New Year’s Resolutions: UPDATE

Happy Valentine’s day…. blah blah blah…

It has been more or less a month since I posted my new year’s resolutions and I think it’s time for an update! I’m thinking of doing monthly updates on the blog as a way to keep track of what I’ve been doing (or not been doing). There’s no point in making resolutions if you don’t intend to stick to them, right? Rather worryingly, when I had the idea for this update post, I couldn’t even remember what all of mine were! That’s a good sign…

1 month on…

1. Get a decent job/make enough money to live doing something not shit

I have a job!! Not exactly the, ahem, dream job, but it pays well and should keep me going while I keep chasing the elusive dream. Plus I get to wear a cool white coat all day long! Go me.

2. Keep up with the blog and post AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK

Failed pretty badly at this one didn’t I? I Left a four week blog gap after January 14th. Booooo. Where did the time go? I’m trying to make up for it now though. Trouble is, I am such an indecisive person I can never make up my mind what to blog about. I have a load of post ideas hanging around but they often get left unfinished because I get stuck and they don’t seem to flow as nicely as others. I don’t like blogging unless it “feels” like a really good post. I realise this makes me sound like a weirdo. This is why lists are good! There is much less of the flow nonsense to worry about. More list posts from now on (even if they are a lazy way of blogging and can be considered cheating).

3. READ AT LEAST A BOOK A WEEK and keep track!

YES! I HAVE DONE NOTHING BUT READ! I have read 13 books so far this year and am close to finishing the fourteenth! At this rate I’ll be able to hit my yearly target in early June! Having said that, a couple of the books were re-reads… does that count? I say it does!

4. Write some good stuff, hopefully a prize-winning novel

Ah…erm… Remember when I said that if I spent half as much time writing as I do reading I’d have bashed out a million novels by now? Well, as mentioned above, I have mostly been reading too much. I’ve had quite a few ideas for novels but none of these have made it past the initial brainstorming point. Sometimes I get ideas for specific characters or moments and jot them down but they rarely lead to anything exciting. My documents folder on my laptop is now full of half-started stories and jumbled ideas and is beginning to resemble something from Jasper Fforde’s Well of Lost Plots. I think I need to work a bit harder on this resolution.

5. Be more ambitious/positive/enthusiastic/confident

Ah jokes, as if this was going to happen over night! I’m still my usual grumpy self, but at least now I have a proper job and am therefore spending less time moping around in my pyjamas. I kind of miss it…

6. Get fit, eat only healthy food etc

Also failing a little on this point, but am trying out the Harcombe Diet which has come highly recommended by family and friends. We’ll see how that goes! I have also started ballet again although, alas, have only had a chance to make it to two classes so far this year, both of which have been depressingly difficult.

So generally things have been going ok… I think there’s room for improvement though! Basically all I’ve achieved so far this year is to get a job and to read too many books. Next goals: work harder on the blog, write lots more and do more exercise! I’ll be back with another update in March…


Thoughts on films adapted from books

I am SUCH a bad blogger! Just as I’d promised to try to post something at least once a week I go and leave it 28 days without a post! ARghhhhh! I’m useless.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about books that get made into films. There is no way I can cram all my thoughts on this into one reasonably-sized post, so I’m going to be as concise as possible, and mostly talk about all the YA books being made into films at the moment. Wish me luck!

I’ve found a pattern emerging with books I’ve been reading, specifically those branded by annoying marketing peeps as “Young Adult”. Either I see a trailer/hear about a new film being adapted from a book I keep meaning to read, or I read a book and then find out they’re adapting it for the big screen. It seems today that every YA novel ever written is being picked up by a studio and made into a film. It’s not hard to see why: look at the success of Harry Potter and the Twilight films. Last year The Hunger Games was the first instalment in what is sure to be another mega-money-making franchise and this year we have Beautiful Creatures, Warm Bodies, The Host and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and more to look forward to. There’s also Divergent (Veronica Roth) set for 2014, in which Kate Winslet has just been confirmed to star.

