Category Archives: Entertainment

WHAT I READ: April 2014

I should just accept that four books is a reasonable number of books to read in a month, and anything more would be nothing short of a miracle. This blog post is kind of all over the place, and I don’t know how much anybody else will get out of this. It’s mostly just ramblings and stories, but I’m posting for posterity. These are the books I read in April.

Books Books


I started reading Harry Potter when I was 10 or 11, which is comparatively later than many of my peers. Or at least, it felt that way. In primary school, we had this reading rewards program where they encouraged us to read books by completing reading-based activities, and if we completed a certain number of activities within a month or whatever, we got a voucher for one Pizza Hut buffet. Which was more relevant when Pizza Hut buffets actually existed and were delicious.

But anyway, one of the activities was to pick one page out of whatever novel you were reading, and read it out loud to the class. One boy in my class was super into Harry Potter, and I was like “haha what a nerd”, but I think that was mostly because he used to bully me a bunch and so everything he liked was horrible because he was just the worst. Except that he chose to read out a page describing a really exciting Quidditch match (I forget which one) and I went from being slumped over my desk in a bored stupor to sitting up straight and thinking “oh no…this is great and I must read all the Harry Potter books I can immediately”.

I think this was also during Book Week, when we have to dress up as a book character and walk or “parade” around, because what is cuter than small children in costume? But the best part about Book Week was the book fair in the library, which was the only time I could buy my own books, so I always looked forward to it. That year I searched frantically for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, but all they had was Prizoner of Azkaban — the adult paperback version, no less! Why on earth would you buy anything with a cover marketed to adults to sell at a children’s book fair?! HOW COULD A GREYSCALE HIPPOGRIFF APPEAL TO A YOUNG AUDIENCE??? Maybe there was a batch mistake. I bought it anyway, because I was that desperate to start reading the series.

Anyway, that is why Prisoner of Azkaban was the first Harry Potter book I ever read, and why it is the only one with a drastically different cover. It is still my favourite Harry Potter book. Time travel! Dementors! Sir Cadogan! What’s not to love?


Jaclyn Moriarty is one of my favourite writers, but hardly anyone I know has heard of her. She used to keep a blog that I loved reading, but then she stopped updating it. She also wrote the Ashbury/Brookfield series, which I adore, and a standalone called I Have A Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes. More recently, she’s written The Colours of Madeline Trilogy, but I haven’t read any of those books yet.

The Spell Book of Listen Taylor is a reimagining of I Have A Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes, but with more focus on the teenager (Listen Taylor). The plot itself is the same though, I think.

Here is what The Spell Book is about:

  • infidelity
  • families
  • a snow storm in Sydney
  • the Zing Family Secret
  • teenage girls
  • magic (a little)

This is a good book. I like it.

MONSTERS OF MEN by Patrick Ness

In my final year of high school, one of my major projects was to write a short thesis or a creative writing piece for an Extension English class. My English teacher made a point to tell us that using creative spacing or differently sized fonts was not the ideal way to convey emotion to the reader. That we should just use our words instead. Or something like that.

I have a feeling my English teacher would have rolled her eyes at the changes in both fonts and sizes in the Chaos Walking trilogy, but I think it works. It feels a little heavy-handed at times, but I mean, how else are you supposed to make an explosion land without using an all-caps, 30pt BOOM?

But yes, I finally read the last instalment of the Chaos Walking trilogy. I liked it. There was a lot of Miaka! Tamahome!-esque yelling from the two main characters —which I will never not roll my eyes at — but the romance wasn’t too unbearable, and it was actually a decent plot device, so good work Patrick Ness. You write good series.


Another novel that takes me back to high school; one of our English modules was on crime fiction, and my English teacher1 said that it was her favourite genre to read, because formulaic mysteries are the best mysteries. I privately disagreed, because where was the fun in reading if you knew how the story was structured, and particularly if you had to study that structure for a whole year (or term? I honestly forget how the school year is set out)?

But then again, some of my favourite television shows — House, Veronica Mars, Castle — have all had protagonists who were the hard-boiled detective reimagined, so I mean, maybe she had a point.

Reading The Ten Thousand Dollar Tan Line was exactly like watching an episode of Veronica Mars. It helped that I had recently seen the film, which leaves off where the novel starts. It reminded me of how much I loved the show, and because of the medium, it didn’t include any unnecessary cameos or fanservice (looking at you, The Veronica Mars Movie feat James Franco), and it was just a nice, easy read. Not enough to get me back into the crime fiction genre, but enough to rekindle my appreciation for it.

I also started reading some Harry Potter fanfiction, and I’ve been using the Pocket Fiction app on my iPad to do so. It basically downloads the stories from a server ( is the default, but you can add other ones) and the app turns them into e-book files, breaks them into chapters, and makes them available offline. Back in the day, I just read my fanfiction from a computer browser, so this is crazy luxurious to me. Portable fanfiction? That’s nuts!

a different one, I took three different English classes in high school so I could read a bunch and still be credited for it.


