Periscope and Meerkat: Is The Circle Going To Be Completed?

One of my favourite books of 2013 was The Circle by Dave Eggers.  I gobbled it up in one day and have read it a few times since then.  The Circle tells the story of Mae Holland, a young graduate who gets a job at a powerful social media and technology company in Silicon Valley.  The company has many different products that they are developing, one of which being SeeChange- a live streaming application which allows people to have a live view of what is happening all over the world.

Since it was written SeeChange seems to have become a reality in the form of the new live-streaming apps Periscope and Meerkat.  I can see a benefit to being able to see amazing views or incredible weather or important news events from around the world but I still feel slightly weird about the idea of live-streaming.  Now… I don’t want to give away the end of The Circle to anyone who hasn’t read it yet but let’s put it this way… it’s a dystopian text… things get terrifying!!  Will Meerkat/Periscope lead to that?

Now, I downloaded Periscope yesterday and have since pent a little time watching various streams… and I’m still really confused.  I have got to see lovely sunsets, crazy snow in Russia, a pleasant guy from Warwickshire clean his kitchen, a few cooking demonstrations and many many cute cats and dogs.  So far, so good.  It’s a little anodyne at times but it’s a new app, people are feeling their way with it, and the internet seems to be full of pictures of cats so why not live-stream them sitting in the sun??

I like the idea of using Periscope to watch cooking and craft demos or to connect with a favourite writer.  Many authors are currently using the app to show the spaces in which they do their creative work.  I’ve noticed a few people doing make-up tutorials or Q+As on a subject they are an expert on: beards, watches, real estate are all topics I noticed.

However, a few titles of streams (that I didn’t choose to watch) did worry me.  One was entitled “will this girl notice that I’m filming her?”  Eeeek.  Periscope has only been around for about a month and we’re already stepping in The Circle territory with invasion of privacy.  Also, there have been many news reports about how Snapchat has been used for online bullying amongst teens.  Is Periscope just going to open up a new way to troll someone?

I don’t know how I feel about it at the moment.  I tried streaming from my home office but after hanging about for a few minutes it turned out that no-one wanted to look at a small room that needs decorating.  I can’t blame them.

Have you used Periscope or Meerkat? Does the idea completely terrify you?  Have you read The Circle? Do you think it’s coming life is imitating art?

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Fan Friday: What We Do In The Shadows

When I find a TV show, a film, book or game that I am really into I have a tendency to get quite fannish about these media products. I therefore tend to go through phases of obsession that I move through quite quickly. I thought it might be quite fun to start sharing my current favourites on a weekly basis- listing the shows, movies, apps, websites etc that have made my week.

So… what has been my fannish focus this week?

FILM- What We Do In The Shadows

A NZ-produced low budget horror comedy about a group of vampires flat-sharing in Wellington may not be on the top of your list of films to see… but it really should be.  Jemaine Clement (of Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Waititi wrote, produced and star in this fantastically funny mockumentary about the every-day (every night?) lives of vampires.  Vlad (862 years old, nicknamed The Poker), Viago (379, a dandy) and Deacon (183, the young bad-boy of the group) live with their 8000 year old friend Petyr in a suitably gothic and decrepit flat in Wellington.

It’s not as sexy being a vampire as you might think. It’s not all biting virgins and spats with local bands of werewolves (although that is a part of it). You’ve still got to decide who does the dishes, how you are going to get dressed for a night out when you can’t check your reflection in the mirror, and how you will get into the nightclubs if no-one agrees to invite you in. The film lovingly stands by existing rules of vampire fiction and movies and makes great use of references to favourites such as The Lost Boys.  

What I liked best about this film though was that it’s not just about the humour and cultural references. What We Do In The Shadows also looks at the more traumatic side of being a vampire- seeing your friends die in brutal ways (including old age). I love the bromance that the vampires develop with a human IT-guy called Stu (a role played by an actual IT worker called Stu).

This is definitely going on my list of great horror-based comedies when I update the one I created last Halloween. 

Have you seen What We Do In The Shadows? What did you think? What got your fan passions burning this week?

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REVIEW: The Three- Sarah Lotz

Lost meets The Passage in this incredible new thriller, for all fans of The Shining Girls and Stephen King.

They’re here … The boy. The boy watch the boy watch the dead people oh Lordy there’s so many … They’re coming for me now. We’re all going soon. All of us. Pastor Len warn them that the boy he’s not to­­–

The last words of Pamela May Donald (1961 – 2012)

Black Thursday. The day that will never be forgotten. The day that four passenger planes crash, at almost exactly the same moment, at four different points around the globe.