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That’s not all. The list of YA books which have supposedly been picked up by various different film studios over the last few years is enormous, and although not all of them will make it to the big screen, I’m sure some of them will. Here’s a few of them (some are in early development stages whilst some are still only rumoured):

  • Unwind by Neal Shusterman
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfield
  • The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
  • A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (not YA but still about vampires and witches!)
  • Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
  • The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I have several thoughts on this growing trend. Firstly, is it good that so many YA books are being made into films? On one side it’s good because it means that these books are being read by a wider audience who might have otherwise steered clear of books labelled as Young Adult for whatever reason (embarrassment, snobbery, etc). And indeed, a lot of people I know have read The Hunger Games since it was made into a film. Also, there are so many great YA books around at the moment – the genre is bursting with life and imagination – and it’s great to see that this is being acknowledged.

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Next for the big screen?

However, I can’t help but feel cynical about it all and just see it as a lazy way for film studios to make easy money with a tried and tested formula. My main problem with this is a fear that the films won’t respect the books and will all be turned into the same formulaic entity with standard love triangles, baby-faced actors, same-y action sequences, poor casting and even poorer scripts. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with Peeta’s casting in The Hunger Games, as I didn’t think he fit the description in the book (I somehow picture him as bigger and stronger – he’s meant to be really strong!). I’m also dubious about Jamie Campbell Bower playing Jace in The Mortal Instruments, as I pictured Jace as being somewhat broader and sexier (*cringes at how much I sound like a teenager*), I just didn’t picture him weedy, pale and a bit odd – sorry JCB, I’m sure you’ll be great in other roles but I’m not convinced about this one yet!

Does this make me sound fussy and looks-obsessed? Hmmmm. But it does lead me on to another thought about books being made into films. Does it ruin the magic? It’s been said before but I’ll say it again… Great books allow your imagination to run free, they let you picture the story in your mind in your own way. Film adaptations take this personal interpretation away and force someone else’s vision on you. This is inevitably different to your version of things and therefore makes it seem wrong in some way.

I mostly end up disappointed with films adapted from books I like for this reason. They never quite live up to expectations, even if they are excellent films. The trouble is, I can’t help but watch them. I know I’ll end up watching The Host when it comes out, and I’ll look forward to seeing it. I think I must crave disappointment.

Furthermore, I think the more I like a book the more disappointed I end up being with a film adaptation. I read all of The Lord Of The Rings but wasn’t too attached to it really (I think this is mostly down to the fact that I took a year to slog through it) and the films turned out to be amazing! Although that’s probably a bad example as the films are great and Peter Jackson kept so close to Tolkien’s vision. Ok another example: I liked Life of Pi but it wasn’t my favourite book ever, and I thought the film was great. Brilliant cinematography. On the other hand, I LOVE Harry Potter but am not too keen on the films (gasp!), and find Rupert Grint and Emma Watson to be especially irritating at times. Also, all the extra awful lines thrown in (Harry saying “I love magic” like an idiot in Goblet of Fire comes to mind) make me cringe. But I can’t really tell if I don’t enjoy adaptations from books I love because they are actually bad, or because I’m so attached to them I don’t tolerate any deviation from what I interpreted the book to be like.

One of the worst film adaptations of all time

One of the worst film adaptations of all time

So, I’m wondering how to avoid constant disappointment… should I give up on watching films adapted from books I like? Should I avoid seeing The Mortal Instruments later this year? I really like Cassandra Clare’s series and know I will likely end up disappointed for some reason. I know I’d be happier now if I’d missed Chris Weitz’s dreadful adaptation of Pullman’s Northern Lights (one of my favourite books). Or perhaps instead I should try to readjust my expectations a little – I can’t expect films to be just like the books are in my head! I should have known The Golden Compass was going to be less than great when I heard they’d changed the title for cinema audiences. I should probably try to treat book and film as two separate entities so as to avoid such bitter disappointment. Finally, maybe I should give up reading books that are about to be made into films! Although this would probably mean giving up all YA fiction altogether and concentrating solely on fiction which DEFINITELY won’t be made into films. Hmmm…Murakami it is then!


