Wednesday, July 30, 2014

As Red as Blood by Salla Simukka...

Title- As Red as Blood.
Author- Salla Simukka.
Publish date- August 2014.
Publisher- Hot Key Books.
RRP: $16.95


Review time!

(A Brief) Synopsis:
Lumikki is enjoying the life she leads, one where she gets to live alone in the city and forget the noises of her past. Then she walks into the darkroom of her school and sees the money, the bloody water. That is when she gets pulled into the mystery, and after that? Nothing is going to be the same.

Image via: Hot Key Books.
Thank you to Hot Key Books for this review ARC!

What I thought:
If I hadn't decided I ought to broaden my review choices and request a copy of this frankly wonderful yet perhaps creepy sounding novel, had I not read about it's love in Finland, I would have missed out on reading a book that is vying to be my all time favourite read for 2014 (tied with The Assassin's Blade at the moment).

In the first pages I wasn't quite sure how I felt about it, but as soon as the protagonist Lumikki came onto the scene I loved her and the way the story just *became*.
Lumikki is a stunning, unique and altogether wonderful protagonist, though the story isn't just settled on her, the POV changing fairly often between a girl whom she is roped into helping and those on the darker side of the story. The one thing I didn't agree with Lumikki on, or at least the one that doesn't set off nearly every spoiler light, is that she doesn't like tea. At all.
I did pause when I read that.
She is a true heroine, however, and I just love how she takes control of her own story, unwilling to let others control her or try to take charge. It was spectacular.

There were thrilling twists and turns here aplenty, and the chance of danger for Lumikki aroud every corner, and there is of course the darkness to this tale, the mystery that she lands herself unwittingly in when she sees thousands of euros drying in the school darkroom, the blood that's been clearned off them still in the developing trays, staining the water.
Being someone with frail nerves when it comes to the scary and/or creepy stuff, I should've been concerned about how all this would affect me. How the violence and blood money (ha!) would probably leave me awake for at least one petrified night, and I may have, before I started reading,  I don't remember, but once I started? Pshew. No time for that.
No time at all. We've got a mystery to solve.

Rating: Big Explosion MIND BLOWN-
Lumikki is now firmly placed in my all time favourite character files for her spirit, fierce determination and passion, and I felt for this young woman so much with her heartrending back story, which we slowly learn.
The book is ab all time favourite, also, and I just hope I don't have too long a wait ahead of me for the next one!
I may now be deciding to rewrite my exercise routine and try to learn at least a few of Lumikki's tricks. (She has many.)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Howls Moving Castle Graphic Novels: An Overview.

Title- Howls Moving Castle Graphic Novels (1-4)
Author- Diana Wynne Jones, Hayao Miyzaki.
Publish date- 2005.
Publisher- Studio Ghibli Library.


Overview time...

When I read the Howls Moving Castle graphic novels this time, specifically to review, it was my third read of them and also the first time I'd read all four consecutively and not over a week or two, when the library got them in, and it honestly made for a very different reading experience, going directly from one to the next with little time between- I felt so focused on the story and, while on other occasions I have been more apt to linger and examine everything at a slower pace, I still picked up on so many thins, and that is almost certainly my favourite thing about these graphic novels.

Taken directly from the fi;m in a frame by frame style, these gloriously full colour images give you so much more time to take in everything that you don't notice when watching the fi;m, not to mention they give you a unique reading experience of their own- as I read, I found my favourite pieces from the soundtrack slotting themselves in and playing out alongside their allocated scene, and apparently I've watched the film enough times to notice the slight difference in what could be the original script narrated here and the sections where the actors/other people working on the dub have changed a line- one of my favourite lines from Cal, something to do with burning bacon, wasn't there!

Another thing I truly loved was how you could follow Sophie's ageing, and there were a few moments when she became momentarily younger that I hadn't noticed in the film.

Out of the novels, the third would have to be my favourite, as it includes the iconic "moving" scene and the delight that follows it, but truly these all are exquisite and I would recommend them very, very highly.

