Monday, 30 June 2014

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Night Film
Night Film by Marisha Pessl
Series: Standalone
Published by Random House on August 20 2013
Genres: Mystery, Adult Fiction,
Pages: 602
Rating: 5/5 stars
Everybody has a Cordova story. Cult horror director Stanislas Cordova hasn't been seen in public since 1977. To his fans he is an engima. To journalist Scott McGrath he is the enemy. To Ashley he was a father. 
On a damp October night the body of young, beautiful Ashley Cordova is found in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Her suicide appears to be the latest tragedy to hit a severely cursed dynasty. 
For McGrath, another death connected to the legendary director seems more than a coincidence. Driven by revenge, curiosity and a need for the truth, he finds himself pulled into a hypnotic, disorientating world, where almost everyone seems afraid. 
The last time McGrath got close to exposing Cordova, he lost his marriage and his career. This time he could lost his grip on reality. 

I don’t really like mystery novels. I’m not drawn to them the way I am to fantasy or contemporary. This may be partially because I’m dreadful at figuring out what is going on before it is all explained to me, which makes me feel kind of dumb. A regular Sherlock Holmes I am not. So I was surprised to discover that I really, really wanted to read Night Film. So much so that when I saw it on my cart at the library whilst shelving books, I knew that I had to check it out and start reading it right away, despite the five or six other library books awaiting me at home. I started reading it that night, and finished it the next afternoon.

This book was a lot of things, but it was never boring. I thought that Pessl did a marvellous job of keeping the pacing up through such a hefty book – this thing is just over six hundred pages long! I had no idea what to expect, but I was not ready for it to get so freaking creepy – I read the scenes at The Peak at two in the morning when I was home alone, and my heart nearly jumped out of my chest when my mum got home and knocked on my door. I couldn’t bear to put it down until I knew that everyone was safe (at least for the time being).

Some of the reviews I’ve read mentioned being disappointed by the ending, which I completely understand. The ending of Night Film isn’t for everyone, but it worked for me. I liked the ambiguity, the way that everything wasn’t wrapped up nicely with a shiny red bow. I liked that there was room for interpretation, that like the characters we can choose to believe whichever story works best for us as readers. It actually reminds me a little bit of the ending of Yan Martel’s Life of Pi in that sense.

The only thing I didn’t care for about Night Film was the protagonist. I never really gave a damn about Scott McGrath. I never felt more than lukewarm about him as a character, whereas the rest of the cast were excellent – I loved Hopper and Nora and most of all Ashley. I think the problem I had with Scott was that he thought very highly of himself and was judgemental of everyone else. He was also a pretty crappy father. He viewed Sam as an afterthought, as an inconvenience. I completely understand why Cynthia made the decision she made and I don’t think that Scott deserved her forgiveness. I wish there would have been more character development on Scott’s part. He was just as obsessed with Cordova, to the detriment of every other aspect of his life, at the end of the book as he was at the beginning. Also, I don’t understand how he had so much money to throw around. He’s a disgraced journalist, so it’s not like he’s had steady work over the last few years…

Finally, it’s impossible to write a review of Night Film without mentioning Pessl’s use of multi-media. Throughout the book there are news articles and blog posts and photographs and web pages all created (or doctored) just for this book. Some of the images are truly haunting, and it really added to the experience. It’s hard to believe that Stanislas Cordova is not a real person and that his films and fanbase are entirely fictitious. I really commend what Pessl has created with this book, and am interested to see what she does next (also I need to check out her first book, as I hear it caused quite a stir and received many accolades when it was released).

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

TTT - Ten Book Cover Trends I Like/Dislike

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish
Each week a new topic is given and weeks topic is:

Top Ten Book Cover Trends I Like/Dislike

I'm pretty particular about covers. I have very specific tastes and am irritated by a lot of the covers I see out there, especially those of NA & Romance titles. They're pretty awful, in my opinion. SO! I've decided to list four things that I do like and six that I don't care for. Almost all of the examples are from my Goodreads TBR shelf.


