Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Devouring Stephen King: The Wind Through The Keyhole

I don't think it's any secret that I'm a big fan of Stephen King's Dark Tower Series. I can't get enough of his ka-tet's noble journey throughout different landscapes and worlds to try and save the very fabric of reality itself, and I'm also super excited for the upcoming movie (mainly cause, have you SEEN Idris Elba?!) However. I also don't think it's any secret that the parts of these novels that are pure fantasy, sans savvy New Yorkers and trips to somewhere resembling our own world, are not exactly my favourite parts. Wizard and Glass is my least favourite of the series, for example, purely because it's a story about Roland's past, set entirely in Roland's world and ugh please just no.

It's really unsurprising to me, though, that The Wind Through The Keyhole, King's addendum to his Dark Tower series (published last, but set between books 4 and 5), delves deeper into the mythology of Roland's world. It's clearly a place that King loves exploring and creating in, even if I find it kind of tiresome, so let us all praise him for doing a thing that he loves. For my part, I'm still a little sore at the events of the 7th book, so the way this book teases us with a glimpse of the main characters at the beginning on the end, but otherwise focuses on two other stories felt like a little bit of an insult, at least to my Eddie, Susannah and Jake loving heart.

To it's credit, this book is structured really interestingly. Roland begins by telling one story, and then tells a story from his childhood within that story. I actually found the folk tale the more interesting one, because it felt to me like a pure fairy tale- a genre that King doesn't tackle very often (if ever...) but here is very good at. I know what you're thinking though (or actually, what I'm thinking)- if I don't like fantasy (mostly), then why do I like the tale that is fictional, even within the fiction?

I don't really have an answer, except to say that I guess I kind of like fairy tales, but also this one was REALLY COOL. There's a tiger and some murder and a quest, and yeah, I just really liked it. Roland's additional backstory in this book really didn't measure up to this secondary tale, and even felt like a plot device in order to just get to this piece of folklore. I didn't like the Roland stuff so much, but it was at least shorter, and who am I to chastise King for wanting to return to his happy place in such a way?

Besides, at least it wasn't as long as Wizard and Glass.

As always, you should probably take everything negative I've said about this book with a pinch of salt, since I finished it in a giant gulp and wasn't even mad about it. Because, you know, it's Stephen King. Even when he's not at his best, he's still kind of the best.

ONWARDS to the next one.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Films I Watched In April

Greetings, and welcome to a brand new blog part of my blog and whatnot. The function of this monthly post is threefold: firstly, to talk about films in general because I haven't done that for so long and I really like to do it, secondly, I have a limitless movie pass now which means I'm seeing more films than ever before (in theory) and thirdly, my friend who I basically just see movies with does a thing where she records all the films she's seen in a year, and you know, I wanna too.

Thus here beginnith all the films watched in my 29th year.

Raw
I feel like I must have known once upon a time that Raw was a french (actually belgian, but french language) film, but I managed to forget that before I saw it and so was faced with subtitles after a 9 hour day at work. No matter, because Raw was excellent- I was concerned before I saw it because I had heard horror stories of people throwing up in cinemas because of it, and because I'm really not good with scary movies, but this was not exactly what I would describe as a horror movie. The story follows Justine, a young girl who is a vegetarian and is just starting at vet school. Both of these things are relevant as the culture of hazing at the school leads to Justine's consumption of a raw rabbit kidney (a vegetarian! Eating a raw rabbit kidney!) after which point, things get WEIRD. Rather than a horror movie though, this is really just a coming of age drama with just the tiniest bit of cannibalism thrown in for funsies and also for some kind of symbolism that I'm sure I'd be able to decipher if I was a smarter person. Regardless, this film was excellent, and well worth the subtitle reading that it entailed. The general thing I learnt from the movie: Give a vegetarian meat, and it's just a matter of time until she's chowing down on some tasty tasty human flesh.

Monty Python and the Life of Brian
I shouldn't really count this cause I fell asleep abouuuut half an hour into this and only woke up for 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life' (for similar reasons, I'm not counting Boys Don't Cry) BUT it's my Good Friday film, I'm trying to start a tradition where I watch it every year, and it is great.

Get Out

Get Out, however, I saw twice last month (and once the month before that, YES IT IS THAT GOOD and yes I really do have that cinema pass thing). You really need to see it to understand how good it is, but as well as exploring race relations and other big important issues, it's just genuinely an excellent story, thrilling and disturbing and omg how evil are white people? Sooooo evil, you guys. You really really have to see it thought because honestly, I just can't do it justice.

