Strong Female Characters

In a discussion with some colleagues at work about a book that I suggested would be great to use in school a question I was greeted with was “does it include strong female characters?” The book featured quite a kick-ass female so I was happy to answer in the affirmative but later as I got home I started to think about that term: “strong female character” and what exactly it constitutes.

I asked my husband to list some “strong female characters” from fiction and unsurprisingly the list he came up with were all pretty bad ass: Katniss Everdeen, Lara Croft, Hit Girl, The Bride (Beatrix Kiddo), Xena. However, when you think about it these characters are defined mainly by their strength- their physical power and their feistiness. Now, I love a feisty female in fiction and in real life but in my opinion there is more to a strong female character that simply knowing your own mind and being able to kick some arse. I wouldn’t say that I’m a particularly feisty person but it doesn’t mean that I lack strength. Sometimes (particularly in the last year or so) I didn’t really know who I was as a person… but I don’t think that a character going through this type of crisis cannot be depicted in fiction as a strong character. Surely it is the journey and the act of going through these sorts of crises that create a strong character?

Maybe when we talk about strong female characters we mean well developed, fleshed out characters rather than those that kick ass? Maybe it’s the word ‘strong’ that gives the wrong impression? We’re talking about the strength of the writing as opposed to the strength of the character. We’re talking about a character that is more than just a Mary Sue but also more than just a kick ass woman in a skin tight outfit and a gun. We’re talking fully fledged female characters who are as interesting, vulnerable, flawed and strange as their male counterparts.

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My Top Ten Fictional TV Heroines

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme started by The Broke and The Bookish which gives bloggers the chance to discuss their responses to a given prompt.  This week we are looking at fictional heroines.  I’ve decided to have a break from thinking about book characters and have instead looked at some of my favourite female characters on TV.

All the lead female characters on Warehouse 13

Warehouse 13 has a fantastic ensemble cast and I found it really hard to pick just one female character that stands out.  I mean, Myka is obviously kick ass, an amazing agent and so intelligent but then you’ve got Claudia, H.G. Wells and Leena… not to mention Mrs Frederic.  I could (and one day might) write a whole post about the amazing female characters in this TV series. In the meantime here is a clip reel of  Claudia’s best moments.

Jadzia Dax- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

In terms of personality-wise, I would rather be friends with Ezri Dax than Jadzia as she just seems much nicer to get along with.  However, as we only meet Ezri in the final season of Deep Space Nine, I know much more about Jadzia and I think her depiction is just perfect.  She is the perfect spouse for Worf, having the heart of a Klingon warrior inside her anyway.  I need to admit considering (for a split second) having a replica of her wedding dress made for my nuptials… but I didn’t think a wedding day involving Bat’leths would necessarily be a good idea.

Shirley Schmidt- Boston Legal

Shirley is my role model.  She’s strong but kind, intelligent but moral and she knows how to rock a statement necklace.  I love the effect that she has on the younger men at Crane, Poole and Schmidt… remember, Jeffrey Coho basically moved to Boston especially for her! Also she can handle Denny Crane and Alan Shore.

Donna Noble- Doctor Who

I couldn’t stand Donna in the first episode I saw her in.  I just found her to be too brash, too loud, not my cup of tea.  However, when Catherine Tate joined the cast as a regular they really allowed the character of Donna to develop.  We saw the bolshy side but also her vulnerabilities.  I also really enjoyed the fact that she didn’t have any romantic inclination towards the Doctor (unlike Rose and Martha who had preceded her).  It worked so well and I think she is probably my favourite companion.

Jen Barber- The IT Crowd

I find myself in the most ridiculous situations at times and just need to think to myself WWJBD?

Sarah Walker – Chuck

I’m a heterosexual woman but come on… Sarah is hot!!! However, being attractive and sexy doesn’t necessarily make a character heroine material in my eyes.  She’s clever, capable of beating up several bad guys in one go and over time she develops to be more than just a super-spy… she becomes a really good partner in life to Chuck.

