Monday, June 30, 2014

Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby...


Title- Icefall (Audio-book review).
Author- Matthew J. Kirby.
Publish date- 2011. 
Publisher- Scholastic Audio Books.


Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
Solveig, Ossa and Harrold, siblings and the children of a powerful king, are sent to live in a remote, icy part of their father's kingdom when he goes to war, a way of being kept safe, but soon their place of safety becomes one of danger.

What I thought:
Had this been a book I was reading and not listening to whilst I completed other tasks I would not have finished it. As it was, I wasn't sure if I was going to, after the first disc ended and I felt disconnect from the story, the characters, the land.
But I persevered, and while Icefall didn't suddenly embrace me with it's poerty of verse or exhilarating plot, I did grow fond of the story and invested myself in the finding out what/who was behind the treachery experienced in this mountain retreat.

There is a certain amount of beauty in the speech and thoughts of the characters in Icefall, though especially this applies to Solveig*, the narrator/protagonist, who sees the unfairness of acts and the beauty of life, who tries to understand with an honestly, a simplicity, that makes it all seem quite easy. She is understandable and, being the second daughter of a king, she knows that she will never be important in the way her older and very beautiful sister, Ossa, is, or the way her younger brother Harrold, the future king, is. She has understood her position for a long time, yet cannot help but yearn for the knowledge that she is useful.
At times Solveig's thoughts and pronounces did come across as being whiney, but even as they did I understood where she spoke from, patricularly towards the end.

The plot I hoped would go a little faster, since I did feel a keenness to know what lay in wait for the characters, but though it kept a regular (and inching on slow) pace, the things filling the time, happenings and thoughts and tales, a journey of growth for more than one of the characters, they were important and often quite beautiful.

I do feel a bit of disjoint to this story, still, and feel like it definitely could have worked better for me, but I enjoyed, for the most part, my time with it.

Rating: This lies between Hmm and Ooh, very good.
Sometimes beautiful, sometimes laborious, touching and filled with truths that aren't always so easy to see, I enjoyed Icefall, just not always.

*Note that, since I heard the names and didn't read them, they no doubt are spelt wrong. Solveig is the only correct spelling, since I looked it up before writing this.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Looking.

I  look  back  at  my  blog  fairly  regularly,  mostly  back  at  that  first  year  when  I  flourished,  a  14 year  old  at  the  helm  of  this  new  experience,  concept,  finding  inspiration  abundant  and  so  very enthusiastic.  The  first  year  is  really  the  one  I  see  most  regularly,  and  if  you've  ever  glanced  at  one  of  those  first  posts,  you'd  easily  think  I  was  so  very  cheerful.

Reading  those  old  posts-  all  my  old  posts,  really-  I  can  build  a  picture  of  a  girl  who  is  a  lot  in  love  with  words,  very  keen  to  try  things  and  probably  a  little  hyper.

And  while  the  word  I'm  about  to  put  forward  certainly  was  not  accurate  to  my  life  all  of  the time,  hardly  ever  to  my  blog,  because  I  did  feel  all  the  excitement-  I  did-  I  was  also  very  sad.  The  years  I've  spent  working  on  my  blog  have  been  some  of  the  most  painful  and  downright  awful  of  my  life.  I've  had  awful  moments,  days  and  weeks  and  months  where  I've  been  miserable,  but  I've  been  lucky  enough  to  have  turning  points,  too.  This  blog  has  been  one.

And...  maybe  this  is  not  relevant  to  books,  but  the  best  books  make  you  feel  and  all  the  feeling  I've  really  shown  here  has  been  happiness,  even  when  I've  been  annoyed  about  something  or  other  in  a  review.
And  I'm  all  about  honesty.  Talking  about  things  and  exposing  yourself.
Honestly,  I'm  terrified  of  my  pain  being  used  to  hurt  me-  have  been  for  years-  but,  if  I  expose  myself  by  choice  and  feel  that  that  is  right,  I  think  the  hurt,  if  it  were  to  ever  come,  would  be  less.

If  we  all  lived  in  the  same  town,  I  would  invite  you  over  to  my  house  and  we  would  eat  glorious  things  and  it  would  be  splendid,  but  you,  my  dear,  dear  friends,  are  spread  out  across  the  globe.  So  I'll  eat  the  cake  and  just  say  that  when  we  exchange  words  in  the  little  boxes  of  our  blogs,  it  feels  like  we're  together,  and  it's  made  me  very  happy,  this  connection,  this  book-begun  friendship.