The Theory of Everything

Ah, The Theory of Everything is a sad one. Basically Stephen Hawking's life story, from his time at Cambridge/diagnosis of MND, it comes as no surprise to me that Eddie Redmayne won an Oscar for this role, even if I didn't think the film itself was perfect. It's a little oddly paced, and some of the events are not really fully explored, but this makes sense when one considers that the source material is from Hawking's ex-wife's memoir rather than his own words. Stunning performances, and well worth a watch, just not a perfect film (like, you know, Get Out is, for instance).

Bowling for Columbine

I have seen this film many many times, but I needed my boyfriend to see it and Netflix has it and everything. I haven't seen it for a while, so I was expecting it to be dated, but if anything its ideas about gun control and why Americans are so damn trigger happy are more relevant now than when it was first released. Always worth a watch, if only for the cartoon history of America (WHITE PEOPLE ARE TERRIBLE).

Beauty and the Beast

I mean. We all know the deal with Beauty and the Beast right? It's beautiful and magical and yes I am of course talking about the cartoon and not the live action version that I can't quite bring myself to go and see. White men are particularly terrible in this, but I sure had a fine time watching it and I'm still singing all the songs from it, tbh.

So. There we have April.
Films for the year so far: 6
Onwards we shall march!

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Sunday Sundries

Oh heyyyy, haven't done this in a while! I wanted to get back to writing a Sunday post each week, mostly because yay habit forming and yay writing about things that aren't necessarily books but also might be about books idk.

This week we had a bank holiday on Monday, then I was off work sick for three days because ugh throat and SO TIRED and there was snot and you probably didn't want to know that much, so basically yes, I did work for a grand total of one day. It's the thought that counts, right? From work on Friday I went down to my boyfriend's for the weekend where we managed to tire ourselves out going to Southampton IKEA without even buying any of the things*, which I'm putting down to ill tireds rather than, you know, being unfit and stuff.

This writing about stuff is harder than I remember, so here's a form thingy to get back into the swing of things!

Lately I have been...

Writing: Literally just blog posts (and shopping lists), but I'm pretty happy to be doing that with some kind of regularity again- it feels gooooood. I have also been learning to write Japanese, by which I mean that I sort-of know about 30 Kanji now and also the two other alphabets and also this week I learnt some new verbs so that's great and also I definitely can't write much in Japanese yet so please don't ask me to!

Reading: I spent quite a bit of my ill time reading this week and I am reading If This Is A Woman which is about a Nazi Concentration Camp, Ravensbruck, which was only for women (and so of course no one has heard of it). It did not make me feel any better to say the least, but it is excellently written and seems important to be fully aware of considering the right wing turn that the entire planet seems to be taking at the moment. I'm going to be pretty relieved to be done with it, I think, but I'm kind of glad I'm reading it.

Oh and also, all the Stephen King. Just so much. I'm so into him right now, and can't believe it's nearly over!

Listening: I have been in a fight with my phone ever since it kept shuffling all my songs even when that was a REALLY ANNOYING thing to do, especially when listening to the Hamilton soundtrack because DAMMIT those songs are in order for a REASON. Anyway, the other week I was complaining to my housemate about this, and he suggested there was probably a really easy solution and a quick google search revealed that he was in fact correct and I am reasonably ashamed of myself but also super happy because I can listen to the Hamilton Soundtrack properly again, which I am doing to a pretty excessive extent. It's awesome.

Watching: Again, ill from work so I've watched a few things- I finally saw the movie version of Room, which again did not make me feel better, and I finished season 3 of Transparent, got pretty bored by the first of the new episodes of Better Call Saul (do I even like that programme or do I just watch it because Breaking Bad? I'm really not sure) and finally watched some Gilmore Girls to try and cheer myself up (it worked pretty well, if I'm honest). My boyfriend and I are also making our way through all of Futurama cause, you know, its the best. We're currently on Season 4 and I'm starting to think it might be my favourite season because IT IS SO GOOD. Quality entertainment, you guys.

Looking: forward to Angels in America which I am seeing IN A MERE 6 DAYS, I actually can't cope with the fact that this is happening and sort of won't believe it until I'm sitting in the theatre, I think. So many excites!

Learning: a lot about the Holocaust from my depressing ass book, and, as also previously mentioned, Japanese. Confession: I am terrible at learning Japanese because I have basically no free time to commit to actually learning the things I am taught in the lessons, so my pattern of life basically involves going to the lesson, hearing things, forgetting everything progressively over the next week and frantically doing my homework in the time I have between work and my lesson on Thursdays. I don't really have a solution for this, because I like doing all the things I do that aren't learning Japanese, it's just a general comment on how shitty a learner I am.

