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She doesn't know what I do...
...but she knows who I am.
There has been a rash of planking at school this week. What is it with someone dying that makes every thirteen to eighteen year old want to emulate that person?

In more bookish news, I realised quite recently that with a credit card I could find this book that I've been wanting to re-read for ages. We used to go to our child minder's house once a week when I was at primary school, where he would make us ice cream sandwiches and my sister would spend two hours jumping on the trampoline. I used to read the same book almost every week. It was called The Ordinary Princess and was by M M Kaye and it is about a princess who is cursed(/blessed) with ordinariness at her christening and meets her prince when she has run away from home to work as a servant in a neighbouring castle.

I loved it. I loved that there was a heroine with a snub nose and freckles and brownish hair (called 'Amy' because I am so very easy for heroines with names even faintly resembling mine). And then when we stopped needing a child minder, I stopped being able to read it and couldn't find it anywhere.

Thanks to the internet, my copy arrived the other day and I read it in an hour and caught the ship down nostalgia river. The other books I loved as a child, I actually own (Anne of Green Gables, Beezus and Ramona, The Haunting, The O trilogy, Redwall...)

In other, school-related news, I got my class photo. Haven't had one of those in a while. It is kind of hilarious because I am clearly still thirteen and not nearly responsible enough to be a teacher of young adults.

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I have kept a list of the new books I read this year, which tallied up to sixty-four. Which is a perfectly respectable number and doesn't count the fact that I re-read a LOT this year.

Other interesting facts. Of these books:
- 53 were written by women, and only 11 by men
- 7 were written by New Zealanders (this number was, I imagine, larger in 2009, when I went on an Emily Perkins, Margaret Mahy, Maurice Gee binge)
- 36 were Young Adult or Children novels
- 9 were Georgette Heyer novels

Of these books, I found these particularly notable and interesting:

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I don't have anything to say that others haven't already said, but I do know that I couldn't stop reading it and then had to go and buy the sequel that day because I couldn't bear not knowing what happened next.

2. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
One of only a few pre-twentieth century novels on my list. I love Margaret Hale: she is fierce.

3. Ash by Malinda Lo
Wherein Cinderella is less than enamoured with the handsome prince because she's madly in love with his huntress. Lovely, lyrical writing.

4. The Year of the Shanghai Shark by Mo Zhi Hong
Clear, functional writing, fascinating characters and an interesting perspective on a place about which I know very little. One of the few books I read written by a man.

5. A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
My crush on Lorrie Moore continues apace. And it's about university and babysitting. I so rarely find books set during a time I have inhabited for five years.

6. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Tiny Cooper! Tiny Cooper is the best character in the universe! Enjoyed John Green's parts a lot more - mostly because he uses capital letters.

7. 8th Grade Super Zero by Olugbenusola Rhuday Perkovich
Karen Healey says it best.

8. Possession by AS Byatt
Mostly notable because this book has been making me feel like a failure since I was fifteen-years-old and my English teacher recommended it to me ("I wouldn't normally recommend Byatt to a year eleven, but you willingly read Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung. I think you can handle it." I didn't like to say that the Wagner was solely because I was told there Lord of the Rings moments and I was a massive nerd). But yes. Very much enjoyed the unraveling mystery and I liked Roland a lot.

I may have skipped all the awful awful Victorian poetry. I have my limits.

9. Demon's Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan
Demons and romance and fighting evil and sword fights and literary allusions and kick-ass ladies!

10. Twelfth Night by Shakespeare
I have seen it performed but never read it and then I had to teach it to my year nines and I fell in love with Viola and Olivia and laughed a lot at Orsino (why are Shakespeare's males always less dreamy than his females?)

11. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Dickensian cons and harsh lifestyles and brutal situations and nightmare fuel (oh god, the asylum). But then also, the wonderful, true love of Maud and Sue.

