2019 Read list…ongoing

  1. Where am I now? – Mara Wilson
  2. Wizard’s Bane – Rick Cook
  3. Magic Bites – Ilona Andrews
  4. Magic Burns – Ilona Andrews
  5. Magic Strikes – Ilona Andrews
  6. Magic Dreams- Ilona Andrews
  7. Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life – Wendy Mass
  8. Wonders if the Invisible World – Christopher Barzak
  9. The Wrong Heaven – Amy Bonnaffons
  10. Being Henry David – Cal Armistead
  11. Almost Home – Joan Bauer
  12. Mosquitoland – David Arnold
  13. The Outsiders – S. E. Hinton
  14. Farmer Boy – Laura Ingalls Wilder
  15. The Flight of the Phoenix – R. L. LaFevers
  16. The Fairytale Detectives – Michael Buckley
  17. The Trojan War: VSI – Eric H Cline
  18. The Unusual Suspects – Michael Buckley
  19. Once upon a Crime – Michael Buckley
  20. The Problem Child – Michael Buckley
  21. Magic and Other Misdemeanors -Michael Buckley
  22. The Everafter War – Michael Buckley
  23. The Inside Story – Michael Buckley
  24. The Council of Mirrors – Michael Buckley
  25. Skulduggery Pleasant – Derek Landy
  26. Playing with Fire – Derek Landy
  27. The Faceless Ones – Derek Landy
  28. Dark Days – Derek Landy
  29. Mortal Coil – Derek Landy
  30. Death Bringer – Derek Landy
  31. Demigods and Magicians – Rick Riordan
  32. 9 from the Nine Worlds – Rick Riordan
  33. Honest Doubt – Amanda Cross
  34. Young Adult Literature from Romance to Realism – Michael Cart
  35. Bizarre England – David Long
  36. *Early Riser – Jasper Fforde
  37. English Eccentrics and Their Bizarre behaviour – David Long
  38. *Shades of Grey – Jasper Fforde
  39. One of our Thursdays is missing – Jasper Fforde
  40. The Woman who died a lot – Jasper Fforde
  41. The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde
  42. Lost in a good book – Jasper Fforde
  43. Something Rotten – Jasper Fforde
  44. *First Among Sequels – Jasper Fforde
  45. A Pig Parade is a terrible idea- Ian Michael Black
  46. *A Visitor for Bear – Bonny Becker
  47. Noggin and the Moon Mouse – Oliver Postgate
  48. Say Hello to Zorro! – Carter Goodrich
  49. Heather has two mommies – Leslea Newman
  50. *Angus and the cat – Marjorie Flack
  51. The Mice and the Clockwork Bus – Rodney Peppe
  52. Mog’s Christmas – Judith Kerr
  53. A Birthday for Bear – Bonny Becker
  54. *All I need to know I learned from my cat – Suzy Becker
  55. Fannie Flagg’s Original Whistle Stop Cafe Cookbook – Fannie Flagg
  56. Angus and the Ducks – Marjorie Flack
  57. Paddington at the Tower – Michael Bond
  58. The All-Girl Filling Station Reunion – Fannie Flagg
  59. Can’t wait to get to Heaven – Fannie Flagg
  60. The Very Itchy Bear – Nick Bland
  61. Kitten’s First Full Moon – Kevin Henkes
  62. Edward the Emu – Sheena Knowles
  63. Owl at Home – Arnold Lobel
  64. *Library Lion – Michelle Knudsen
  65. *A sick day for Amos McGee – Philip C Stead
  66. *After Emma – Sheila Hocken
  67. Standing in the Rainbow – Fannie Flagg
  68. A Bargain for Frances – Russell Hoban
  69. Completely Clementine – Sara Pennypacker
  70. No Roses for Harry – Gene Zion
  71. A Kitten Tale – Eric Rohmann
  72. The Christmas Quiet Book – Deborah Underwood
  73. Gossie – Olivier Dunrea
  74. *Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Saenz
  75. There are cats in this book – Viviane Schwarz
  76. I’d really like to eat a child – Sylviane Donnio
  77. Fred Stays with me! – Nancy Coffelt
  78. Clementine and the Spring Trip – Sara Pennypacker
  79. Severed: A History of heads lost and heads found – Frances Larson
  80. *The Inexplicable Logic of my Life – Benjamin Alire Saenz
  81. Goth Girl and the Sinister Symphony – Chris Riddell
  82. *I had a black dog: His name was Depression – Matthew Johnstone
  83. *Things a bright girl can do – Sally Nicholls

