Sunday, 15 December 2013

2013 roundup: films

In part 2 of my 'faves of 2013' posts I thought I'd talk a bit about my favourite movies of the year. Most of the awards bait comes out in the next few weeks and therefore isn't on this list - I posted about the ones I'm most interested in over the summer, you can see that here - but I saw plenty of great movies this year.

According to my 2013 list I saw 27 movies at the cinema this year (not including multiple viewings - Star Trek x2, F&F6 x2Man of Steel x3, Catching Fire x3), by my maths that means I've spent around £160 on cinema tickets in 2013! In my defence a drug habit would be much more expensive!

So, in rainbow order, here 9 of my favourite new releases of 2013:

Lore - IMDB | Review
Populaire - IMDB
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - IMDB |Review

About Time - IMDB
The Kings of Summer - IMDB | Review
Fast and Furious 6 - IMDB | Review

Pacific Rim - IMDB | Review
Man of Steel - IMDB | Review
Star Trek Into Darkness - IMDB

Do these match up with your favourites of the year? If not, what would you add?

Sunday, 8 December 2013

2013 roundup: music

It's that time of year again when everyone tries to compile lists of the best and worst of the last 12 months. I'm pretty partial to lists and it's always interesting to see which pop culture artefacts have most influenced the people I follow around the interwebs. As you may have gathered from my book and movie review posts over the last year I'm not always very good at differentiating between the things that I like and things that are good. What I've come to realise though is that I don't really care! Life's too short to spend it apologising for things that make you happy. For the next few weeks then I'll be posting about my favourite things in 2013. Some of them are technically good and possess a certain amount of cultural merit; others just bring me joy and are therefore equally deserving of a place on the list!

I'm going to start with music today and then work through books, movies and miscellany in the run up to new year. Most of the lists will be 'top 9s' because 9 makes for neater graphics than 10!

Just to get everyone in the right frame of mind please take the next 5 minutes to dance around to this, the greatest of year-end traditions:

Don't you feel better already?!

I tend to be quite up-to-date with films and books but I'm not always so on-the-ball with music (I think I'm overwhelmed but just how much of it there is) and so one of my favourite things about December is seeing what friends and commentators I admire consider to be the best albums of the year; I always end up buying wayyyyy more music in December than any other time of year!

Each month this year I've posted a list of my favourite (upbeat/pop) tracks in my monthly roundup and you can find all of those playlists over at 8tracks.

In terms of albums, these 9 are the new releases that I've enjoyed the most this year:

The National - Trouble Will Find Me (Performance: NPR Tiny Desk Concert)
Neko Case - The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You (Performance: NPR Tiny Desk Concert)
Gabrielle Aplin - English Rain (Track: Keep on Walking)
Little Mix - Salute (Performance: 'Move' on X Factor US)
KT Tunstall - Invisible Empire//Crescent Moon (Performance: Made of Glass Live Acoustic)
Lissie - Back to Forever (Track: The Habit)
Milo Greene - Milo Greene (Track: Son My Son)
MSMR - Secondhand Rapture (Track: Dark Doo Wop)
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire OST (Track: Sia ft The Weeknd & Diplo - Electric Heart

This year has clearly been very good for female artists and pop music!

So! What do you think? Would any of these artists make it on to your favourites lists? Anything you're tempted to try out?

Thursday, 5 December 2013

film review: the kings of summer

The Kings of Summer (2013)
Director:  Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Starring: Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias
Genre: Coming of age comedy
Rating: 9/10

Three teenage friends, in the ultimate act of independence, decide to spend their summer building a house in the woods and living off the land.

This is a real gem! It's the story of three teenage boys who decide to run away from home for the summer and build themselves a house in a nearby forest. It was only shown in a handful of cinemas in the UK but thanks to lots of very positive reviews it was very quickly released on DVD.

The Kings of Summer is charming and laugh out loud funny. The cast is great - the adults (including Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally) are particularly nuts and the two leads are really well cast. The scenery and cinematography are also lovely. There's a montage set to 'Youth' by MGMT which is an especially nice sequence. Most importantly, the movie really nails the tone, making a coming of age story that's both escapist and heartfelt. It doesn't shy away from the self-centeredness of adolescence but it's very generous in its portrayal of late-teenagedom, also capturing the characters' insecurities and vulnerability. For all the masturbation jokes, TKoS has a huge thumping heart.

