Thursday, 29 March 2012

What I am Reading this Week

          So the books that I am reading this week are Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J K Rowling and Boys and Girls Forever by Alison Lurie.


        So I'm going to start with Harry Potter and the Prisioner Azkaban. I finished it within about three days. This is also a re-read. I also realised that I am way too familiar with the film, which is quite different from the film. First Ron I like a lot better in the books. Hermione is much more a flawed character which I like that she isn't perfect.

         There are a couple of things that I found reading this again, it's really melodramatic, and the thrust of the story has some holes with it for me for Snape. I know that he's supposed to be the false villain, it come across at least for me as him being petty, in everything that he does. This is changed from the film, which makes it an improvement.

           This isn't to say that this isn't an enjoyable book, and I love the time travel, which is much better in my opinion in the film that in here, mainly because it takes a lot longer and I am following it. The films are much better for me if you have read the books, you can follow what is happening much more. I guess for me, it like there are two versions of this story and I like a lot things about both of them, and have problems with both of them. So it's a good book, and it was worth re-reading, and I'm glad that I own the film it's good too.


          So the second book that I am reading is Boys and Girls Forever by Alison Lurie. I like this book a lot actually. I've only got to chapter 5 but I find a lot of the stuff that she is writing about really interesting, which is talking about children's books from the people who have written it. It can be a  bit dry at times but I find it interesting particularly with the books that I haven't read.

         I will have read it all by next week, so we'll see how I feel about it once I finished it. I like it so far.

        These are the books that I have read this week.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

At last

           So this is the last of the two posts a month. I have to say by today I was trying very hard to think of things to recommend. I'm going to be glad of the month of April and I can finally go back to just one post a month. i am glad that I have kept up with it, but at last this is the end of the road.

          I was thinking about adding what I'm reading in the week, as an extra post in the week. So I would put what books I was reading, how far I had gotten and how much I liked them. So I'll probably put up something on Wednesday. I'm going to start with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and a Mary Roach book that I haven't started yet but will be starting tomorrow. 

          It's been a good experience I have to say, and I like doing something that gives me such pleasure.     

Jasper Fforde

          I have always really like the series that Jasper Fforde has created. His Thursday Next books are awesome, as well as the Nursery Division ones, which i think I liked the most in particular The Big Over Easy. Mary Mary I loved as a character and he writes to me really great mysteries.


        Of the Thursday Next ones, I loved Something Rotten as well as the latest, One of Our Thursdays is Missing, what I think appeals to me about the series is his voice. When I love the books that much, you get me for everything they write. Voice is a very hard thing to get right, and most importantly to me be true to. He does it wonderfully. A great writer.

Good vs Evil

           So this week I have been really into Harry Potter, partly because I have finally after much resistance (mainly because of the whole spending forever in the woods thing that happened in the bock) watched the final films. They are great in the effects. I also read the last book eagerly after it first came out. I like the series a lot. What I realised though was that this whole series has got clearly defined people who are bad or good.



         This is not a criticism, in a lot of the fantasy I have read, admittedly not that much (I've read a whole lot of Pratchett and read Lord of the Rings all the way through when i was 17, it took me months to get through but I'm so glad i waited to read them before seeing the films), good and bad are pretty clear. 

         Snape is a character that has bad elements to him, but I don't think I really thought he was truly evil, not in the way Voldermort is. I like the series a lot, and have read them all the way through (I'm planning on reading them again in the next couple of weeks), and it is a great story. 

          I don't know it always seems the easy thing to set up dark against light. I have always thought life is not that easy, I am reminded of a Buffy episode where Buffy wants Giles to lie to her about who is good and who is bad, that growing up is easy. Lord of the Rings does have the ring corrupt, but it is an object that corrupts. 

          Ambiguity, making a decision based on the fact that we don't know the end or how it will effect us in the future, is a much more slippery concept. I would have been so mad if any of the three of Ron, Hermione or Harry had died. And there is an ambiguity to how death and evil effects the characters. There is no doubt that the big bad is Voldermort, as Sauron is the big bad. Big bads make the fantasy and the quest go round. 

          There is a force to that narrative, a distinct person to root for. I wonder if it makes us as readers all the harder to focus on someone who is not wholly good or bad, but manages to save the day anyway. I'm still thinking about it. 