I like clean lines and bright colours. I appreciate when the cover is eye-catching and not too busy.

I appreciate interesting font choices and integration of the title with the artwork. It makes everything appear more cohesive.

Vibrant Colours 
I know virtually nothing about this book, but am immediately drawn to the colour palette. There aren't a lot of books with bright, vibrant colour palettes.

What can I say, illustration tends to be more visually intriguing for me than photography. I find it tends to have more character and whimsy, which I enjoy.


Headless Torsos 
Why is this even a thing? I don't get why we need to see half a face, or just a body with no face at all. It seems lazy to me, though I'm not entirely sure why. I just don't like it.

Irrelevant, Impractical Gowns 
It's one thing when the book is a fantasy or historical fiction, but it is really common in the paranormal genre, where it just doesn't make sense. These characters are not prancing around in floor-length gowns on a daily basis, nor does it say anything about the story within. No thank you.

Dark Colour Palette 
I kind of touched on this earlier with my inclusion of bright colour palettes as something I like, but I think there is way too much use of black on covers. Dark-coloured covers just don't stand out to me. They all kind of blend together after a while...

Cheesy Romance/NA Covers 
This one isn't as bad as most, but I still don't like it. I'm not a fan of covers like this because there are just too many of them. It seems like practically all romance and new adult covers look pretty much identical, at least to me. The only thing this cover tells me about the book is that there is a romance between a guy with bad hair and a girl who doesn't wear blush.

No Connection to Story
Don't get me wrong, this cover is pretty. But it doesn't really have any relevance to the story. I guess they're supposed to be nails through little hearts, but it doesn't make any sense. I love the colouring and the simplicity, but this cover lost me with the lack of connection to the actual story.

Author Name Larger than Title 
This is really only a problem with big-name authors, so it's something that I don't encounter very often. It still irks me though. I get that you're famous, but the title is more important than the author, and should always be a larger and more interesting font. Author name is important, but it's secondary.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Review - The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Series: Standalone
Published by Scholastic Press on October 18 2011
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 404
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die. 
At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them. 
Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

I’m hovering back and forth between 4 and 4.5 stars for this one, but I'm leaning toward 4.5 because I can't think of any reason why it doesn't deserve it. There are a lot of things that Maggie Stiefvater does right with The Scorpio Races. I try not to compare titles by the same author, but who am I kidding, I totally do anyways, and I must say that I’m much more impressed with this book than I was with The Raven Boys, which I read a few weeks ago.

I really love the setting of this book. The island of Thisby really comes alive on the page and I feel like it’s a place that truly exists, a dreamlike, sometimes nightmarish place that I could visit if I so chose. I think Thisby is supposed to be an island somewhere in the UK, but it is up to interpretation as to which country it is in. I was a bit thrown at first by the talk of American tourists as well as tourists from “the mainland,” which is never given a proper name, but it all came together quite nicely for me.

I think the writing had a lot to do with my ability to become well situated in Puck and Sean’s world. There is a timelessness in Stiefvater’s prose that really works for me. She paints pictures with her words and there is a complexity to her language. I also appreciated how she handled the dual point-of-view, which is something that I am generally not a big fan of. I thought it really worked in this case. The Scorpio Races wouldn’t be as impressive as it is if it was experienced through the eyes of Puck or Sean, rather than both of them.

All of the characters really impressed me, particularly the two main characters. I honestly cannot claim to like one more than the other.  I will admit that I struggle to call Puck and Sean's relationship a romance – I regard it more as a deep mutual affection. And that is something that I really loved about this book. There is an understanding between Puck and Sean that is so much older than their years. They don’t rush into things, neither of them looking for more than the other is offering. There is a respect between them that I wish I saw more in YA. Their relationship was one of my favourite things about The Scorpio Races, which is saying a lot because romance is usually one of my least favourite things in the books I read.