Undoubtedly one of my favourite films of the year, I can't recommend The Kings of Summer highly enough. It would make for great double feature with Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

monthly roundup: nov 2013

Although I've been pretty terrible at blogging in November it's been a pretty good month pop culture-wise. I spent the first part of the month riding a huge nostalgia wave and rewatching Dawson's Creek!I should clarify that I basically spent a fortnight obsessing over 2 seasons of the show (s3&4) and odd episodes in S6 because they're the only ones worth bothering with (read: I only care about Pacey/Joey!). After years of being burnt by TV shows I've learned to become selective as a self-preservation tactic! Fandom should be fun - why subject yourself to stories/characters etc. you don't like?! That petered out and now I'm in the midst of my anticipated Hunger Games spiral. Unfortunately this is the one series where my self-preservation instinct falters - there's too much that I love to bail completely but there also so much to be frustrated with and bitter over!

Anyway! I've watched a lot of new movies that I really enjoyed.this month and I really love some of the music in the mix - if the Demi Levato track isn't one of your faves of the year then I'm not sure we can be friends!

books read

Holly Black - Black Heart (7/10)
Marcus Sedgwick - Midwinterblood (7/10)
Craig Thompson - Blankets (6/10)
Yann Martel - Life of Pi (9/10)

new movies watched

To Catch A Thief (6/10)
Philomena (7/10)
Gravity (8/10)
The Royal Tenembaums (8/10)
Thor: The Dark World (8/10)
On the Town (8/10)
The Kings of Summer (9/10)


Neon Lights (Betty Who Remix) - Demi Levato
Elastic Heart - Sia [feat. The Weeknd and Diplo]
The Habit - Lissie
About The Boy - Little Mix
Falling - Yuna
Such Great Heights - Anderson .Paak
Boy - Little Mix
The Boy Is Mine (Kulkid Remix) - Brandy and Monica
Everybody Wants To Rule The World - Lorde

Friday, 29 November 2013

film review: catching fire

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
Director:  Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Genre: Dystopian Drama/Action
Rating: 8/10

Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark become targets of the Capitol after their victory in the 74th Hunger Games sparks a rebellion in the Districts of Panem.

I've seen Catching Fire twice now and it is definitely true that I have thoughts and feelings about it but as with so much with this series my feelings are kind of a mess! It follows then that in true cop-out style I'm going to make lists and not really synthesise my thoughts. If you're a sucker for punishment and enjoy watching normally very rational 25yr olds spiralling over fictional teenagers I suggest you wander over to my THG tag on tumblr!


Things I liked (Katniss and Gale edition):

  • The movie begins and ends with Katniss and Gale. More than that, the first hour did a real great of streamlining the first half of the book without screwing with their dynamic. The movie really made a point of stressing how important Gale is to Katniss and how that relationship will come to shape a lot of what comes later.
  • The whipping scene and its aftermath deserve a mention of their own because they were almost perfect. I was a little disappointed that we didn't get Katniss being hysterical and having to be forcibly removed from the room but otherwise it was right on point.
  • One of my favourite things about K/G is how tactile they are. So much of Katniss' narration of their relationship in the book revolves around their bodies; Katniss is particularly obsessed with his hands. Obviously that inner monologue isn't really a feature of the movies (a blessing and a curse!) but man, THEIR HANDS! In pretty much every scene but the first one they are touching. In that first scene they're still trying to 'go back' and the distance between them is startling and painful. But then the rebellion begins and that distance closes. There are no words for how delighted I am that the movie managed to depict that so well!)

Things I liked (other characters edition):

  • JHutch did a great job with Peeta again and I was glad that the script had a slightly better handle on his charming snarkiness. (See * however)
  • Jena Malone and Sam Claflin were great as Joanna - I have no strong feelings about them in the books but I enjoyed them a lot here.

