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  1. 30 Days of Night

    Saturday, October 31, 2009

    Seeing as it is Halloween night I thought why not review something a bit more scary? Seeing as I have just watched 30 Days of Night starring Josh Hartnett and Melissa George and directed by David Slade that is what you are going to get.

    30 Days of Night is based on the graphic novel of the same title, written by Steve Niles. Every winter the town of Barrow, Alaska experiences thirty days of darkness. Many people choose to leave Barrow for the duration of prolonged darkness but some do choose to stay behind. As the town empties disturbing signs begin to emerge showing that someone is trying to cut the town off entirely from the outside world. When the long night sets in a band of vicious vampires, taking advantage of thirty days without the sunlight to burn them, descend on the town to feast upon the terrified citizens. With the vampires having assumed control of the town, a group of survivors desperately attempt to evade them.

    Unfortunately I cannot claim to have read the graphic novel on which this movie is based. I had hoped to get the chance to purchase it prior to Halloween so I could review the actual book instead, but alas it was not to be. I really would love to read it as I suspect that many of the things that I like about the movie are all thanks to the graphic novel that preceded it.

    Anyone who is feeling sick of the current trends regarding the portrayal of vampires, whether it be in movies or novels or otherwise, should watch 30 Days of Night. The approach to everyone's favourite creature of the night here is wonderfully fresh, taking us back to what vampires were originally intended to be. Remember, even Bram Stoker's Dracula vampires were not originally a sex symbol. While Stoker has an amazing knack for writing in an underlying sexual current, Dracula was not physically attractive and let's not forget that he ate babies! These vampires are not sexy and that is a great thing. They are animalistic and vicious. They are human-like in appearance - until you look at their faces. I think I even prefer these vamp faces to the Buffy vamp faces.

    My favourite shot in this movie is when the vampires are launching a full scale attack on the town. People are running, screaming, fighting, and dieing. Gun shots can be heard. The camera provides a bird-eye view over the town and you can see people scrambling, vampires feasting on still bodies, and red blood splattered on white snow. I would not blame someone who had just tuned in for thinking that they had switched on a zombie movie rather than one about vampires. I simply love it. You are not going to find one of these vamps playing "vegetarian", pretending to be a high schooler, and taking teenage girls on dates.

    The vampires also have their own guttural language which they speak. I hear that in the graphic novel they speak English, but giving them their own language seemed to add to the sense of how ancient they are and further removing them from humanity. When they did speak in English I loved how cruel they would be, toying with their victims.

    The group of survivors is made up of an interesting mix of people, even including a senile elderly man. Their differences make trouble and at times cause tension as they tuck themselves away in their claustrophobic hiding place. Eban's asthma and dependence on an inhaler is also an interesting physical weakness.

    IMDb has some interesting tidbits in the movies FAQ section. For example, Barrow is a real place in Alaska and the buildings there really are built on raised platforms. The prolonged nightfall does not occur exactly as it is shown in the movie, however:
    Technically, there is a 67-day period during the winter where the sun never quite makes it over the horizon and an 85-day period in the summer where the sun never quite sets. However, it is NOTHING like what was shown in the movie. In the movie, the entire sun was shown above the horizon; then it set one day and light wasn't seen again for 30 days.

    What actually happens is that, because of the earth's tilt, the Arctic sun circles close to the horizon rather than traveling overhead from east to west as it does in temperate and equatorial zones. In the Arctic winter, the sun continues to circle the horizon but, over a period of weeks, more and more of it dips below the horizon. On the last day before the two months of night, the sun just barely peeks over the horizon for a few minutes before it disappears. However, this does not mean that the sky is totally dark. The first several nights of no sunlight would have peripheral light around noon, as the sun almost made it to the horizon, but not quite. It would be like the period just before and just after sunset, when the sky is light despite the sun not being quite up yet or just after it went down.

    Conversely, on the first day of sunlight at the end of the long night, the very tip of the sun pops over the horizon again and, several minutes later, it disappears. Gradually, the time above the horizon increases until the full sun can again be seen.

    It might not be the greatest movie and I didn't much like the end scene with the sunrise to be honest, but 30 Days of Night is gory fun that breaths life back into the vampire genre. If you want to be scared of vampires again instead of wanting to snog 'em then this is a must see!

