Monday, 31 August 2009

The Black Moth vs. These Old Shades

These old shades, you may think. What a funny name for a book, you may muse. How did Georgette Heyer come up with that title, you may wonder.

OK, I realise that few people are likely think, muse or wonder thus — even my mother the Heyer fan, when I rang her excitedly to tell her my discovery, didn't remember the books or characters involved.

I've mentioned that Heyer's debut novel, The black moth, features a villain who I thought Heyer renamed and used as the hero in These old shades.

According to Heyer's biography, I was right — and that's why Heyer named the book These old shades (shades = ghosts). She was reusing her characters! Now that I know that, I suddenly recognise the Black moth's very vanilla hero and heroine as Jenny and husband in These old shades; likewise, the villain's best friend is the same character in both.

It makes me glad, because I always wanted to know what happened to the Black moth villain. I wonder why Heyer changed the characters' names — unless she didn't want the new book associated with The black moth.

I don't really have a point here; I just found it interesting that a best-selling author can actually do that and get away with it. I guess others have as well. Austen certainly has reused her plots and characters, if not as obviously (and probably not intentionally); and I'm sure there are many others out there that don't spring to mind immediately.

But I just wanted to comment on that, for any Heyer fans out there. Want to read more about the characters — or the villain — in The black moth? Read These old shades and see what happens to them later.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Internship test

The internship test is tomorrow. Spelling; grammar; general knowledge.

I'm so nervous. My general knowledge is crap.

I hoped I'd at least fly through the spelling and grammar, but not so - I did their spelling and grammar test from a few years ago, and I got lots wrong. (I also corrected something that wasn't in the answers, but I'm pretty sure I was right and they just missed that error.) I didn't correct the spelling of some place names — and I can live with not knowing that Taumaranui was meant to be Taumarunui, but I probably should have picked up Sidney, Australia. I forgot that Chateaux was spelled Chateau, and I missed an instance of American spelling (I'm so used to it! It's permeated the very core of our once-British society!).

Worst of all: I didn't notice an apostrophe in the wrong place.

I am covered with shame.

I hope, though, that having done the old tests will help me in tomorrow's one. I've made notes of what to look for, and hope that'll help me.

I've done all three of the previous general knowledge tests, too, and the results ain't pretty. I know absolutely nothing about sports; my best area is international affairs, followed closely by arts and entertainment. And when I say my "best", I mean I got nearly half the answers right. Go me.

I'm not used to taking tests to study or to get jobs, let alone taking tests to take a job to study. The scenario usually goes more like this:

RUTH: I want to study here.
INSTITUTION OF LEARNING: We love you! Make your cheque out to X.


RUTH: I want to work here.
POTENTIAL EMPLOYER: *evil interview no-one could hope to pass*

Sadly, not only do I have to sit a test, but if I pass the test I'll then have to undergo an interview as well.

And what's a pass mark, you ask? So far as I know, they just pick the best of the bunch. So the only way to be certain you've passed is to get 100%.

I just hope my spelling and grammar will redeem my (lack of) general knowledge... and that I notice all the wrong apostrophes!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Northern Lights (Philip Pullman)

Northern Lights A young girl, Lyra, sets out on a dangerous quest in a world parallel to our own, to rescue her friend from terrors unknown.

Northern Lights took me a few pages to really get into. I wasn't immediately gripped by the action; Lyra, the heroine, seemed childish and silly; and the opening scene seemed melodramatic and unrealistic.

But after the first few pages, I was hooked. Lyra is cocky, smart and likeable; and I loved the action between her and her "daemon" (an external soul in animal shape).

Although that's one thing that annoys me a little bit. What's wrong with good old-fashioned "demon" spelling? A daemon isn't the same as a demon, you say? True enough. Then later in the series you find out about "vampyres". What's wrong with spelling it the normal way? Geez.

Another thing that annoys me? The British version (which I made sure I got) is called Northern lights; the American version is called the (apparently) much more exciting The golden compass.

OK, I agree that the so-called compass is more prominent in the book than the northern lights, even if the northern lights are really what the book is all about. But. It is not a compass. It looks like a compass. It is not one. It is an alethiometer. And, OK, that may look like a hard word before you try to say it, but seriously — just repeat after me. Ah-lee-thee-oh-meh-ter. It's barely more complex than "thermometer".

Not that I'm suggesting they should have called it "The golden alethiometer" because, well, that'd be silly. But if you're going to change a perfectly good British title, at least change it to something that accurately reflects an aspect of the book. Even "The armoured bear" would have been better than The golden compass.

Moving on. Apart from minor quibbles*, I really enjoyed this book, and looked forward immensely to the second in the trilogy.

*Such as the heroine becoming attached really fast to the armoured bear and the aeronaut, and vice versa — they only hung out for a few days! I've done the same thing myself, in my writing; you spend so much time writing the story that it feels to me, the writer, as if my characters are much closer than they actually are. But to the reader, they've only had a couple of fighting scenes together so why does Mr Aeronaut suddenly feel she's the daughter he never had?

