Thursday, 6 March 2014

Dogs

Husbando and I were watching Crufts tonight.

One of the dogs was called Jason.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Son of Trash Tuesday (ok, maybe Grandson)

It's been awhile since I've written a book review.

You're right, that is putting it a bit mildly.

It's been awhile since I've written anything - I've thought about it, but it was pretty much in the same way you might think about calling Great Aunt Martha to thank her for the birthday present: I wanted to do it, I knew I should do it. But I kept letting other things get in the way and after a few weeks not doing it became the easier thing to do since facing up to the fact that I hadn't was too embarrassing.

I was in a cab with a group of people from work last week and we got onto the subject of title trends. For awhile there was the Something's Daughter  then it was American Something. These days it feels like Bone is de rigeur in titles*.

City of Bones
The Bone Dragon
Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Shadow and Bone
The Bone Season

At some point over the next weeks I intend to review all of those, but I'm going to start with the one that I wanted to like the most, but didn't.

Brownian Motion Does The Bone Season



I should have loved The Bone Season. The recipe is one I know and love: kickass independant female protagonist, magic, an alternate version of London, and a villain of mysterious origin. But The Bone Season was half baked at best and I don't think I'd want to serve it up to anyone.

My biggest complaint about the book is one I've heard elsewhere: it feels crowded, as though Samantha Shannon was trying desperately to cram as much as she could into her debut in case it was her only chance.

Worse, these bits of world building, which make up some of the best writing in the book (not a backhanded compliment - it is good writing) come at the most awkward moments, throwing you out of the story rather than pulling you deeper into the world the way good world building should.

I will also admit to not liking the main character. Her father works for the government and she has had a fairly privileged upbringing. Yet the character as we meet her is all street slang. I'd accept putting on a front to fit in with her new criminal life, but even interior monologues are riddled with it. There is no sign of the type of character I would expect from someone with her backstory. I didn't find her believable except in tiny moments, and those were few and far between.

Let's talk about the slang: there is just too much of it. I didn't find the glossary until part way through the book but I was more annoyed after finding it since I was spending so much time flipping back and forth between new words and their definitions that I actually lost my place more than once. Harry Potter got away with introducing us to a whole new vocabulary because the terms were explained by other characters in-story or presented in a way that explained them to us without resorting to info-dump.

Which brings me to my next complaint. As good as the writing in the info-dumpy sections is, it's still info-dump. Shannon never resorts to 'As you know, the King, your father' but she comes close on a few occasions. I've always liked show not tell, and most of this novel is tell.

At first, I accepted all of this, as annoying as it was, and probably would have given Shannon more of a break (young writer, debut novel, huge expectations) until I got about 5/6 of the way through. This is the point when the camel of slang and info-dump had its back smashed by a TOTALLY unnecessary love story.

I've tweeted about my desire to see a YA novel without a love triangle crammed into it. I read so much YA I'm boooooooooored of them. You always know who the heroine is going to pick and a lot of the time there is nothing particularly original about the path that part of the story takes. But a stereotypical YA love triangle would have been 1000 times better than the sudden...thing that happens in this book.

I'm not going to analyse it, or break it down because I don't think I can be objective. I hated it. I was reading on the train and I honestly did a double-take and said 'what?' out loud. Then I had to put the book away because I didn't think I could get through any more of it in a public  place.**

I will say that based on Paige's behaviour and internal monologue up to that point her sudden change of heart it completely unbelievable. Two or three books from now? Maybe. Probably. But like the world-building it feels as though Shannon wrote the love angle as a box ticking exercise.  There is something fundamentally missing from the story if she expects me, as a reader, to buy into this relationship.

Will I read the book again? Probably not. The hype about the originality of the world is deserved and I when I got over being yanked out of the story, I enjoyed the way the info-dump sections were written, but it just wasn't compelling enough for me to want to climb back into it or to anticipate the next book.

Brownian Motion Rating:

Day 1: Sigh.
Day 2: Sigh.
Day 3: Sigh.
Day 4: Sigh.
Day  - oh you get the point.


*We're just waiting for the American Daughter's Bones to come out and complete the circle.

** I tossed American Psycho across the room halfway through the rodent scene because I couldn't take anymore. The Bone Season is a lot bigger and the train was very crowded.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Re-post - WWPLD?

In 'honour' of Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm, I'm re-posting this.

I've got my eye on you House of Mouse. Watch it!