WHAT I READ: March 2014

March was not a good month for books. Like I mentioned at the end of February, The Ask and the Answer left me shaken, and on the lookout for more lighthearted books. I thought my answer to that would be “Paddle Your Own Canoe” by Ron Swanson Nick Offerman, but 30 or so pages later, I found that it wasn’t appealing to me at all — so I stopped reading it [queue gasp here].

I don’t generally like leaving books unfinished, but I found it kind of preachy and boring, and I simply could not go on. Turns out that while I enjoy watching Ron Swanson do his thing in Parks and Recreation, I can’t read an entire autobiography written by his real-life counterpart. Shame.

In the end, I didn’t get around to finishing as many books as I would have liked anyway, but here are the things I did read.

March BooksMarch Books

I picked this up the day after I finished reading The Ask and the Answer. Some of the text in the book is in a different font to signify Noise, so when I flicked through the next book in the series (with intent to purchase and read it), I saw the Noise font and immediately felt super sad. Because I had actually been emotionally scarred by The Walking Chaos series. I couldn’t bring myself to read the book quite yet.

So I sent a shoutout on Twitter for books that were guaranteed to make me laugh.

Interestingly, several people independently recommended sci-fi/fantasy novels written by English men, which is how I found myself in the sci-fi/fantasy section. I had meant to choose a Discworld novel (by the excellent Terry Pratchett), but the available selection didn’t appeal to me, and I had flashbacks of not enjoying The Colour of Magic, so I passed.

Then I saw How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, and I know they say never to judge a book by its cover, but I totally do all the time. And this cover appealed to be on several levels. But mostly aesthetically. It’s a pretty novel. And I’d recalled a positive review given by Priscilla of The Readables1, so bam, purchase made.

This is not a comical book. It is in no way light-hearted. Do not be fooled by the cartoon guns and the dog. A time machine repairman shoots himself-from-the-future, but it is not in a hilarious slapstick way.

This book is about time travel in a science fictional universe. It is about the comfort of mathematics, a boy/man’s relationship with his father, it is about family, it is about wanting, it is about regret. This made me feel so many things, because of its subject matter, but also because it reminded me of the major writing project I did in high school for English Extension 2. If I were as thoughtful and articulate as Charles Yu when I was seventeen.

This book did not make me happy, but I’m glad I read it anyway.

EQUAL RITES by Terry Pratchett
As I mentioned before, I wanted to read a Discworld book, but was having a hell of a time trying to choose one. After the above bookshop debacle, I met up with Kyri and he recommended Equal Rites. “A wizard accidentally passes on his wizard powers to a girl, and she has to navigate her way through the all-male wizard university” were words he said that I paraphrased just now.

I have read two Terry Pratchett novels — The Colour of Magic, and Good Omens — but I really only finished one of them (Good Omens, I suspect because of Gaiman). I found that while I enjoy Pratchett’s voice, there are times when my mind drifts so far during some parts of his books that when I come back to the story, I find that I have no idea what is going on. And no amount of backtracking will make me less confused, because my brains starts wandering AGAIN.

I have come to the conclusion that Terry Pratchett’s books are cursed.


There are several reasons I chose to start re-reading the Harry Potter series.
1. Harry Potter was the first book that made me really appreciate storytelling as a means of communication, and it was my first serious fandom, so I have a lot of sentimental attachment to it.
2. A bunch of Potter-y articles by Ella Ceron were popping up around the beginning of the month that made me think a lot about the series properly for the first time in ages.
3. Equal Rites is all about wizards and witches! Combined with the above reason, I couldn’t stop thinking about Harry and Ron and Hermione and Hogwarts. It had been a while and I was jonesing.
4. I needed to fall back into a fictional world, and what better world to fall into than one I was already intimate with?

So yeah, I read two Harry Potter books this month, and I’m not entirely sure they should count. Ideally, I would have read books that were brand new to me, that made me think about storytelling in a different way, or introduced me to new ideas. But then again, I am a huge believer that all reading is re-reading, so my return to Hogwarts is totally justifiable.2

I’m planning to finally finish the Walking Chaos series in April, so maybe that’ll get me back to reading. Or make me horribly depressed. WHO KNOWS?!

1 but I can’t find it, maybe it doesn’t exist. maybe I made it up in my mind. maybe I am living in a science fictional universe HELP.
2 also, my copy of Chamber of Secrets may or may not have scans of handwritten letters to JK Rowling from young readers who loved the books in the back of it, and I may or may not have cried a little when I read them. It may or may not have been 3am at the time.


