Thursday, May 28, 2015

Lullaby by Bernard Beckett...

Title- Lullaby.
Author- Bernard Beckett.
Publish date- May 27th, 2015.
Publisher- Text Publishing.
RRP- $19.99 (AUD)

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
Rene’s twin brother is dying in hospital, and Rene must make the decision whether he takes the chance to bring him back, even if that means he might be bringing back a completely different person.

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

What I thought:
I read and was fairly conflicted with Bernard Beckett’s Genesis, and to describe the way I felt during and after reading Lullaby would be to remember the oddness, peculiarity, confusion and conflict of emotions that came with Genesis.
Lullaby is strange.
And I’m thinking this is how Bernard Beckett’s writing is going to keep getting me. His plots are interesting, with so much hidden, lying in wait in the synopsis’, but so far they haven’t left me positive. They’ve left me unseated and perplexed, and Lullaby features an unreliable narrator, of which I am stridently not fond.

The story is of two twins. One is in the hospital and with only hours to live, though he’s not lucid. The other is telling a psychologist stories of them both, a history of the two brothers, while constantly challenging and second guessing most everything. All he says is noted and taken down to decide whether he is in enough of a right mind to go through with an operation that will- could- bring his brother back, only not as he knew him, not as he was.
And it was bizarre.

It’s set in a future that is at once very familiar, but altered in it’s medical advances and the names given to drugs- what really made it feel different was Rene’s perspective, the way he viewed and described all that was around him. I can’t say Rene’s was a view I was all that happy to be in. I… disliked him. He and his brother had a very close but, as it progressed, unhealthy relationship. They went against each other, clashed for dominance, and both of them came across as being fairly awful people. Rene is supposed to be the nicer one, Theo the opposite, in the eyes of the people surrounding them, but Rene didn’t seem like a “good” person. His identity felt fragile yet bitter, his motives were born of misguided intent, and I didn’t understand him.

The novel ends on a somewhat predictable note in it’s openness, with so much unexplained and so much starkly told in the last chapters- I had grown to expect and ending like that, but I didn’t particularly enjoy it. It encompassed the things that frustrated me with Lullaby, and it frustrated me all the more intently.

Rating: Oh nooo... I sense an explosion coming and this is the worst possible time for an explosion.
This was a disappointment for me. I like my endings to be at least a little secure, and this was, frankly, the opposite of a secure ending. Faintly thriller-esq, this was a novel I can imagine some readers truly being taken away by, but not me.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Fiction to Film (1)

So. Ha. You guessed it! A new feature!
I love manga. I love books. I have a passion for the animated films of Studio Ghibli. So each month or two I will watch one of the films (see below for a comprehensive-ish list) and read the source material, and then review the both of them. Ooh. Aah. It’ll be fun and glorious.

The Cat Returns is, if not quite my favourite of the Ghibli films (hello, Howl) is perhaps my most watched, and I adore all the actors for the english language version. It’s also got a lot of cats, and my niece loves it.
And I learned it’d been inspired by a manga, so I was excited and mighty intrigued.

It was so interesting to read and watch the visualisation of the story, the changes in plot, depth and animation- vs -illustration. Interestingly, the film actually has more to it than this, with practically the entire plot of the manga, plus more, plus added depth, so overall I think I like the film a touch more, but the feel of this was… so unique and interesting. I really enjoyed seeing how the fi;m transcribed Haru’s characteristics and personality, the level of involvement of the dashing Baron, Muta and Toto, how it all ended. It was well worth hunting down for it’s own enjoyment aspect, but doubly so for how it gave an extra insight to the film.

The relationship between Yuki and Haru was pretty different to what it was in the film (spoilers, highlight with caution!)- Yuki was Haru’s pet who died-but it was very sweet and more emotionally real than the little snippet that was carried across to the film. I would definitely have liked it even more if it had been retained. It would have added so much to the story.

The film, though, takes what the story starts and shoots it off to a whole new level. In the least (or most, you choose) corny way possible, it gives literal voice to the story. It just takes everything that bit further, makes it more memorable- more of an impression is made, in general.

Something I particularly like is how the animation style is carried across. I never felt completely settled with the animation of the film, mostly how the people were presented, but I have a lot less issue with it after reading the manga. They’re pretty closely aligned (the manga is a little less polished and more comic in it’s style) and I love how that was carried across, can appreciate it truly, now.

Also. It had a great soundtrack.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews.

Title- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.
Author- Jesse Andrews.
Publish date- 2012.
Publisher- Allen and Unwin.