I did have a few qualms with The Scorpio Races, which is why I just can’t give it 5 stars. The first is that it was so slow. The first hundred (or more) pages were really quite difficult to get through. It felt like nothing was really happening, and from what I can tell this seems to be a recurring theme in Stiefvater’s repertoire.  The first time I tried to read this book, a few years ago, I barely made it through the first two chapters before getting bored and moving on. While I’m glad I finished it this time, I do wish the beginning was more captivating. My other complaint is that the ratio of men to women in this book is frighteningly high. Where are all of the ladies?? I can literally count on one hand the women in The Scorpio Races – Puck, Dory Maud, Elizabeth, and Peg Gratton. There are a few others who are mentioned, but they’re still extremely outnumbered by the men. Are there no girls anywhere near Puck’s age on Thisby? Not a huge deal, but it was something that I found bothersome as I was reading.

On the whole though, I'd highly recommend this book, and not just to horse lovers. I'm not a huge horse person myself, though I'll admit I wanted to be when I was younger. If you're looking for in-depth characterization and slow and steady pacing, this is a great book for you.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Review - Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey

Dark Currents (Agent of Hel, #1)

Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey
Series: Agent of Hel #1
Published by Roc Hardcover on October 2 2012
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Adult Fiction
Pages: 356
Rating: 4/5 stars
The Midwestern resort town of Pemkowet boasts a diverse population: eccentric locals, wealthy summer people, and tourists by the busload—not to mention fairies, sprites, vampires, naiads, ogres, and a whole host of eldritch folk, presided over by Hel, a reclusive Norse goddess.    
To Daisy Johanssen, fathered by an incubus and raised by a single mother, it’s home. And as Hel’s enforcer and the designated liaison to the Pemkowet Police Department, it’s up to her to ensure relations between the mundane and eldritch communities run smoothly.  
But when a young man from a nearby college drowns—and signs point to eldritch involvement—the town’s booming paranormal tourism trade is at stake. Teamed up with her childhood crush, Officer Cody Fairfax, a sexy werewolf on the down-low, Daisy must solve the crime—and keep a tight rein on the darker side of her nature. For if she’s ever tempted to invoke her demonic birthright, it could accidentally unleash nothing less than Armageddon. 

Even though Jacqueline Carey is one of my all-time favourite authors, I was fully prepared not to like Dark Currents. It isn’t a genre I venture into often nowadays – I find urban fantasy can be heavy on the romance and sex and light on the character development and concise plotting. It has a tendency to prop up the female protagonists with weapons and fighting rather than actual intelligence and decent decision making skills, and that offends my feminist sensibilities. I don’t believe that “strong female characters” can be reduced to female characters who are good at fighting. From my experience, it also tends to be a bit repetitive, but I didn’t find that to be the case with this book. Dark Currents is possibly the best urban fantasy novel I’ve ever read. It was a refreshing read, something of a palate cleanser.

The protagonist, Daisy Johanssen, is delightful. She is a very feminine character, with her preference for dresses (due to short though sometimes annoying tail), but that never defined her. She is a figure of power in her community, which is something I love to see. She is independent but knows when to ask for help, she values her friends and family highly, and she has incredible self-control (considering strong emotions tend to make things explode).

Daisy’s (platonic) relationships with women are one of the numerous bright spots in this novel. Daisy’s friendship with Jen is lovely, as is her relationship with her mother. As the daughter of a human and a lesser demon (and sometimes incubus), it would be easy for Carey to write a version of Daisy with an uneasy relationship with her mother. That is not the case. Daisy’s mom is an incredibly nice person, a good person, who happened to get caught up in something beyond her means of understanding at a young age. She and Daisy have an incredibly strong relationship, living in the same town and talking on the phone often. Daisy actually visits her mother a handful of times throughout the novel. I also loved the way that the majority of the other women in the book were written, from the beautiful lamia Lurine to Mrs. Browne, the brownie who owns the bakery beneath Daisy’s apartment.

