Friday, 29 June 2012

Movie Review: Brave


I had been eagerly anticipating the release of Pixar's latest animated movie Brave for well...awhile now.   I love animated movies and I love animated movies with female protagonists even more. And if that female protagonist so happens to be a princess...well, I will love it to infinity and beyond.

After weeks of convincing, my younger brother (who is very anti-princesses) agreed to go watch it with me. I mean it looked pretty fantastic to me; a movie with a girl weilding a bow and arrow with crazy red hair that is set in a beautifully coloured and lush looking medieval Scotland. It was scoring so many cool points in my book. However after leaving the cinema I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed and lukewarm towards Brave. This could be a case of me expecting too much, especially since Pixar is renowned for producing such high quality films (Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Up etc.).

It's not that Brave isn't a good animated film, it was enjoyable, my 8 year old brother didn't complain/fidget too much and I really appreciated that although it was a technically a 'princess movie' it really wasn't a princess movie in the traditional sense i.e. this princess wasn't waiting around in an ivory tower for her prince to come swooping in and rescue her. In fact there was nary a potential love interest in sight (much to the relief of my brother). I also enjoyed the Mother-Daughter relationship, which was the crux of the story and hasn't really been explored in these kinds of movies before, or at least not to my knowledge.

There were a few laughs to be had, mostly provided by Merida's three mischievous brothers who had a penchant for stealing sweets, and it was a visually stunning movie. It just wasn't a movie that really resonated with me or left a big impression. Nontheless, I would still recommend people go and see it in the cinemas. While it may not be up to scratch with some of Pixar's previous offerings, Brave is an enjoyable film that has some genuinely heartwarming moments and a feisty female protagonist. 


Friday, 15 June 2012

Follow Friday #5

Feature and Follow Friday is a blog hop hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read

Q: Happy Father's Day! Who is your favorite dad character in a book and why?

Let me start by saying I had no idea that it was Father's Day in other parts of the world. In Australia we celebrate Father's Day in September. So Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there!

As for dads in books, well I guess the obvious one that has probably been said a million times already is Charlie Swan from Twilight. I loved how even though he and Bella didn't talk much or express their emotions openly you could tell that they really loved and cared for each other. Charlie seems like an awesome dad to have. Although in saying that, when me and my friend went to see one of the Twi films (can't remember which one!) we were cracking up laughing at how Charlie was depicted drinking a can of beer in nearly every scene he was in. That's great parenting right there.

Source: PerfectPattinson


Book Review: Paper Towns by John Green

Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Publisher: Speak
Released: 2008
Summary: When Margo Roth Spiegelman beckons Quentin Jacobsen in the middle of the night - dressed like a ninja and plotting an ingenious campaign of revenge - he follows her. Margo's always planned extravagantly, and, until now, she's always planned solo. After a lifetime of loving Margo from afar, things are finally looking up for Q . . . until day breaks and she has vanished. Always an enigma, Margo has now become a mystery. But there are clues. And they're for Q. Printz Medalist John Green returns with the trademark brilliant wit and heart-stopping emotional honesty that have inspired a new generation of readers. - Goodreads 

John Green delivers another smart and funny story for teens in his young adults novel Paper Towns. Green’s teenage protagonist, Quentin, is a geeky misfit who is infatuated with his enigmatic childhood best friend and neighbour, Margo Roth Spiegelman. When Margo reappears in Quentin’s life only to just as quickly disappear Quentin is left to follow the clues that will lead him to Margo. 

If this sounds familiar it may be because Green wrote a similar story about an offbeat unpopular boy and the unattainable mysterious girl he lusts after in his 2005 Printz Award winning novel Looking For Alaska. It would be unfair to write off Paper Towns as a paper cut-out of Green’s previous novel even though he travels a road he has travelled before. So maybe Quentin is reminiscent of Miles, and Margo resembles Alaska from Looking for Alaska, but so what? Green has found his writing niche and writes thoughtful stories with clever characters. 

The quick-witted dialogue and layers of meaning that he interweaves in his stories is masterful and young adult fiction at its best. Green brings to life all his characters that are, more often than not, a little bit quirky, but not just for quirks sake. They are real in a way that sometimes makes them unlikeable because they’re human, and they’re teenagers. Green not only writes solid three dimensional characters like Radar who edits entries for his online encyclopaedia Omnictionary and whose parents own the largest collection of black Santa’s, but he writes about things that matter. Just as Quentin struggles to align his idea of Margo with the reality of her, we are all limited in our ability to truly understand people and walk in their shoes. 

