Seven winter reads

Before the Internet we lived in dark times in Australia. We knew there was a land out there called America, because our favourite tv shows were from there, although our television execs were very stingy about which ones they felt like showing us.

There was no Twitter, or Facebook or TMZ to tell us what our favourite celebrities were up to. We had to buy Smash Hits, TV Hits, Girlfriend or Dolly and scour the pages for evidence that Edward Furlong was indeed dating Soleil Moon Frye and crushing our hopes of being with him forever.

We were vaguely aware the northern hemisphere seasons were back to front to ours, but it didn’t really affect our every day life because the only time we were really exposed to this was when we watched the Christmas specials of our favourite shows. Watching all the characters prepare for their snowy white Christmases kind of lost its impact when you knew the episode had aired two years earlier in America and was being shown to us in April or some other random month. The only positive thing about having no internet were no spoilers, so we didn’t know what was going to happen in that epic 90210 Christmas episode where Donna and David kissed and Steve Sanders got on a bus to find his real mum.

But then the Internet came and everything changed and the world became this magical place where we don’t have to wait for the good shows to come to us and celebrities reply to us on Twitter and we actually know what’s going on in the world. Now, there’s no escaping it’s summer in America (and the rest of the NH) because my Instagram and Pinterest feeds are blowing up with tanned feet, icy drinks, salad recipes, ice cream cones, short shorts and summer reading lists. Meanwhile, I’m snuggled in my ugg boots and trackies feeling like I’ll never be warm again.

I had found myself being quite jealous of the summer reading lists. For some reason nothing sounds so carefree as taking a book outside to the beach or into a hammock and hanging out in the sunshine reading. But then I snapped out of my jealousy. Because in theory outside summer reading sounds great – but in reality it’s hazardous with sand, ants, dust, flies, and wind to contend with. Not to mention sunburn. In winter you can avoid all that by simply just staying in bed. Plump, cushy pillows, soft blankets, and an ant-free snack in reach. Doesn’t that sound better? I think it sounds amaze.

So my fellow Southern Hemispherians. Here’s my winter reads wishlist that’s worth staying in bed for. (They’re not all new books. Just books I want to read.)

1. Along For The Ride – Sarah Dessen 

Along for the ride - Sarah DessenAuden’s an uptight girl with no friends and a superiority complex. In the summer before college she stays with her father and his new wife in a small town where she meets girls, boys and finds out a bit about herself.  Sarah Dessen does YA coming of age so well – in someone else’s hands her books could be a bit trite and forumlaic, but she layers her characters and slowly reveals back stories to create a compelling read. I’m halfway through this one and enjoying where Auden is at so far.

2. We Were Liars – E. Lockhart

We were liars - E. Lockhart In a horrifying throwback to the dark days, according to Allen & Unwin this isn’t being published/made available in Australia until August 2014, while Americans have had their hands on it since May. Catch up book industry! I want my books ASAP!  With buzz like “haunting” “sophisticated” and “blisteringly smart” this one is firmly on my reading list.

3. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) – Mindy Kaling

Is everyone hanging out with out me - Mindy KalingAnother book I’ve been unable to find on my local store’s shelves. Funny, relatable, smart, Mindy has found success without looking like Paris Hilton and I kinda like that about her. So I want to read about it. I also like to laugh out loud when I read, so here’s hoping IEHOWM(AOC) delivers, when I finally get my hands on a copy.

4. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl - Gillian FlynnSo I have the first 45 pages of this as a sample on my iPad. I think I read 38 pages and then forgot about it. Doesn’t really seem like I should have this on my list of “must reads” this winter does it? But there’s going to be a movie, and I want to see it because: Ben Affleck, so I’ll stick to my rule of reading the book before the movie and suck it up and finish this one.

5. The Haunting of Lily Frost – Nova Weetman

The Haunting of Lily Frost - Nova WeetmanAn Australian YA ghost story, by a debut author. These are all things I like so much. I’m in.

6. If I Stay – Gayle Forman

If I Stay - Gayle FormanThe reviews say: tragic, hopeful, romantic, uplifting, this story examines love and life and why we keep breathing. Also, there’s going to be a movie, so you know my rule.

7. Harry Potter – JK Rowling

Harry Potter - JK RowlingI love re-reading my favourites. Disaster struck recently when I went to pull out all my Harry books for my semi-regular re-read and found I was missing the first two. DISASTER! Where are they? Lucky I was able to borrow them and am now happily halfway through The Chamber of Secrets. But that doesn’t solve the problem of where my books are…

What are you reading this winter/summer?