Words  mean  a  lot  to  me,  honesty  means  a  lot  to  me,  and  so  do  you.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for the Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen.

Title- Popular: Vintage Wisdom for the Modern Geek.
Author- Maya Van Wagenen.
Publish date- April 15th, 2014.
Publisher- Penguin Books.

(Goodreads)

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
Can a Popularity Guide from the 50's be used in our modern life to sucess? That's what Maya Van Wagenen started to wonder, and so she decided to start a project lasting the whole of her 8th grade, to transform herself and follow the guide, for better or worse.


Thank you to Penguin Books Australia for this review copy!


What I thought:
I can't be entirely certain why it was I decided that I wanted to read Popular- sure the synopsis is intriguing and I really like the sytle+feel of the cover, but there was a point somewhere that turned me over, somwehere along the lones of a mention by John Green (probably the presiding piercing of interest) and the fact it makes me think of what was my favourite song for most of 2013.

By the time I knew my review copy was in the post, I had read fellow reviewer Alison Can Read's review and it had struck me completely off guard, because me? I believe in being yourself. Dress how you feel comfortable, don't change yourself for others. I'm vocal about it. Often. And Popular? It's about a girl who changes herself as a 13-14 year old, because she wants to be Popular, and I just hadn't thought about that. I remain horrified, but I suppose it could've been one of those things that is so blindingly obvious you just don't see it.
But anyway- back to this review/story.
I was less excited by the time the book arrived (thank you to Tina and Penguin!), but still stoic and very, very interested.

To describe how I felt as I read would be that I wanted to read as much as I could in as short an amount of time as possible so that it could be over.
In the first two or so chapters I was extremely uncomfortable and would even go so far as to say I wished this book had some sort of a trigger warning- the first chapter is about figure problems + involves weight and dieting to loose it, and this affected me and made me very uncomfortable, and though I knew (from Alison's review) it was a topic, there wasn't any note of it apart from a chapter name until bam! you were confronted. And for someone who is easily affected by such things, and for whom it can become quite troubling and difficult to handle, this was really unfortunate.

I did, later on, feel as if the story and I weren't so at odds, and I felt really proud of Maya by the end for confronting her fears and facing some really difficult things and not always (or all that often) being accepted for it, but I don't believe as it is that all of it was a good thing to do, or wise- or that the journey itself was the right thing to do, as a whole, though I certainly admire her courage and positivity, but right or wrong in anyone else's view, difficult or horrifying, Maya stuck with it and that's commendable no matter what the outcome.

Rating: Hmm.../Poor.
I found it very easy to read, for the most part, and towards the end it was inspiring what she did, but I really can't say I loved it or even really enjoyed it.

Notes that I want to add but didn't fit into the review up there:
Until 131 pages in,  I thought the fact that Maya was following the 50's popularity guide wasn't a secret and if anyone had asked she would've been happy to tell them, but suddenly her mother says she can't tell anyone about the project because it would end it. I hadn't seen any mention regarding it either way before, and it was a shock to learn it was such a secret, not to be told to anyone. A part of me understood, but the other... it didn't feel right, somehow. It made me think the decision to begin the project had been orchestrated instead of in the off-hand-comment-taken-seriously way that Maya describes.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Oopsatoreum by Shaun Tan, Powerhouse Museum...


Title- The Oopsatoreum.
Author- Shaun Tan, Powerhouse Museum.
Publish date- 2012.
Publisher- Powerhouse Publishing.


(A brief) Synopsis:
Henry A. Mintox was a inventor who went to the greatest lengths to protect his work, work that was incredible and peculiar and never quite managed to see the light.



What I thought:
I got this out from my local library and really had no idea what it was about, only that it was by Shaun Tan, an author I have long admired, and looked mightily interesting. Basically, that was it.
On opening and reading about the (sadly, though perhaps it's all a ploy) fictional Henry A. Mintox, an inventor who so often came close to creating works of genius that we use in our every day lives now but instead found himself confronted by a public who didn't quite understand the use of his inventions.

Giving an insight to the creations, depicting their original imaginings on postcards that ended up nowhere since none were addressed (according to Henry Mintox this was an intentional precaution), and the creator in turn, this is a beautifully creative book and I can only imagine just how extraordinary the exhibition at the Powerhouse itself would have been.

Rating: Big Explosion MIND BLOWN.
With the uniqueness typical of Shaun Tan's work, though touched with a very realistically different side, this is an invention that I'm sure it not too early or complex for it's time.

