Monday, August 31, 2015

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead.

Publish date- August 5th.
Publisher- Text Publishing.
RRP- $16.99 (AUD)

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
Interweaving stories that, among many other things, have a sure focus on what it is like to grow up. To be living at the stage that isn't childhood, but certainly isn't young adult-hood. It's that time where you're not really sure, and this presents it beautifully.

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

What I thought:
Goodbye Stranger is the kind of book you might call a revelation. It is surprising, generous, thoughtful, honest and it paints a picture of the time after childhood and before youth more honestly than I have ever seen depicted.

I was keen to read it, but also nervous: one element of the plot deals with a young girl sending pictures of herself to a guy and as it progressed I grew increasingly uncomfortable, but in the end I give it applause for it was done genuinely, with consequences and friendship and cause and effect, and so well. It also wasn’t as big a plot point as I expected it to be- we’re also focusing on Bridge’s growing friendship with Sherm and her progress of self learning and confidence, expression, Sherm’s letter POVs and the POV of an unidentified character living through their mistakes and running from the world for a day. It was so cleverly done, that last POV, with these aspects of the other characters being familiar to this person, their lives being detailed and understood. The story was also filled with references from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which was adorable and made the relationship Bridge and her brother had so physical and real, and utterly sweet. These two I just loved so much.

It does touch on a lot of subjects- divorce, peer pressure, bullying, self-esteem, growing up, almost dying- things that are tough and not really pleasant, but Rebecca Stead does a master’s job. She makes us love and regret and consider our options and realise the options we always have, and she does it by presenting a book that is true to itself and it’s characters.

I appreciated that so very much.

Rating: Excellent.
Basically? My first sentence. Let's go with that.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

From me to you and back again -5-

-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.-

Something that is really important to me is my writing. I adore books, I adore creating my own worlds that one day might be printed on pages for others to read. I love meeting characters who are distinct and take on real life in my mind. I have a post coming up, inspired by Cait's, about my editing process, which is an intrinsic part of that process and one that develops my worlds, passion and abilities all the more.
But, as is the way, some of my stories aren't ones I feel the desire to have printed, published, shared with the world in book form. I'm still passionate about them, but they aren't my focus as some of my others are. Yet I still want to share them- I still care about them and that doesn't change, even if I know where I want them to end.

In a roundabout way this leads me to pen names. I'll explain before headaches come on.

I have this novel, maybe two. I really, really like it/them, but... the first sentence applies very strongly to it. So, once I've finished editing my current WIP and sent it off to readers, I'm going to start editing one of them. And I'm going to put it on Wattpad.
I want to share it.
Only, recently I've decided that I'm not going to use my given name as the name I'm published by, and that applies to both physical copy publishing and internet publishing. That name, however, is on the internet, linked with this blog. I haven't spoken to anyone of what my actual pen name is going to be, although I know, and my qualm is this:

How do I share this Wattpad experience on my blog, a blog started, written and dedicated to sharing my love for words, others and my own, when I want to have a pen name that is separate from the one I was born with. There are quite a few reasons as to why a pen name is my solid choice, but suffice to say I'm unsure how far to take it- do I never link my blog again with my writing experience? Do I desperately try to hide my real name from readers of pen-named works? Or do I announce that I work under a pen name. Do I let readers of both works join and become one like it's some fantastical musical number?

That's my question today. Or... those are my questions. What are your thoughts?


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Green Valentine by Lili Wilkinson.

Publish date- 29th July, 2015.
Publisher- Allen and Unwin.
RRP- $16.99 (AUD)

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
Astrid has a goal. She is passionate about the environment, conservation and bringing to the attention of others the need for addressing the issues of consumerism. And when she meets Hiro she thinks she might just have found someone who can not only be her sidekick in saving the planet, but maybe something more.
Thank you to Allen and Unwin for this review copy!
Image source: Allen and Unwin.

What I thought:
It seems, unfortunately, that as many books as I’ve reread and fallen in love with, 2015 is also a year for protagonist frustrations and DNFing.

Green Valentine has, I really think, a potentially fantastic premise. She’s dressed as a lobster, they give each other superhero names and fight crime (I don’t know where that came from but I swear I thought that element was going to come in) and become surprising (and, no doubt romantic) friends! Who can pass up a lobster suit, even if they remind one of amusing and potentially creepy sequences from The Amanda Show!

