Saturday, 29 June 2013

Oh, could you?

Ever heard the adage that men age like fine wine and women like old milk? I’ve read many a celeb gossip magazine over the years, and they would all seem to agree - I’ve lost count of the amount of features I’ve seen crowing about a wrinkle spotted on an actress, or spreads zooming in on and disparaging a pair of less than youthful hands. But time can be unkind to both sexes, so I’m going to even things out a little.

In each of the following cases time’s been more than a little mean, especially as I’d nursed a crush on each and every one at some point in my life...

10. Joey Lawrence.

While I’m not particularly proud of my former crush on Joey Lawrence, I don’t think I could really be blamed. I was 12, after all, and he was very pretty in a very vacant sort of way. So you can imagine my shock on seeing how he eventually turned out. Did someone embalm him? Is his hair painted on? I feel like I’m looking at a particularly shitty waxwork dummy of someone else.

9. Tony Curtis

Once upon a time Tony Curtis was hotter than the sun. Over the years, he evolved into something you’d use to frighten children into behaving.

8. Vince Vaughn

NikNak was incredulous that I’d ever found Vince Vaughn attractive, but he hadn’t spent Swingers staring at him anywhere near as intently as I did. 17 years later, I just want to look away.

7. Oliver Reed

The thing most people now remember about Oliver Reed is his drunken buffoonery on talk shows. It’s easy to forget that he was once a smouldering sex bomb.

6. Adam Ant

I've been fixated with highwaymen, pirates and other dandies ever since I can remember - a fact I hold Adam Ant entirely responsible for. My word, wasn’t he fantastic looking? Now…not so much.

5. Val Kilmer

Val Kilmer was once completely delicious. Now it looks like there’s nothing he doesn’t find delicious.

4. Axl Rose

I used to do a little but a little wouldn’t do it, so the little got more and more…and now I look like this.

3. Cary Elwes

The Princess Bride is one of my top 5 all-time favourite films, and hundreds of rewatches mean Cary Elwes as he was is forever seared into my brain. I’ll never stop being surprised when I see him now. I can sort of see him in there...somewhere.

2.James Spader

Reptilian, sleazy and achingly sexy, James Spader scorched his way through the 80’s. I never thought I’d live to see the day that Blane was hotter than Steff. But I did.

1.Judd Nelson

This one is the most distressing to me because I saw The Breakfast Club numerous times when I was growing up (not to mention the hundreds more times since). First setting eyes on him before I’d ever so much as kissed a boy, John Bender seemed to subconsciously become the template upon which all future boyfriends would be based - all the girls love a bad boy, after all. Sadly, the only badness it looks like Judd is up to these days is forgetting to put the bins out on collection day.

Witch Fire, by Anya Bast

2 stars

If this book had a theme tune, it would be this: 

For iPhone/iPad click here.

It should be quite clear by now exactly what type of book I've been reading. It might have a bit of paranormal window-dressing for those who like to pretend they're not reading a sex book, but it's smut nonetheless. As such it sort of worked, in places, but mostly had me wondering if I couldn't give up this life of drudgery and succeed as a smutty writer instead.

Mira was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar sorry, diner (damn my musical tourettes) when she first set eyes on Jack. Brought up by her godmother following the deaths of her parents, Mira is (unbeknownst to her) the child of two powerful witches who were sacrificed in order to call up a demon by a warlock, Crane. Jack witnessed their deaths as a child (what with his Dad being said warlock) and has felt responsible ever since. Estranged from his father, Jack's assigned as Mira's bodyguard by her parents' Coven in order to defend her from Crane (who wants her dead on account of her being an air witch. The habit of referring to witches by their elements kept making me giggle, as I kept imagining an air witch and a fire witch sitting around eating a sandwich).

The first half of the book was virtually a two-hander as Jack takes Mira to his apartment for safe-keeping where they hang out, and Mira first exposes herself as a dumbass. Firstly, she's apparently very empathic and can easily sense the needs and emotions of those around her. Despite this, and despite the fact that Jack tells her, numerous times, how much he wants her, she spends most of her time wondering if she repulses him. Secondly, after hearing that the leader of her parents' Coven shares her mother's maiden name, she's still somehow shocked when - surprise! - it turns out they're related. These weren't the only examples of spectacular slowness on her part.

