Monday, March 31, 2014

Severed Heads, Broken Hearts by Robyn Schneider.

Title- Severed Heads, Broken Hearts. (The End of Everything in other countries.)
Author- Robyn Schneider.
Publish date- September 2013.
Publisher- Simon and Schuster.
RRP: $16.99 AUD.

Review time...

(A brief) Synopsis:
Ezra believes you have one tragedy waiting for you. He has his. Then he thinks that's it. But... what if you can't tell when tragedy might strike? What if it's not as predictable as he thinks?

Image Credit: Simon and Schuster AU.

What I thought:
The main reason that Severed Heads, Broken Hearts fell flat for me was that it didn't feel all that real. It's full of topics and characters, things that are real enough, but I just didn't ever care for the people this story featured, feel anything for them- it was a very detached experience for me, unfortunately, and though I read it in two days, I didn't really enjoy it at all. A week after finishing it (when review was written...) and my memory has dulled the storyline already. I remember it well enough, but it just feels empty, in a way. Lifeless.

Ezra, the protagonist, speaks from a distance as he narrates the story, starting from his tragedy and explaining things from afar, and though I did wonder once or twice at how he mentioned seeing seeing things coming, I didn't really wonder about it overly. Ezra is, I think, supposed to be a character that you take to heart- if there's one in the whole book, I think it is supposed to be him, but for me I couldn't help but dislike him and his pettiness, and Cassidy- confusing, inconstant Cassidy- was the one I was drawn to. Even by the end I liked her much more than him.

Something that perplexed (and to a certain extend frustrated) me was that both blurbs on the book refernce John Green's work, and though there is a similarity in the speech and use of particular words from Ezra and a few of the other characters, there is nothing else that I could see that links them, which bothered me and made me look for reasons as to why it could be.

Severed Heads, Broken Hearts, whilst it has an interesting premise, didn't end up being a favourite for me- rather it feels a little forgettable. I had anticipated more.

Rating: Whatever comes between Poor and Oh Nooo...
Sadly not for me; though I do think a lot of people enjoy it, I wouldn't personally recommend.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for this review copy!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Double on Call and other stories by John Green...

Title- Double on Call.
Author- John Green.
Publish date- 2013

Review  time...

(A brief) Synopsis:
A selection of short stories featuring a chaplain in a childrens hospital and a girl who appears to be living a very peculiar life. Made available as part of the P4A 2012.

What I thought:
It  took  me  around  eight  or  nine  months  to  finally  read  this  after  I  first  bought  it  in  2012,  and  when  I  did  I  found  it  extremely  interesting.  It  contains  three  short  stories,  all  slightly  different  but  with  a  similar  vein  running  through  each-  a  young  chaplain  working  in  a  childrens  hospital.
Each  story  had  a  layer  of  painful  reality  threaded  through  it,  and  the  detached  way  the  narrator  witnessed  and  spoke  of  these  horrible  tragedies,  almost  in  a  time  worn  way,  was  a  little  discomforting.

Whilst  I  didn't  like  the  stories,  as  such,  and  doubt  I'd  have  gotten  through  any  as  an  entire  novel,  I  found  myself  really  interested  by  the  writing  process,  the  changes  that  were  made  over  each  take.  I  appreciated  seeing  that,  and  it  made  me  appreciate  the  stories  more.

Rating:  Hmm...
I  certainly  didn't  love  any  of  it,  but  it  was  jolly  interesting  and  I  think  that  made  it  well  worth  the  read.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Girls, Goddessess and Giants by Lari Don...

Title- Girls, Goddesses and Giants.
Author- Lari Don.
Publish date- 2013.
Publisher- Bloomsbury.
RRP: $22.99 (Hardback) AUD.


Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
A collection of myths, legends and folktales in which the women save themselves from trickery, misfortune and getting second best.

Image Credit: Bloomsbury AU.

What I thought:
All too often I'll find a fairytale (I'm partial to them, whether they be of the bookish or visual kind) that just doesn't have a female character I can look up to, a heroine who is a well rounded role model- often they play a relatively small part, or are left to rely on someone else saving them in dire circumstances, and that is why I was so drawn to this collection, and it proved itself to be great! I found lots of heroines who could be devious and kill to reach their goal- it was quite different from anything I'd seen in a fairytale (these are legends, folktales and myths, by the way, though they do carry a similar feel) before.

And perhaps my favourite thing about this book? I definitely wouldn't say that each women at the head of their story is typically "good", because that's not ever the point. The point is that they don't have to reply on another at the last moment and to me that is so, so important.

I found every now and then that the rewording was too modern for these stories, with common phrases switched so as to be more easily understandable to a different generation, but it ended up feeling quite awkward and disrupted the feelling and flow of the story.

Rating: A little lower than Ooh, very good, though not Hmm...
My main problem was the rewording, but apart from that  really enjoyed finding these old stories from across the world, tales full of good deeds and bad, with underlying morals as per tradition, and I look forward to revisiting them in the future.

Thank you to Bloomsbury for this review copy!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Tribute by Ellen Renner...