The plot itself was a strong aspect of the book. It’s very plot heavy, and I found the mystery to be quite fascinating. Just as a warning: I’m really really bad at figuring out mysteries before they’re explained to me. I mean, REALLY BAD. So I had no clue where this one was going, but I loved the journey. I really enjoyed the integration of different types of mythologies from different countries and continents, and though the strain between the eldritch community and the humans outside of Pemkowet was difficult to read at times (just a personal issue), it was very realistic and well developed. I loved the world-building in this book. I think that Carey has more than proven her ability to create a vast and fascinating world (just look at her wonderful, marvellous Kushiel books if you need another example).

I also appreciated the lack of romance in this book – though I shouldn’t necessarily say lack. It was more that romance just wasn’t a priority. Daisy had more important things on her mind than who she wanted to sleep with. I mean, it did come up a number of times, but it was never something that was pushed in our faces. Daisy is attracted to three different men throughout the book, and does not so much as kiss any of them. Go Daisy! Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with kissing, but it’s uncommon to read about people who are willing/amiable to taking it slow in urban fantasy. I find that, in the books I’ve read, the characters tend to jump into bed ten minutes after meeting each other. Which is completely okay, but it’s nice to see something different. Also, I love that you get to see different sides of these characters because they haven’t complicated things with romance (at this point). You could definitely feel the sexual tension sometimes, though! I loved the measure of respect that was shown to Daisy throughout (most of) the novel by her love interests.

My only complaint is that there was a bit of not-so-nice treatment of some women, particularly those who were under thrall by supernatural creatures like vampires and ghouls. This is apparent in Daisy’s judgement of Jen’s sister, who believes that her vampire boyfriend will eventually grant her eternal life. The problem I had with this is that it so closely reflects attitudes I’ve seen towards women in abusive relationships – Daisy and Jen get Beverly away from the vampires temporarily, but seem to give up on her the moment she returns to her boyfriend. They proceed to act as though she is weak for not standing up to him, when it’s by no means her fault that this creature is taking advantage of her. Do you see the parallels that I see?

Thursday, 19 June 2014

TV Spotlight Thursday (3) - My Mad Fat Diary

Warning: This post contains a LOT of gifs.
This week's spotlighted programme is:

If you like contemporary YA, I can almost guarantee that you will love this show. My Mad Fat Diary follows sixteen year old Rae Earl, who is about to be released from a teen psych ward after attempting to kill herself. Rae has a lot of issues, and there is not a single character on television who is like her. There is also no one who I can relate to more than Rae. I may not always like her, but I understand her because I more or less was her.

Sharon Rooney as Rae Earl
Rae is my favourite part of this show. She's awesome. She's frustrating and naive and closed off and insecure, but she's awesome. I was a lot like Rae when I was a teenager, but way less cool. I also didn't have quite as serious mental problems. That's not an insult, that's just an acknowledgement that Rae's had a lot of issues, and still struggles with them. I actually can't rewatch this show because I can't put myself through some of her more awful scenes twice.

Nico Mirallegro as Finn Nelson
Everyone should have a Finn. Just saying. I should have a Finn. Finn is the nicest guy on TV, and super sexy to boot. The only problem I have with Finn is that sometimes he can be too perfect. I'd love to see more of what's going on in his life, though the fact that we see him through Rae's idealistic eyes definitely skews the opinion of the viewer.

Jodie Comer as Chloe Gemell
Chloe is Rae's best friend. She can be kind of awful, but she has a good heart. Chloe is pretty self-involved, but what sixteen year old girl isn't? The thing about Chloe is that we see her though Rae's perspective, which means that we get mad at her for not noticing what's going on in Rae's life. It's not a fair view, but it makes sense coming from Rae. She wants her best friend to be there for her, but Chloe isn't capable of providing the help that Rae needs. It's also partially Rae's fault for keeping things from her and then expecting her to just know the truth. We get a better idea of what's going on with Chloe in season two.