Thankfully, this is only dragged out for so long and they're soon at it like the world is powered by genital friction. I must admit that the first time Jack and Mira got it on I wasn't entirely tingle-free...however, there are only so many times that you can read about someone doing, essentially, the same routine over and over before you get a bit bored.

Wanna screw like Jack? Lemme tell you how!

Step 1: Stare at her with your "need laid bare"
Step 2: Twiddle her nipples like an amateur radio enthusiast scanning frequencies
Step 3: See theme tune
Step 4: Head south for a short spell
Step 5: Ride her like Seabiscuit

In between humping sessions, Jack continues to 'train' Mira in magick (that k really bugs me for some reason). He seems to think that this is 'training':

Luckily, it doesn't really matter how strange his teaching methods are as Mira is one of those heroines, and after about half an hour of training is easily far more powerful than most of the people who've lived in this world forever (one of my pet peeves in this genre, along with overuse of the words "cream" and "panties". Just once I'd like to read of someone taking off their knickers instead).

If you're looking for something that won't tax too much you could do a lot worse, but right now I can't imagine coming back to the series for more. If I ever do, I'll have to make sure my thinking cap is missing.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Bitches Be Bitchin'

A little while ago I mentioned my love for Rizzo from Grease. Watching the film hundreds of times as I grew up, it was always clear to me that Sandy was rubbish - meek and mousy and only apparently good enough for Danny once she'd had a makeover - and that the person I wanted to be when I grew up was the 'bad' girl.

It's a character type I've continued to be drawn to ever since - strong women with smart mouths and an attitude. My mum also happens to be a particularly kick-ass lady, so in honour of her birthday (Happy Birthday mum!) let's have a look at some of my screen favourites. 

Most of these ladies have been called a bitch at some time or another, but every one of them makes it a badge of honour...

Aeryn Sun - Farscape

In a show full of badasses, former Peacekeeper Aeryn was the baddest. It takes a special kind of woman to snort with laughter when a psycho pulls a gun.

For iPhone/iPad click here.

Lucille Bluth - Arrested Development

Thankfully my mum is nothing like Lucille Bluth as a mother, or my Gran might really have had a point whenever she said my brother was a mummy's boy. But what Lucille lacks in mothering skills, she makes up for in great lines.

For iPhone/iPad click here.

Betty White - Lake Placid

Nothing beats a sweet little old lady with a potty mouth and a talent for sarcasm. This is exactly the type of old lady I want to be.

For iPhone/iPad click here.

Sue White - Green Wing

Like Sue, I work in the corporate side of a healthcare organisation. I would dearly love to pull a Sue one day.

For iPhone/iPad click here.

Veronica Mars - Veronica Mars

A tiny girl with a giant attitude, Veronica is really a marshmellow. But you wouldn't guess that in a million years...

For iPhone/iPad click here.

Honourable mentions go to Cordelia Chase (BTVS), Trixie (Deadwood), Kim Kelly (Freaks & Geeks), Queenie (Blackadder 2), the littlest badass of them all - Arya Stark (Game of Thrones) and, of course, Rizzo.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Getting a load of Dick...

I am a little bit too excited about the upcoming Veronica Mars movie.

Ryan Hansen putting out videos like this certainly isn't helping:

For iPhone/iPad click here.

Now we just need to find a way to cut Piz from the film, and all my dreams will have come true...

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Monday, 24 June 2013

Dead Ever After, by Charlaine Harris

1 star

There used to be a time that I couldn’t get enough of the Sookie Stackhouse series. Actioned-packed, a wee bit sexy, and peopled with a crowd of enjoyable characters, it was brain candy of the highest order and each publication day would find me like this:

But it couldn’t last. Fast forward a few years, and my last few outings with Sookie have each been more forgettable than the last, consisting mostly of filler and the lamification of once fantastic characters. Our last instalment, Deadlocked, marked such a low for the series that I’d even managed to completely forget what it had really been about, and had completely blanked on what had become of Claude and the rest of her family. Shows how fascinating it must have been, right?