Lumpy Space Princess- Adventure Time

She believes in herself, she knows that she rules, she knows how to be proud of her lumps.

Maid Marian- Maid Marian and her Merry Men

Ah! I love that theme tune!

Yes, they have been lying to us all of these years.  Robin Hood was really a big old wimp.  The real hero was Maid Marian who led her Merry Men in all those daring deeds! I miss this TV show so much! Luckily there are whole episodes available on YouTube!

Liz Lemon- 30 Rock

She’s just so real! I just love her! (I tried to say why but this film clip says it better).

Soo- The Sooty Show/ Sooty and Co

OK, she’s a bit of a know-it-all and a goody-goody sometimes but she was my TV icon when I was growing up.

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Pinhead on my Shelf

Pinhead. Cute. Bet they are not two words that you are used to hear in conjunction with each other? I mean, take a look at him. He’s not exactly fluffy, fuzzy and huggable, is he?

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However, Funko are currently developing a Pop Vinyl figure based on Pinhead and based on the prototype and images available it’s going to be pretty cute.
Take a look…

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It won’t come out until later this year but I can’t wait to have this little fella on my shelf!

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Ten Tips for Disneybounding / Everyday Cosplay

Yesterday I blogged about Disneybounding and casual/everyday cosplay. Here are my ten tips for adding a bit of character inspiration into your day to day wardrobe.
1) Look at the internet for inspiration for the types of outfits you could create.

Good places to start are: Disneybound, The Nerdy Girlie, Cosplay Every Day, Polyvore, Pinterest, Instagram

2) Look at the character you are considering bounding as and breakdown their outfits into constituent colours.  Leslie Kay demonstrates a great way of doing this by focusing on where the different colours fall on the character’s body.

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3) Lots of Disney characters (and Marvel/DC characters) tend to colour block so if you are going to do this regularly it’s a great idea to build up a wardrobe of basic items in stock colours.  We all have our own favourite shops for basics but here in the UK I find that Marks and Spencer is a great, trustworthy and not too expensive brand for items such as tights, vest tops, scoop necks and polo necks.  New Look is a favourite of mine for cheap but lasting basics too.

4) Yes, it’s great to go out and buy a new outfit for a special occasion but if you want to be creative with what you actually already have, you need to really get to know what is in your wardrobe.  Look at the items separately rather than in terms of your usual combinations and let the colours guide you to mix and match to make new outfits.

5) Charity shops, thrift shops and online auction sites are great for picking up cheap accessories that will pull an outfit together.  In one great charity shop I managed to get three brilliant chunky belts (red, gold and black) which have been so useful and together cost under £5.

6) Don’t be frightened to re-use the same items.  Here are three looks based around the red belt (Prince Eric, Dr Facilier and Jafar).

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7) Costume jewellery is the key to personalising each outfit to the character.  You can represent an aspect of their personality or a physical part of their anatomy.

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I would have loved to have a shell necklace to represent Ariel’s voice but instead I went for a Lego Octopus necklace to represent Ursula’s body.

8) Use any of your fandoms and passions for inspiration.  Don’t feel that you need to be limited by one fandom.  Yes, there are a lot of DIsney outfits out there but you can base your ideas on anything you want.  I particularly like The Nerdy Girlie’s Claudia from Warehouse 13 and 11th Doctor.

9) Be inspired by different eras, trends and occasions.  What about an 80s inspired WALL:E or a 1950s Cinderella? What about an evening wear look that is inspired by Daenerys Targaryen or a beachwear look for Princess Leia? You could even use the same character for inspiration several times but with a different focus- Summer and Winter wardrobes for Hermione maybe?

10) Play with it! Have fun and experiment! The only limits are your imagination!