Friday, June 20, 2014

How They Met, and Other Stories by David Levithan.

Title- How They Met, and Other Stories.
Author- David Levithan.
Publish date- January 29th, 2014.
Publisher- Text Publishing.
RRP: $19.99


Review time...


(A Brief) Synopsis:
Eighteen different stories about love. Some about the true kind. Some about the brief kind. Some about the twisted kind. Some the kind where you skip Prom just because the other wants to. Some the kind seen from afar. Some the kind that didn't last.

Image Credit: Text Publishing.
Thank you to Text Publishing for this review copy!



What I thought:
I don't often read collections of short stories, or novellas, because the idea of being thrust into a different world after a number of pages isn't anywhere near as delightful as the idea of plunging into a fill novel (it's odd- I love to write short stories and yet I feel like this!), but the promise, so alluring and perceptible, of How They Met was too fledged to hold back- thus, I delved into it.

Another thing I know is that I either love or, you know, don't when it comes to a book/story by David Levithan.
Boy Meets Boy- love.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson- abandoned.
The Christmas One*- love.
How They Met-... overall, not so much, though one story in particular, titled What a Song can do- absolute love.

Out of the eighteen stories in How They Met, I abandoned around 2, really enjoyed 4 or 5, loved 1, really disliked maybe 3 and felt little towards the remaining 7. With almost all of the stories I did, however, feel drawn into the story, the characters felt alive, and yet, for the most part? I would best describe the characters as being one-dimensional. Many of them felt the same way about certain things (see: Prom) and a lot of the time it felt like they retained the same personality.
Different name, face, life, same person inside the shell.

I found one of my favourite things to be the fact that it took a while to understand the gender of the main character in more than one story- it felt obscure at the beinning of more than one story, a flexible name for the MC (though I do have a tendency to read names wrong... so that could've been me) and no gender identifying words. I liked that and how it kept me wondering and really made think , and I like that, as the book itself says, this is about all kinds of love, so keep in mind that it's not just about the "true" kind.

Rating: A spiralling spectrum between Poor, Hmm and Ooh, very good, depending on the story. One I would rate Excellent/Mind Blown!
I had a few issues with the characters and their individuality, and not every story was to my liking- the majority were somewhere in-between- but the story I loved, it made up for that quite substantially, and, as with every Levithan book I've finished, the writing was beautiful.

*Otherwise known as Dash and Lily's Book of Dares

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Feature of Pictures (and Books!) No. 5

This month (honestly I'm still trying to figure out how often I'm going to have these features- it's a mixed bag kind of deal) I'm featuring two very interesting books- both had really excellent qualities, but both weren't quite what I hoped they would be. Were they better, were they worse, were they just different? Read on and you, reader, shall find out.

Title: Every Day is Malala Day.
Author: Rosemary McCarney with Plan International.
Publisher: Allen and Unwin.
Publish Date: 1st April, 2014.
RRP: $12.99

While I had anticipated a very different book- one full of letters individually written by girls across the globe, each affected by Malala Yousafzai's story was the impression the synopsis I read had given me, and this is a book, as far as I can tell, written by one woman for these girls- it was still a heartwarming, inspiring book. I felt moved by the strong words, especially by the excerpt from Malala's speech at the United Nations Youth Assembly, which I here read in fuller detail than I previously had.

I did, none the less, have a few issues with the book: some of the pictures felt overly framed, particularly one I now know was part of a campaign by Plan to end child marriage, and it felt, overall, a lot less personal than I had believed it would be.

I wanted to hear, as best I could, from the girls themselves. I wanted this to be a stepping stone for them to speak up, not just someone speaking up on their behalf.


Image Credit: Allen and Unwin.


Image Credit: Bloomsbury.



Title: Little Lou and the Woolly Mammoth.
Author: Paula Bowles.
Publisher: Bloomsbury.
Publish Date: May 2014.
RRP: $14.99 (PB)

The illustrations in this book are gorgeous. One peek inside shows you that amply, and despite the rhyming way of the text, a thing I've never been able to grow entirely fond of in regards to childrens books- indeed, it has always left me disinclined- the story is sweet (though perhaps a few levels down from the illustrations, which are so very lovely. Did I say that?), but it wasn't quite enough all round. The illustrations were, as tends to happen for me, my favourite part of this book, particularly those of the woolly mammoth made of strong, who is a very nice mix of colours.

