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Friday, 28 August 2015

Kamikaze Girls - A Second Glance

For some reason, when I go to France I take Kamikaze Girls with me, or end up wanting to write some Kamikaze Girls fanfiction. Some kind of weird, self-inflicted tradition, perhaps? Who knows, but I have had a lot of fun reading it for the second time, and I even finished it over a couple of days. Whilst reading I picked up on more things that I didn't notice the first time around, and got to squeal over the final line of the book - so cute and fluffy!

The pace of the book and the way Momoko relates the events in her and Ichigo's life sometimes seems to be abrupt and almost lifeless at first, making it occasionally a bit of a dull read - though at a second glance, it appears that the way it is written embodies her indifferent personality, and almost a lack of emotions in some cases. I haven't read any of Novala Takemoto's other books yet (though I really want to see what the Kamikaze Girls sequel and Emily are like), so it would be interesting to see if that tone is conveyed in all these books, or just this character or English translation. No offense is intended if it just happens to be the author's style - I just found it rather different to other books I've read, where emotion is the main focus.

I've also noticed that there is a slight romantic tension between Ichigo and Momoko, even though the girls are sometimes unsure whether they're friends or mere acquaintances. Maybe I just have my femslash goggles on, but there sometimes appears to be flirtatious sparring between the duo. "Hey, Momoko, what am I to you?" made me wonder, as did the way both are wary around men, find them disgusting and crude, etc, and obviously the last line of the book where Momoko laid her head down on Ichigo's back, "like a lover". There are also parallels to the 'butch and femme' stereotypes/examples of real and fictional relationships, as well as many other examples that I've forgotten to include here.
Obviously Ichigo is not a lesbian, as she falls in love with Mr Slick and is heartbroken when it turns out he's Akimi's boyfriend and fiance, but at the same time she had a lot of dogmatic admiration and respect for Akimi, that borders on love almost...
As for Momoko, she admits right out that she may have a mild case of being fearful of men and boys, and calls them a variety of things along the lines of 'ew, gross'.
It may not be the case, but I ship them anyway like the annoying fangirl I am! 

The book was also a lot courser in language than I remembered, and Ichigo reminded me a LOT of my character Cherry from When the Summer Ends, that I'm writing! I think subconsciously I based a lot of my novel on Kamikaze Girls, though I've never intended it to be a direct copy. I was alarmed at how many similarities there are!

The sweet bits are very, very sweet, and the sour bits are very, very sour. Even though Momoko's tone is the way it is, there's no escaping the extremes of the novel; i.e. shopping at Baby the Stars Shine Bright, meeting Sir Isobe and being invited to design for the brand is sweet, and all the violence and gang wars where Ichigo is almost killed is a very tense moment. As is the black and white opposites of dress and personality, happiness and sadness, and their individual philosophies, especially on the subjects of loneliness and friendship.
There is actually a lot of thought in this work, despite the initial tone and outwards appearance of being a teenyboppers' novel. I really enjoyed it and it made me want to visit Baby again, though I know it's not happening anytime soon.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Nostell Priory

Finally, we went to a National Trust place on my family's little holiday; and I'm not hiding the fact that I'm a bit of a National Trust nut over here! I know I say this a lot - but this time I really do mean it - to date, this is the best NT place I've ever visited. The lighting and shadow effects there are fantastic, drawing your eyes to details you wouldn't otherwise have notices. The interior has plenty of stunning art and an Oriental twist, displayed most prominently in the chinoiserie-styled State Bedroom (which sadly I couldn't photograph, it being so dark inside).
The State Bedroom is so grand and opulent, with a huge canopy bed, golden silk everywhere, and a ceiling carved with angels playing a violin. I wish I could have shown it here, but my exposure on my camera isn't that great.

Beautiful dress details. Historical interior design and fashion paintings have really encouraged me to like bright, unusual colours that I otherwise wouldn't  have considered for dresses and wallpaper shades.

A lot of religious paintings.

The way they set things up at Nostell Priory is also engaging. They make it look like somebody actually lives there, rather than like a museum of sorts where everything is on display. You could just reach out and touch the items, though of course I wouldn't even try.

More exotic colours and gowns.

Another Oriental bedroom. The pairing of gold and green is rather interesting.

I'm taking a lot of pictures of this style of painting recently. I think it's Baroque? I'm hoping to have a go at copying the design sometime so I can get better at painting - maybe in the future I could do some painting in the home, to incorporate this style.

On the way out, I also heard a fascinating story about a servant girl called Nancy, who died in an elevator accident in the home. Stories like that always make me wonder if ghosts exist, especially in such historical homes.

