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?

Monday, 16 September 2013

book review: vivian versus the apocalypse by katie coyle

Vivian Versus the Apocalypse by Katie Coyle
Genre: Contemporary(ish) YA
Rating: 9/10
Vivian Apple never believed in the Church of America - unlike her fanatical parents. As for the so-called impending 'Rapture', she knew she'd believe that when she saw it. But then Vivian wakes one day to a New World, and all that's left of her parents are two empty spaces. The Believers have been taken, it seems. And for those left behind, the world is a desolate and eerie place. All Vivian has now are her memories and her volatile friend Harp.

Faced with society on the brink of collapse, Vivian and Harp embark on a journey across America, in search of any family they have left, and determined to expose the truth about the Rapture. Three thousand miles through floods, fog and heat waves, Harp and Vivian and a boy with the bluest eyes and the kindest heart are driving on to their future.

But will this be a coming-of-age road trip with no return?

It's not hard to see why Katie Coyle was the winner of the 2012 Young Writers Prize - Vivian Versus the Apocalypse is smart and funny and full of complex characters who are at times frustrating but are always sympathetic. In a relatively small space of time (the book's only 280 pages), Coyle manages to fully establish and then deconstruct a fictional, yet not totally foreign, America and to develop a cast of realistically flawed characters in a really engaging coming-of-age story that isn't afraid of politics or the ugly-side of human nature.

I very quickly became very invested in all three of the central characters - I was instantly drawn to Vivian's timidity and her desire to be 'good' and to do the expected thing. The story is all the more powerful because neither Vivian, Harp or Peter are particularly brave or rebellious, they're just trying to get by and find answers for themselves. One of the joys of roadtrip stories is the gradual development of relationships and self-awareness that comes from being confined in a small space and the on-the-road intervals here served did this really well as well as providing nice moments of quiet and normality in a world that was otherwise highly volatile. As well as the friendships between Vivian, Harp and Peter, this book also tapped into one of my favourite tropes - the discovery of parental fallibility. I've read a couple of novels this year which deal with that theme (most notably Tell the Wolves I'm Home) and Vivian didn't disappoint on that front. I have to admit that I was a bit anxious about where everything was going after the 'twist' at the end of Part 2 but I was so pleasantly surprised by the way in which Coyle refused to shy away from the brutality of Vivian's coming to terms with her parents' absence.

As much as I loved the characters in Vivian though, I think the thing that impressed me the most was just how sharp the social commentary was. All good satire and sci-fi has its roots in contemporary society, it only works if its extremes bear some relation to the audience's reality, the recent trend in dystopian fiction has created a particular space for authors to do this but I'm not sure if I've read any that manage this so deftly as Coyle. Vivian is very definitely a member of the Young Adult genre, catered towards a teenage audience but at times it felt very Margaret Atwood-esque and I'd definitely recommend this as a primer to dystopia of the Atwood variety. Vivian is full of both explicit and more subtle commentary on twenty-first century America, addressing the nature of religion, corporate capitalism, the opportunism of political movements and, most interestingly to me, the nature of youth politics. While the book is left-leaning in its critique of these phenomena, there is nuance in the ways that they are portrayed and some of the most interesting pieces of commentary and character development are concerned with explaining why people allow themselves to be exploited and about the power of concepts such as community and security. Most impressive of all however, is how Coyle manages to explore these big, complex ideas without dragging down the pace of the plot or, more importantly, without becoming bitter and completely cynical. While Vivian's world is hugely problematic and there seem to be so few people she can turn to, there is a levity to the narrative and there is always a slither of hope.

A definite contender for my favourite book of the year, I can't recommend Vivian Versus the Apocalypse highly enough!

Saturday, 14 September 2013

anticipated movies: autumn/winter 2013

Just as I didn't have much chance to read this summer, a lack of time and distance from the cinema meant that I didn't go to the cinema a huge amount either. In the next few months though the film industry starts to bring out its Oscar bait - just another reason why Autumn is my favourite season! - and as I'll be back in Exeter I'll be within walking distance of three cinemas so my cinema time will skyrocket!

Here are 10 of the films that I'm particularly looking forward to (Oscar-worthy and otherwise!); they're listed in order of UK release date and only go up to January.

September 13 - In A World...
Comedy. Starring: Lake Bell, Jeff Garlin, Fred Melamed

October 4 - Sunshine on Leith
Musical. Starring: Paul Brannigan, Jason Flemyng, Peter Mullan

October 30 - Thor: The Dark World
Superheroes. Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston

November 8 - Gravity
Sci-Fi. Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris

November 22 - The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Dystopia. Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth

December 26 - August: Osage County
Family drama. Starring: Meryl Streep, Dermot Mulroney, Julia Roberts

January 3 - The Railway Man
War drama. Starring: Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård

January 8 - The Monuments Men
Historical heist. Starring: George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon

January 24 - 12 Years A Slave
Historical drama. Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael K. Williams, Brad Pitt

January 31 - The Book Thief
War drama. Starring: Sophie Nélisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson

Are you particularly excited for any of these? Any other films that you're looking forward to?

