Saturday, August 30, 2014

Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger...

Title- Parrotfish.
Author- Ellen Wittlinger.
Publish date- 2007.
Publisher- Simon and Schuster.

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
There's a teenager. She's decided to become a he. There is the reaction of family. School mates. Peers. There is true love. There is truth, horrifying and sweet, and all of it comes together to make a very interesting story.

What I thought:
Parrotfish, oh Parrotfish. This was a fantastic read for me because of the issue of being transgendered and the reaction by others that it tackled, ad it did offer up some information that was new to me, but on the other side of things it wasn't a fantastic read in general. I needed it, and I'm really glad I had the chance to read it, and I did quite enjoy it, but it had it's problems and I didn't think the plot itself- Grady's coming out not being the sole focus of the story- was quite so brilliant as some other aspects were or had the potential to be.

When Angela announces to her family that she doesn't want to be Angela anymore, they react in a mixture of ways- denial, anger, in a self-centered way, with awkwardness- and whilst I have little doubt that these are steps gone through and emotions felt by many, I still found it slightly grating and unfair on Grady's behalf.

My main, standing up and waving a red, angry flag issue with Parrotfish is the way it's characters, Grady most notably, are a touch on the hypocritical side. A big part of Grady's anguish in the novel is the refusal of peers and family to accept him as Grady and the way people just keep calling him Angela, and yet he goes after a school bully-esq girl and it's like a mission to take her down. I don't remember if it's directly or indirectly, but Grady, I believe- or someone in his immediate companion group- calls her a slut and it's all cheering and fantastic. Way to go!
Stand up to the bully and call them cruel names because of how they dress and be mean rigjt back at em. Hmm...

I also struggled with the christmas production element of the story, when the family, every year, dress up and put on a christmas show in their front window. No one but their father enjoys it remotely, and it becomes a "shut it down" issue. The way it was done felt more hurtful than tactful, and a lot of the amusement was lost on me.

Rating: Hmm...
Overall, it had hmm elements and great moments, a pretty honest portrayal and some nastiness, but I quite enjoyed it. I did.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen...

Title- The Queen of the Tearling.
Author- Erika Johansen.
Publish date- August 2014.
Publisher- Penguin Random House. Bantam Press.
RRP- $32.99

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
She lived in hiding all her life, for her protection, and learnt how to be queen from her carers in a house in the middle of the wood, but now Kelsea is eighteen she must travel to her city and take the kingdom for herself and see what her mother has left her. If she makes it there alive, that is.

Thank you to Penguin Random House for this review copy!

What I thought:
The Queen of the Tearling, it was a pretty good read for me, overall; there were moments, chapters, even, where I felt fully immersed in the story and the plight and journey of Kelsea, and I want nothing more than to feel that as the first thing upon entering a new fantasy world. But I also want consistency, depth to plot and characters, and though Kelsea wasn't the only character who had layers (and good ones, too- ones I thought were believable, that felt real. She was a stalwart, opinionated, passionate characterm and she truly did care, above all else. She was prepared to fight for what she cared about, be it place or person.) but I just didn't always feel touched by them. Even Kelsea, who had such a variety of characteristics, I can't say I truly cared for her.

A month after reading and she hasn't had such a grand effect on me, to be honest.

Her flaws must be mentioned here, briefly, too, since I put little stead in them above: she's a bit brash, close to being offensively blunt (it can go either way, depending on how she uses it situation wise) and in the first 100  pages of the book she fairly well falls instantly in love with a man who is dangerous, deadly and not very kind to her. Whenever he popped into her thoughts throughout the rest of the book it was practically all she wanted to think about- I think I can give leyway for some of this desire, but at times it was just idiotic. I never truly felt like he had an endearing moment with her, or me as the reader, so it felt a little awkward.
Still, Kelsea, I felt, developed well across the 432 pages of the ARC I read, her passion and courage growing and gaining momentum, and she had some really fantastic characters at her side along the way, most notably Mace, who was at times fantastic and at others irritating.