Things I liked (production aesthetics edition):

  • The soundtrack was lovely. In parts it very eerily channels 'Lily's Theme' from Deathly Hallows Pt2 - that did not help my emotional state.
  • There were some gorgeous visuals. The close-ups of Katniss in the last few minutes were very striking (JLaw is pretty phenomenal at conveying pure emotion with her face). My favourite visual of the film however is just after the lady morphling dies - in silhouette against a sunset we see Katniss standing, Peeta kneeling in the water with a dead body floating between them - it's striking and terrible and a fairly accurate depiction of their relationship.
  • The original music that accompanies the film is a bit of a mixed bag tonally (they've decided to move away from the broken-down country/folk feel of the last one) but there are a couple of great tracks and perfect lyrics. I like Sia's 'Elastic Heart' a LOT!

Things I wasn't crazy about:

  • *I'm still not convinced by the movie version of Peeta. They're happy to cast him in the damsel-in-distress role but they don't seem to know how to incorporate his skills at emotional manipulation in to that and when that's important to the story (i.e. the pregnancy announcement) it never feels authentic because elsewhere he's depicted as being unswervingly good.
  • I think the movie needed to do more to ground the origins of the rebellions; it needed more about starvation and slave labour, it needed more about decades of suffering and destitution. The districts aren't just angry about the deaths of their children in the Games, they're angry about the ongoing deaths of their children at the hands of a tyrannical state.
  • The movie is pretty long and I think it could have done with less of the Games. I know why Peeta has to be such a liability but it became almost farcical - drowning, forcefield, poison gas, monkeys etc.) I think the message could have been adequately conveyed with a couple fewer 'Peeta's died again!' moments. I like Peeta, I like the inversion of traditional gender roles but it ended up being blackly comic.
  • Finally and most problematically, the movie didn't do much to assuage my anxieties about how the movies will deal with K/G/P in Mockingjay. This movie really downplayed K/P in the first half in its service of K/G. I'm worried that the movie producers view this relationship as existing in a standard either/or love triangle (this has not been helped by recent assertions by Francis Lawrence). I prefer to think of their relationship as a triumvirate but it's difficult to talk about that without ranting about MJ so I'll leave that there!

In short, I have feelings. They are intense and complicated. If nothing else the movie starred some very attractive people doing some excellent things with their faces and it could be recommended on that basis alone!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

monthly roundup: oct 2013

This is just a little late! I thought that I had posted it already - the mix has been up for weeks! Ooops!

books read

Patrick Ness - More Than This (6/10)
Holly Bourne - Soulmates (4/10)
Cheryl Strayed - Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (7/10)
Cathy Brett - Everything is Fine (and Other Lies I Tell Myself) (6/10)
Holly Black - White Cat (7/10)
Veronica Roth - Allegiant (6/10)
Holly Black - Red Glove (6/10)

new movies watched

(I'm not sure if this is entirely accurate - if it is it's a little sad!)
Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs (6/10)

craft projects


Move - Little Mix
Rikki - Blende
Here We Go Again - Johnny Stimson
Keep on Walking - Gabrielle Aplin
You're Lucky to be Alive - CHVRCHES x Empire of the Sun
Electric Feel (Kygo Remix) - Henry Green

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

book review: allegiant by veronica roth

Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Genre: Dystopian YA
Rating: 6/10
The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.


I'm not sure what I was expecting but I wasn't expecting this. I'm not mad. I'm not raging. I'm not going to write a scathing review on Amazon. I am, however, very disappointed.

To get straight to it, I don't hate the idea of Tris dying. In principle I don't think it's a terrible way to go - at every point up to now she's been willing to sacrifice herself (if not always for the right reasons). In practice however it just felt wrong. It was underplayed and underwhelming - it should have been this huge moment about Tris and it didn't feel that way at all, it was about everyone but Tris. I was sceptical of the dual narration from the start - I liked Tris' unreliable narration and viewing this world solely through her perspective, it was flawed but it felt real. As Allegiant went on I couldn't shake the feeling that Tobias' POV was designed as a structural device; it wasn't there to give profound insight into his character, it was there to make sure that the story could continue when Tris was no longer able to narrate. I suppose that works in theory, you need some way to discuss the aftermath but it meant that Tris' death was completely overshadowed by people's reactions to it. It wasn't about her sacrifice, it was about Four's grief - she gave her life for a cause that was never really mentioned again. Worst of all, her sacrifice didn't seem to mean anything - there was no real sense that the world was very much different. The Bureau was one branch of a government that was never developed or explicitly discussed. Chicago and its inhabitants didn't lose their memories but what did they really gain? There was no suggestion that the broader societal conflict was cured, just that Chicago was now safe space (until the government deem otherwise).