    I hope that everyone has a good Halloween even if, like me, you live in a part of the world that does not particularly partake in the occasion. Obviously I have not managed to get up the rest of my reviews for the Classic Challenge but I do still intend to post them sometime.

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  2. Nanowrimo not quite enough? Then how about giving National Blog Posting Month a go?

    I heard about this event over at Jennifer's blog Tantrums and Tequila. My first thought was I wouldn't have enough time for it, not with Nanowrimo going on at the same time. My second thought was that my post count over the past month is absolutely pitiful and this might just be the thing to give me a good kick up the arse and get me posting steadily again.

    NaBloPoMo, like Nanowrimo, is called national but, again, it really is international. This event, like many others out there, was born from Nanowrimo. The goal of this one is to blog every single day of November. According to the website, many people really get into the swing of it and continue to post daily into December and beyond. Hence you can drop in a blog a month away whenever you want but as everyone knows, November is the month for doing all manner of crazy things so that's the time to participate if you want to see the community in full swing and go in for the chance to win prizes.

    So now I am planning to have a social life, blog every day, and write a novel. My, my. November sure is looking out to be an exciting month! The only remaining question is, can I survive it?


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  3. Elena is beautiful, popular, and used to being having any boy she wants, so when the mysterious and attractive new student not only fails to even spare a glance in her direction but humiliates her by publicly snubbing her, Elena is determined to win him over and claim him as her boyfriend.

    Then there is the creepy guy that keeps on popping up around Elena. Who is he and why can Elena barely stop herself from falling into his arms? Meanwhile something - or someone - is viciously attacking people in the cometary.

    The Awakening
    is the first installment in The Vampire Diaries. I probably would not have bothered with this book if I had not been able to read it for free over on the Harper Teen website. After finishing it I am glad that I did not have to spend any money on it. Not to say that it was terrible, it wasn't. It was okay, but only okay and I do not intend to bother with the sequels.

    Pet peeve alert! Contractions are one thing when it is part of a dialogue and in the nature of the character to speak as such, but contractions during a third person narration are annoying! That "she had" did not need to become "she'd". A minor thing maybe but, I confess, it bugged me.

    I can definitely appreciate the attempted use of Gothic themes and conventions in trying to make the story darker and more suspenseful but there really isn't anything in there that is going to give you much of a scare.

    As I was reading, I also had my suspicion deepened that Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight Series, is definitely not be all so truthful when claiming that she didn't read other vampire books before writing Twilight, but that is a rant for another review to be done sometime in the not so distant future. However, much of The Vampire Diaries current day success is probably because of that of Twilight. Indeed, the books even now have their own set of "Twilightish" covers.

    I have managed to catch a few episodes of the television show here and there. They have made considerable changes to translate it to the tv screen. There are some aspects about the original book that I prefer and some changes in the show that I think were for the better.

    In the book Elena is a queen bee high school student who knows exactly how beautiful and popular she is and is used to getting whatever she wants - especially when it comes to the opposite sex. In the television show they tone down her character quite a bit (but without losing too much of her forwardness) which makes her instantly more relateable to a tv audience who you need to be able to hook quickly. After all, how many of us ever get to be top of the social hierarchy at school? Not to say that tv Elena is not still popular, she is, but they also make the death of her parents a much more recent event giving her a reason to soften and of course to spend time writing angsty journal entries and hanging out in a graveyard.

    Stefan is... kind of annoying. Not terribly so but all the scenes that follow his perspective are "oh, no! I must not revisit bad memories but I cannot help myself! Now I am sad." The way Smith described Stefan being drawn into his own memories just came out sounding kind of silly.
    In the show, Stefan and Damon's histories motivations are quite different. Book Stefan tries to avoid Elena, startled by her resemblance to Katherine and not wanting to cause her harm. This provokes the Little Miss Popular Elena to pursue him with even more determination. At least in the book, after getting over his initial shock, Stefan realises that Elena does not look exactly like Katherine. When they do suddenly hook up they decide that they are in love. Straight away. Just like that. Yup. At least in the show they spend time developing their relationship.