As such I didn’t approach this one with nearly as much excitement as I should (I’d have been beating down the door of the bookstore on the day it was published in the old days) but somehow, even with my significantly lowered expectations, this managed to disappoint.

In case you’re worried about spoilers, you should probably look away now… don’t say you weren’t warned.

*********************************SPOILERS BELOW**********************************

Our first problem was the underwhelming dismissal of the best character in the entire series. While I’d initially started reading for Sookie, I stayed for Eric. And while Harris has tried ever so hard recently to douchebag him up, to the point that he’s now barely the same badass as before, he’s remained one of the biggest and most interesting characters to reside in Bon Temps. I’d already predicted that this book might see him done away with. And while he might not have been killed off (which could have been great, had it been done well), he instead suffers a fate that’s almost worse as he barely makes an appearance before being booted out of the book with barely a shrug. 

Bye Eric - you deserved better.

With a big hole left by such a character, you might have thought Harris had moved him on so she could fit in all the other exciting things she had in store for Sookie. You’d be right – if your idea of exciting consisted of Sookie doing yard work, cleaning the house and cooking up a storm (including pancakes, bacon and tomato sandwiches, country fried steak and home fries. Sorry, no sweet potato pie this time around) while other people tell her what’s been happening off-page in giant information dumps masquerading as conversations. There is a smidge of action – in a couple of scenes that have Sookie nowhere near them – until she finally gets involved right towards the end, where I was long past caring.

Being the last in the series, we do get a small parade of some of the characters that have been and gone, but they’re not really put to much use - Bill gets to flit around the woods and gloat a bit, while Alcide and Quinn do nothing more than sniff a few things and sod off again. Mostly they’re here to remind us of Sookie’s past loves and to remind us of why they each weren’t quite right, so that we can all get into the right space for her final choice.

Talking of which…I’d have been quite happy if Sookie had decided she wanted to be single. I’d have been quite happy if Sookie had met some other guy who gave her the tinglies, and we could see the beginning of the relationship. Instead, I got Sookie settling for the one guy she’s only ever had nothing but friend feelings for and, as he’s avoiding her for most of the book, has barely any interaction with before he “rolled on the condom and plunged in.” Nice. 

I really wish that Charlaine Harris had stopped writing these when she was no longer having fun, and I could keep some nice memories of a series I’d loved. Now I’m just glad it’s finished

Saturday, 22 June 2013

The Gaol, by Kelly Grovier

3 stars

A fascinating and very readable look at the long and murky history of Newgate prison, this features a parade of some of the characters to have haunted its cells and looks at its role in society, the changing attitudes of the English to crime and punishment, and its influence on the popular imagination. 

Regardless of the prison's incarnation (it having been rebuilt after being razed to the ground in the Great Fire of London and the 1780 anti-papist Gordon Riots) the picture it paints is an incredibly gruesome one - the prison a hellish labyrinth of dark corridors and overcrowded cells (it housing more than 4 times the inmates intended along with their families, dogs, pigs and poultry!), Press Yards and Ketch's Kitchens (where the executioners would boil the heads of those they'd recently dispatched), sending its stench and noise far across London. 

Whatever unlucky sod was sent there (as many were for such paltry crimes as being in debt) was soon a victim of the corruption of the institution - being charged on entering the prison, for each chain they wore, for their food and board, for having chains removed and for leaving prison - if they hadn't already become the victim of Typhus. So riddled with the disease that doctors would refuse to visit, it's thought that Gaol Fever carried off more than 4 times as many as the Executioners did and, considering their fearsome tallies (with one noted to have been hanging, drawing and quartering more than a dozen men a day during the Bloody Assizes), that's a heck of a lot of dead people.