Claire Rushbrook as Linda Earl
Rae's mum can be hard to watch. She's a single mother trying to reclaim her youth through a relationship with a much younger man. Rae finds her infinitely embarrassing and annoying. She's pretty harsh in the way she treats her mum. I certainly don't relate to Linda, but I have a mum who's quite a bit like her so I was able to understand what was going on between her and Rae to some degree. She's not the greatest mother, and she has a quick temper and not much patience for Rae, but she does try. She and Rae disagree about pretty much everything, and she can be quite immature in the way she treats her daughter. However, for all the blow-ups between mother and daughter, there are a number of really tender moments as well. It's clear that they love each other no matter what.

My Ship: Rae/Finn
These two are just the cutest things. Their relationship is really different and true to life in how it comes about. They have a really organic relationship - they became close friends long before anything romantic came into play. Rae's insecurity in their relationship and the fact that she feels like she's not good enough for Finn really comes in between them. They're so freaking cute though! Also, who doesn't want to see a girl like Rae with an amazing guy like Finn? Funnily enough, they have the same names as Finn and Rachel from Glee. Don't hold it against them. This Finn is way more likeable than that Finn.

  1. The soundtrack. This show features some seriously great music. It's actually something Finn and Rae bond over.
  2. The setting. MMFD is set in 1996, which is really special and different. It really really works, and it's fun to see all of the stylistic choices that were made to make such a seamless step back in time.
  3. The relationships. It isn't all about romance on MMFD. Rae has really complicated relationships with her friends, her mum, and her therapist. It's interesting to see the different dynamics in her life and how compartmentalized she makes things.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Discussion Post (4) - New Adult AKA Erotica

I was so excited when I heard that New Adult was becoming a thing. I imagined books about university and adjusting and growing up and fending for yourself. I pictured living with roommates and cooking for yourself and figuring out how to juggle school and work and trying to have a social life. What I got was erotica.

I've heard some not-so-pleasant things about New Adult. I haven't read much of it because it all seems to be the same. Naive girl between the ages of 18-25 (usually on the younger end of the spectrum) meets a guy and they have lots and lots of sex while confusing lust for love. The guy is usually an abusive asshole. They live happily ever after.

There are a few exceptions to this rule, but they seem to be pretty rare. I really liked certain elements of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, which centred around a girl's difficult adjustment to college life and letting go of her past and trying to come out of her shell a bit. Obviously there were certain things I disliked about Fangirl, particularly when it came to Cath, but on the whole it was what I look for in a NA book. However, Fangirl was marketed as YA, not NA. I can only assume that this decision was made because of the fact that Fangirl does not contain any sex scenes. 

I've also heard great things about Tammara Webber's Easy around the blogosphere. It isn't something I'd pick up due to the cover or the blurb, but I plan to read it soon(ish) and find out what all the hype is about. It seems like a different take on the typical NA plot, and the love interest doesn't seem to be a total douchebag, which is nice.

But then there are books like Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire, which seem to have influenced the category significantly. Another book I haven't personally read, Beautiful Disaster seems to be nothing more than a disaster of a book. I've heard that the love interest is absolutely awful, and that the main character has no backbone to speak of. I'm not here for that. This book wouldn't be a problem if it were a solitary incident, but there are so many copycat books out there. 

Also worth mentioning is the incredibly repetitive covers. I literally cannot tell these books apart because they all feature dark colours and kissing couples on the covers. 
The Coincidence of Callie & Kayden (The Coincidence, #1)Twisted Perfection (Perfection, #1; Rosemary Beach, #3)Wait for You (Wait for You, #1)
Even the books that are a bit different are boring and unprofessional looking. They just look cheap. Maybe it's dumb to judge a book by its cover, but a good cover goes a long way.
Slammed (Slammed, #1)Never Too Far (Rosemary Beach, #2; Too Far, #2)Rule (Marked Men, #1)
My final problem with New Adult is that I just don't really like reading sex scenes. I feel awkward and uncomfortable and tend to skim them, especially when things get really hot and heavy. No thanks. I prefer slow building in my romances rather than the characters jumping into bed together after exchanging about two sentences. It's just personal preference. It's the same problem that I have with urban fantasy.