    Also, another change in the transition from book to screen, I last saw the episode ending with Elena rocking up on Stefan's doorstep demanding to know what he is. For the purposes of drama and my preference of horror I have a feeling I am going to prefer the book version of the reveal. Well, up until the moment where book Elena decides that she is perfectly okay with it. Depending on tv Elena's reaction I may end up prefering the screen version.

    I think that with a bit more work and better fleshing out it could have turned out to be a good book but as it is it did not really grab me.

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  4. Teaser Tuesdays

    Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    I have decided to participate in a weekly meme. Tuesday doesn't end for another half an hour yet so I thought that this one would be a good one to start with. Yay for new things!

    Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
    • Grab your current read
    • Open to a random page
    • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
    • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
    • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
    "The sounds of the night throughout the house, and the starlight spreading pale lines along the edges of the window-cases, made the pall of black within more solemn and more mysterious.
    We heard the clock in the corridor chiming the quarters with its silver bell till two o'clock; and then a strange feeling came over me."

    From page 51 of Bram Stoker's The Jewel of Seven Stars.

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  5. Nanowrimo

    Monday, October 26, 2009

    If you are just the right kind of insane, this time next week you will have turned your back on your normal social life and spare time activities in favour of the pursuit of writing a novel in thirty days.

    For those who have never heard of Nanowrimo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month and it takes place throughout November. The goal is to write fifty thousand words by midnight on November 30th. Bind and gag your inner editor and lock him in a closet. Remove the backspace key from your keyboard. The aim is not quality but quantity. Come December you can edit until your heart is content but November is the time to write without abandon.

    I first discovered Nanowrimo in 2005. At that stage in the month it was too late for me to really get in to it so I waited a year to try my first Nanowrimo attempt. To be perfectly honest, I failed miserably in both 2006 and 2007. In 2008 I decided to skip Nano and focus on wrapping up my TAFE course with good marks instead. But this year I plan to attempt it yet again. I have attempted to increase my chances of success by doing some planning and research ahead of time. I've managed to plan out a [sarcasm]whopping[/sarcasm] three chapters so far and have somehow found myself reading up on the Yucatan Asteroid and the Gaia Hypothesis. Hopefully I'll make a bit more planning progress before November comes.

    The Nano website is also home to a wonderful community who will provide you writing challenges and dares, word wars, support, and of course some very important procrastination. This year expect pep talks from authors such as Tamora Pierce (!!!), Kristin Cashore, and Peter Carey to grace you email inbox.

    Do not be fooled by the word "national" either. Nanowrimo is very much an international event but I guess Nanowrimo sounds catchier than Inanowrimo. Take a look and see how many Nano'ers are active in your region. You may find kick off events and write-ins taking place somewhere nearby that you can attend.

    This year I am working with a new writing program called StoryBox. It's still being updated and tweaked but I absolutely recommend that you try it out. It's great for planning your novel as well. It's free to download the complete program. Paying for the program is your choice. Take a look at the StoryBox website here.

    Regardless of whether or not you achieve fifty thousand words or one hundred, Nanowrimo is a great event and I think that everyone should try it at least once in their lifetime.

    You can learn more about National Novel Writing Month and sign up to join the madness at My username there is JellieBeanie if anyone should wish to say hi.

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  6. On the list of things I always said that I would never do was joining Twitter. So then today, of course, I completely randomly and complusively decide to join up. From there it turns into "who can I e-stalk now?" and I start typing in the names of favourite bands and writers. Oh, for shame.

    Anyone interested can e-stalk me here and I may even e-stalk you right back. =P

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  7. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

    Sunday, October 25, 2009

    When Chiyo is nine-years-old her mother falls deathly ill and her family comes to the attention of the well-to-do Mr. Tanaka. Chiyo believes that Mr. Tanaka is going to adopt her and her sister. What she does not realise is that she is about to be sold to one of Gion's geisha houses to be trained in the arts and conversation for the entertainment of men. She instantly finds herself with a wickedly vicious enemy in the accomplished geisha, Hatsumomo. Chiyo resists her new life at first but an encounter with a kindly Chairman motivates her to become a great geisha so that she may encounter him again. Hence ends the life of Chiyo and begins that of Sayuri.

    is one of the books from my to-read list for the Classics Challenge. You know, the challenge that ends in a few days but I am yet to post any reviews for? I, uh, got a little distracted I guess. I'll try and roll out some of those promised reviews before the deadline anyway. Aren't I just terrible?

