Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Is It Just Me? written and narrated by Miranda Hart

My Rating:1 Star2 Star3 Star4 Star5 Star

Well hello to you dear audiobook browser. Now I have your attention it would be rude if I didn't tell you a little about my literary feast. So, here is the thing: Is it just me or does anyone else find that adulthood offers no refuge from the unexpected horrors, peculiar lack of physical coordination, and sometimes unexplained nudity that accompanied childhood and adolescence? Does everybody struggle with the hazards that accompany, say, sitting elegantly on a bar stool; using chopsticks; pretending to understand the bank crisis; pedicures - surely it's plain wrong for a stranger to fondle your feet? Or is it just me?
I am proud to say I have a wealth of awkward experiences - from school days to life as an office temp - and here I offer my 18-year-old self (and I hope you, too, dear listener) some much needed caution and guidance on how to navigate life's rocky path. Because frankly where is the manual? The much needed manual to life. Well, fret not, for this is my attempt at one and let's call it, because it's fun, a Miran-ual. I thank you. From GoodReads

I am a huge fan of Miranda Hart, I think her comedy is spot on and her show Miranda and her role in Call the Midwife never fails to charm and entertain me. This audiobook had me laughing aloud in the car and I was really sad that it ended, almost to the point that I wanted to listen to it all over again. While I didn't play it again straight away, this is definitely an audiobook that I'm going to revisit in the future. 

Miranda Hart does a great job of poking fun of herself and everyday life. I really appreciate someone who is brave enough to share embarrassing thoughts and moments from their life for all to hear and laugh at and it is one of the things I appreciate about British humour especially - there's no pretence or ego involved in a story involving accidentally soiling yourself after a colonoscopy. In the middle of business meeting. 

The book is full of great little nonsensical tangents and the demand that we gallop to and from work, shout in public, share knowing nods with people on public transport and a myriad of other whimsicalities to make us truly appreciate the totally crazy bonkers excitement of life.

“I do love a hotel room: adore it. What's not to love about everything you need in one room? Would you have a kettle on a tea tray with biscuits in a packet in your bedroom at home? No, you very likely wouldn't. And – please excuse me, MDRC, I'm getting a little giddy here – the kettle. The little tiny kettle on a little tiny stand! Admittedly it's hard to fill as it never quite fits under the basin taps, but that's all just part of the fun.” 

Apart from being filled with great moments of humour - her chapter on Christmas rings true for all families - but it was the conversations that Miranda had with 18 year old Miranda - Little M - that were the most beautiful moments of all. Little M is full of the usual plans of the young: get a business degree, start a successful business, be a politician by 25 and married with kids by 28. There's also the idea of how fabulous you're going to be at life; going on adventurous holidays, being really cultured and admired for your general knowledge and air of sophistication and have loads of people who think you're totally fab and always want to hang out with you. 

Instead, Big M fills in the gaps: awkward attempts at networking, workplace pranks gone horribly wrong, forced wedding attendance humiliation in a fascinator and failing to reach your dream goals and have all your shit together. While all this has the potential to be horribly depressing, Miranda Hart manages it all with humour and (mostly) a sense of dignity. It is actually these interactions between Big M and Little M that were the most moving and special.

“To varying degrees, we all feel awkward. Whether we hide it with arrogance, shyness, modesty; whether we play the clown or the trendsetter, everyone struggles.” 

Miranda shares all her wisdom and life experience not only with her younger self, but us the reader, about accepting ourselves and embracing all our quirks and the stuff that makes us US. Perhaps we haven't managed to be the best lawyer/doctor/rock star/model/humanitarian, but hopefully we've found the thing that makes us happy and gets us out of bed. Perhaps it's starring in comedy show, perhaps it's the love we've found with a favourite pet, perhaps it's nights in watching our favourite reality show and having a good laugh. 
This was a truly magnificent experience and one I thoroughly encourage everyone to partake in. I think there are a lot of elements to appeal to a wide range of people and a little gem of wisdom and inspiration for everyone involved. 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Birthday Wishes

Hello universe, as today is my birthday I would like the following things to happen: 

1. For THAT typo in Deathly Hallows to be universally acknowledged and for JK to issue a public apology. 

2. For all cats to feel happy, safe and loved. And to receive precisely the number of rubs as will do them good in their current predicament. 

3. For more polka dotted items to come in grown up size. 

4. More time to read good books. 

5. Cupcakes. 

6. For everyone in pain to have a day off from it. 

7. To hear the giggle of babies. 

8. More cuddles with cats. 

9. For Australia to have a little area that identically resembles an English countryside village and for me to be able to live there. 

10. For Richard Armitage to declare that he wishes to marry me because he loves me and gave no thought to my reputation. 

11. For everyone to have a good best friend. 

12. For grown ups to be allowed to jump in jumping castles and giant ball pits. 

13. A Hogwarts education. 

14. More Costco cheese pizza.

15. For Cosi to open an Australian store conveniently located to where I live/work. 

16. 100 more levels in Katamari on Xbox. 

