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  1. November Wrap Up

    Monday, November 30, 2009

    It is the thirtieth of November meaning that it is also the final day of National Novel Writing Month and National Blog Posting Month.

    Okay, so I never did get even remotely close to the NaNoWriMo goal of fifty thousand words but at least I have finally started getting this story down and hopefully will continue on with it past November. At this stage I do already plan to be back for NaNoWriMo in 2010 as well.

    As for NaBloPoMo, count those posts - this one makes thirty. I have managed one post for each day this month so I am counting this one as a success. However, I do not think that I will be returning to NaBloPoMo next year. At the end of the day, I prefer to blog because I have something to say rather than scrounging for a topic because I feel like I have to make at least a post a day. Not to mention that I blog all the time but I do not get to do nearly as much creative writing as I would like to. I look forward to November as a time when I can get down those stories that I otherwise do not get to invest the time in to writing. I also find a non-fiction/imformative format easier to write than a creative one, however much as I enjoy it, so I love NaNoWriMo for the quantity over quality philosophy which lets me feel free to just go for it and get in some good writing practice.

    Which brings me to my End of November Resolution. 'They' say not to make New Year Resolutions because people make them half-heartedly and don't follow through. Instead, so 'They' say, make your resolution and start on it straight away. Why wait for the new year? So, as of now, I want to get in more creative writing time. While November will still be marked on my calender for writing madness, I want to make sure I am finding time for creativity throughout the year. I feel like I spend too much time, while on the bus trip to work, writing stories in my head but never spending the time or developing the skill to actually put them down in words. This years NaNo started off as a short story that had been in my head for over a year, after all.

    Don't be surprised if I do not post any reviews this week. I can feel the November hang over coming on.

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  2. What's On the Bookshelf

    Sunday, November 29, 2009

    There was a sale on yesterday at Dymocks for members so I took the chance to grab a couple of classics:

    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    This has been a favourite of mine ever since I first had to read it for school.

    Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
    I haven't read this one before but I look forward to giving it a try.

    Return to Labyrinth, Volume 3 by Jake T. Forbes, Art by Chris Lie
    I finally ordered this from The Book Depository. There was much happy squeeing when it arrived on my doorstep. I have now read the whole series so far but am waiting for the fourth and final volume before I review any of them. I am planning to have a Labyrinth themed week sometime. It may be far off but it gives me something to look forward to.

    In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. Go here to find out more.

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  3. Earthsong by Crystal Yates

    Saturday, November 28, 2009

    A young woman wakes up beneath a tree with no memories of her life, her name, or her location. She is given the name Willow and comes to learn that she is on Earthsong, a childless planet who has been charged with taking in the children of other planets when their planets elemental lifeblood seeps into them and creates a soul stone, giving the person great powers. All of the other visiting children have remnants of a last memory of their home world and, after a month of residing on Earthsong, can choose to have their soul stone removed so that they can return safely home or remain and use their abilities to defend Earthsong from Beluosus who wishes to take control of the carriers of the soul stones and the tools which Earthsong uses to remove them. The only problem for Willow is that she has no memory at all of what planet she is from and no one recognises her species.

    Today's review is of yet another webcomic, Earthsong by Crystal Yates. I love the originality (as far as I know) of this fantasy story which Crystal "Lady" Yates has planned out in great detail. At points, such as in Volume I, Chapter III: Genisis, the pages can get a little bogged down with dialogue in Yate's enthusiasm to describe her detailed world but this is an issue that she mostly works out better as the comic progresses. In comparison, it seems odd that Volume II, Chapter V: The Journal is only eighteen pages long. It is possible that this chapter was Yates experimenting with how best to distribute large amounts of information. Indeed, the pages were less convered with text but it did make for an oddly short chapter in comparison to the others.

    About two years ago, Yates decided to commence what has been referred to as the "redux" of Earthsong, editing and reposting the webcomic pages online. The old pages are now inaccessible and I did not start to follow the webcomic until after the redux had commenced so I have never read the old version to be able to compare the art of then and any changes to the story. Regardless, even throughout the course of the redux, Yates' art style changes, develops, and improves significantly. Compare, for example, the cover art for Volume I (above, left) to that of Volume III, Chapter VII: Revelation (below, right). There are mixed views out there on redoing webcomics like this but I think that it is a valid practice, especially if there are plans to publish the work into hard copy for sale. Consider that, although many webcomic creators try to keep a buffer of ready pages, they give themselves only a very limited schedule by which to produce these pages. I cannot blame an artist for wanting to make sure that their work is at the best quality that they can produce before putting it up for sale. The first volume of Earthsong is available for purchase but the publication of future volumes is currently uncertain.

    The cast of characters is notably female dominated, which they do discuss in-comic. The main character, Willow, is an interesting balance of meek innocence mixed with a real fiery streak. I have seen criticism of this but, personally, I think it works well.

    Earthsong is a webcomic of excellent quality with beautiful art and a great story. It is currently in to it's third volume and is not yet complete. Click on the banner below to go to the Earthsong website where you can read the entire webcomic, hence far, for free!


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  4. Tithe by Holly Black

    Friday, November 27, 2009

    This review contains spoilers.

    Summary from Goodreads:
    Sixteen-year-old Kaye is a modern nomad. Fierce and independent, she travels from city to city with her mother's rock band until an ominous attack forces Kaye back to her childhood home. There, amid the industrial, blue-collar New Jersey backdrop, Kaye soon finds herself an unwilling pawn in an ancient power struggle between two rival faerie kingdoms -- a struggle that could very well mean her death.

    So, I promised that I would give fairy/faery/faerie (even Holly Black could not seem to pick which spelling she preferred in this book) after being considerably disappointed with Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr. Well, I am glad to say that I liked Holly Black's Tithe much better. It wasn't really great, but it wasn't as bad either.

    There were some instances where I really liked Black's writing style and others where I didn't. I found the characters smoking, especially in the first half of the novel, to be excessive. While much of the smoking and drinking was fairly well in context with the characters that she was trying to portray, sometimes it seemed like a miracle that they could get out a single word between puffs.