But If I were to have just one confusion about this book, it would be this: it didn't seem to know who it was for.
I only review a very few- mostly crime- adult novels here, and there may be one a year, very unlikely to be more than two, and all the along I was under the impression that this was a YA novel that enojoyed an occasional foray into the dark world of adult fantasy. Kelsea's scenes all felt like they could've fitted into a YA novel, yet we go through a switch of POV and are with the Queen of Mortmesne, and here it is definitely, definitely adult.
Sex and torture and curses that didn't appear before and only did in her scenes afterwards.
It stumped me.
The Queen of the Tearling seems to be an adult novel, though, I now find out, and that surprises me. It just doesn't quite feel it.

I'm not going to go into great depth with this, but the world here is very interesting- it's a kind o medieval dystopian, and whilst there was a touch of an imformation overload in one scene, explaining all questions in too great detail for what the scene was, it was quite a captivating and well done idea. Not everything felt believable, but overall I liked it.

Also, Rowling survives.

*Spoilery things?*

*Mace, in one scene, assures Keladry their supply of food is secure. Answers in the exact same way when she tries to find out at two different times in a conversation, and that felt too... tricky? Why wouldn't he just tell her? I had ideas, but they didn't prove to be correct.

*The Regent wears a... jumpsuit. It's purple.

Rating: Mostly Hmm...
It was exciting and I was often captivated, but not quite enough by either characters or plot, or even the world. There were a few elements missing that would have pulled me over and made me love thi novel, and I'm unsure whether I'll continue with the series. It promises more, but I'm also happy with where I was left at the end of this.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Whatever Happened to Margo? by Margaret Durrell...

Title- Whatever Happened to Margo?
Author- Margaret Durrell.
Publish date- 1996.
Publisher- Trafalgar Square Publishing.

Review time...

(A brief) Synopsis:
A quiet life. Respectable. Steady income. These are things Margaret Durrell thought when she decided to set up a boarding house. She was setting herself up for the adventure (and often mis-adventure) of a lifetime.

What I thought:
Since I first read it in... a long time ago, My Family and Other Animals has been my favourite book of all time. The top! Unbeaten it stays there and has for around 5 years. Reading about such a beloved character in those books, setting off on her own adventures with her own family, it was like I'd found a whole continuation to MFaOA that I never knew existed. I felt as if I was reliving something, and it just happened to be entirely new.
The feel of this book, the hilarity and mishaps so akin to those of the family I met all those years ago, it was so like that of my favourite, just told from a different speaker, that it stands firmly as one of my other all time favourite books now.

Perhaps my favourite instances were the appearances of Gerald, amusing in their own right but also a treat, seeing him from the perspective of his older sister, and of Leslie and Mother, though the boarders that Margaret takes on are just as captivating, each as unique and talented at capturing my attention as the next.
Margaret herself I felt for, though often amusedly, because for all the pitfalls she meets she does set out with the best of intentions and is sure to persist with assured strength of character.
I think... I think I've found a new bookish best friend.

Rating: Big Explosion MIND BLOWN-
See above, because really I can't sum it up much better than that last line.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mini Reviews (7)

Mini Reviews

Ella Enchanted- Gail Carson Levine.
Ella Enchanted the movie built my preconceptions and beliefs for the plot, a movie I love for all it's corny lines and awkward moments, but the translation from book to movie (or rather for me, from movie to book)? Not so smooth.

There are many, many changes between the two, including the fact that Ella's mother is alive for the first maybe quarter of the story, Ella is much younger, excellent at imitating things and goes to manners school. Also, her father is rotten.

I found these things hard to settle with, at least until (after another surprise, probably relating to Char and Ella's friendship) I decided to just enjoy it and not try to scout for the similararities (of which there are few, and notably less singing scenes.

Rating: Excellent-
It is a riproaring read, perfect for winter nights before a fire or heater. There are moments of magic and emotion and adventue and joy, and it's a fulfilling, wonderful story, even if everyone says wench a little too often for my liking.

Image Credit: Bloomsbury.

Winter's Tales- Lari Don.
I've read two of Lari Don's books so far, both similar in content to this (myths, tales, legends and fairytales retold, adapted for the current generation) and though I enjoyed both of those, I had faults with certain aspects of how they were retold, and when I read Winter's Tales it felt like those issues were collected into one book, which made for a pretty unhappy reading experience.