There are only four survivors. Three are children, who emerge from the wreckage seemingly unhurt. But they are not unchanged. And the fourth is Pamela May Donald, who lives just long enough to record a voice message on her phone. A message that will change the world.

The message is a warning.

Thanks to BookBridgr and Hodder & Stoughton for this Advanced Reader Copy in return for a honest review.

If you are looking for a holiday read that will keep you going on the plane journey, do not choose this book! Not that it’s not good, it is.. it’s so good… and that’s why you shouldn’t read it on a flight. Lotz’s writing is so striking that the events of Black Thursday seemed real to me. The description of the plane crash at the beginning of the book was so vivid, so realistic that I wouldn’t want that in my head whilst lifting off in an aeroplane! 

The plane crash element only really takes place in the prologue.  The rest of the novel uses the form of a non-fiction text (written by fictional author Elspeth Martins) that aims to cover the events and political/social consequences of Black Thursday.  The paragraphs were short, taking the form of interviews, extracts from newspapers/websites or from Martin’s correspondences with various people involved in the narrative.  I really enjoyed this faux non-fiction approach.  Each chapter was short, snappy and added a snippet of information, which built up to tell an increasingly worrying story.

As scary as the plane crash part of the story is, the real horror doesn’t really kick in until we start seeing the effects this devastating event has had upon society.  Human behaviour is what is really frightening in this book- mob and cult type behaviours, doubt, paranoia, fear.  The short extract form of the novel allows glimpses of what is going to happen (especially to the three children who survived the crash) but kept me hooked, always needing to read a little more before putting the book down.  I really like the way that despite a potential supernatural cause (we’re constantly kept guessing the cause of the events) it is humans that I ended up fearing the most.  The horror builds slowly and steadily but by the end I couldn’t stop thinking about what I had read.  I read this book within two days, and could have possibly read it faster if I didn’t need to sleep!  However, the story stayed with me much longer than this and I chewed the ear off anyone that would listen about just how thrilling and scary this book was.  I’m now torn between lending it out to people so we can talk about it or keeping it for myself to read again and again.

Due to the non-fiction nature of the story it wasn’t the type of text that you get overly attached to one particular character.  The perspective kept shifting and as they did my alliances and sympathies shifted with them.  Lotz’s writing style is intelligent, focusing constantly on not just the political and social connotations of the air disaster but the personal cost too.

I absolutely cannot wait to read Day Four, even though that may ruin another form of transport/holiday for me too (it’s set on a cruise)!

 

 

 

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I’m Getting Too Old For This Ship: Being a 30+ Fangirl

I’m currently sat wearing a Little Mermaid inspired jumper with a purple shell bra printed on the front with a bright green skirt to signify my tail.  To the left of me there is a pink Build-a-Bear dressed as Spider-Man and to my right my soft toy Pascal (the chameleon from the Disney film Tangled) is lying on his back.  I would count myself to be part of many fandoms- Sherlock, Doctor Who, Disney, Once Upon A Time, Star Trek (specifically Deep Space 9), Harry Potter, Cabin Pressure etc.  I wear clothing and accessories that hint at my geekiness and I get excited about trips to toy shops even though I don’t have children of my own.

My current tagline on my blog (at the time of writing) is “fangirling about books, film and TV.” However, I am starting to feel unsure of whether I can count myself as a fangirl, and whether I even want to be a fangirl anymore.  It seems that the term has become synonymous with a flailing, squeeing type of fan-behaviour that I don’t really demonstrate.  

For example, I don’t really ‘get’ shipping.  I don’t understand it.  Is it just wanting two characters who may or not be canonically involved to get it together? Is this just what it is? I know that there is fan-art and fan-fiction linked to ships but there are also lots of people who ‘ship’ characters without the artistic output.  

Also, I can understand hoping that two characters will get together whilst the series is still ongoing and being written but once it’s over should we still wish those characters into a relationship? Am I just too old (33) to understand wanting Draco and Harry to get it on? I know there was tension between them but I personally doubt that you would really want to engage in a sexual relationship with someone you hated quite so much.  I am currently halfway through Warehouse 13 and just love the sexual tension and romantic feeling between Myka and Helena G Wells but I doubt I invest as much into this as those who could count themselves as ‘shippers.

The portmanteau naming thing gets to me as well. Johnlock? Spuffy? and don’t get me started on Wincest!?! That’s just wrong!!

So… shipping? Is it just for young people or have any of my fellow 30+ geeks ever succumbed to the lure of the OTP? Also, can I be a ‘fangirl’ anymore? Or have I passed through ‘fan-puberty’?  Am I now a ‘fan-woman’?