Next week: My review of Book Two in the trilogy.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Anti-smacking: the results are in

The results of the referendum are in, and to the question:

Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?

87% of the 56% turnout voted "no".

(Side-note: Seriously. Leading question much? "Should good parental correction be criminal...?")

The strange thing to me is that, despite having previously stated he wouldn't change the law regardless of the results of the referendum, Prime Minister John Key is now saying he "agrees" with the result. However, he's saying he'll look at taking measures that "don't involve a law change [but will ensure] that parents have a level of comfort...that they are not going to be dragged before the courts for a minor or inconsequential smack."

Other groups are suggesting that the law be amended to allow only an open-handed smack on the hand or the butt.

To me, that seems reasonable.

What do you think?

Monday, 24 August 2009

Contest: Break (Hannah Moskowitz)

BREAK by Hannah Moskowitz From the back cover:

Seventeen-year-old Jonah is on a mission to break every bone in his body. Everybody knows that broken bones grow back stronger that they were before. And Jonah wants to be stronger - needs to be stronger - because everything around him is falling apart. Breaking, and then healing, is Jonah's only way to cope with the stresses of home, girls, and the world on his shoulders.

When Jonah's self-destructive spiral accelerates and he hits rock bottom, will he find true strength or surrender to his breaking point?

It sounds a little cringeworthy, but also — well — very interesting! And YA Highway are currently giving away ONE advanced reader's copy of Break here (where you can also read an interview with the author).

BREAK is released on 25 August 2009.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Bucket list

Someone at work mentioned today that he'd always wanted to have a winter Christmas — it's on his "bucket list". Later on, he was talking about wanting to lose weight; his wife said that if he loses ten kilos in ten weeks, she'll shout him a bungee-jump. Apparently that's on his bucket list too.

I don't know if he actually has a bucket list, or if that's just what he says when talking about he really wants to do; but it got me thinking.

I don't have a bucket list, per se. I've always wanted to get married and have kids. Such boring, stereotypical woman goals! I've always wanted to be published, too. (A significantly harder goal.)

But I dunno. I feel pretty lucky in my life — I've had so many experiences travelling in earlier years that I don't really feel there's anything I haven't done that I've "always wanted to do". I'd like to visit Africa and the States. I'd like to live in England and travel Europe. I'd love to go back to Kyrgyzstan and see my old home again. I'd like to study creative writing and make some "writing" friends. But those don't really seem like Bucket List items. Go bungee-jumping. Do a motorbike tour of New Zealand. Visit Disneyland. See a live Jim Carrey show. Have a winter Christmas.

I still just want, one day, to get married, have babies and get a book published. (Probably not all on the same day. But you get my point.)

Maybe I should start a bucket list. Or would having a bucket list — for the sake of having a bucket list — just point out what you haven't accomplished yet? I.e., be more depressing than motivational?

I don't know.

What's on your bucket list?

Thursday, 13 August 2009

The demon's lexicon (Sarah Rees Brennan)

This is one of the best books I've read in a long time.

It's witty, it's action-packed, it keeps you guessing.

Quick run-down on the plot: Nick and Alan are two brothers on the run with their mother, chased by a gang of magicians. Head magician used to be madly in love with mother and, now that she's left him, wants her dead (ah, true love).

Important note: Magicians have very little power of their own. But they can summon demons to trade innocent human souls for power.

And then Alan gets a demon mark on him. Now they need to find the magician who placed that mark on him, or watch Alan be possessed by a demon and die... which isn't as gruesome as it sounds. But it's still not a good fate.

The demon's lexicon is penned by the delightful and witty Sarah Rees Brennan, whose livejournal you should start following if you're not already. It's the first of a planned trilogy — and I love that she's actually promised to keep it a trilogy, as she says she knows how annoying it is when authors start off with a trilogy and then make it longer and longer! (I whole-heartedly agree.)

The hero is a charming bad-ass — and don't get me wrong, I'm not talking Wolverine-with-a-heart-of-gold. I'm talking really bad. He kills people and gets annoyed at the nuisance of having to bury them. He gets mad at the brother who raised him and deliberately does the thing he knows will hurt him the most. He just doesn't care about anyone else.

Almost anyone else.

I love that the two main characters in this are brothers. You almost never see siblings in books! I think family can be one of the strongest bonds a person can have; and this book follows a brother who raised our hero almost single-handed, and a mother who hates her son.

I have only one nitpick, and that was with a minor character who seemed to be thrown in for comic relief. Sarah Rees Brennan, if you read her livejournal, has a very strong sense of humour; and it seems she couldn't resist channeling her wit through this character. Don't get me wrong, he is funny; it just didn't seem likely to me that a character would deal with his fear with quite this much nervous laughter.

And yes, there is romance. But only a leetle bit — enough to make things interesting (and painful); not enough to spoil the action.

And it was released in New Zealand on 1 August 2009. So what are you waiting for? Go get it!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

YouTube Tuesday: The Lovely Bones

In case you haven't seen the trailer already: behold!

I'm really looking forward to this one — it'll be interesting to see how closely they stick to the book.