12. The Crossing by Mandy Hagar
New Zealand dystopian literature that explores race and gender and religion, but in a Pasifika setting. Also, Mary was fierce as hell and I was impressed with how Hagar made me go from wanting one character to fall off a boat, to wanting him and Mary to start a grand romance in the sequel.

So there you have it. I completed my first book on 2011 an hour ago (One Day by David Nicholls) and plan to read more this year than I did last year.

What's the best book you read last year?

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ONE

Anne is a filthy enabler and bought me the entire first season of Vampire Diaries for Christmas.

I love that even in the first episode, Elena is the sort of girl who will barge into the boys' bathroom to confront her brother for being a dickhead.

TWO

Contemplating whether I can plan my entire year ten course around the theme of 'mythology', starting inwards and working out.
Anyone have any good poetry?

THREE

High Country Weather

Alone we are born
And die alone,
But see the red-gold cirrus
Over snow mountain shine.

Along the Upland Road
Ride easy, stranger;
Surrender to the sky
Your heart of anger.
- James K. Baxter

I love the loneliness of this poem and the beautiful visual it creates.

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I'm back living in the suburb where I grew up, in the house where I grew up. It's kind of strange. Like, I went to the supermarket the other day. I forgot how many people you meet at the local supermarket. I bumped into two close family friends, had a chat, caught up. And it took me about fifteen minutes longer to do my shopping. This suburb is Wellington in a microcosm.

Also, I went for a walk and saw this poster.



I only had my camera phone but if you can't read it, it says: Have you seen this unicorn?

I am going a little crazy living by myself. Not in a bad way yet. Just in a 'talking to the cat' way. As Liz says, as long as I don't think that my cat Darcy is actually Mr Darcy, I should be okay. It does mean that I have no one to rant at when things are wrong.

For instance, I got kind of angry at Outrageous Fortune last night. Those who watch it will know why. And I had to resort to leaving many comments on people's facebook pages and ranting at Tui via twitter (140 characters cannot contain my rage!).

I will say that Outrageous Fortune has been the best television to come out of New Zealand in a long while. It has been frequently hilarious, consistently dramatic, and exquisitely New Zealand. But this season has been systematically reducing the series to something less excellent. The increase of humour above all else, the lack of a coherent dramatic plot, the sometimes shonky issues it is raising without questioning them (I'm thinking particularly about the idea that Munter can't be a stay-at-home Dad, but they've said some pretty ick things in relation to Loretta's brothel), sidelining Cheryl, the character who holds it all together.

And then last night...Collapse )

Sorry, that was a bit longer than anticipated. Am making a nice lemon loaf now and about to get started on my English readings. I have dinner with the girls in my senior social studies group on Friday, so am preparing for complaining, which will be marvelous.

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On Wednesday, I went to Auckland to see the Peach Theatre Company production of Sweeney Todd. They did The History Boys last year, which is just about my favourite play of all time, so I expected excellent things.

And I received excellent things. Oh my god, this production was fabulous. Gruesome, funny, chilling. I have some major issues with the film, mostly that it's kind of dull (and a musical about human meat pies should not be dull), and this production just completely rocked. Ross Girven as Sweeney Todd was a delight - sympathetic, psychotic and with an exquisitely deep voice. Mrs Lovett (Lynda Milligan) was also excellent, she had a fantastic voice and got most of the laughs from our audience. Also loved Anthony (Nic Kyle) and Toby (Tyran Parke).

The chorus make such a difference to the production too and they were magnificent. I'd seen most of the chorus in other productions (including Antonia Prebble, or the actress my sister wants to be when she grows up). The sets were cool, as was the lighting. And our audience audibly gasped when Sweeney slit his first throat onstage, which is just the sort of reaction you want to get. 'A Little Priest' was my favourite song - so funny and grim.

*

Anyway, while in Auckland I read a lot of books. Re-read The Priviledge of the Sword by Ellen Kushner because I adore it when people actually have to PRACTICE at things. And also Katherine is a fantastic heroine and the story does really neat stuff with sexuality and gender that I really enjoy.