           Anyway Harry Potter as a franchise is really cool, I also love the subtitles of the books. The third one is my favourite (both the film and the book). I think my favourite characters are Hermione and probably Neville just for his nerdiness which I totally identify with.    

Penelope

         i have always liked the film Penelope, not just for the visual effects in the film which are great, but that the overall message is a positive one. There are some things in it that I don't like but I'm sticking with the stuff that I do. Christina Ricci is the main part, and I really liked that they picked someone that is interesting as well as unconventional.




         I do want to mention that all the people in this film are extremely pretty, and I'm not sure about the message it sends about beauty, but I do think that the message really is about acceptance, not just how you look but who you are. Corny as that is, acceptance of yourself I find the hardest. It is interesting and the art direction as well as the costumes are really good. 

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The Sunshine in the End

          I have had a very strange week. I was really out of it on Monday, and I mean crying till I was making strange stomach sounds, and snot coming out of my nose. The next couple of days were me trying to recover from being so upset. Friday and yesterday were a lot better.

          I have felt bad before, and i know myself well enough that this will pass. When it's happening, it feels like I have been sucked into a black hole of negativity and I am the worst person alive, but you have to cope with the storm, and eventually the clouds will part and the sun will shine. It takes a couple of days to cope with this.

         This is all leading to the fact that I feel better. I was also thinking about the people around that I like to and these people I look up to in a lot of ways. Some are for different reasons that others, but they all have something that I like.

         First the obvious:

         Jake Gyllenhaal


         He's gorgeous yes, but to me he makes interesting choices in what he does. He was in Moonlight Mile that I really liked. It's a lot like Almost Famous but what i really liked about this was he was good in it, and had a lot of cool themes. I like Almost Famous a lot but I thought the story resonated with me more in Moonlight Mile. I like that he's in a lot of weird films as well. So he's hot but to me that's not enough for me to have a crush or admire someone.

          Kate Winslet

          Another person that I admire for more than the fact she's beautiful. I think for me it's the fact she is versatile in anything that she does. She can play comedy and I like how funny she is in something like Sense and Sensibility and how serious she can play it in something like Iris.

          She has also does something that I really like she does not play to her sexual attraction, and what i mean by that is in many films that is the only thing that women seem to able to play or indeed do in film is be the sexual attractor. She circumnavigates that with real ease. She also in my mind alleviates any film that she is in, even if it's flawed she makes a good performance.

          Phillip Seymour Hoffman


         I have had a crush on him for a very long time. First he wears glasses (not in the picture above), but he usually does. He also usually has a beard, and I am weak at the knees. He, I feel has a kind cool thing that everyone knows he's a great actor and yet not completely defined by what others think of him. He's done some very strange films, and I hated the message in Charlie Wilson's War but he made that film good to me. It helped that he wore glasses :) but I do think that he's a good actor and hot. Win win.

          Susan Sarandon

           She has been in some of my favourite films, The Rocky Horror Show, The Client, White Palace, Elizabeth Town and Moonlight Mile. She does such a wide variety of films, and again for me it's whether they are good in a film that is flawed and she is. I like her immensely and she is sexy, and she has a sense of humour that I like.  

          The not so obvious

          Cameron Crowe

          He is a good director I feel. He has not actually made a lot of films, and I liked I think Almost Famous the best of films that he has made. I also really liked Say Anything. Film is a directors medium, and I feel it is their vision that gets judged but for me when you make something that people respond to, you have won. He makes films that say something at least, and he is good at a lot of stuff he does.

           Eddie Izzard

          He is a very funny guy, I mean I think he's the one person that can make me laugh even on my darkest days. I love that he believes in people, and that he is committed to giving a shit about the world. He has such a strange world view, but I like that a lot. He talks about the world in way that people can relate to, but it is a little skewed. I like that he is true to who he is and does a lot of projects. He was in a series, he ran over 40 marathons in a month, he has been a street performer and he is really really funny. I like all the things that he does, and can't wait to see what he does next.