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My really chilled out Kristoff bound. My furry slippers, old comfy jeans, a black jersey top from Tesco, a scarf from Primark (about £2 or £3) and a vest/headband combo that I made out of a piece of faux fur. I added the vintage brooch (used to belong to my grandmother) as I felt it added an icy hint to the look.

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Disneybounding and Everyday Cosplay

Recently I’ve become a huge fan of Leslie Kay’s Disneybound blog.  It’s full of ideas for how to take inspiration from Disney characters and apply this to your everyday fashion choices.

Originally Disneybound was a travel blog that Leslie started in order to help plan her upcoming holiday.  As adults are not allowed to cosplay/dress up at the Disney parks (to avoid confusion for children) she began to put together an outfit that was inspired by Rapunzel.  Her blog got a lot of attention and she began to get requests for character inspired looks that people could wear to the Disney parks.  These days there are many people who Disneybound… those who are lucky enough to live close to a park do it regularly and have Disneybound meet-ups, but others who just visit for holidays pack a suitcase full of Disneybounds that will last them for the duration of their stay in the Magic Kingdom.

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Two of Leslie Kay’s amazing character inspired outfits. It wouldn’t necessarily be obvious to everyone that you were making a reference to Monsters Inc but it’s a little secret that you can enjoy and share with other Disney fans.

However, Disneybounding is not just for people who are off to the Disney parks.  I went to Disneyland Paris about seven years ago and loved it… but haven’t managed to get there since.  I haven’t let this stop me from Disneybounding though.  It’s workable into an everyday wardrobe because it isn’t actually dressing up… it’s just using the colours from Disney characters and applying it to your outfit.  You might also use features of the character for accessories- eg the eyeball ring for the Mike bound.

Now, on the Disneybound website Leslie Kay tends to stick to Disney characters… mainly because she gets people emailing her saying “You do know that’s not Disney, don’t you?” if she does anything else.  She does sometimes look at Harry Potter or Hallowe’en outfits but usually she will stick to Disney (including Star Wars and Marvel).  This is mainly to tie in with the name of her blog, and it’s because most people seem to be interested in the Disney outfits.  If you are doing this in real life there is no reason why you can’t be inspired by book characters, characters from films made by other studios (Dreamworks etc) or characters from TV.  If you do a search on Pinterest, you can often find items that have been developed by Polyvore users for a variety of different characters.

Tomorrow I will be back with my top ten tips for beginning with Disneybounding and Everyday Cosplay.

How My Book Week Outfit Got Changed Due To a Faux Fur Vest

It’s getting closer and closer to World Book Day in the UK and in typical me-fashion I have decided to scrap my well-planned out ideas for my costume.  Why? Well, I did intend to dress up as Max from Where The Wild Things Are on Book Day.

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I decided that it would be an easy outfit to create but would still allow me the opportunity to do a little crafting.  So, I bought myself a white onesie… well, I thought it was white.  It turned up and it was beige but it would probably still do.  The only problem was that it was so warm and snuggly that I started wearing it straight away.  Would I want to wear a onesie out to work once I’d got in the habit of slobbing about on the couch in it? Possibly not.  However, I decided to plod on with my Max idea and I ordered some fake fur in order to make a headband to go around his crown and a tail (links to instructions).

I made the headband and loved how comfortable and cosy it was.  I looked at all of the fur left, waiting to be made into a tail, and thought that maybe I could do something with it in the meantime.  I decided that I would turn it into a vest that would last me for a few weeks until I cut it up and repurposed it to make a tail.  I found an easy DIY guide to making a fur vest and had a go.  So far, so good.  The problem is that I have become quite attached to my vest. I’ve worn it to work, around the shops, around the house and even for Disneybounding.

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Look… here it is helping me bound as Kristoff- it’s actually a very simple bound as it’s just my old comfy jeans, my fluffy slippers, a black jersey top with the fur headband and vest and a scarf I picked up for £2 from Primark to pick out the purple in his outfit.