Title- Tribute.
Author- Ellen Renner.
Publish date- 26th March, 2014!
Publisher- Hot Key Books.
RRP: $16.95 AUD.

Review time...

(A brief) Synopsis:
A story about injustice and magic and keeping a promise no matter what, with characters and a world that shimmer.

Cover image via: Hot Key Books.

What I thought:
I found Tribute to be reliably enjoyable from beginning to end, which isn't something I have really experienced before. There were parts I didn't overly like, sure, but I didn't abhor anything, and I grew, whilst reading, to know I wouldn't.

From set off I was taken in, filled with amazement by this young woman, a madge still training, who was controlling a bird with her mind the book opens, seeing things from it's vantage point and experiencing it's senses- every emotion Zara, who turns out to be the protagonist and narrator, felt was clear and strong, easy to believe in and follow. From the fear of her father, which was so strong and pained, to the passion and strength she showed as she works to keep a promise made when she was nine, it all was so clear as to be almost visible.

The story gets going fairly rapidly, events taking place that make you wish to know all the secrets these characters hold, though at the same time it never felt rushed- perfectly timed as to keep you intrigued as each page is turned. My one true quelm, though, happens to be with the timing! The romance didn't feel totally believable to me, and it was the one thing that progressed too quickly, leaping and bounding ahead in a way that left me frowning. I like both the characters involved, but it seemed far too sudden and I do wish it had taken longer to get to a point, instead of startling me with it's sudden unveiling.

Being the first in a new series, and one set in a fantasy world, this is where the magority of the world must be constructed, places outlined and explained, and I think it was done very well; I was interested in the world and lives of the people living in it, the latter especially since their lives are unique and dark, living in a place that would be terrifying were it your reality.

The characters were certainly not a let down, from Zara who grew so honestly and painfully before my eyes, gaining an admirable strength, to Benedict, her father and antagonist, the archmadge (most powerful madge) and ruler of Asphodel, the madge city in which they live- he particularly was wonderful in his horrifying way, holding a calmness to his evil and hate that was almost more scary than those things.
Each character felt important in their own way- and they all had ways- but my favourite, despite  the growth of Zara that I so loved, was Marcus, the Hound- a thief. He was honest and amusing and suave, and I really enjoyed his part.

Rating: Ooh, Very good.
I didn't quite get to the point of loving Tribute, but I did enjoy it quite a bit and with an ending that is fulfilling, exciting and brimming with the prospect of further books, I have little doubt that I'll be back for more. Amusing. Scary. Hopeful. Twisted. All those things make up Tribute, and they make it up well. Highly recommendable.

Thank you to Hot Key Books for this review copy!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan...

Title- Untold. (Book #2 in the Lynburn Legacy.)
Author- Sarah Rees Brennan.
Publish date- 2013.
Publisher- Simon and Schuster.
RRP: $16.99

*May contain spoilers for Unspoken, book one in the series*


Review time...

(A brief) Synopsis:
Things in Sorry-in-the-Vale are just getting darker as Kami Glass, along with her friends and the not always enthusiastic help of the Lynburns, fights for the truth and to be rid of the dark sorcery that is threatening to take over her peaceful village.

Image care of: Simon and Schuster AU.

What I thought:
December. December was a good month for seqels, it seems- first I had Crown of MIdnight, then this. Both are sequels to two of my favourite novels of 2013, and both were stunning.
I can't quite decide whether, overall, I liked Untold more than Unspoken- certainly in some themes, such as "fast paced" "thrilling" "terrifying" and "made-me-read-so-fast-I-couldn't-believe-it", but there were some slightly frustrating (I loved it- I did) moments when it came to the romance, though I appreciated these frustrations more than I would've, thanks to Sarah Rees Brennan and her blog.
I groaned aloud at times, and wanted quite badly to yell JUST TALK ABOUT IT, but sadly I had tonsillitius, so I had to stay quiet and say it in my head. (True story.)

I love the way the story grows, along with the characters, from the first book, becoming a few shades darker as the stakes and sorcery get more desperate, but I'm so, so glad that this didn't mean the humor that I so adored all throughout Unspoken was lost. It was, as I should've expected, still there and still excellent. More than that, actually: it was hilarious and snort-worthy and just unexpectedly perfect.
Also, the names for some of the places in Sorry-in-the-Vale... they are wonderful, to say the very least.

Now to mention one of my top ten favourite characters: Kami Glass.
Kami is just as brilliant as always, and I thrilled at the immediate mention of her clothing in the first pages, outfits that are notoriously excellent and just about my favourite clothing descriptions in the world. Sadly, there seemed to be far less than in Unspoken, but hopefully this is made up in the next book. Kami grows a lot in this book, and she faces horrifying things, but I'm truly proud of her and how she managed to cope. Kami never had to prove herself to me, but in many ways she did in this book.

Rating: Tops. Big Explosion, MIND BLOWN.
Always with the cliffhangers, Sarah Rees Brennan! This is acutely painful!

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for this review copy!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sylvia Plath: Drawings by Frieda Hughes...