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
I don’t know if I can actually describe this. Just go with the title.

What I thought:
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was a little bit of a whim read. I remember it’s publication, though not how it was received, and it passed me, leaving no mark, except a brief appreciation for (you guessed it) the cover.

And then a couple of weeks ago I saw the film trailer. And it looked pretty darn good. So I instantly ordered the book from the library. And read it in two days.
And the surprising thing? I have… relatively little to say about it. The whole experience. It was, fairly well, what it promises to be via the introduction by the protagonist, Greg. I mean, I didn’t think it was rubbish. But it didn’t really prove anything to me, tell me anything I didn’t know, nor was it filled with gorgeously life affirming quotes.
I read it and that’s… it.

The story is basically that of Greg, who once was accidental friends with Rachel, who gets cancer a few years after that; his mother makes him go and see her, to try and lift her spirits, and from there the story goes on. Greg wasn’t all that likable a character, he was selfish and couldn’t see how others were injured by his attitude, and I feel really angry that he kept on going to see Rachel when all he did before, after and during was go on and on about how he didn’t like her- it made him feel so fake. Rachel obviously liked his visits, but it was so disgenuine and the whole of his character felt really lifeless. He didn’t care a great deal about things. His high school goal was to be unattached so no one would dislike him, and I just… didn’t get him, I suppose. I don’t think I really got him, his understanding of himself, at all, while at the same time I felt like I understood how he felt when he discounted it. Like it didn’t even hit him how much he did care, and he kept saying he didn’t, and it felt, eventually, like such a cover.
It was kind of a weird read for me. I think I could describe Greg as being selfish but unaware of himself. Earl was… far too violent and graphic for me, but in the end, though I disliked both, he was the character who at least knew what was going on, what things meant.

And an especially interesting thing was that, in this story, it felt like Rachel was a really small part, which I didn’t expect. It was Greg, school, films, Earl, Rachel; her role and her consequent title of “dying girl” felt so… odd. I mean, is the whole thing that we basically discount her, because she’s unimportant, not as important, or we don’t understand her importance?

Rating: This is the worst possible time for an explosion.
Really, I am a jumble of odd thoughts when it comes to this novel. I didn’t like it, really at all, but I felt like I understood bits of it more than Greg did, and he’s supposed to have lived and written the whole thing.
I’m hoping the movie’ll live up to my anticipation though, still.

Monday, May 18, 2015

From me to you and back again -2-

-This is where I talk about something. Something that comes to mind and sticks there and I want to describe so that it sticks in other peoples minds and makes them think, because that is what this is about. I want to be thinking. I want to be lit up and even alight. And I want you to leave this post with the memory of the thoughts it made you have.-

In a recent post, I said the following:
"The words that were subtle and the words that were hard to read and the words that left you wondering and all of it. They all left me hopeful. And what more could a picture book- any book- do?"

For me, hope stands above so much else. Hope in myself and others and life and fiction and everything I wish and believe to be true. I dive into fiction, into the papery worlds we so love, because I can find hope without having to conjour it up myself. I can see the things I need and the struggles to achieve them and I can feel like I, too, could triumph over those struggles. Hope and passion are very beautiful things, and I feel them when I read a book that truly hits me. Not touches. When I love a book, I love it with a fierceness and it rams itself into me with all the force it can muster. A mere touch, though delicate and beautiful, is nothing compared to the force of some of the books out there. It's still important, certainly, but it's not the same. Not for me. And to have a pile of words and paper and ink and imagination do that to me, to make my chest pound and excite me and scare me, to thrill and buoy and devastate... to bring me hope. To allow me to open it's pages and find the strength and emotions I need. Well. What more could a book do, indeed?

What could it do for you?

I want to thank, hug and offer apple pie to everyone who read, thought about and commented on the first post in this feature. Every single one of you is brilliant, and your thoughts were so amazing to read and think about. xxx

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli.

Title- Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda.
Author- Becky Albertalli.
Publish date- March, 2015.
Publisher- Penguin.
RRP- $16.99 (AUD)

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
A cute book with adorable emails, oreos, theater, blackmail and fun times. Sibling relationships! Parent relationships! Romantic relationships! Friendships! It’s all here.

Thank you to Penguin Australia for this review copy!
Image source: Penguin.

What I thought:
I went into Simon vs. with utter confidence and intently high hopes, thanks to the very lovely Chiara, Nara and Cayce and the glorious (and gorgeous) reviews they wrote. I was twelve levels beyond sold. If I had a checklist it’d have everything ticked except for the fact it isn’t fantasy.
LGBT+? Done.
Heartfelt? Uh-huh.
Beautiful? Why yes.
Adorable? You needn’t ask.
Quotable? Didn’t you guess?

