples give each other is always so distracting. "Siren", "Pigeon", "Vagine"... OK I made that last one up but seriously enough with the silly nicknames!

-Girl on girl hate. I can't stand when a female main character is all "not like other girls" (what's so wrong with other girls?) and/or every other girl is a biatch and someone to compete with.

-Bad 'isms'. Racism. Sexism. Homophobia (Yeah it's not an 'ism', but it's along the same lines). It's one thing if a character acts this way and it's not endorsed by the narrative, but if the book itself is any of those things it is just despicable. This includes unintentional 'isms', through stereotypical/cardboard characters and the insensitive treatment of issues and language.

-Illogical worldbuilding. I can suspend my disbelief for anything as long as it makes sense in world. Magic is fine. Vegetarian vampires are fine. Vampire venom acting as sperm to create a hybrid baby with a human? Not fine.

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