But- despite the fascinating cover and all my hopes- Green Valentine was a frustrating flop, all starting with our protagonist, narrator and environmentalist warrior: Astrid.
She wants to save the world, change peoples focus, conserve resources, and she puts herself on a plinth for her efforts. She is ridiculously, and a bit sickeningly, hypocritical and judgmental, she doesn’t bother getting to know people or giving them a chance because she can take one look and see every aspect of their probably worthless being. She goes on and on about how everyone else is so stupid, how no one cares and she is the single comprehending being, and so many environmental facts (at least one of which I can remember mentally contesting for it’s truth) are spouted that the only point made to me was that she would get very little done at all if she wouldn’t give anyone a chance and spent all her time fastidiously judging them.

I can be passionate about environmentalism and conservation without needing to be inundated with whinging.

There was also what felt very much like token gay best friend and a comment about looking cute in an “Asian” way. So those bothered me. A lot.

DNFed at 83 pages.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley.

Publish date- 2015.
Publisher- Harper.

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
Aza is dying. She’s been dying all her life. Only something, something in the sky only she can see and hear and, it seems, believe in, is calling her. Calling her up and away and home.

What I thought:
Magonia, aka the book of 2015 that everything I read told me was the book for me. Destiny and all that. It promised to be magical and bizarre, beautiful and a retelling, different from anything I’d ever read and complete with Magical. Birds.

I mean come on I am there. I was there when I saw the cover, tbh.

And I did love it. I reveled in the bizarre, the unique way Aza thought and spoke and lived, the originality and the fact some of it I didn’t get. It didn’t really matter, if some parts were a bit off, because on the whole I was so completely there. Not as there, invested with every inch of my being as I had imagined, but I was captivated none the less, and that is what I needed. Captivation. By originality, pure and fresh, gorgeous imagery and a POV that switched between two characters and didn’t leave me disgruntled- it left me equally excited and moved.

Aza was perhaps not a character I could relate to, early on, because her actions weren’t the ones I would have made, but I so enjoyed being with her and Jason and having my heart moved by their loss and love and the painful reality of their situation.

There were certain aspects, like Aza’s choices in some circumstances, that I just didn’t find myself rooting for- the character of Dai, who I had bad feelings about and felt far off (or over) board when it came to hints at the romance of; Aza’s insistance that she needed to be on earth once she was in Magonia, although it was all she had dreamed about (this was done so well it didn’t bother me much, but for a while she didn’t even take in her surrounds for want of going home and that frustrated me); the Breath.

It was very thoughtful and enjoyable, though. I look forward to any possibility of a sequel and a reread wherein I will discover and appreciate this gorgeous story on different levels.

Rating: Ooh, very good/Excellent.
It wasn't Romi's book of 2015 (but wait, the review for that is coming up!), but it was still all I had anticipated: original, fascinating, expressive, beautiful. It just didn't hit me quite so hard as I needed it to.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saénz.

Publish date- 2012.
Publisher- Simon and Schuster.

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
A literary portrait of the growth in friendship, relationship and love between two boys; the lengths they will go for each other, the small joys and tragedies that make up their lives, the ways they come together each time they are together.

What I thought:
I was prepared for Aristotle and Dante. I can cover on one hand the amount of negative reviews I've read of it, and that's only by raising a single finger. I can count on at least three, all fingerslifted, how many positive.
I anticipated the romance, the gorgeous, the intricate, the stunning and outstanding.
And I got it.

It touched on some quite dark themes and I didn't expect that; I didn't anticipate the fact the romance would only physically blossom less than a hundred pages before the end (even if we anticipate it from the beginning and Ari is uncomprehendingly comprehending it much earlier) and I have to say that that did put me off a little, having to wait for the will they won't they and beginning to actually wonder which it might be, despite all I had heard. But at the same moment, it was important to the story that these two the characters have to go about things slowly. This is a book of discovery and self acceptance and fear and home, and the romance between two boys that I imagined would be the sole focus was not. The focus is on friendship and family and understanding your life and others.

So I went into Ari and Dante with a lot of expectations. It meant I don't know whether I feel like I ever stopped expecting things to be a certain way- see the family support element: whilst reading I didn't really think it was amazing, it was just two families who were there for and cared about their children. Afterwards I appreciated it more. I wish that kind of presence and support that felt so natural wasn't so uncommon in YA. That it wasn't necessarily amazing because it was rare.