The current stable (and I use the term deliberately) of Disney Princesses have the following to be proud of:

Friends of mine lament that their daughter's greatest ambition is to be a Princess and 'Princessification' has become a hot button topic for all kinds of feminist ranting against pink, ruffles and 'girly' marketing .+


I’ve always wanted to be a Princess and I think I turned out just fine, so I really don't see Princessification as a problem. Not if you model yourself on the right kind of princess anyway - see, since the age of four I have tried to live my life by one pretty simple guiding principle:


Generally, the answer is have great hair and kick some ass, but can also include any or all of the following:


Withstand torture

Cinderella may have had to get up with the sun, serve breakfast to her horrible step family, scrub floors all day and live out her dreams of producing high end couture by forcing her creations onto vermin, but she wouldn't have lasted 30 seconds against the IT-O Interrogator.
Seriously – go read the Wookiepedia entry on this thing . Leia not only withstands an hour of torture, she doesn't give away any useful information or put herself at risk of contracting Hantavirus just to make a few friends.


Fight the battles you can win


You're being held captive by a respectable percentage of the Imperial Army on a self-sustaining space station. You've just watched your home planet get blown up. Do you:

a. Give in and tell them what they want to know as long as they let you live?
b. Cry, scream and smash things in an attempt to take the Death Star down?
c. Make a futile attempt to kill the man responsible while standing next to someone capable of killing you just by thinking about it?
d. Get some sleep, plot revenge and have a snarky greeting ready for your idiot sibling.*


Rescue Yourself. Also known as ‘You came in here, didn't you have a plan for getting out?’



Some of you might insist that Leia is rescued by Luke and Han in episode 4.

She really isn’t.

Yes, they definitely get her out of the cell. They certainly give her a ride away from the Death Star, but they wouldn't have been around to give her a ride if Leia hadn’t come up with the plan for getting out.

Two minutes into the 'rescue', when it becomes clear that Luke didn't think any further than getting into the detention block, Leia grabs a gun and creates an exit. Sure they wind up in the garbage. Yes they almost get squashed.

I didn't say it was a good plan.

The point is, she doesn't just stand there and wait to be rescued. She takes an active role in her own security, something the Disney Princesses are pretty much incapable of.

It isn't just in A New Hope either. Return of the Jedi offers an even better example of her ability to get herself out of trouble.

When she's captured by Jabba the Hutt, she waits.

She gets chained to his throne and she waits.

She's made to wear what I have always thought of as 'the space bikini' and a hideous pair of boots** and she waits.

She’s not waiting as part of some greater plan. The greater plan was to sneak Han out at night. It didn’t involve the abootminations and concerns about metal chafing at all. So she waits. When the opportunity presents itself, she makes a weapon out of her chains and saves herself.

One of Walt’s Princesses would have patiently waited for someone to fight their way over to where she was chained up. She would have screamed a little while the fight went on around her, cried the hero’s name out if he was in any danger and basically flailed around like a doily until everyone and everything else around her had been vanquished. Then she’d kiss whoever cut the chains and marry him.

Leia doesn't wait around for the boys to come to her rescue. She enthusiastically takes matters into her own hands. Maybe a little too enthusiastically. Let's face it, she didn't need to kill Jabba. She could have called R2 over, had him slice through the chain and legged it. How is Jabba supposed to stop her? He's a giant slug with arms like a T-Rex. He's not holding her at gun-point and all of his henchmen are too busy watching the drama outside to notice if she gets away.

The Princess Leia solution to captivity is to choke the hell out of the bastard who put you in the ugly shoes yourself and get the hell out before anyone notices. Possibly this isn't the best behaviour for a role model, but it beats passive acceptance of your fate any day of the week.


Know when NOT to fight


Homicidal tendencies aside, Leia is good at getting along with people. Sure she's bossy. She's a Princess, a Senator and the de facto leader of the rebellion. She's ALWAYS giving orders, most of them involving killing large numbers of people or putting her friends and allies in harm's way. That's her job. But she doesn't try to tell the Ewoks what to do or threaten Wicket with a gun when he waves his spear at her, which is probably why she's the only person the Ewoks don't try to cook.