    For a brief moment I thought that it was really cool that Kaye was half Japanese for some multicultural variety as a main character, only to immediately realise that, no, it is just a major giveaway to the fact that she is not really human. This was even more firmly cemented when she compared her own looks to that of the fairy, Roibin. It was good though that she didn't become gorgeous as a pixie and even greater that she was green.

    I liked that sometimes black and white, good and evil were not so clear cut. That in giving the solitary faeries freedom some of them are inclined to go out and wreak havoc on mortal lives whereas Kaye had mistakenly judged them to be like her own faery friends. I also liked that there was some grit, darkness, and cruelty.

     I did not mind this book so much but I am not really loving it either.

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  5. Spring Cleaning

    Thursday, November 26, 2009

    So, the original intent had been to have a review up and ready for today. Instead I have found myself caught up with cleaning out excess junk. It's turned into a pretty big job. I have dared to venture into The Vortex, otherwise known as the space under my bed. Holy carp! The amount of stuff that fits under there!

    Hopefully all this hard yakka will pay off and a clean space will equal a good writing space to try and sprint through the last few days of November. I am not going to hit 50K for NaNoWriMo but at least I have posted something everyday for NaBloPoMo!

    We have also been getting a lot of spiders around lately so better not to provide them with too much clutter to hide in. It's a great thing living in a country with so many poisonous things. =D

    Not to mention that I am terrified of cockroaches so I definitely do not want to be attracting them to my personal space. De-clutter away!

    My apologies, by the way, to the arachnophobes.

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  6. Wishful Wednesday

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    Wishful Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Bluestocking at The Bluestocking Guide.

    This Wednesday I am wishing for... the fourth volume of Return to Labyrinth.

    There is no book description available yet but Return to Labyrinth is a manga, published by Tokyo Pop. It is a sequel to on one of my all time favourite movies, Labyrinth, which starred David Bowie as the Goblin King Jareth and Jennifer Connelly as Sarah, a teenage girl who acccidentally wished her baby brother away to the goblin labyrinth.

    Even though I am yet to read volume three (I have it on order from the Book Depository), I only just check in at Jake Forbes' website today to find that he had revealed the cover art for the new volume several days ago! Clearly it is not quite complete as it is still missing the text but this one is really just stunning and makes me so excited to read it! If only I did not have to wait!

    You can click on the image to see it larger and in better detail.

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  7. Teaser Tuesdays

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    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!
    His tone of voice was odd, urgent and strangely unfriendly. He had never talked to her that way before. Still, she obeyed out of familiarity: same old room, same little friends coming in the middle of the night to take her to catch fireflies or pick sour cherries.
    From page 82 of Tithe by Holly Black.

    Yes, I cheated a little. That is three sentences, not two.

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  8. The Guild

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    The Guild, written by and starring Felicia Day, is an online sitcom about the lives of the members of an online guild, The Knights of Good. Together they battle and level their way through a World of Warcraft-esque MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game). Everything starts to fall apart when Zaboo (Sandeep Parikh) mistakenly convinces himself that he and Codex (Felicia Day) are in love and shows up on her doorstep and suddenly the guildies online and offline lives begin to blur together.

    Felicia Day plays the online priestess, user name Codex, who begins each episode speaking to the camera, filming an entry for her vlog talking about her life which mostly revolves around her gaming addiction and therapy. The guild is conveniently made up of all local members, allowing for them to find themselves becoming involved in each others AFK (away from keyboard) lives after Codex first calls them together to help her get rid of Zaboo. The other members of the Knights of Good are guild leader and fighter Vork, high schooler and rogue Bladezz, neglectful mum of three and mage Clara, and the ranger Tinkerballa a pre-med student.

    Currently into it's third season, The Guild was inspired by Day's own experiences playing World of Warcraft and with gaming addiction. The first season was funded by donations but The Guild is now being distributed by Xbox Live and Microsoft and sponsored by Sprint.

    While the plot is centred around gamers and gaming, you do not have to be one to follow the show. There is some gamer-speak but much of the humour is centred around the social awkwardness of these internet shut-ins as they begin for the first time to meet each other face-to-face and encounter other people and real life situations as they venture out into the sunlight.

    Click here to go to The Guild website and start watching now!

    Apologies about this review isn't more detailed. I am still pretty under the weather, unfortunately.

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  9. What's On the Bookshelf

    Sunday, November 22, 2009

    Just a few things from the library for today's update.

    Tithe by Holly Black
    I have decided to give faeries(/fairies/however the hell it is fashionable to spell it these days) another chance as I promised that I would after disliking Wicked Lovely.
    I am halfway finished this one and will hopefully get a review up in the next couple of days.

    Blue Noon by Scott Westerfeld
    I grabbed the third book in the Midnighters trilogy for review. I am looking forward to seeing how Westerfeld has wrapped the series up.

    I am afraid that I really do not have much to say tonight. My head is all stuffed up with a cold and my throat is burning like all hell. Not fun.

    In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. Go here to find out more.

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  10. Do You Want to Date My Avatar?

    Saturday, November 21, 2009

    Consider this, if you will, a prelude, a teaser even, for my upcoming review of The Guild.

    Do You Wanna to Date My Avatar? came into existence after Felicia Day decided to show some lyrics she had been writing to Jed Whedon (yes, brother to Joss Whedon). Next thing we know Day and the rest of the cast of The Guild are filming a music video with Jed as director. This hilarious gem of a clip is the result.

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  11. The Whale Warriors by Peter Heller

    Friday, November 20, 2009

    I realised while reading The Whale Warriors that when it comes to writing my first review for a non-fiction piece, my opinion of the book may very well be coloured by my stance on the issue. I do consider whaling to be abhorrent. I find it to be cruel, unnecessary, and driving a great species to extinction. I do feel that the Australian government should do more to stop the slaughter that occurs in our waters, in a whale sanctuary. I also feel that what Greenpeace does is important because they bring evidence to the world but that it is the Sea Shepherds preserving life there in the moment, even if they do often act in the extreme.

