Thursday, 24 November 2011

The Hunger Games


I think I just fell in booklove.

Hard.
I’ve read 80 books so far this year, only a [small] handful them have fallen into the unputdownable category and The Hunger Games is one of them.

I read the first half of the first book the night before last, forced myself to stop because I knew I had work the next day and then lay in my dark bedroom wide awake and itching to carry on. The only reason I didn’t was because my boyfriend came to bed and wanted to be asleep! I finished it last night and then read half of the second book and again, didn’t want to stop. I don’t think I’ve done that since Harry Potter (oh, how I long for the days when a brand new Potter would land on my doorstep and I would lock the doors on the world for a few hours until I had devoured it. It makes me sad to think that will never happen again) and that’s saying something.

I’m not going to make a comparison between The Hunger Games and Harry Potter because that would make no sense, I’m just going to say this: that I haven’t felt as totally caught up in a book since the first time I read Harry Potter, maybe even other than Harry Potter. That’s how good these books are.
I like a bit of dystopian future fiction (thanks for that, Margaret Atwood) because if it’s well done, which luckily for me most of what I’ve read has been, it’s not an out there sci-fi story about a world far outside the realms of possibility, it’s more of a cautionary picture; a ‘look what could happen;’ a world that might not be round the next corner but could well be on the same stretch of road and that’s what you have here.

The world of The Hunger Games is a world that somehow you can just imagine, maybe not in the next ten or twenty years, maybe not even in your lifetime or your children’s lifetime but you can somehow see that it could happen, it could be real. The characters and their relationships, the reality television, the wealth juxtaposed alongside the poverty it’s all so familiar and all rather unnerving and whilst a world where 2 children are sent off to compete in the deadly Hunger Games seems totally out there you can’t quite shrug it off as utterly implausible. The very idea is barbaric and yet somehow it’s kind of recognisable and I half wonder if that’s part of the reason that I’ve gotten so involved in this story that I'm lost to the real world to the extent that there’s no point trying to talk to me when I’m reading [I wasn’t even interested in my hot milk at bedtime last night!]
These books are so so thought provoking, they have an intensely exciting plotline, complex and real characters, a full spectrum of emotions and a romance that pulls on your heartstrings. They make you think about survival and identity and relationships and life choices. The story grabs you and never lets go, the heroine gets under your skin, the supporting characters, Peeta and Cinna and Gale and Haymitch are all equally wonderfully drawn and despite the darkness and despair you never lose hope, it’s always there, flickering. I love that every chapter ends at a point that makes it impossible to stop reading; I love the romance; I love the story; I love the way it makes my heart race and then within seconds has me with tears in my eyes; I love the way it just gets to me and how it’s left my thoughts all jumbled. I love how I can’t wait to read the rest of book two and then probably book three straight after.
Amazing.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

In which Breaking Dawn is terrible

Forever is only the beginning....says the Breaking Dawn trailer. Thanks for the warning.

Those of you who know me will be aware of my feelings towards The Twilight Saga and towards Breaking Dawn in particular. If you aren't and you wish to familiarise yourself with my feelings, I ranted about it here:

http://livetoreadreadtolive.blogspot.com/2011/08/day-11-book-you-hated.html

In a nutshell I thought it was a poorly written excuse for a book that sends out shocking messages to it's teenage readership. It made me angry; it still makes me angry so it should perhaps come as no surprise that my feelings towards the film adaptation, the first part of which I saw last night, are less than positive.

By 'less than positive' I mean that I didn't think it was possible for a film to be that bad.

Why?

- It was slow - I found myself checking my watch several times which is never a good sign and I'm pretty sure had we gone to a later showing I'd have been asleep. [& yes, I know I fall asleep during films a lot of (all of) the time, but not generally at the cinema and it's ususally because I am tired and not because staying awake seems like one trial too much.]

- It was depressing and not so much because of the storyline (although yes, that was several shades of terrible) as because of the mediocre acting - I don't think I've come across anybody quite as wet as Kristin Stewart in my entire life, she's so dreary and her voice sets my teeth on edge. Eurgh. & Kristin and Robert are dating? Really? For real really? I have more chemistry with broccoli than she does with her actual boyfriend (and I hate broccoli.) Also Carlisle got fat which is depressing in itself, like Michael Buble - he got a little tubby too, did anybody else notice that at the CINRocks concert? Buble is defo tubbier in the face, another depressing fact but perhaps one for another day. (Note: I am not comparing Breaking Dawn to Buble. Never ever. I'm just easily distracted is all.)