I also read Temeraire by Naomi Novik, which Renee gave me for my twenty-first birthday over a year ago as part of her themed 'Jane Austen with...' recommendations. I'd been putting off reading it because my piles of books are miles high and I accidentally put it on my bookshelf. Anyway, I started reading and was like, 'Well-written, interesting. But seriously, this is such a sausage-fest.'

And then Catherine Harcourt turned up and I was like, 'Awesome! Ladies flying dragons.' And then, and then, Jane Roland showed up with her scar and her cigars and her casual approach to sexuality. And it was amazing. And Laurence has to deal with the fact that aviators live quite differently from regular people. And I now have to borrow all the rest of the series off Renee ASAP.

So having finished Temeraire, I grabbed Patrick Ness' The Knife of Never Letting Go, which Katie got me for my birthday. And the same thing happened, set in a dystopian world where all the women have died. And then Viola showed up and Hildy and I loved it and read it at the airport and on the plane and finished it on the bus to tutoring. I don't know, I just can't read books where there isn't at least one awesome female character (main reason I hated On the Road so much).

So I suspect the moral of the story is that I should potentially trust my friends more.

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I have been re-reading the 'Emily' books by LM Montgomery.

Because when I'm studying and stressed about exams I turn to childhood favourites for comfort. Don't judge me.

One thing I have noticed on my re-read is how insufficient the male romantic interests are (except for Perry because Perry is awesome and he is not taken seriously enough). I mean, Emily is an awesome character: strong, ambitious, proud, and a writer. She deserves better. LM Montgomery, I know you can do awesome. I've cherished a childhood crush on Gilbert Blythe, I love Barney Snaith. Why do Teddy and Dean suck so much?

On the one hand you have Dean Priest, old enough to be her father, and so jealous and bitter that he tells her that her first novel is shit because he envies that she won't give herself wholly to him because of her writing. There are some problems with the whole 'outward appearance reflecting inner evil' (and I don't mean in a 'wears too much eyeliner and leather pants' way), but I won't go into them because I don't know enough about the issues to coherently argue them. Anyway, suffice to say, Dean is not deserving of Emily's cool.

On the other hand you have Teddy, who is a douchebag. I think we're supposed to like Teddy but when you have characters like Ilse (have I mentioned how much I love Ilse? She is spectacular and I want to be just like her when I grow up) telling Emily how self-absorbed and spoiled Teddy really is, I can't help believing it. Also, he proposes to her in a letter, which his mother, another 'outward appearance reflecting inner evil' type (Really, LM Montgomery, you can do better), destroys and replaces with a newspaper clipping. YOU CAN JUST GO AND TALK TO HER. HER AUNTS LIKE YOU LOADS. SO DOES SHE. THERE ARE NO BARRIERS IN PLACE. AND YOU ARE NOT CAPTAIN WENTWORTH.

It just kind of sucks when the romance you're rooting for is Ilse and Perry getting together and when the main character's inevitable proposal from Teddy is kind of 'meh'.

Though Ilse and Perry are spectacular *waves TEAM ILSE banner wildly*.

*

In other news, Tui and I went to Prince of Persia, which was hilariously bad. Partly because no one in our audience seemed to get how awful it was. Ah, arranged marriage, there is no way this can end poorly. And a convenient reset button plot device, super lame. Very funny though: Alfred Molina was most amusing.

Also, plot device dagger totally stolen from Galaxy Quest. I'm just sayin'.

Have accidentally invited about fifteen people over for a study group tomorrow. In my very small living room. Should be interesting. Fortunately, I bought pita bread. And hummus. I am prepared for all eventualities. I think.

Exams next week. Why, teacher's college? I try to treat you good, I hand in my assignments on time, I write you poetry. And then you pay me back like this.

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Came home to this on Sunday. He's here, INSIDE MY MIND.