I don't know how much I personally liked Ar or Dante (I've an immediate preference for D but I think I like A more), but that isn't much of an issue here. They do things that are stupid in my eyes, or reckless, just as they did things that were good and true. It makes them quite genuine and I so enjoyed the process and revelation of Ari's thoughts, as we read the novel through his eyes. His fears and the way he considered and tried to grapple them was so gorgeously done, but so was around 80-93% of the novel. It is utterly gorgeous, quotable, reread worthy and stunning. And so very real.

Also set in the late 80s, which I didn't expect.

Rating: Excellent.
Gorgeous and not to be anticipated. If you're about to go into it, kick away your expectations, do. Just let it wash over you like a dream.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Mini reviews (13)


Thanks to Simon and Schuster Australia for this review copy!

I read and reviewed Severed Heads, Broken Hearts last year and it left a less than positive mark on me. I missed the buzz around EM and so when I received a copy in the post I knew nothing about it. And I decided to keep it that way, not reading the blurb or any reviews and just staring at the lovely cover.
And it was interesting, going into it and not having a clue, although I was certainly not swept up.

The protagonist is Lane, a study-aholic who I found rather dull. He breakes up with his girlfriend in the most cliche of ways whilst he's at Lathem House, but it only felt like a huge ball of unnecessary drama and a way for him to fall without restraint for Sadie, the girl he once met at camp and the lady who was dislikable to me from her first appearance. She shares dual POV rights and oh, how her chapters stunned me,
Sadie hates Lane. When they were in camp together he stood up for her and a note was given to her asking if she'd go to the dance with him. She didn't suspect for a moment, when he didn't show- despite the fact her entire cabin bullied her- that maybe it wasn't him. Not then and not years later.
When she first sees him in class she mentally tirades because he's wearing clothes that aren't sweat pants and that is not allowed, I repeat not allowed. Only her group are allowed to keep on prentending they're okay. He's not allowed to put in an effort.

Within, like, a day or two Lane gets so worked up and tired of Sadie's cold manner that he confronts her. Because she just ignored him. Maybe glared. And he can't stand everyone not loving him?

It wasn't a success, for me. Not at all. Drama that was far too overdone, characters who reacted in eye roll worthily ways, cliches. Not for me.

DNFd at 95 pages.

Image credit: Simon and Schuster.

Rat Queens was recommened to me by my friend Glaiza, who reviewed the second volume so convincingly that althought I'd looked at an excerpt previously and thought it wasn't for me, I had little choice but to order a copy from my library.
And yes, it is violent. There is gore. The cussing is something to behold (and so creative!), and I'd definitely recommend it as 16+, but I fell in joyous, enthusiastic and wild love with it.

We have four main characters, the Rat Queens, who go on a quest (or get banned from the city/town for one too many brawls) and nearly get assassinated. They are fiesty, strong willed, angry, foul mouthed and so wildly different from each other, but a pack and behind each other even when they're not. I loved the diversity in race, culture and sexuality that was evident from the beginning, the snippets of backstory and history you're given and/or left to question. It was done so fantastically and I was so in. I am so in.
Volume 2! (Which has been devoured at this point, review to come.)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

It's time for the Ultimate Find Me Tag.

Because Romi does never a thing by half (she's creative like that), I'm combining two tags- the Find Me Tag (thank you to Ella for the tag, lovely!) created by Novel Ink and the Ultimate Book Tag (Nova and Alise basically tagged me. Basically.) created by I have no idea.
 I celebrate not being tagged for things, so I'm not going to tag anyone. Grab your mantle and do it if you want to, it's as simple as that.

So I'm going to alternately answer the questions and mix things up! Woo! LET'S DO THIS.

1. A Book with a weapon on the cover.
Etiquette and Espionage does this rather well.
2. Do I get sick whilst reading in the car?
I do, unfortunately, although recently I've been able to deal with it better. Manga is pretty easy going. But there are always audiobooks!
3.Which author's writing style is completely unique to you and why?
Catherynne M. Valente. I imagine I could open any of her books and just know it was her. She writes in this delicate, fierce, gorgeous way that I've never seen before, and I utterly adore it.

4. A book with the moon on the cover.
It's a red moonm, but I don't discriminate.
5. Do you carry a book bag?
I have a bag I put books in, but I'm lousey at ever remembering to take a bag with me anywhere, unless it's a trip, so generally I just carry a book with me.
6. Do you smell your books?
Ah, yes? Of course I do. Books smell like writing and stories and adventure.

