reading

Book Review: Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic

1:00 pm


I will happily announce myself as one of those people who read Eat Pray Love and felt changed by it. Not monumentally, but it's one of those books I can add to my list of things that changed my perspective on living. I wrote a little bit about it back in September of last year. We won't talk about the film because that was dire.

Since then I've been following what Elizabeth Gilbert has been up to, noting down any new releases or any projects she's announced. I never picked up the 'sequel' Committed as I felt the subject (marriage) didn't really have any sway on me at the time, and I still haven't picked up any of her fiction writing, despite The Signature of All Things being relatively close to the top of my TBR after hearing a segment from it read on The Dinner Party Download (I think).

Big Magic takes us through Liz's beliefs about creativity and how she believes it to work. She talks about our fear of being creative as we worry everything we create will fail, and how we need to be able to create without this fear, as success should not be our only desire. She openly discusses her feelings of having a handful of only moderately successful books after the enormous popularity of Eat Pray Love and how that no longer affects her as she creates what she wants and needs to create, despite how well other people will receive it. Creating is a personal endeavor.

One of my favourite sections from the book surrounded the idea that ideas themselves only hang around for a certain amount of time before finding someone else to turn them into something tangible. Liz talks about this idea for a novel she had and planned for a long period of time, before getting distracted by other things, and by the time she went back to it, the idea had disappeared. Years later after first meeting author Ann Patchett only a few times, a conversation led to the revelation that Ann herself had this idea for the novel too, but Ann stuck with it and eventually published. It's very bizarre how almost identical their stories were, down to very specific details, despite never speaking to one another about it previously. Big. Magic.

After Big Magic had been announced, I discovered via someone's blog that Elizabeth had started releasing podcast episodes as a companion to the release of the book. In each episode she would interview someone who had been in contact with her about losing their bond with their creativity, either after the death of a loved one, being stuck in 'the most boring job in the world', or just not having time for themselves after having children. Gilbert would apply some of the ideas from her book to their situations in order to create an action plan and a new way of thinking about creativity in order for them to create what they were wanting to create. In alternate episodes to the interviews, she would interview a famous creator and introduce them to the issue the person was having in order to gain a different perspective. Gilbert and the creator would share their ideas on creativity, and give them more advice on how to move forward. The two final episodes of the podcast were were it really shone, the penultimate going back and interviewing the women from earlier podcasts and seeing where they were creatively in the present. It was fascinating to see how far they'd come and what plans they had for the future. In the final episode, Elizabeth chatted with her friend Brené Brown (who I also LOVE) about creativity, their friendship, and life. It was rather inspiring.

Back to the book: I adored Big Magic. It was completely different to Eat Pray Love, but just as inspiring and refreshing. The small sections of the book made it easy to consume and immediately reflect back on, with Liz's thoughts integrated with personal anecdotes as well as the stories of other creatives. Despite not being myself what I'd call a 'creative' (i.e. not working in a creative field), I found this book very helpful in adjusting my way of thinking about why I do things. Throughout my life I've had creative ideas, but given up on them after one page, branding myself as not creative enough.

Now I'm starting to think otherwise.

M x

advice

How to Survive Your Degree 101: MASTERS EDITION

1:00 pm


Guess what's back, back again. Me-dishing-out-life-advice is back, tell a friend. But really, term-time is upon us and some of you might be heading off to university for some postgraduate fun.

Many of you old friends will remember back in the May of 2014 I wrote a post titled 'How to Survive Your Degree 101 (ish)' and, well, it went down rather well, to the point of somebody explicitly mentioning it as something they liked about my blog in my reader survey. Now that I've officially finished my MA and will be getting my results in November (but not graduating until April; I'll have forgotten I've even done an MA by then), I thought what better time than ever, whilst it's still fresh-ish in my mind, to share some tips I've picked up along the way, and share with you all how I managed to keep up.

Side note: my MA was literary in subject so these tips won't be 100% applicable to more scientific and technical subjects. 

As a little bit of background, I did my MA full-time, which means I did two core modules and two options modules in twelve months, rather than a two-year part-time course. I was one of only two people to choose this option as everybody else had jobs and families and lives to get on with that meant they sensibly chose to space their studies out and give themselves the summer off in the middle. Naturally, we clung to each other, knowing we were the only the people feeling the weight of this unbelievably heavy workload. Although it is doable, I would recommend doing your MA part-time if you have a full-time job, or children to look after, or other commitments that take up most of your day. If I didn't have full stretches of empty days to write essays during, I'm not sure I would have gotten it all done. For my January and April deadlines I had 10,000 words to write, and then I had the summer to plan and write my 15,000 word dissertation. That's a lot of words.

When it comes to writing assignments, be creative and write about what has interested you. There will nearly always be the possibility for you to amend the example questions given to you or make up your own question. Take this opportunity and run with it. From my experience I know my best assignments have been the one where I've written about something I love, enjoyed learning more about, and could write about in an honest manner. Trying to find redeeming features to write about when studying a text you didn't enjoy is going to result in a stunted, unimaginative piece of work. Unlike in your undergraduate degree, your postgraduate tutors will be looking for original ideas backed up with research, rather than someone else's ideas you've found in a book in the library. You're heading further towards research-based studies, meaning it's more about your ideas, rather than answering questions currently and basing everything you say on what someone else has said. I relished the fact I could finally write about comic books, and write about them I did.