Images from goodreads.com

Five tips on dealing with rejection. From an expert.

Oh, you’re wondering who the expert is? That’s me. I’ve dealt with A LOT of rejection in my time. As an introvert I’m particularly unsuccessful at job applications. People are looking for bright, bubbly, upbeat interviewees, not terrified looking girls who blush and stammer. I wish there was a crystal ball I could use at interviews that displays a vision six months into the future demonstrating what an awesome employee I’d turn out to be, but alas. The world fails me on that front.

Recently I had a day I’m now calling Double Rejection Monday. I found out I was unsuccessful for two jobs I’d recently applied for – and one of them I reaaally wanted.

Of course, when you’re freelancing or job hunting rejection is just par for the course. You start to get used to it. Double Rejection Monday (DRM) should have been just like any other day of rejection for me – shake it off, pick myself up and carry on.

But not this day. I don’t know what it was. It was like DRM found the chink in my armour, grabbed its sharpest knife and stuck it into my soul. I took these rejections personally, and convinced I wasn’t successful because I was a terrible, incapable, untalented person I spent the majority of the day in tears. Real, actual tears.

We all have these days. We’re not designed to keep calm and carry on 24/7 – everyone has their own version of DRM. What do you do when it happens?

I’ve developed my own personal coping mechanisms. I’m going to share mine and if you have any tips that work for you (like: eat ice cream) I’m all ears.

1. Cry

Sometimes you just have to give in and let the sadness overtake you before getting up and dusting yourself off. I grabbed my tissues, took myself to the couch and just had at it.

2. Eat cake

Eat the cake

Eat the cake

Honestly on my best day I need no encouragement. But if there’s ever an excuse, besides birthdays, to eat some cake and have a pity party, a day like DRM is it. Just eat the cake and let the sugar take over for a bit.

3. Give yourself a time limit for the wallowing

Once you’ve let yourself give into it, don’t forget to pull yourself out of it. Sometimes I have a tendency to be quite negative. If I don’t give myself a time limit to stop the sadness it’ll take over. So I gave myself a deadline – after that deadline it was time to wash my face, hide the rest of the cake, fix up my make up, force myself to smile and get going with the next stage.

4. Talk to a friend

I sent two of my closest and most trusted friends a simple message that said I was having a crap day and felt like shit. And then I asked how their day was going. Talking about their day helped me take my mind of my own, and gave me back some perspective.

5. Make exercise the very first thing you do the next day 

Starting the next day with a lung bursting run, or busting up the boxing bag is the BEST way to physically and psychologically wipe the slate clean. I forced myself to go to the gym and the exercise endorphins did wonders for boosting my positivity. I felt strong and like I could tackle anything, even a Double Rejection Tuesday.

And you know what? The rest of that week turned out pretty great. I managed to pick up a couple of other projects I’m really excited about, I was productive, did some good planning for my business and ended up getting this handbag I’d been eyeing off for ages at like, 60 per cent off! Suck on that DRM!

The electronic light of my life is gone

The spinning wheel of death has paid me a visit and it has taken from me. Last week my laptop, after displaying some early warning signs, finally gave up, laid down and died. Its logic is all gone apparently (something about the logic-board and the whatever – I don’t speak IT) and economically I may as well just buy a new one.

First of all: hooray for backing up and cloud storage. It made things a little easier to bear.

But life has become hard. I am typing this on our desktop computer, to which I am now chained. No more blogging, surfing and time wasting in bed, on the couch or wherever the hell I want. I am banished to the office, the only room in the house without heating.

Sometimes I used to hook my laptop up to my TV so I could watch Pitch Perfect (stored on my computer) on my TV. I can’t do that anymore.

And it’s really hard to type long emails on an iPad.

Woe. It is me.

I feel like this abandoned bear, dragged into the hallway by our puppy. Lost, turned around, unsure of ever finding my way in a lonely world and a little bit wet and cold.

Processed with VSCOcam with t2 preset

 

If you have a dead computer story please share it with me. We can talk about happier times.

10 best things about the Veronica Mars movie

Spoilers ahead!

All of the spoilers!

If you have not seen the Veronica Mars movie, and you want to, then don’t read this. I can’t be held responsible for what will happen if you keep scrolling and see spoilers.

Ok.