Have you read any really great NA books? Do you think they're just erotica for a slightly younger age bracket? Are you as turned off by the covers as I am? Am I judging the category too harshly?

Monday, 16 June 2014

Review - The Summer I Wasn't Me by Jessica Verdi

The Summer I Wasn't Me

The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jessica Verdi
Series: Standalone
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on April 1 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT
Pages: 342
Rating: 3/5 stars
Lexi has a secret. 
She never meant for her mom to find out. And now she's afraid that what's left of her family is going to fall apart for good. 
Lexi knows she can fix everything. She can change. She can learn to like boys. New Horizons summer camp has promised to transform her life, and there's nothing she wants more than to start over. 
But sometimes love has its own path...

This book is essentially a cross between the (amazing) film But I’m a Cheerleader and Emily M. Danforth’s wonderful debut, The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Now, I’m generally not a fan of positing books as the lovechild of two other things, but the similarities cannot be avoided here. The first half of the book is almost identical to the set-up of But I’m a Cheerleader, particularly in the way that the degayifying camp works. For someone who has never seen the movie, this wouldn’t be a problem, but for someone who has it seems a little bit derivative.

The strongest part of The Summer I Wasn’t Me was definitely the characters. I felt like the four main teenagers – Lexi, Carolyn, Matthew, and Daniel – all made sense and were well-developed in their own ways. They were somewhat stereotypical, particularly Matthew, but it worked. The stereotypes were either built upon or subverted in some way throughout the narrative. I also loved that none of these characters were there just as supporting actors in the story of Lexi. They all had their own problems and their own issues to work through, and though Lexi was obviously the star of the book, the other characters were generally handled well. I do wish that there we learned more about their lives beyond the camp, which was a complaint I had about Lexi as well.

The one big problem I had with the characterization was the adults. Every single adult in this book is an asshole. With the exception of Carolyn’s parents (who we only hear about  and never meet), all of the adults or people in positions of power are incredibly bigoted for absolutely no reason. Not that there's ever a reason to be a bigot.

On this note, this book is very emotionally difficult to read. In all honesty, it should come with a trigger warning, because there are all sorts of unpleasant things going on here, not least of which is the rampant sexual, physical, and emotional abuse of the campers. It can be really hard to read sometimes. I know that if I were in Lexi’s position, I wouldn’t have made it through the first day without running away or getting kicked out. This place just isn’t reasonable. One of the ‘camp rules’ is that campers must obey their instructors at all times without asking questions. I would not be able to handle that.

I read this book in two sittings – a few hours before going to bed and a few more once I woke up the next morning, and it really sucked me in. I wanted to see justice for the emotional (and sometimes physical) torture that these teenagers were put through. I wanted to see Lexi realize that she is fine just the way she is, that she doesn’t need to change her sexuality to make her mother better. I wanted her to see that her mom’s well-being is not her responsibility, and that if her mom can’t bring herself to love her for who she is, it’s not her fault.

I found the ending of the book to be rushed and rather chaotic. I wanted a bit more closure than it offered – I wanted to see the consequences put into action, to see how Lexi and her mother could grow both individually and within their own relationship. I wanted to see more about Lexi going home, and how this experience changed her – not in the ways that the camp directors wanted it to, but it definitely changed her. There is no way that someone could go through what these teens went through and be unscathed at the end. Most of all I wanted to know what happened to Matthew – was he okay? Was he emotionally scarred by what happened or was he able to bounce back? Did his father apologize for what he put him through? There were a lot of unanswered questions, and I really needed a bit more to round everything out at the end. Another fifty or hundred pages would have really helped me out.

In all honesty, though this book was a quick read and it was relatively enjoyable, I would recommend you just go watch But I’m a Cheerleader and read The Miseducation of Cameron Post instead. Besides, the humour in But I’m a Cheerleader is amazing, and something that was very missed in The Summer I Wasn’t Me. Also, I really don't get (or like) the cover. It doesn't tell me a single thing about the book, nor does it look particularly intriguing.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

TV Spotlight Thursday (2) - Shameless

Welcome back to my new feature! As you may know, I'm a huge TV buff, and want to share with you some of my favourite shows and some of the things that I like best (and hate most) about them.