WHAT I READ: January 2014

Reading took a bit of a backseat for me last year; I didn’t read very many new books that I loved, and that in turn made me want to read less. However, the end of December saw a deluge of excellent book recommendations, which allowed me to start January 2014 off strong, book-wise. There are a number of great books I can’t wait to get to on my reading list, but here are the books I read in January.

This Book is Full of Spiders by David Wong

I read John Dies at the End in December 2012, and had vaguely heard of a sequel in the works. But I had completely forgotten about the entire series until I saw This Book is Full of Spiders on display during the Christmas rush. Judging from the last book, I knew the plot could get a  little dark (and violent!), and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to read something like that at the time. I read the first page to gage what kind of story it was (it had been a while since my last Wong novel), and I immediately found myself hooked.

It rides off the zombie apocalypse genre, except that there aren’t technically any zombies – but there are a lot of supernatural absurdities. The author is also a writer for Cracked (my favourite time-suck website), and wrote this excellent piece on suicide which I only read recently (he also writes about other things that are not suicide).

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

This seems to be the book everyone was talking about in 2013. I was hesitant about reading it, because last year was riddled with me picking up non-fiction books, finding them too boring to hold my attention, and then never reading them again. But when Hayley G Hoover announced that she was picking Lean In as her first book of the Answerly book club, I thought “eh, why not – people have been raving about it, and I might as well see why”. I’m glad I finally picked it up, because I found it incredibly engaging and thought-provoking.

Essentially, we need more women in power, bit the realities of the workplace today, as well as the way society has conditioned women to think and behave prevents that. Sheryl Sandberg is an incredibly accomplished business woman in the world of tech; she has worked for World Bank, Google and Facebook, and she draws on her extensive experience, as well as the experience of other women, colleagues, and statistics to discuss the reality for women in the workplace.

Lean In starts an important conversation about women and you should read it! All of you!

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

I’m a bit late to the zombie party, but I only realised how much I enjoyed the idea of a war against living corpses after reading This Book is Full of Spiders. People have been recommending this book to me for years, so when my hunger for zombie novels was whetted after finishing Spiders, my immediate reaction was to pick up a copy of World War Z and start reading it as soon as possible.

It is just as great as everyone said it was. The narrative is told through a series of interviews from survivors of the Zombie War, and some of them could be read as stand-alone vignettes, but together they paint a vivid image of a modern world, not too different from our own, having to deal with the outbreak of a zombie virus. It explores the theme on both a political and personal level, and it does it excellently.

After finishing the book, I read a few one-star reviews on Goodreads that complained about it not being a real novel because of it’s structure, and there being a lack of character development. While there is some validity to their concerns, I hardly think that those make it a bad book. I would argue that WWZ is more of a commentary about war and the power of fear, and the book’s structure only lends to that purpose.

I recently picked up Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris (another oft-recommended author/book), and so far it’s enjoyable. My friend Des also recommended the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness and Jam by Yahtzee Crowshaw, which I hope to pick up while still riding the zombie/apocalypse high that I am currently on.

Got any book recommendations? Let’s make 2014 the Year I Read A Lot More!

Animal Crossing vs Real Life

I know Animal Crossing does not purport to be anything at all like real life; for starters, you are the only human in a world full of giant talking animals. But essentially, you play a human trying to make his or her way in the world, interacting with other beings, and generally finding enjoyment in life. Except there are a few ways in which Animal Crossing differs from the real world, which I think makes it the more appealing reality.


The first thing the animal folk make you do once you arrive into town is buy a house. You have arrived with no money and nothing but the clothes on your back, and they slam you with a home loan – on top of being the mayor, which it appears you are doing pro bono. What a crap job! The only way you can make money to pay off your crippling debt is by selling fruits, fish, bugs and fossils.

in my place

Since there are few objectives in the game, you can spend your days picking fruit off trees, or strolling along the beach collecting sea shells and catching fish. AND THEN GET PAID FOR IT. Suddenly, your home loan is paid off, and you got to have a relaxing day.

Oh, and if for some reason you don’t feel like collecting shells or collecting bugs for money, there’s always money in the trees. That’s right…


Or at least, money is hiding in the trees. Frustrated at the lack of bug diversity in the wintertime, I started shaking the trees and screaming “why…WHY?!” Lo and behold, some money fell out, which I quickly pocketed. Money doesn’t fall out of every tree, but it falls out of enough to warrant shaking every tree I came across.

Now go outside and try to shake a tree in the real world. Those aren’t coins coming loose from the branches, those are wasps. Good luck trying to pay off your home loan with a pocketful of live wasps, sucker!


I think we can all agree that fishing is hella boring. You sit in a boat or on a wharf and wait for fish to come to you. And then you have to reel them in. And then you have to take the hook out of their mouth. And then you have to deal with a dead fish, along with terrible guilt of having tricked another living creature into putting a hook in their mouth. Why does anyone ever go fishing?