I wanted to see the Veronica Mars movie, because really, what was all the fuss about? They used Kickstarter to raise funds? Why were people so passionate about Veronica? Having never watched the show, I didn’t know. So I did what any reasonable person would do: bought all three seasons and watched them within the space of weeks. I won’t admit to how small a timeframe passed between the first episode and the last one, for fear you’ll judge me. But once I was done with the series, I immediately downloaded the movie, because I was hooked.

It was a slow burn though. Veronica’s arrogance is kind of annoying at times. I wasn’t sure I liked her. And the story of the week mysteries didn’t really hold my attention, it was the overarching season-long mysteries I liked. Visually it didn’t appeal to me – the first few episodes in particular were shot with exaggerated colours and tones and it kind of hurt my eyes to look at. But I got over all that, and the exact moment that happened was when Veronica cried with relief at finding out Keith was her actual biological father and I found myself crying along with her. The Veronica-Keith relationship is pretty much THE BEST. These characters get under your skin and you don’t even realise it’s happening.

So now I get it. If you were a fan from the original days and you had waited seven long years for this movie, after the series was prematurely cancelled in 2007, then I understand how momentous an occasion it would be to see it. I was excited to see it and not 24 hours had passed since I’d finished the series. And to its credit the jump from series to movie was pretty seamless. It played like an extra long episode of tv, and in this case that’s definitely not a bad thing. Here’s my top 10 favourite things about the long awaited for Veronica Mars movie.

10. Dick Casablancas

What's up Dick? Image from veronicamarsnews.tumblr.com

What’s up Dick? Image from veronicamarsnews.tumblr.com

This guy. If there’s ever a remake of Dazed and Confused Ryan Hansen could step into the Matthew McConaughey character without blinking, because that’s exactly who I see every time I look at him. Dick’s return was pretty epic. I’m not sure what was my favourite bit. That he was shirtless the first time he’s on screen? That he immediately goes back to piling shit on Veronica? He’s the only person who gets away with calling her Ronnie? The hip flask belt buckle? No. The BEST Dick Casablancas bit belongs to the fight scene, where he dives into the fray with an inexplicable OC reference: “Welcome to the BC bitch!” Classic Dick.

9. Piz’s dancing 

He's blurry - that's his commitment

He’s blurry – that’s his commitment

So the whole Piz-Veronica thing, I’m not buying it. When he first appeared I was like, Piz? Really? Stop trying to make Piz happen. Although the story took great pains to explain they’d only been dating for a year and not since college I still didn’t really buy that. Piz is nowhere near exciting enough for Veronica, and Veronica is not nice enough for Piz. I didn’t understand why she wouldn’t just be dating a random guy, but if she was then we would have been denied the dancing. And that would have been a crime against mankind, because Piz dancing is a reason to keep waking up in the morning. Also, his Buffy reference at the Neptune High reunion “it really does sit on a hellmouth” = best.

8. Wallace! Mac! Wallace and Mac! And Mac’s hair!

Mac and Wallace - heart!

Mac and Wallace – heart!

These two are wonderful and never got enough to do on the show. Was it just me or was there a nice vibe between the two of them? And can we talk about how stylin’ Mac’s hair looked? Love them.

7. Weevil!

Weevil!

Weevil!

We had to wait too long to see Weevil but when we did he didn’t disappoint. He managed to get himself shot and have his attacker claim it was in self-defence because he threatened her. Typical Weevil reaction: “get this case dismissed before anyone believes the words ‘time to party’ came out of my mouth”. Love him.

6. Veronica’s sharp tongue

Fuck off Justin Long

Fuck off Justin Long

Something great about being in movie-land rather than tv is characters can swear. Veronica’s brush off tactics as a series of guys try and hit on her at a club are super funny. My favourite bit was when she turned to Justin Long and said simply: “fuck off”. How many times do you think the V Mars of tv land wanted to be able to say that?

5. Dax Shepard dancing

Dax Shepard - wordless cameo = best

Dax Shepard – wordless cameo = best

Dax’s wordless cameo as ‘overconfident club boy’ is about 10 seconds worth of gold.

4. The new sheriff’s password

The new Sheriff (and hi Cliff!)

The new Sheriff (and hi Cliff!)

Jerry O’Connell fit right in as the new Sheriff Lamb. Who is kinda exactly like the old Sheriff Lamb. Anyway, his computer password (hacked by Mac of course) is JohnnyUtah69. I can’t even deal with how great that is.

3. No Duncan 

No Duncan. Woo!

No Duncan. Woo!