To quote myself: "By no means Mockingjay awful but broaching Mockingjay levels of wasted potential."

I loved Insurgent. While I maintain that the plot was convoluted, I'm willing to forgive that because Veronica Roth did such a great job of balancing character development and broader themes/philosophies. As a Ravenclaw I was so excited to read a book exploring the philosophy and ethics of knowledge and it all played out not only through Tris' narrative butg in the character development of Jeanine, Caleb, Cara and Peter. In Allegiant however, those two processes were separated and Roth's ethics lessons completely overpowered character story. The moralising about the ethics of surveillance, of genetics, of intervention, of social structures and of race relations was so unsubtle and completely hijacked the book. I also grew increasingly frustrated with the suggestion that all governments are ultimately corrupt - it's tiresome and bleak - and for Roth to try an reverse that by suggesting that hope for Chicago lies in a democratically elected government felt really hollow.

Overall though, I'm most frustrated by the fact that Allegiant shelved the primary message of the series in order to solely focus on stories of grief, betrayal and sacrifice. It took me a little while to warm to Four but I always felt that one of (if not the) most powerful ideas in this series was the one that he articulated towards the end of Divergent:
"I think we've made a mistake," he says softly. "We've all started to put down the virtues of the other factions in the process of bolstering our own. I don't want to do that. I want to be brave, and selfless, and smart, and kind, and honest." He clears his throat. "I continually struggle with kindness."

The idea that our choices define us and that in order to be our best selves we must embrace numerous qualities not just cling to a single identity is really powerful and at the beginning of Allegiant it looks as though that's going to be the driving force of the narrative. Early on Four reflects on the changing dress code of the new factionless society: " clothes, but beneath them, my Dauntless tattoos. It is impossible to erase my choices. Especially these." His aptitude was Abnegation and he chose Dauntless but he chose to embrace all factions. His body is physically branded with his belief that we can only be our best selves if we look beyond our instincts and dominant qualities. Later on, after the discovery of the genetically pure/damaged divide, Tris tries to explain why it doesn't matter, why she is so uneasy about that distinction being used to define individuals and to account for social unrest. The set-up is perfect to develop this notion of nature vs. nurture and for the characters to come around to the conviction that your genes matter less than your choices, to articulate that message to the world and to embrace diversity. But that didn't happen. Instead, all that build-up was passed off as the story became about defending the city from a big bad that wanted to remove their memories. It was no longer about trying to fix a flawed ideology of human psychology and behaviour but about a dubiously waged war and a sabotage plan riddled with plot holes.

The book traded in its important and relateable message about agency, responsibility and self-awareness for an ethics lesson on abstract social injustices. Not only that but it executed that message poorly.

On the plus side, there were some A+ make-outs...

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

top ten tuesday: books i was forced to read

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

top ten books i was 'forced' to read

This is quite the nostalgia trip! I'm twisting the meaning of this so that it's less focussed on 'forced to read' and instead features novels that I was encouraged to read for various school/uni classes and projects.

GCSE English Literature

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
1984 by George Orwell

When my class revolted against having to read Hemingway (they objected to the endless pages describing hand cramp!), our teacher suggested 1984 as an alternative. That decision was quickly reversed when the class realised that 1984 was much longer and far more complex! I wasn't a particular fan of the Hemingway but as I liked history and was interested in the USSR, I really enjoyed 1984. It was the first dystopian novel I read and I'd encourage any fans of recent dystopias to check it out.