Book Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

For Christmas I got not one but THREE books from my awesome friend Olivia. They were a trilogy by James Dashner, The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials and Death Cure and came with the tag line “A must for fans of The Hunger Games”. One of my favourite things about Christmas (after the chocolate and the wine) is making a start on the Christmas book haul, curling up next to the fire and getting lost in new stories. I’d seen The Maze Runner around, actually, but just didn’t get around to buying it. Too many books, never enough time to read them all! Anyway, I was delighted to get a chance to sink my teeth into some good ole fashioned dystopian sci fi madness.

The Maze Runner is about Thomas, a boy who wakes to find he has no memories and no idea who or where he mazeis. It turns out he’s in the Glade, a piece of land in the centre of a maze with around 50 other teenage boys. Some of the boys have been there for as long as two years, some turned up like Thomas only a few months ago. None of the boys have any memories of anything outside the Glade, their lives before or why they’re there. All they know is that doors to the maze open every day in the morning and close every evening and that regular supplies are sent them. They know not to get stuck in the maze at night, as terrible creatures which are half biological, half machine patrol the corridors, and the walls move, altering the maze corridors. The boys have spent two years trying to solve the puzzle of the maze and find a way out, a way home, by sending runners to plot the maze every day but have so far discovered no clues as to how they can escape.

This is all to change with the arrival of Thomas, and a day later, a girl (shock!) called Theresa. Now I don’t want to give too much away but let’s just say that Thomas, Theresa and the boys all work together to try to crack the maze before it’s too late and they all get killed.

Sadly, I can’t really say much about the other two books either without ruining everything but I’ll try a quick no-spoilers summary. Thomas, Theresa and the boys are part of some tests set up by a company called WICKED to find a cure for a horrible disease which has ravaged the planet. The two books see them battling all kinds of things in order to survive and hopefully ensure the survival of mankind.

scorchI found this trilogy to be extremely gripping, almost impossible to put down once picked up. I started them shortly after Christmas and had finished the final instalment by 2nd January. The three books are exciting but also quite brutal in places. Let’s just say that not all the original boys make it to the end. Hell, let’s just say that not even half of them make it to the beginning of the third book! That’s not even giving anything away, Dashner kills off characters with surprising readiness. It’s good though, because you don’t know what to expect and it keeps the trilogy from becoming too predictable. The books are also full of nice little touches, like the language adaptations the boys make while they’re living in the Glade, and the fact the boys are all named after famous scientists.

However, I did have some minor problems with the trilogy. I found them to be slightly childish, even for me! If I’m honest, I don’t think these books are exactly aimed at my age group (or anyone over the age of 18) and think they would probably suit teenage boys best (I’d say boys around fourteen would love them). Despite these books being full of mature themes such as violence, death and sacrifice, I found something lacking with Thomas’s relationship with Theresa and feel it should have been explored in more depth.

I also felt the central premise of the books to be ridiculous. I love sci fi, and have absolutely no problem with curesomeone proposing unlikely future worlds. However, they have to be backed up with something, the author has to make their future seem not just plausible but possible, like it could actually happen. You might initially think The Hunger Games seemed silly with its districts and fights to the death in the style of gladiators. But the reality TV aspect and the corrupt Capitol made it all seem that tiny bit more possible. I mean, we’ll watch just about anything in a reality TV format, and the materialistic, fashion-obsessed caricatures that live in the Capitol did make you think a bit about the way society seems to be heading today. Sadly, I felt Dashner’s novels were lacking some of this. I just didn’t buy that in order to cure a virus you needed to put some teenage boys in a maze for two years, and then through some other hard trials in which they mostly all perish. And when you realise what happens in the end I wanted to yell at the book “WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST DO THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE?” It’s frustrating at times.

But overall, I really enjoyed reading them. They are similar in feel to The Hunger Games trilogy so I say if you enjoyed those, give ’em a go! I think I’d mostly recommend these books for a slightly younger less cynical audience, however, and think teenage boys especially will love them. They’re exciting, fast-paced and brutal (in an acceptable way, like the literary equivalent of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, rather than Hostel or Saw or anything).


I Welcome You, 2013!