Make the most of the resources you have. Whilst at undergraduate level many university libraries are reluctant to offer the service of inter-library loans, this is an important resource to be used at postgraduate level. If your library doesn't have books you believe will be crucial to your research, submit an inter-library loan request through them and find out if another library in the country has the item you need. Some libraries offer this free of charge, some require a small fee, but it's an invaluable resource if not using it risks missing out on something that could really help you move forward. Another thing to look out for is SCONUL Access, a scheme where you can contact another university's library and ask for temporary access for research. Again, the terms of this vary from university to university. Some will allow you to borrow books, some will be reference only, many won't allow the use of electronic resources. But it's worth applying for if you know you're going to be away from your main university for a while, live nearby to another, and know you've got a lot of work to get on with.

Seriously though, you're paying a lot for this degree. Use everything you can.

My final tip would be to practice taking it easy and giving yourself a break. You've got a lot of work to do and it needs to get done, but if you're working from the moment you wake up to the moment you collapse into bed, you're not going to be creating your best work. You're going to be running yourself ragged, then beating yourself up when the feedback you receive isn't as good as you wanted it to be. This is a good time to be practicing scheduling. Separate your day and week off into hour blocks, or however long you can work well for without a break (say 45 minutes, or maybe 90) and designate a task to each of those blocks. Allow yourself breaks, and not silly 10 minute ones either. Proper breaks where you can make yourself a meal, have a long bath or shower, watch an episode of your favourite TV show, read a chapter of your book. Also make sure you use this time to create things that aren't to do with your degree, even if it's a page of colouring-in, or a blog post. You'll still be using your brain, but the pressure to create something perfect won't be there, and you can create for creation's sake. Can you tell I've been reading Big Magic?

So those are my top tips for keeping calm whilst studying for your masters degree. I may think of some more in the future, in which case I'll pop up another blog post. If you have any questions on the topic, please feel free to leave them in the comments below, or tweet me @meganlilli_. Sharing the good vibes.

M x

reading

Quick Book Reviews: Jenny Lawson, Maggie Stiefvater, and Caroline Kepnes

1:00 pm


Three very different books: personal essays on mental illness, young adult fantasy sequel, second-person narrated thriller.


* I was fortunate to receive a copy of Furiously Happy via Netgalley and Pan Macmillan, thank you! *

This memoir had been on my radar for a couple of months before I saw Leena's Book Break video which absolutely cemented it onto my TBR. It took me another few days to realise that I actually had an eARC of it from NetGalley already downloaded. D'oh. Furiously Happy is a memoir on Jenny's experiences with mental illness, mainly depression but featuring a whole host of others. The book takes the form of short stories of varying lengths, some single pages, some multiples of ten, either talking about her diagnosis and experiences with doctors, or more humorous events in her life caused by her quest to be 'furiously happy' as a way of getting through life. Jenny's furious happiness causes her to do some rather curious things, such as adopting a taxidermy raccoon, hence the cover. I really enjoyed her stories and appreciated a more 'positive' memoir about some truly horrible things she has to endure. Unfortunately it didn't completely hold my attention at times and I found myself searching forwards to see how much longer of the story there was. Side note: how glorious is that cover though?

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

As you will already know, I loved the precursor to this novel, The Raven Boys, and I can happily say this sequel did not disappoint. In fact, I might even say I hold it in higher standing than the previous. I know, I know, a big statement, but some of the events of this book made me shake it furiously/excitedly/overwhelmingly/delete as appropriate. I can't talk a lot about the plot as it would spoil The Raven Boys for anyone who hasn't read it, but if you love Ronan, this is the book for you. It centres around his background and why he is how he is, which is at times very heartbreaking. I can't wait to pick up Blue Lily, Lily Blue!

You by Caroline Kepnes

OH BOY. I don't even know where to start with this. You is the story of Joe, a bookseller, and what happens when he meets Beck, a young literature student. What happens is that he looks her up on Facebook, learns everything he can about her, eventually steals her phone, and stalks her entire life, physically and online. It's not a cheerful or comfortable storyline, but the way it's told is completely gripping. You is told in the second person, which is something I don't think I've read a book in before, but it lends itself so well to this sort of story. We hear Joe's thoughts about Beck as he follows her around, and after a while it begins to feel like he's talking about the reader: 'You walk into the bookstore and you keep your hand on the door to make sure it doesn't slam. You smile, embarrassed to be a nice girl, and your nails are bare...'. It's incredibly creepy, but I found myself unable to put it down when reading at home, and reluctant to get off the train on my commute when it meant I had to wait until the way home to find out what happens next. The story moves very quickly and I didn't find myself bored at any time, which also made me feel gross because it's such a horrible story that could easily happen in the real world. For that reason, if you've experienced stalking in the past or have a real fear of it, do not read this book. Kepnes has done a very good job at making me very uncomfortable. 

M x

reading

My Current Non-Fiction TBR

1:00 pm


The rainbow effect of these books was completely accidental, hence why the yellow is underneath the green.

I'm a big lover of non-fiction reads, but they're also something I'm prone to stopping reading halfway through and leaving unread for several years after. Three of these books have bookmarks in and I couldn't tell you how long ago it was that I started reading them. It's not a case of not enjoying them, not at all. The length of the majority of these books usually means halfway through I get bored reading about the same subject so need to take a break, then forget to go back to them. 