    Memoirs of a Geisha
    is written in such as way, that it is easy to believe that you have picked up a book from the biography shelves, not the fiction section. It starts with a faux translators note from the character Jakob Haarhuis to whom Sayuri has dictated her life story to.

    I do not know enough about Japan and Geisha's, especially during the time period of 1920 through the 1940s, to comment on the accuracy of the world that Golden describes for us. I do feel from what I know about the nature of modern Japanese culture that Golden surely has only begun to scratch the surface. Historical accuracy aside, Golden creates a world that is exotic and fascinating.

    The main thing that I didn't like was how everything wrapped up in the end. I guess we were supposed to feel that Sayuri had been through enough and deserved to be mistress to the man she desired to be with but it felt like things just pulled together far too conveniently for her. I thought a better ending would have been if she could have actually found herself able to be very happy with Nobu as her "danna". I felt sorry for Nobu in the end. He didn't deserve how he was treated so I guess as a result I felt less like Sayuri deserved her happy ending.

    I have seen the movie but I last saw it far too long ago to be able to do a comparison on how it translated to screen at the moment.

    From the moment that I picked up this book I was completely drawn in and was quite happy to sit and spend an entire day reading it. I'm glad that I picked it for the challenge (that I have not participated enough in) or else I may never have gotten around to reading it.

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  8. Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey

    Thursday, October 22, 2009

    Sadima lives in a time where magic is banned, leaving only frauds to prey upon the unsuspecting. A "magician" stole her family's valuables and left her mother to die during childbirth, giving her family a hatred of these trickster magicians. But Sadima carries a secret, that she can silently communicate with animals. Rumors of Sadima's gift reach Somiss, a man obsessed with restoring magic to the world and he sends his servant, Franklin, to seek her out. She comes to love the man with whom she was first able to share her ability but Franklin is trapped by his bond to Somiss and cannot leave him.

    Centuries later Hahp is forced by his father to attend a magic academy where not only must he compete against nine other boys to graduate and become a wizard, but he must fight to be the one to live through the education.

    Book one of A Resurrection of Magic Trilogy caught my eye as I was shelving the YA section at work. The cover is attention grabbing and the description intriguing.

    Told as stand-alone stories, the tales of Sadima and Hahp might have proved dull, but Duey alternates between narratives each chapter. Instead of disrupting the flow of the novel, Duey actually cleverly distributes the pacing and tension. The world is realised without making the story overcomplex and without the need for long descriptions to explain it. The two narratives told side by side balance one another, with Sadima's sweetness and romance balancing out the grittiness of Hahps situation. By weaving the two stories together in this fashion she strengthens both tales. Sadima's tale is told in third person, whereas Hahps is in first person.

    I loved the dark tone of this book. A shadow is cast over Sadima's life from the very events surrounding her birth and then heightened by the dark actions and obsessive, controlling behaviour of Somiss. Hahp's past life of privilege is contrasted against the grim, windowless school where he lives a life of fear, frustration, discomfort, and starvation. Then, in looking back at memories of his life before, even those times become tainted in realising the depth of his father's cruelty and his mother's sadness. I also like how this darkness is achieved without the need to resort to any graphic violence and yet the story maintains a physicallity, especially with Hahp.

    This delightfully dark piece of young adult fiction is a surprising find when you look at the list of other titles to Kathleen Duey's name and realises that most of her writings are junior series with titles such as The Unicorn's Secret, The Fairies Promise, and Hoofbeats. I do hope she continues to delve into YA after A Resurrection of Magic Trilogy.

    The ending left me unsatisfied but in a way that made me want to read the rest of the trilogy and find out the "true ending." There is little sense of resolution in Skin Hunger but in some ways that suits the dark tone of the book where you might find yourself wondering if a "happy ending" is even possible. The next book in the series is Sacred Scars and the third is yet to be announced.

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  9. Avenue Q

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Last Saturday I had the very fun experience of seeing Avenue Q performed at Sydney's Theatre Royal.

    Avenue Q tells the story of Princeton, a college graduate looking for a place within his small price range to rent. He finally finds Avenue Q a colourful street, home to engaged couple Brian and Christmas Eve, Republican investment banker and homosexual-in-denial Rod and his slacker roommate Nicky, the perverted Trekkie Monster, and kindergarten teaching assistant Kate Monster. Oh, and did I mention that Gary Coleman is the buildings superintendent?

