It's not quite the end of the year yet but I get time to write this properly today as I'm hiding indoors, away from the wind and rain. I did this type of post last year and it's a good way of testing how senile I'm becoming in my old age, trying to remember some of my favourites things throughout the year. So here's some of my top things of 2011:
Scala and Kolacny Brothers
This discovery was made just a few days ago, thanks to my Dad. (who bought one of their albums for my Mum's Christmas). I remember the goosebumps I got listening to their cover of 'Creep' when I watched the Social Network preview in the cinema but never bothered to find out who they were. Now that I know, I've been searching through all of their covers on Youtube. I've posted one of my faves below; 'Enjoy the Silence' by Depeche Mode. (I thought nothing could beat Lacuna Coil's cover but this is close) I also love their cover of Marilyn Manson's 'The Beautiful People'. Try listening to that one and not getting goosebumps. Oh, and Metallica's 'Nothing Else Matters'.
It's taken Amy Lee a while to return but it was worth it. Nobody sings haunting melodies quite as well as she does and seeing them play live again was great. Watching her play the piano (and actually listening to the Scala bros) has made me want to play again. Maybe that'll be something I put down on my 2012 'to do' list.
Listening to Evanescence again has also brought back memories of a book I started to write years ago, when their first album 'Fallen' was always on my stereo. So now I plan to dust off those 40,000 words and get re-writing and maybe reach the end this time...
I've been listening to a lot of Lykke Li this year. I think she's pretty cool and has a lovely voice. One of my fave songs is 'Tonight'.
London: Loved Camden Market, loved meeting up with a friend I hadn't seen in a while, loved seeing Wicked, loved the Tate Gallery and the fact we saw Michael Stipe (though I thought it wasn't him and didn't realise it was him until I googled him later and realised he did look old now...)
Manchester: Loved this city, particularly the Whitworth Gallery and the Northern Quarter and again loved spending time with a friend I don't get to see that much
Beltane Fire Festival: This is something me and a friend had wanted to do for years and it was great we finally got around to going this year. It felt magical standing on top of Calton Hill in the pitch dark with crazy painted people dancing round fires and the such like. The view across the city below was also amazing.
Hettie's Tea Room in Pitlochry: It's become a bit of tradition for me and a friend to take a trip to Perth and Pitlochry in the summer. And, keeping up with traditions, we once again got a total soaking on our walk round Pitlochry which gave us good reason to keep finding shelter in cafes. Hettie's cakes are amazing!! Recommend.
Arran: A tranquil little island which looks like paradise when the sun shines and this year was made even more special when my bro got married there. And the sun shone for a whole 4 days. Happy memories for 2011!
This has to get a mention because I just loved the way it was filmed. The opening scene particularly looked like art in motion (that sounds cheesy but I can't think of any better way to describe it). Not the cheeriest of films mind you. Kirsten Dunst was also great in it.
This only gets a mention for the closing credits because I love the way they were put together so that's one of my fave film moments of 2011. The film itself was so depressing it's not one I'd watch again...but the acting was outstanding.
I already devoted a whole blog post to this one so I won't go on about it again. Loved the way it was filmed, loved the whole psychological aspects of it and loved the weirdness.
For pure enjoyment factors I have to mention Breaking Dawn and the last Harry Potter:The Deathly Hallows Part 2 . I went to see Harry Potter twice and cried both times.
I totally loved the way they filmed a couple of sequences in Breaking Dawn (flashing through Bella's life was one of them) I won't go into anymore detail for those who may be reading that haven't seen it!
I'm Still Here
Joaquin Phoenix's Mockumentary is uncomfortable and crazy viewing but it made me laugh. I love him. I could say so much more about this but words can't really describe it so just watch it. I can loan you the DVD.
Film that made me laugh and wasn't supposed to: Red Riding Hood
Hilarious love scene and the worst editing/continuity ever. Also shamless rip off of Twilight soundtrack/imagery.
Dangerous Deceit by Romy Gemmell (a.k.a Rosemary Gemmell, a.k.a my Mum)
This deserves a mention because this is my Mum's first book and also because it's a bloomin brilliant debut novel! Mystery and romance in Regency England with characters that draw you in.
You can read my Amazon review by clicking on 'review' below:
If you got a Kindle for your Christmas you can order a copy on Amazon or if you want a print version go to
The Nightworld Series by L.J.Smith
Last year I read the Vampire Diaries; this year I've been working my way through the Nightworld Series. They get a bit repetitive after a while -human meets 'vampire' or 'witch' soulmate, they fight some evil contemporaries and end up together. But it's great escapism and particularly enjoyed 'Soulmate' which was about reincarnation.
One Day by David Nicholls
I had mixed feelings about this book when I started to read it because the main male protagonist, Dexter, annoyed me so much. But I really liked Emma, the main female protagnoist so I kept reading. And it became a real page turner; following Emma and Dexter through the years and wondering if they were ever going to get together. Would Dexter ever stop being such a shallow fool? Would Emma ever come to her senses and move on? The outcome is bittersweet so get your hankies ready if you read this.