Thursday, 12 September 2013

book haul: summer 2013

Quick interjection: I finally joined Bloglovin - there's a button to follow Matter Loved Dust in the sidebar!

Although I didn't have a chance to do much reading this summer that didn't stop me from buying books! I discovered Skoob books while I was in London doing research in June and that's become one of my favourite places in the city alongside Foyles and the Waterstones on Picadilly! It also hasn't helped that here in my hometown there's a small independent bookshop that runs a 2 for £5 offer all year round and also has a pretty good selection of books at half price. I should also mention that the Waterstones in Nottingham is huge and wonderful - I particularly love the hidden corner that specialises in foreign and independent publishers.

So yes, I bought books. Have a picture, vital info, linksto Goodreads and descriptions in 5 words or less.

Maiden Speech - Eleanor Brown Witty and insightful poetry.
The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien Highly recommended war stories.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows Gentle fiction about WW2.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail - Cheryl Strayed Supposedly inspiring memoir.
The Radleys - Matt Haig Cheeky, British vampire YA .
The Elites - Natasha Ngan Dystopian YA from Hot Key
Vivian Versus the Apocalypse - Katie Coyle Apocalypse + road trip = wonderful!

I'm currently reading and loving Vivian Versus the Apocalypse. It's one of the best YA novels I've read this year. I have to admit that I've become something of a Hot Key Books groupie - as much as I appreciate how much effort they put in to engage with readers online and really love their design choices it ultimately comes down to the fact that they publish books that I really want to read! It does help though when they design gorgeous covers like this!

As much as I love the covere for Vivian... however, the prize for the prettiest covers of my recent acquisitions has to go to these editions of Virginia Woolf's novels from Vintage Books. You can't tell from their 'classic' spines but they're BEAUTIFUL!

The designs are simple but very aesthetically pleasing! I need to find some form of book shelving that also serves to display their loveliness!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

top ten tuesday: books i'd like to see on screen

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

top ten eight books i would love to see as a movie or tv show

I'm a sucker for a good book to movie adaptation. Over the years I've mastered the art of being able to bring my appreciation of the source material to a movie and not letting it completely overwhelm the movie watching experience. It's not to say that I can't be disappointed by movie adaptations (case in point = The Golden Compass movie which had PERFECT casting but completely missed the point of that book) but I tend to be excited when I hear that books I like are being made in to films rather than being anxious or refusing to watch them on the basis that they might be awful. Things always get lost in translation from page to screen and there are plenty of ways that movies can get things wrong but I love seeing how people interpret and represent the aesthetics of worlds and characters that I love. Plus, there's something really powerful about watching storylines and certain scenes play out on screen and when films get it right it can be really wonderful - there were lots of things that I wasn't crazy about in the last Harry Potter movie but their version of 'The Forest Again', which is one of my favourite chapters of literature, was perfect and I'm so grateful that I got to immerse myself in the visuals and sounds of that.

So, here are my 8 choices for books which I think would translate really well to film or TV.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater - Would make a great movie especially if directed by someone like Jane Campion. Although the racing provides a dynamic climax for a movie I'd like a film version which situated that plot within the broader character narratives. This book is all about mood and brooding teenage emotion and I think Jane Campion would do an excellent job of visualising the sinister beauty of Skarmouth and the Races.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins - This would make a really fun summer mini-series for a channel like MTV or The CW. Anna is about change over time so I think it'd suit TV better than film but you'd only need 4 or 5 hours to get the story across. Plus, you could have companion series for Lola and Isla.

The Montmaray Series by Michelle Cooper - When describing these novels my default stance is 'think I Capture the Castle but with Nazis and WW2' and really, who wouldn't want to see a mini-series of that?!? There'd be 1940s costumes and plenty of dramatic events and as a TV series there'd be time to iron out some of the pacing issues with the last book! Not convinced yet? Check out these graphics made by gigglemonster over at Tumblr!

Heist Society Series by Ally Carter - Pitched somewhere between St Trinians and Ocean's Eleven, what's not to love about teenagers staging heists?!? I enjoyed these books but always felt they'd benefit from a sassy soundtrack! Perfect movie material!

The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater - Another contender for a UK style TV series. With around 6 hours per book you'd really get to develop the characters and their relationships as well as the story's mythology. With fast cars and magic, an interesting romantic storyline and a bunch of attractive boys there'd be plenty to keep people's interest over the space of a couple of months! It would have to wait until the whole cycle is complete though to avoid missing key details!

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson - Cast this right and it could be a really lovely coming-of-age road trip movie. (Plus, the book's already got the soundtrack covered!)

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer - Just imagine how freaking gorgeous someone like Joe Wright or Alfonso Cuaron could make this series with a navy colour palette, the setting of futuristic China and all the references to space. The juxtaposition of the traditional aethetics of royalty with the space-age robots and technology would make for really great visuals! It'd be a big project - especially as the series grows into its global setting but it could make a really great quadrilogy of movies.

Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling - I should preface this by saying that I love the Harry Potter movies! I love the cast, I loved a lot of their choices and the soundtracks all make me really emotional! BUT as much as my younger self was very grateful to the fact that the movies were made so quickly I'd be really really intrigued to see an HBO style TV series version of the story. I want a series which is plotted out now that we have all the information and all the key story elements are apparent. With 6 hours of TV for each of the first three books increasing to 10 or 12ish for the later books there'd be ample time to properly flesh out the characters (Ron, Hermione, Luna and Neville would be key beneficiaries) and to properly go into the Marauder/Voldemort/wizarding world backstory that was developed from PoA onwards in the books. Basically, I want a series that does justice to the intricacies of the plot and world building that the movies were never quite able to capture and which allowed you to become really invested in the characters.

What do you think? Would any of these appear on your lists? Any that you think would be complete disasters?

Monday, 9 September 2013

book review: cinder and scarlet by marissa meyer

Cinder and Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Genre: Fantasy/Sci-Fi YA
Rating: 7/10
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

It's been a while since I've done any reading for pleasure and a really long time since I read any YA and these two books were the perfect re-introduction to reading after a summer of academic reading! These books are the first two books in the Lunar Chronicles series, a YA fantasy/series very loosely modelled on traditional fairy stories.

Cinder is very much 'Cinderella with robots' and pretty much all of the elements of the original story are there in some form or another. I enjoyed it a lot though I felt that some of the action scenes were a little difficult to follow with the characters' confusion infiltrating a little too much of the narrative. I also thought that Prince Kai could have been a little more developed - I appreciate that this is the beginning of a series and that all the characters will get fleshed out as we go through but there wasn't enough of Kai for me to become particularly invested in him or his and Cinder's relationship. That said, I loved the ways in which the story was modernised - the world building was great and I really hope we get a little more backstory and history of Earth and Luna as time goes on. I also really appreciated the global scope of the novel - international relations and foreign diplomacy are some of the key themes of the book and I was really intrigued by the 'new' geography of the Eastern Commonwealth, Luna and the other nations that had emerged out of the Fourth World War. YA lit tends to limit itself to very specific settings so it was really refreshing to read one which was initially based in the East and which reached out to the rest of the world and space.

I don't want to give too much away about Scarlet but I think I preferred it to Cinder. The story deviated from Red Riding Hood in interesting ways and I thought Meyer did a really good job of developing the universe she'd set up in Cinder. While Scarlet was a slightly less interesting protagonist than Cinder (probably a result of the numerous POVs this book covered), Wolf was developed much better than Kai; while I was less emotionally invested in Scarlet and Wolf's story I was more engaged by their relationship than Kai and Cinder's. Like I said, the global scope of the novel was set up from book one so the change of setting felt really natural - the characters grew in to the world rather than the setting having to expand in line with the story. While the premise of Cinder was relatively straight-forward, Scarlet was a more nuanced exploration of that universe and a more interesting use of the fairy story framework.

Telling stories of an intriguing sci-fi world filled with lady protagonists who are far from being damsels in distress, The Lunar Chronicles is an imaginative and engaging series that I'll definitely be following.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

craft post: bozwonk, a crocheted cat

Ravelry project post

Say hello to Bozwonk! He's my first amigurumi and although he's far from perfect I love him! This pattern is available for free over at Ravelry (here). The pattern was pretty easy to follow and came with some pretty helpful illustrations so this was quite a quick project. I did have some trouble stitching all of the pieces together - because it's crocheted in the round there are no straight lines to help with alignment and it's going to take some time to get the knack of attaching and securing the pieces. In the end though I decided to embrace eccentricity, I think he's all the more charming for his wonkiness!

There's something of a tradition of taking photographs of these cats reclining so here he is gracing my YA bookshelf!

Monday, 2 September 2013

monthly roundup: august 2013

This month my head was completely wrapped up in my dissertation so it was a bit of a wash-out in terms of reading and blogging - it's only thanks to my progress earlier in the year that I'm still on track to complete my 50 books in 2013 challenge. It hasn't been a totally wasted month however - Matter Loved Dust has a new layout! As much as I liked the black it was just a little too gloomy! I'm also really happy with how quickly I've taken up crochet - I've already completed a couple of projects and have a ton more waiting to be done! I only went to the cinema once in August but as we head in to the autumn and Oscar season I'm sure that I'll get back up towards one cinema trip a week.

books read

033 D. H. Lawrence - Lady Chatterley's Lover (6/10)

new movies watched

Monsters University^ (6/10)


(Everything Is) Debatable - Hellogoodbye
Young Love (feat. Koko LaRoo) - Felix Cartal
Think of You (RAC Remix) - MS MR
Anxious People - Sunboy
Minnesota, WI (Oliver Nelson Remix) - Bon Iver
Black Crown - Silent Rider & Camille Corazón
Waves That Rolled You Under - Young Summer
One Last Time - Jaymes Young