………

*Particularly enjoyed.

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Film Review: Lost and Delirious (2001)

Dir. Leá Pool

Piper Perabo, Mischa Barton and Jessica Paré

Based, rather loosely, on the book “The Wives of Bath” by Susan Swan and set in a girl’s boarding school. It is told from the point of view of “Mouse” (Barton); who joins the school at the behest of her father and his new wife. Her mother having died not long before the film begins. She ends up sharing a room with Paulie (Perabo) and Tori (Paré), who she eventually realises, are a couple. In the beginning she is uncertain as to whether they even know that she knows about them, or if it simply that they do not care.

Paulie is the rebel, somewhat untypical in her life approach whilst Tori yearns to fit in with her mothers wishes at the cost of her own. She loves Paulie, but eventually she can’t cope with the potential reaction of her mother, she never gives her the chance to find out. Tori’s sister catches them in bed one morning and Tori in her haste and panic, unceremoniously severs her relationship with Paulie, and effectively their friendship as well.

Paulie’s entire world revolved around Tori and when Tori reluctantly discards her, she starts to unravel in a rather spectacular fashion, played exceptionally well by Perabo, her spiral of destruction is rapid and on a one-way course. (This is not a happy ending type of film)

It emerges that most people already knew about Paulie and Tori. Tori blanks her former lover and dates some random friend of her brothers from the neighbouring boy’s school, in order to alleviate any suspicions. Paulie is broken beyond repair and tries with all her being to convince Tori that what they were doing was alright and that others will accept their relationship. Tori refuses to listen and Paulie, in her desperation, eventually kills herself, by leaping off the top of the school building.

Tori’s reaction, or lack of one is curious given the extent of their previous relationship and the fact that it is obvious that Tori is finding it hard to keep pushing Paulie away.

In general, the film overuses the Shakespeare, fencing and bird metaphors somewhat, almost to the point where you wish the whole thing would be over… almost. From the time just after Tori leaves Paulie it is reasonably clear how this film is going to end, particularly given Paulie’s destructive curve.

Overall this film is a tad too artsy/indie. Clever and very well-acted, especially by Barton and Perabo, and despite the ending well worth watching, there is even a head teacher/ teacher relationship rather subtly hinted at. Occasionally it tries that little bit too hard to be ‘clever’ and artsy, but generally just manages to stay a way from that. To be fair however, the book it is based upon suffers from similar issues of overt cleverness.

7/10 for the acting, visuals and emotional rollercoaster, minus a few points for over extensive use of metaphors and an unhappy ending, because what the lesbian community needs are more films with an unhappy ending.

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Film Review: The Children’s Hour (1961)

Audrey Hepburn, Shirley Maclaine and James Garner

This film is about the POWER OF LIES and the results of taking them at face value, without evidence or corroboration. Due to the dictatorial effects of the Hayes Code (set up by a the Postmaster General William Hayes, who looked not unlike Mickey Mouse (Thank you Gore Vidal for giving me that particular image), which stated that homosexuality and references to it, or sexual deviance of any kind were not allowed to be included in motion pictures, it was initially banned soon after release, however it gained some audience and is finally now more widely available.