Now it’s THREE POSTS IN A WEEK GUYS! *proud face* *hopes to keep it up*

I originally wanted to call this post GET IN MY FACE 2013 but didn’t want to risk sounding like a total lunatic. Anyway, I couldn’t be more happy about it being a new year! 2012 was a year of great highs (New York, Amsterdam, Devon, leaving my shitty job) and great lows (unemployment, money woes, disastrous lack of action) and I’m sort of glad to see the back of it. Even if January is the most depressing month of the year.

So time for all the promises I inevitably won’t keep. What am I hoping to achieve this year? Well I’m trying to keep the list short and straight forward:

1. Get a decent job/make enough money to live doing something not shit

Because I need a job! Preferably a good one that I like doing. I’m working on a photography project which will hopefully pay off eventually but I really need to find some work that is vaguely related to writing and my passion for books. Waterstones here I come (haha, not! Been there, done that, didn’t get even one free book let alone a t-shirt).

2. Keep up with the blog and post AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK

Because it’s NOT THAT HARD, yet I let months slide by because I am lazy. And I’m NOT going to just blog about teen sci fi or my holidays. WCBH is meant to be about so much more! AND I’m going to make an effort to get some people actually reading it and maybe re-jig the layout a bit. CAPITAL LETTERS INDICATE MY DETERMINATION.

3. READ AT LEAST A BOOK A WEEK and keep track!

Because I like to tell myself that I read about a book a week but found I could only remember reading 35 books bookslast year (and SEVEN of those were books by Cassandra Clare I read in November/December). I’m sure I read more but did I really forget over 15? Unlikely. And shocking. I need to start keeping track and reading more! I’ve already finished 4 books so far this year so I’m off to a good start!

4. Write some good stuff, hopefully a prize-winning novel

Because I want to write for a living, but seem to spend most of my time reading instead. Or not, as the above has shown. Apparently I just spend my time doing nothing at all, staring into space, etc. I need to do more! Discipline is key here, something that 2012 was sorely lacking. I’ve heard it helps if you can get out of bed before 10.30 at least one day a week.

5. Be more ambitious/positive/enthusiastic/confident

Because 2012 was year of the moping, and I’m not doing that again! Time to get it together and stop putting a downer on everything! Sulking around worrying about not being good enough isn’t getting me anywhere. Although I hate that I’m starting to sound like a book from the Mind, Body and Spirit section of Waterstones. Back when I worked there I knew a guy who called it the Mindless Bollocks and Shit section. True story.

6. Get fit, eat only healthy food etc

Because it isn’t a new year’s resolutions list without this on it.

So there you have it. Keeping it short and sweet this year, and hopefully not too ambitious. Ok, maybe I won’t win any awards for my debut novel (LOL) but at least I’ll have a proper blog and toned legs! Seriously though, 2013 is going to be good, I can feel it! Although my resolutions may sound a bit boring and rubbish, I’m excited about getting stuff done this year and not moping around. Yaaayyy 2013!

So just in case I do get any more people magically reading my blog I’d like to start asking things! Do YOU have any new year’s resolutions? Do you think you’ll stick to them? I’d like to hear about them, even if you think they’re boring!


End of 2012 round-up part 2: December

What’s this?! Two posts in a week?! Try not to die of shock. I’ve got a lot of ground to catch up on and some pretty hardcore new year’s resolutions to at least pretend to attempt before I inevitably give them up before the end of January. So what was I up to in December? THIS:

New York, Mini Christmas Puddings and more Cassandra Clare

After a disastrous and faintly depressing November I had a much better, more fun-filled December. I absolutely love Christmas, and spent much of the first two weeks of the month making hundreds of mini christmas

Mini Christmas puddings!

Mini Christmas puddings!

puddings for various occasions. I also went to see Mumford and Sons with Anna and Simon which was boot-stompin’ good. The best part of December, however, was going to New York with my family for my sister’s 30th birthday.

We spent 6 days in New York and crammed in as much as we possibly could, from the Empire State Building (standard) to singing in piano bars in the Meatpacking District (amazing). We had a great time, although I must admit, I was so tired when I got home I could have done with another holiday, preferably on a beach somewhere! I don’t want to bore y’all with a long list of everything we did but I will mention a couple of odd things.

