Saturday, 31 August 2013

The Atrocity Exhibition, by J.G. Ballard

1 star

By and large, I think J.G. Ballard is awesome, with everything of his I'd read to date being a real treat. Sadly, such things can never last...

Flying at least 100 feet above my head at all times, this book mostly made me feel like a complete dumbass. I understood the meaning of individual words, sentences, and even the occasional paragraph, but as a whole? I know it's got something to do with sex and car crashes, but after that...

...I'm out. Actually, that's not quite true. There's also something to do with space and time, the Kennedy assassination and the cult of celebrity, but quite what that is, erm...

I've since discovered, thanks to the intervention of a sympathetic friend (and the author's note, at the very end of the book - which was helpful) that this wasn't intended to be read in a linear fashion but dipped into randomly, as well as having accompanying art work. Clearly, buying this for my Kindle was something of a mistake and the fact that I did read it linearly, with no accompanying imagery (which may have shed some light on certain passages) meant it was a very fractured reading experience, with the occasional flashes of brilliance only making the rest seem even more foggily hallucinatory.

If it hadn't been for the notes at the end of each chapter I'd have been lost entirely, and I clung to these like a life-boat.

I can't believe I'm giving a Ballard book such a shitty rating and it's tempting to pretend that I'm smarter than I am, but while the notes were a constant source of interesting thoughts and observances, and while the seeds of some of Ballard's later work were clearly planted here, I can't honestly say I understood, or enjoyed it.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Brilliant Boozers

Being a big Wright/Pegg/Frost fan, I’m a wee bit excited about the final instalment in their Cornetto trilogy, The Worlds End.

For iPhone/iPad click here.

I don’t go to many boozers these days due to the combination of a stomach condition, not needing to find someone to get laid, laziness and being older than I once was, but there are still lots of screen boozers I’d like to visit, given the chance. So, to tide me over until I can get to the cinema, why not take a look at some?

The Winchester - Shaun of the Dead

Who wouldn’t want to go to the Winchester? There are a bunch of colourful locals, a good selection of bar snacks, a decent jukebox and a gun above the bar in case of a zombie apocalypse (although we’re not using the zed-word). Forget what Liz says Shaun, I think this is a great plan...

For iPhone/iPad click here.

McClarens - How I Met Your Mother

There used to be a time that I wanted to visit McClarens so I could hang out with the gang, and maybe see some cool pencil miracles while I was there...

For iPhone/iPad click here.

I still want to visit McClarens, but now I’d simply stomp in, kick Moseby in the nuts and yell at him for a) the suckiness of the past few seasons, and b) for having spent the last few years telling his kids how in love he is/was with their Aunt Robin, and that they’re only really on this earth due to his settling for their mother once Robin was no longer available. You suck, Schmoseby.

The Titty Twister - From Dusk Till Dawn

OK, so the likelihood of my making it out alive is very slim, but that would make a brilliant excuse to not go into work the following Monday. Catering to bikers and truckers (does our Transporter count?), the Titty Twister boasts Cheech Marin on the door, a brilliant house band, and Danny Trejo tending bar. And we already know how I feel about him. Yep, visiting the Titty Twister would most definitely be worth it. Besides, with an invite like this, how could you say no?!

For iPhone/iPad click here.

Caritas - Angel

Now sadly destroyed (first by Gunn’s old friends, and then permanently by Holtz – yet more reason to hate him, as if there weren’t enough already) Caritas once provided a sanctuary to the denizens of Los Angeles – human or demon, good or evil, as violence was not only forbidden but prevented by a magical spell, with karaoke taking its place. Hosted by the fabulous Lorne, who can read your future while you sing, don’t worry if you’re the shy, non-singing type. You can always just sit back, relax, and make fun of everyone else’s singing instead.

For iPhone/iPad click here.

The Slaughtered Lamb - An American Werewolf in London

On first glance you might think I was mental for wanting to visit this pub, situated as it is in the middle of a werewolf haunted moor. And if you were looking at it from the perspective of David and Jack, you’d be right. But I’ve got a strong regional accent, and think that evenings spent putting the wind up American tourists could be a lot of fun.