Tyburn, site of executions which drew spectators in their thousands

With executions held at Tyburn and (later, outside the prison itself) drawing upwards of tens of thousands of spectators to watch the drama as families fought with Resurrection Men for the bodies of their recently departed loved ones, or the crowd itself attacking the executioner if he'd been particularly brutal, it's small wonder such scenes had a huge an impact on the popular imagination with hundreds of plays, pamphlets and novels written about the characters involved - an early precursor to the criminal biographies I'm addicted to today - reaching its pinnacle with the strutting highwaymen of the 17th & 18th centuries often cast as folk heroes.

Any history fan couldn't be disappointed with the ton of interesting facts contained within, though I'd have liked more information in some cases and less in others.

I also appreciated the criminal slang which headed each chapter, and am totally saving 'gape-seed' up for future use...

The Freebie 5 - TV Edition

After all that ranting yesterday, it’s probably time for a nice list. What better way to put that list to use than to be a complete hypocrite and objectify some men?

You may have noticed that I already have more than one Freebie 5 floating around. This is because I am greedy and free with my affections, and couldn’t bear to cut a single one. This time around, it’s the TV edition and those men who, even if their shows were crap, would still have me tuning in. Most of these shows have been around for yonks (and none are crap), but my crushes have been long kept alive thanks to frequent repeat viewings.

5. Game of Thrones – Khal Drogo

I’ve always had a bit of a thing for men with a touch of the Neanderthal about them (check out the eyebrow ridge on Drogo – the best feature I believe a man can possess), and so I already had a pretty hefty crush on this dude after reading the books. Then the show went and cast Jason Mmmmmmmmmmomoa, who even manages to look good while ripping out a tongue:

(warning for the squeamish: clip features said tongue ripping)

For iPhone/iPad click here.

4. Eric Northman - True Blood

This spot ought to have been Mathew Baynton in Horrible Histories, but it seems YouTube is now blocking anyone in the UK from watching it, the wankers. If only I could set Eric Northman on them...

Not only a vampire, but one who happens to have been a Viking, Eric Northman is over 6 feet of badassery. Right up until he lost his memory and started loving Sookie, but thankfully that seems to be mostly over, for now... 

For iPhone/iPad click here.

3. Deadwood – Sheriff Bullock

There are a number of characters from Deadwood who are constantly jostling for position as my favourite (hi, Doc!), but only one can claim the spot as Show Crush. Sheriff Bullock nearly scorched my retinas as he clenched, growled, smouldered and punched his way through the show.

(warning for the squeamish: if you’re new to Deadwood, this clip contains language and the major loss of some teeth)

For iPhone/iPad click here.

2. Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Spike

Unlike many Buffy fans, for me Angel never held that much appeal – all that angst, and no sex, and t’ai chi – but Spike…Spike might have been evil (most of the time) but he was fun. And had cheekbones you could cut yourself on. And wore a leather duster extremely well, even if he knew it. And while his character may have taken a turn for the emo in later seasons, he remained one of the show’s highlights.

(And I'd like to take a moment here to say a big 'ugh' to all the emo Spuffy videos littering YouTube. Stop making Spike suck, people!)

For iPhone/iPad click here.

1. Oz – Ryan O’Reilly & Simon Adebisi

So I’m cheating – so what? This is Oz, and cheating is to be expected. Besides, I couldn’t bring myself to choose between them, and while O’Reilly might have the edge thanks to his Machiavellian shenanigans, Adebisi has those wonderful eyelashes and a lot of teeth kissing going on. Eventually, I realised that these two were at their diabolical best when they worked together:

You'll have to click away for this one as YouTube won't let me embed it, for some stupid reason. I promise it's worth it.

For iPhone/iPad click here.

Honourable mentions:

Blackadder (but only in 2) and Jimmy McNulty (you naughty, infuriating and lovely man).

Friday, 21 June 2013

Fanny cupping

You’re a woman. You’re out with your friends, drinking and dancing up a storm, when you head to the bar. Between then and getting back to your friends, and especially while you’re holding your drink, how many times do you think your fanny will be cupped? 