Rating-  Big Explosion MIND BLOWN!
No seen the film or read the book?
Not sure who Cal is, why Sophie has ageing issues, what the delights are when it comes to the "iconic moving scene"? Haven't...
Haven't met Howl, possibly my favourite male character in all of fiction and film?
Well, if I'm not too bold, you should. Ought. Really, it's fantastic.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Well Read Women by Samantha Hahn...

Title- Well Read Women: Portraits of Fiction's Most Beloved Heroines.
Author- Samantha Hahn.
Publish date- 2013.
Publisher- Chronicle Books.

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
A collection of portraits and quotes from marvellous women across fiction, some you may have heard of, some you may already love, and some may be new.

What I thought:
This book is perfect for me in so many ways. It is full of exquisite women, beautiful art, both in the illustrations of the women and the quotes attributed to them, quotes I had not anticipated and loved as much as everything else (they were marvellous), especially how they gave an insight and intrigue to each woman.

-It's a compilation of women in literature, women who are forceful, talented, fierce, brave, cynical, weak and so many other things. Just the prospect, when I've already read this book twice, gets me thrilling.

-It works as a unique kind of list for books I want to read, adding many new books to my already sizable tbr, and characters to look out for eagerly.

-It's basically a book of lovely, moving and through-provoking quotes, women who are unique and depicted in so many different ways, styles, attitudes, books I want to now read and art.

I knew from the start that we, this book and I, were destined for each other, and as it would go we worked out very well together. I think that, besides all the ways this book and I click, reading this would be a particularly unique adventure for each, and besides everything I've already covered...

Rating: Big Explosion MIND BLOWN.
... it's really a beautiful book.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Books for when you're... (14)

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 to Know How to Sneak.
Maybe it's all to get that piece of cake left in the fridge without anyone detecting you, but so long as it's not unlawful then these books may just have characters that could help you sneak.

The Book Thief- Markus Zusak.
Death may well be the ultimate sneaker, though the two ladies featured alongside it are jolly good rivals, and in this rich text there are a good many moments where silent watching and listening are depicted most beautifully. This here's an other worldly kind of sneaking.

Throne of Glass- Sarah J. Maas.
Celaena's a match for anyone, I'd say, and while she may not be the nicest teacher, 'specially if you're not naturally talented, the things you can learn from her are many and varied- always with a side of wit, I note. She is fearsome and deadly and silent, even when running, and that is something to admire.

His Dark Materials- Philip Pullman.
Lyra has the sneakiest type of sneak of the three; hers is a devious kind, going places no one else would have you go and very nearly getting in a lot of trouble for it. Yes she's reckless sometimes, but she has fun and she accomplishes her goals more often than not, and she is one to rely on.

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

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James...

Title- Death Comes to Pemberley. (Audio-book review)
Author- P. D. James.
Publish date- 2011.
Publisher- Alfred A. Knopf.

Review time...

(A brief) Synopsis:
The pace of life, well known from Pride and Prejudice, has slowed down after six years, and yet when Lydia Bennet turns up at Pemberley where her sister, Elizabeth, lives, screaming about how someone is dead, the pace seems to coming back up again.

What I thought:
Death Comes to Pemberley was a book I heard of a while after The Lizzie Bennet Diaries had finished. It was another adaptation, though more an elongation in this case, and I was very eager to explore the thrilling possibilities it offered- I mean to say, a death at Pemberley! How exciting! As long as it wasn't Darcy who died I was all for it.
It wasn't just the post LBD euphoric sadness that drew me to this, either, because I was truly exciyed by the prospect of Death Comes to Pemberley in it's own right.

Unfortunately, after the very promising author's note, my hopes were all let down. The plot dragged. The characters were tiresome, and after the initial excitement bought about by the death it became a dogged repeating of facts I had already heard at least twice from Darcy, Fitzwiliam and a doctor/judge whose name I forget. So many times did they repeat the same things I could hardly forget a single detail of the night in question (though it became so that I'd have hardly noticed if one started putting forth false-truths), which may have been find had not these assertations been affirmed and reaffirmed in almost identical words.

The characters, too, were a let down- Darcy and Elizabeth seemed to faintly shimmer, having lost so much of their former glory, and the relationship I had so happily anticipated the exploration of- Darcy and Lizzie living together as a married couple!- was something of which there were only momentary glances, and those just became less interesting as my weariness with the book rose.