Anyway, I really can’t bare the idea of cutting it up to make a tail that I will only use once.  I could buy more faux fur but I’ve gone off the idea of being Max now.  New ideas- possibly Bellatrix Lestrange or Coraline.

Hmmm… going to need to think about this! Do you have any ideas about my possible World Book Day outfit? Are you (or your child) planning a literature inspired outfit for World Book Day or another event? What will you be going as?

the art of being normal

REVIEW: The Art of Being Normal- Lisa Williamson

Two boys. Two secrets.

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl.

On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan.

When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long…

Being a teenager is tough. Being a transgender teen must be even tougher. This book follows pre-transition trans teen David who has always known deep down that he is a girl. (I have used his/he as these are the pronoun choices used within the book). He hasn’t told anyone apart from his two best friends the truth, his parents are supportive but as of yet believe him to be a gay male, and he’s called “freak show” by a group of bullies at school. Things are not easy for David at all but he is one of the most resilient, strong and snarky characters that I have read. Even when he finds life difficult he relies on his humour (a refreshingly British humour… good old UKYA!!) to keep him going… that and his two lovely (although coupled up… which sometimes leaves him feeling left out) best friends Essie and Felix.

As a cisgendered female I can’t comment on how the book represented the experience of transgender teens. However, I do remember my teenage years and this book accurately portrays the pain of first love, of developing your identity, of finding your place in the world… and in my mind, this book completely nails it. It covers bullies, fancying people, dress sense, maths geeks… you name it… it’s in there! Perfect!

I do feel that the representation of gender is a little too cut and dry- David knows that he is a girl because he likes pink and fairy wings whilst boys like trucks and sport. It’s a very narrow view of gender and doesn’t really reflect the subtleties of real life. However, the fact that this story is being told is incredibly important and this is a good starting point.

The changing POV of Leo and David is a great way of getting into the perspective of these two characters. I was a little dubious at first that Williamson would vary the voice in order for this to fully work but as the novel went on you really could tell through the stylistic choices whether it was David or Leo narrating.

I started to worry as I got closer and closer to the end whether the inevitable happy ending would be too saccharine sweet. Well… yes, the party scene is sort of soppy and a bit like a 90s American teen sitcom special but it does actually work for these characters. The ending allows for a little warm hug of happiness and hope and yet still acknowledges that life won’t necessarily be all of a sudden easy for David… life never is… but that he will have a chance at happiness.

I feel that Middle Grade and Young Adult books are there to reflect and portray the coming of age experience and that this book does it beautifully. Maybe if there were more books about these experiences then tragedies such as what happened with Leelah Alcorn wouldn’t occur. I truly believe that books about LGBT teens are not just for LGBT teens but should be read by everyone. Maybe then we would have a chance of a more understanding and inclusive world.

I really enjoyed this novel and would definitely recommend it to YA fans, people interested in the representation of gender in fiction and teens everywhere!

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Top Ten Book Related Problems That I Have

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme developed by The Broke and The Bookish where the book-blogging community can discuss their responses to a given prompt. This week we are talking about our book related problems.

Long books intimidate me.
I am flaky and fickle. I find it hard to commit to one book for an extended period of time. It’s not that I don’t like big books per se, it’s that I know my track record with them. I know that I get started with great momentum and lose interest… so these days it is rare that I pick a particularly long book up. I have a few long books that I am planning to read this year but I’m leaving them until the Summer holidays when I will have more time and will hopefully be more likely to keep going.

I can’t read new books at night.
I find it very hard to read books that are new to me at night as I end up staying awake. I tend to keep a set of old favourites on my bedside table (often Harry Potter or books by Nick Hornby) because if I know what is going to happen I am more likely to drift off to sleep.

I can’t stand movie tie-in covers.
If I read a book I want to imagine the characters and setting for myself, not be faced with the movie-maker’s view. Also I find the original covers to often be prettier!