As long as John Green keeps writing his hilarious one-liners, razor-sharp dialogue and complex stories that actually appeal to young adults he can write about as many scrawny nerdy boys and the mystifying beautiful girls they love as he likes. 


Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Bake That Book: Harry Potter Butterbeer Cupcakes

One of the things I love to do besides reading is baking. So I thought, why not combine two of my loves to create a giant ball of loveliness???

A while back I reviewed The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater which described in mouthwatering detail these little treats called November cakes. Stiefvater has posted a recipe for them which I swore to make (still haven't gotten around to that but one day I will) and planted the seed in my head to post recipes inspired by my favourite YA books. Cooking novel inspired dishes isn't a new concept and I take no credit for this idea. I just want to share the yummy things I make that remind me of my favourite books. 

First up is probably one of the most loved fictitious foods (or I should say, drinks). I had my first taste of Butterbeer when I was fortunate enough to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida late last year. It was absolutely amazing and I loved how they had recreated a little piece of Harry Potter magic in the middle of a bustling theme park. This recipe has been on my radar for awhile, and after seeing pictures of Butterbeer cupcakes on Tastespotting (my go to food exploration site) I just knew I had to make them.


Inspired by: Butterbeer from Harry Potter (First mentioned in Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban).

Recipe: You can find the recipe for Butterbeer Cupcakes at Amy's Bites or an Australia friendly version here

"Harry drank deeply. It was the most delicious thing he'd ever tasted and seemed to heat every bit of him from the inside."- Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 10 



My Butterbeer cupcakes turned out really nice. The cake was light and moist due to the addition of Creamy Soda and buttermilk in the batter, and there is a distinct butterscotch-y flavour. While they may not taste exactly like Butterbeer they come pretty darn close. 


Waiting On Wednesday #5

The Thing About the Truth by Lauren Barnholdt
July 10th 2012 ~ Simon Pulse

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

In this humorous love story from the author of Two-Way Street, an unlikely romance is the best sort of surprise—but the wrong secret can ruin everything. Kelsey’s not going to let one mistake ruin her life. Sure, she got kicked out of prep school and all her old friends are shutting her out. But Kelsey’s focused on her future, and she’s determined to get back on track at Concordia High.

 Isaac’s been kicked out of more schools than he can count. Since his father’s a state senator, Isaac’s life is under constant scrutiny—but Concordia High’s his last stop before boarding school, so Isaac’s hoping to fly under the radar and try to stay put for a change.

 When Kelsey and Isaac meet, it’s anything but love at first sight. She thinks he’s an entitled brat, and he thinks she’s a stuck-up snob. So it surprises them both when they start to fall for each other. Kelsey’s happy for the first time in months, and Isaac’s never felt this way about anyone before...But nothing’s ever completely perfect. Everyone has secrets, and Isaac and Kelsey are no exceptions. These two may have fallen hard, but there’s one thing that can ruin it all: the truth. - Goodreads 

Two spoiled little rich kids?? I'm in love already. 

What are you waiting on? 


Monday, 11 June 2012

Book Review: The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen

Title: The Fine Art of Truth or Dare 
Author: Melissa Jensen 
Publisher: Penguin Aus 
Released: April 2012 
Summary: Ella is nearly invisible at the Willing School, and that's just fine by her. She's got her friends - the fabulous Frankie and their sweet cohort Sadie. She's got her art - and her idol, the unappreciated 19th-century painter Edward Willing. Still, it's hard being a nobody and having a crush on the biggest somebody in the school: Alex Bainbridge. Especially when he is your French tutor, and lessons have started becoming, well, certainly more interesting than French ever has been before. But can the invisible girl actually end up with a happily ever after with the golden boy, when no one even knows they're dating? And is Ella going to dare to be that girl? - Goodreads

The Fine Art of Truth or Dare is a romantic YA read that is filled with a surprising amount of depth and emotion. I say surprising because going into reading this I expected it to be a light-hearted, funny, read with romance and shenanigans aplenty. And it was, to an extent. There was however some interesting elements at play that lent a real heart and truth to the story. 