Over the next few months I'm planning on cutting down my non-fiction physical TBR by finishing the books I've already started, beginning again if I've forgotten what I've already read, or picking them up for the first time. There's quite a variety of subjects here as I often get gifted non-fiction from my Amazon wishlist, which I'll add random books to and forget where I even got the recommendations from. Kingdom of Infinite Space and Smarter Than You Think are two that I definitely don't remember reading about, but definitely asked for.

Women in Antiquity by Charles Seltman - What it says on the tin: women in antiquity.

A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor - MacGregor uses historical artifacts and inventions to tell us about the history of the world, from mummies and coins to paintings and credit cards.

The Egyptian Myths: A Guide to the Ancient Gods and Legends by Garry J. Shaw - After learning about the Ancient Egyptians what seems like 100 times at school, I've been fascinated by their worship. After loving Thames & Hudson's publication on Greek and Roman gods, I know I'm going to find this volume informative and very well laid out.

Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield - The history of various typefaces and their original uses.

Periodic Tales: The Curious Lives of the Elements by Hugh Aldersey-Williams - A history of the elements of the period table. Each chapter tells you about the discovery or invention of an element, and details examples of their usages. I read 250 pages of this book on a summer holiday and never picked it up again, unfortunately.

The Kingdom of Infinite Space by Raymond Tallis - This book takes you on a journey around the brain and your senses, talking about what makes the 'self' and the science behind the things that make us 'us', such as blushing, giggling, and crying.

The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film by J. W. Rinzler - I have a Star Trek bookmark in this one like I was purposely trying to piss someone off in the past. This is basically the story of the first Star Wars film and how the series came into being. It's a pretty good read; there are photos and scripts inside to go along with the main text. I don't know why I ever put this down as it was a fascinating story. As far as I'm aware, there's a whole large-size hardback collection of this series now for each film in the original trilogy.

Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing our Minds for the Better by Clive Thompson - As far as I remember, this is a book that goes against the idea that technology is making us stupid and lazy. I approve.

M x

reading

Current Library Borrowings #1

1:00 pm


Slightly different from my 'On the Library Shelf' series, 'Current Library Borrowings' will track what happens prior to reviewing these books: actually planning to read them. One definite perk of my new job is the huge amount of choice I have of books (and DVDs, and CDs) I can borrow, meaning (hopefully) my book-buying will reduce and save me some pennies. 

I'm big into reading non-fiction, and having access to huge swathes of non-fiction material is something I'm definitely going to make the most of. Whereas I can get fiction books from most libraries, academic libraries naturally get stocked with mainly NF works. With my masters degree over, I'm open to learning new things about absolutely anything, so perusing the library catalogue for subjects that interest me has been a lot of fun.

I first picked up Never Had It So Good after finding it on a reshelving trolley, all alone. Now I've had my eye on this book for several years now, but never picked myself up a copy, so imagine my joy to see it sitting there waiting for me. After watching The Hour during my time at university, I became fascinated with the period of the late 1950s to the mid-1960s. The Suez Canal crisis, riots, The Beatles, James Bond. All fascinating to read about and I can't wait to finally open up this hefty volume and learn as much as I can.

My only other non-fiction picking at the moment is Everyday Sexism, the book inspired by Laura Bates' experience running the site of the same name and the twitter feed @EverydaySexism where people write in about their experiences in the normal world with gender inequality. I know it'll be far from a fun read, but it's something I'm interested in educating myself about as I usually stick to the more positive reads regarding the achievements of women and feminism.

The last book I picked from the library is The Once and Future King by T.H. White. I've been interested in the myths of King Arthur, Merlin, the Lady in the Lake, all of them since as far back as I can remember. When I was a child I frequently got a puzzle book out of the library based on the story of the sword in the stone. I also re-watched my recorded video of The Sword in the Stone more than I could count. Now as an adult I've been researching what people have called the key texts that sum up or adapt these myths, and The Once and Future King was certainly the one that came up the most. This tells the story of King Arthur from his childhood as a squire, training with Merlin, reign as king, Knights of the Round Table, and eventual death. I am so excited to read this enormous tome.

I also picked up a DVD titled The Works of Director Spike Jonze as a quick watch, as I loved Her and the music videos of his that I've seen.

M x

P-P-P-Pick Up a Podcast #3

1:00 pm


And welcome to my third installment of my podcast recommendation posts! You can find the first and second posts here and here, with some wonderful podcasts I still listen to mentioned, but today's post will be adding to that already sparkling list.

I spend a lot of my time listening to podcasts: getting ready in the morning, sitting on the bus, commuting to work, cooking and cleaning. If ever there's a moment where my full brain power isn't required, I'll be listening to a podcast. There's one for every mood, and my new episodes list is never, ever empty. If anyone is interested, I use Overcast as my podcast app as I find it a lot more user-friendly than the built-in Apple podcast app. If you pay for a one-off membership, you get to create playlists of podcasts, among other things, the best being the 'smart speed' function which removes any pauses from episodes. I think since using it I've saved about 8 hours of listening time, and I've experienced no drop in audio quality either. Time-saving with no sacrifice!

This is not an ad. I just really love Overcast.

Personal Development

The Joy Junkie Show - Amy E. Smith and her Mr talk you through their badass life advice, whether it's telling you how to stand up for yourself without looking like a dick, what you own self-care could look like, or why you're putting things off that you need to do.

Punk Rock Personal Development - Another kick-ass woman telling you how it is. Lots of actionable advice on how to sort your life out in a way that works for you. A bit woo-woo at times, but totally fun and funky fresh.