    In December 2005, journalist Peter Heller traveled to Melbourne, Australia to join the Sea Shepherd's on board the Farley Mowat (named after the author and conservationist). The goal of their voyage was to save as many whales as possible from whalers hunting in Antarctica. They are lead by Paul Watson, who was one of the original founders of Greenpeace before founding the Sea Shepherds, and who is dedicated to finding the Japanese ship the Nisshin Maru and doing whatever it takes to cut the whaling season short - even if it means putting at risk his ship and crew.

    The Whale Warriors is a fascinating insight into life at sea upon the conservation ship and the kind of people that are willing to not only put their lives on hold but to risk death to stand up for a cause. Indeed, you will wonder exactly what kind of person would do just this. The people onboard the Farley Mowat are people with very strong conservationist beliefs and they have guts. You have to have guts to play chicken with a massive whaling ship, to risk that your own ship will be torn in two and its inhabitants thrown into the freezing waters. Or some people might say you just have to be mad.

    Even so, there is a mix in degrees of points of view on board the Farley. Not everyone is vegan, or even vegetarian for that matter, but on the Farley an all vegan diet is what the crew gets served up. Heller points out the very interesting fact that on board the Greenpeace marine conservation ship the crew eat fish. I am not a vegetarian myself (although I should confess that I am steering in that direction) but it seems odd to me that they would consume fish while sailing to protest whaling and over fishing.

    When speaking to Watson and his then wife, Allison, they assure Heller that the only guns onboard are shotguns used "to destroy the buoys on long lines". Watson goes on to say that "they can say whatever they want, but we don't shoot people." Later on, however, Watson discovers that there are indeed guns on board that sure look like they are intended for use against people. Watson claims that they are only for self-defence should "real pirates" attempt to board the Farley. Watson had also told Heller how they had once had a can-opener (a blade attached to the ship to try rip into whaling ships) but that they had removed it due to rust. He fails to mention that during the voyage they are fashioning a new can-opener to attach to the ship.

    One problem with the Sea Shepherds, as you will see in this book, is that it sounds as though some of the crew lack experience. While these guys are doing an important job, this would be dangerous for anyone with all the right training, so it is a bit scary that some of these people are under trained. Passion can only help you survive so far. And they are passionate and willing to risk their lives, even after their first brush with death which really does get the crew spooked. That is one other major difference between the Sea Shepherds and Greenpeace. The crew on board the Farley Mowat are all volunteers whereas on the Greenpeace ship, the Esperanza, they are paid.

    There are times when it seems as though Watson is willing to risk everything to defend the whales but it is also a relief to see that, from Heller's perspective, Watson is not all extremism and does give thought to the safety of his crew. They talk about sinking whaling ships, about ramming and disabling them but at least his goal is not to injure people but to take away their means of killing the whales.

    Heller also asserts that "the market for whale meat has gotten dimmer... two surveys found the Japanese appetite for the dense meat to be at an all-time low." The price of whale meat has dropped and surplus is having to be used in pet food. He says that Japan's refusal to discontinue whaling is part of their feelings of "Japan's cultural heritage being threatened by the West." However, only "isolated coastal communities" in Japan have a history of hunting whales for centuries. Whale meat was only introduced to mainstream Japan after World War II when they were encouraged to eat it due to food shortages. He says that ICR does not even cover the expenses of whaling through the sale of whale meat! Furthermore, if, as they say, Japan wants to help sustain and protect the whale population then why do they lobby for the legalisation of commercial whaling every year?

    Personally, I was very interested in the history of the whaling and the conservation moment and life on board the ship, but I can see where others might find this dull. If you pick this book up with an expectation for many high action descriptions of confrontations with whaling vessels then you are setting yourself up to be disappointed. When the Farley set sail there was not even a guarantee that they would be able to find the whaling fleet and much of the book involves navigating around icebergs and through storms, nitpicking through the ocean hoping to stumble across the fleet, while the crew prepares the ship and mentally prepare themselves for what they hope will be a confrontation. All the same, I could not help but feel a thrill of excitement when the first evidence of another ship nearby was found.

    Perhaps, though, and I do understand that it was Japanese whaling ships that they were pursuing, I would have liked to learn more about at least the other major whaling nations as well.

    It says on the back cover that the book is "often hilariously funny." I would not go that far but, sure, it did have some funny moments. Also, and maybe this is just me, but I did laugh at the president of the Japan Whaling Association labeling the SSCS as "dangerous vegans." Oh sure, some of the things that they do are plenty dangerous but the word "vegans" is applied like it is some kind of insult or as though being even just vegan is something to be afraid of.

    I really enjoyed this book and with the whaling season approaching it really does set me off thinking about the issue. You do not have to agree with a perspective to be able to find it interesting or see the value in educating yourself about it so I would definitely say that people should give The Whale Warriors a go. In the very least, if you are looking to learn more about the SSCS, the perspective, I would figure, is going to be less biased than the books written by Paul Watson himself.

    Anyone interested in learning more about the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society can visit their website.

    If you would like to read more about Greenpeace's anti-whaling campaign you can go here.

    If you would like to read The Institute of Cetacean Research's spin on things feel free to click here.

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  12. The Zombie Hunters by Jenny Romanchuk

    Thursday, November 19, 2009

    The Zombie Hunters is a post-apocalyptic web comic that follows a "team of zombie hunters as they go through life as survivors of the undead outbreak." As infected civilians, they live within a fenced-off town on the Argus Research Campus island and venture out into the wastelands to do support missions as only they can do so without fear of new infection.

    The Zombie Hunters started off as a private story for author Jenny Romanchuk and her friends, with a number of the characters sharing their names and appearances. It is easy to be put off by "self-inserts" (especially if you have ever taken to reading fan fiction) but honestly, in this case at least, don't be because The Zombie Hunters is really great. Regardless of the comic's start as just being a little fun with friends, Romanchuck has spent the time to develop interesting characters and back stories.