          Josie Long

          I like her a lot. I think she is a extremely good performer, I have said before that I like her enthusiasm, but it is not just that, it is that she enjoys the world around her. I like that she is a feminist and is really good at her job. She has also performed for Amnesty International which is a great cause. I like her a lot, and a very funny comic.  

          Elizabeth Hoyt

        She is for me a great romance author. She does a lot of things the sex is really hot, the characters do not break, and she does not break the rules that she has set out in her world, and the rules that she has set out for herself. She also writes under the name Julie Harper, and I really want her to write another contemporary book, but her historical books are wonderful.

         I want to conclude with a bunch of people and briefly mention why i like them. Dawn French for her appetite and her writing style. Nora Roberts for being a great writer. Jennifer Crusie I am your fan girl for life, and you have such a great voice, it makes me happy. Lani Diane Rich/Lucy March for being such a great source of wonder. The F word blog and book, for putting feminism out there and being really good at writing about it. Alfred Hitchcock for doing great films that I own and watch over and over, for being a genius. Dorothy Parker for her style and having such a great voice in a world that didn't allow women to be funny. Lisa Kleypas for introducing me to historical romance and getting me into something that gives me such pleasure.

            I want to mention so many more, but it makes me happy that there is talent in the world and I get to see what people think about and enjoy the things that give me sunshine.

Dresses

          I love dresses. I don't often wear them because I want to make my own. I haven't got around to doing this yet, but some designs have really made me drool (I am going to make some skirts first with a pattern that I have first before I I try to make a dress). I love lots of styles of dresses, here are some I like:

          This one I like because of the line of the dress as well as the polka dots. I quite like the sash as well, and the neckline.


            I'm in love with the fabric, I have always been in love with cherries for a long time, I really like the ribbon as well. I'm not sure about the neck line especially the bow, but overall I like it a lot.



          Ok this one is a little crazy. I'm half in love with it precisely because it's crazy. You would have to be tiny to make the lines work, which I'm not. The silkiness of the purple just makes it gorgeous. The corset makes the skirt look really full. I think I just like looking at this because to me it's a beautiful object.


          I love lace in dresses. I like the over lapping nature of the fabrics.I'm not sure about the overall cut, if I really like it. The thing that really makes me happy, is the neck line. I think if i did try and make this. I would make the lace a different colour maybe purple or green, with the dress still black underneath, and change the skirt a little.


           And finally this dress. I love dark green as a colour. I like the shape if this dress especially the sleeves. I am a long sleeved girl all the way. The fabric really sold me as well as the cut, it's really nice.

          Dresses they make me feel different when I wear them, and I do drool over these, when my sewing skills for patterns get better I will give this a crack.

Too Much Information or My First Time At Sex

          So I was thinking about sex this week, and not in a sexy way. I wanted to talk about how I lost my virginity, and this may be too much information so avoid it if so wished.

         When I was losing my virginity, I was doing it for reasons that had nothing to do with pleasure. I think for me I find my own sexual experiences hard to talk about because I do identify as a feminist, but actions in my past make me question whether I am one. I am a feminist, but this does not mean that I am not human, and have made mistakes.

           As I said I was not doing this for pleasure, I was trying to prove that I was sexually desirable to someone. I often think that was bound up in my identity of what I thought being a woman was, being a sexual object. If I did not have evidence of this then I was not a woman. Horrible thinking, but understandable to me. I set out to prove this, and basically had sex with someone that I did not respect, nor did he respect me.

          The thing that I remember the most, was not being able to look at him while he was inside me. I felt disgust and shame at myself, if this is being a woman, then I wanted nothing to do with it. I felt so disconnected to the body that I was in. I felt like I could have been a plastic doll for all the feeling I had. The sex itself didn't hurt, but I often felt that it was a race for him to finish and then I could leave.

          This experience did sour sex for a while, but I made the choice out of something that I had not looked at. Sex itself can be great, but it comes with a lot of baggage. This was not my only experience of sex, but you have to be prepared for me at least to understand how you feel and the most important thing why you are doing the stuff that you are doing.

          I came back from this disconnection to the body I was in. I began feeling able to make decisions that did not define me in relation to other people. I think that is the best result of the experience, it is not healthy to completely depend on someone else to define you. I do not need to be defined, I am all the parts of myself, regardless of what someone else thinks of me.