For me though there is one major reason why Leia is the only Princess role model a girl needs:

Choose your own future

The major theme of all of the Disney films is that the Princess needs to get away from her current life, but doesn't have the power to do it on her own. Disney Princesses have no autonomy. Every single one of them is at some point betrothed to or pursued by or under the control of someone else, be it a handsome Prince, a wicked step-mother or a loving, but overbearing father. Even when they fall in love, it's usually based on nothing more than physical appearance: Gaston is so determined to marry Belle (the most beautiful girl in town, and therefore, the best girl in town) that he's willing to lock her father in a mental institution if she says no. Cinderella danced with the Prince ONCE and is perfectly happy to accept a marriage proposal the next day. Snow White was DEAD, but she was such an attractive corpse, the Prince just had to kiss her.***

When we first meet Leia she's on her own ship engaged in a mission to help the Rebellion. A Rebellion she plays an active part in. She attempts to defend her ship and thwarts all attempts to get information from her. She likes her life. A good part of the first film is taken up with Leia getting back to her role within the Rebellion. She's captured not because she's beautiful or because her father has a nice Kingdom the Empire wants to annex without too much effort, but because she's a credible threat. Love has nothing to do with her grand life plans, it's an incidental bonus. It takes three years for Leia to admit that she loves Han and the trilogy doesn't end with the two of them married.

If Star Wars was re-done by Disney, Princess Leia would be held captive on the Death Star not because she is the Rebel Leader and has military value, but because Grand Moff Tarkin wants to marry her. Han and Luke would fight their way through 10,000 storm troopers without injury to themselves. Tarkin and Vader would die quickly and probably off screen. The marriage would still take place, Han being madly in love with the beautiful Princess after only twenty minutes acquaintance. He would then become the Prince of Aldaraan.

Somehow I don't think that film would have quite the same following.

Look, I'm all for realistic expectations and role models. I know that it isn't realistic to model your life on a Princess from a Science Fiction franchise, but it is realistic to look up to women who think for themselves, make their own choices, fight for causes they believe in and who are capable of defending themselves, regardless of where they turn up.

Now, go and rent Star Wars for your daughter and let's see if we can't get a few more of them out in the real world.



+ Please don't email and accuse me of being some kind of misogyny apologist. I'll stand beside anyone fighting for equal rights, fair pay, stronger penalties for domestic abuse, more funding for shelters for women and children and better maternity and nursery benefits for working mothers, but I'm not going to force a two year old to live by the dictates of Germaine Greer and forbid the colour pink from even crossing her retina. On the other hand, I could deny her the option of making a choice now so she gets used to the feeling early on...no? Okay then.

*Note that unlike Leia, I do not have idiot siblings. My sisters are awesome.

** Seriously, let's talk about those boots. This has ALWAYS bothered me (and please feel free to skip what is essentially an endless rant from an admitted nit-picky fashion and costume obsessive) those boots are ugly. U.G.L.Y. They are so far beyond ugly I can't find a word for them. What on earth was Aggie Guerard Rodgers thinking?

It's a desert planet. A desert planet with TWO SUNS. I'm going to guess that the pervading climate is pretty warm. Do you really want to go with boots as your footwear of choice? Really? Not concerned about foot odour at all? Overheating? No?

Okay Aggie, fine. How about this, the rest of the outfit looks delicate and floaty. The abootminations look heavy and 'clompy'. They look like the bootie slippers I had as a child, in fact, since 2003 all I can see when I look at Leia's feet are a pair of Uggs. That's what those boots look like. Ugh. Chalk and cheese go together better than those boots and the space bikini.

Right. I really am ranting now. Will stop.

***And what kind of kiss was it exactly. As far as I remember she was choking on that apple. At least Princess Aurora was 'magically asleep' and there aren't any aspersions of necrophilia on Prince Philip.


Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Earworm

Everyone gets songs stuck in their head.

I tend towards theme tunes. Specifically 80's theme tunes.

Dallas. The A-Team. MASH. GI Joe. Jem. Rainbow Brite.

Doesn't have to be something I've heard in the last twenty years, doesn't even have to be something I know all the words to. Currently I have the first 40 seconds or so of Dallas on a loop and I can't seem to get rid of it. Lady Felicity is going to kill me on Monday, but I don't think I've seen an episode of Dallas since about 1990-something. Not a full one anyway. And that was only because I was putting off an essay on Chaucer and the Lollards and TNN was having a marathon.

The human brain is a hoarder of useless information. MY brain in particular. If this is my superpower, I feel slightly cheated.

This post has little point, other than to share my agony with you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pygwaX2VNzQ


Ted Decibel II : All Music and No Sleep Makes Me Something Something.