    Romanchuck's version of the zombie virus operates at two stages. The first stage is infection where the virus will spread throughtout a persons body but remain dormant for so long as they are alive. The second stage occurs with the death of the host at which point the virus will become active and animate the corpse with a new craving for human flesh. The Zombie Hunters features an intriguing and unique (to my knowledge at least) class system of zombies, from the Basilisk which will paralyze a person with its gaze, to the Hunter which will stalk its prey for months if it has to for the perfect opportunity to attack and no one will ever even know that they are being followed, to the Mercy zombie which will seek out the weak and injured to deliver a fatal bite to the throat or a vital artery and then hold and comfort their victim as they die and reanimate.

    Romanchuk has experimented with the artistic style over the course of updating but there has never been a time when I have not liked the art. In the FAQ section of the web site, she says that each strip takes approximately seven to eight hours to finish and I say that it is eight hours well spent. In the early days the drawing style was less detailed and reflected the more humourous tone. Later on the art style becomes more detailed and consistently realistic. You can watch Romanchuk work on the comic during a live stream broadcast on Thursdays and Saturdays at 2pm EST here.

    Click on the banner below to go to The Zombie Hunters website and read the entire comic so far for free! Keep in mind that The Zombie Hunters is rated R for all sorts of fun things such as "coarse language, gore, violence, and nudity." Be prepared for the fact that it is also an ongoing work in process, meaning that it is not finished yet! Romanchuk provides us with a new hit of The Zombie Hunters every Monday. You can also now place a pre-order for book one when the comic gets printed in hard copy!

    (Seriously, go read it. Just browsing the web site for this review I have found myself unable to help but start to reread the whole thing all over again!)


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  13. Wishful Wednesday

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    Wishful Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Bluestocking at The Bluestocking Guide.

    My first Wednesday wish is for The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien.
    (ISBN 9780261102217)
    Summary from Infinitas Bookshop:
    The Hobbit is a tale of high adventure, undertaken by a company of dwarves in search of dragon - guarded gold. A reluctant partner in this perilous quest is Bilbo Baggins, a comfortloving unambitious hobbit, who surprises even himself by his resourcefulness and skill as a burglar. Encounters with trolls, goblins, wizards, elves and giant spiders, conversations with the dragon, Smaug, and a rather unwilling presence at the Battle of Five Armies are just some of the adventures that befall Bilbo.

    So, why The Hobbit when it is always readily available at any local book store? I am after a very specific edition, or rather cover. I am after the paperback of the one pictured here but it is one of the rare circumstances where they have changed the cover but continued to use the same ISBN! Now this cover is nearly impossible to find but I want it to match the rest of my set.

    If anyone spots this cover in a store somewhere or has one in good condition that they are willing to sell or swap please let me know!

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  14. Teaser Tuesdays

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    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!
    "They can say whatever they want,
    but we don't shoot people."
    "Cannons filled with pie filling," Allison piped in.

    From page 83 of The Whale Warriors by Peter Heller.

    I have had this book sitting around waiting to be read for ages now and I finally am getting around to it.

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  15. What's On the Bookshelf

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    I have chosen to bring back What's On the Bookshelf which had disappeared since September. This had been partly been due to the fact that I had been trying to restrain myself from acquiring more books as my to-read pile is so big that it has overflowed off of my bedside table to form a tower on the ground beside it that eventually grew so large that it toppled. I am sure that if you dig deep enough into this sea of books you will eventually find my bedroom floor.

    Anyway, I recently managed to grab a couple more books from the library, both of which I have been interested in for awhile.

    The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
    I swear that this book stalked me through libraries and bookstores until I eventually relented and borrowed it out. Not to say that it does not sound excellent, but rather that it is just the matter of having the time to sit down and enjoy all 662 pages.

    Dreaming Again edited by Jack Dann
    I have been interested in reading this collection of fantasy stories by Australian authors ever since I first heard about it nearly a year ago. I am really looking forward to getting stuck into this one.

    In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. Go here to find out more.

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  16. Mid-November Update

    Sunday, November 15, 2009

    So, we have reached the half-way point of what is always marked as the craziest month on my calendar. I have to be perfectly honest and say that things are not going as well as I would like. My novel for NaNoWriMo is very behind on word count. I am not going to say what my word count is. In fact, I don't like saying anything about my nano at all. In a mix of superstition and low self-esteem I like to keep this novel between me and my writing program of choice lest anyone point out to me how absolutely tragic this writing attempt is. It has been a long time since I have done creative writing and it shows! But NaNoWriMo is about quantity, not quality so as long as I don't think too hard about the fact that it is absolute dribble I can keep going. My inner editor is really pissed off at me right now but no one should expect a first draft to be much good, anyway. Right?

    As for NaBloPoMo, well, it has often been a struggle but I have managed to make a post every day so far. Very often, like tonight for example, I am writing these posts after eleven in the evening and trying to get it all typed out before the clock hits twelve. I have already realised that after November has ended I will most likely not be posting every single day. I do not really like forcing myself to sit and write out a blog entry when I have nothing to say. I do not like how it is impacting on the quality of my posts. For example, never before November have I borrowed summaries from the back covers and instead of writing my own. I fully intend to replace these with something of my own wording but November so far has been a whirlwind of writing, reading, reviewing, and not to mention real life work commitments that sometimes writing those summaries calls upon precious minutes that I just do not have to spare. Some evenings I have also pushed myself to blog when I have been falling asleep at the laptop or have had major bad sinus headaches. Not to mention that being a book blog I cannot read fast enough to review a different book each day. I find myself falling back on popular culture addiction to fill the gaps because I am short of the time to do in-depth research on bookish topics. I even have a friend who, on occasion, jokingly calls me "TV Girl". Also, to be perfectly honest, some days I just plain don't want to blog or work on a fifty thousand word novel. Right now, what I really want to do is play the Sims 3. Really, truely. Good, mindless stuff.