Magic Lessons - The one and only Elizabeth Gilbert created podcast episodes leading up to the release of her new book, Big Magic (review soon!), interviewing women who feel like they're at odds with their creativity. Honestly, I feel like writing a thousand novels after listening to this.

Tech and Culture

Cortex - If you're a listener of Hello Internet, you know how furiously organised and...let's say unique CGP Grey is. This is a podcast hosted by Myke Hurley, probing the brain of Grey and finding out how he works. It makes me giggle just as much as HI, and I learn a lot about productivity along the way.

D&D is For Nerds - Want to listen to a group of adults struggle to play D&D on a weekly basis? This is for you. Probably the most hilarious of all of the podcasts I listen to, this has had me snorting with pained laughter on the train to work.

Rerun - A new addition for me. Listen to famous people talking about their favourite episode of their favourite TV show. The first episode of Tavi Gevinson talking about Freaks and Geeks. Yes, it's that good.

Stories

Death, Sex & Money - Another new one for me, but one that's been on my radar for a while now. Anna Sale presents us with stories about the things that mean the most to us as a society: death, sex, and money.

Lore - A podcast about folklore. There are some fascinatingly creepy episodes here that I would urge anyone with an interest in the supernatural or old tales to listen to. The world is a seemingly inexplicable place. My favourite episode so far has certainly been 'Dinner at the Afterglow'.

Mystery Show - Starlee Kine fell in love with mysteries as a child, and now she will solve your mysteries for you, in the form of a podcast.

First Time - Do you remember where you were when you got your first period? There's a podcast for that.

Now we're all up to speed, share with me in the comments some of your favourite podcasts so I can add even more to my already unmanageable rotation!

M x

reading

Book Review: Caitlin Moran's How to Build a Girl

1:00 pm


Johanna Morrigan is a girl of bigs: big mouth, big dreams, big boots. It's 1990, she's sixteen, and things are starting to get in full-swing, but Johanna isn't part of it. She's still in school, living with her parents and excessive amount of siblings in the Midlands, enduring her father's alcoholism and unmet dream of becoming a music STAR. In an attempt to escape the 'boring' mayhem of her life for one of more 'interesting' mayhem, she goes about trying to find a dream, embarrassing herself in the process. She resolves to reinvent herself, killing Johanna Morrigan to be reborn as Dolly Wilde, music journalist, sex goddess, heavy smoker, and all-round badass (in her eyes). 

How to Build a Girl takes us through Joanna's transformation into Dolly, and takes us to London where she starts her career whilst still in her youth as an infamously loud-mouthed, cynical music journalist. We she her embarking to become a non-virgin, eager to become a mythical sex goddess before she's even kissed anybody, with some hilariously awful results (the best resulting in her spending an entire party sitting clothed in a bath). From this description, you probably don't need telling that this book is incredibly filthy, with raunchiness that brought tears of laughter to my eyes. (Also if you're offended by overuse of the 'c' word, this is NOT for you.)

I really enjoyed Moran's first foray into fiction. Although nothing special in the way it was written, I enjoyed the voice she used for Johanna and found it very accurately reflected somebody of that age. Caitlin clearly has some very clear memories of being a teenager to be able to so accurately write as one in this book. Her passion for the subject matter and love for her own character balanced out a very average style. It was fun reading from the perspective of somebody I clearly have a lot of differences to, and it did feel eye-opening for me to various ways of living that I hadn't really thought about before. All-in-all, a fun, quick, and sassy read with a main character you can't help but love despite her poor decisions and impulses. I'll be picking up Moran's non-fiction book How to Be a Woman soon, hopefully.

M x

film

Film Review: The Martian

9:00 am


And now for something a little bit different...

First thing's first: The Martian was probably my favourite book of last year after my boyfriend recommended it to me. He's always earlier to things than I am, but rarely books, so this was an odd situation to be in. But I am incredibly thankful he thrust this book at me quite so enthusiastically. I loved the suspense, the humour (who didn't?), the characters, and the twists and turns the plot took in its progression. I sped through it in very few sittings and felt rather exhausted by the end of it. At this point we knew there was a Ridley Scott adaptation coming, and we new Matt Damon was going to be playing Watney, but little else had been revealed. I've never been the biggest fan of Damon, so naturally I was slightly concerned. As more casting announcements rolled in, my excitement grew exponentially until rather out of control: Donald Glover, Jessica Chastain, Sebastian Stan, Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor. Trailers came out, opinions rose and fell. And then it was release day, nearly a year after the first read.

Naturally, spoilers will follow. A lot of very big spoilers. Only read this if you've seen the film, or read the book, or really don't give a toss about knowing what happens. It's not something I would want to ruin for anyone.

I absolutely bloody loved the film of The Martian, much to my surprise, happiness, and sanity. What a relief to us all. Allow me to break down my love into easy-to-read sections:

Plot: Potatoes. The film basically follows the book perfectly except for a few understandable changes and speeding-up of events. There's not much I can fault it on for that.

Casting: Matt Damon only went and blew my expectations away to the point at which I feel bad for ever doubting him. Jessica Chastain's Commander Lewis was wonderful, serious, and pitch-perfect to what was written of her character in the book. The crew had sufficient mini-scenes and backstory to win me over. Ejiofor's performance was probably one of my favourites in the entire film, as well as Donald Glover's spot-on (if not highly under-utilised) interpretation of Rich. Donald Glover for everything. Donald Glover for life. My one complaint would be Sean Bean's performance, shockingly, as I thought it fell rather flat, and it seemed bizarre to have a character of such few words being played by such a high-profile actor. Special mention to Benedict Wong as the clear-thinking but still very funny Bruce Ng: you rock.