Karen Wright (Hepburn) and Martha Dobie (Maclaine) run a girls school, one of the pupils, the insidious goggle eyed Mary, takes it upon herself to cause them as much trouble as she is able, as a form of revenge for some minor slights she perceives they have wrought against her. She chooses a lie so outlandish coming from a pupil such as she is, that despite being a character lacking in some of the finer qualities of morality (Or, it would seem, any hints of having a moral compass at all), she is fully believed, and events begin to rapidly unfurl. This causes the collapse of two characters with impeccable morals and who should be wholly believable to be shunned by an entire community seemingly without thought or questioning. Resulting in a downfall of such proportions they could not really have been predicted (Except by a modern viewer who knows how these sorts of stories always ended at that time, because lord knows a lesbian couldn’t have a happy ending… or live after the revelation of her sexuality and deviance from societies norms. Heaven fore-fend!).

Garner plays Hepburn’s fiance, who, to his credit, is supportive of the two women throughout, though it is clear by the end that he still needs to question the lies veracity, but hates himself for having to do so.

Bizarre as it may seem to a modern audience, the lie is never actually vocalised. Not once within the entire film. It is only heavily insinuated, yet it is obvious what it is. Neither is any word associated with homosexuality nor lesbianism ever mentioned, the lie that dared not be mentioned is deemed implicit enough not to have to physically mention it by name.

This film is the second remake of Lillian Hellman’s play from 1934, the first These Three, could only ever be said to be based ‘loosely’ upon her original play, for the lie was changed to an adulterous love triangle between the three leads, ostensibly too make it more palatable for a wider audience whilst upholding the element of a risqué nature, and to adhere to the Hays Code.

The Children’s Hour is a much needed reminder of just how far we have come, in terms of homosexuality on screen and gay rights and the squashing of appalling stereotypes and societal perceptions in general, even though it might sometimes feel that we have barely progressed, we have and this film is evidence of that.

Whilst this film is very much of its time, and is by no means particularly positive, barring perhaps the leading characters unabated devotion to each other and the truth; it is well worth looking out and watching. Be prepared for a typical ending for the era, given the subject matter and the odd moment of melodramatic acting, especially from the child of extreme annoyance, of both character and visuals; the permanent scowl etched on her features certainly doesn’t help, Martha’s coming out scene is overwrought enough to make you want to chew your hat brim in agitation (if you are that way inclined), verging on cringe induced embarrassment. However, none of this can detract from the central warning theme of the power, danger and destruction of lies.

7/10 for the lack of proper mention, melodramatic acting, the annoying child and an ending that embarrassingly made me cry the first time I saw it… and several times after dues to Martha’s sheer self-loathing, a sad, sad thing to see, otherwise, a really good film of cinematic and social merit. A lesbian classic up there with Maedchen in Uniform.

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An indeterminate amount of things that make me happy.

Revisiting a tried and tested favourite. I came to the conclusion years back (maybe a decade ago?), that when asked it’s so much easier (and more likely) to list the things that you DO NOT like than the opposite way around. There was a spate of communication and therefore confidence problems between the higher and lower echelons at work at the time and several of us decided as a way to buoy ourselves up a little and to realise the good things in life was to do a “Things that make you happy” list. The sharing was entirely optional. The support and encouragement and spreading of the idea was also technically. Ultimately the idea spread far further than I had anticipated and proved to be a wonderful thing.

It was remarkably productive and interesting to hear people discussing it. It created a simple element of positivity into a stressful (at that specific time) work environment. An avenue of support and creativity when jobs were potentially on the line and just offered that little bit of reality.

The number began as 3, moved up to 10 and then spiralled. Which is only a good thing in my opinion.