    So, why continue through all this? Because, while some days have been really crappy, others have also been really awesome. This is my first November as a blogger and posting every day has really given me some interesting insight in to my own attitude towards blogging, why I do this, and what direction I take this blog. Attempting to write my own novel provides a good dose of appreciation of authors and a good reminder as to why I love books so much to blog about them in the first place. Finally, there is the pleasure and self-satisfaction in persevering through to the end and knowing that I did my best given the circumstances and did not throw in the towel.

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  17. Touching Darkness by Scott Westerfeld

    Saturday, November 14, 2009

    Jessica has discovered her Midnighter ability and can finally defend herself against the Darklings. However, as the Midnighters dig deeper into the history of the secret hour and Midnighters in Bixby, they realise that Jessica might be the only one that the Darklings are after. Even worse, Jessica and her friends can no longer count themselves as safe in normal time when they discover that the Darklings have daylight supporters seeking them out.
    Touching Darkness is a bit darker than The Secret Hour was. The Secret Hour was more an adventure of discovery as you newly explore midnight with Jessica. In Touching Darkness you start to learn more about the nasty history of midnight in Bixby and why all the Midnighters disappeared nearly fifty years ago, not to mention the chilling concept of the Halfling along with the warped, manipulative nature of mindcasters.
    Jessica is still the main character but the perspective does get passed on to the other Midnighters a lot more often in this second installment in the trilogy.Personally, I considered this to be a good thing. Dess is my favourite character so it was really good to see more of her and it was great to get more insight into the nature of Melissa and Rex's relationship. Now I look back, though, Jonathan may have been a little neglected.

    One thing that bothered me, about the edition that I was reading at least (1904233848), is that there were a number of grammatical errors and typos. This isn't entirely Westerfeld's fault, of course, as his editor should have been more thorough. It really disrupts the flow of an otherwise excellent book when I have to stop and reread a line over several times to realise that the word "he" was supposed to be "if" or when my brain starts nagging me that there should have been a comma there and to wonder why exactly is a word is randomly capitalised.
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  18. Horrible Turn

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    The plan had been to post a book review today but there was unplanned for busy-ness today and it's not quite ready. Instead I have decided to follow up yesterdays review of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog with a review of Horrible Turn, the fan made prequel to Joss Whedon's creation.

    Horrible Turn, set sometime back in the early nineties, gives you an insight into the pasts of Billy and Hammer. Why did Billy go from thinking that "the world is a mess and I just need to fix it" to "have to rule it"? Where do Billy's issues with Australia stem from? What lead him to creating the persona of Dr. Horrible? Why is it that everyone cannot help but love the idiotic and obnoxious Captain Hammer? Why does Johnny Snow insist that he is Dr. Horrible's nemesis? And where did Bad Horse come from anyway?

    Horrible Turn
    will answer all of these questions. Of course, it all starts with a girl. Billy has a crush on the Australian foreign exchange student, Katie. When he, Wade (presumably Moist), and Kennard "Kenny" Hammerstein (Captain Hammer) discover that the prize for winning the maths competition is a trip to Melbourne (which Americans never seem to pronounce correctly), Australia, Billy sees an opportunity to spend more time with Katie. There's just one problem - Billy is pretty sure that the Evil League of Evil has marked the maths competition for their next attack! Fortunately Billy has invented Potion 10! A formula derived from flowers that will make everyone love each other. But Billy's plan depends heavily on Hammer and Johhny Snow. Are they intelligent and trustworthy enough to follow through?

    Horrible Turn doesn't quite manage to achieve the same level of wit and humour that we see from Joss but it is in it's own right a very funny, well filmed, and well thought out prequel to the Dr. Horrible story, complete with Whedonesque tragedy. The songs are catchy and the singing is pretty good. My favourite musical piece from Horrible Turn has to be Hammer's song about how handsome and perfect he is while pulling out some great dance moves, closely followed by Billy's final piece where he creates the Doctor Horrible persona. In place of the Bad Horse Chorus we now have the Outback Sirens and the early nineties setting makes way for the usual gags about brick sized mobile phones being described as being "so tiny!" I loved the sexy cougar librarian.

    Much of the plot, particularly the songs follow in the same formula from Dr. Horrible, such as Katie's solo being their version of Penny's Song sing of past loneliness and new hope, Billy's final song being their version of Slipping/Everything You Ever and Everyone's a Hero becoming Everyone's a Winner as Kenny discovers his new charismatic hold over people to match his ego. However, the blogging aspect is completely non-existent in Horrible Turn. It might have been interesting to see how the could have corporated it into the nineties setting. In Dr. Horrible Billy likes creativity and I wondered if perhaps they could have had him keep a diary but such a plot would probably have been too messy to incorporate into the sixty minute run time.

    If you enjoyed Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, you have to give Horrible Turn a try. For a fan made project it is of excellent quality and you will definitely get a few laughs out of it.

    Follow this link to go to the Horrible Turn website and watch the show. Be sure to watch past the end of the credits for a song from Johnny Snow and bloopers!

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  19. Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    My mind has been set on the creations of Joss Whedon seeing as just today it was announced that his television show Dollhouse has not been renewed for a third season. One thing lead to another and I found myself revisiting Whedon's Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.

    Dr. Horrible came into being thanks to the writer's strike in 2008. Joss, along with his brothers Jed and Zach, called on Neil Patrick Harris (squee!), Felicia Day (squee!), and Nathan Fillion (OMG! Squee!) to help bring their musical vision to the screen.

    Your computer screen that is.

    Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is an internet musical television show comprising of three segments, and coming in at just under forty-five minutes all together. It tells the story of Billy, or Dr. Horrible as he is better known, an aspiring super villain who blogs about his ambitions to join the Evil League of Evil, fix all the problems in the world by being the one who rules it, and winning the affections of the kind hearted and community minded Penny. Standing in Billy's way is Captain Tightpants, I mean, ahem, Captain Hammer (wrong Nathan Fillion show, sorry) who not only keeps thwarting Billy's criminal attempts to impress Bad Horse and earn a place within the ELE, but steals Billy's love interest!