Writing and Tone: Drew Goddard did an excellent job writing such an emotional, human script for such a 'hard science' film. I was impressed by how he managed to take the book and turn it into something new and refreshing, without completely butchering it or losing the humour it had originally. My thoughts on it can be very concisely summed up by what Mark Kermode says in his review on 5Live:


Visuals: I would have a little whinge about how this film falls into the 'orange and blue' visuals category that so many do these days, but it's set on bloody Mars, of course it's going to be orange. Very, very orange. That aside, this film was absolutely visually stunning. Even though I saw it in 2D due to my own personal preference, I can see why people are being prompted to see it in 3D. The landscape of Mars they create is out-of-this-world (pun totally intended); never before had I felt in a film so much like I was on a whole new planet. Even Moon, however much I love it, didn't do that for me.

Score and Soundtrack: As soon as the film started, I was in awe of the score, which reminded me of something from a Fincher film, but with more of a space-vibe, obviously. It's definitely something I want to be released separately to the film so I can listen whilst working. People have compared the use of funky disco songs and space-setting to Guardians of the Galaxy, and yes, there are clear comparisons, but the disco songs were actually in the book throughout, so it's not really something you can call straight-up copying. I thought the songs worked really well both with and against the tone of the film, and the choice of credits song had me chuckling as I left the screen.

Other changes to the book: I'm not usually one for a film epilogue, but the extra scenes added to what was the end of the book, as well as the closing titles, made me smile and I was happy to see how/what everybody was doing years later. Except Watney. He is definitely not supposed to be a teacher. 

A big change I noticed came towards the end when the crew went back to Mars to save Watney. If memory serves, Beck is the one who exits the craft and grabs him, not Commander Lewis. I wasn't too bothered by this chance as it meant more Lewis, and she got to do more badass things, but for me in the book it was the big moment for Beck's character, and without it, he doesn't really get to do much through the duration of the film. This is a shame because I'm a big SebStan fan, and felt he didn't really get the spotlight he deserves in such a wonderful film. 

Another edit from the book is the removal of Watney's rover flipping as he's driving across Mars. I can see why they did it as they sped through all of the driving that takes up about half of the book, plus there are other events (such as the HAB burning) that get the same intense reaction.

And that, my friends, is a not-very-concise, not-very-organised, not-very-clear summary of my thoughts on The Martian. Please let me know if you've also seen the film so we can discuss!

M x

comics

Book Review: Gerard Way and Shaun Simon's The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys

1:00 pm


Back in 2010 (and now I feel old), My Chemical Romance released their final studio album, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. I'd call it a concept album of sorts, revolving around a group of outsiders called the 'Killjoys' in a 2019 post-apocalyptic North America. It wasn't really like anything they'd released before, but I still absolutely adored it, and even until recently I've found myself absorbed in the world that album and its music videos created. Party Poison, Fun Ghoul, Jet Star, and Kobra Kid (portrayed by the four remaining members of the band) set out to take down an organisation (Better Living Industries, or BL/ind) who control the nation. Their 'draculoids' from the S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W unit served as the physical embodiment of the organisation, headed in the videos mainly by Korse, bizarrely portrayed by the comic book writer Grant Morrison. It's the bald head that does it.

As you can see, in the space of an album and two music videos, a vast world with characters and lore was created, and there was never enough for me. The knowledge that there was a comic book series released by Gerard Way (the lead singer for those of you not in the know) in 2013 to accompany the album and finish off the story was always in the back of my mind, but was something I quickly forgot about. Fast-forward to 2015, me rediscovering my love for this album, the world of the videos, and re-learning about this comic series. Of course I bought it straight away. The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys tells the last part of the story of the 'Killjoys' who (spoilers) die in the music video for SING, leaving 'the girl' (seen in both videos) to continue on her quest to take down BL/ind. This may be a bit complicated for those not familiar with the album, but it's worth reading about. So there's me, excited to finally get an ending to this saga, whilst learning even more about this world Gerard and the band created...

...and oh lord, was I disappointed.

I will begin with what I enjoyed about this trade paperback of the comic series. I enjoyed the characterisation of 'the girl', who was as kickass and independent as I wanted her to be. She became a real character in the comics and did a brilliant job at carrying the legacy of the 'Killjoys' where others in the book failed. I also enjoyed the bright, garish art style that Becky Cloonan brought to the story, perfectly matching what had been seen before in the videos. Finally, I liked getting to see the insides of Battery City, which is basically the hub of all of the bad things going on with BL/ind and the poverty that they create. There was definitely a lot more on the side of the antagonists than previously seen, which made me very happy, as I really enjoyed Korse as a character.

I am happy this comic series exists, don't get me wrong, but here's where it fell down.

This comic series could not stand alone. If you haven't listened to the album and seen the videos, the whole story would go straight over your head. This series, unfortunately, appears to be for fans only, and only those who seek closure. We're given an acceptable ending to something that didn't really need an ending. We're not given what I was looking for the most, which was more background on the world. When just the album and videos existed, I craved more and marveled at how such a vast world had been created in such a small space. Now I've read the comic, I almost feel I would have preferred to have made up the rest myself and carried on living without being told anything new. It just falls a bit flat and the whole thing is very uneventful.