Leeds Medical Museum and York

A couple of weeks ago I went on a short getaway with my family to Leeds and York. To be completely honest, I didn't have that great a time as I was feeling very ill - worse than I've been in months - so I found it hard to relax and enjoy myself. The things we did were fun, but my head was just in an extremely bad place.

On the first day we visited Thackray Museum, otherwise known as the Leeds Medical Museum. I'd been there before on a very enjoyable, memorable school trip a few years ago, so it was wonderful to go again. Although perhaps not for the fainthearted, the history of medicine and surgery is very fascinating, not to mention gruesome - and Thackray touches on it in great detail from Medieval times, until very recent modern day.
Another amazing part of the museum is the extremely life-like, realistic Victorian street. My senses were almost bombarded by the amount of detail put into giving it verisimilitude; it was dark, dingy, filthy, and even smelt strongly of a Victorian street! Be warned though, the realism is sometimes quite terrifying, and they spare no grisly details in constructing the bloodied wax models! I've seen at least three people scared of the models, and I'm pretty sure my brother was traumatised. ;)


There was a shop there that I loved, called Duttons for Buttons - I want to go there again! It was very quaint and had three floors of haberdashery, and many things in stock that you most likely won't find in the usual sewing shops. I got some antique glass buttons from the 1930s, some pretty lace, and an embroidery hoop for future use. To give you an idea how sweet the shop was, I heard a lady that worked there exclaim: "Oh crumbs, I forgot your hat pin!" to another lady. I'm pretty certain I want to live in that shop alone!

Monday, 17 August 2015

The Mysterious Affair at Styles - Agatha Christie

This is my first Agatha Christie book read since I was eleven, so I was very excited to get started. Thus, I started it on the train to London and finished it within a couple of evenings. Mainly it was to gain inspiration for a future Jeeves and Wooster fanfiction with a darker, murder-mystery theme (scandalous considering P.G. Wodehouse writes some of the cheeriest books around, right?), but also because I was craving more of that late 1910s-1920s thrill. Did it satisfy my current fascination? Yes, it did! From the first couple of chapters I was hooked, already inwardly blaming literally everyone for the death of Mrs Inglethorpe!

I wanted a story specifically with poison in it, which my Mother (being a avid Agatha Christie fan) helped me to find from her collection. Sadly she got rid of quite a lot of books, donating them to charity some time ago, so I couldn't find the first ever Agatha Christie book I read. Coincidentally, however, I think this was the first novel that Christie had published, so it was quite fitting.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles is set from Arthur Hasting's point of view, where we learn his inner thoughts about the murder case, who he suspects (namely the dark, mysterious Mr Inglethorpe that everyone loathes for some reason), and Poirot. Whilst Hastings was a bit of a disappointing, very predictable character to me - too much like a lot of young men in books during that era, falling in love quickly and proposing that instant, reminding me of Bingo Little! - I really, really like Poirot.

Poirot is the quick-witted, secretive (and somewhat cute for some odd reason - just read how Christie describes him!), slightly eccentric Belgian detective that never fails to unravel a mystery. He is a refugee of WW1 staying in an English cottage on Mrs Inglethorpe's property. I love his pedantic manners, the way he teases Hastings by not revealing his thoughts and methods, and how one tiny little thing doesn't escape his notice.
Another character I liked was Miss Howard. Her personality and mannerisms seemed very robust to me, and I like the way she communicated in short "telegram-like" sentences. 

After much twisting and turning, making me suspect almost everyone of the murder, it is solved by Poirot after some divine inspiration, and everyone gets their happy ending - except for poor Mrs Inglethorpe who died, the murderers, and Mr Hastings who was rejected by the girl he just met...
I'll be sure to read another Agatha Christie book sometime soon, as I loved it!

Friday, 7 August 2015

Summer Fruits Mini Skirt

From the gorgeous fabric I purchased in London for £3 a metre, this project turned out to be rather a flop. :( I'm about 60% content with it the way it is now, so in the future it may be modified.

I was planning to make a summer dress with a tiered skirt and shirring, and although the shirring turned out beautiful, I realised that 1) it was way too big for me, 2) shirring is not flattering for ordinary figures that have been 'blessed' in the chest department, and 3) I feel practically naked in a sundress, damn it!
So with all these problems, I just decided to carry on with the skirt and put aside the shirring as a practice exercise. Sadly it wouldn't fit my sister, and she wouldn't be caught dead in it anyway. ;)

Here's the finished thing:

Whilst sewing the zip in was relatively easy for once, the waist band was sewn over the metal teeth of the zip where it catches, without me realising it - so unfortunately the zip is quite slippery and I run the risk of a public disaster when I wear it out, haha. Hand sewing is much more my forte so soon I'll try my hand at embroidery and sewing button holes by hand, as an exercise.

Oh well, onto some art work!