Saturday, May 31, 2014

About the blog- changesandcloselyspacedupdates.

So in January 2013 I wrote a post outlining what I wanted from my blog over the year. Things I wanted to accomplish, things I wanted to work on, and I said that I would do another post a year later (which sets us to roughly halfway through 2014, if I'm correct...) and update. See how I went and all that. So... first here is the original post in all it's glory.

  • Do More Personal Reviews, reviews of books that are my own or from the library.
I definitely think I'm going well with this, though I'll say now that we're just going to ignore the number of each that I noted at the bottom of the original post, because that was always just a joke. Completely.
I've been reading a better mix of my own books and review books, and I'm really enjoying the fact that I've found a good way (somehow) to get through both books I'm sent and books I own or get from the library.

  • Comment more!
I have DEFINITELY been doing this. I don't think I commented very much at all before, but now I'm very regular about, and commenting more has been a fantastic way of finding new, incredible blogs and meeting more amazing people!

  • Host More Giveaways.
Hmm... this hasn't gone too well, as it goes. At all. Still, I'm planning on celebrating my blogversary this year (a thing I'm not all that reliable about) and I have at least two giveaways planned, if they work out. It's exciting and I hope it all becomes truity.

  • Work on a rating system!
I've settled down with one that works so, so well for me (see sidebar) and am just incredibly happy with how it worked out. Inspired by The Book Smugglers, the 1-10 system is the only rating system I've been able to actively and consistently keep up, and I'm very proud of that.

  • And Do more Personal Posts!
Yes! Though I've only started with that this year, I've written a few and I feel really good about it. There haven't been 20 yet, but I've found a lot of joy and emotion when I've written the ones I've already done, (see the first here and the 2nd will be published on the 28/6) and it's been really wonderful, doing those.

Overall, I feel like I went well in a different way to how I thought I would. I am really pleased with how things are going and look forward to seeing how I feel about it by next year, which is just to far away to think about in number terms.

I don't think I'll set myself more goals right now, though perhaps at a later date that will become so.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Graceling by Kristin Cashore.

Title- Graceling. (#1 in the Greaceling Realm series.)
Author- Kristin Cashore.
Publish date- 2008.
Publisher- Harcourt.

Review time...

(A brief) Synopsis:
Kasta has a deadly Grace- the Grace of Killing. Ever since she was a child her uncle the King has exploited her powers and left the Lady Kasta terrified of herself. Only, not too terrified to fight for the rights of others, even if they all fear her.

What I thought:
I wasn't merely taken in by this book, picked up and carried along for the duration and then gently let down- I was confronted by it. I was a part of it and I'm still reliving bits even now! There was fear and terror, humor and scenes that made me smirk and laugh, and it was all so beautiful. Wonderful. Exquisite.

I feared for the characters so much, though whenever I thought something might happen it invaribly didn't and things went on quite the other way, keeping me constantly alert and always knocking me off guard. It was a terrifying read, as such, because I had no idea what would happen and I was totally at the mercy of the plot, heart pounding and mind racing as I turned page after page.

Graceling is full of surprise and characters who are so alive it's as if they are truly breathing alongside me, and I cared for them- for their safety- an awful lot.
Kasta, the protagonist and unargubly one of my new favourite characters, is full of fire and fear and hope, and it's a surprising combination that makes for a glorious character- a glorious character who is full of wit and wonderfully sharp remarks, I may add. Kasta stands out, and she stands tall and with a multitude of strength.
The relationship she has with Po, also one of my favourite characters now, though mostly because of the conversations the two have, is so mixed and dimensional and there is almost palpable fear, because she is afraid to trust someone, because being let down and having to use her Grace to protect herself would be far, far worse than many around her could understand.
Graceling is an enlivening story.

Rating: Exquisite.
It's thought provoking and very funny, often just when you need it, and ends on a note that makes me glad there are already two more books published.

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Feature of Pictures (and books!) No. 4

Two astonishing and slightly-quite-a-lot amazing books featured today- both are very different from the other, but both touched me very honestly and I really enjoyed them.

Title: The Giving Tree.
Author: Shel Silverstien.
Publisher: Penguin Books. Imprint: Particular Books.
Publish Date: 1964.

The Giving Tree is, or at least was in my experience, one of those books you know about but don't necessarily read for a long time. I'm so glad I finally read it for myself.
Telling an almost haunting story of the love a tree has for a little boy, this story spans what must be over a centuary. It is told simply but always with the perfect words, words that effect you and leave you thinking long after the pages have all been read. Words that make up a story so passionate and sad and lifelike that they leave one slightly breathless.