I'm struggling to order my thoughts about this, hence why this review has been such a non-review and more like a mini-cryfest (although I did still give it three stars on Goodreads, so it wasn't that bad). That aside, I'm still excited to pick up more of Way's comic endeavors, namely The Umbrella Academy, which is an ongoing series still.

So if I were you, and I hadn't experienced this world yet, just watch the two videos below. It's all you need.



M x

reading

11 (ish) Favourite Fictional Characters

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Why do I get the feeling this is going to end up being a multi-part series? Eleven is a lot of favourite characters, but there are a lot of books out there with wonderfully written people living within, good or evil or a complicated combination...


Gone Girl - Amy Dunne.
If you've read the book, you'll know why. If you haven't read the book, read the book.


The entire Harry Potter series, but specifically Order of the Phoenix for the introduction of Luna Lovegood. Luna lived in a world of her own, and never worried that nobody understood what she was talking about. She was clearly happy spending time alone with her thoughts, and was a dedicated, honest, and caring friend when people were in need.

Also Hermione Granger, because it's impossible not to have her as a favourite character. She was one of the first inspiring female characters I read as a youngster, and she's stuck with me until today. She never feared being the smartest or doing what she thought was right, and the boys in her life never posed as a distraction from what was important to her or what she believed in.


The Hunger Games series - Finnick Odair.
Never before has a character gone from loathe to love with as much speed as he did. We're introduced to a cocky, smarmy, sugar cube-eating Finnick during Catching Fire and our first reaction is to hate. He's rude to Katniss and stands for everything she despises. However over the duration of the book our eyes are opened to just whose side he is on, and even into Mockingjay more revelations show us why Finnick is the way he is. He has a heart, he's dedicated, and he knows to do what's right. In the end, he is a close friend to both Katniss and Peeta, and serves as an invaluable ally in their fight against the Capitol.


Never Let Me Go - Tommy.
Specifically child Tommy, and probably because I feel bad for him. He spends his childhood being teased and manipulated by the children at Hailsham because he cannot control his temper. Ishiguro wrote so beautifully about Tommy's ways, he's just stuck with me as such a real, pained character.



Despite all that Max went through in the duration of this book, he still only cared for Liesel's upbringing and her education. He shares stories with her during a time of death and turmoil for all, so there was still light in the life of the small girl he cared for so dearly.


The Raven Boys - Gansey.
He chews on mint leaves, come on.
But really, Gansey is a weird character. However he's written in such a way that it doesn't feel forced or overly caricatured, but like Stiefvater is just writing down the actions and emotions of a person she knows. Gansey's passion for ley lines and the secrets they hold really emanate from the page, and you can't help but feel a fondness for someone who cares about something so much.


Although I probably love all characters from this book because they're adorable. Except Toad. He can just leave.

Not pictured:

Death Note - L.
A manga I really need to reread. L is the 'worlds greatest detective' in this world, lives alone, doesn't wear shoes, and has a penchant for sweet things. His eccentricity balances out his overwhelming intelligence, and when I first read this series I was amazed by the uniqueness of his character. I had never read anything like it.

Rat Queens - Everyone.
Badass female mercenaries who like to drink, swear, and kill things for money.

Cinder - Linh Cinder.
Linh Cinder is a cyborg mechanic (as in, a cyborg who is a mechanic, rather than a mechanic on cyborgs) in this retelling of Cinderella, one foot smaller than the other and on a personal mission to reveal the truth about the Lunar Queen. Anything with a female character working in a scientific or engineering field will win me over every time.

M x

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6 Books on my Autumn TBR

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I'm not one to do regular monthly TBRs as I know I'll end up changing my mind after a handful of days, but there are some books that I've been interested in reading over the next few months, so I decided to compile a 'seasonal' TBR pile. I've basically given myself until the end of November to read these rather chunky books, but with my new commute starting soon (40 minutes of train journeys per weekday!), hopefully I'll be able to get a fair bit done each day.


I've heard no bad words towards Patrick Ness, so it's about time I started the Chaos Walking trilogy.


Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
I seem to be in the minority of people who loved the film adaptation of this. It's time for me to give the source material a go.


Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
The millionth time I've featured this on my blog, and yes, I am going to read it now.


This will be my next non-fiction pick after it sitting on my shelf for far too long. I feel like it's going to be in a Caitlin Moran-cum-Vagenda vein.


The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R.Tolkien
Approximately the millionth time I will try and start to read this.


The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
I wouldn't be surprised if I've already read this by the time this post comes up. Gansey, please.

M x

reading

Undiscovered: Authors I Am Eager to Read

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The title says it all really: what authors am I yet to read, but eager to get stuck into? Here are all of the answers. (How amazing is that starry background I've used? I feel an urge to paper my walls with it.)



Ruth Ozeki - All Over CreationMy Year of MeatsA Tale for the Time Being. I first heard of Ruth Ozeki from Jen Campbell on her channel, the same way I find out about most books, and I was drawn in my by the bizarre yet beautiful stories these books promised. I'm hoping to read All Over Creation as soon as I can.


Patrick Ness - More Than Thisthe Chaos Walking trilogy, A Monster CallsThe Rest of Us Just Live HerePatrick Ness seems to be able to do no wrong, with his unique and inventive mix of graphic novels and young adult fiction, incorporating themes of identity and sexuality.