Ted Decibel has returned.

He was on holiday for awhile, or at another rehab place, or at the black-market kitchen-gadget sale with Shifty. But he's back. Oh, yes. He's back. Last night was great.

10pm: Thumping bass. Annoying, but it's only 10. I can deal. I'm still up.

11pm: I'm getting ready for bed. I really hope this seemingly endless rendition of Slim Shady ends soon.

11:30pm: Husbando is asleep. How can he sleep through this?

12am: It doesn't seem to be ending.

12:30am: Oh well, at least we've moved onto Fleetwood Mac.

1:00 am: Hmm....I wonder if I should be able to hear the lyrics of Landslide through the floor and a brick wall?

1:30 am: Probably not.


Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Monday, 21 May 2012

The Laziness Event Horizon

Stuff I totally failed to do yesterday despite the best of intentions:

Hoover the bits of fabric off the spare room floor (WHAT? They've only been there two weeks).
Conquer Mt. Laundry (who needs clean socks. I'll just buy Husbando new ones).
Shower
Move away from the computer.


Things I DID do yesterday:

Read all 18 pages of Query Quagmire
Sit and THINK about how to construct a tartan crinoline.
Doodle aimlessly for about an hour. I drew flowers in case you are wondering.



Saturday, 19 May 2012

In Which I Become Afeared of Lady Felicity Marchwell's Wrath

Or perhaps, more accurately, her disappointment.

I'm supposed to be working on a new wedding dress. I have half a corset and bits and pieces of a tartan crinoline scattered over the desk. However, John-Lewis doesn't stock left-handed sewing scissors these days, so I'm typing with one hand while my other twitches on the desk trying to recover from the pain of using tools designed for the dexterous members of the human-race. My thumb is a lovely shade of violet in case you were wondering. (I'm fairly certain that you weren't, but I was taught to share).

I didn't mean to start a new blog post. I know one is long over due but when I started this break from sewing I intended to wrap a birthday present. I have, however, run into a bit of a snag: I can't find it. And writing this post may keep me from freaking out.

I bought the missing present months ago, having spotted the perfect gift at one of those rare times when I had both the means and the inclination to shop (a rare thing these days). Husbando agreed that it was an ideal gift for Lady Felicity Marchwell (names have been changed to protect the innocent) and we coasted through late Winter and early Spring, content in the knowledge that a good friend, in possession of a variety of hobbies, would not be in want of a gift.

Wherever her present is at the moment it is certainly very SAFE, but it's doing neither myself nor her Ladyship any good. Unless my brain decides to cooperate and I can dredge the location of the gift from my memory, I will need to find something else to give to Lady F. She may like the replacement, but I will know that it isn't right. Part of me will always wonder if she would have liked the original gift better. Anything I find will be tainted by the fact that it is not what I meant to give her. If I can even find a replacement.

'But it's just a present,' you say. 'Calm down dear. You'll find something else.'

Yes, I will. I will find something else and I will attend Lady Felicity's Festivities with a happy heart and I will have a good time. But that doesn't change the fact that somewhere in my house is a present which cannot be given.

There is almost nothing sadder than a present that cannot be given.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

The Life of a Dishcloth

I feel wrung out.


I've been part of a large update of systems at work and it has been several months of pressure. Normally I work really well under pressure, but this time there was so much and for such a long time, that more than once I wasn't sure if I was going to make it to the end.


I've always looked at the end of projects as a time when I can feel positive and invigorated and ready for the next one. This time I'm feeling like I want to crawl onto a warm rock somewhere and have someone bring me cold fruity drinks for a few weeks. Preferably alcoholic drinks. Very alcoholic.


But regardless of how I feel, the project is done. And that's a good thing.





Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The Return of Trash Tuesday: The Trash-ening

I said I would review Between on the blog in February. Thanks only to the fact that 2012 is a leap year, I'm going to manage it.


It's been awhile since I did a review, so refresh your concept of BROWNIAN MOTION, my patented* rating system. 


I'm making a change this time: instead of a day by day aftermath rating I'm going to to let you know how I felt while I was actually reading the book because my opinion has not changed since I finished it.


Ready? O-K.




Between, Jessica Warman


I picked Between up because I was looking for something without angels, vampires, werewolves, love triangles, magic (or Magick), faeries, aliens, creatures from another dimension or dystopian government oppression. I wanted the 'real world'.