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Everyone loves a good list right?

5. Penelope and Odysseus.

Out of all the messed-up relationships in Greek mythology and literature (Oedipus the original motherfucker, Agamemnon hacked to pieces in the bath, Freakin' Zeus and Achilles' IS THERE NO ONE ELSE), Odysseus and Penelope are a bastion of common sense and decency. Sure, he sleeps with every female he encounters, takes ten years to get home from war and then kills off all the handsome young men in the village. But he's a Greek. That's just how they rolled. He sleeps with the pretty ladies and then hangs out on the beach crying like a girl for Penelope.

And Penelope. What a star. Using the power of awesome, she holds off 108 suitors; she comes up with the idea of the contest; she's the only character in the entire epic to outwit Odysseus, in my favourite scene ever.

ODYSSEUS: Honey, I'm home!
PENELOPE: Don't believe you.
ODYSSEUS: Seriously, it's me, baby. Come to bed.
PENELOPE: I'm not sleeping with you. I'll have a servant move my bed into the hall for you.
ODYSSEUS: WHAT? I MADE THAT BED OUT OF A TREE STILL ROOTED INTO THE FLOOR. YOU DESTROYED OUR MARITAL BED SO YOU COULD SEX UP THOSE SUITORS, DIDN'T YOU? I DON'T BELIEVE IT.
PENELOPE: Snap. Welcome home, honey.

The adjective that describes Odysseus and Penelope is like-mindedness. Basically, they are both as sneaky as each other.

4. Alec and Rose from A Little Love Song by Michelle Magorian.

Michelle Magorian is one of those writers whose writing just draws me in so that I cannot stop and I cry and laugh and get to the end and realise it is three in the morning and I have five empty tea mugs beside my bed.

So I quite like A Little Love Song, as you can imagine. Rose and her beautiful sister Diana go to live in the country during World War II, and both fall in love. Rose meets the nice man who owns the bookshop and gives her Jane Eyre and DH Lawrence poetry and encourages her to write stories. She also meets and dates his cousin, Derry, who is a douchebag.

DERRY: Hey baby. I'm going to war.
ROSE: Okay. Your cousin's pretty cool.
DERRY: Alec's a coward. We should totally have sex.
ROSE: Um, I don't feel comfortable about that.
DERRY: BUT I MIGHT DIE AT WAR.

mild spoilersCollapse )

And it is excellent.

3. Christopher and Millie from the Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones

I was going to write about Sophie and Howl, but I'm in a Millie mood. When we meet Millie and Christopher they are an old, married couple. Christopher wears fancy dressing gowns and forgets people's names and Millie is suprisingly un-beautiful and the kindest lady in the world. So that's very nice.

And then The Lives of Christopher Chant and Conrad's Fate happened and we get backstory. Millie is an enchantress from another world who steals one of Christopher's lives and is addicted to school stories and Christopher is a nine-lived enchanter who is allergic to silver and just wants to play cricket. THEY FIGHT CRIME.

In Conrad's Fate, Millie makes the mistake of telling Christopher that she's unhappy at school:

"And Christopher was just as overbearing as I knew he would be. You know, 'My dear Millie, set your mind at rest and I will fix it' - and this time he was worse. He decided we were going to go and live together on an island in Series Five. And when I said I wasn't sure I wanted to go and live all alone with Christopher - well, would you want to, Conrad?"
"No," I said, very definitely. "He's far too fond of his own way. And the way he makes superior jokes all the time - I want to hit him!"


Sigh.

2. Elizabeth and Darcy.

Well, obviously. Does anything else need to be said?

1. Anne and Gilbert.

I read the Anne series as a small child travelling around the East Coast of Canada. I have never forgiven my parents for not taking us to Prince Edward Island. Anne's hilarious melodramatic personality and Gilbert's decency and sense of humour just mesh.