AS/A2 Level English Lit

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

My experience of English Literature in the Sixth Form was very positive - I had wonderful teachers who were enthusiastic and engaged and tiny classes (in Year 13 there were only two of us!)- but the curriculum was a bit of a mixed bag! Worst of the lot was Heart of Darkness which I really didn't connect with (I'm not sure I ever finished it). At the other extreme however, was the A2 synoptic paper on Gothic Literature which I loved! We had to study a whole range of novels/short stories and poems for that module but the two that I really loved were The Bloody Chamber and Dracula. Also, as there were only two of us in my A2 class, when it came to choosing a novel on which to write our coursework, our teacher gave us complete freedom. I chose The Handmaid's Tale and wrote my essay on the various depictions of women in the novel - it was the first time I'd ever really considered gender in an academic piece of work, it has a lot to answer for!

MRes Dissertation

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence
A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford

It's a bit of a cheat to include Rebecca on here as I'd read this before I studied it but I didn't fully appreciate it until I went back to study it in more detail this summer. I read all of these books this summer as part of my dissertation on adultery in interwar Britain. Of the four Rebecca is my favourite, followed by The Good Soldier which really is stylistically excellent though more than a little depressing. A Handful of Dust is hard to like as all of the characters are so ridiculous but Waugh's gift for razor-sharp wit is evident throughout. I'm still not sure how I feel about Lady Chatterley - some of the prose is beautiful but Lawrence's constant moral/philosophical interjections are tedious in their misogyny. As someone who has something of a mental block when it comes to pre-1950s literature I was pleasantly surprised by how accessible all of these were and am glad that I had this incentive to read some modern classics!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

craft post: geraldine the giraffe

Say hello to Geraldine!

Ravelry project page

If I may say so myself, she's lovely! You can't tell through pictures but she has the most wonderful bobbly head!

Although the basic pattern wasn't that much more complicated than the one I used for Bozwonk, the colour work made it extra fiddly. If I was making her again I'd reposition the legs and add more beads to the body to make sure she sat upright but I feel that her tendency to recline adds to her charm!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

book review: more than this by patrick ness

More Than This by Patrick Ness
Genre: YA Sci-Fi?
Rating: 6/10
A boy named Seth drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments, losing his life as the pounding sea claims him. But then he wakes. He is naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. How is that possible? He remembers dying, his bones breaking, his skull dashed upon the rocks. So how is he here? And where is this place? It looks like the suburban English town where he lived as a child, before an unthinkable tragedy happened and his family moved to America. But the neighborhood around his old house is overgrown, covered in dust, and completely abandoned. What’s going on? And why is it that whenever he closes his eyes, he falls prey to vivid, agonizing memories that seem more real than the world around him? Seth begins a search for answers, hoping that he might not be alone, that this might not be the hell he fears it to be, that there might be more than just this. . . .

A couple of weeks ago I was complaining about how hard it can be to review books that I love, today I'm worried about reviewing a book that really disappointed me. I'm not quite sure which one is worse.

The real trouble here comes from that fact I have a huge amount of respect for Patrick Ness. I adored the 'Chaos Walking' trilogy and A Monster Calls and I really admire his attitudes towards his audience and young people in general and although I knew little about the premise, More Than This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. Based on previous experience I expected a lot - I expected to be moved and deeply affected and I expected a book with an exciting plot and insightful character studies. I felt that the More Than This was trying for all that but it missed by a mile.

The book isn't bad - there was nothing that left me shaking my head or made me want to stop reading. It has some interesting things to say about the nature of reality and guilt and maybe younger readers would be more taken by the various morals of the story, but I never felt connected to the characters and so the story and its messages never resonated with me. Compared to the nuanced characters and plots in the Chaos Walking series everything here felt very superficial. By far the sections that I enjoyed the most were the flashbacks/memories - I found myself anticipating these interludes, hoping that they'd fill in the otherwise bland characterisation but they never managed to flesh out the personalities of the main characters. Too often things just happened to characters - the sense of agency that was so immediate and important to the development of Todd and Viola in The Knife of Never Letting Go etc. was sadly missing here. It's difficult to say much more without ruining the book's twists but I'd also add that the observations on internet culture, immigrant experience and child abuse were very heavy handed and the bluntness of their social commentary distracted from their role in characterisation/narrative.