This is a book I appreciate for it's trueness to life and the way it made me- makes me- feel. I appreciate it so much.

Title: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.
Author: W. E. Joyce, Joe Bluhm.
Publisher: Simon and Schuster.
Publish Date: August 2012.

2014. The year of the picture books.
Strictly speaking it's not, but it might as well be because not since they were my one and only source of literature have I read so many perfectly splendid picture books in such a short about of picture books.
I had a bit of background knowledge when it came to this and the short film made from it, but still- I saw this in the bookstore and did not hesitate. My money was not the money being spent, but still- this is a book I saw and did not hesitate about.
If there was a golden picture book I'm almost certain it would be this. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is one of those impeccable books that you can just get so wildly excited about before, after and during the reading process.
It tells a truly magnificent story of a man swept to a whole different world, one of colour and surprises and books that need him, books that are living things.
Thought so.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Toby Alone by Timothée de Fombelle...

Title- Toby Alone.
Author- Timothée de Fombelle.
Publish date- 2008.
Publisher- Walker Books.

Review time...

(A brief) Synopsis:
Toby Lolness is on the run, searched for by his own people- the people of the tree. He makes his way through the beautiful, treacherous land of the tree, fighting to escape, but to understand why he, a thirteen year old boy only a few millimetres high, is the most highly sought person in the tree, we've got to go back...

What I thought:
What to say about Toby Alone... there are many factors to it, many levels that I'm drawn to and many feelings I had as I was reading, but I do feel slightly muddled on just how to pinpoint these things. This may, on account, be a slightly different review.

*Toby Alone captivated me wholly- it was original and ingenious and felt so very fresh and readable. The time switches, explaination of other times and introductions of other characters who would soon be critical to Toby's story, these were done well and made it very easy to follow- having new things bought in kept the story really active.

*The twists of the plot were so great, and often unexpected. I didn't foresee how the story would progress. When dire situations arose I didn't question their truth or dire-ness. By the end I was still excited and full of wonder.

*The world created is so incredible (and plausible) and it felt so real, so through. I understood the way these people lived and the way they feared, and I saw the beauty in it just as I felt the fear of it. It's a desperate time in the tree and I truly feared for it just as Sim Lolness did.

*The cover is what drew me to this book and the inside didn't disappoint me on further inspection- it has green text! I didn't realise until I started reading, and it's difficult to tell when you get into and can't compare it to one of the green pictures throughout the book, but it's dark green and absolutely wonderful.

*There was the inevitable moment, 10 pages from the end, where the levels were rising and things were getting more complex, the struggles more dire, when I briefly wondered how it could be resolved in 10 pages. 4 pages from the end I accidentally turned two pages. There's a sequel. I'm excited for it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

First Test by Tamora Pierce...

Title- First Test.
Author- Tamora Pierce.
Publish date- 2000.
Publisher- Random House.

Review time...

(A brief) Synopsis:
Keladry's dream is to become a knight, but with women only grudgingly being allowed to train to become knights it is going to be far more than difficult, though Kel will follow her dream no matter what.

What I thought:
I was highly recommended this book by the Loquacious Lauren, who, I am beginning to think, may know exactly what I like to find in a book.
I'm taken aback by how much, how quickly, too, I became involved with this story and the training of Kel, the first female to openly train for knighthood- there is so much discrimination from people all around Keladry because of her gender, and it isn't an easy beginning to following her dream at all, yet she strove to do her best with a determination I truly fell in love with, and her determination, the pains she goes through just in the name of perseverance, they are shown and told truthfully. Her journey is hard, harder than most others have been before her, and this isn't fair. She knows it, but still she fights.

Kel is, undoubtably, a characte I will go back to many a time, whose story I want others to relive. She's funny and fierce and willing, but she's also angry and hurt and certainly not impenetrable. The depths of this story, the first in a series, are great, and it wasn't until the writing of this review that I found out this is only one in a line of books set in the amazing, if dangerous, land of Tortall. There are suggestions only breached of how much more there is to this world, and it is so well built and written that I felt right at home, as if I were there every time I opened the book.

Rating: Excellent and some.
This was simply a really enjoyable, thought-provoking book. I'm so glad that Lauren got me to take an interest in and read it, and I'll certainly be coming back to read more about Keladry of Mindelan.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Plotting a Takeover: Character Buys 5.

A not so regular feature in which I pick a book and then pick out things I think the character/s themselves would own/use or just really like. All links go to etsy/the store's website. This week the featured book is...

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman.
Focusing on Lyra.

I can see this sitting on Lyra's bed, where she would clutch it and dream of distant places. Places where she would certainly go.