        I know that I tend to immerse myself in what someone else wants of me. The better thing is to be what I want to be. Have sex because  I want to feel good with someone else, and do the things that I want because I want to do them. I feel like people frame this as an easy thing to do, it's not, you have to listen to yourself.

         So in conclusion losing my virginity was not good, I doubt anybody's first time is, partly because you have no idea what you are doing. I want to say that we have to understand why people make bad decisions, and that I know that for me I learnt why I did the things that I did and I made better decisions.

         Really what I want is for people not have to prove that they are sexually desirable, it leads to bad times. Sex a tricky subject for anyone, it does not have to dominate your life, and I don't want someone to stamp me with approval. The person's approval that I seek now is my own, and that is how I think it should be.  

Note Paper

          I do have a thing about paper, especially note paper. I like the covers to be pretty and have a specific taste in the type of paper. So sometimes I like graph paper as well as pretty stuff. But note paper is awesome!


         I love note pads as well. And I do have specific tastes in them, and they are great.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Passive vs Active

         As promised two posts a month. So I was thinking about active and passive heroines. This mainly came about because I watched Something Borrowed with Kate Hudson, and Ginnifer Goodwin. There are several problems going on in this film that really bugged me, the fact that she cheats on her best friend with the best friend's fiance is at the start of the film is the top of the list. Now, this is conflict I'll grant you that. Does that follow that it makes it a good film? No as it turns out. 

         It makes out from the start that a woman alone is a problem, and the woman concerned is going to be a mass of fear as this has happened. So sleeping with her best friend's fiance is going to fix this? Never mind that for the rest of the film the best friend and the boyfriend are still together.

         It isn't about likability, because Goodwin's character has that in spades, it's about action. There is none, so either in that situation tell your best friend or stop sleeping with the fiance, make a choice and stick to it.

        I also had a big problem with this whole best friend thing. Best friends like each other, after all that's why they are friends. This tends to happen a lot, and I think in order to have the audience sympathise with Goodwin, they make Hudson out to be the bad guy, key conclusion then why are you friends?

         Overall the real problem that I had with this film was both the hero and heroine were passive, that is going to kill the story. Jennifer Crusie has talked about active and passive stuff as well, Something Borrowed just bought up my bad reaction to it.

         I want to give an example of a romance that really show action well. Moonstruck is one of my favourite films of all time. The heroine cheats yes, but she does it thinking that she'll be unfaithful once. Loretta is a character with her faults and she does really want to get married, but she goes after that goal. She does it because she has her own happiness in mind. I don't know if likability has much to do with this film either, but the story is compelling and funny. The hero and heroine are active and go after what they want, that makes a compelling film to my mind.

         It also makes a compelling book. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins has a very active heroine. She has a very elemental goal, to stay alive. She stays with that goal, and Katniss is a character who is strong yes, but active in all she does.

         This is not to say that there are not films with people reacting to the circumstances around them that makes compelling films and books. There are many stories to be told about many different things, and there are films that I cannot watch with active heroines and heroes in them, but passivity for me kills any connection I had to the character.

         That is the sin that I cannot forgive, because for me character is why I like The Holiday, a flawed film but I can hook on to the characters. I would far take a bad film with compelling characters, that a good one without. Don't make the people in your story passive, it gives me nothing to root for, or indeed care about.  

        There are plenty of great books and films, so I'm going to watch Moonstruck again, and eat some chocolate cake, a happy afternoon!  

Candles

           I have always liked candles, for me there is something old worldly about candles and they are just fun to have around.

         I don't often have them, but when I do, the atmosphere is different and for me more enjoyable.

Feminist literature

          I am a feminist. I try in my own small existence to fight the way people treat me, and other people. I try to make people see beyond what we look like, I try everyday to think positively about the strides that people have taken, to look at culture and see the good. The women who are beyond the sex object, the singers who push boundaries and the artists that create something that makes me think. 

        Feminism to me will always be relevant, I like to read a lot of books about it, so this is going to be my discussion about them.

        First up: The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. This is a book, that really examines why culture offers up physical ideals. The constricting view of the body. How women can feel so disconnected to their own body. It also talks about the change that people can create. This book, really is about examining that beauty is a myth, and a damaging one at that.