Ella is a likable and genuine protagonist who is self deprecating, shy and has...issues. She doesn't realise her own self-worth and just how amazing she is, even though her two best friends are constantly reassuring her of this. The friendship between Ella and her two BFFs, Frankie - self proclaimed 'gaysian' and karaoke superstar and Sadie - a rich girl with an overbearing and fashion-challenged mother, is one of the highlights of the book. Another highlight would have to be Ella's loud and nosy Italian family. Coming from an Italian family who own's an Italian restaurant, much like the one in The Fine Art of Truth or Dare I found myself nodding my head and laughing at their antics quite a bit throughout the novel. The scenes set in the family's restaurant kitchen were like flashbacks to my childhood. 

I must admit I wasn't really sure about Ella's crush, or should I say obsession, with deceased 19th century painter Edward Willing. I thought it was cute, in a quirky-worried-for-her-sanity kind of way. I think the real draw to this book though is the romance between Ella and Alex Bainbridge, the popular and seemingly unattainable rich boy. I loved that he was a nice guy who still had teenage boy qualities. Meaning that he was prone to saying and doing stupid, incomprehensible things, like being in a relationship with a mean girl who displayed no redeeming qualities whatsoever. 

 Overall I was really impressed by this story and it has made me want to read more of Melissa Jensen's novels. The Fine Art of Truth or Dare is a heartwarming contemporary YA read about being true to yourself and those who matter the most to you. It's a story for those of us who didn't quite fit in at school or in life (the outcasts, the misfits, the undesirables) that gives hope by sending out the message that we are more than our outside appearance and that we should recognize our own value and beauty.


Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Book Review: Holier Than Thou by Laura Buzo

Title: Holier Than Thou
Author: Laura Buzo
Publisher: Allen & Unwin 
Released: May 2012 
Summary: Holly Yarkov has a boyfriend who is a gift from the universe. She has a job that fulfils her even as it wears her down. She has a core group of friends from high school. And she has a layer of steel around her heart that is beginning to tarnish. Just as she is reaching for a future she can't quite see, Holly is borne back into the past by memories of her beloved father, and of the boy-who-might-have-been... Grief and longing run like veins of quicksilver through this beautiful novel, at once gloriously funny and achingly sad. - Goodreads

Holier Than Thou embodies everything that I love about Australian YA fiction; it is startling real, honest and utterly relatable. The people and places are palpable and the emotions evoked are breathtakingly raw. Laura Buzo has once again demonstrated her talent in writing insightful and complex characters, while also weaving an gripping and unforgettable story. 

Gathering my thoughts about this novel has been hard, partly because I devoured it all in one night - breathlessly finishing it off at 2am in the morning and partly because I feel like I need to re-read it to savour the depth and complexity of the story. While I enjoy reading YA about the dramas of high school I really love it when I come across a story that is for the older YA readers and I wish that there were more books out there that write about characters in this age bracket.  

Holier Than Thou is a story that starts not with a whimper, but with a bang as we are introduced to Holly, a 24 year old social worker, who discovers something shocking when visiting a patient. From that point on the story is beautiful study of characters, flawlessly interweaving moments from Holly's past - her father's battle with cancer in High-School, her friendship with Liam - a boy who she was once close with but has now disappeared from her life, and her current relationship with her friends from high-school who are slowly drifting apart. There were some lighter moments in the novel, and in particular I loved the banter between Holly and her dread-locked co-worker, Nicholarse- as she so fondly calls him. 

This is not a light read, nor does it offer any sort of happy-all strings-tied-up kind of ending. The ending was left WIDE open, something which normally annoys me because I'm the Queen of Happily-Ever-Afters and unambiguous endings. However in this instance I can't but help but agree with how the novel played out as it representative of the characters in this book and where they are at this stage of their lives. Nobody has everything sorted at this age - or at least that's what I keep on telling myself - and the uncertainty is what makes the novel that much more realistic and bittersweet. Holier Than Thou is a standout read that tackles grief, friendship, work, love, family and the joys of growing up and surviving in the 'real world'.


Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Image Found on WeHeartIt

It's Winter and I'm in love. Winter is my absolute favourite season of the year. Followed closely by Autumn, of course. Down here in Australia we don't get really cold or wet winters, so I savour every drop we do get. I swear I should move to Canada or New England or something. I would be much happier. 

To me Winter is hot chocolates, thick knitted sweaters, the sound of raindrops on the windowsill, wooly scarves, and snuggling under the blankets with a good book. 

I'm loving this tune by L.A. band The Neighbourhood. It's the perfect winter song, and the video is full of hipster goodness. 

What's your favourite season? 
Are there any songs that have made you smile recently?
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