The stories felt starkly modernised and phrases came off as being unsuited to the story, and my main problem is probably that it all felt very rushed. I didn't have time to care for the plot or characters in any of the stories and all I got was a headache and no wish to read the last 60 pages.
I did, surprising myself, and found perhaps my favourite thing in the whole of the book- the little paragraphs by the author on how she found each story. Those were really interesting.
Unhappily, they didn't make me forget the other 100 or so pages that had been less than enjoyable.

Rating: Oh nooo...
There are elements and huge originality to these stories that really work, but this time to modernisation just didn't sit well with me at all.

Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia for the review copy of Winter's Tales!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Blue is the Warmest Colour by Julie Maroh...

Title- Blue is the Warmest Colour.
Author- Julie Maroh.
Publish date- 2013.
Publisher- Arsenal Pulp Press.


Review time...

(A brief) synopsis:
When Clementine first sees Emma, she realises something different, and as she and Emma, a gorgeous, blue haired woman already in a relationship, grow close, she longs to be with her, at the same time fighting her feelings.

What I thought:
Blue is the Warmest Colour is an intricate, raw, emotion-rendering story, and one that I truly was surprised by. It wasn't at all how I had imagined it would be, was a good deal more explicit in scenes and not as quick into things, but it was so good- so strong and captivating.

Initially I struggled with the cursive script, but I paid close attention and kept at it, letting the story pick me up, as it were, and tell itself. One of my absolute favourite things is something I noticed in this review on Cayce's blog (a review that sold me on this book those last inches) was the presence of Blue in the art. It's striking and subtle, one of the few colours apart from white, gray and black in the beginning, and I looked out for it and so enjoyed it. The blue journal, a shirt, and primarily Emma's hair; were you to flick through the pages, the blue would stick out and doing that myself, it's such a wonderful, enchanting thing, to see the spirals of colour amidst the bleakness.

Both Clemm and Emma were, I think, troubled and still learning about themselves, and whilst (reading from the narrative of Clemm's diary) it's clear Clementine has to struggle to come to terms with the fact she's attracted to females, Emma, who seems to confident at the outset, she, I think, is someone who finds it very hard to believe someone could truly love her for all that she is.

It was interesting to see how the two helped, or at times hindered, each other in their journey, and while I did hope it would be a faster, more sturdy relationship between them, I really liked the way it evolved, and it was worth it.

Rating: Excellent.

The whole book, sad and beautiful and tragic and unfair, it was all so worth it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Searching for Sky by Jillian Cantor...

Title- Searching for Sky.
Author- Jillian Cantor.
Publish date- July, 2014.
Publisher- Bloomsbury.
RRP- $15.99 (PB)


Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
Sky and River live on Island together, a paradise where they can live away from the skeletons Sky's mother told her lived on the other land, but when things change and they leave the island, she starts to see the tangle of lies that have surrounded her life.

Image Credit: Bloomsbury.
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia for this review copy!

What I thought:
Whilst trying to think of a way to write this review, I have come up with a list of things I do and do not like about this book:

*Cover design, illustration- like.

*Title, blurb, font- do not like.

*Premise, beginning, idea- like.

*Follow through- do not like.

*Sky- mixed, quite irritating.

*River- do not like.

*The reaction to Sky from all the people- unbelievable in that it was horrifying, do not like.

So lets go over these things, shall we?

I like- really like- the illustration on the cover (front and back) of Sky and River's profiles. They're eye catching, dreamy and quite perfect.

I do not like the blurb (you can see it just above the title on the cover). I feel it's a little false or forced. The title never made a lot of sense in relation to the story, from my point of view, though it does sound rather nice. The font, both for the title and the page count throughout I really didn't like. It felt very childish for the story/characters, in a way, and I would've liked something a bit more mature.

The premise, the idea and the beginning all worked well for me; I like the way they live on Island and the simplicity, the beauty that filled the writing, making it so easy to feel Sky's love for that place; I enjoyed the possibility linked with the idea of the story, and I had high hopes for a story that didn't quite pan out to how I hoped it would, which covers the issue I had with follow through. I had also hoped a good amount of genuine time would be spent on the island, giving me time to become engrossed by the way of life and be anguished when Sky and River left, but in roughly 20 pages I didn't get that, and the dreams+flashbacks didn't make up for it.