For iPhone/iPad click here.

Fangtasia - True Blood

At first I considered visiting Merlotte’s, but other than to try Lafayette’s food I can’t think of any other reason to visit. Fangtasia, on the other hand, offers vampire go-go dancers, the possibility of an Eric Northman sighting and the opportunity to hook up with a vampire, should that be your thing. Best of all, it also offers the chance to be bitched out by Pam. Count me in.

For iPhone/iPad click here.

The Gem - Deadwood

Another deadly bar and one I’d be highly unlikely to even make it into (unless I was a prostitute) let alone back out again, but I think the prospect of meeting so many iconic American figures, as well as drinking with Ellsworth, learning new swear words with Trixie, being seen to by Doc and indulging my strange crush on Dan Dority, before getting some life advice from Al Swearengen, would be more than worth the risk.

For iPhone/iPad click here.

Hawkeye’s Tent - M*A*S*H

More drinks have probably been served in Hawkeye’s tent than in all the other boozers on this list, and I’d love to stretch out on one of those camp beds, Martini in hand, and be regaled by Hawkeye and Trapper, though I would appreciate being sent to the version in which Trapper is Elliot Gould.

For iPhone/iPad click here.

Those were my picks.....What are yours?

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

A Dark Kiss of Rapture, by Sylvia Day

1 star

A Dark Kiss of Rapture? A Quick Bit of Bollock-All, more like - writing this review will probably take me longer than my reading did. How this has managed to get an average rating of 3.68 on Goodreads is beyond me - I can only imagine that there are an awful lot of significantly time challenged and very easily pleased people out there. This would appear to be a taster for Day's Renegade Angels series, but instead of building my appetite it's put me off entirely.

Raze is one of the Fallen - former angels who lost their wings and became vampires. Now roaming earth, the Fallen are policed by the Sentinels (angels) and their lycan backup squad, while also apparently being engaged in some sort of face-off with a bunch of rogue vampires and their minions. I've no idea why I'm explaining this to you as it's barely important other than for a quick couple of scenes in which baddies are dispatched easily, but I expect this will also be the back story to future books in the series. Just about the only thing I found interesting in this entire set up was the fact that Raze and his Fallen pals apparently all chose their own names when they came to earth. Considering that they're got such naff names as Raze, Crash, Salem and Torque, one can only assume that fallen angels are actually teenage girls. 

Raze is a womaniser and has never understood his Fallen friends taking mates - until he meets Kim, that is, a "prime choice female" (ugh) with whom he falls in insta-love after she picks him up in a bar. Soon they're both gazing at one another with need and sensing what movies the other will like, because when you fall in love with someone that apparently happens, along with you both enjoying exactly the same things. (This is news to me, as my partner of 15 years wouldn't be caught dead watching Jersey Shore, loves football and the sort of music which I think sounds like a CD jumping. But I digress...) Now Raze must protect the woman he loves from becoming his enemies' target...apparently. We wouldn't really know as the bloody novella ends as soon as this comes up. And for a novella that promises to be erotic, it's not like we even got any good sex scenes in the meantime as each time we built up to the moment, we'd suddenly be whisked away to give our couple some privacy.

At one point Kim muses on a film they're about to watch, which stars fallen angels. Raze's wondering if they're vampires too, prompts her to say: "That might actually be a cool story. Maybe some werewolves too? Like Underworld with angels? Could be interesting."

To this I reply: "Not fucking likely, if this is anything to go by."

Monday, 26 August 2013

H.M.S. Surprise, by Patrick O'Brian

4.5 stars

The more time I spend in the company of Aubrey and Maturin, the more enamoured I become - it's rapidly become one of my biggest pleasures to run off to sea with them whenever life is a little trying. I've still no idea what in the gibbering flip is being said whenever we start in with the mizens and stuns'ls, but somehow I'm still managing to follow what's happening in those brilliant storms, chases and sea battles, and loving every second of it.