The back of Between sounded promising:


Elizabeth Vachar is young. beautiful and popular. Everything is right in her expensive, glossy life...until the night of her eighteenth birthday party, on her parent's yacht. A persistent thumping noise from outside the boat wakes her. What Liz finds changes everything she thought she knew about her life, her friends, and what lies in between.


I'm not giving anything away when I say that the body is Liz and that the book is narrated by her ghost. I grew up reading Christopher Pike and by page six was already comparing it to Remember Me. Not favourably either. Only a few pages in I was ready to put the book on the bottom of the TBR pile for the next printed-word drought. Except that there was no TBR pile anymore and it was this or nothing. 


Boy am I glad I kept reading.


Liz is dead at the end of Chapter 1 and everyone accepts that it was a tragic accident before we hit page sixty. There is no drama about the situation for the living, beyond her death and funeral for most of the book. Liz mostly watches her friends and family cope with her absence and try to move on. But what they do, or don't do, reveals a lot - both about Liz and about how she died.



There are definite echoes of Remember Me in Between. It's narrated by a ghost, exactly how she died is a mystery, and there are lots and lots of family secrets, but the similarities are mostly surface detail and I think I'd have found them in almost any book with a ghost as the major character. The most impressive things about this book were the subtle changes that Warman made to Liz after each visit to her past. The only way I can think of to accurately describe the transformation is that I got to watch a character grow up, and do so pretty believably, in only 430 pages. 


The mystery is written well. I kept revising my opinion of The Truth because Warman kept feeding me crumbs which, together, seemed to make a cake. Every time I thought I had it worked out, another bit would come out and I would have to revise my opinion. The actual Cake-of-Truth at the end was made of most of the crumbs and it wasn't a surprise, but I like it when authors make you second-guess yourself, even if it's just a little bit.

The book may have paranormal DNA, and I may be So. Over.That.  but Warman's writing is engaging and the visits to the past are written in such a way that you forget the fact that the narrator is already dead. By the end, I wanted Liz to somehow make it. To be able to go back to her body and take the things she had learned with her. Mostly I just wanted to hug her. And I hated her in the first few chapters. Hated. 



Between is about death and learning about yourself. but it isn't preachy. The author doesn't bash you over the head with life lessons, make the book into some kind of Very Special Episode or have everyone hug at the end and promise to be nicer to the school outcast. Not everyone is able to move on.


Since there are two mysteries in the book, telling you much more would be spoiling. Suffice it to say that I really enjoyed it, despite an initial wobble and that I'll be adding it to my 'Read Again' pile.


Brownian Rating:


Bookstore reaction: Awesome. YA crime. That thumping noise outside has got to be a body and Liz is going to turn Nancy Drew. I love Nancy Drew! 9/10


Chapter 1: Aw CRAP. This is going to be a rehash of Christopher Pike's Remember Me isn't it? Those are some pretty big shoes to fill Warman. I'm not sure you're going to live up to my memory of that book** 4/10


Chapter 2: Aaaaaaaand we've got the dead classmate guide going on. He was hit by a car a year ago. Yeah. This is totally Remember Me, except Liz is kind of a shallow bitch and I think I hate her. 2/10


Chapter  6: Okay. Maybe it's not a total rip-off. Liz is messed up. Is that pity, or do I need another cookie? 3/10


Chapter 12: Seriously messed up! Man. That feeling was pity. I actually feel sorry for you Liz. Sorry for calling you a shallow bitch. 6/10


Chapter 21: Oh god. You poor screwed up girl. I saw it coming, but I didn't see THAT coming. Wow. Okay. Not Remember Me. I hope when I die that this does not happen to me and I solemnly swear to be nicer to people so viewing the past isn't so horrible if it does. 8/10


Finish: I think I might have actually cried a bit. 8/10


For a book that started out high and which would have been abandoned before Chapter 2 if I'd had anything else to read, Between ended on a high note. I think it is one of the better YA books I've read this year and I'll keep an eye out for  more of Warman's work.


If you do pick it up and start to draw comparisons with Christopher Pike, favourable or not, don't give into the temptation to lump them together. Like Liz Vachar, there is definitely more going on under the surface here and it is worth finding out.


*Patent pending


** Unrepentant C.Pike FIEND here. Remember Me is third on my list of favourites after Sati and Witch. The sequels didn't happen. La la la. I can't hear you.