I'll definitely read Ness' future publications because I refuse to let one disappointing experience completely tarnish my respect for him and his writing but (apologies in advance) I really hope there is more than this.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

top ten tuesday: series endings

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

top ten seven series endings about which i have feelings

I tried really hard to shake things up so these series' weren't exactly the same ones as in my top ten mid-series installments post from a couple of weeks ago but that didn't really work! I HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS ABOUT THESE SERIES' OKAY?!?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter #7)
The older I get the more problematic I find aspects of this series and certain aspects of the conclusion (yes, the epilogue is meh but I also hate that Ginny never got to kill a Horcrux as closure for her possessed-by-Voldemort arc in CoS and would have liked to see Neville face Bellatrix) but The Forest Again is a chapter that exists and I don't think I'll ever be over it. Harry's arc in this book is PERFECT.
The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials #3)
As a whole I'm not sure if this is my favourite book in this series but there are so many moments/sentiments etc. that I adore that it definitely warrants a place here.
Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking #3)
Probably the best exploration of war in modern YA lit. Brutal, hugely emotional but full of hope, this made me cry on a packed commuter train.

FitzOsbornes at War by Michelle Cooper (The Montmaray Journals #3)
I'm still not entirely sure why this disappointed me so but something just didn't click for me.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games #3)
I've ranted about this before - the things I love (GALE!!!!!!!!) I really love and everyone ends up pretty much exactly where I expected them to but everything else is terrible!

Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares (Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants #5)
A perfect case for not returning to a series you've already finished. This really doesn't do the rest of the series justice. You can read my initial review here.

Spellbound by Rachel Hawkins (Hex Hall #3)
I was so thrilled with this when it was first published last year - this was one of those series where I cared about the characters WAYYYYYYYYY more than the plot and all of my favourites got what they wanted (they're going to college together and it's WONDERFUL!) so I was really happy. I re-read the whole series earlier this year though and this really fell flat - I still loved Sophie and Jenna and ARCHER but everything else is really flimsy and half-baked so I'm conflicted!

Saturday, 5 October 2013

monthly roundup: september 2013

After a pretty stressful summer, I could not have had a more stress-free September. There was the odd twine of anxiety as I tried to get registered for my PhD and find somewhere to live but I spent most of last month reading, shopping, watching movies and The West Wing and crocheting. I'm not sure if I'll be able to keep up that level of stresslessness or the same frequency of blog posts as I begin my PhD but it was fun while it lasted!

books read

034 Mary Ann Shaffer - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (7/10)
035 Marissa Meyer - Cinder (7/10)
036 Marissa Meyer - Scarlet (7/10)
037 Katie Coyle - Vivian Versus the Apocalypse (9/10)
038 Maggie Stiefvater - The Dream Thieves (9/10)

new movies watched

The King and I* (5/10)
About Time^ (8/10)
The Princess Bride (7/10)
Rush^ (7/10)

craft projects


Forest - Park, Squares, And Alleys
Renaissance Girls (Nick Zinner Remix) - Oh Land
We Can't Stop - Bastille
Cannabutter Kisses - Elli Ingram
Elliot - Roosevelt
Grand Union - Arthur Beatrice
Darling Are You Gonna Leave Me - London Grammar
Stay With Us - Seoul
Cry No More - Vaults
Rescue - Yuna

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

craft post: a cowl and crochet mitts

In the last couple of weeks Autumn has definitely descended on the UK and while I'm not a fan of the cold I do love knitwear and winter accessories! It only made sense that I'd make some of my own and these were both really simple mini-projects.

I made this cowl in only a couple of hours.

Ravelry project page

The pattern is free and very simple. I did have to extend my initial chain though so it would go around my neck twice. I'm not completely happy with the colour of the wool - in the ball it looked much bluer - but it makes for a very cosy cowl! We'll be very closely acquainted by the time spring rolls around!

These gloves took a little longer but I finished them in the space of an afternoon.

Ravelry project page

I made these mainly because my house is FREEZING at the minute and my dad refuses to turn the heating on until at least the middle of October. I needed something to keep my hands warm while I crocheted and these were perfect as they leave my fingers free. Again, this pattern was free and very simple. This isn't a colour combination I'd usually go for but I wanted to use up some wool in my stash that I'm unlikely to use for much else.