I loved this instalment even more than previously, as we climb aboard the HMS Surprise and head off to India, but not before stopping off in a number of other places for the wonderful Dr Maturin to indulge in his passion - whether that be natural history, or that bloody Villiers woman. Quite a large part of the focus in this book is Stephen and I think it's all the better for it. I could spend entire chapters reading of nothing but him being brilliant and bitchy - though that isn't his only charm. By this point I have become a total Maturin fan-girl, and spend most of my time now reading like this:

I'm about one book away from doodling his name on my pencil case...

Elsewhere, we get some nicely contemplative and emotional moments in amongst the thunder of the waves and the guns, such as Jack's quiet unease at the efficient killing during a battle and his white-washing of it in his letter home, and the culmination of Stephen's friendship with little Dil. The small glimpses into how certain things were viewed and tolerated, or not, in society at that point are also always interesting, with the view of Diana Villiers by 'polite' society contrasting with the rampant racism and routine offers of young children to do with as you wish...

The end of each of these books always comes too soon for me, so I'm very glad to see it's such a long series, ensuring I have a reliable reading refuge for a very long time to come.

Friday, 23 August 2013

The Freebie 5 - Over 50 Edition

It's been a while since we had a list and as my brain is buzzing with bees thanks to a severe case of the sniffles, making it hard to think, why not take a look at some pretty instead as I continue my trawl through my Freebie 5's? This time around, it's the Over 50 Edition.

I've always had a thing for a man with a few years on him, and over the years it's become even more likely that the objects of my lust are men who've already reached half a century. Below are my favourites.

Iggy Pop (born 1947)

I’ve had a thing for Iggy since I was a teenager, and no number of dodgy insurance adverts is ever going to change that. Look at him….

You just know he’d be ever so filthy, and ever so much fun. (P.S. The first person to comment disparagingly on his wrinkles wins the chance to post a shirtless picture of themselves here, on the occasion of their 66th birthday).

Bill Murray (born 1950)

I first fell in love with Bill Murray as a little girl, watching Ghostbusters, and it’s a crush that’s only got worse with time. Funny is most definitely sexy, and Bill Murray is hilarious.

Danny Trejo (born 1944)

One of the actors guaranteed to get my money, no matter what, Danny Trejo has one of the most wonderful faces I’ve ever seen. I like men who look like they’ve really lived, and you can’t deny that there’s an awful lot of life here. I want to live in those bags…

Clancy Brown (born 1959)

Clancy Brown is a god. I’ve watched any number of terrible films over the years just because Clancy was in them, and I don’t regret a single second. And while I’ll never find him more attractive than when he’s like this...

…I don’t really need to see him either. That wonderful, rumbling voice could make things happen all on its own, which makes the fact that he provides voice-work for children's shows a little strange for me.

Viggo Mortensen (born 1958)

It’s positively indecent that one man can be so talented. As well as acting, Viggo Mortensen is a painter, poet, photographer and musician. Looking fantastic whether he's opening a door handsomely or baring all for his art, even a combination of every single apparently hot actor under 50 would find themselves outscorched in comparison.

Well, those are my favourite half-centurians. Who are yours? 

The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak

5 stars

A bittersweet, bruising and beautiful story set at an ugly time - in the heart of Nazi Germany - offering a fresh perspective and rather aptly narrated by Death himself.

I've read lots of accounts of and novels set in and around the Second World War, and it's easy to make the assumption that every German at that time was a hate-filled monster, eager to assert their authority over the world and clamouring for the deaths of millions. As this story ably demonstrates, the truth is far from being that simple.

Completely engrossing with a poetic and extremely effective child-like narration, I fell well and truly under this book's spell to the point that the wonderful characters soon felt like real people (like Death, Rudy does something to me and I too think that I love him), and I soon found myself reading while the pages swam and I sucked in great, shuddering breaths.

I won't do the story justice by attempting to sum it up here, so I'll simply tell you it's one of the most powerful books I've read in a long while and implore you to pick it up yourself.