    The dialogue packs all of the usual Whedon humour and wit, which I love. The characters are just delightful with NPH as the not so horrible wannabe villain Dr. Horrible and Fillion as the obnoxious, cocky, and not always the brightest, self styled super hero, Captain Hammer.

    The music is catchy and I always end up singing along and then later humming the tunes back to myself. I find it impossible to pick a favourite song. I'll be listening to one song and be thinking that song is the best but then the next will start and I am instantly in love with that one. Owner's of the DVD while be delighted to find that even the commentary is a musical. In Commentary! The Musical the actors sing about the show, their refusal to sing about the show, who is better, and games on their phones. Even the extras get to jump in and share in the spotlight and Moist (Simon Helberg) finally gets to sing his piece. Again, I find it hard to pick a favourite song but it did get me playing Ninja Ropes.

    Funny, tragic, and entertaining all in one, Dr. Horribe's Sing-Along Blog is quite possibly the best thing that resulted from the writer's strike. Go to the Dr. Horrible website for more information on how you can view the show!

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  20. A-Muse-Ing

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Or, as this post should be otherwise titled, Terra's Bad Attempt At Word-Play.

    Following up on my post from a few days back regarding musical artists and lip syncing, I just had to share these videos of the band Muse who, when asked to lip sync for a television appearance instead of playing live, took offense to the suggestion and decided to play a prank. Look closely. The band members have all swapped instruments! Hilarity ensues.

    This has happened with Muse on two separate occasions, most recently on an Italian show and previously one a British show. I think that it's great that they appreciate live music and will stand up for it. Not to mention having a sense of humour as well.

    Just watch the keyboard playing in this one:

    Watch as the boys keep up the act right through the interview!

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  21. Teaser Tuesdays

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    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!
    'He's some kind of stalker!'
    Jonathan's voice grew soft. 'Who just happens to be here at midnight? Watching your house?'

    From page 11 of Touching Darkness by Scott Westerfeld. This book is the second title in the Midnighters trilogy and sequel to The Secret Hour.

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  22. The Secret Hour by Scott Westerfeld

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    Jessica Day moves to the town of Bixby, Oklahoma where she finds things to be pretty strange. For starters, the water tastes really funny and time freezes at midnight. Only a small group of her fellow students are aware of the secret hour that occurs each night and each is gifted with an ability to help protect them from the dark creatures that haunt the secret hour. As long as the Midnighters never got in the way of the darkling creatures they were safe but Jessica's presence has the darklings riled up. She must discover her Midnighter ability before the darklings have a chance to stop her.

    This one was a reread for me. I wanted to refresh my memory before going on to read the second book in tha Midnighters series, Touching Darkness. The book is very enjoyable. I would not have bothered to read it again or even bothered with the sequels if I did not like it the first time around. I am still going to stand behind my previous statement that Peeps is my favourite Westerfeld book so far. That said, I think that the thing that I like more about Peeps is that the characters are older than the characters in Midnighters. As a twenty year old, I find it easier to relate to the maturity levels of nineteen year old Cal than fifteen year old Jessica. Or maybe it is just that I am so very over high school.

    I particularly liked all of the thirteen letter words Westerfeld slings at you and the funny combinations he comes up with: "Purposely Hyper-Inflated Individuality." I don't know about anyone else, but I got suspicious and often when I saw a long word I would wonder if he was sneaking in more thirteen letter words and pause reading to count. Focus! I really must learn to focus!

    I really like the idea of the secret hour, a twenty fifth hour in every day that is rolled up so tight that only people born at the exact moment of midnight can experience it, and seeking the history behind it and Bixby. A similar concept of the moment in time that occurs between one day and the next, I hear, is explored in Persona 3, a video game released in 2006 (Japanese release date), but no one fires any gun like objects at their heads in the Midnighters series to invoke powers...

    The Midnighters, aside from Jessica, are a bit stereotypical in the looks department with dyed black hair and Rex being a trench coat kind of guy, not to mention that they are a mite bit antisocial, but the stereotype contrasts with Jessica's normalcy and how very "11:59" she is. Their looks did not really bare too much impact either as Westerfeld spends the time to build their personalities. Their gifts are a major factor into their characterisation. I found myself particularly liking Dess. I wish that I could be a polymath! I suck at maths. Although, defying gravity would be pretty cool too.

    Overall, it is a pretty entertaining read. You will also be seeing a review from me on the next book in the trilogy very soon, partially because I am looking forward to getting stuck into it and partially because it is due back at the library in a couple of days, so keep an eye out!

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  23. Maybe It's Just Me...

    Sunday, November 8, 2009

    As much as I love books I also love music. Now, maybe it is just me but when I part ways with my hard earned money so that I can attend a concert, the main thing that I am concerned with is seeing some quality music performed live. Why would I pay so much money to hear lip-synching? If I wanted to hear a band perform prerecorded then I only need to pop a CD in my CD player after all.

    Apparently, though, it is not just me. Reports are claiming that a number of fans walked out on Britney Spears' Perth performance the other night. No, I am not posting about this to take a jab at Britney Spears, honestly. Perhaps I am old fashioned, but my idea of a good concert is getting to see the band perform live, maybe a bit of smoke and lights but rarely anything extravagant. It seems as though these days musical artists are going way over the top to impress crowds. If I wanted to see a circus act then I would go to the actual circus. I cannot help but feel that between lip-synching and acrobatics the significance of the music, the live band, and the intimacy between performer and audience is being over shadowed.

    The other thing is, that to be able to afford all this glitter and pizazz they drive the ticket costs up. I know that if I am paying more then I at least want to see the performer doing what it is that they put at the top of their resume - singing! Not hanging off a trapeze, not doing stunts, not even trying to pull off fancy dance moves. If they cannot sing live can they even really sing at all? Are they just relying on technology to clean their voice up in a studio? A musician could be up there turning water into wine for all I care but if the music isn't real then I would feel like I had been ripped off.