Firstly, apparently, spending $50 on just a steak (no chips or anything!) and $60 on a not-so-spesh bottle of red wine is normal for New York (Sparks in Midtown, if anyone’s interested). Ouch. Secondly, I can’t believe I thought I was going to be able to walk around Tiffany’s and resist the urge to spend all my remaining money on something shiny. Ouch. Thirdly, the Picasso exhibition at the Guggenheim was a tad disappointing but discovering what we called the boob dog series was a unexpected highlight of the trip for me. If you go, make sure you look out for it! Fourthly, don’t go anywhere near the East Village when it’s SantaCon, unless you want to see drunk Santa, dancing Santa or naked Santa.

And finally: thanks weather, you did great. It was sunny, crisp and not too cold. I loved New York and definitely didn’t want to return home despite my sore feet and the cold I had acquired whilst out there. I highly doubt it’ll be the last time I go! Here are a couple of the photos I took on my phone. I took a load more with my proper camera but haven’t had a chance to properly sort through them yet (let alone pick/resize them). I might do a separate photo blog about it, watch this space. Oh, just one last thing! The squirrels in Central Park are CRAZY FRIENDLY. Ok, I’m done now.

BB         ny burger

empireReturning home on 18th December not having done any Christmas shopping was a little stressful. I basically ran around the shops like a headless chicken for a week. I also had a bit of a literary crisis, as I was reading The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo and I was finding it slow and incredibly confusing. In the end, I gave up and failed in my mission to resist Cassandra Clare’s books and even though I knew I was going to get left hanging (because the two series she has written aren’t complete yet) I returned to The Mortal Instruments books to find out what happens to Clary after the satisfying conclusion of book 3.

I read the fourth and fifth books in the series, City of Fallen Angels and City of Lost Souls. I was really hesitant about starting City of Fallen Angels as things seemed to end in a good place in the end of the third book and I didn’t want it ruined. And I must admit I was slightly irritated with some of the characters moping around and not talking to each other properly. Although I enjoyed it as I like Clare’s writing style (multiple character points of view, excellent pacing), I found myself getting frustrated and wondering where the book was going. It did build to a great ending though. I’m trying desperately not to give anything away just in case there are any readers out there who haven’t read the first three. I hate it when people give too much away in reviews.

I loved City of Lost Souls, however. In fact, I think it is probably my favourite of the whole series. I loved the story, it was tense and exciting and built to a dramatic final showdown which had me pacing around my bedroom. I also liked Clary in this book, she finally gets into the fighting spirit and is a bit more badass than she has been, which is great. Simon is also excellent and steps up majorly. I also found the book slightly more grown-up than some of the others. Although City of Lost Souls didn’t finish on an awful cliff-hanger, I’m still desperate to know how the series ends. I can’t believe Clare’s going to keep us waiting for over a year! It’s like waiting for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix all over again!

Oh dear, I’ve spent far too long rambling about The Mortal Instruments series and no time to talk about The Infernal Devices series by Clare, which I also read. Two books of the trilogy have been released so far, with the final instalment coming in a couple of months. The first two books are Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince. I really liked liked these books, especially as they are set in Victorian London and I love all things nineteenth-century-related. They’re about Tessa, a girl who moves from New York to London and then finds out she can change her appearance and turn into anyone, dead or alive. She is rescued from imprisonment by Will and Jem, two dashing shadowhunters. The books are similar in feel to the Mortal Instruments series with lots of mystery, demon-fighting and love dilemmas. I want to say so much more but can’t go on all day (this post is already long enough). I think I like Clare’s writing so much because she is the master of creating lovely, brooding male characters (my favourite) and strong, inspiring female characters. She does all this as well as managing to pace her novels excellently, and I never manage to guess what will happen next. And for these reasons, I’ll keep reading her books even if they are, strictly speaking, aimed at a teenage audience.

The rest of December was spent eating, drinking and partying with my family and friends! Good times. Now it’s time to look to 2013 though, and think about what I’m hoping to achieve this year, and how I’m going to make it happen. Exciting!

Oh my god this post is 1130 words long and counting! If you made it this far you deserve a medal!