17. The Beauty and the Beast library. And David Tennant to get rid of all the scary shadows. And read me all the stories. 

18. More Christmas themed books, TV and movies.

19. That Canadian hockey player with all his teeth we talked about. 

20. Doctor and Rose to be reunited to fix that hole in my heart. 

21. For Firefly to be uncancelled. 

22. That neverending packet of TimTams from the 90's ad. 

23. To see the Big Blue Police Box in my backyard. 

24. More whimsy. 

25. For everyone to find at least one thing to laugh about today. 


Sunday, 23 November 2014

Quote of the Week (92) Bonkers

“I think it's sad when people stop dreaming, or start losing hope. Because holding onto the bonkers dream might just turn out to be the most marvellous thing you ever did.” 
Miranda Hart
Is It Just Me?

Friday, 21 November 2014

Friday Night Films: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One

My Rating:1 Star2 Star3 Star4 Star

**Okay kids. Obviously I've seen the movie. So if you haven't seen it yet, maybe wait because I'm gonna be talking about it. Also I'm gonna be talking about what happens in the book, so if you haven't read that yet, maybe wait.**

I was quite sceptical when they announced that they were turning Mockingjay into two movies – I really didn’t think there was enough material to warrant making more money splitting the novel into two films. I think they actually did a good job of dividing them and produced another good film.

I enjoyed Mockingjay more as a novel a lot more than Catching Fire because I felt there was a bit more meat to the concepts and also a lot more detail to the events. In Catching Fire things I wanted to be more detailed where quite vague but still the story seemed to drag on forever before finally reaching the arena.

In the Catching Fire movie, I was constantly distracted by Katniss and the make up she was given – really orange toned foundation that did not flatter her as well as really heavy eye makeup. (All of which stayed perfectly flawless and heavy despite being submerged in water for long periods of time, being almost drowned, sustaining acid burns on her face, washing in salt water several times and the constant sweat from the humid environment – can you see why it bothered me yet??)

Katniss was back to a much more natural look in this movie, her makeup was minimal and her hair was appropriately messy when the situation called for it. Because I wasn’t so distracted by superficial aspects of Katniss, I focused on and really appreciated what Jennifer Lawrence was doing with the character. I felt like Lawrence really became Katniss, just knew how she would react, where she was within herself and her surroundings as Katniss and had a much better control over how to manipulate and manoeuvre her emotions and actions.

Mockingjay was the first time I really liked Katniss as a character: she had a drive and determination that felt BIG and was not motivated purely by reactions to her immediate situation. Katniss was determined to fight and believed in a bigger cause than running away and protecting her immediate family.

While I think that, considering they had two films and plenty of filler space, they could have emphasised her PTSD a lot more, I think they portrayed the inner rage and fury of Katniss very well. In that sense, I also think a lot more could have been done with Finnick in the time available to them, he had very few speaking lines, and I think a LOT more could have been done to show his level of trauma which far exceeded Katniss’, especially since he had more of an idea of what they’d be doing to the captured Tributes.

I also expected a lot more from his revelations about the dirty acts of Snow – instead it became more about the rescue of Peeta – and I think in terms of the actual message Collins made about abuses of power, and the fact that Finnick was a glorified sex slave along with the other attractive tributes, the character has been let down on film. Finnicks confessional could have packed A LOT more punch. Especially since they are need to prepare the audience for his Death by Raptors in the Part Two.

In a similar vein, I would also have liked to see a lot more manipulation and domineering from President Coin. She came off as far too benevolent and inspiring a leader for someone that Katniss has to distrust enough to decide she poses more of a threat than Snow. Coin lacked a lot of the calculating ‘ends justify the means’ brutality of someone who agrees to slaughter aid workers and maintains a tight control over her constituency to the degree that Panem would be no better off under her rule.

The brutality of the war was spectacularly well done – the bombing of the hospital full of filfthy people bleeding out and missing limbs and who really couldn’t pose a threat to a flea. I was especially moved by Gale’s testimony about the bombing of District 12 in a way that was not achieved in the novel. The delivery of his line about only 915 people out of 10, 000 surviving was spot on and accompanied with the footage it was a powerful scene.

The small acts of rebellion carried out with great loss of life by the resistance groups was also very moving. The scene of rebels being shot but still trying to fight with that haunting rendition of The Hanging Tree has been on my mind all day. The score for all three movies has been very well done, but I was especially conscious of the music in this film and it certainly intensified the emotions.

There are of course still some light moments, provided mostly by the much loved Effie and taciturn Buttercup. I am very glad they decided to keep Effie in the story, she’s one of my favourite characters, but I was saddened that Haymitch didn’t play a bigger role. Overall, I really enjoyed this movie and while I probably won’t love it as much as the first, I think they’ve done a fairly good job of justifying my having to pay extra money splitting the novel in two.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

My Rating:1 Star2 Star3 Star4 Star

Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to another pirate clan. But that only prompts the scorned clan to send an assassin after her. When Ananna faces him down one night, armed with magic she doesn't really know how to use, she accidentally activates a curse binding them together. 