So this is my much updated list. (In no order, other than as I thought of them- I try to do it every year, though I have no enforced timeline. When I feel it is time, then I make the list)

  1. Elfie (my cat)
  2. Rabbit (knitted)
  3. Mom
  4. Family
  5. Lego Wii Games
  6. A comfy chair, cuppa, patch of sunlight and a book combo
  7. Figuring something out (a new skill or how to draw something etc)
  8. Cats
  9. Animals
  10. Brownies (the Guiding sort) and being their Little Owl.
  11. Squared paper (writing on it)
  12. Smooth textures
  13. Bento Box
  14. Lounge Pant Sundays
  15. Crosswords
  16. Sunlight
  17. Successful growth of something I have planted from seed
  18. Clean PJ/bedding/bathed combo
  19. Classic Cars – Particularly MG’s and Triumphs, Mustangs and Pinto’s a la Sabrina Duncan’s in Charlies Angels (don’t judge me)
  20. Second Hand bookshops
  21. Rugby (Union)
  22. Sunsets on the Beach
  23. Paddington
  24. Coffee
  25. Snow
  26. Lava Lamps
  27. Fondue
  28. A really GOOD apple
  29. Fireworks
  30. Board Games
  31. Eddie Izzard
  32. Sandi Toksvig
  33. Theatre
  34. Trampolines
  35. “Black” flowers
  36. Library Requests arriving
  37. Eating fruit I have grown straight of the bush
  38. Chatting with my neighbour
  39. Kevin! (she’s a cat)
  40. Work colleagues
  41. Successful making of food items I’ve not made before
  42. Being outside
  43. Dog walking (I walk three dogs for a Charity – The Cinnamon Trust)
  44. Pigs
  45. Lucas the Spider
  46. femslash
  47. Films
  48. Rainbow
  49. Books!!!!!
  50. Working through my (immense) reading wishlist
  51. Working through my (immense) viewing wishlist
  52. An appalling weakness for funny animal videos
  53. Rock pool searching
  54. Alone time (The cat is the exception)
  55. Fires (log)
  56. Jasper Fforde books
  57. Perfect shades of blue
  58. Ladies
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afterellen

I miss Afterellen.com There, I’ve said it and I will repeat it. I miss the interesting, well written and insightful commentaries. That’s not to say other websites don’t do similar, or are run as well as afterellen was, but still… (I do know it is still technically around, just not in an as updated and enticing format – more commercially focused and less varied in it’s output). Also I would like to clarify that I am lauding the pre-2016 take over by men and TERF’s version of the site. When the writers were amazing and tried so hard to be inclusive of all queer identifying women (which absolutely includes trans women). the site after the take over is something I stay well away from and absolutely do not support in it’s views and attitudes.

I read autostraddle far more sporadically than I read afterellen (I checked it daily). I find it too trendy and not always engaging. This is not necessarily the individual authors faults, sometimes (most times) it’s just not a topic I care about. Also it’s a heifer to search/filter for the content you want to read.

So I am not making a complaint about the site in general, I think it covers a broad readership and has a breadth of articles that AE with it’s smaller crew couldn’t hope to achieve with the same regularity. Having said that, for a “smaller crew” their output was somewhat prodigious.

That said. There is one column that is about watching “classic” Lesbian film and critiquing them, that I just cannot get on board with.

I’m not explaining myself very well.

1990’s (and prior to that date) lesbian content films were indeed problematic on a grand scale, though not necessarily wholesale whether mainstream (ha ha we wished) or the low budget Indie films that were just too earnest for their own good (and/or appalling!). However, they were also what was out there and the amount of dross one watched in order to find the occasional gem was…immense. Let’s be blunt here. These older (not always great, but not always bad either) films were often the first piece of multimedia content that many baby gays came across and saw a version of their potential selves within. In the same way that Pulp novels of the 50-70’s filled in the fictional gap in lesbian representation. Something is always better than nothing, when that is all you’re getting so you can’t afford to be picky.

I think it is the general slamming of ‘classic’ films and the lack of acknowledgement about what’s past is past and how watching these things for the first time in a modern setting, as a baby gay does not always work that bothers me. I get that it’s the opinions of the person watching and reviewing and I have not a single problem with that. It’s just that lack of acknowledgment…and to be honest that seeming lack of even knowing about the history of the films. Why despite their badness they were often lauded and rewatched obsessively.