Sky, whilst having a unique vision and train of thought, was a bit frustrating, though a certain amount of that was because of the way people reacted to her and helped her by using presumption and other darling tactics. I understood her reliance on River, but at the same time: growing up on an island with only three other people (and then two), wouldn't you gain a sense of confidence in yourself, though not loosing the ability to rely on others? I imagined it would've gone both ways, whereas she didn't seem to be able to take care of herself.

River frustrated me more than Sky, though I can't pinpoint exactly why that was. He's a bit of a flaky character and I didn't like the way he acted from very early on, and that stayed with him throughout.

Rating: Oh nooo...
I wasn't particularly attached to the story ot the charracters, and none of the plot twists really touched me; at times I found myself reading mostly the dialouge, skipping or only glancing over the wads of internal narrative between, and that got me through the story, but other elements didn't.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Books for when you're... (15)

Each fortnight, month, fifteenth full moon of the half equational motion of the earths full circuit I will showcase 1-2 books that I think would be fantastic reading if you're going through a  certian emotion/stage in your life.

Wanting a character with hope and a job they're going to get done.
*Perhaps contains faint spoilers to His Dark Materials, How I live Now, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There*
Sometimes you just want a good old character with hope and a job they are absolutely determined to get done, and that's when I would recommend the following books and their characters.

All The Wrong Questions- Lemony Snicket.
Lemony is a vivacious, loyal and deeply interested boy, and once he starts a case there is nothing that can get in his way and thus stop him- plenty of things do get in his way, is what I'm saying, but do they stop him? Do you see them stopping him?
Answer: No.

How I Live Now- Meg Rosoff.
Daisy's the first person I think of when I think of someone who will stop at nothing to get to her goal; she is terrified of the war raging around her and the life she's been thrust into, but she never once stops in her search for "home" and all that she is sure waits there. Daisy's the kind of girl who, in a situation, pushes everything else aside and gets the job done.

His Dark Materials- Philip Pullman.
Lyra's job is by no means easy, quickly accomplished, or painless- mentally, physically- and it spans three pretty good sized books, but she has an incredible determination and she will fight for what is right, even if it hurts her. She will fight to set people free of their pain and anguish.

Fairyland- Catherynne M. Valente.
September is magical, unique, fierce and oh so dedicated. She will go on alone if she must, and she will go on with others so they are not alone; she sees things in a simple yet unique way, and I love the way she pieces things together on her journeys across/throughout Fairyland. If she feels she is to blame, she will put it right, or try her very hardest to.

Stay tuned for some more bookish suggestions for the good times, and the bad.
So far I've covered-

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson...

Title- Suite Scarlett (Scarlett #1)
Author- Maureen Johnson.
Publish date- 2013.
Publisher- Hot Key Books.
RRP- $16.95

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
This is not a book about a teenage who solves mysteries and crimes for people who stay in the hotel her family owns. It's a very amusing book, but not that. It involves Shakespeare, theater, acting, sibling relationships, hotels, schemes and a romance that turns the protagonist into an unreliable narrator (that last one is just in my opinion, by the by).
Image Credit: Hot Key Books.
Thank you to Hot Key Books for this review copy!

What I thought:
Suite Scarlett. Been on my planned reading for over a year, more likely two. It was a book I wanted to read, wanted to read a lot, the first novel by aureen Johnson I read, hopefully (though I've read at least one of her short stories), but it did take me quite a while.
And for all that, I am conflicted about this novel.

Scarlett, having just turned fifteen in the first pages, is one of the youngest YA protagonists I've read for a while, though it isn't until the romance aspect comes in that she really feels that age. The rest of the time I'd quite happily imagine her as older, maybe 17. She is likable, mostly, and I did enjoy her inner conflict when things start to get tricky, the way she doesn't really lie to herself... well she might, but only once or twice!
And yet, for all that she sees and understands, when romance was bought into the equation Scarlett became a little bit hopeless. She becomes dependent and and it is the main path her thoughts locate themselves too, and... well, she becomes flaky.