Title- Sylvia Plath: Drawings.
Author- Frieda Hughes, Sylvia Plath.
Publish date- 2013.
Publisher- Faber.
RRP: $29.99AUD

(A brief) synopsis:
A collection of Sylvia Plath's unique art, including letters in which she speaks of her drawing, compiled by her daughter, Frieda Hughes.

Image care of: Allen and Unwin.

What I thought:
This is a beautiful book- with or without dustcover, it fills me with yearning to open it and explore, to look upon the detailed drawings of Sylvia Plath and to read the letters- such an important part of this book- in which she describes her pieces, the inspiration behind a certain sketch, the hopes she has for her future art. It is a book that resonates with love and care for the work being done, and at times I was almost too inspired to get out my own notebook and draw, which I resisted, though it was hard to sit still.

Though it's relatively short, when it comes to words at least, this book felt no less like I was being told a story than if I had been reading a novel;  it's a different story to many I read, but an excellent one none  the less, and I heartily enjoyed the experience.

It wasn't really until afterwards that I understood just how important the letters included in this book were- it would still be a very beautiful book without them, but with I am filled with a great appreciation, because now I know the story behind so many of the pieces featured, and that feels very... it feels like I've been given something very delicate and special to look after.

This is a absolutely stunning book, perfect to pick up and read little by little, or all at once.

Rating: Ooh, very good/Excellent.
I love the design of this throughout, but especially the cover- I'm instantly drawn to it, vibrant red, cream white and soft black. It's quite as lovely on the inside, and I'd recommend with little hesitation- even if so you can just see the cover hiding beneath he dust cover, which is truly stunning.

Thank you to Allen and Unwin for this review copy.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Feature of Pictures (and books!) No. 1

A new year (it's still new even if it's march, I'll have you know) a new feature. A picture book feature! Each month I will feature two amazingly wonderous picture books and write a few words about what I thought of them. I hope you enjoy and find a few new books to wonder over.

Title: Herman's Letter.
Author: Tom Percival.
Publisher: Bloomsbury.
Publish Date: 2013.
RRP: $10.99 (AUD)

This is a pretty neat book, and there are quite a few different aspects as to why I think that. Two of those aspects are as follows:
I often feel sad that books for older age groups don't have art in them. I'm always thrilled when I pick up a book that is dotted throughout with pictures, though it happens far less than I wish- one of the best things about picture books is the guarantee of pictures! If you think about it, in picture books the story is told in a totally different way, because you're taking it in on multiple different levels. The art in this is lovely.
It covers themes of jealousy, dadness and the feeling of being left out/behind, and these are really important things to learn about- it's done really quite well, I think, and whilst jealousy in particular can sometimes be not so fun to read about (this was a short book and I certainly didn't like that aspect), the end made this worth it.

Cover image via: Bloomsbury AU

Cover image via: Bloomsbury AU.

Title: Two Little Bears.

Author: Suzi Moore, Nicola O'Byrne (Illustrator).
Publisher: Bloomsbury.
Publish Date: 2012.
RRP: $10.99 (AUD)

This book is beautiful. It's exquisite. Wonderful. Touching. Sweet.
Mentioning the point of art, again, this is surely one of the most exquisitely illustrated picture books I've yet come across, each picture is so... they carry this feeling with them (at least this was how it felt to me) that makes you just care. So much. The illustrations are my favourite part of the book!
I would highly, highly recommend this to anyone.

Thank you to Bloomsbury AU for these review copies!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Huh, did I say February? February?
I said February, didn't I?

Ah well, I didn't come back to the world of the internet until the second week of said month, so I've excused myself. Catching up with emails and scheduelles after you've been offline for two and a bit months takes a while, but I am BACK NOW and can say that I had an absolutely splendid and, if I may, perspective altering, time away from the computer. I didn't read all the books I wanted (more on that below), but I read different ones and fantastic ones, and I did SO MUCH WRITING (finished a WIP, edited a whole draft) I am still singing my own praises. I spent time doing new things (I think I'm a fairly stunning knitter now) and taking the world in and I just feel very wise after it.

It may take me a while to adapt to blogging again and things will be different this year- I'm only online 3 days a week and next year I will be taking another two months off, if not earlier, because the computer just isn't necessary to me in the way that other things truly are, but blogging and other things that I can only do via the computer are, so I worked out a system that will take a while to foolproof, but which I think is workable.

I did catch up and have a lot of reviews to be posted, and out of the books I posted here that I hoped I'd read, these are the ones I did (plus a good few others, mind)...

The Hobbit.
Zac and Mia.
(A bit of) The Etymoligicon.
A Tale of Two Castles.
I, Corriander.
Crown of Midnight.
Severed Heads, Broken Hearts.
Girls, Goddesses and Giants.
The House of Cats.
When did you see her Last?

Didn't like/finish:

Everything is Illuminated.
Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone.
Briar Rose.
All Our Yesterdays.
These Broken Stars.

Still Reading:

Jane Eyre, Swallowdale, Middlesex.

I went jolly well, me'thinks. And though not in all ways, it's... nice to be back