I don’t mean this in a “young people today…” way (That crap has been being said since Plato and I don’t hold with it). The films should absolutely be held accountable and their problematic natures exposed…but it’s the wholesale commenting on them in a vacuum that does not acknowledge the past that I find troublesome…and irritating. Granted whoever is giving the recommendations is pulling out some of the shittier ones… Nicole Conn I am talking about you. I like bits of “Elena Undone” but the Soulemetry subplot is just crap, let’s be honest here. But then, I really don’t think anybody was watching it for that part of the film anyway…were they?

When I was 11, I saw “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe” for the first time. Honestly it blew my mind. For the first time I found myself truly identifying with characters on a deeper more personal level. For the first time I held strong suspicions/hopes about what Ruth and Idgie meant to each other…admittedly I was leary of expressing that hope, partly in case it was just my imagination and partly because none of my friends were looking for that sort of self-validation. I watched that film as many times as I felt I could, and I was relatively secretive about it…and I think slightly ashamed. I couldn’t pinpoint what it was about the film I enjoyed, but I knew that it wasn’t meaning the same thing to other people.

The same with “Boys on the Side”…neither of these films are particularly queer, but they felt pretty radical to my young, sheltered, queer self. I was lucky to see films that were pretty well made overall. If my first queer(ish) film had been something like “Bar Girls” or some such…I might have given up watching straight off the bat.

I went to University and met other queer people and shared queer films. “Everything Relative” was my first truly queer film. Yes as a modern audience, as a young audience it is cringe worthy and not great cinema. However, it’s not completely awful cinema either. It was there, it was needed, it was what was available. I loved it and watched it so many times. I come back to it, despite knowing that it isn’t great and that bits of it make me cringe. I come back to it as an adult in part because of what it meant to me at the time. A sort of queer comfort blanket if you will. (That and for a long time I rather liked Luce..I have grown and moved on since then, but still she still gives me warm fuzzies). “Everything Relative” showed me that Lesbians could be varied (though clearly mostly femme, white, cis and relatively conventionally pretty – I am ignoring Gina’s 70’s throwback hair), they survived and had happy endings, they loved and lost. They had friends…they did uncomfortable improv. and sang around lakes. (I’m pretty sure I was aware that those last points were ONLY happening to the ladies in the film…Thank goodness)

It was what it was.

I completely understand that it doesn’t hold meaning to many people. That to a baby gay it must seem horrifying and unbearably trite. But queer film history is important too, and acknowledging that is important.

At University I went to my first Gay film festival. I saw “But I’m a Cheerleader” on it’s first outing (as it were). There were two of us in the cinema. (Three the second time I went to see it and took a friend) I wasn’t in a small town, I was in Liverpool. A major UK city, with a varied population and great queer nightlife. Yet there were only TWO of us in the cinema.

I think that says rather a lot. About the need and potential secrecy of these events. (It was in 2001-4 – I could not honestly tell you the specific dates)

I also saw “The Children’s Hour” for the first time at that festival. It was both insanely sad but at the same time I left feeling quite good about myself. I felt that we as a society had moved on from that viewpoint. I both love and hate that film.

I saw “DEBS”. I travelled to see “Imagine me and You” because it had limited Theatre release in the UK. I added to my personal watch list and devoured everything queer that I could feasibly lay my hands on. Which admittedly at that time was not as much as I would have liked, but more than I had realistically hoped for.

What I am saying, in an incredibly rambly way, is that to judge classic queer cinema simply on each individual film is to do a great disservice to what those films gave to a community desperately in need of them. I realise I am not particularly referencing older films. I have watched a large body of the work put out prior to the films I have already mentioned, but I wanted to relate it specifically to my own experience, rather than commenting directly on films that were not part of my original foray into queer cinema…that came later.

I just wish that could be acknowledged in between such implicit derision.

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Biscuits

I have recently concluded that I am an extremely uncomplicated biscuit consumer.

Many (many) moons ago, I read: “A nice cup of tea and a sit down” by Nicey and Wifey (honest to grapefruit that is how they call themselves).