You should do so even more quickly now that the trailer has been released for the movie adaptation. Will they do it justice? Starring Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson, which gives me hope, the fact that it's apparently from the same studio that made Life of Pi makes me a little nervous (I should probably state here that I haven't actually seen Life of Pi yet as just the trailer alone made me want to vomit). The trailer for The Book Thief is far less shudder-inducing (right up until the voiceover) and is below - judge for yourselves.

For iPhone/iPad click here.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Bartimaeus Trilogy, by Jonathan Stroud

I actually read this trilogy a few years ago, but as many of my friends are always looking for fantasy recommendations, it seemed time to talk about The Bartimaeus Trilogy. 

A series for young adults, don't let that put you off. Packing in far more humour, action and emotion that many books for adults, I loved virtually every second of this fantastic series, and especially adored the titular Bartimaeus,a rather sarcastic djinni who rather quickly became one of my all-time favourite characters.

Interested? Then read on for my reviews...

The Amulet of Samarkand - 5 stars

Elevated from a 4 to a 5 through the use of sarcastic footnotes and the snarky attitude of Bartimaeus, one of my new favourite book characters. 

Nathaniel is a young magician's apprentice who, after summoning a djinni (the aforementioned Bartimaeus) to enact a boyish revenge on Simon Lovelace (a powerful magician), is drawn into a conspiracy against the Government from which he'll need all the help Bartimaeus can reluctantly provide in order to stay alive.

Told from the alternating viewpoints of our two main characters, both have strong voices and those concerning Nathaniel help to ensure you empathise with the kid following his stingy upbringing at the hands of Underwood, his master, even when some of his behaviour is brattish. I liked that this was included, as he wasn't just the perfect hero but a (relatively) normal kid trying to make his place in the world. The parts from Bartimaeus' point of view are laugh out loud funny, and I loved all of his sardonic asides regarding other demons, events and human behaviour. It's this element which helps makes this the kind of book that you could easily pick up and re-read numerous times.

The Golem's Eye - 4 stars

A couple of years have passed since the events of The Amulet of Samarkand and Nathaniel has risen quickly through the ranks at Westminster, as well as growing to be considerably more of an arrogant, ambitious, selfish and snobby clot (much to Bartimaeus's disgust, and mine).

As a part of the Internal Affairs division of the Government, Nathaniel is charged with bringing down the Resistance (opposing the rule of the corrupt magicians, though a rather small scale operation). To make matters worse, a Golem is raging through London...

I enjoyed the development of the more unsavoury elements of Nathaniel's character, which was quite fitting considering his company at Westminster, even while cursing him and hoping he got knocked down a peg or two, and relished the expansion of the character of Kitty who gave us the commoners' perspective of life under the magicians' rule, as well as providing us with a human to root for.

However, once again the show is well and truly stolen by Bartimaeus (he would be pleased to know!) I'm itching to know how the final part of the story will unfold and hope that he and Kitty will become friends, teach Nathaniel the error of his ways, and see off the prigs in the Government!

Ptolemy's Gate - 5 stars

Excuse me a moment, I have something in my eye...

In an extremely well earned pay-off to the Bartimaeus trilogy, everything is wrapped up beautifully in this final instalment weaving in elements from the preceding volumes and finishing with an affecting act of heroism.

When we begin, Bartimaeus has been serving Nathaniel ceaselessly for a couple of years and, as such, is in a sorry state, whilst Nathaniel grows increasingly disillusioned with his life and position and Kitty has been working on a project of her own. Soon, all three must work together to battle a new, terrifying threat to London and the rest of humanity.

We get far more of Bartimaeus in this than in The Golem's Eye, which in my mind is only ever a good thing, and the humour employed is enough to stop any emotional moments tipping into sentimentality - towards the end I frequently laughed while nursing a large lump in my throat.

I loved the progression of the characters; Nathaniel's disillusionment doesn't feel forced in any way, and the deepening relationships also provide some surprisingly touching moments (particularly in the case of Bartimaeus and, well, anyone).

Thrilling, funny and heroic, I recommend this trilogy to fantasy fans of all ages.

Since I read the above, a new entry has been published in the Bartimaeus series - a prequel to the series set in Jerusalem at the time of King Solomon...don't worry, I read that one for you too.