Let me be clear here – I’m definitely not using ‘fanny’ in the American sense. Men are not gently cupping your behind as you pass (which would be a nuisance in itself). I’m using it in the very English sense. Your fanny, your fanjita, your foo, moo, tuppence, front bum, muff, minge, whatever you want to call it – I’m talking about your vagina. 

Call me crazy, but I thought it was generally understood that a woman’s fanny is her own. Not the sort of thing usually shared casually with strangers, and certainly not without her invitation. My own experience seems to say I’m wrong.

In recent years it seems to have become something of a trend – odds are fairly high that a woman standing in a bar, club or pub will at some point feel a stranger’s hand slip between her legs. Usually accompanied by an intense stare as the cupper awaits your throwing yourself at him, they always seem surprised when you dare to slap their hand away. Of course, that obviously means you are a ‘fucking lesbian’ (as bellowed in my face by someone who took offence at my taking offence at being sexually assaulted) and is usually taken as a license to get even more aggressive (I believe my objection was about to earn me a slap before I scarpered).

The first time it happened to me I thought it was an isolated incident involving a particularly unpleasant inebriate. Then it happened again. Is it me? I wondered. Am I dressing in a way which would attract that sort of attention? Am I giving off the wrong signals? (Isn’t it funny how women are conditioned to first blame ourselves in these situations?) I asked my friends – and found out I wasn’t the only person who’d had this experience.

For some reason, some men now think it is a perfectly acceptable way of approaching a woman. Sod talking to her or anything silly like that – just go straight in for the kill and focus on the only body part that matters to you. 

Urban Dictionary has the practice termed:

“Jobson: successfully pull a girl on the dancefloor in a bar/club without speaking to her and only getting in by cupping her fanny.”
Seriously? Who are the women being lured in by this approach? Do they even exist other than in the booze-fogged minds of sad bastards? Has any woman ever turned, with a moan of desire on feeling her fanny cupped, and waltzed off with her cupper? I can’t imagine so.

I can imagine that these men don’t feel there’s any harm in what they’re doing, and that it’s all just a bit of a laugh when they’re out with their mates. Some of them might even be under the illusion that this is alluring behaviour. It’s probably men like these who have just helped fund, to the tune of $16,000, some douchebag called Ken Hoinsky to produce a book giving tips on how to sexually assault women.


To all the fanny cuppers out there, the next time you get the urge to stick your hand, uninvited, between a woman’s legs, resist! I can assure you that her happening to simply be in your vicinity is not an invitation to sexy-times, and forcing such contact upon her will only lead to the opinion that you’re a fuckwad like Hoinksy.

As for him, regardless of the weak statement he’s since released defending his rapey little project, I sincerely hope that the next unwitting victim of his ‘seduction techniques’ elbows him in the throat.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Me, today...

This morning, I woke up to this notification from Goodreads:

*Names blurred in case some people hadn't counted on appearing on my blog*

That's right. Neil Gaiman just liked my review of Ocean at the End of the Lane. As you can probably imagine, my reaction wasn't entirely dissimilar to this:

For iPhone/iPad click here.

A Kiss Of Shadows, by Laurell K. Hamilton

1 star

A few years ago I started to read the Anita Blake series, by Laurell K. Hamilton, when wanting a new vamp series to try out. It started out decently enough, with Anita as an ‘animator’ (a necromancer, able to raise the dead) and a P.I. who worked with the cops on any supernatural type cases. Sadly, it soon devolved into a parade of awful outfits, douchebag love interests, over-reliance on plots including threats of and attempted rape, and a grouchy, arrogant and humourless heroine who was desired by all and whose powers inexplicably grew until she was, at the point I stopped reading, not only 'The Executioner' (liaison to the Regional Preternatural Investigation squad, and necromancer) but also the vampire Jean-Claude's human servant (and part of a power triumvirate with he and werewolf Richard), lupa to Richard's wolf pack and leopard lionne/munin/Nimir-Ra (and the kitchen sink) to the wereleopards. With her being easily more powerful than anybody that she came across, soon the actual plots were pushed into the background and the focus became on all that sex instead. It had this effect:

Last year, I thought I'd give Laurell K. Hamilton another chance, that my problems with the Anita Blake series might be confined to that series and Anita herself. I was wrong. Starring Merry Gentry, the half-human sidhe princess, this time around everything that irritated me most about Anita was front and centre; pages and pages of descriptions on the most awful outfits imaginable, the heroine standing around while those around her discuss how beautiful she is, every male she meets lusting after her, and every circumstance dealt with through liberal application of sex, all of which is decidedly unerotic. There's no real effort at characterisation other than Merry being the most beautiful, most fascinating, most wonderful creature to have ever walked the earth - take it as read that every male will want her more than they've ever wanted anyone before, and every woman will see her as a threat. It amuses me to think Hamilton just writes down her fevered daydreams - I'm convinced she's not getting enough.

As for what there is of plot, Merry is in hiding from her sidhe family, and working at a detective agency. Not for long though, as she's summoned back to the Unseelie Court, goes to see the Queen, and is ordered to have sex with loads of men. And that's it. The initial 'mystery' is solved without Merry really even thinking about it, as she instead rubs herself up against anyone who crosses her path, including those with tentacles.

I'm no prude by any stretch of the imagination so my problem with the constant sex was really less to do with being squicky about it and more to do with being insanely bored by it all. I find that the most erotic scenes I've read have usually had some sort of build-up and some investment, emotional or otherwise, is always helpful. Sex is used in this book as almost akin to shaking hands, and it strips it of any eroticism it might have otherwise had. 

There's not much else for me to say other than to try and remind myself not to pick up any more Hamilton in the future, as we really don't get along. In Merry and Anita's worlds, that would mean I was sexually threatened or jealous. Bless.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, by Neil Gaiman

5 stars

Two days ago I (thrillingly) got to see Neil Gaiman talk about his new book, billed by many in the run up to its publication as his best. This couldn't be entirely true, I thought. After all, he's written some real blinders in the past...Having just come up for air, my vision still swimming with lovely tears, I'm thrilled to say I was wrong. 

A novel about childhood and memory, fear and love, that's told with a wonderful simplicity and bruises your heart while making it swell, raising goosebumps all the while - if I'd given in to my urges to highlight all of the wonderful passages that resonated so deeply inside me, my book would now be one big highlight.

Our seven year old narrator feels like the child I might have been and it was deliciously easy to wrap myself up in his world, captured by the magic and wonder of childhood while trying desperately to be brave and make sense of a lonely world that can be so casually cruel. He soon stopped feeling like a character to me, and more like a little boy I once knew.

At one point, he observes:

"I liked myths. They weren't adult stories and they weren't children's stories. They were better than that. They just were."
The best books are like that, making you forget you're reading someone's invention. In the very best way, I wouldn't tag The Ocean At The End Of The Lane as an adult's book, or a children's book. To paraphrase Mr Gaiman, it's better than that. It just is.

Now come here, and give me a hug.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Loki, by Mike Vasich

2 stars

All about one of my favourite gods and supposedly bringing the story of the "God of Mischief, Father of Lies, Harbinger of Destruction" to life as he brings about Ragnarok, this ought to have made my head explode with joy. Instead, I was mostly like this:

For starters, and for a book purporting to be all about Loki, he's not even in it for much of the time (especially the second half), and though we did initially get multiple chapters from his point of view more often than not we were with Balder, or Tyr, or Odin instead, with Loki fading further and further into the background as the book progressed.

Something in Vasich's writing style fell flat for me ("He had the weight of Ragnarok on his shoulders, as usual..."), with Loki nowhere near as much fun as he usually is to read about, and even the most outlandish bits of myth (like his birthing of the eight-legged horse, Sleipnir) rendered rather pedestrian. Unfortunately, Vasich also had the odd habit of effectively spoilering his work by constantly giving us an italicised synopsis of a particular bit of myth before going on to tell his version of it, with only a little additional detail and barely deviating enough from the source material to make it worthwhile. This echo effect may have ensured certain things stuck more than usual, but the repetitiveness soon dulled the reading experience and made me feel strangely detached, not at all emotionally invested and suffering from a severe case of deja vu. 