- It was funny, which would be a plus if we were talking about a comedy. Somehow I think 'so bad it's funny' is not going to be the best selling point. I think Helen and I shared the cinema with some Twilight diehards - there were a few Breaking Dawn hoodies knocking about the foyer - so I felt a little bad at the way we kept bursting into laughter at what were probably supposed to be the tense dramatic exciting scenes. Whoops. Seriously though, there's this one scene for example where the werewolves are in wolf form and so can only communicate via their thoughts. They're having some big showdown over whether the pack should kill Bella and her unborn vampire baby and you know it's supposed to be edge-of-your-seat intense but oh my LORD it's funny. I shouldn't laugh, I shouldn't: but seriously, a huge chunk of dialouge SPOKEN BY WOLVES WITH ECHO VOICES? We're really supposed to take that shit seriously?

- There is a lot of background music slow motion "look how pretty Rpattz is/how much Bella loves Edward/how much Jacob loves Bella none-action. Oh man, there's a lot of that. Those were the parts that made time feel like it was going backwards, slowly. Like Helen said, it's to be hoped the scriptwriters weren't paid a lot because they clearly didn't do much! Miaow.

As for the plotline, well, I knew what I was letting myself in for and Breaking Dawn didn't disappoint. The things that made me angry in the book made me really really really uncomfortable on the big screen: the trashed bedroom and Bella's bruises after their wedding night and the way she begs Edward to have sex with her again was horrible but hardly anything compared to the pregnancy - the whole pregnancy stuff (and so the majority of the film) was just shocking.

The wedding was enough to put anybody off bothering; I for one am certainly reviewing my options! It was more like a funeral, with only Bella's white dress to give the game away and she looked like the unhappiest bride in the history of brides, its fine though because Edward whisked her away on a fancy dancy honeymoon after which would have been lovely had she married someone normal, less lovely given that she woke the morning after losing her virginity to a trashed bedroom and a load of bruises.
Nice.
What was nicer to watch was Edward's torment and Bella's telling him how happy she was about it and begging him to do it all again. In the real world this would be classed as an abusive relationship but it seems that's not the case if the abuser is undead. That was lovely stuff.

As for the whole vampire baby issue, I don't even know what to say. It was horrible. It starts with Bella standing up to hug Jacob, her t-shirt rides up and you get a blink and you'll miss it glimpse of her bruised bump. That was bad enough. From there we actually get to see the foetus killing Bella from the inside, there's a graphic scene where her bones snap and by the time she gives birth she's skeletal, like actually skeletal, sunken cheeks, hollow eyes, grey skin, bones jutting out all over the place. It's disturbing and hard to watch and I actually couldn't believe I was.

& then Jacob 'imprinted' on the newborn in some weird arse dream sequence freak scene. Can't beat a nice healthy bit pf paedophilia after two hours of wife-beating and killer!baby. Don't even get me started on that.

Somebody please please tell me how any of the messages this film/book/pile of shite are sending out are any kind of acceptable. Please.


This whole franchise is f*cked up on so many levels and I STILL fail to understand how people fail to see that, how it's been allowed to become what it has; I'd quite like to Avada Kedavra whoever's responsible for that, actually.
I blame Stephenie Meyer.
Get married at 18 even though it doesn't seem like you're really sure, cut yourself off from your parents, let your boyfriend beat you in the name of passion or love or whatever (the same boyfriend who abandoned you to months of self pity after he left you because of a paper cut) and then let your unborn child kill you, slowly and painfully. Way to go with the messages to your teen audience Twilight, way to go.

The only vaguely redeeming feature about the whole sorry mess was the 30 seconds or so of the film where RPattz was smiling. He is such a pretty boy when he smiles.

Friday, 18 November 2011

“When you're a kid, it's hard to tell the innocuous secrets from the ones that will kill you if you keep them.”

I really liked this book. It’s a book I read off the back of a recommendation; it kept coming up on my Amazon page, and I’d picked it up a few times and pondered over it and then Jen said “READ IT” and I generally do as she says so I did. Thank goodness.
My older sister has entire kingdoms inside of her, and some of them are only accessible at certain seasons, in certain kinds of weather. One such melting occurs in summer rain, at midnight, during the vine-green breathing time right before sleep. You have to ask the right question, throw the right rope bridge, to get there-and then bolt across the chasm between you, before your bridge collapses.

St Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves is a short story collection about troubled children on the verge of adolescence I guess, but it’s also more than that.
All the stories are set on the same island which I’ve read is supposed to be in the Everglades, but I don’t know how accurate that is, and almost all of them are wonderful. They’re imaginative and witty and clever and moving and at times very unsettling and they’re sometimes barely believable at the same time as being utterly real.
You’ve got the title story of a boarding school tryin to humanise little girls raised by wolves and a gorgeous story of two little boys who set sail in a crab shell to find the ghost of their sister (that one is my favourite I think)
Granana doesn't understand what the big deal is. She didn't cry at Olivia's funeral, and I doubt she even remembers Olivia's name. Granana lost, like, ninety-two million kids in childbirth. All of her brothers died in the war. She survived the Depression by stealing radish bulbs from her neighbors' garden, and fishing the elms for pigeons. Dad likes to remind us of this in a grave voice, as if it explained her jaundiced pitilessness: "Boys. Your grandmother ate pigeons.”