The Ring of Solomon - 4 stars

Ah, Bartimaeus. How I'd missed you with your smart mouth and sarcastic footnotes. It's good to have you back.

My favourite djinn was always telling whoever would listen about what great feats he'd pulled off and events he'd taken part in. Luckily for us, we now get to read about those too as we catch up with him in Jerusalem, bound to one of King Solomon's magicians. And soon up to his essence in all manner of trouble.

As laugh out loud funny as he's ever been, I loved every minute of being back in Bartimaeus' company. While there was the odd slight lull whenever we weren't with him it wasn't enough to stop me from savouring every second, and not wanting it to finish.

If anyone is taking count, I vote for more Bartimaeus in my reading future. Make it happen, Stroud!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The Don't Bother Bin: Ravens

by George Dawes Green - 1 star

Halfway through reading this book, I put it down for 5 days to attend a music festival. As an illustration of just how much I wasn't enjoying it, I wasn't remotely bothered by having to stop halfway through, didn't think of it once while I was away, and was actually pretty disgruntled when I returned and remembered I hadn't finished it yet. The second half didn't change this in any way.

Tara's family, including younger non-entity brother Jase, alcoholic mum Patsy and god-bothering Dad Mitch, have just won the lottery. All $318 million of it. But it won't be theirs for long as Shaw and Romeo, two former IT techs trying to escape their dull lives, have heard about their win and Shaw hatches a plan. He'll take the family hostage, while Romeo roams the night intent on killing everyone they love if the family doesn't hand over half their winnings. Which Shaw wants to then give away.

The family happily complies without any fight while the female side sorta falls for Shaw, and the public start seeing him as some sort of Jesus figure when he announces his intentions to give his 'winnings' away. Until Shaw doesn't answer one of Romeo's calls due to an accident, which is the signal for him to start killing.

This was all over the shop, seemingly unable to decide what kind of book it wanted to be, and settling for being uneven and completely implausible. Characters make strange decisions and behave in ways that no person would, and no real effort is put into making the reader feel that those thoughts and actions make sense. When Shaw first tells Romeo of his plan, he simply accepts it. I've been a bored IT person, and I love my friends, but I imagine that if one of them asked me to kill a stranger's entire family so they could give away some money I'd have a little more to say about it than "OK then."

As for the family, if someone had taken mine hostage and told me there was a crazed killer roaming around waiting to kill the rest of my loved ones, I wouldn't spend my time on the internet looking at mansions. As soon as the kidnapper fell asleep (which he does, a few times, without his plan falling apart), I'd be straight on the blower to my mates and the police, before making sure my kidnapper didn't wake up again. And if the crazed killer finally turned up, I wouldn't follow his instructions to shoot someone in the face.

But maybe that's just me...

Green Man 2013

5 days of heavy drinking, eating churros, dodging wasps, grooving whilst sitting down and annoying our vanny neighbours, and I'm back. Did you miss me?

Tomorrow I come back to reality with a bump, as I head into the office to wade through the thousands of complaints which have no doubt flooded in due to my absence, but for today I get to sit on my backside luxuriating in the bliss of still not being at work and looking fondly back over our festival shenanigans.

The musical highlight of the festival was undoubtedly Steve Mason (former front-man of The Beta Band) who lit up the Far Out Stage on Saturday night. Some very twatted male members of the audience helped make this even more memorable by attempting to perfect the Dirty Dancing lift throughout.

Food highlight was the awesome Pie Minister (NikNak's still waxing rhapsodic about his pie with mash, gravy, mushy peas and roasted shallots).

The drink highlight was a tie - Chai Wallah did an excellent mango, berry, banana and rum smoothie, but the Rum Shack did a great Redleg Libre, and had a pet wasp called Wesley.

The annoyance highlight of the festival was the overly dramatic girl stood by my shoulder as the Green Man burned on Sunday night, going "Oh wow!! Oh wow!! Oh wow!! I can see his hands!!"

Best festival game was undoubtedly Weekend Wee Wars (how quickly can YOU fill a Travel John?!) but Penis Bridge Wars came a close second (and was decisively won by Rerab).