Warning: this post contains a LOT of gifs.
This week's spotlighted programme is:

At the heart of Shameless are the Gallaghers, a chaotic, down-and-out family in the South Side of Chicago. Based on a popular UK program, Shameless is best known for its incredible sense of humour, but it can also be absolutely heart-wrenching. Surprisingly, the US version is better than the UK original. I know, consider me shocked. This never happens when it comes to American re-makes. The important thing to remember about Shameless is that after the first season, the two shows go in very different directions. Also, the US version has much higher production values, which makes it easier to watch (for me at least). 

Regardless, it is one of the best shows I've ever seen. It does have a lot of, ahem, adult content, so be forewarned. There's a lot of sex and foul language and nudity and violence. But good god is it worth the sense of corruption that you may experience whilst watching it. My favourite thing about Shameless is that it is absolutely realistic. Yes, it is over the top. Yes, these situations don't arise in most people's lives. But there is an undercurrent of realism in the show that allows for a truly poignant look at the underprivileged, and how privilege affects both those who have it and those who don't. 

Emmy Rossum as Fiona Gallagher
Warning: Fiona is never allowed to stay happy for long. I believe she's nineteen in the first season, and she is the glue keeping her family together. She is the only mother figure her younger siblings have. Fiona hasn't had an easy life, and she makes bad decisions sometimes. She tries to do the best thing for her family and her friends, but sometimes she lets her desire for fun overrule her logic. In the hands of anyone but Emmy Rossum, I don't think that Fiona would be nearly as sympathetic as she is. That said, she's a perfect example of the incredibly complicated characters Shameless has to offer. She makes mistakes, just like the rest of the world. The problem is that mistakes sometimes have harsh consequences. At the end of the day, Fiona is one of my favourite characters no matter how much she screws up.

Jeremy Allen White as Lip Gallagher
Lip is the second-oldest Gallagher kid. He's pretty much a genius, but he's also stupendously lazy when it comes to school. He just doesn't care about education - he'd rather get drunk and have sex and be a general fuck-up. There are a lot of things that I don't like about Lip, but sometimes he does something incredible and I just get a surge of joy for him. He can be very judgemental at times, and is somewhat of a hypocrite, but I think that's what makes him interesting. Like Fiona, he'd drop anything for his family if they need him to. 

Cameron Monaghan as Ian Gallagher
Ian is a very interesting character. I honestly don't know how to describe him. At the beginning of season one, he's a closeted gay kid who is having an affair with his (married) boss, but he's so much more than that. Ian is quiet and could easily be lost in the cacophony of his boisterous family, but he never is. You know what, let's not talk about Ian. If you want to learn about Ian, go watch the show. It can explain him so much better than I ever could.

Emma Kenney as Debbie Gallagher
In seasons one and two, Debbie is an innocent child. She's absolutely adorable, with her round face and unruly red hair. She's actually one of my favourite characters because she is so unlike everyone else. Debbie faces a lot of changes personality-wise as she goes through puberty around the third and fourth seasons. She is less innocent, wide-eyed child and more angry teenager, but I love her all the same. She wants so badly to grow up and to be like all of the other girls she knows, but she doesn't really know what she's asking for. She longs for the illusion of adulthood she sees in her friends - she wants to be seen as pretty and happy and confident, but doesn't realise that there is more to growing up than appearances.

Ethan Cutkosky as Carl Gallagher
Carl is a little hellion. He's unruly - his favourite activities are blowing things up and making shivs out of household objects. He's basically a juvenile delinquent in the making. In the first few seasons, Carl functions more as a background member of the family. He's there on the sidelines causing a ruckus, but it isn't until season three and four that he gets some real story lines of his own. While is kind of a nut job, Carl is in many ways the moral centre of the show. He's the only character left who hasn't been completely corrupted by his surroundings. He still has hope in the world, something his older siblings have long lost.