        One Dimensional Women by Nina Powers. This is a great book, recommended to me by one of my friends actually. I am so glad that I read it. The chapters that I really identified with were the ones that examined women in power. She concentrated on a couple, Margaret Thatcher included, her points that resonated with me, were that people expected that since women were in power, that they were successful in this political world, we should not have to complain. Powers points out that women like Margaret Thatcher and someone like Sarah Palin yes they are women in power, but that is not enough. I personally hated the politics of Margaret Thatcher, I do not have to agree with her just because she is  woman.


         Surely that is the worst kind of fighting the odds. You should not have a discussion because women should be grateful for any chance they have regardless whether you agree with their policy or not. women are not the same, people in positions are not the same. Do not offer the tired, stale argument that because women are in the power then we have won, or that we no longer have discussions. 

        I liked Nina Powers book enormously and it's also quite short, but would thoroughly recommend it. 

         Woman: An Intimate Geography by Natalie Angier. I loved the science of this book. It really opened my mind up to all the rigid concepts that I had about bodies, both men and women. I also really liked her voice.


         Reclaiming the F Word by Catherine Refern and Kristin Aune. What I really liked about this book (I am still reading it I am on chapter 5). Is that it sets things out positively. I often find in books about women and especially feminist books they tend to linger on the suffering, and the negatives. That should be talked about and shown, but this book offers solutions and things that we can all do to prevent the negatives from happening, I thought that this book was really good.


        This is only a sample of feminist work. There are many books out there that I don't agree with. Many that seem dated as it was a good 30 years ago when they were published, their references all seem a little removed from the now. I have always learnt a huge deal from whatever i have read, and books always promote discussion, and I think that is always a healthy thing.      
           I have been doing a lot of knitting this week. I love knitting, it's an activity that really promotes relaxation for me because it engages your hands in a familiar rhythm. I have always liked creating stuff with wool. Knitting also only requires you to know two stitches and the world is your oyster to create anything. 

         So this week I am recommending knitting, it is great to do. I do it when I watch a film (this week knitted through the whole of watching Charade, which I had never seen before) I also knit when I listen to podcasts, and there are quite a few that I listen to.



          I love this picture, and I love knitting, such a relaxing activity. So go forth and knit!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Resolution

            So my New Years resolution is not going as planned. My resolution was to make something creatively twice a month. I made a cake for my Birthday, but didn't take a good enough picture, but that does count and it was in January.

         It was a good cake, lemon and sour cream, but I have let this go in February. Partly because I have been busy vacantly staring into space as well as travelling quite a bit. I am going to make a t-shirt with the word feminist on it, I have cut out the letters, but have not sewn them on yet. Really I think it's apathy going on here.

          I really don't understand it, I like making things, this is why I wanted to make it my resolution. I like doing it, and I like producing things, it's about doing something that I want, something that has been very absent in my life for a while.

          I think sometimes you can be your own worst enemy, and in all the upheaval of my life, that has gone and to come I have to be nice to myself. That means eating well, getting out to do nice things, making nice things, and doing things that I want to do. I am working on it, in the meantime, there is going to a picture of the t-shirt that I am making next week because I'm going to make nice things not just because of my resolution but because I actually want to.

Susan Napier

          I often feel that in the discussion of romances that Categories get left out. This is a real shame to me, there are some great ones out there, and they are hard to do well, so for me deserve all the more respect. It is hard to do a convincing romance in the 180-210 pages that you are given.

         Susan Napier therefore to me deserves a lot of respect. I have liked her books from the first moment I read them. My favourites I think are Mistress of the Groom, The Hawk and The Lamb and Reckless Conduct. To me Mistress of the Groom does a lot of things well. Both the heroine and hero are fierce, tough and strong. I like that the heroine changes first, becomes less aggressive and more able to be vulnerable. This is a woman in Jane that has tried to hide what she sees as weaknesses. Jane eventually learns to accept her vulnerabilities. She does it with the help of the hero. 