But in Animal Crossing, they take out all the horrifying parts of fishing, and replace them with cute puns.

Holy Mackerel! Pond Smelt

Who doesn’t like puns? MONSTERS, that’s who.


No matter where you choose to build your house in Animal Crossing, it will always be a short walk away from the beach. Now, where I live in the real world is also considered a short walk to at least two beaches, but I would actually have to walk there. With my legs. Please.

In Animal Crossing, it takes you actual seconds to waddle down to a sandy shore, where you can go fishing, take a leisurely dive, collect sea shells, and find the occasional lost seagull, passed out and brought in by the waves. If it’s wintertime where you are, there is also a wharf with a manned boat ready to take you to an island where it is perpetually summer. Correct me if I am wrong, but that never happens in real life.

I’m not saying that Animal Crossing is an ideal place to live (again, you appear to be slaves to giant talking animals), but there are some pros that kind of make me rethink how great the real world really is. I mean sure, in the real world I have proper agency and there’s a pretty good chance that a giant penguin will never ask me to catch a wharf roach for it, but I also can’t shake a tree if I ever need spare change for coffee, and my local museum isn’t run by a giant talking owl.

giant owl

What I am saying is, I don’t want all my animals to be giant and capable of speech, just the wise owls. Science, get on this! For now…I know I can find a simpler world with giant owls in Animal Crossing.

Brief thoughts on TSwift’s ‘Ours’

So, a new Taylor Swift music video came out for her song ‘Ours‘, a song so undeniably about her relationship with John Mayer that I don’t want to get into it.

The  music video itself seems to be a visual diatribe on how awful office life is, and Taylor Swift finds herself in the middle of it all, for some reason. The video starts with her shots of the exterior of an austre-looking building, then cuts to Taylor walking cheerfully through its lobby and entering an elevator full of office drones, where all the happy gets sucked out of her. Then she goes to sit down at a cubicle and we watch her being annoyed by the other cubicle people. I’m not sure what Taylor’s job is, because all she seems to do is walk past what seems to be a CRT monitor* with a sign that says ‘Out of Paper’ and being annoyed by an overweight man who stares uncomfortably at her while she stands by the water cooler. In fact, I’m not even sure what goes on in this office at all. Nobody seems to be doing any work. Sometimes I think Taylor enjoys dressing up and pretending to be living a life that is way more boring than her own: in ‘Ours’, she’s an office worker; in ‘The Story of Us‘, she’s a private schoolgirl with what appears to be the inability to read.**

When Taylor’s finally at her desk, she never does any visible work at all. She gazes longingly at a post-it note that says “I loved you first” then below that “no, I loved you first” or something to that effect, I can’t be bothered watching the video again. And then she starts watching home-videos of herself and her boyfriend doing nauseating couple things. At this point in the video, I get really panicky: why isn’t Taylor doing her job? She is surely going to get fired! Taylor, we don’t want you to get fired, oh my god oh my god oh my god.

Yep, a Taylor Swift music video made me anxious.

Anyway, her behaviour is sort of excused because it turns out her boyfriend or whatever is a soldier, and was coming back that day! Hooray! She meets him at the airport after work and whoopdeedoo, “this love is ours”. I guess it had some unexpected political/patriotic flavour to it? That’s…cool? But that’s not why I’m blogging about it. I bring up this music video solely to point out this one excellent bit near the end, where Taylor gets into the elevator at the end of the day:


creepy guy, seriously. WHY?

It’s kind of a choppy GIF because the video would buffer every time I made a screencap, but you get the gist. It’s just…Taylor enters the elevator and the guy appears to be sleeping, then when the doors open for her to get out, he is awake and totally creepy.

Uh, that’s all I have to say about the subject. I do actually enjoy the song a lot, and am glad it’s a single, but man. What is up with that music video?


*really, what is that? Is it a terribly old printer? Because I’ve worked in a couple offices and have never seen anything like that. I’ve also worked at Harvey Norman, who use dot-matrix printers — the oldest printers known to mankind — and whatever the hell is in this video is definitely not that. If someone could tell me what that is, that would be great.

**this is a thing that has always bothered me in that music video. She is in a library, and supposed to be looking busy in an effort to ignore that the boy of her affections has just walked in. She even has a goddamn book in her hands, and the way she tries to look busy is by stroking her own hair repeatedly and not, like, pretending to read said book. Although I guess that doesn’t signify illiteracy as much as it does incompetency.

I love the Broken Ones

You should watch/listen to this because:

  1. It is a lovely, lovely song.
  2. Dia Frampton, and for that matter, the rest of the Frampton sisters, who feature in this music video are gorgeous.
  3. According to the interwebs, this song is getting a little bit famous, and it’s about time Dia (and Meg, and the band) got some recognition. Maybe people will stop looking at me blankly when I say that Meg & Dia is one of my favourite bands? Maybe. Just listen.