It's a fun, colourful, charming book, but a part of me couldn't help but wonder: if a giant woolly mammoth has been chasing you (intentions unknown) and through incidence it grows smaller, don't you still have a small mammoth that has possibly evil intentions?


Thank you to Allen and Unwin for the review copy of Every Day is Malala Day!
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia for the review copy of Little Lou and the Woolly Mammoth!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Plotting a Takeover: Character Buys 6.

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...

The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan.
Focusing on Kami Glass. Can you believe it?

Anyone as totally savvy as Kami would have a monogram stamp. That is just Kami.

Besides thinking amazing character-sister and incredibly amazing person, when I think of Kami Glass I think of her amazing clothes. And Tights. I think these would be perfect for Kami! Pirates and narwhals? Absolutely.

This sounds to me like it's come right out of her mouth, and the chiripy thing that she is I can imagine Kami sporting this awesome bag everywhere and brightening not only her own day, but others.

I don't think we've really gone into Kami's room in the books, but that only gives my mind space to wander and imagine all the amazing artwork she must have. This, sly and beautiful and mysterious, is Kami.

Kami, like me, must have a large collection of journals, and these I can imagine her tucking into a bag and taking on her expeditions, jotting anything noteworthy down.

Though I don't recall Kami ever mentioned as wearing boots, I think she would love a pair like this, and look beautiful in them. Just picture it: these, amazing tights, beautiful dress. Kami Glass.




Kami wall art! Nice and bright, colourful, happy but also learning- this would, I think, be something Kami would love.


Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure Kami has refernced herself as being a "Fox". I think I'm wrong. Still, I am sure she would say it, and wear this dress just to prove it.

This lip tint looks incredible, and I believe Kami would adore it, not to mention it's awesome ingredients.

These would be with some sort of christmas attire, I think- a green dress, gold earings... perfect.

These nesting dolls are so beautiful and sweet and overall artsy-wonderful, and I feel like they'd strike a real chord with her.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell...

Title- Eleanor and Park.
Author- Rainbow Rowell.
Publish date- St. Martin's Press.
Publisher- 2013.


Review time...

(A brief) Synopsis:
Eleanor and Park, they meet and they don't like each other. Eleanor is different and though Park is the only one to offer her a seat on the bus, he does so reluctantly. Park is just like all the others. Neither have any plans to continue the relationship.

What I thought:
An Apology/becoming aware of:
I read this book in the early half of the final quarter of 2013. Not all my more subtle rememberances of it may still be accurately remembered, but I will do what I can because this felt like a book I needed to review. And I'd marked it on my goodreads shelf as "to-review" so you ubnderstand, I hope, where I'm coming from.

Eleanor and Park started off... hmm. I wasn't drawn to it, hadn't been drawn to it the first time I tried to read it, but the difference is that I kept reading. I read when I ate my breakfast and when I walked my rabbit. And, peculiarly, I found I was coming to enjoy the story. Well, I realised that I had been for time time. I kept reading.

For a long, long time I did not like Park- the things he did for Eleanor were nice, sometimes, yes, but he cared too much about how he would be perceived and how things would make him look and that annoyed me. A lot. I warmed to Eleanor quicker, liked her more, for the most part, though never did I care for her character completey. Both I was a little unsure of, I suppose, though when I read I really thought more about what they were doing in that instant, which made my affections fluctuate.
The characters overall were well rounded and all that were explored deeply enough weren't simple a forms: Eleanor didn't have to be likable to be important or a character worthy of attention. Park didn't have to do the right thing in the beginning to do it later.
One thing I do like about Eleanor and Park (the characters) now that I don't know if I picked up on as much when I read it was how each was fierce, unrelenting and scared of things in a very honest way. The things they feel are so wildly different you'd hardly put the two together, but they grow to have one similarity.

From the beauty of the words, delicately picked and presented in a way that makes you feel every meaning, to the bitterness of the hardships Eleanor faces at her home school, Eleanor and Park captivated me. Until... the end.

I liked that last section- was a little puzzled, but liked it as I sighed and closed the book. Then I started thinking about it more. And more. Then I went on overdrive, trying to work out why it was phrased like that, what it if meant something else, this and that until I came to the understanding that the words in the final chapter had taken the beauty of the story from me and stomped on them, and now I find it difficult to recover my old feelings.