The resolution, by the time it came around 8 discs later, was a little too late.

Rating: Oh Nooo/This is the worst possible time for an explosion.
A disappointment of large preportions. I was made hopeful by the trailer for the tv adaption, but don't feel as if the hours spent listening to this were worthwhile and am skeptical about re-entering the story. One reliable thing was just how annoying Lydia was. Some things never change.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Feature of Pictures (and Books!) No. 6

Title: The Composer is Dead.
Author:  Lemony Snicket.
Publisher: Harper Collins.
Publish Date: 2009.

What I thought:
This is such a gloriously fantastic, hilarious and very slightly dark picture book, though to call it a picture book feels somehow... wrong. Peculiar.

I both read and listened to this as it comes with a CD reading, and both were such different experiences. The problem with the audio is that you haven't got the visual beauty of the book, with illustrations (by Carson Ellis) that are delicate and perfectly toned for the book, the story. I felt like the music-interjection between the speech of the inspector occasionally went on a few seconds too long, but the score written for this story is beautiful and it was nice hearing the music composed by this orchestra under suspicion.

This was excellent, if not mind blowingly grand.
Lemony Snicket himself reads the audio, and his accents, especially for the woodwinds, are marvellous.
It was equally hilarious and thought provoking, and I truly enjoyed the experience of the story.

Title: Crikey and Cat.
Author: Chris McKimmie.
Publisher: Allen and Unwin Children.
Publish Date: 25th June, 2014.
RRP: $29.99

I personally didn't like Crikey and Cat, but I feel very strongly that children, particularly 2-5 year olds, will love it.
I always look for picture books that are versatile for all ages, ones that I can still be filled with wonder at, and it's those books that I love the most- they leave me feeling inspired and truly full of wonder, and I just don't like picture books as much if they don't make me feel like that.
Yet, even though I found the storytelling in this somewhat disjointed and it didn't leave me with great memories, I can imagine easily that younger children will garner a huge amount of enjoyment out of it. It's almost one of those stories that you take the beginning of and can tell it to yourself by alytering the story to your imagination, and I think that's really special.

Image Credit: Allen and Unwin.

Thank you to Allen and Unwin for the review copy of Crikey and Cat.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Wrinkle in Time- The Graphic Novel by Madeleine L'Engle and Hope Larson...

Title- A Wrinkle in Time- The Graphic Novel.
Author- Madeleine L'Engle and Hope Larson.
Publish date- 2012.
Publisher- Margaret Furgurson Books.


Review time...

(A brief) synopsis:
A missing father. A storm. A supposedly haunted house. A chance meeting. Sandwiches in the middle of the night. Intuition. Quotations. Fear. Hope. Adventure- glorious, glorious adventure. Characters who speak, truly speak. It's all here.

What I thought:
I wasn't really sure what to expect from this graphic novel- I haven't read the book before in it's original format and this is a fairly big graphic novel, or it seemed so when I picked it up.
I was totally blown away, and I believe I will be thinking about this book for a very long time- at least until I buy my own copy (as of typing this I have ordered it and am waiting for it eagerly), and then I'll re-read it and will just keep thinking.

For some unknown reason I thought this was supposed to be set in the Medieval times, so the fact that it traverses to different, futuristic worlds was a big surprise, but I so enjoyed following the journey of Meg, Calvin and Charles Wallace. Meg was a really standout character for me, despite her faults.
She had lots of difficulties, didn't think she was really important or worthy, and she is so loyal to her family that things make her so angry, but I loved her. She blossomed and I loved, adored, felt so proud when she saw people outside of her family care for her, saw her learn that she still has so many incredible worths and abilities. I felt like she and I were very similar, so it made me connect to and understand her really easily.

I felt like her relationship with Calvin was unnecessary in how it was depicted, though it was beautiful, too- I felt like it would've been better as a suggestion, left to grow in our imaginations.

I really liked meeting the three glorious woman who help the children on their quest to find Meg and Charles Wallace's father- Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit. They had such interesting personalities and felt fully grown as soon as I encountered all of them, truly like they had lived years and years before the book- they were such brilliant ladies.