Do you have any favourite homemade knitwear or scarf/hat/glove projects that you're working on in preparation for this winter?

Thursday, 26 September 2013

craft post: crochet cushion covers

I'm all for alliteration but try saying 'crochet cushion covers' 5 times fast!

I'm trying not to have WIPs on the go at one time because I know that I'll just lose interest but while my jewel-tone blanket is an excellent way to keep my hands busy while marathoning TV in my bedroom (over the last two weeks I've been catching up on Scandal - I love it's campy ridiculousness!), it isn't so great for an evenings when I'm with my parents in the living room so I've been doing a couple of small/medium size projects which I'll be posting about over the next week.

First up were these cushion covers. I picked the cushions up in Ikea and chose a couple of fairly simple motifs/patterns for the covers.

Ravelry project page

The blue cushion was based on the Modern Romantic Cushion Cover pattern which can be found here. The first side ended up slightly misshapen as a result of my terrible counting but the second side was fine and now the two are stitched together you can hardly tell (unless you count the number of bobbles per line!).

The white and blue cushion is made up of a fairly simple circle-in-a-square granny squares. It turned out all right but if I were to do it again I'd use a denser stitch pattern to square each motif so that less of the cushion was visible.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

top ten tuesday: sequels and mid-series installments

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

top ten seven sequels and mid-series installments

This was HARD! I was originally planning of only having books which I felt surpassed the original but I struggled with that so these are just sequels which I really like. I've ended up with a list which will surprise no-one - I think I've probably mentioned my love for all of these series' several times before! For that reason, I'm not going to comment on each book individually but have instead included a quote which sums up my favourite aspect of each of them (consider this a spoiler warning!).

      The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven Cycle #2)
      You can see my review of this here
We can pretend. Just once. And then we'll never say anything about it again.
     Girls in Pants by Ann Brashares (The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants #2)
He couldn't stand to watch her shake. He got up and came over to her. He picked her up inside her ball of covers and moved her over on the bed. To her great astonishment and joy, he lay down alongside her. He put his arms around her and tucked her face into his neck, and she felt as though her fevered heart might burst.
He held her as though he thought he could absorb her fever and her sickness and her sadness at not having a mother or even a father she could count on. He stroked her hair and lay with her like that for hours.
     Insurgent by Veronica Roth (Divergent #3)
So I agree. But I do not change my mind.
     The Ask & the Answer by Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking trilogy #2)
"If you ever see a war," she says, not looking up from her clipboard, "you'll learn that war only destroys. No one escapes from a war, No one. Not even the survivors. You accept things that would appal you at any other time because life has temporarily lost all meaning."
     The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials #2)
The fact was that where Will is concerned, she was developing a new kind of sense, as if he were simply more in focus than anyone she'd known before. Everything about him was clear and close and immediate.
     Demonglass (aka. Raising Demons) by Rachel Hawkins (Hex Hall #2)
"Beg to differ, Mercer."
     Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter #5)
"I DON'T CARE!" Harry yelled at them, snatching up a lunascope and throwing it into the fireplace. "I'VE HAD ENOUGH, I'VE SEEN ENOUGH, I WANT OUT, I WANT IT TO END, I DON'T CARE ANYMORE!"
"You do care," said Dumbledore. He had not flinched or made a single move to stop Harry demolishing his office. His expression was calm, almost detached. "You care so much you feel as though you will bleed to death with the pain of it."
     The FitzOsbornes in Exile by Michelle Cooper (The Montmaray Journals #2)
“Simon called you 'Machiavelli disguised as a debutante.'" "Gosh," I said, not sure whether to feel flattered or insulted."

Agree? Disagree? Want to fight it out over Order of the Phoenix?!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

book review: the dream thieves by maggie steifvater

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: Paranormal YA
Rating: 9/10
Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after...