Maggie Gee - The Ice PeopleVirginia Woolf in ManhattanI had only heard of Maggie Gee through my dissertation supervisor after she recommended The Ice People to me. Recently I saw Maggie's latest novel was mentioned in an email newsletter I received after being put up for an award. With a title like Virginia Woolf in Manhattan, I know I'll love it.

Octavia Butler - Kindredthe Earthseed duology. Another set of dissertation recommendations including Butler's historical and science fiction novels dealing with issues of race, prejudice, and gender. They're classics I really should have read by now.


Haruki Murakami - Norwegian WoodKafka on the ShoreThe Wind-Up Bird ChronicleIQ84. All of Murakami's works have been praised to the high heavens, and I haven't read any of them. It's about time I picked them all up.

Shirley Jackson - We Have Always Lived in The CastleThe LotteryI get the feeling that Jackson writes slightly spooky, dystopian, gothic novels and short stories, and there's nothing about this that doesn't appeal to me. She has a really good reputation here in the blogging community so it's time to get onboard.



Andrew Smith - Grasshopper Jungle100 Sideways MilesLike Patrick Ness, Andrew Smith appears to be another King of YA. His books are notoriously weird and confusing.

Alice Walker - The Color Purple. I'm particularly interested in reading The Color Purple and its depiction of living as a woman of colour in 1930s America. It's a period and perspective I haven't read much about in the past and I'm really eager to change that, especially from an African-American woman.



John Le Carré - Tinker Tailor Soldier SpyThe Spy Who Came In from the ColdEspionage espionage espionage.

Ransom Riggs - Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar ChildrenThis series is one I'm baffled I haven't picked up yet as it sounds right up my street. Orphanages, islands, quarantine, tragedy.



Irvine Welsh - EcstasyFilthTrainspottingI feel like I'm missing a lot of valuable life lessons not having read anything by Irvine Welsh. Or not having seen Trainspotting.

Jon Ronson - So You've Been Publicly ShamedLost At SeaThe Psychopath TestGive me pop-sociology/psychology and I'm there. I've read a lot of interviews with Jon Ronson and articles he's written for varying national publications and I find him an incredibly endearing man. It's about time I delved into his longer writings, and the recent popularity in So You've Been Publicly Shamed has only increased my interest.



Suzy McKee Charnas - MotherlinesWalk to the End of the World. Last but certainly not least are the first two books in Charnas' Holdfast Chronicles, works of feminist dystopian and utopian fiction that didn't make the cut for my dissertation.

Please drop me a comment if you've read any of these authors and let me know what you thought of their works!

M x

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September 2015 Reads

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September is over, and what a busy month it was. I've now handed in my MA dissertation and started my new library job, so that's two 'hoorah!'s to start with. Hoorah, hoorah!

Due to spending the last week and a half of September beginning my new job, I didn't end up completing RYBSAT as I intended to, but still read How to Build a Girl during that period, which I'll have a review up for soon. It's taking a while to settle into a routine, and my weary eyes aren't that into the idea of reading on the commute at the moment. Fingers crossed everything sorts itself out soon.

At the end of August (but not in time to make my August wrap-up) I completed Felicia Day's You're Never Weird on the Internet, and you can read my thoughts on it here. I also ploughed through volumes 2, 3, and 4 of Saga, just in time for volume 5 to be released...which I haven't actually picked up yet. Continuing on the topic of comics, I also read The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, and will be posting a review on it soon. It was a bit of a disappointment, but I'll go into that more later this week.

The highlight of my monthly reading was certainly The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (review here!). However Pure came a close second, which I wrote on in great length this weekend gone. It's definitely worth picking up.

My ebook reads this month included Neil Gaiman's Sweeney Todd and Other Stories, which came as part of a recent Humble Books Bundle, and Scarlet, the second offering of the Lunar Chronicles series. I'm not planning on writing separate posts on each book in the series, but I will write a wrap-up review of the whole collection once Winter is out and I finish reading them all. I can already predict the review will be something along the lines of 'Oh god, it was so good, why must it end? Please don't make it end.'

Finally, I read Eva Salzman's One Two, but I think I'm going to have to read it again before giving it a rating. It was an interesting collection and a few poems caught my eye, but I don't think I was in the right mindset for reading it, so am yet to feel comfortable about reviewing. I do struggle with poetry sometimes and find it something I really need to be in the mood for.

So that's what I read in the month of September, and I'm not expecting this post to appear a masterpiece as my brain is currently on information overload learning every little thing for the new job. Usual service will resume shortly!

M x

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Book Review: Rose Bretécher's Pure*

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* I was fortunate to receive a copy of Pure from Unbound for review, but as you'll see from my past post, this was something I was already super pumped for and I have huge love for the things that they do. I wasn't compensated for my review in any other way, and all opinions are my own. *

(I am completely out of my depth talking about mental illness, and have tried my hardest to use language that is respectful towards those with OCD and Pure-O. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to improve my vocabulary when it comes to talking about mental disorders, because the last thing I want to do is make anybody feel marginalised or patronised. Discussion about mental illness is something that needs to be spoken about freely, but I know often the language I use will not always be free from problems.)