          In a turnabout she is the one that gets injured and Ryan is the person that helps her overcome her injuries. There are a lot of books that I could have recommended here that are categories. They are written differently its true from others that are longer, but to me it's like poetry. In a epic you have so many pages to fill and have all of the space you can take (this is from someone who has read Milton's Paradise Lost). There are other types of poetry that really make you choose the words carefully, sonnets really make the poet adjust what words go where. Limits make a writer for me show their talents all the more.

           Susan Napier is a great writer and her categories are great. It's also a great thing to read, as there are huge amounts and once you find the ones that you like, there are many you can find.
   

An assortment

            I have been out of the loop for a good couple of weeks. So to make up for this, March will be a month that I post two posts each week. So more words from May for everyone to be delighted by!

          So I wanted to talk about the fun books that have crossed my path in the last couple of weeks. First up is Mary Roach's Packing for Mars. Something that was huge fun to read (I have got 2 chapters left but so far has been great).


          It has been hugely educational. I like her voice and it is far from dry facts, it talks about excrement in space (which sounds disgusting but is really informative). It talks about what astronauts actually do, and the training that they do. I think for me why this is a fun book, is that it is a subject that I knew next to nothing about and she brings a subtle humour as well as humanity to the people at NASA. They are not faceless super humans in this book, they are people doing all sorts of work. I thoroughly recommend it.

           The main sort of books that I read are romances so these are few that I have read in the last couple of weeks. The Husband Trap by Tracy Ann Warren is the first one I want to talk about. I like her very much as an author.

          I absolutely love the heroine of this book, but really like the hero as well, which can be rare for me. Having said this there are heroes that I really love in their portrayal. Rupert from Clouds Among the Stars, Cal from Bet Me, Leo from Married by Morning, Ford from Tribute, Blue from Forever Blue and Ryan from Mistress of the Groom.

           The Husband Trap has both a heroine and hero that I really like. Violet and Alex are clearly meant to be. There are some steamy scenes as well that illustrate how well they are suited. It also contains the type of romance that I am in love with more than any other. The dowdy heroine that blossoms. I love this type of heroine and trope it's my crack. This is a book that for me does this well. There are many romances that do not do this well, as she comes across as a complete nitwit with no redeeming features, no names, but I know who they are. This book excels in this and I love the ending.

          I also read The Danger of Desire by Elizabeth Essex. I liked both the heroine and the hero. This is book that really united the heroine and hero by their desire for each other. They both try to fight their desire but succumb. What I liked was the heroine is the force behind her own desire, and that she owns her own sexuality which for me is very sexy in the books that I read.


          The thing for me that I liked about this, is that the hero and heroine are very different people and come from very different backgrounds. They are also matched in their skills and how they fight each other. It is well worth reading, and very sexy.

          The last romance I want to talk about is Moonshine by Victoria Clayton. I have been in love with this book for a long time, that I bought full price from a bookshop which is very rare for me. So it's a re-read but I love it so much I'm going to talk about it. 


          I have had this for years. I love the heroine and hero, I also love the setting of Ireland and the characters that weave in and out. I have a soft spot for Maud the mother-in-law of the hero, brash, hard, severe and really brave. I thought she was wonderful. I love how the house is really a character in the book.

          This is a large book, over 600 pages. This is really and epic but definitely a love story. This appeals to the heroine that fights the odds, though not dowdy she blossoms in this book, really comes into her own, as does Constance who I love (the sister of the hero). Bobbie the heroine is what makes me love this book, and read it over and over. A great book.

          So overall I love books, so go forth and read, there are few pleasures that compare.

A Fish Called Wanda

          One of my favourite types of films is farce. One of the reasons I liked watching Noises Off in the theatre so much, as well as the strange film Blind Date (with Kim Basinger and Bruce Willis before Die Hard), it has a funny farce scene with people getting in and out of bedrooms.

         A Fish Called Wanda, though really does farce well. I love this film so very much. Jamie Lee Curtis is wonderful as the heroine Wanda herself, John Cleese, Kevin Kline and Michael Palin make this a joy to watch. Kevin line has never been funnier. It also has a beautiful line about the London Underground. Anything that has a joke about that and does it well, is glorious.


          I think though the reason that this film endures for me, is that the farce and humour come from character. It's a great film and won some Oscars (in this instance I think well deserved). It's a film that for me has not dated. Watch it and be delighted.