As for the conversational highlights, there were many. My personal favourite was that being held by NikNak and Rerab as I snoozed next to them - a very long and involved discussion of The Smell Matrix, which would apparently be starring John Ch-Churro.

Other memorable moments included:

Zombie scientist to NikNak: "Thank you for not wasting my time putting faeces into a sentence."

"He looked exactly like almost like my trainer." - TheShitWizard on the Zombie scientist.

"Yay! It's Nick Berry!" - Rerab as Matt Berry arrived onstage.

"I want to die alone, like people in Middlesborough" - man onstage, apparently having some sort of existential crisis.

"I'm gonna brush my teeth with Mojitos" - TheShitWizard on festival hygiene.

"I could do without the bottom half of my legs" - NikNak

Rerab to NikNak: "Go to sleep, tiny pole dancer."

"I've got a monocle of light" - Rerab

"First I lived in Edinburgh, then I moved to Dundee. When I was 14, I moved to Glasgow. How about that, people?" - Edwyn Collins shows off his sparkling repartee.

"Was that a dying yak? Maybe I was the dying yak. Nah....Edwyn Collins is the yak" - NikNak.

Rerab: "When S&J went to Glastonbury recently they had............"
NikNak: "...words?"

TheShitWizard to Rerab: "I can't believe me and you ate half a Keef each last night."

"I'm gonna do a cartoon smell follow." - NikNak

"It would be great if they had chairs at restaurants." - Rerab

NikNak: "Why don't your feet mind as much as your head?"
Rerab: "What, hats?"

"Shoe hats? Shwatts?" - Rerab

NikNak: "He just looked at you like you were mental."
TheShitWizard: "I don't care. Where's he from, the gym?"

"Shush my little face" - NikNak

NikNak: "Where's Rerab?"
TheShitWizard: "Over there. She's the one the paramedics are staring at."

"I can't even handle a Capri-Sun" - Rerab

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Bloodthirsty, by Flynn Meaney

4.5 stars

Fifteen-year-old Finbar Frame is not very like his twin brother, Luke. Where Luke is a popular, handsome school sports star who frequently finds girls flinging themselves at him, Finbar is skinny, deadly pale and allergic to the sun, and the only women he gets to spend any real time with are librarians and his mum.

Noticing how girls tend to go a little nutty over vampires, on starting at a new school Finbar comes up with a plan in which his previously 'unattractive' attributes will work for him. He'll become a vampire. 

I picked this up completely randomly without having read so much as the back blurb, and am so glad that I did. Having no real idea of what I was in for, it was therefore a brilliant and delighting surprise to find a central premise that was so refreshingly different in a genre that's become clogged with tortured souls and heaving busoms. Having read more than a few of the series that Finbar takes inspiration from, I found his attempts to remodel himself endlessly amusing (especially thanks to his slightly snarky narration) and endearing at the same time.

Having previously never heard of the writer, I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for more of Meaney's work in the future.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared

by Jonas Jonasson - 3.5 stars

Having decided that if he's going to live he might as well live, on his 100th birthday Allan Karlsson slips quietly through the window of his nursing home and shuffles off into adventure. A rather slow-paced adventure - Allan is 100 years old after all - but a lovely one nonetheless, despite the fact that it's something of a criminal one which will see Allan become involved with a suitcase full of stolen money, rubbish police, violent but thick biker gangs, a thief, and an elephant, amongst other things.

While Allan is on his adventure, we take some stops through his actually rather eventful and Forrest Gump-y life, as his talent for blowing things up combined with his simple practicality soon see him interacting with and influencing important men and events in modern history.

I wanted light and amusing, and got it here with an added dash of quirk. It won't work for everyone - I can certainly imagine that in the wrong mood what charmed me here could have irritated instead - but it certainly put a smile on my face for a couple of days.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Last day of work!

Having spent the last two weeks unsuccessfully fending off phone calls and more work... 

I am immensely pleased to report that this is my LAST DAY TIL NEXT WEDNESDAY!!

Happily for you all that doesn't mean I'll be filling your feeds with my gibbering as, happily for me, I shall be getting well and truly mullered in some Welsh fields instead. 