So on her first day of school she breaks a slate over his head because he calls her Carrots (he just wants her to notice him!) And Anne refuses to speak to him ever again. She pretends to be dead and floats down the river in a boat, which springs a leak and leaves her stranded, Gilbert saves her and she still refuses to forgive him.

The excellent thing about Anne and Gilbert is EVERYONE knows that it's going to happen, except Anne, and she is genuinely surprised and upset when he proposes to her. And she dreams about the tall, dark, handsome stranger and is super-confused when Gilbert keeps turning up in her house of dreams to rearrange the furniture and lift heavy boxes.

Gilbert is also completely supportive of her educational and literary aspirations. They compete academically and keep coming first equal (because they are first equal in awesome) and Gilbert is always genuinely happy for her and pleased that she's done so well. And he thinks clever girls are cooler than pretty girls.

The more I think about it, the more I realise that Gilbert is such a Canadian. He's unfailingly polite, decent and friendly. And able to make fun of himself.

*

Honourable mentions to:
Margaret Hale and Mr Thornton in North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.
Peeta and Katniss in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (it hasn't happened yet but if it doesn't, Katie, Kirsten, Jerome and I will potentially have to start a support group)
Derek and Chloe in The Darkest Power trilogy by Kelley Armstrong (again, hasn't happened yet. Again, support group)
Kitty and Freddy in Cotillion by Georgette Heyer.
Basil and Betony in The Willow Tree's Daughter by Pamela Freeman (the gardener's boy and the princess. She claims him and saves him from an evil spirit, he woos her with sunflowers)
Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.
Agnes Grey and Mr Weston in Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte (oh, they are so lovely)

In other news, exam in five days. Also, at roleplaying on Saturday, I had Charlie use her limp as a reason for her agression at the riot Jane started. The next day, the bottom of my foot had some sort of blister and so I spent the whole day limping at work. As Anne and Liz said, Irony is a bitch.

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So we sold our kitchen table on friday, which was great, excellent, made lots of money. And all that.

Problem being that Liz and Lee's table, which was currently residing behind our couch, had all its legs unscrewed and we have no tools at my flat. This was problematic not only for the lack of kitchen table but also because people were coming to Roleplay at my house.

So I text Anne.

AIMEE: Hi. Can you bring a screwdriver to my house tonight? Otherwise we shall have no table.
ANNE: Sure, how big are the screws?
AIMEE: Like, one centimetre.
ANNE: No. Okay, is there a plus sign on the head or a line across it?

(She has to use small words so that I can understand)

AIMEE: ...They are potentially less screws and more bolts. I need a thing to put on bolty bits.
ANNE: A spanner. Would you like a spanner?
AIMEE: Yes please. I fail.
ANNE: That's alright. I am here for you. And I also secretly snuck into boy scouts as a child.
AIMEE: I did Brownies. But all my badges are in, like, macrame and reading.
ANNE: Mine are in the internet, awesome, and tools. I will see you soon.

So Anne turns up at my house with her dinner and a spanner. I give her the 'bolts'.

ANNE: Aimee. These are nuts.
ANNE: You are a big, big freak.

About halfway through the game I recognised the irony of my playing a character who can built anything with a bit of metal and some number eight wire.

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So I was walking down through the university after tutoring, reading The Grand Sophy. A guy and girl walked past me.

GUY: Good book?
AIMEE: Yes, very.
GIRL: What're you reading?
AIMEE: *a little embarrassed, shows cover*
GIRL: Oh my goodness, I love Georgette Heyer! Have you read much of her?
AIMEE: A few, yes. I love her.
GIRL: Read These Old Shades. It is amazing. You're an English major?
AIMEE: Yup.
GIRL: 3rd year?
AIMEE: I just finished honours. Doing teaching now.
GIRL: Wow, congratulations! That's awesome.
GUY: Yeah, I do maths.
GIRL: You have excellent taste in books!
AIMEE: Thanks! You do too.

So that was kind of awesome.

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