Blake and Brennan Johnson as Liam Gallagher
Liam is the youngest Gallagher. He doesn't really have much personality other than cute. He gets tossed around among the kids a lot, functioning mostly as a plot device and complication. But he's so cute that I just can't care. His role does increase in season four, as he's central to a VERY important event that occurs, though he has been important to many stories throughout the seasons. Nobody knows why he's black, considering both of his parents are white. He just is.

A few other highlights include William H. Macy as deadbeat Gallagher patriarch Frank, Shanola Hampton and Steve Howey as ever-entertaining neighbours Veronica and Kev, and Joan Cusack as the agoraphobic mother of Lip's girlfriend Karen.

Confession time: I don't actually have any particular ship on this show because all of the relationships are, pardon my language, absolutely fucked. In lieu of my own favourite romantic relationship, I'll briefly mention the most popular ship in the Shameless fandom.

Gallavich is Ian Gallagher and Mickey Milkovich. That gif-set makes them look way cuter than they actually are. They have their moments, but I'm pretty sure most of the attention they get is due to the fact that Cam Monaghan is a cutie pie and that there is a serious drought of gay couples on TV. And there's nothing fangirls like better than gay white guys. Am I wrong? Anyway, they have a super dysfunctional relationship because Mickey is so far in the closet that he literally beats Ian up at one point. Yeah. Not the healthiest couple. There is a lot of character development between season one and season four, which does make them significantly more palatable, but I have no patience for abuse.

Oooh! I just remembered that there is in fact one amazing super-couple on this show that everyone should (and I'm pretty sure does) love! Kev and V! 
They literally have the best relationship ever and I aspire to their love for one another. They are the epitome of soul mates, and kinky as fuck to boot! They're pretty much perfect, though they definitely have arguments and their relationship is put to the test on various occasions. 

On that note, Shameless is definitely a show you should be watching (have you downloaded the first episode yet? Go do it! Now! I'll be here when you get back!). If you watch Shameless or start watching it, talk to me about it on twitter or in the comments! If there's one thing I like more than talking about books, it's talking about TV.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Discussion Post (3) - Series Overload

I feel like this is a problem that we all face as readers: too many series. I find it really hard to dedicate a long period of time and energy to the same story, which makes reading an entire series a bit of a problem for me. I mean, I'm a girl who gets bored if she reads the same book for longer than four or five days, so I'm pretty much incapable of reading series books one after the other. I have to take (long) breaks between books, which leads me to forget what happened in the first book, which leads to my forgetting about the book that I wanted to read altogether. It's not a good cycle.

I just checked my Goodreads, and I have 57 series that I intend to finish, but am at least one book behind on(usually more). Aside from that, my "first in series" shelf on Goodreads is 475 books deep. Yeah. It's excessive. I really do want to finish these series, but I get caught up in everything else that's out there. I'm easily distracted, okay. I 

That's not to say that I don't enjoy series. I do. I like reading a story that is expansive enough to fill up multiple books and keep me longing for more at the end of every book. For instance, The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer is a great series. It is exciting and never repetitive, and each book builds on the last. It keeps my interest from page one until the very end, and that's exactly what I look for in a series. I also love that there are new elements to each book, with the addition of the new titular character (Scarlett and Cress, thus far). The same goes for George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series - it's dense and heavy and truly epic. It certainly wouldn't work if it was condensed into one long (long) book.

In all honesty, I think my main problem with series is that there are just so many books out there that I want to read! I get impatient and antsy because I just want to read everything, even though I know that it's not possible. There are so many standalones that want to be read. So many series to be read. By me. Immediately. So many books, so little time. Which reminds me of that short-lived Mary Kate and Ashley TV show from 2001. This is where a random number generator comes in mighty handy - I yield all choice in which book to read next and just let the computer decide for me!

Do you have series fatigue? Do you love series, or are you frustrated that every other book seems to be part of a series? Are you an impatient reader like me?