Come 5pm today, this shall be me:

Thursday, 8 August 2013

You're freaking me out!

Today I've been learning all about (amongst many other things) manual handling and basic life support. Of course, learning about these types of things naturally leads to conversations about things like cracking ribs, what the discs in your spine are made of and the sort of damage they're subjected to. As I'm secretly a sensitive little soul, this type of thing tends to make me feel all weak and floppy, although my sensitivity is not limited to ribs and spines. There are plenty of things out there which give me a serious case of the wiggins so, in a mini attempt at some aversion therapy, let's take a look at some...

Creepy kids

We've already established that I'm not predisposed to feel kindly towards movie children. But the creepy ones are even worse, whether they be ghosts, demons or mediums, boys or girls - as long as they're pre-teen, all it takes is a head tilt and a weird line delivery and I'm scrambling for a cushion to protect me. Throw in a head full of teeth when your back is turned, and all sense entirely deserts me.


I'd always thought I was quite cool when it came to nature, and that people who screeched over mice were attention-seeking tits. Until one ran over my bare foot in the living room of my first flat and climbed the wall-hanging I was standing next to (I don't know why this bit felt so much more horrific, but I'm shuddering even as I type), instantly turning me into a cartoon lady who spent the next hour climbing the furniture and shrieking in tongues.

That was just one of the little horrors. Imagine opening your barn door to find millions of them pouring out...

Shutting bathroom mirrors in movies

Although it's a complete cliche, nothing makes me jump more than the old 'see someone in the mirror' bit.  

I've now come to expect this every time someone shuts a bathroom mirror in a movie. To NikNak's dismay, this doesn't mean that it no longer freaks me out, but that I get tense and yell whether someone's there or not.

The sea

I love watching the ocean, whether it be in person or on the telly, but being in it makes me very, very nervous. I don't have to be in particularly deep either for my heart to start racing, as anyone who's seen me yelp at a piece of seaweed or a tiny fish brushing my foot can attest, but coax me out a little further and things start to get interesting.

Snorkelling once on holiday, I'd been under the surface for barely five seconds when NikNak's air bubble brushed my face, and I clawed his mask off in my haste to escape. A view like this only ever makes me think of all the ways in which I'm about to die. Get me out. NOW.

Existenz back portals

Whilst enjoying it, I still spent most of my time watching Existenz battling a severe case of the heebie-jeebies, thanks to those squicky back portals. I'm even doing it now, just thinking about them. I just...can't...


Both in movies and in real life, I have a thing about injections. Considering I seem to be able to get tattooed with no problem, I have no idea what it is about injections that makes me so prone to passing out, squeezing people's hands hard enough to crush them, or crying. Or sometimes all three. Hollywood's love of showing me intravenous drug use in intimate detail therefore ensures that I get to have frequent conniptions without having to go anywhere near a doctor's office.


I watch an awful lot of sci-fi, which is only really surprising if you know how disturbing I find the idea of people floating about in space. Those people being in a space-ship is wibble-inducing enough, but being outside the space-ship? Just drifting, or worse...twirling off into nothing, induces a mind-bending, eye-rolling, sweat-inducing terror that means I'm probably not going to be able to make it through the upcoming Gravity without medical assistance.

Scenes featuring cut wrists

I'm usually pretty immune to movie violence and can watch the goriest, bloodiest stuff going with barely a whimper. Except when it comes to wrists. Any scene in which someone's wrists are cut immediately makes the room get a little bit fuzzier and far away. If it's in a bath-tub? Game over. I can't bring myself to post a gif.

The Thing under the bed

It doesn't matter that I'm now 34 and that the base of my bed actually touches the floor, I still find myself jumping the last bit just in case the thing under the bed gets me. 

And worst of all...


That's it, I need a stiff drink...

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Bones of Faerie, by Janni Lee Simner

3 stars

I really rather enjoyed this post-apocalyptic take on magic, in a world that's been left devastated by the War between humankind and Faerie. While Faerie hasn't been seen since, it's left it's mark on the world and in Franklin Falls, home to 15 year old Liza, everyone knows that you don't venture out alone after dark, you stay away from the trees, and those that are touched by magic are a danger that can only be dealt with one way.