Anyhoo, I was cogitating my optimum biscuit choices as I was happily munching on a Garibaldi biscuit the other day and I realised that my top 5, go to biscuits of choice are not particularly extravagant or interesting to others…though now I am thinking about it, maybe that is in part self-preservation of always knowing you aren’t going to have a great deal of competition for any given biscuit type.

So, in no order…

  • Garibaldi
  • Rich Tea (Thick Tea for preference, but generally you cannot find the things for love nor bloody money)
  • Fig Rolls
  • Nice
  • and Rusks.

So basically, the only competition I am likely to find is in the under three and teething set. I can take them… I am certain, though some of them are extremely persistent in the face of biscuit delights. Also, Pensioners…don’t think I’d win there, though I could probably proffer the one available Pink Wafer at a Church Coffee morning and make a break for it with one of my biscuits of choice. I have noticed it’s the quite ones,, who get there early and then casually nip around all the tables and pilfer the pink wafers before anyone else gets a look in.

I’m not much of a chocolate biscuit fan… I do rather enjoy a Lemon Puff or on occasion a Jammy Dodger, possibly even a Ginger Nut. But for the most part I refer back to my optimum choices more often than not.

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10 books to re-read (part 2 – 6-10)

Well…nothing like a humongous gap (couple of years?) between parts. 

6. Serrano Legacy – Elizabeth Moon

Nothing like a little (7 massive books) bit of political/military Space Opera to get you going of a morning. 

A really great series, though admittedly the first book delves into Hunting which I have absolutely no truck with at all and made me leave the series for a couple of years before I decided to finally pick up the second book and give it another go. Of course after that point I cracked on and read all of them in a week or two. And that was that. Sold! 

Trying to get hold of the fourth book was a surprisingly difficult task, not to mention increasingly vexing. But once that little hiccup was solved, plain sailing. 

The series is kind of split in to two parts, splitting between Heris Serrano being the lead in the first three, Esmay Suiza in the second with the fourth book as a jumping off point for the switch in character leadership. Initially I wasn’t so sure about the switch, but honestly it works really well. Heris’s story has kind of played out (not entirely) and the rejuvenation by a younger new character injects the series with some great forward momentum and allows audience and author to remain within the same world building which was definitely not over and done with. 

In fact, at time of writing I am part way through a re-read of the second book. (I just finished Moon’s other Space Opera series the Vatta Quintet, which was also marvellous – finished it in a little over a week).

7. Old Kingdom Trilogy – Garth Nix

I love this series! I’ve re-read it several times and I will likely do so again. I am picky about my Sci-Fi and my Fantasy reading choices. I admit it, but this series ticks all my boxes. Nerdy Librarian, loner with a magically created ‘Dog’ companion? I’m all over it.

Lirael is one of my favourite characters in fiction, ever! As is the Disreputable Dog. 

The books have magic, librarians, Paperwings…so many things. 

8. Becoming Bobbie – RJ Stevens

I’ve read this book a couple of times already. The first time I was intrigued though slightly suspicious based on other queer books I’d read leading up to finding a copy of this one. Totally unwarranted. A brilliant book that I have passed on to others, one of whom bought her own copy. She reads a lot, but doesn’t own physical copies of any but the most meaningful and important to her.

9. Star Trek Corps of Engineers – Various

A large, sprawling series in a similar vein to the others in the Star Trek franchise. Despite the layout of collated (sequential) short stories, I find it hard to just read one. The character development is as intriguing as the stories themselves. 

So, I feel the need to set aside some time to reread the WHOLE series and not just dip in and out.

10. The Little Dog Laughed – Douglas Carter Beane

I saw this at the theatre in London on a whim. I passed the Theatre, saw what was on, who was in it and decided that if they had any tickets left I’d go see it, and no worries if not.

Bloody brilliant. Extremely funny and well performed. Bought a copy of the play at Foyles and went from there. 

NB: I feel like this didn’t end up where I originally intended it to. I guess I can blame the long hiatus between posts. (ie I totally forgot I’d posted any such thing in the first place)

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