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Game of Thrones Inspired Jewellery

Game of Thrones: Season 5 fever seems to have taken over a lot of people at the moment.  In celebration, here is my round-up of some of the best Game of Thrones jewellery options available on the net. 

  

This beautiful Mother of Dragons necklace is handmade from veg tan leather and is a fantastic statement piece.  This piece would look fabulous with neutral shades in leather and suede for a Daenerys style look. 

  

This amazing wax sigil necklace is made out of polymer clay but really does look like an authentic wax seal. A really subtle addition to any outfit.

 

 This Daenerys claw necklace is made from polymer clay but really does look like it’s made of claw/horn. 

  

These polymer clay egg necklaces are absolutely beautiful! 

 

Let everyone know who you are with this fab Mother of Dragons acrylic necklace from Cherry Loco. 

 

Sansa has worn some gorgeous jewellery through the seasons but take a look at this statement piece. Gorgeous! Grab yourself a replica by NastyaMedun. 

 

 Not wanting to miss the gentlemen out, here are the House Stark sigil cufflinks made by husband’s business GeekCycled.  

Who is your favourite Game of Thrones character? What jewellery pieces have grabbed your eye? 

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REVIEW: The Burning Man- Christopher Fowler

London is under siege. A banking scandal has filled the city with violent protests, and as the anger in the streets detonates, a young homeless man burns to death after being caught in the crossfire between rioters and the police. 

But all is not as it seems; an opportunistic killer is using the chaos to exact revenge, but his intended victims are so mysteriously chosen that the Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in to find a way of stopping him. 

Using their network of eccentric contacts, elderly detectives Arthur Bryant and John May hunt down a murderer who adopts incendiary methods of execution. But they soon find their investigation taking an apocalyptic turn as the case comes to involve the history of mob rule, corruption, rebellion, punishment and the legend of Guy Fawkes. 

At the same time, several members of the PCU team reach dramatic turning points in their lives – but the most personal tragedy is yet to come, for as the race to bring down a cunning killer reaches its climax, Arthur Bryant faces his own devastating day of reckoning.

‘I always said we’d go out with a hell of a bang,’ warns Bryant.

Thanks to Transworld for the e-ARC in return for an honest review. 

Where possible I like to read crime series in order. I know that quite often the storylines for each book stand alone, but still it makes more sense to read them where you can make connections and build up a knowledge of the recurring characters. 

For this reason I was a little unsure when first asked if I would like to read and review The Burning Man, Christopher Fowler’s most recent title in the Bryant and May series. I mean, it can be confusing at times if you miss one or two books out… but coming to a series on the 12th book doesn’t sound like the most sensible thing to do. Usually this would straight away be a definite no for me. However, a little bit of reading about Christopher Fowler and the Bryant and May books led to me becoming incredibly intrigued. Reviews of previous books talked about elderly protagonists, Golden Age style detectives in a modern world and a hint of dark and dry humour. What appealed even more was reading on Fowler’s website that the books can be read out of order.
I do like crime novels but I don’t read them all the time.  I find that a lot of contemporary crime can often be overly focused on sexual violence against women, and that often it’s written in such a way that is meant to excite/titillate. Anyway, I like crime writing that harks back to an earlier era. So I decided to give it a go, thinking that it sounded up my street. Anyway, this book was not just up my street, it’s a metaphorical potential candidate for flat-sharing! 
The book has an incredibly contemporary setting- London during the financial crisis, the city beset by the Occupy movement, riots and general chaos. However, the main characters of Bryant and May bring more than a touch of old-school to the proceedings. I loved the concept of exploring what happens when highly skilled and gifted but old-fashioned detectives are faced with modern policing. 
Bryant and May were such endearingly written characters that it didn’t take long for me to feel like they were old friends.  I feel that more attention went on Arthur Bryant, even though I could understand why. Their friendship and working relationship was so lovingly written and I now am aching to find out more about John May and their earlier cases together. The other members of the Peculiar Crimes Unit were written beautifully too. Despite them having a smaller role in the story I felt that they were all fleshed out well and none leant back on the stereotypings that you see of minor characters in other police-based novels. I was particularly taken with Colin and Meera and really hope that Fowler develops their storyline in the next book. 
The crime itself was gruesome without being too gratuitous and allowed for some fantastic references to historical cases and facts.  The story twisted and turned and at some points I had to re-read to ensure that I wasn’t missing an important part (maybe it’s not a book to read when tired?) but ultimately I felt that it was a fulfilling romp which definitely delivered all it promised and more. 
Now I’ve just got to find time to read the preceding eleven books!!!
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“We’re gonna rip you to pieces!”- Monster’s University PNK Top DIY

After my husband read my recent Disney Clothes post, he told me that he thought I could actually make my own version of the Python Nu Kappa sorority top using stuff we already had in the house.   