    Now, I must warn you, if you have never heard of Avenue Q before, do not be deceived by the puppets. This is not a child friendly show. BBC Radio described the musical as "Cross Sesame Street with the Muppet Show give it an X rating." It is even complete with a puppet sex scene, reminiscent of Team America and set to the song 'You Can Be Loud As the Hell You Want (When You're Makin' Love)'.

    You may at least have heard some of Avenue Q's more notorious tunes around on the internet, such as 'If You Were Gay', 'It Sucks to be Me', 'The Internet is for Porn', 'Everyone's a Little Bit Racist' and the ever pressing question 'What Do You Do With a BA in English?' In case you're wondering, yes, I did indeed buy the soundtrack from the merchandise stand along with some badges.

    Most, but not all, of the characters are puppets who are controlled onstage by the same actors who voice them. When the show first began, it did take my brain a minute to shift focus from the actors mouth to that of the puppets but overall the puppeteers did a great job. The actors dressed in faded dark shades so as not to stand out, yet at the same time contributed to the dynamics of the puppet's character through their own body language and facial expressions.

    The set was a view of Avenue Q and the 'walls' of the buildings would turn to show the different apartments inside as needed for the story. There was also a big tv screen, which usually acted as a billboard for sale, but occasionally played clips relevant to the story and reminiscent of that of our childhoods. ("Five nightstands! One nightstand!")

    The show was great fun. The audience reaction was positive, with everyone laughing and applauding the whole way through. If Avenue Q comes to a theatre near you (or, like in my case, a theatre that is a two hour bus trip and a half hour walk from you) then I definitely recommend that you see it. It's now wrapped up in Sydney but is heading to Canberra in a couple of days and onto Perth and then Adelaide after that.

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  10. So, I've been absent again for awhile. We've changed our internet plan now so hopefully it means that we won't exceed our limit (ooops!) again any time soon and I can keep up with regular updates. Now, on with the review...

    It's the first full moon since Jason's abduction and rescue and Sookie knows that her brother is going to turn into a Werepanther before even he does. Her relief when Jason starts to embrace the change in himself is replaced with fear when a sniper starts to target the Bon Temps shape shifter population. Not only is Jason at risk from the shooter, but many among his new Were-bretheren suspect that he may be the shooter, acting for revenge for the change forced upon him. Sookie can't risk Jason changing at the next full moon with a bunch of angry Werepanthers but can she discover the shooter in time?

    This book didn't really have much of an impact on me, to be perfectly honest. Oh, sure, it had it's moments and some good subplots but it didn't grab me as much as some of the other books in the series did. I cannot really pinpoint why. Maybe I have overdosed on Sookie books?

    I did like, however, that it was rooted back in Bon Temps again. Sookie sure has become quite the little traveler lately and it was good to see something based on her home ground. Being grounded back in (almost, kind of) normal life also makes the changes in Sookie more noticeable. Even just the little things, like how she mentions that she has continued to get her nails done.

    It was also great to see that Tara subplot that has been developing in the background over the past couple of books finally come to the forefront. Harris also makes it very easy to guess who the sniper is but I guess this series isn't supposed to invoke much heavy thinking anyway. There is also Jason's ongoing predicament from the previous book and how once again suspicion is cast upon him causing his new found peers to distrust him.

    On the relationship front, there were some interesting developments with Eric, it looks like Bill might worm his way back onto the scene and Calvin Norris is still around with his eyes on Sookie. There was also some, ahem, interesting leg licking action and the plot about the Were leadership better showed up some of Alcides flaws (which were much needed especially after someone suggests that maybe Debbie cast a spell on him to hold his interest).

    Claudine the fairy also makes a reappearance. I found it odd that even though Dead as a Doornail is set only a few weeks after Dead to the World, Sookie seems to speak of Claudine with a lot of familiarity even though they have not known each other long. Same goes for Claudine's brother Claude who we are told is really hot but off the list of dating possibilities due to his sexuality. Are the only guys who don't drool over Sookie gay?

    This installment has despite some great plots and subplots. A definite treat for Sookie followers who want are fans of the shape shifters.

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