When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman
This book made me laugh out loud when I was reading it on the train. I loved the characters of Elly, her family, and her best friend Jenny Penny. The first half of the book has more laughs as it's seen through the eyes of Elly when she's a girl. The second half takes on a more serious tone which was a bit of a risk but it still works, though in some ways makes you feel like you've read two different books by the end.
I could go on but this post has already taken me too long to write. So here's to a fun and productive 2012.
Sunday, 18 December 2011
It's taken me a while to feel the Christmas cheer this year; probably because the weather has been extra grim the past few weeks with what felt like one hour of daylight some days, and I've also had the cold. But after putting up my tree yesterday and watching some Christmas films I'm slowly coming around. Today I went to Pollock House with my parents for lunch and we had a walk around the snow covered grounds afterwards and the sun was shining (sunlight, how I've missed you!). I took the photos above which don't really do the scenery justice. My Mum made a comment about how simple things can make her happy and I had just been thinking the past couple of days how it's the little things at Christmas time that brighten my mood. (like the chocolate santas, turkey dinner and so on...)
I know a lot of people are a bit 'bah humbug' about the whole festive season (and the consumerism part of it and mental shoppers does cause me some misery) but ultimately it adds a little bit of sparkle into a very dull few months. I like going home to my parents for a few days and catching up with friends over the holidays and having a break from work.
I also like the dawning of a new year as it always makes me feel motivated to do new things (even if it doesn't last!) I like thinking ahead to what I might do and where I might go...
If you're feeling a bit of the winter misery here's a little poem by James Walker that reminds me how good it can feel being indoors on a dark, cold night!
Safe ~ James Walker
Come, stir the fire,
The lamps unlit
Leave, while we sit
Close to the glow,
And fire and shadow flit
About the room, and fight
For love of it.
Cold winds blow
Whirling in the drear
Night outside; the blaze
Uncoils its tetacles, and here
We in a dream-daze
With the lamps unlit,
Safe in firelight sit.
Sunday, 4 December 2011
When the first traces of Twilight hysteria hit the media I initially wrote it off as another hyped-up teen flick/series that I would avoid. I’d never read the book(s) and I thought I probably never would. But then out of curiosity I spoke to a friend who is very clued up on the fantasy/goth/alternative American YA market and she had read Twilight when it was first out and rated it. So I told her to bring over her DVD and I remember being a little bit mesmerised by the film: the low lit blue colour running through it, the indie minimalist style, great soundtrack and captivating characters. The subsequent films have also been very enjoyable but the Hollywood slick of the new directors took away from Catherine Hardwicke’s initial realness. (I love Catherine Hardwicke and will excuse her for her blip in the road, Red Riding Hood, if she agrees to be my director, for my books...)
After watching the film I read the book and was...hooked. There’s no better feeling than being drawn completely into a world and waiting impatiently to read the next of the series. There’s been a lot of criticism about Stephanie Myer’s writing but I didn’t notice any obvious flaws (and the way a book is written does matter to me. I’ve thrown a lot of books to one side in disgust at the poor quality of writing).
There’s also been a load of criticism from feminists, the media, domestic abuse groups and so on, criticising the ‘submissive’ character of Bella. I admit that parts of New Moon, where Edward tried to forbid Bella to see Jacob, began to really irritate me (though to be fair he was ultimately trying to protect her from being mauled by a werewolf). But anyone who has read the books properly can’t fail to see how strong a character Bella is.
What the critics don’t seem to get is the fact that Bella always makes her own choices. Edward can’t even read her mind (his Vampire super-power), so he certainly can’t control it. I really liked the character of Bella because she’s a bit of an outcast but not in a ‘woe me’ kind of way – more in a, ‘I know my own mind and I’m not going to conform just to fit in with you’ kind of way. She’s quiet but very determined and assertive. She falls in love with Edward; she knows she wants to be with him and she will do anything to get/keep her man. It’s also Bella who puts the pressure on in the bedroom and Edward, always the gentleman, keeps everything in check until he gets her down the aisle. She insists on keeping her baby (even although it’s killing her and no one really knows if it’s actually a baby growing inside of her) and I love the fact she never breaks into screaming hysteria throughout any part of the wacky world she becomes part of.
That’s not to say I have no misgivings about the fact she’s 17 and is prepared to essentially give up her life to be with the boy she loves (old man, vampire, whatever!) but then I think about the fact that she has found true love and suspect these same critics probably wouldn’t have had a problem with a female character giving up on that for their education or career (and how many woman have probably done that to discover that they’ve maybe prioritised wrong?).
It’s kind of refreshing that a 21st century female is allowed to want for love to the detriment of all else. Some say she’s a poor role model for teenage girls because she appears to have no other interests other than Edward (she does actually, she is clued up on her literature). Bella doesn’t care about going to the prom or buying a dress; surely that’s a refreshing role model for teenage girls bombarded with images of fake tanned princesses that they feel under pressure to emulate? And she’s only seventeen and she’s just met her soulmate who happens to be madly in love with her too (and he’s hot – what would you do in her situation?). Edward provides her with an eternity to discover who she wants to be, with him by her side. So bite me, (and I’m a cynic, ask my Mum,) but when it comes to this love story I’m rooting for Bella and Edward all the way.