To break the spell, Ananna and the assassin must complete three impossible tasks--all while grappling with evil wizards, floating islands, haughty manticores, runaway nobility, strange magic...and the growing romantic tension between them. From GoodReads

I really enjoyed The Assassin’s Curse and it really recharged my reading batteries and took away the ill effects of a very bad week. It’s been a while since I’ve immersed myself into a Fantasy world and it made this book even better for the newness and freshness of the feeling.
While it did take me a little while to adjust to the language ¬¬¬¬¬¬Annana uses I enjoyed the concept of piracy being a legitimate and well respected career with prominent pirate families having great influence over the world. Piracy is a lifestyle so respected that wealthy families are now branching out into land piracy with automatons.

Unfortunately Annana doesn’t spend much time on a boat because she’s hiding from her family, her rejected fiancĂ©e and the assassins they hired to seek revenge. However we do get a good glimpse of life on a pirate ship through her flashbacks with her family. Being hunted down by magic-wielding assassins certainly made up for any disappointing lack of pirates and added plenty of intrigue and action scenes to the story.

Naturally a huge part of the appeal of this book is the dreamy blood magic assassin that through a twist of fate must now protect his target or die horribly and painfully. He’s certainly the most dreamy YA love interest I’ve read in a good long while and he’s full of all the essential characteristics: excellent command of most weaponry, a great deal of mystery and a potentially tragic back story, a hidden depth of vulnerability, wicked ninja assassin skills and eerie blood magic talents that involve meditating like a boss.

I’m eager to get my hands on the sequel, especially since it means hopefully these two will FINALLY SNOG and I can move on from that chapter of my life. But with a big quest full of challenges to complete, as well as several pirate families and their automaton weapons and ninja assassins after them, The Pirate’s Wish is sure to be another exciting instalment in the series.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Quote of the Week (91) Coincidence

'Never ignore a coincidence. Unless you're busy. In which case, always ignore a coincidence.'
The Doctor
Doctor Who 
The Pandorica Opens

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green; narrated by Kate Rudd

My Rating:1 Star2 Star3 Star

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten. From GoodReads

I had always been extremely determined that I was not going to read The Fault in Our Stars because it didn’t seem my type of book and I found the amount of hype surrounding it ridiculous. I am a fairly cynical person and I couldn’t see myself getting as overwhelmingly sad as most of the Internet did.

I definitely don’t see The Fault in Our Stars as being the best book ever written and OMG your life is not worth it if you didn’t love this book and we will never be BFFs ever again if you didn’t want to slit your wrists by the end of it. Having said that, going in expecting to hate it actually worked in my favour because it meant I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable I found it.

I found Hazel a lot more likeable than I had anticipated, a product of her illness giving added years of maturity, as well as the fact that she was already taking college courses. She was also mostly isolated from her peers by her home schooling and the side effects of her illness, meaning the everyday teen experience was skipped over and I didn’t have to see much of the usual teenage dramas and dialogue.

I quite enjoyed her experience of coming to terms with her own eventual death. It’s something she’s had to face since she was diagnosed at 13, and she has come close to death many times. I especially appreciated the reason behind her quest to understand what becomes of the secondary characters in her favourite book: she will not outlive her loved ones and she wants to know that they, her parents especially, will survive her. In that sense, it was nice to see her sense of self expand from being the grenade that will destroy everyone she touches to valuing the time she has remaining.

Of course, the key to this journey of discovery is Augustus. Though of course neither of them know how little time together they will have, they are monumental in teaching each other that even a small time is worth it. While I do not like Augustus as a person, his death is of course saddening because we see how much it hurts those left behind.

While I may not have always enjoyed the content – far too much grand philosophy for my liking – I did enjoy the dialogue between the two because it was playful and fun and it was well suited to their relationship. The narration played a huge part in this – I don’t think I could have found it endearing without the rushed, run on sentences, or the little pauses or the way Hazel wheezes while talking or when she has her inner fangirl moments about Gus. I, especially with my doubt about the novel, would not have been able to read them with such personality and feeling.

I am also grateful for the pacing and length of the story. If this had been a really thick novel, with lots of detail and long, drawn out scenes I would really started to resent the novel. Instead it was brief, and all the more wonderful to me because of it. While I was wanting Gus to die a little bit faster, that’s mostly because I am a terrible person.

In that vein, I must confess my favourite character was Van Houten because he is awesome and brutally honest and he made me laugh a lot. I also really liked the new perspective he brought to the story: it may be sad that Gus has died and that Hazel is just counting down the time until she runs out of second chances, but there isn’t anything Van Houten wouldn’t give to have had his daughter have an extra few years and die as a teen instead of a child.
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