And, I mean, there are high stakes, too! And did it meet all these checks in my opinion? Apart, in most, from beautiful, uh… yes.
Simon is a… real character. Absolutely. He felt genuine for his life and age ad I never qualmed at his speech or thoughts. He was imperfectly wonderful. And I felt so anxious for him. It’s a long standing tradition that this is a novel best gone into with as little prior knowledge of plot as possible, and I’ll continue the tradition because I loved not knowing. I loved discovering the awkwardness, difficulty, adorable emails and pain, the longing that filled Simon’s life.

Blue and Simon were about as adorable as expected, more so about… halfway through the novel. They ooze, in a good way, and I got really into their letters. That whole aspect of the novel was thought provoking, thoughtful and kind of intense.

I don’t think I quite liked Simon as much as I’d hoped. Definitely not as much as the others I’ve read reviews from. I’m thinking Contemporary isn’t really my thing. But I’m so glad I followed the advice of my fellow reviewers, am so glad that this novel is out there, with it’s passion and humorously named dog and sweet sibling dynamic, which I absolutely would have liked more of, most of all it’s truths. While making no big statements or trying to change the expectations of society, Simon quietly thinks and considers questions I, too, question and consider, particularly notable is the reasoning behind coming out and why it’s not universally necessary, no matter your sexual preference. It’s the whole “straight until otherwise proven” debate, and I do love to see it questioned.

Rating: Ooh, very good.

I could definitely recommend this book, though not necessarily because it was unbeatable or the best thing I’d ever read. Because it was subtle and sweet and held so many truths. Now, checklists out!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Books for when you're... (20)

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 to suit a certain mood.

Wanting to learn a new activity.
Activities are fun to learn, but sometimes you need an extra push, like a character you love or admire or dislike intensely doing it, to really decide to do it yourself. So that’s what I’m doing here. Showing you some activities you could learn from books!

Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori.
So I’m not sure I actually am completely clear on what a Host is (I think it’s like a male escort but with only the occasional almost kiss and nothing further), but you can learn it from the Ouran High School manga series, if you so cared! Maybe this wasn’t the best choice, since I’ve read- devoured, actually- all 17 volumes of the series and I clearly am not clear on what a host is, but there’s more to this series than just that. You get hilarious amounts of humor and incredulity and perfection, you get to learn about cosplay! That’s right! You could learn to be a host and you can also learn about cosplaying, all in this one series, and with all the beauty and hilarity you’ll get besides, I think that’s well worth it.

Muddle Earth by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell.
You can learn how NOT to be a wizard from the fantastical Randalf, the strange wizard who lives in a houseboat on a floating lake. And if you think that’s a lot to take in, just wait till you get to the book. This is a series that is bizarre and full of ludicridity (totally a word) and really rather heartwarming. It has exploding gas frogs! And pink stinky hogs! And a little budgie who wears combat boots (so that’s where my love for those came from! Now I realise!), and a wizard who is about the worst wizard you’ve ever seen. But… well. He’s a coward and skimpy and rather rude, but he’s a good friend.

Poison by Bridgit Zinn.
You can learn how to be not only a poisoner in Poison (didn’t you guess from the title, though? It is kind of a giveaway) but also how to be on the run, which is rather exciting. All the ins and outs of sneaking into places, the purposes for different magical poisons and the skill needed to be one of the most respected poisoners in the magical kingdom in which you live. But again, there is also rather a beautiful friendship in here, and that’s totally worth it, too.

*Please note I don’t want to actually inspire you to become a poisoner. No. Don’t do that. Just write a novel about it, or create some divine dart that cures illness or fills one with enough nutrition for a whole hour. That’d be okay, I think.*

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

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones.

Title- Charmed Life (Chrestomanci #1)
Author- Diana Wynn Jones.
Publish date- 2000.
Publisher- Harper Collins Children's Books.

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
More Diana Wynn Jones! And a character who’s a little like Howl! End synopsis.

What I thought:
I have a long standing affinity with Diana Wynn Jones’ Howls Moving Castle. About as long standing as this thing I have going where you can’t really tell when I’ll start talking about the book I’m actually reviewing. Diana Wynn Jones is one of those authors I love so dearly I want to read all of their work, and this was the person who created Howl (and Cal and Sophie, yes, but I have a priority here), and I was sold.