Back in July of last year, I wrote a post on here about the crowdfunding platform Unbound after hearing their CEO Dan Kieran speaking at a publishing talk earlier in the summer. In case you never caught the post or you don't fancy going back to read all about it, Unbound is a crowdfunding publishing platform where authors can pitch their books to its users and anybody can choose whether or not they want to help fund the publication of the book. With pledges come rewards, such as finished signed copies of the books when published, or higher levels such as meeting the author. It's a perfect platform for both new writers and the famous alike, giving them the ability to release things that might not have necessarily been chosen by larger publishing houses. In my original post, I made a short list of projects on the site that caught my attention, and at the top of the list was Pure by Rose Bretécher, a memoir about Rose's experiences living with a form of OCD called 'Pure-O' that causes intrusive thoughts. Over a year later, I've been lucky enough to be provided with a copy of Rose's memoir from Unbound, and I could not be happier. Seeing this project as a physical object is beyond exciting; it's wonderful that this platform has allowed a book to be published that had previously been rejected by so many other houses.

Firstly I need to cover the physical appearance of this book because, just look at it. It's absolutely stunning, and the overall quality of it, even for a proof, is astounding. Unbound have done a brilliant job hiring talented designers (the cover for Pure was designed by Elliot Dear and Rose herself), as well as taking great care in their creation of this book. The book also came with a cardboard bookmark of the same design; just another little treat and signal of how much they care about those who use their platform.

Onto the content of the book itself. Rose's narrative covers the earliest memories she has regarding ideas of sex, through to the present day and the methods she uses in an attempt to quell her invasive thoughts including therapy. She takes us through her journey with Pure-O from the beginning and how these thoughts made her feel for the first decade she experienced them. A little background on Pure-O: it's a form of OCD whereby the individual with the disorder experiences intrusive, often sexual, thoughts that cannot be controlled (an obsessive thought leads to a compulsive behaviour, however with Pure-O the compulsion is also a thought, rather than a physical action). Many, if not all, of us experience unexplained thoughts at times, say, standing by a cliff edge wondering what would happen if you jumped off, or imagining violence towards another person. But these thoughts do not take control over our lives. Those who have Pure-O experience these intrusive thoughts hundreds of times a day, causing them depression, anxiety, and a host of other mental illnesses due to an inability to live a 'normal' life.

(But what is normal? When an enormous portion of the world's population has one or more mental illness affecting them on a daily basis, surely we can now say that it's totally normal.)

Before Rose was diagnosed with Pure-O, she questioned her identity, sexual and otherwise, unsure of whether these thoughts meant she was unconsciously suppressing darker urges. She didn't think that this could have been something other people experienced, and that it was her own personal flaw. These events in the book as she questions who she is are told very frankly and honestly, with Rose never shying away from telling the reader her worries she had before learning that she had a form of OCD. I was shocked throughout these passages with how she managed to cope through these situations, unaware that there were others out there feeling the same things, with no network of people to help them cope. I was also overwhelmed by how long Rose went without telling anybody about her intrusive thoughts due to the nature of the disorder, unable to imagine how personally I would cope in that situation. But Rose is an incredible woman, and writing this memoir after already dealing with all of these struggles, having to relive them through the writing process, just blows me away.

The ending to Rose's story is one of hope, and one that destroys the idea that trying to rid your life of imperfection and insecurity will never lead you to happiness. Life is messy and uncomfortable, and that's what makes it life. Rose's book is one about Pure-O, but it is also one about life, and how we have to live it, despite our situation. Throughout she also uses humour (dry, witty, wry, amazing) in a refreshing way, to show her way of, and I quote the blurb, 'embracing the unfathomable weirdness of the human mind.' Sounds about right.

Rose Bretécher has written for various national publications on mental illness, and is vocal about the subject on her Twitter account, so following her there is incredibly beneficial and educational if you want to find out more. You can read/watch more about Pure via the Unbound website, or just pick the book up yourself for an informative, frank, and often very funny read. You can find out more about Pure-O on the OCD-UK website.

M x

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September 2015 Book Haul

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I spent the majority of September with only two books hauled, but the latter half of the month got a bit crazy. An unexpected bout of second-hand book shopping occurred, as you will see below...


New

The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys - Gerard Way, Shaun Simon, and Becky Cloonan
Gerard Way's comic series that accompanies My Chemical Romance's Danger Days concept album. I've already read this and will be posting a review shortly.

Elizabeth Gilbert's eagerly anticipated new release. I've listened to every episode of the Magic Lessons podcast that accompanies this book and I cannot wait to get stuck in. I'm certainly one for getting creative ideas and not acting on them.


Second-Hand

The Dream Thieves - Maggie Stiefvater
The sequel to The Raven Boys (which I reviewed here and adored). No more explanation needed.

Women in Antiquity - Charles Seltman
Found in a specialist bookstore (what they specialised in, I couldn't tell you) and I knew I needed it as soon as I saw it. It appears to have zero reviews on Goodreads which makes me slightly nervous.

A Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula Le Guin
The first book in Le Guin's Earthsea Cycle, and my first exploration into her fantasy, rather than her sci-fi. I wasn't immediately won over by The Left Hand of Darkness, so I'm interested to see if this will invest me more.

The Hugo Winners 1963-1967 - ed. Isaac Asimov
Does what it says on the tin: a selection of Hugo Award winners, chosen by Asimov. Includes works from Poul Anderson and Harlan Ellison.

Americanah - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
After inhaling We Should All Be Feminists, I knew I needed to read some of Adichie's fiction. This is certainly the one I've heard the most about.


From Publishers

Pure* - Rose Bretécher (Received from Unbound)
A review for this eye-opening memoir on Pure-O can be found here (as of 3rd October, so you may have to wait!). Spoilers: I loved it.

M x