You've got a camp for people with sleep disorders, (I suspect if I lived on that island I'd be carted off there) ice skating apes and an alligator theme park, and an achingly touching story about the ‘Out To Sea’ retirement home, and each and every one (except maybe the story about the minotaur) is suberbly crafted.
Russell is clearly a very skilled writer and some of her description is just…take this:
Mr. Pappadakis smells like Just for Men peroxide dye and eucalyptus foot unguents. He has a face like a catchers mitt. The whole thing puckers inward, drooping with the memory of some dropped fly ball.


I just love that.
Karen Russell has created a collection of solid characters and situations that are unreal enough to grab your attention yet real enough for you to be able to relate to them and the language and turn of phrase, the way she works her words is fabulous fabulous. It’s the perfect example really, of all that is good about the short story although they did all leave me wanting more, which is why I was very pleased to find out that there is a novel length version of the first story. That went straight on my Christmas list!
Read it, please.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

the list

Following on from my post yesterday, here is a list (in no particular order) of the things I think are beautiful:

  • first words
  • old books
  • Dirty Dancing
  • kittens
  • bruises
  • pencil drawings
  • tattoos
  • alice in wonderland
  • laughter
  • hammocks
  • coffee
  • puddles
  • courage
  • red hair
  • rollercoasters
  • letters
  • cat paws
  • crows feet
  • over-sized jumpers
  • smiles
  • tears
  • scars
  • rainy mornings
  • storm clouds
  • gingerbread
  • patchwork quilts
  • streetlights
  • quiet
  • the sound and the smell and the feel of the sea
  • old photographs
  • hips
  • autumn
  • anger
  • old coca-cola bottles
  • sorrow
  • puffins
  • songs
  • my Mum
  • eyes
  • sunsets
  • the insides of wrists
  • freckles
  • you. you, always you.
  • sunflowers
  • pebble beaches
  • lakes
  • my grandpa’s smile

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

on beauty

You ever have one of those days where things just seem, well, shitty?

I have had earache for 4 days and something that keeps threatening to be flu but that isn’t man enough to make good on it’s threats, for a week. It’s dark when I wake up in a morning and it’s dark when I leave my office at night. I am busier than a busy person, like really. I have no money. Currently, life is not my favourite. I am more than a little grumpy.

I decided, not wanting to wallow in a vat of my own self pity because it tastes like cold coffee (and not coffee that’s supposed to be cold, like iced coffee. I like that. I mean coffee that’s been on your desk for an hour longer than you thought, that you take a big f*ckoff mouthful of expecting it to be hot when it’s actually beyond cold and tastes vile) that I had two options:

Option 1. I could write something suitably angsty.

Option 2. I could cheer the hell up.

I’ma go with option 2 because you know what, when I actually get a grip and look around me and I am surrounded by just, by beauty and that’s something to be celebrated right?

& I’m sat here and I’m thinking about just that.

About beauty.

What is beautiful? What makes us beautiful? And I don’t just mean in an ‘oh that’s pretty’ kind of way, I mean on a deeper level than that. Think about the things in life that really really move you. The ordinary and the extraordinary, the usual and the not so usual. The things that whilst not perhaps conventionally beautiful just creep under your skin and stay there, the things that matter, that directly or indirectly shape the bigger (beautiful) picture and make it all worthwhile, that scream emotion and tell a story and make things what they are. Not just cupcakes and flowers and new shoes but heartbreak and thunderstorms and the old man at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day with a poppy in his lapel; the things in life that are really really beautiful.

This is going nowhere.

You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to make a list of things that I think are beautiful so that whenever I’m tired or I have earache or it’s cold and I have no gloves or the pile of work on my desk seens insurmountable I can look at it and I can smile because people should take more notice of the beautiful things.

(and then I’m going to go and write something suitably angsty.)

Friday, 11 November 2011

in which i am sick


Another week over, already. I can't actually believe it's almost the middle of November and therefore almost Christmas. Eeek.

I don't have a lot to report, actually. This week has been a bit of a none-starter due to my being a little under the weather and feeling rather sorry for myself. I have spent significant amounts of time on my sofa under a patchwork quilt which whilst comforting for me, makes for a less than interesting blog post.

I did see The Help at the cinema on Tuesday, which was fun. I loved that book and I really liked the film too. It was extremely well cast and very well done and the costumes were fabulous. I had a very nice time and was pleasantly surprised. I'm always a little wary of adaptations of books I've liked but this one was a success so hurrah for that.

I leave you this weekend with some Ron and Hermione because I'm poorly and cannot seem to blog through it and Ron and Hermione are cute and make me feel better and I'm hoping that blinding you with cute will stop you from frowning upon the rubbishness of this post.
Have a lovely weekend.
Happy Friday.