There were some positives, and the battle scenes that featured (particularly Ragnarok) were one of them. Others included the characters and unjust treatment of Fenrir and Hel (Jormungand, the Midgard Serpent and Loki's other child, gets barely a look in). I also rather enjoyed how the gods were shown to be raging dickbags most of the time, but sadly the positives didn't do enough to outweigh the negatives, and overall I was disappointed.

Wanna know who I met yesterday?

This is Neil Gaiman...

This is The Ocean At The End Of The Lane...

And this is me...

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The Rag: Winter/Spring 2013

4 stars

Find it on Goodreads
Find it on Amazon

An electronic magazine featuring short stories, poetry and art, this issue looks at the idea of morality and explores some characters and situations with a slightly unusual edge. Starting out strong with Memento Mori, which effectively set out the magazine's stall - you know that from here on out you're in for something thought-provoking and morally murky, with strong voices and a strange beauty - each piece maintained the standards of the last and made sure that even the odd piece that didn't quite interest me still wasn't a particularly low point.

As with other collections I've read, I preferred the short stories to the poetry (though that's due simply to my preference for that medium rather than any issue of quality on display) and I loved the artwork (making me think of fairy tales, though in their original forms rather than the Disney versions).

Stand-outs for me were Yes Officer, Zeke Stargazing and The Girl With Pretension In Her Hair, and I noted that some of the work within was the first time particular writers had been published. Based on the strength of this, I doubt it will be the last.

**Note: I received a free copy of this publication in exchange for an honest review.**

Monday, 10 June 2013

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

5 stars

From the very first sentence of this book, I was hooked - desperate to know how and why we'd got to this point. The rest of the book was a slow build of world and information, written beautifully (so many lines jumped off the page at me, it's impossible to pick a favourite), that had me gripped from start to finish.

When Richard Papen arrives at Hampden, an elite New England college, he's immediately drawn to five friends - all students in an exclusive class to which he's desperate for entry - all eccentric, wealthy (if shabbily so) and surrounded by an air of glamour and mystery. Obfuscating (or plain lying) about his background and finances, Richard is soon drawn into the group and, eventually, their plot.

Playing with lots of ideas about the truth versus our perception of it, Richard would see the social veneers rather than what lies beneath and we go along with him for the ride, trying to glean the truth of his situation through the snatches of overheard conversations whispered outside doors, inside jokes and noises in the night, as Richard trudges through a world often shrouded in fog. When the truth, or a version that's been given to Richard, comes to light all of those solid friendships and ideas of who people are suddenly wobble and collapse and we're left with paranoia, bitterness, jealousy and fear.

Though this world is a million miles away from mine - not only did I not go to University but my 6th form college friends and I were more likely to be found haunting greasy spoon cafes, sailors pubs and '£1 a pint' nights at JFK's (a local rock club) in the company of others like us from poor to average working class backgrounds (none of Grandmother's mink and Mother's pills for us!) - it all felt very real to me and I found myself feeling as betrayed as Bunny at times by these friends of mine.

Beautifully written, fantastically plotted, peopled with extremely memorable characters (Bunny in particular really jumps off the page) and very, very interesting, I highly commend this to all.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The Don't Bother Bin - The Fall of Arthur

by JRR Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien - 2 stars

It kills me that I'm doing this, it really does, but I can't let my being a fangirl blind me to the truth and so, here we are.

I've always been a voracious reader, and the more eagle-eyed among you will know that my drug of choice is fantasy (with a sprinkling of paranormal). Like many people, Lord of the Rings was my gateway drug. Most people I know read LOTR when they were growing up. Unlike most people, I was rather a late starter and so it wasn't until I was nearly 20, when NikNak passed me a copy of Fellowship of the Ring with an exasperated "I can't believe you've never read this", that my reading world opened up.