Perhaps a gift from Serafina, perhaps from the Costa's, perhaps a pretty prize taken from Mrs. Coulter. I think Lyra would like the sense of mystery- and perhaps potential danger- that surrounds a necklace like this.

I imagine Lyra traveling lots, to cold places- traveling to see Iorek and sailing with the Costa's, heading her own way. Still, she would most certainly need lots of warm wear and this scarf... I can perfectly picture her in it.

What a memory this beautiful stamp would be- the potential for more memories, too. A compass can lead you anywhere!

Lyra would need a good, sturdy bag. It took me a while to find something I can envisage her using, but this is perfect. Sturdy, a nice dark colour, plenty of room. Lovely.

I can imagine her being very creative, and her memories being so strong and things... important things in her life being recorded through art, writing. I think this would be a very Lyra-esq piece, especially the darkness and the stars.

A place for Lyra to keep her most precious things, whether it be a flower, coin, feather. And it's unsuspecting when you see it closed, below.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaria...

Title- Love Letters to the Dead.
Author- Ava Dellaria.
Publish date- May 2014.
Publisher- Hot Key Books.
RRP: $14.95


Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
Laurel is living through something so awful she can't even speak of it- which is why she decides to keep writing letters to the dead once she is given the job as a school assignment. Soon enough her heart is spilling out onto the paper, and she is revealing a side of herself she has tried to forget.

Image Credit: Hot Key Books.

What I thought:
When I finally decided that I wanted to read Love Letters, I was excited by the potential I felt a story like this could have, really intrigued to see who each letter was to and, honestly, assuming it would take me a day or two at most to get through.
Whilst it took me only 3(ish) days to read, this by no means felt like the quick read I had hoped for.

The book is entirely made up of these letters mentioned in the title, and that was a factor I enjoyed, especially as I had been anticipating, for quite some time, a letter at the end of a chapter and then "life". But no. Each letter felt individual, really as if they were written especially for the person in question, and I did enjoy reading Laurel's thoughts on these people and also learning more about them- the letters to Amelia Earhart were by far my favourites, because they held a very unique beauty, a real sense of possibility. They took flight in my mind.
Indeed, there was so much beauty to be found in these letters, fragments of thought and passages that were so delicately crafted and genuine that the memory of them sticks with me.

But... but this was by no means the read I had hoped it would be- the teen-ey drama frustrated me, the obsession with drinking, and the fact that, as far as I could tell, Laurel is only 14 really vexed me. It was undoubtably a turbulent read, there were heartbreaking, absolutely awful subjects faced- and they were faced, eventually- and I truly did get emotional and chocked up, especially towards the end, but I just did not like it- at times I did, certainly, and I didn't hate it, but I didn't truly like it, either. Not really.

I also found it very hard not to draw parallels with The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which I read last year and didn't like very much at all: two girls Laurel is friends with (on a note with these two girls, I didn't like that they tried to force Laurel to kiss one of them and never apologised, because they were scared, yes, but once they understood, even, they never mentioned it again- they joked about it and that felt wrong) have a relationship very similar to the one that Patrick has in the beginning (with...Brad?), the way Laurel was taken in by an older pair mimicked Sam and Patrick with Charlie, and the mystery and reveal around Laurel's sister, May's, death, that felt very similar, too. All of that bugged me.

Rating: Whatever comes between Poor and Oh nooo...
Certainly at times very beautiful, Love Letters would continue to strike chords with me, and I got very into the reading of it, felt emotional over it, but I'm left feeling disappointed. It was not unique as I had hoped it would be.

Thank you to Hot Key Books for this review copy!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Zac and Mia by A. J. Betts...

Title- Zac and Mia.
Author- A. J. Betts.
Publish date- 2013.
Publisher- Text Publishing.

Review time...

(A brief) Synopsis:
There are two people in focus and many people out of focus, surrounding them. One seems to be broken, though that person tries to believe and show that they are not. One appears to be whole, and though they appear to be whole throughly, maybe they aren't.

Image Credit: Text Publishing.

What I thought:
It's hard to describe the ways in which I'm drawn to this book, because they're battled by the ways in which I am turned away by it; the cover is very unique and eye catching, it's an intriguing work of art. The typography on the cover is super neat. The blurb by Fiona Wood is exactly the kind of thing I want to see on a book. It's the winner of the Text prize! The synopsis, however, it doesn't really interest me and if I went on it alone I foubt I'd have picked it up.

I was, however, lucky enough to win a copy after reading VeganYANerds incredible review, and though it sat patiently on my shelf for a few months, one day I picked it up and decided to read a few pages. I'd finished it in three days.