    But apparently some people don't care about this but why you would spend so much money on a singer and not care about whether or not they can actually sing honestly baffles me.

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  24. The Perfect Reading Spot

    Saturday, November 7, 2009

    So, I was wondering, where is everyone's' favourite place to hideaway for a few hours to read? Do you have a favourite chair? Maybe a beach or a park where you like to go?

    On a nice sunny day I love to go and pull one of the chairs over by the back garden into a sunny spot to read in. If we actually had any cushioning on the deck chair by our pool I would probably claim that. When it is not so warm I lie on my bed to read. My bedroom window faces out west and I get all of the afternoon sun keeping my room a nice cozy spot to curl up in with a book.

    You might have guessed that I love the sun and hate the cold. One day when I am, of course, very rich I am going to live half of the year in the Southern hemisphere and half of the year in the Northern hemisphere and skip winter all together.

    It is spring here and today was pretty warm and sunny so I found a nice warm spot in the backyard and pulled up a chair. Mum had even turned on the little water feature so I ending up having a very nice little spot to relax in. Usually I am pretty good at being sun smart but today I forgot to put on any sunscreen and now have bright red shoulders! Yeowch! My first sunburn of the season and hopefully the last. So not a smart move. Always remember to slip, slop, slap kiddies!

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  25. 100 Mile Fitness Challenge

    Friday, November 6, 2009

    It just would not be right for me to join a challenge just as it was starting. For some reason I always have to join sometime in the middle or the tail end of things. This challenge is hosted by Trish of Trish's Reading Nook. Trish had the fantastic idea that we should all work out together. Okay, so we cannot actually be physically together but we sure can cheer each other along!

    The goal of this challenge is to "travel" 100 miles between October 1st and December 31st. It's heading in to summer over here and this sounds like just the kind of kick up the bum that I need to get me up and exercising. Bikini season is fast approaching and my stomach hardly looks tone after a winter of curling up in front of the heater with my books and eating nice warm comfort foods. Eeeek!

    To find out more head on over to the 100 Mile Fitness Challenge Blog!

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  26. V for Vendetta

    Thursday, November 5, 2009

    The pounding in my skull and the drowsy sinus tablets both tell me that I should be sleeping right now. My desire not to fail at NaBloPoMo tells me that I should post instead. However, should this review descend in to gibberish that might just pass as English if you squint and turn your head to just the right angle, you know why. I will probably entirely rewrite this review in the morning but I am posting it now to make it count. In fact, it may be best just to ignore this post until then...

    Seeing as it is the fifth of November I decided to review one of my favourite movies, V for Vendetta.

    Summary from as I do not feel up to writing my own at the moment:
    Set against the futuristic landscape of totalitarian Britain, V For Vendetta tells the story of a mild-mannered young woman named Evey (Natalie Portman) who is rescued from a life-and-death situation by a masked man (Hugo Weaving) known only as "V." Incomparably charismatic and ferociously skilled in the art of combat and deception, V ignites a revolution when he urges his fellow citizens to rise up against tyranny and oppression. As Evey uncovers the truth about V's mysterious background, she also discovers the truth about herself - and emerges as his unlikely ally in the culmination of his plan to bring freedom and justice back to a society fraught with cruelty and corruption.

    Written by the Wachowski's (I don't think we are supposed to call them brothers any more from what I have heard,) of Matrix fame and directed by James McTeigue, V for Vendetta is based on Alan Moore's graphic novel by the same title.

    What makes this film truely amazing is Hugo Weaving, who plays the role of V. For the entirety of the film, Weaving is hidden from head to toe behind a Guy Fawks mask and black clothing. You see nothing of his face, his eyes are completely obscured, and yet the character of V is brought to full life on the screen.

    V's dialogue is also by far the most entertaining. Just try keeping track of all those words starting with the letter v!
    "VoilĂ ! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin van-guarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition. The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it's my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V."
    Half the fun is in breaking down such speeches and learning that vichyssoise is "a thick creamy potato soup flavored with leeks and onions, usually served cold." (From

    I suppose, that Natalie Portman should get a most admirable shout out for getting her head shaved on screen. Yikes! Though, am I the only one who finds it absolutely hilarious that the complaint "you cut my hair!" is what she complains about before "you tortured me!" because, if it were me, torture would be number one on my list of complaints.

    I also appreciated that the film began with a brief scene, set to the famous "remember, remember the fifth of November..." to educate those of us not from the UK about Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot. (Robert Catesby who lead the conspirators, as always, is forgotten however it is intended to be a very brief "oh, look see - this is Guy Fawkes.) Here in Australia Bonfire night has been tragically long forgotten mostly due to the fact that fireworks are mostly banned for average Joe.

    I would like to go in to the whole totalitarian dystopia plotline and of course the role V as either a terrorist or a freedom fighter but my brain just really isn't churning out the words for me right now to say much more intelligent beyond "Hugo Weaving good, braaiinnss...." Let's also not forget the whole "eggy in the basket" issue. I am scratching my head trying to remember a great little bit that V tells Evey about anarchy in the graphic novel.

    I am going to go ahead and post this even though this post is going to get a major overhaul tomorrow, just so I can get my post in for the day. Bleh. Aren't I just terrible? If you like, you can blame Nanowrimo which has caused me to silence my inner editor who would normally be all over this post for quality control.

    Ow. My head. =(

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  27. Peeps by Scott Westerfeld

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009

    Nineteen year-old Cal's first sexual encounter changed his life forever, and not in the way that you might think. The one night stand left him infected with a parasite that is spread through biting and sex. Now Cal spends his time working for the Night Watch, hunting down the people that he unintentionally infected before being discovered, eating stacks of meat to satisfy his new found appetite, and snapping an elastic band on his wrist to try distract himself from his now ramped up sex drive seeing as he is not allowed to act on it.