7. A book with a girl (or boy) in a white dress on the cover.
I don't care a jot that it's a flag. It's white. That is all one needs, and walking around in a flag would be epically fun.
8. Books with or without illustrations?
With. All the way. Every day. It's one of my bookish sorrows that YA has such a small amount of illustration in it, so I take anything I can get.
9. Do you have any funny stories involving books from your childhood?
Funny haha or funny tears? Because I once accidentally spilt tea on my copy of The Fault in our Stars when I was doing a film project. It was quite a lot of tea. And about three years ago.

10. Book with a couple kissing on the cover.
Well this is very easily sum-uppable. Those two are always kissing, and my Funko-Pops are lovers.
11. What is the tiniest book on your shelf?
A dictionary on the language of flowers that my friend bought me. It's so sweet.
12. What is the thickest book on your shelf?
My Unfortunate Events box set. It is sodding massive and IT COUNTS.

13. A book with a sunset on the cover.
It might be the universe. It might be a time machine portal of magic. It might be a sunset.
14. Do you write as well as read?
Does... does my blog title not give that away rather a lot? In other words, yes, I certainly do.
15. When did you get into reading?
When I found Inkheart and Inkspell at a bookstore, aged about 9.

16. A book with headphones on the cover.
I've wanted to do this since I first read that question.
17. What is your favourite classic book?
I'd say either Anne of Green Gables, The Little Prince or Little Women. I cherish them all.
18. What is your favourite word?
Dappled. And Kasta, because I love her. Also, I'm a pirate, so eh.

19. A book with water on the cover.
I love this edition. My Puffin Classics are preciousssssssessss. And the design of each is so unique.
20. Vampires or fairies? Why?
Fairies. I'm a person who has a long affinity for the magical critters of old, be they fairies or faeiries. I learnt the difference.
21. Shapeshifters or angels? Why?
Shapeshifters, because they are relevant to the book I'm editing and I have become rather fond of them.

22. A book with flowers on the cover.
They're flowers of death, yes, but still flowers.
23.  Spirits or werewolves? Why?
Well thanks to the very first book I have a newfound love for werewolves, but spirits are my favourite. They're just... rather me.
24. Love triangles or forbidden love?
Forbidden love. I'm not a fan of the triangle, and forbidden love seems, in general, to promise more emotional investment.

25. A book with heart.
Excuse me, but this book has about the most heart of anything I've ever read.
26. Full on romance or action packed with a few scenes of romance in between?
I think if you were to mesh the two together you'd get my level of enjoyment down pat fairly well.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Feature of Pictures (and Books!) No. 11

A book that has deeper themes than you might realise on the surface and a collection of stories and art from well loved creators across Australia. Interesting...

Mr. Huff by Anna Walker.
Thank you to Penguin Australia for this review copy!

Mr. Huff was moving but disconcerting in the same moment, the kind of story you take away something differently from depending on how you look at it and your experiences. I view Mr. Huff, a growing figure that Bill sees hanging over him on a bad day, growing larger and larger, something he doesn't know how to get rid of and that makes him sad, mad and lonely, as depression, and so the ending sat rather oddly with me, as I don't know how it correlates, But it was rather heartbreakingly beautiful and touching and even if everyone takes away something different from it, knowing that children can read this and know that a cloud of unhappiness hanging over them can be conquered in the end is so important and I'm in love with the fact it's being tackled.

The Hush Treasure Book- Various.

Thank you to Allen and Unwin for this review copy!
Image credit: Allen and Unwin.

I adore the concept and way this is put together. Bringing together a pack of well known Australian authors and artists to contribute to a selection of stories, to support children in hospitals.
It features a few creators I have long loved, including Shaun Tan, Glenda Millard, Stephen Michael King and Alison Lester, and I was so keen to see what I made of this collection.

Overall it wasn't amazing. There were few stories I felt spoke to me and could be enjoyed far out of childhood, and I didn't actually come away with a particular favourite or any singled out story/illustration, although Anna Walker's art was utterly gorgeous in every way. Watercolours. No more needed. And Margaret Wilde's story was utterly lovely.

I'd have loved to be more invested in these stories, feel a connection (I listen to the CD as I write this and it's so very nice), but I imagine younger people would enjoy the movement, amusement and wonderment of these tales, although a few are definitely geared towards the older than the younger side of that spectrum.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Ava's Demon by MIchelle Czajkowski...