A few months ago we were given loads of craft supplies from my mum that she didn’t want anymore. In the midst of decorative brads and various colours of felt were several pieces of hot fix glitter fabric. 

  

Mr H suggested that if I was able to trace the PNK letters onto the pink fabric I could iron them onto a top, thus turning myself into a real Python Nu Kappa.

I decided to give it a go using an old top that had a hole in it, meaning that if I ruined it I wouldn’t mind. 

So… I found the logo on the official Monster’s University webpage, made it bigger on my iPad and then traced it onto plain paper and cut each letter out.

 

  I then drew around them onto the back of the hot fix fabric.  

I had to do the P twice because I did it the wrong way around. Oops!!

Then it was just arranging them on  the top and ironing them until they stick firmly.

   

 

After this I tried to fix the tiny hole. Unfortunately I did a bad job with the needle and made it worse… so I got another shade of pink hotfix fabric out and added varsity style sports stripes to hide it.

 

PNK top finished! I’m going to try and style it tomorrow into a sorority girl chilled out outfit that would be perfect for Carrie and her sisters. 

 

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Q & A with Christopher Fowler

 

Christopher Fowler’s most recent book in the Bryant and May series, The Burning Man, was released on the 26th March. Now, I’ll be honest (oh no! This never precedes good news!) I’m a new-comer to Fowler’s writing, prior to receiving this book I hadn’t read any Bryant and May, nor any of his other books. I was approached by Transworld to read and review the book and I’ve got to say my first thought was “jump in and review the 12th in a series? No way!” 

However, (Aha! It’s not all doom and gloom! There needed to be a conjunction that changed the direction of this narrative- because otherwise it would have seemed weird that I was hosting a Q&A with him) there was something about the books that sounded amazingly appealing to me. I mean, it’s not set in a usual department of the Met- this is the Peculiar Crimes Division. Also I couldn’t resist a story where a pair of elderly detectives were the focus- skewing the norms of a genre, that’s what I like. 

So, I gave it a go and was hooked! I won’t say too much more until my review goes live except “SQUEE! So good!”

In celebration (and ahead of my review of the book) here is an exclusive Q&A with Christopher himself!

Tell us how Bryant and May started out. Are you surprised by how popular these have become?

I had the luxury of road-testing them first in ‘Rune’ and other volumes, and they slowly crept into my consciousness as they fleshed out. I worked very hard indeed to make them popular – it was never a sure thing. My first publisher turned them down, and there was always resistance from critics in the beginning. I think only my editor at Transworld, Simon Taylor, and my agent, really ever believed in them from the start.

Your books and your blog illustrate your fascination with London – can you tell us more about this?

Simple. I was born and formed in London. I love the way it has transmuted across the decades, although I sometimes find it oppressive now that every last quirk of the city has been quantified and measured and usually charged entrance for! And nobody talks about how overcrowded the city is, so that a reflective moment in a museum is almost impossible. But it continues to fascinate me even with its annoyances, because it’s defined by its people. 

 

You are a prolific writer – frequently having new books out and very busy on your blog: what are your other passions other than writing?

I’m addicted to travel and film. I’m connected with several film festival juries, and partly live in Barcelona. I went to art college and would like to take up graphic art again.

 

Is it always easy for you to get published now that you are so well-known, or is it still as competitive and difficult as it is for many new writers?

It’s still never easy, as any author will tell you. I have three books sitting in drawers which I can’t sell at the moment, two thrillers and a fantasy. What happens is that I rewrite for the present, as I did in ‘Plastic’ which went through six versions in six years. Some books take a while to find their time.

 

What will be your next book that we can look forward to?

The latest Bryant & May is ‘The Burning Man’, set against the British Guy Fawkes festivals. There’s also a thriller out in the summer called ‘The Sand Men’.

 

Has your interaction with fans, for example, at conventions, affected your work? 

I think so. I seem to have a vociferous and frighteningly loyal readership; I run a daily blog, and they interact heavily with me (probably because I answer personally). I have a couple of superfans who apparently know where I’m going to be before I do, and whenever I’m stuck on a story I ask them for advice. I don’t always take it, of course.

Is there any particular incident (a letter, a meeting, a comment that stands out? 

I have one fan whom I christened Stalky. The next time I saw him sitting in an audience, he opened his jacket to reveal his new T-shirt with the word ‘Stalky’ emblazoned across it. I totally forgot what I was saying.