    All considered though, he could actually be a lot worse off. Cal is just a carrier of the parasite, one of the rare few who do not have their minds warped by the infection and begin munching on human flesh and hating everything they ever loved as a normal person. But Cal won't be satisfied until he finds the infected woman who passed on the parasite to him but in trying to track her down Cal makes a disturbing discovery.

    I really enjoyed this book. In fact, of all the Scott Westerfeld books I have read so far and having only just closed it's pages five minutes ago, I think that it is my favourite of his.

    Peeps puts a fascinating new twist on vampires. In this book, parasite positives, or peeps for short, are the basis for the vampire legend. They are not vampires as you might normally imagine them to be. Indeed, while reading the book I never really thought of them as vampires as all. Vampires are just what people came up with to try and explain what was happening. Peeps are not suave or aristocratic and instead of specifically needing to drink blood to survive it is flesh that peeps are after. Westerfeld does an excellent job of taking the vampire legend and weaving the old superstitions in to what are really the survival instincts of the parasite. For example, why are rats associated with vampires? Because rats are a major vector for parasites and disease! Peeps hate what they used to love so if a peep used to be religious then, yes, they can be repelled by a cross. Likewise, if your peep used to really love Elvis then some posters of the King and a few of his albums are just what you need.

    All of the even numbered chapters contained interesting information about different parasites, going into how they travel from host to host, what their goals are, and what role they play in balancing out nature. But don't fear that you are going to get bored with text book entries, these informative chapters continue in the same perspective as the rest of the book, as though Cal is just casually boosting your knowledge of parasites. Indeed, I felt very "S-M-R-T" smart when while flicking through a health magazine it mentioned one of these parasites and I could say that I knew exactly what they were talking about. Thanks Scott!

    Naming the secret organisation that hunts peeps the Night Watch made me wonder if Westerfeld is a fan of Sergei Lukyanenko (and actually I will be reviewing Night Watch sometime in the nearish future,) but more than likely I am guessing that it is just a coincidence.

    So, if you are looking for Scott Westerfeld book to try out I definitely suggest that you give this one a go. Peeps doesn't really feel like a vampire book so even if you are not in to vampire stories you may find yourself liking this one. It has a good balance of fiction and science and the story comes together in a great twist at the end.

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  28. Teaser Tuesdays

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    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!
    'Oh, yeah?' I answered. 'You and what army?'
    Possibly the army I'd just run away from like a headless chicken.

    From page 191 0f Peeps by Scott Westerfeld.

    Hmmm... I wonder what he is up against? I plucked this teaser from a page that I haven't read yet! o=

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  29. Hamlet: A Novel by John Marsden

    Monday, November 2, 2009

    Hamlet's father has died and his mother quickly remarries. One cold night he is roused from his sleep by Horatio and Bernardo who claim that the have seen the ghost of Hamlet's father walking the grounds. The drag Hamlet from his bed to encounter the spirit, seeming indeed to be that of his father, who claims to have been murdered by the very man who has claimed the crown and married Hamlet's mother - Hamlet's uncle and his father's own brother!

    This claim of foul play settles darkly in Hamlet's mind and over time he becomes more greatly disturbed. He knows he must seek revenge for his father's death, but can he do so without bringing tragedy upon all those around him, including himself?

    John Marsden was one of the authors who influenced me the most throughout my teen years. When I heard that he had dared to tackle a retelling of Shakespeare's Hamlet I knew that I had to at least give it a go.

    I am afraid that I have not read Shakespeare's original or seen it performed (I do not think that the Simpsons version counts!) to be able to say how closely Marsden has followed the story as it was first told by the Bard, what lines or scenes have been kept, changed, moved around, or discarded entirely.

    Marsden's attempting to make the story more contemporary has resulted in an uncomfortable sense that the setting and speech is disjointed in time. It was as though Marsden himself could not decide whether or not he wanted us to believe if the story was set in the past or in modern day. Unfortunately, this inconsistant shift back and forth between modern speech and lines closer to that of Shakespeare's own, the shifting modes of dress with Hamlet even wearing jeans at one point in the novel, are ultimately the novels downfall. This inconsistency left me with a sense of unease throughout so that I could not enjoy what would otherwise have been an excellent retelling.

    Time confusion aside, Hamlet is written in Marsden's usual style that I associate with him, flowing with ease on the pages and I read through all 228 pages in just a few hours. Being one of Australia's best YA authors, Marsden takes Hamlet and creates a tale of teenage torment and angst and sexuality. A few odd moments aside, that is. Was the line "He found a lavatory and sat on it emptying his bowls in an exhausted rush" really something that I had to read?

    If only Marsden had been consistent in contemporising Hamlet it surely would have been excellent. It seems that Marsden is at his best when his writings are entirely of his own creation rather than having to deal with the rules set when playing in another persons sandbox. As it stands, I would say that Marsden's Hamlet is still a good way to introduce the resistant student to Shakespeare (and surely with Marsden's history in education this is what he had in mind,) but it is disappointing in the knowledge that, coming from such a seasoned author, Hamlet: a novel could have been so much better.

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  30. Kick Off!

    Sunday, November 1, 2009

    Okay, just a quickie post and then I am going to bed.

    It is approximately 12:35am of November 1st which means that both National Novel Writing Month and National Blog Posting Month have begun!

    I have just churned out the first 500 words of my nano, oddly enough starting with what I had originally planned to be a chapter two scene, not chapter one. I am so tired right now so I am sure that when I look back at it I will think that it is a truly poorly written start so I will have to be sure not to look at it until November is done with or else my inner editor may get the better of me. I will continue with the rest of today's quota in the morning after some much needed sleep.

    Nobody knocked on our door tonight for lollies (we didn't really think any would) so I have plenty of left over chocolate to keep me fueled to write. Yum yum.

    This post also kicks off my contribution to National Blog Posting Month!

    To November - the month of insanity!

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