Title- Ava's Demon.
Author- Michelle Czajkowski.
Publish date- 2012.
Publisher- You can read it online here!

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
The story of a girl, and gradually a bunch of other people, who have mysterious creatures living within- or alongside- them that only they can see.

What I thought:
Ava's Demon is my first experience with a web comic and it is setting a very, very high standard for the future.
It starts with Ava, a girl on a planet for youths with problems. She is depressed and something inside of her continues to send her close to the edge, a hateful, spiteful voice that wishes the world were rid of her and continuously tries to bring that to an end.
And when she is in an accident and dies, it is revealed she has a demon inside of her, an actual voice of a creature who hates her for her weakness, for her human limitations. And they make a pact, which saves Ava's life.

It's a pretty dark comic, in theme and occasionally language, but it's just fantastic and the chatacters, for there are a handful who have been thrown together and all have their own iddues, are all diverse, not all good or nice or reliable. I grew to like Maggie, despite how selfish and occasionally evil her actions have been, and I just love Ava. She becomes incredibly fierce after making the pact and becoming immortal, her character development profound and delightful.

The world is a whole lot of planets, so I guess sci-fi, and not only is it interesting with it's ruling power dynamic, but it is so, so beautiful. The art fights with the storyline for my attention. It's beyond stunning, a lot of the time, in colour and detail and the elements of wonderment. Many a time have I coveted a page and wished it to be a print.

This comic is still in progress.
Rating: Big explosion MIND BLOWN.
It's incredible. I am in love with my computer, if only for this.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Mise-en-scéne (1)

Mise-en-scéne is a new feature I'm going to be participating in semi-regularly. It's quite gorgeous and basically there's a theme, you take a photograph and post it. Find out more (or join in!) here.


Recently I worked on converting my bedroom, and now I have this beautiful lamp in a reading nook where my old bed used to be. It was, I believe, hand embroidered by my grandmother and I've had it for years, moving it from one area of my room to another and loving it every moment. It gives out the perfect amount of light and the images on every side are so utterly gorgeous. They captivate me as much as any story.

Monday, August 3, 2015

A Bride's Story- Volume 1-4 -Kaoru Mori.

Title- A Bride's Story.
Author- Kaoru Mori.
Publish date- 2009.
Publisher- Yen Press.

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
The stories of women- just married, to be married, widowed- an English doctor meets as he travels the Silk Trail in 19th century China.

What I thought:
After finishing Ouran it was pretty difficult for me to get into a new manga. Two failed, a bunch didn't interest me, and I wasn't sure about A Bride's Story when I started it; it was quick, which I always like, but I knew nothing about it and didn't really know what was oging on.

Essesntially, this is a series set around an English man travelling along the Silk Road in 19th century China and the clans he meets. He isn't the focus, although when he moves along the story follows him. The women are the focus, and it gives a really unique- and, for me, new- insight into that life.
It's informative and sections explain the land, although for me the story is enough for that not to be necessary, even if it is interesting and so well researched.

It follows new bride Amir in the first two volumes and oh, how I love her. She is so unconscious, affectionate, determined, loyal and capable, if not necessarily sure of her place and roles. She is eighteen and considered old, to have been married, and she is thrust into a world and marriage she doesn't really have a link with. But the family welcomes her and cherishes her, and the entire support dynamic was so heartwarming and fantastic. They protect each other, show Amir the ropes, learn from her and each other.
I wasn't sure how I would feel with the marriage theme, as a whole, since it's quite confronting. Amir marries a twelve year old boy, in the very first volume, and it shocked me. But their slow burning friendship, the way they take time and are shy of each other but also so caring- it's more like a really emotionally connected friendship, at this stage, than a romance.
In the third and fourth volumes we meet a woman who falls in love with the englishman and twins on a quest to find husbands, and I wasn't thrilled at having left Amir, although she returns every now and then. The third volume took a long while to pick up, but then it was incredibly emotional, where as I immediately enjoyed the twins' perspective, hyper and intense and slightly terrifying as they are.

My favourite thing about the whole series is that it is just drawn so intricately, so much care and detail being put into every frame. The gorgeous clothing and furnishings, the design of each and every character (real bodies with thighs and stomachs!). If the story didn't invest me as it does, the art would surely still hold my attention firmly.

Rating: Excellent.
This is stunning, interesting and enlightening.