Rating: Fluctuated between Hmm..., Oh noo and Ooh, very good/Excellent.
I remember, faintly, the things that were special to me about Eleanor and Park, but the ending has become a huge disappointment, one of gradually growing size and complexity, and I don't know if I could read the book again, knowing that was there.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Bleakboy and Hunter Stand Out in the Rain by Steven Herrick...



Title- Bleakboy and Hunter Stand Out in the Rain.
Author- Steven Herrick.
Publish date- May 2014.
Publisher- UQP.
RRP: $14.95


Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
You could look at these people and take them at face value-
Jesse. Good throughout.
Kate. Wildlife warrior.
Hunter. Bully-
but when people seem to be so easy to read, you have to imagine they're not, and then things get really interesting.

Image Credit: UQP.


What I thought:
Bleakboy and Hunter was for me immediately readable- I opened the cover and was quickly a good way in, not really enjoying the story, but following it. There is an amazing amount of subjects, issues, covered in the book, from bullying to divorce to wildlife conservation, and all were incorperated into the story in their own ways, but they tended to feel flat and, more often than not, clichéd when I read them.

Out of  all the characters it would be hard for me to pick out one I liked, because all had an element to them that made them difficult to connect with- Jesse (Bleakboy) was probably as close to "favourite" as I got, because I quite enjoyed the way he saw things and felt about life, the way he tried endlessly to help. It is Jesse, though, who probably disappointed me more than any of the others; in the beginning he explains how he has a poster of God on his wall and, as his parents insist the family is atheist, he calls him Trevor. This was a little unusual, sure, but it's an important thing to Jesse, being able to talk to this picture, and it felt like part of him. Later things change and that it's done in such an abrupt way felt very false to me, like it went against practically every lesson I felt was taught in the book.

That and a few other plot and character related things (like the way it seemed flat, even though they were dimensional, and it felt too predictable) made me feel no real enjoyment as I read, and the only thing I'm really left with an interest in is the Helpful Websites section at the end.

Rating: Poor.
The story just felt a little bland and the characters didn't come off the page and really make me care about them, unfortunately. Also, the ages of Kate, Jesse, Hunter and Beth all felt a little off, particularly Beth, who I read as being closer to 16 than a 14 year old.

Thank you to UPQ for this review copy!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: 1, 2, 3. An Overview.


Author- Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Wirrow.
Publish date-2011, 2012, 2013.
Publisher- It Books.


There is always such incredible, unpredictable and all round wonderous diversity in the Tiny Books of Tiny Stories, a collection of three (and one more, released early on and, I think, rare) books that I have collected over around 2 years; each is unique in it's own way and I love them, both for the promises I feel inside the pages and the inspiration and perplexion I feel as I read, once I've finished. Being full  of work by hundreds of different artists, creators, it's rather difficult to "review" in my traditional sense, so I decided instead to do a kind of overview.

The First Tiny Book-
This was the one I read second, bought second and like on a tied second bases, though perhaps it's a little higher up in the tie. An unequel, equal tie. It holds many stories and art, all strangely individual yet linked, and possibly my favourite piece from all the books, but it also contains a few pieces that don't really do anything much for me. It has my favourite cover, though it vies with that of book number 3.
I like it: A lot, A Whole Lot, more than even that.

The Second Tiny, But Bigger, Book:
This one I have, since the start, thought of as my favourite. It has unshakably lodged itself as such in my mind and I've no power over that sort of thing (galavanting books, you know) so I let it be.
In this one I feel a lot more bought to life than I do by either of the other two, and there are just so many stories that make me whirl and feel hopeful, tragic and like everything is just beginning. It's got a few I don't like so much, probably don't like on a higher level than the first. Also a few I don't like on the surface but end up being too intrigued in to dislike. There also seemed to be a lot more detail in the stories in this one, and I liked the inner cover most out of all three.
This one is really special.
I like it: A lot, A Whole Lot, more than even that.

The Last Tiny, But Also Large, Book:
There were a larger amount of stories that left me... not uneasy or uncomfortable, with a lighter feeling in the same vein, in this edition, and whilst that's certainly unfortunate and makes me like it less, I still do treasure this book- it also had the most amusing, actually heart warming stories, and two or three that were outstanding, just so beautiful and inspiring and full of amazement and wonder and thought.
I like it: A lot, ---->        <------A Whole Lot, more than even that.

There are levels to each of these books and I have no doubts that as I age and grow- physically and mntally, you know- I will enjoy different stories, seek out these books for different things. For now, they're just great. Treasures that I treasure.