Happy New Year!! End of 2012 round-up

Before I move on to this wonderful new year, I thought you might like to know what I’ve been up to since my last post (the one about NaNoWriMo not the one about being hacked!). Well here’s part one of what I’ve been doing:

NOVEMBER: Failed NaNoWriMo, Read the Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare Instead

At the end of October, my wise sister told me that if I spent half the time I spend reading writing instead, I’d be able to bash out 10 novels before the end of the year (or words to that effect). She was right. I do spend a ridiculous amount of time reading and not doing anything else. Not just books either, I trawl the internet every day for hours reading articles and blogs. It’s getting out of hand. I am the master of procrastination, and reading allows me to tell myself I’m achieving something as I can pretend to myself that I’m doing some form of “research”. 2012 was the year I pushed the definition of research to its very limits.

Anyway, when Anna said this I did feel a little guilty and decided to attempt NaNoWriMo 2012. What better to get me to start writing? I even blogged about it to make sure I actually stuck to it (LOL). It was all going so well, in two days I’d written 2000 words and had a pretty fun love-at-the-end-of-the-world type plot planned.

After the first two days things began to unravel. I went to three different bonfire parties in four days which meant, naturally that I’d left my novel temporarily and promised to catch up in the week. I wrote a little more on my phone after a drunken night out (totally illegible drivel) but after that I had lost the drive to forge on. I told myself I was too busy, I’d catch up next week when I had more time.

The following week, I discovered the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. I’d seen them before but The Mortal Instrumentsthought they looked a little too childish, even for me. However when I saw them recommended on another blog by a grown up man, I thought I’d give them a go. Plus they’ve made the first book into a film and I wanted to check out the books before the films release later this year. NaNoWriMo was a lost cause after that.

I’m not sure why I was worried about the Mortal Instruments series being too young, as they’re similar in feel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Divergent, The Hunger Games trilogy, and many other YA books I have read and enjoyed. I suppose I don’t want to be that person who only reads YA, so I try not to limit myself to it all the time. I enjoy reading all sorts and don’t want to be defined by one genre. Having said that, YA fantasy and Sci Fi is always what I feel like writing about when I sit down to blog. It is an exciting genre that’s getting better and better and I don’t feel as wary of writing critically about it as I do with classics and literary fiction.

Anyway, I read the first three books in the Mortal Instruments series in about a week and a half. The books are City of Bones, City of Ashes and City of Glass, and all follow Clary, a girl who has her world turned upside down after finding out she is a shadowhunter, a demon killer. Clary meets other shadowhunters her own age: Isabelle, Alec and the rather lovely Jace. When her mother goes missing in mysterious circumstances, Clary needs the shadowhunters’ help. Her search for her mother and missing childhood memories takes her all over New York, with her geeky and sarcastic but loveable friend Simon dragged along for the ride. As the books progress, Clary learns more about her past, her parents and the world of shadowhunters, downworlders and demons.

I liked these books because they were plot-driven, super exciting stories with a cracking forbidden love story

Image from imdb.com

Image from imdb.com

(although I did start shouting in frustration by the middle of the third book). What’s more, Simon, who should just be the annoying friend, turns out to be an excellent character. In fact, I’d say that Clare found the perfect balance between keeping the plot moving and exploring and developing the characters. All in all, I bloody loved these books! Even if I am indulging my inner teenager.

The Mortal Instruments series will eventually be made up of 6 books but only 5 have so far been released. Because the third book ended in such a wonderful place I told myself I would leave it there and resist the temptation to pick up the other two until the series had been completed (in 2014!!). Clare has also written another trilogy of books set within the same world but set in Victorian times, these are called The Infernal Devices. Only two of the three have so far been released, so I told myself I would wait until the third book came out before picking up the third. We’ll see how far I got with all this temptation-resisting when I recap on December!

So, that was my disastrous November. Failed NaNoWriMo, went to a lot of parties and read a few books. Any time I wasn’t reading/partying I spent helping my sister photograph a school and generally panicking over my lack of a serious job. But hey! It’s a new year now, so moping is strictly forbidden. Bring on 2013!


I’ve Been Hacked!

Hey guys, just to let you know that last post of mine published today was spam! Ignore it. Some bloody wanker hacked my blog. Grrrrrrr.