Ugh Duncan. Absolutely my least favourite character, he was just this void of nothingness. The only time he hinted at having personality was that episode where he played drunk at Logan’s poker game. Hooray for no Duncan. But I do think Lily Kane should have been included in the memorial slide show at the Neptune High reunion.

2. Hel-lo Leo!

Max Greenfield really worked that polo shirt

Max Greenfield really worked that polo shirt

Of all the character returns Leo’s was the best. Charming, smiling, Deputy Leo was my second favourite of Veronica’s boys.

1. Logan and Veronica (LoVe)

Never has leaning looked so good

Never has leaning looked so good

In the tv series I found their first kiss to be somewhat awkward and thought it came out of nowhere. I didn’t get the shipper love for these two. And I didn’t understand the attraction to Logan. He has weird hand gestures and in the show wore terrible orange shirts with ugly shell necklaces all the time. But then their relationship matured, as did their on-screen chemistry and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I was ALL ABOUT dark, tortured Logan. I am not sure what it says about me that I like Logan the most when he’s punching people in the face for getting up in Veronica’s grill. I’m sure it’s not good and sets back feminist thinking several decades. However. I still like it and he does not disappoint in this movie. There’s dress uniforms and heroic moments, leaning against cars and punching people in the face for getting up in Veronica’s grill. Veronica had no chance. I love them together.

Some more thoughts:

  • Exactly how many times in his life will Logan be accused of murder?
  • Veronica and Logan haven’t spoken in years but when he calls she not only has his name programmed into her phone but a recent headshot as his contact photo? Ok. Convenient.
Keith's face when he sees Veronica is the BEST

Keith’s face when he sees Veronica is the BEST

  • Veronica and Keith felt kind of disconnected in the movie. There wasn’t enough time for them, although their reunion and banter was totally awesome.

 

  • I did not enjoy the Weevil getting shot thing – I mean where is that going? I know there’s a book to continue the storyline but it felt too open-ended for a movie.
  • Veronica’s voiceover drawing comparisons about her love for Logan being like an addiction seemed disingenuous. Veronica Mars is nobody’s bitch man. She is with Logan because she wants to be, not because she’s addicted to him.

My final thought? (Because more than 1000 words about Veronica Mars is enough).

Logan and Veronica

Logan and Veronica

The best V Mars tv scene was when Logan tells Veronica: “I thought our story was epic, you know, you and me. Spanning years and continents. Lives ruined, blood shed. Epic.” It’s sweet that Logan calls back to this in the movie, but in the show he said he was too drunk to remember that conversation. So what was it? He was lying? Or do we assume Veronica filled in the blanks for him in an off screen moment? I like the idea he was lying. That’s something Logan would do.

So, yeah. As a newcomer to Neptune I was totally into the Veronica Mars movie. It tied up a few loose ends from the series (it really should not have been cancelled, they had so much more in the tank) and opened up a few new ones. Apparently the budget, funded primarily by Kickstarter was $5.7 million. Here’s what I want to know. How can Hollywood justify a $40 million budget for a movie like The Host (post-Twilight Stephenie Myer book turned movie about aliens), which was almost unwatchable, but they couldn’t pony up $6 million for a movie based on a series that is passionately loved by an established audience? Don’t they want to make money? Somewhere out there there’s a studio exec who should be beating his head on a desk for passing on a V Mars movie.

V Mars boys - come at me

V Mars boys – come at me

 

Image credit: Forever Young Adult

Review: Jasper Jones, by Craig Silvey

The final review for book week is for Jasper Jones. It’s my book of the week!

Western Australia, 1965 and a girl is dead. For Charlie Bucktin, he receives this news before anyone else in the town, when Jasper Jones taps on his window late at night and asks for help in hiding the body. But Charlie’s no accomplice to murder, because the only crime Jasper is guilty of is being half-Aboriginal, and being involved romantically with Laura, the dead girl.

And so begins Charlie’s story, where against the searing WA sun he struggles with the weight of helping Jasper and keeping the terrible secret of disposing of Laura. If that wasn’t enough, Charlie has to deal with racism and violence against his best friend’s family (they’re Vietnamese), locks horns with his irredeemable mother and falls in love for the first time, with Laura’s sister.

Although the story bears Jasper’s name, it’s really more of a symbolic thing, the story is Charlie’s and Jasper doesn’t actually appear that much. But when he does he makes an impact; Silvey has a gift for creating realistic dialogue for characters. I loved Charlie and his best friend Jeffrey Lu’s banter, in particular their discussion about who is best of the superheros.