Do you have a favourite author or book (or writer or film or series) that has influenced you or that you return to?

Too many, too often. I run a weekly column called ‘Invisible Ink’ in a national newspaper, the Independent, about forgotten authors, so my tastes can be a bit esoteric. I love JG Ballard, Mervyn Peake, Joe Haldeman, Harlan Ellison, John Cheever, Raymond Carver, but also overlooked writers like Dino Buzzati, Pamela Branch and Edmund Crispin. Movies like ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and ‘Witchfinder General’ used to influence me, but now many of the new Spanish gothic thrillers like ‘The Valdemar Inheritance’ and ‘The Hidden Face’ have affected me. I loved ‘True Detective’. But standing astride them all, Dickens. I return to his books again and again to learn new lessons.

Who is the person you would most like to be trapped in a lift with? or a spaceship? 

Ballard in a spaceship. They say never meet your heroes. I used to write to Jim Ballard and he always wrote back. Then one day I had a chance to meet him after the premiere of CRASH. I thought Cronenberg’s film was a travesty of the book, and ducked out. Wish I hadn’t done that now.

Who is the person you would most DISlike to be trapped in a lift with? Or a spaceship?

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London. Actually I’d like to be in the lift with him because I could tell him exactly what I think of the policies which have hollowed London out and left our heritage to Russian gangsters.

What would you pack for space? (Is there a food, beverage, book, teddy bear, etc that you couldn’t do without?) 

Probably silly pocket-sized stuff given to me by friends before they died. A little armadillo, a toucan, an Egypian box with a scarab beetle on it.

What is the most important thing you would like to get/achieve from your work?

I’d like to write one perfect short story that I was entirely satisfied with. Novels are never perfect, but I think you can get close to paradise with short fiction. 

What is the special satisfaction of your work?

 

People always point out that it’s a lonely job. But the you get one letter from someone that drives you to do it all over again. I had one from a lady who told me that one of my books got her through the death of her mother. Those are letters you keep all your life.

Thanks so much, Christopher! Also many thanks to Transworld Publishers for giving me the opportunity to host this Q&A. Check out the blog next week for my review of The Burning Man. 

 

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Disney Clothes 

As I stated yesterday I’ve spent the last few days in bed, full of flu.  I’ve thus spent my time sleeping, feeling sorry for myself, watching Disney parodies on YouTube (try this one) and looking for Disney-fandom related items to buy on the Internet.  Whenever I’m feeling under the weather I tend to fall back on hugging my Pascal toy, watching animated films and Internet shopping.  Usually when I’m back to full fitness parcels turn up (some that I forgot I had even ordered).  This time I did a great deal of research but only allowed myself to buy one item of clothing.

So here is the result of my Disney-related shopping research:

  Disney Villain Skater Skirt by Pick N Mix

I love this skirt so much.  It would be perfect for the Summer but could then be worn with a polo neck and thick woollen tights come the Winter months due to the dark grey tones.   

Urban Mermaid Boatneck Sweater by Adorkable Apparel

I’ve seen Traci Hine’s crop tops before but I’m not really a showing my stomach sort of girl.  I know that I could wear it over something but it’s just not my style.  Sweaters however… I love myself a good sweater.  I actually decided to order one of these so I’ll keep you informed of what it is like when it turns up.

  Rapunzel skirt by Hipster Princess

This is a really cute nod to one of my favourite Princesses and it would go really well with my Pascal (the same as the one pictured).

 Baymax Raglan Sleeve Top

So simple but so cute. Bah-la-la-la-la.

  

Python Nu Kappa tshirt by Rebecca Ariel

The Python Nu Kappa’s in Monster’s University are polished and beautiful but fearsome.  They’re mean girls but I’d want to be one if I was a monster… they have lovely hair.  

Which of these Disney related items are your favourite?


Flu Bug

I’ve not blogged as much as I would have liked over February and March. I’ve felt really tired and overwhelmed with work and haven’t really got around to writing as much as I might have wanted. I’ve certainly been reading but just haven’t had the inclination or time to actually get reviews or discussion posts written down. I’ve just been so tired, and have tried focus the energy that I had on my teaching. 

I’m actually feeling really ill today so I am off work. I’m typing this from my bed, on my phone, and will probably have another nap soon. There’s been a terrible flu bug going around and it seems to be my turn to have it! Urgh. Hope it goes soon! I just feel so tired, heavy and congested.
It’s the Easter holidays soon so I’ll be looking forward to having a bit of time to relax (we’re going to Edinburgh for a few days- that will be lovely!), to get on top of writing blog posts and to get on top of some school work.