Zac and Mia is told in a really interesting, not to mention well done, way- part one is Zac. Part two is &, which is is dual POV from Zac and Mia. Part three is Mia.
From the start I didn't feel drawn to Mia, even though Zac is oddly taken in by her and truly can't get her out of his mind- I wondered if that's because you weren't supposed to like her, because of her nature and unreliability, the things she does and says, but even after I read her part and learnt to understand the both of them, Mia still never found a place very close to me. Zac, however, I truly did become fond of; his characteristics are so real and he felt very lifelike, and I cared about his story.

I cannot say, though, that I'm overall happy with my reading experience of Zac and Mia. I raced through it and quite liked the way it read, but I never loved the story and the ending didn't really settle with me so well, didn't seem believeable in all the ways I wanted it to be.

Rating: Close to Poor.
My hopes weren't really met with Zac and Mia, but at the same time I didn't really know all that much about it becomehand to be able to form an opinion. There was lots of swearing- too much for my liking- and it did get to a stage where I felt almost desensitised by it, which I did not like at all. Something important, though: Zac and Mia isn't a book about two teenagers who are sick- their illness, whilst important to the story (it's what brings them together in the first place), is not the thing the story focuses on. This is about them. The stories they are just waiting to tell and let you explore.

Thank you to VeganYANerds for the competition you held, the prize of which was this book!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Words I use often.

There are words, when I write my reviews, that I notice I use fairly frequently: words like beautiful, thrilling, captivating, swept up/in, pace, exquisite, lovely. These words are, apparently, staple words for my blogging, because, as it would be, I do not use these words very often in my day to day life. Hardly any of them appear in my mouth, forming part of a conversation out in the open air, and yet these words full my mind and are the words I write- not just words here, either, because they are in my stories, too.

They're all good words, sure, and to be using them is hardly an awful thing, but I've noticed that they are making a regular appearance and think it could be useful to try some re-wording, because, similarly, I have words that I use in my everyday existence that I hear appearing far too frequently, and, thanks to a couple of skype vows I am no longer using "cool", and "yeah" is on it's way out, too. These are words I would use to fill in silence and I know I can do more for my responses.

I could say exhilarating instead of thrilling. Devastating instead of sorrowful and gorgeous instead of beautiful. Sweet or kind or very charming instead of lovely.
Affirmative instead of yeah.

Words are abundant and, particularly in these last few draft and edit filled years, I've been noticing as if for the first time the true, excruciating beauty they contain. Words like differentiate could send me to my knees.
Frequently makes my mind feel glorious.
I don't want to overuse them, but I think it would be awful if I underused or ignored words I felt so passionately about, or just stuck with the same ones because I have for so long already.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Tinder by Sally Gardner...

Title- Tinder.
Author- Sally Gardner.
Publish date- 2013.
Publisher- Indigo.

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
A man is haunted by war, the presence of death, a bizzare chance meeting and a man who puts on a belt only to become a wolf, and yet he must continue on if he is to save the one he loves.

What I thought:
I was so excited to see a new novel by Sally Gardner in my local bookstore when I went in for a look around, especially after so recently having read and highly enjoyed "I, Coriander", and Tinder looked just like the perfect choice of a book to buy.

There is something very entrancing about Sally Gardner's work, something I recognise in both her books I've now read. They are vivid and come to life on the page so that you see the story passing as if from only a short distance away; they have an unsettling undertone that keeps you thinking and keeps the story going, and they don't shy away from harshness.

I have to say that, without the beautiful illustrations by David Roberts, which fit the book just perfectly and were, in fortunate addition, something I had been yearning for in a YA novel- pictures, glorious pictures!- without them the book wouldn't have made such a lasting impression on me.

I don't know if like would be the right word to describe how I feel about Tinder. I could certainly re-read it because the whole story is incredibly intriguing and the second time around I can only imagine the things I will see differently, but I wouldn't quite call it a favourite book. I'm glad to have my own copy, would be even if I disliked the story mightily because the illustrations, of which the book is ful, are just lovely.

Like I, Coriander, it's a story that lingers and makes you wonder exactly what would have happened next, because though it's not exactly an open ending, there's plenty for you to think about.

There were a few things I didn't like about the story- sometimes I felt that it was too inevitable, and the descriptions that come with a village terrorised by werewolves isn't exactly pleasant, but that's to be expected.

Rating: Excellent (but very peculiar).
I look forward to getting others opinions and reading it again in a year or two- lots of mention to the illustrations, which are exquisite- this will look lovely on my bookshelf.