Perhaps I hold it against hr, her infatuational love on eye contact, but if that's the case it is because this romance irritated me a bit. For all the charm of the book (and it has plenty) the romance Scarlett involves herself in felt untrue and, though it was probably with reasoning, there was no build up, to my mind. Not from Scarlett and not from he on the other side- they eyed each other and fliterd and I did not like he on the other side as soon as I saw it. Possibly because he is at least eighteen- at least- and when you've only days ago been 14 that feels very worrying.
I was uncomfortable with it. Really, very uncomfortable. And it was always there, a page away from being mentioned.

Apart from the distressingly constant romance, though, this was a really wonderful story, with characters, setting and a plot that shine. The story is set in New York and Scarlett's family live and own and work in an old, small hotel, and I felt like I was there.
A family full of antics and their own lovely, peculiar, odd habits and personalities, this story also boasts a truly fantastic sibling relationship between Scarlett and Spencer, her older brother, and one that felt honestly genuine and true, and was very amusing.

Rating: I really don't know. It's not "Poor" but it's lower than "Hmmm..." so... New Rating! 
So perhaps I'm about 45/100: part of me severely disliked parts of it. Part of me embraced and felt embraced. Now, lets see where the sequel takes me, shall we? (And not comment on the face I thought this was a hotel-situated teenage mystery series.)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkein.

Title- Letters from Father Christmas.
Author- J. R. R. Tolkein.
Publish date- 1976.
Publisher- Harper Collins.


Review time...

(A brief) synopsis:
Beautiful, exquisite letters from father christmas sent to the children of J. R. R. Tolkein every christmas, detailing the mystery and magic, the hilarity and strange happenings in the north pole.

What I thought:
This is going to be a very, very short review, because half of me says "tell people about it, get them to read it!" and half says "keep the magic as secret as possible, so when they read it they'll be as enchanted as you were" and it's a very difficult book to "review" as such, so in the tradition of how to review a difficult (for whatever reason) book, it's going to be the time for lists!

*This book is incredible.
-illustrated mind-bogglingly
-detailed to a level of awe
-thought provoking, perspective altering, genius
-wildly different to what you might know
-it's just, it's wonderful and delightful and so, so amazing.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick...

Title- The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet.
Author- Bernie Su & Kate Rorick.
Publish date- July, 2014.
Publisher- Simon and Schuster.
RRP- $16.99

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
You may have known her as Elizabeth Bennet. You may have known her as the girl in the video blogs. But until you read her diary, you can't really ever known the real Lizzie Bennet.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for this review cop

What I thought:
I had a rocky start with with this. The first 80-100 pages frustrated me and I felt disappointment building as I realised this book I had been so excited about proved to be just a novel sized let down. I felt pretty annoyed by that.
And the first 100 pages? I didn't enjoy them and doubt I would if I went back, even though I ended up loving the book. It had refrences to things that just made it feel wrong; a comment about how much Lizzie liked the Vlogbrothers in the first four pages- one half of which co-created the series (if I remember correctly she mentioned something similar in the vlogs, and it irked me there, too)-  and her professor mentioning VidCon might be a good idea. It felt, to put it bluntly, fake. Forced. Wrong.
And whilst I did truly love LBD, I couldn't love this just because of it. Perhaps that made me harsher in my reading- set the bar higher. Despite that, though, The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet surpassed my hopes.

I believe the moment I knew I loved it was when I read of the jungle gym and ball pool at Pemberley.

Keeping in mind how much I had come to love the characters, I disliked Lizzie more than I ever have before in this, for her attitude, especially towards Lydia. I enjoyed the fact I could really experience both sides of the story, and not just in that respect- I caught signs of things that would transpire later on, and I noticed a few things weren't phrased as the vlog-Lizzie might have, with her occasionally offensive style pf neomg nrutally honest, and I wondered if they had been quietly amended, pushed aside because of that possible offensive caused.

(The following relates to Lizzie and Darcy and may be spoilery. Highlight to read.)
The moments, later on, with Lizzie and Darcy were so worth any anguish or annoyance I may have felt earlier on; her entries about their offscreen moments, their growing understanding of each other, those were delicate and, if I'm honest, slightly squee worthy.
Rating: Excellent-
I maintain my feelings about the first 100 pages: they were unpleasant and not good for me, but I also realise that, once I grew to love it, this is a novel that compliments the series and is written successfully, and in a way that makes it all so believable.