There are just too many books and not enough time!!
This leads to me being fickle and having half read books everywhere.

I enjoy a subversive read but worry about what it says about me.
One day I was reading Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk in a cafe and ended up hiding it partway under my scarf because I was worried what people would think if they read a bit over my shoulder.

I am an impulse buyer.
It leads to spending more on books than I originally intend. I am currently trying to curb this by making more use of the library service.

I expect everybody else to be as obsessed with particular texts as I am.
I go through phases with my reading when I get really caught up with particular books and series (as I’m sure many of us book bloggers do). I’m currently in a Hellbound Heart/Hellraiser phase and am boring my husband at every possible occasion with tales of Cenobites.

I have a tendency to buy book related ephemera.
As well as impulse buying books I have a tendency to buy homeware or clothing items related to my favourite books and graphic novels, especially at craft fairs or on etsy.

I’m a peeker.

I drive my husband mad by looking ahead to see what will happen in a book. I try not to but sometimes just can’t help myself!

I can’t enter the library in town without buying a coffee and a cake from the cafe.
Even though I don’t need one I often end up sat with a coffee and a muffin because it just feels like the right thing to do. It is neither good for my pocket or my waistline.

What about you? What book problems do you have? Do you have any solutions to my problems?

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Five Nights at Freddy’s

My intentions for today were so good. I was going to clean and tidy the house, vacuum everywhere and start to empty some of the boxes that have remained piled up since we moved in here (October). Instead, I went onto the App Store, downloaded Five Nights at Freddy’s and basically have done nothing but press the iPad and scream all day!

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Five Nights at Freddy’s is an indie point-and-click survival-horror game designed by Scott Cawthorn. I’ve never really played horror games before, mainly as I’m a huge wimp and don’t cope well with jump scares. However, the concept behind this game really appealed to me- you take the job as a night security guard at a children’s restaurant where the animatronic characters have been known to get a bit too close to humans. Ever since the “bite of ’87” incident, the characters have been restricted to the stage in the daytime, performing their show for the delighted children. However, the management fear that disabling free roam altogether will freeze the mechanisms and stop the automatons from performing, so they allow them to wander the restaurant at night.

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The robots have an endoskeleton structure inside the outside suit and unfortunately they do not recognise humans as such. Instead they think we are endoskeleton out of costume, so if they find a human they will grab it and stuff it (in a murderous manner) inside the costume (filled with mechanisms and pointy parts!! Ow!!)

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Game play is pretty simple (as the term point-and-click suggests). You must survive for five nights without being stuffed into a Freddy Fazbear costume. You can’t fight these robots or run away, so the only tools you have at your disposal are flickering lights, door locks and a series of close circuit TV cameras. The only problem is that these devices all use up power and when your power is gone you are vulnerable to attack.

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I’m a big wimp and previously would never think about playing a game which is built around the threat of a jumpscare. However, the mythos behind Freddy Fazbear is so well built into the game and so engaging that, despite now having jumped out of my skin MANY times today, I keep finding myself back on the iPad, playing again. My word, it is scary! Anyway, I intend to write a discussion piece about the nature of this horror soon… but in the meantime find it, download, play and enjoy!!
There is a sequel available at the moment but I’m going to wait until I’ve managed to last all five nights of this game first before downloading that. I just can’t believe that I haven’t come across this incredible game before now. What other iOS games should I know about? What games have you been enjoying recently?

What Is This Feeling?

I’ve felt weird recently.  For the past five years I’ve felt what I thought was “happiness”.  I’ve had happy moments in those years but generally have been weighed down by anxiety and depression.  Recently though, especially since my return to work, I’ve felt lighter.  The CBT is working, the mindfulness is working… and when I have a down day I’m not beating myself up about it too much.  It’s strange to say but this lighter, more content happy feeling is weird.  I mean, it’s great but I’m not used to it.  I think I’m just going to enjoy it while it’s here!