Feeling: Tired as helllllll but pretty happy with life in general. Also pretty grateful that I have never experienced anything like conditions in a concentration camp, so generally happy with life in that sense (seriously this book has gotten under my skin).

Anticipating: See above, re Angels in America. Also hopefully, and FINALLY maybe possibly meeting Alice from the internets who is in England this week!!!!!!

Wishing: That time could just speed up a little tiny bit. And also that I had just a little bit more monies to do the things I really want to do. And also for more time so I can learn that goddamn Japanese goddammit.

Loving: It's gross to say my boyfriend, isn't it? But, you know that, and also having a job which pays me for sick days which is genuinely such a privilege for me that I still don't quite believe it.

And that is me at the moment. How about you?

*ok we bought a few of the things. But basically none!

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Devouring Stephen King: 11/22/63

People have been telling me for the longest time that 11.22.63 is the best. Whether it's their favourite Stephen King book, or merely the one they've just read and LOVED, it's maybe the book I've heard about most during my long, long King pilgrimage. 'I'm reading all of Stephen King's books!' 'OMG have you read 11/22/63?' 'No, but I've heard it's GREAT! I can't wait!'

But oh man, have I waited. 11/22/63 was published in the November of the same year I started reading all of the Stephen King in, I think, March. While I was back in his works of the 70s and early 80s, everyone was reading this book and LOVING it, while I tried not to whimper too hard or think about how long it would be before I could read this book. About 5 and a half years later, here we are, and guess what?

I LOVED it.

If I'm going to be entirely honest, I thought the start was slightly slow (and that is, quite literally, my only criticism of this whole damn book) and at that point I'll admit I panicked slightly. Not so much because I was worried that I was about to be crushed by the weight of my own expectations (always a concern, admittedly) but more because it is such a long book not to love, and I have imposed a weirdly strict deadline on myself for finishing all of the King and I'm just. So. Close. you guys. But as you can probably tell, I FINISHED THE BOOK cause, you know, review and everything. If this ever turns into anything resembling a review, that is. Ahem.

So. The plot of this book goes as follows: a man is called by his favourite diner owner one day who is mysteriously dying of lung cancer when he was fine the day before. It emerges that said diner owner has discovered a portal to 1958 in his stockroom and, having lived in the past for 4 years has contracted the terminal cancer now killing him. He asks Jake, our hero, to go back into the past for him (where, interestingly, every visit is a reset) and to wait from September 1958 until (amazingly) 11/22/63 (22nd November 1963 for, y'know, British people) to save JFK from assassination. It is an awesome premise, but where it goes from there is just so much better.

Because it's not really about JFK. It's not even really about time travel, even though I think King has a really interesting version of time travel that I don't think I've ever seen before, and that I would have liked teased out a little bit more. What it's really about is Jake, about overcoming impossible circumstances, about finding love in the weirdest places (and, let's face it, times), about heartbreaking decisions and impossible consequences and so many more things that you're really going to have to read to find out about. I have to give a bonus shout out to Jake's 1960's girlfriend Sadie, who honestly is one of my favourite King women now- so well fleshed out and interesting and feisty and oh god I loved her so much can I just read this book again right now?

I think this book gets extra points with me purely because it returns to Derry and It remains my favourite Stephen King book. King returns to so many places and scenarios in his books, and although Derry is mentioned fairly often, I believe this is the only time it has been returned to in a significant way. Jake visits just after the events of It, meets Beverly and Richie, and just generally describes the atmosphere of the place from an outsider's perspective that couldn't really be done in It (where everyone is inside). I ate it right up, and it tasted great. It turned out to not even be my favourite part of the book (ok, all the parts are my favourite) but it gave me certain excited thrills that's really all I look for when I'm reading, you know, anything.

So here it is. I can confirm, once and for all, that 11/22/63 is exactly as good as everyone has been saying it is. I would read it again in a heartbeat (if I didn't have so damn many other books to read, dammit), and I really just can't get over how good it was. There are no scary monsters, except for the past itself, (and of course the usual human ones) but that doesn't stop it from being one of King's finest.

In my most humble opinion, of course. Ahem.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Things I Read In April

Aprilllllllll! I love April, not least because it's my birthday month, but this year I really loved it because I had the first 10 days off work, and then we had easter, and ok yes basically I only worked one full week all month. This meant I had so much time for reading (and, I hope you've noticed, blogging!) and honestly, it has been fucking joyful, I've loved it.