One of the hardest things I find about reviewing books here is that, particularly with books I've enjoyed, I'm never quite sure whether it's better to use the 'academic' side of my brain to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of book or whether to give in to the emotional, flaily side which struggles to use words and grammar and abuses exclamation points! Last week was a really great reading week for me as I read two books which I really loved but while I managed to be relatively articulate about 'Vivian Versus the Apocalypse', I'm really struggling to be even vaguely coherent about 'The Dream Thieves'. I want to do the book justice and wax lyrical about all the things that I loved but I struggle to get beyond '!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!'

I think the best way to go about it is to direct you to my review of 'The Raven Boys' and then tell you to amp all of that up! I didn't quite reach the 'shaking and crying' stage but there was clapping and squealing! The main reason that I loved The Raven Boys was because it was full of these wonderful characters and I was so thrilled with the way they were developed here. Ronan gets the most page time and focus in The Dream Thieves and although he's not the character that I'm invested in the most, I really loved reading his backstory, getting to know his family history and seeing more of his relationship with Gansey. I'm sure there are lots of things to say about the whole dream thieves plot but they're escaping me right now - I'm sure Ronan stans will be discussing it in detail in the next few weeks!

Staying true to my feelings about The Raven Boys, my emotional investment in this series is still largely tied to Gansey, Blue and Adam but it's fair to say that the balance of those feelings have shifted. In The Raven Boys I was most interested in the boys and enjoyed Blue primarily as prism through which to see them and their relationships but Blue really came in to her own here. She has a couple of really lovely/heartbreaking scenes with Gansey, Adam and Noah which were always great in terms of character/relationship development. By far the best thing about The Dream Thieves is how Maggie Steifvater manages to intertwine individual and relationship development - all of the relationships are very nuanced and explicitly shaped by the nature of the characters involved while at the same time, the relationships have a direct impact upon the characters and how they understand themselves. I was really impressed with how Maggie explored the shifting dynamics in the group and the gender politics which come along with that. I thought that Adam's gradual isolation from the group was handled really well and I'm intrigued to know quite how distanced from Gansey and co. he's going to become - I'm not sure if he'll become an antagonist in his own right but that would be an interesting direction for the series. Finally, I should add that I enjoyed 'not-so-together' Gansey A LOT. In my head I always refer to him as GANSEY!!!!! and that hasn't really changed! I just really want him to have all the things he wants!

Once you've read this it'll be no surprise that for me the real climax/highpoint of The Dream Thieves came about 80 pages from the end - there are three consecutive chapters (49-51) which are just full of GLORIOUS character/relationship moments and they were such a high that I read the rest in a bit of a trance. I've re-read those chapters several times since I finished the book and they're still making me emotional! Never before have the words 'We can pretend' broken my heart and it's going to take a while for me to get over that.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

top ten tuesday: tbr in autumn 2013

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

top ten books on my autumn tbr list
True to form I pretty spectacularly failed to get through my summer TBR list - I only managed to read three of the things on the list! In my defence I was working on my dissertation and in the time I've had since then there have been a couple of new releases that have stolen my attention. I'm hoping that by having a good spread of YA and 'adult' fiction, new and older releases on my autumn list maybe I'll do better this time round - let's aim for 5/10!

Five new(ish) YA releases that I'm excited to read:
Allegiant - Veronica Roth I really loved the development of this world in Insurgent so I can't wait to see how this trilogy ends.
More Than This - Patrick Ness This is guaranteed to break my heart. I CAN'T WAIT!
Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell Fandom tends to get a bad rap in the public domain but Eleanor & Park was really special so I'm sure Rainbow Rowell won't disappoint.
The Elites - Natasha Ngan A YA dystopia that explicitly deals with race and cultural difference? I'm in.
Everything Is Fine (and Other Lies I Tell Myself) - Cathy Brett Illustrated WW1 fiction - yes please!

A couple of older novels/series that I'm hoping to start:

If I Stay - Gayle Foreman I enjoyed If I Stay and everyone raves about this!
White Cat - Holly Black I haven't heard much about this series but a couple of my friends on Goodreads rate it really highly so I'll happily give it a shot.

Some general fiction for balance:

Mrs Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
Mr Fox - Helen Oyeyemi
The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje

What are you looking forward to reading this Autumn? Any new releases that you're particularly looking forward to?