After yearly re-reads and losing myself in the many supplementary works of Tolkien, I've since moved on to other fantasy worlds, but LOTR will always remain my first love. So it should come as no surprise that, some time last week, I lost my shit when someone posted a link to this release. I'd had no idea it was in the offing, and sped on over to Amazon where I spunked away £9 for instant delivery to my Kindle. That's right, £9. And I still felt like The Dude.

I feel a little swindled, as it turns out that the long abandoned, unfinished and previously unreleased work only took up about 30% of the book, with the rest being essays and notes by his son Christopher, designed to shine a little light on and place the poem in context (and pad the book enough to justify the price - but a rant on the great Kindle Swindle is probably best left for another day).

Apparently an alliterative Old English poem, I wouldn't know one of those if it walked up and alliterated in my face, but I can say it was somewhat effective (when I understood it) - Arthur seems to be battling some desolate, wind-driven landscape in a foreign campaign while Guinevere (who's given short shrift for being such a tempting slut) is menaced by Mordred, who is trying to take over Arthur's kingdom. Meanwhile Lancelot sulks across the water, waiting for a summons from King or Queen that never comes. If the poem had been finished I imagine it would have made for a good telling of the back-end of the Arthur legend. But it's not finished, and so didn't really do much else for me.

Reading the other 70% felt a little like this:

While Christopher's contributions were helpful when it came to looking at the poem in the context of the Arthurian tradition, and the similarities between Avalon and Tol Eressea, when it came to the evolution of the poem it nearly sent me to sleep.

Oh well, one to learn from then....and I'll head to the library for any future releases from the Tolkien estate.

Best on-screen use of music

We've already taken a look at why musicals aren't all bad, but what about the non-musicals? They're often no slouches in the music department either. But while a soundtrack is one thing, some of them use music in better ways than that. Let's take a look at my favourite onscreen uses of music, shall we?

The Wire (Theme from Shaft)

Possibly the worst cop in the world, if there's anyone in the world that's the opposite of Shaft, it's Herc. Which is why his listening to the Theme from Shaft while trying, and failing, to chase down a hopper amuses me so.

For iPhone/iPad click here.

Beetlejuice (Day-O, Banana Boat Song)

What better way to prove to your guests that your house is really haunted, than by a possessed rendition of the Banana Boat song?

For iPhone/iPad click here.

Almost Famous (Tiny Dancer)

Nothing brings people together like singing along to your favourite song, even if you've been seething with hatred and are no longer speaking...

For iPhone/iPad click here

American Psycho (Hip To Be Square)

Patrick Bateman schools Paul Allen in music appreciation. With an axe.

For iPhone/iPad click here.

The Big Lebowski (Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In))

After having had his White Russian drugged, the Dude has the best dream sequence in the history of dream sequences.

For iPhone/iPad click here.

High Fidelity (Dry The Rain)

Rob is about to sell 5 copies of The Three EP's by the Beta Band.

For iPhone/iPad click here.

Pretty in Pink (Try A Little Tenderness)

Every girl needs a Ducky in her life. And every girl needs to realise than when you have a Ducky, you do not go after someone called Blaine.

For iPhone/iPad click here.

500 Days of Summer (You Make My Dreams)

Everyone's had that feeling. You've just spent your first night with the object of your affections, and it feels like a marching band should be playing as you walk down the road...This clip makes me ridiculously happy, for some reason.

For iPhone/iPad click here.

Touching the Void (Brown Girl In The Ring)

An astounding film (if you haven't seen it, do it), telling of the incredible survival against all odds of climber Joe Simpson after his disastrous and almost fatal attempt on Siula Grande. A perfect illustration of how inane your own brain can be when you least need it, of all the things you want stuck in your head when you're inching your way painfully down a mountain, it's probably not Boney M.

For iPhone/iPad click here.

Without A Paddle (Bump n Grind)

Incredibly puerile, but I don't care - the first time I saw this I cackled like a loon for about a year, then rewound it and watched it again. And again.

For iPhone/iPad click here.

Well, those were my favourites. What are yours?