Brief rundown of book: Susie Salmon is murdered — and watches her family try to find her murderer — and ultimately move on with their lives — from heaven.

Monday, 10 August 2009

One step closer to the dream

I got through Stage One of the journalism internship!

I feel a little like I shouldn't be blogging about something I'm so unlikely to get, but I'm just too happy not to.

A week ago I applied for a journalism internship, which runs in conjunction with the course I want to do next year. On completion of the course, I'd get my fees paid and be bonded to the newspaper for two years.

That works for me!

My real hope is that I'd be able to go straight out of the course into a job as a sub-editor — which I've been advised some people have done. And if they can, I'm confident I could too. I do think I'm really good at sub-editing. (I found out recently I got the best mark anyone's ever got for the sub-editing course. Kinda gave me a boost of confidence.)

Anyway, I had issues filling out the internship application form, and really didn't feel I'd make it — but they want to see me for a "general knowledge, spelling and grammar test" in a couple of weeks! I'm so excited. The spelling and grammar, I expect to fly through; the general knowledge I probably need to brush up on.

They had 180 applicants. There are 12 internships available. They didn't say how many people they had asked to come in for tests; only that they were "pleased to invite me" (as I am pleased to accept) based on the "quality of my application". I assume they're referring to spelling and grammar rather than content and writing ability.

If I get through the (two-hour) test, they'll ask me in for an interview. I don't know if there's another stage beyond that.

I didn't really think I had a chance of getting this internship. And maybe I still don't have much of a chance.

But I'm really excited to be through to the next round!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

He man. He work.

I've never really thought about women in the workforce. That was such a last-century-feminist issue. I thought these days, nearly all women work, apart from the occasional stay-at-home mom who goes back to work when her kids are old enough. In some ways, it doesn't seem like a bad idea: the mum stays home with the kids, and the dad goes out and is bread-winner.

And now I'm working in a store where we deal with a lot of tradesmen. One of our customers is female; all the others are guys. The only other women I interact with are other "office ladies".

Most of the tradesmen at work are married. And none of their wives work.

Not that these guys have a conscious problem with this. They talk indulgently about their wives, like they would about a naughty puppy.

One man was complaining about his "missus" spending $250 at the supermarket the other day. "What does she find to spend this money on?" he said, and the other men around him clucked and shook their heads and added their own stories of their wives' wastefulness.

Dan and I easily spend $250 at the supermarket; and this guy has two kids. I asked him if he ever went with his wife to the supermarket.

"What? No, of course not," he said, and you could see the very idea was strange. He man. He work. She woman. She shop. She cook. She clean. She look after kids. She complain for no apparent reason. Silly woman.

I couldn't believe it. These women are still living in the 1950s, and they're keeping their husbands there with them.

Two of the men have wives with part-time jobs, and when they mentioned this, everyone else was surprised. Working women are the exception, not the rule, in this world. And even then, the wives who do work, only work part-time while the kids are at school. These men know two types of women: office ladies (or girls who aren't yet married); and wives.

I never want to be one of those women. I never want my partner to regard me with fond indulgence, and complain affectionately about me at work to his working buddies because he doesn't know what his "missus" does with all his money, or what she spends all her time doing, or why she gets so crabby with him when all he asked was why she didn't clean the house today. I want to get married one day, and I want that to be an equal partnership, with both people pulling their weight. I've never been much of a feminist; the world I've worked and lived in has always been pretty unsexist. But there's no way I ever want to conform to those stereotypes.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

YouTube Tuesday: Website Story

And now for a YouTube Tuesday with a video not actually hosted on YouTube. Westside Story — internet-stylez! With many of the original songs (albeit with some all of the songs slightly heavily reworded). I didn't recognise all of the websites referenced, but they were still all funny. Thanks to pacatrue (via moonrat) for the video!

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Vote now or forever hold your peace

I'm not going to get into the politics of what the so-called anti-smacking bill says. Regardless of what it says, people have interpreted it as meaning that parents will no longer be able to smack their children, and a referendum has been organised in response to the bill. The referendum question:

Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?

Naysayers say the question isn't even relevant, as the bill doesn't outlaw "a smack as part of good parental correction". And controversy flooded New Zealand when it was revealed that the referendum was costing taxpayers almost $9 million; and when Prime Minister John Key announced that, regardless of the referendum's result, he's unlikely to change the bill unless he decides the law is not working.

Further controversy was caused when the referendum question was called "ambiguous" and "confusing", with Labour leader Phil Goff positing a more appropriate question as, "Is the law working satisfactorily?"


Regardless of controversy, regardless of confusion, regardless of taxpayers' money, the referendum is now out. If you're registered as a New Zealand voter, you've probably got your voting paper already.

And you know what? Not voting because it's a waste of money isn't going to bring that money back. It's already been spent.

Not voting because you don't think it'll change anything is shocking apathy. This is your chance to voice your opinion — whatever that opinion is. If you don't choose to vote, you have no right to complain about this bill.

Whether or not it will change anything isn't the point. If that's the lazy, apathetic attitude the New Zealand public has, New Zealand deserves to go to the dogs.