The illustrations were really enjoyable and conveyed a real sense of personality into the story and characters.

Rating: Big Explosion MIND BLOWN!
Stunning, incredibly readable and touching, this was a favourite read and, though it is not without darkness, the hope and love is immense. I have, also, found a character who is so like me it's quite peculiar. She's like my counter part, Meg.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente...

Title- The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There
Author- Catherynne M. Valente.
Publish date- 2012.
Publisher- Much in Little.

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
In Which We Return To Fairyland.

What I thought:
In what I have decided will henceforth be a tradition, instead of reviewing the Fairyland books/balls of wordy gloriousness in my usual manner, I list things in an even-odd way, starting with an odd number of things I didn't like so much.

When I wasn't actively reading, I wasn't getting as much out of the story ad I knew it offered. I was busy for the first four or so days of reading, so I got through around 50 pages here and there, and for these books that just doesn't work. You have to give yourself a straight hour and dive in.

An Even number of things I did like:

Visiting September, my good friend, again and finding her just as wonderful, yet with new ways of thinking and a brand new heard, as I found her in the first book.

There is no lack of wonderful characters to pick you up and carry you to Fairyland, where they'll dance beside you and tell you incredible stories of times long since past and lives long since gone. There is an array of the truly, delightfully magic in the characters in this series, and it's quite unlike anything I've ever known.

The chapter openings and illustrations are odd and peculiar and absolutely marvellous, because they make you wonder and try to figure things out, and it's all very exciting.

I am having a reading experience unlike any I've ever had with these books- my heart is pulled into the words and when I am done I feel like I could do any number of things, and I feel enlivened. It's a beautiful, wonderful, life-reconfiguring sort of thing.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Fearsome Dreamer by Laure Eve...

Title- Fearsome Dreamer.
Author- Laure Eve.
Publish date- August 2010.
Publisher- Hot Key Books.
RRP: $16.95 (AUD)

Review time...

(A brief) synopsis:
A world where you log on and come to life. A world where you live amd experience life by seeing it. Both in the same land, both with darkness and light, and both holding people who may just have the power to change both worlds.

Image Credit: Hot Key Books.
Thank you to Hot Key Books for this review copy!

What I thought:
I heard about Fearsome Dreamer sometime mid-last year, and it sounded peculiar and magical and very thought-provoking, but looking back I think of it as one of those books you want to read quite a lot yet never quite manahe to. I'm a little surprised it ended up not being so!

My reading experience, for all that mystic promise and drawn out anticipation, was a little uncomfortable- often times the book didn't sit right with me, and it was actually a lot older YA than I expected, with subtle and unexpected sexual themes dotted throughout.

It took me some time to settle into the direction the plot was heading, and with a 1-2 year time jump in the later half of the first third I had trouble figuring out the ages of White and Rue, our two MC's. And interestingly, though a little unsatisfying, main characters they were, too: both were distinct and very much their own person, and I do like the fact they were so clearly distinguished, but there weren't any factors with either that held me fast, anything I could connect with or, in this case, grow to love. Both were faulted and Rue I found a bit irritating, rushing into things and working so hard, it seemed, to make an impact, and while White was interesting, he didn't seem to get explored, not past a level. (Also, for the first few chapters I had trouble following the narration, since it split between three people in very different places.)

My favourite parts were the world, built so believably it felt read and while I didn't picture Life as easily as Angle Tar, both posed the interesting debate (with myself and characters alike) of where would you rather be. A world where you worked to survice, lived on the land and experienced a rural kind of life, though a life where you worked, or a world where you logged on and could go anywhere, be anyone, without leaving your home. I found the characters debates on this interesting, especially as they differed from mine most of the time.
The other thing I loved was the cover, which I have coveted for months and find to be just as beautiful in person (though quite how it relates to the book I'm still trying to figure out).

Rating: Hmmm...
With an intriguing world and a new favourite cover, slightly detachd characters and a troublingly irksome romance, I'm mixed on this. But, after a few days of thought, I've realised I liked it more than I thought, and I hope to read the sequel soon.