With Liza's father being her village's leading zealot, when she starts showing signs of magic she has no choice but to flee home and enter the wild and dangerous world.

From being caught by the creepy and tantalising opening, I read this in virtually one sitting, and while it wasn't particularly challenging I enjoyed the world built, and the ways in which it had changed since Before. I loved the idea of all the vicious plants, moaning harvests and hissing shadows, and was also glad to be in the company of a YA heroine who wasn't clumsy, self-obsessed, whiny or stupid.

It was easy to predict certain things and there was nothing particularly mind-blowing about the plot, but I enjoyed sitting back and relaxing into it for a while, and wound up being pretty decently entertained.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Nineteen Seventy Four, by David Peace

3 stars

Well...that was bloody grim.

Eddie Dunford is the crime reporter for the Yorkshire Evening Post when a little girl is found brutally murdered with swan's wings stitched into her back, and his colleague, chasing a story on corruption involving prominent local businessmen and public figures, winds up dead.

Chasing the link between the two, Dunford is soon drawn ever deeper into a brutal and corrupt work of casual racism and violence, in which children wind up dead and their murderers protected, a brutal police force acts as heavies for private interests, and absolutely nobody is clean.

Incredibly bleak and depressing, I nonetheless found this compelling, especially once I had an opportunity to read uninterrupted for longer than 10 minutes, and the stream of consciousness written style, which I'd initially found jarring, worked more for me as the story progressed and Dunford became increasingly desperate. However, this approach also meant that the climax left with with a slightly vague notion of who had done what and why, although it's entirely possible that that's more my fault than the author's.

I will come back to see how this quartet progresses, but it'll definitely be after I've dabbled in the shallower, lighter end for a while...

Friday, 2 August 2013

Someone slap that kid...

Having been a wee bit frustrated earlier, it's time to work off that rage. So let's take a look at some of the screen kids I'd most like to slap...

Joffrey Lannister Baratheon - A Game of Thrones

The face that epitomises this post, I despised Joffrey with the fiery passion of a thousand suns when I first read what's been published so far of A Song of Ice & Fire. But the fantastic casting on the HBO show has ensured that while Jack Gleeson is doing a fantastically smug and sadistic job, and even though I know it isn't real, if I ever see him in the street I can't promise that I won't slap him.

Oliver Twist - Oliver!

With a wet little face to match his wet little singing voice, I really can't stand Oliver, the wet little fart, and would quite happily see him banished back to Mr Bumble and the workhouse. More? I'll give you about a fist sandwich, you little twerp?

Kenard - The Wire

He looks so cute, doesn't he? Appearances really are deceiving, as he's a cat-torturing, thieving little runt, and anyone who's seen Season 5 of The Wire knows exactly why KENARD MUST DIE!!

Dawn Summers – Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Buffy’s Season 5 saw the introduction of little sister Dawn, in a move that had me initially thinking I’d had some sort of aneurysm and had blanked on her existence for the run of the show. Turns out that Dawn was actually a mystical key to a hell dimension, made into human form and inserted into the slayer’s life by a bunch of monks. Unfortunately for everyone, turns out those bloody monks had created one of the most irritating brats to have ever besmirched my television screen, who spent her time working my last nerve, sucking airtime from characters I did like, and making me screech at Buffy to put me out of my misery and slay the little sod already.

T.J. - The Champ

Someone only has to utter the words The Champ in my vicinity and I am instantly transformed into a snarling ball of incoherent and completely irrational rage. Not because it’s a terrible film, or because of the blatant and overbearing emotional manipulation. No, it’s the kid.

I know it seems monstrous to harbour such loathing for a such an apparently adorable watery-eyed moppet who’s just been tragically bereaved, and really have no idea what this poor kid has done to have irritated me so much. What I do know is that whenever his face appears on my screen, I want to fling things at it.

Well, there you have it - my most slappable on-screen children. And my rage has abated...