Charlie is a great character – bit precocious, but that assists us in believing Charlie is the one person in town Jasper would turn to. And Jeffrey Lu dances off the page – I loved him and didn’t even mind that his greatest love was cricket. I mean, I read several pages dedicated to describing a cricket game and actually enjoyed it. Didn’t understand any of it: “The next ball is flipped easily down wide of fine leg” (what?) but I didn’t care because it was entertaining and tense and I was totally in Jeffrey’s corner.

As a coming of age story of course our hero Charlie is a bit of an awkward misfit and his internal thoughts about how he appears to others are at times hilarious: “Jasper pauses to feed a cigarette into his mouth. Wordlessly, he shakes the battered pack my way. I’ve never smoked before. I’ve certainly never been offered one. I feel a surge of panic. Wanting both to decline and impress, for some reason I decide to press my palms to my stomach and puff my cheeks when I wag my head at his offer, as if to suggest that I’ve smoked so many already this evening that I’m simply too full to take another.” I laughed out loud.

A few things to nit pick on – at times the staccato rhythm of too many short sentences at once grated on my nerves, there was never enough Jasper, I never really truly understood why Jasper chose Charlie to help him (although I accepted it) and I was disappointed in the direction Silvey took Charlie’s mother. She ends up as a two-dimensional evil type character when I was hoping for more than that for her.

My copy has “an Australian To Kill a Mockingbird” printed on it, and while I get the similarities: small town, racism, Boo Radley type character, coming of age etc, it’s not quite at that level. Actually I think the prejudice against Jasper could have been pushed even further than it was, for more impact, and to raise the stakes.

However, minor details aside, I loved this story. When my working day was done and it was time to read I couldn’t wait to jump back into the pages and find out what was happening with Charlie, Jasper and Jeffrey. If I’m paying $23.99 for a book than this is the kind of writing I want to read.

Book rating 4.5 sparkly stars out of 5.

Review: Panic, by Lauren Oliver

“Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a poor town of twelve thousand people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.”

imagesDo you stop breathing, close your eyes, clench your fists? Or do you give in to hysteria; run in circles, cry, hyperventilate? Whichever option you go with, when you panic you usually don’t go anywhere. Except in the town of Carp, where the game of Panic is one person’s golden ticket out of a dead-end life and into the world.

The annual, high-stakes game of Panic, like an uber truth or dare (minus the truth part) is held every summer when graduating seniors contribute to a cash prize with the winner taking all. For Heather, Panic is an escape, for Dodge it’s his opportunity for revenge.

I really liked Panic, and breathed a sigh of relief when I opened it to find a solid third person, past tense narrative. I’m not a fan of present tense, and the last few books I’ve reviewed have used that.  Combined with a first person show-not-tell style of narrative, I was getting kind of tired of being inside some of these character’s heads (Second Chance Summer, I’m looking at you). I was hankering for some technique and Panic delivered.

This was fast paced, with action, some mystery, nuanced relationships and characters and a love story on the side.

The story is told via alternating points of view from Heather and Dodge. In a refreshing move for a contemporary YA story with split perspective, these two main characters aren’t each other’s love interests and this keeps the narrative from becoming too insular. However, for me the story was Heather’s. She was more developed and I found her connection with her little sister and desire to protect her from a terrible home life a little more fleshed out than Dodge’s backstory.

Oliver creates the setting of the hopeless town of Carp realistically, I even found faint shadows of the way Stephen King draws his small towns, with their bubbling undercurrent of violence. Her description of the action is tight and well paced. There were some minor quibbles I had with the writing, in particular some actions became a little repetitively played out. For example, it seemed like every time Dodge smoked a cigarette it was never because he wanted one, but just to use it as a prop in the midst of an existential thinking session. And I’m being super picky here but there was a typo with one heading chapter entitled ‘Dedge’ instead of ‘Dodge’. It’s not a reason to rate the book down however, the obvious mistake did pull me out of the story for a bit, and I’m a bit sad that e-books seem to have a multitude of typos and mistakes in them these days. Where’s the editing love?

The ending was a little rushed, and it’s my opinion Heather was a bit too quick to forgive some major transgressions by her friends, but on the whole the suspense, original concept and complex characters kept me interested. Apparently the movie rights have been optioned. I’d love to see this as a movie, with some Friday Night Lights style cinematography I think it would really work.

Book rating: four out of five: two very enthusiastic thumbs up!