As well as all the reading, I have: been to Kew Gardens, been to Brighton, been to London Zoo, eaten a LOT of sugar (working on that), spent many many hours and days with that boyfriend type person of mine, restarted Japanese lessons after a looooooong break, went to a Beauty and the Beast themed afternoon tea and (AND) managed to get tickets to Angels in America which I will be seeing merely a week from Saturday *dies of excitement*.

It's been a good month, is what I'm trying to say.

I'm also fairly resolved (although I hesitate to say it cause, y'know, it's me) to bringing back Sunday Sundries posts starting this month, so expect to hear a lot from me that you probably didn't even want to hear. Is that cool, ok good.

BOOKS THO (with bonus chocolate frog!)


The Music of Chance by Paul Auster
This book was weeeeeird. I think I'm pretty used to Auster books being weird at this point, but this seemed especially random and strange but I think that was kind of the point. A man is left some money by a dead relative which he uses to literally drive around America for a couple of years and abdicate all adult responsibility (he has a daughter who lives with his sister, for instance). Just as the money is about to run out, he almost literally runs into a poker genius who he decides to fund in a game against two REALLY rich weirdos, and things go very much awry. I'm slightly ashamed to say that I don't even remember the end of this book now (it's only been a month, I need to step it up) but I do remember liking it at the time even if I can't remember it now. I'm usually guaranteed to like an Auster book, and this one did nothing to break that rule, even if it was, I shall say it again, pretty weird.

Crazy Salad and Scribble Scribble by Nora Ephron
This was originally two books that were combined into one after her death, I'm going to assume so that poor people like me could have easier and more affordable access to some of her earlier writing. Thanks, publishers! This was obviously great because Nora is the bestest, and I could read her writing on anything, anytime, forever. Crazy Salad is a collection of her essays about women, and they are especially excellent because they were written literally as second wave feminism was hitting its peak. There's stuff about Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan (sort of nuts, apparently), but there's also stuff that isn't about prominent feminists but is tied into the entire movement anyway, including a stunning takedown of what I can only describe as vagina deodorant (Nora describes it better, of course). Scribble Scribble is a collection of essays about the media and, whilst Crazy Salad was my favourite because, you know, feminism, her takedowns of the media are pretty much as excellent as her takedowns of the patriarchy. Whilst there is an element of datedness to the articles (they are very much of their time) please see above re: reading anything by Nora ever. I believe I am rapidly running out of new-to-me Nora stuff to read, at which point I will simply be forced to re-read everything again because she is a complete and utter gem.

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
Hey, I already reviewed this! But if reviews are a bit much for you, I shall summarise: four novellas, extremely dark stories (hence the title) read only when you're prepared for some very deep and dark stuff.

The First Bad Man by Miranda July
Let me preface this by saying that I think Miranda July is excellent. Her writing is great and her stories and subject matter don't shy away from difficult issues, and also issues that basically no one else writes about. I like her a lot but my god I found this book so stressful, essentially because you're trapped in the head of a character who quite clearly has a lot of mental problems. Her way of seeing the world is kind of warped, and being dragged into it as an outsider means that you both feel sorry for her and exasperated by her. The times that she has been isolated but can't quite, or chooses not to, see it are kind of upsetting, but the times she does really questionable things but can't predict the reaction of the person they relate to can be kind of disturbing. IT IS VERY STRESSFUL, and I probably wouldn't read it again, but I also wouldn't rescind reading it for the first time. It's a confusing mix of feelings, and allow me to conclude by saying, once again, that I really do think Miranda July is excellent.

Confusing.

11/22/63 by Stephen King
Oh hey, I've reviewed this too, and you'll be able to read it on Wednesday! EXCITING! Here's a spoiler: I loved it, I loved it, I loved it. Just in case you were worried.

Something New by Lucy Knisley
I have only read this once before, and it was when I was recovering from my operation last October. I liked it at the time, but only to the extent that I could like anything at that point, which is to say not very much. I reread it last weekend and ohhhh I love it. Knisley is basically my permanent favourite anyway, but her take on matrimony and weddings and cutting through all the bullshit that surrounds them to get to something beautiful and something she really wanted. I happen to know from instagram that she's currently inking a new book about babies and motherhood, and I can't wait to read her take on that, either.

The Wind Through The Keyhole by Stephen King
I managed to sneak this one in on the very last day in April, so I was pretty happy with that. I will be reviewing it because King, but let's just say that I feel very meh about The Dark Tower books that involve Roland's past, and this was one of those so sort of meh? But then also sort of not. You'll see (at some point, you know how it goes)

And that was April! TA DA! I'm pretty happy with my readings, and as I have literally no days off booked in May I don't at all expect to achieve anything like this this month. But we. Shall. See.