And was this anything like the aforementioned novel? It was Jones, for sure, but her work, while having a similar thread throughout, or a distinctiveness that leads you to saying “Jones, that’s Jones,” when you read a variety of her work, does not write the same characters, and she does not write the same worlds. (The exception being Chrestomanci, who is actually rather like Howl in his flamboyance, though I assure you that this is a Good Thing, and the two are more like cousins who share style than brothers or uncles.)

Something that I love about this series is how we don’t have to like the characters to be involved with their story. Christopher “Cat” Chant is the protagonist of this story and he is a very weak character; I couldn’t condone or believe how he let Gwendoline do all the awful tricks she set upon, how he didn’t speak up about trouble and had an invisible backbone, but I still cared about his story, and it unfolded not only in surprising and often masterful ways, but with clear brilliance. I did not foresee the twists nor the turns, and that is Wynn Jones for me. Brilliant stories that always take me by surprise.

And because it’s important, I’ll take a moment to go over the worlds she creates- they are fascinating. I love the way, both here and in HMC, she combines our world and others, so believable and enchanting it’s as if you’re in a particularly surreal dream. And her magic. Oh. Oh.

Rating: A lowened (totally a word I SAY SO) version of Ooh, very good. It just wasn't quite there.
This was an enjoyable, magical, mystery of a book, and I enjoyed it throughly. I’ll forever rate all Diana Wynn Jones’ books against that which I love the most, and this doesn’t come very close to that mark, but… it was clever and enjoyable and is the start f an exciting series to come. I can feel it.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Angus, Thongs by Louise Rennison- a series review. OOH AAH.

Over the summer, I read the entire Angus Thongs series (Georgia Nicholson diaries, rather)- this is quite the task, you know, because there are eight books and before the second had ended (which is as far, I believe,  as I’d read once before, when I was 12 or 13) I knew I disliked Georgia a lot. A lot a lot. And I mean, the books are from her point of view, so it’s not like we get a reprieve once. They’re her diaries, after all. It’s Georgia, Georgia, Georgia. And some more on the side. Like a dish full. Or a bath. Lets be safe and settle on a swimming pool.
But I did it. For some reason. I wanted to find out what happened from the book and not internet research? Oh, and I could get through little else, as my brain was too sore (see: accident to blame again, huh? Yup.) and it kept me from feeling like all my time was drifting by as I did nothing. I got through one if not more a day, and that was a very necessary achievement.

Oh, and that dislike for Georgia I mentioned? It grew. And only kept growing, so by the end I was satisfied but loathed her. Georgia is selfish without- no, refusing- to acknowledge it, she is an unkind, manipulative person and she is cruel, uncaring for the feelings of others and a pretty rubbish friend. She expects everyone to be there for her without ever being there, genuinely there, in return, and her behaviour had me in anguish and horror- I couldn’t understand how anyone could possibly stand someone so nasty, and yet she had… many men trailing her. The most popular boys, the ones the other girls all mooned after- and they all saw her and said “Yes, here is someone who is genuine and nice.” It feels, in retrospect, like a daydream of a diary, not real fiction. And another thing about the gaggle of boys she fell for (okay there were three but STILL) and who never seemed able to give up on her fully? All except one were worryingly older than Georgia. One was at least 17-18+ when she was 14. One would’ve been 19 minimum when she was 15-16, though I’d guess more like 21+, and no one ever said “Georgia, this isn’t safe/wise/creepy in any way, is it?” She thought it was great. Her friends thought it was great. Her mum loved it. Her dad wasn’t overly involved but I don’t recall any warnings there, either. She was sneaking out. She was going out in the early hours of the morning. She was not only underage, but immature and easily led, and it infuriates me that not once in any form was it seem as potentially harmful for her to have these relationships. No. It was seem as admirable.

Aside from my annoyances and frustrations with the plot + characters, the thing that kept me reading? The humor. It doesn’t, in any way, negate all the other things, but it had me laughing, snorting and cheerful, with the bizarre, ludicrous, hilarious situations that Georgia and Co. got up to/fell into.

The stars were, of course, Angus, Libby and, later on, Gordy, who were humorously odd and strangely endearing, even if I’d pelt away with all my power if I met any of them in real life.
Also, have to mention my utter loathing for Dave the laugh, who I dubbed Dave the idiot and some other less kind names. He cheats. Georgia cheats. They all cheat! And it’s lovely.
He and Georgia, really, are as horrible as each other.

Rating: This is the worst possible time for an explosion.
In most of my entries for each book, after I’d finished them, my feelings were generally sumarised by “Georgiaaaaaaa” or “Georgia noooooooo”.