Thursday, April 21, 2016

From me to you and back again -6-

-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.-

. On seasons and an incapability to read seasonal books .

I recently realised that it isn't the beginning of March that makes me feel like Autumn has arrived, or that Summer officially begins when I wake on the first December morning. The seasons in Australia have been a little off-kilter for a couple years now, and where during childhood there was this sense that each season was impossibly of itself and was easily distinguishable, now... that doesn't seem so certain.

I feel like it's Winter when, mid-March, I'm stacking firewood. I feel like it's Spring when, mid January, we have a wet day and the grass is succulent and green and warm afterwards.
I'm very confused when, mid Winter, we get snow. But last year was a weird year for weather, so I'll let that one go.

It's the memories that can make what I might do on a wet, blustry day in April feel like the depths of Winter. Thunderstorms, bigger than I had ever experienced, gorgeous and wild and terrifying, momentous in ways that were enchanting and memorable, allowed a little part of myself to beileve Winter had come and hot chocolate was the only thing I could possibly drink and doonas the only thing I could possibly wrap about myself, even though was February. And also not that cold.

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain, and I stayed in bed for longer than I have in a while, reading and pretending and rather enjoying myself with a pantomime of near Winter (which, I mean, is what it actually is but beside the point beside the point beside the point). The sky is omnious and grey and the trees have been swaying and my room is vastly cold. Cups of tea have been cosumed and baby dogs have slept beside me (and on top of me because personal space is not something Kasta cares to understand and I love her for it).

And then it comes to books. I love the idea of reading seasonal books in accurate time, books set around christmas or halloween or a dead Winter night, but I am only organised to such a level, and it doesn't extend to my reading, no matter how much I may try to have it be another way. I'm more likely to read the frosty His Dark Materials during the heat of Summer than Winter, and I can read Agatha Christie during the whole year only avoid her when it comes to the end of October. I have a beloved Christmas read that I have only read leading up to christmas once and it was an experience of drudgery and boredom.

Because that's it, for me- or I think it is. It doesn't matter if it's Summer, because if I do something that reminds me of another season then that's where I am. After a time maybe all the seasons will just become a year, a year of blended heat and frost and rain and fog, and it'll be my memories that lead me. The things I did at another time that tell me how I'll spend my day. It'll be what I want to read that makes me pick up my next book.

So: what makes a season a season for you? And have you achieved the miraculous and read seasonal books during their "season"?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Review: Iris and the Tiger by Leanne Hall...

Publish date- January 2016.
Publisher- Text Publishing.
RRP- $19.99 (AUD)

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
When her greedy parents send Iris to spend time in Spain with her aunt, they have plans. They send Iris expecting she will get in her aunt's favour and come back with an inheritance insured. But Iris will be facing much more than a single, meek aunt on her trip. She will face bizzare, surreal- alive?- paintings, wild things that creep through the house and the huge, magical harden, and an aunt who has much more to her than Iris could believe.

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

What I thought:
Leanne Hall is one of my favourite authors. Her work is unique in a way that is unique, and it captivates me. It holds me fast and never does has it failed to fire up my imagination and make me wonder about the world I live in. Her debut in YA, This is Shyness, is one of my most loved books, and the sequel took the world of Shyness into a whole new direction. I still hope that one day I'll be able to go back to that world, but when I heard of Iris and the Tiger, a MG novel that looked and sounded gorgeously, perfectly fantastical, I felt alright with the idea of waiting.

Iris caught me off guard. I've tried to verbally express my feelings on it a couple of times now and have failed considerably, because I feel a lot about it, and it is special, and confusing, wonderous and odd.

I liked it a lot.

Bosque de Nubes, the house Iris goes to stay at for a week, was a wildly strange place, full to brimming with character and paintings by Iris's famous uncle, all of them fascinating and described in perfect detail, not that I couldn't have heard about more of them, they were so interesting.
As I read, I really did feel as if I was in another world, so I was startled, every time, when texting and selfies and other very modern day things were mentioned. That, really, was the aspect I struggled with- adapting a story so fantastical to the modern world. I didn't do a very good job at it, ignoring the truth as best I could only to be rudely bought back to the present again and again. Iris was also a little difficult to work with, on occassion, because her nature was... a little whiney, at times, although I still rather liked her throughout. As a character she really does struggle with asserting herself, especially against her awful parents, and she is also dealing and the changing of friendships at school back home, which meant, when it happened, it was so good to see her, this young, slightly insecure girl, grow past bonds that dictated the way she feel and live. And I mean, having the added fantasy of paintings coming to life and magic and cars that are alive and flowers playing tennis, and a couple of new friends along the sidelines, it all helps to make this a throughly enjoyable, perfectly strange book.

Rating: Ooh, very good.
I really enjoyed this. Leanne Hall writes strangeness in the real world so well and her characters are all unique and distinct. I did struggle with the fact this was so clearly set in a world I know, although I suppose I should feel more love for it because of that factor, and Iris wasn't always the easiest protagonist to work with, but overall it was a success. I will wait patiently for Leanne Hall's next novel.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Collection of DNF-ed Reads.

Uprooted- Naomi Novik. Pan Macmillan.

Uprooted was a book I had been keen to read ever since I... well, saw its cover. It has such lovely covers. And then there was also the terribly intriguing premise, the rave reviews... it sounded like my kind of book, and when I was lucky enough to receive a review copy "thrilled" would've hardly covered it (although I was also daunted by the size).
But... I didn't get through it, for a number of reasons- and do remember that I am basing these opinions on how much I had read of the book; I realise things might have developed, conversations been had, development been made. It hadn't when I was reading, though-:

-Agnieszka was quite a bland main character and her personality really frustrated me
-The pace was very slow and focused heavily on description; I felt like I could skip a couple pages now and then and I wouldn't really miss anything, except for knowing details of the characters surroundings and what food they might have been eating
-The Dragon was awful, outright mean (and for no real reason I could see, either) and the way he behaved (and also the way his every touch was painted with romantic suggestion even when he was utterly horrible) made me angry. Even faintly furious
-I felt like it was Jane Eyre (in feel and character dynamic, not plot) and I do not like Jane Eyre. It's actually tied as my all time least favourite book, so it's an unfortunate comparison for me to feel and make
-The really uncomfortable near-rape scene, where a guy who is used to getting what he wants won't listen to Agnieszka's "no's" as he strips her. And the consequent blame she was passed on from The Dragon! for dressing provocatively. *sarcastically cheers him* I believe she did set him right on what had really happened and he demurred slightly, but... I don't recall an apology being presented.

That last one made me furious; the way the situation was dealt with and the way The Dragon, who is a love interest treated Agnieszka was just infuriating, and what got me even more frustrated was the fact I hadn't seen it mentioned in a single review. Not one. This scene that could have been potentially so triggering, that happened before the 100 page mark, and out of all the reviews I read no one had even mentioned it. I couldn't go on.

Thank you to Pan Macmillan for this review copy!
Image source: Pan Macmillan.

Soundless- Richelle Mead. Penguin Books Australia.

Soundless most certainly caught my interest from the first; it has an incredible premise (I think the ziplines got many of us onboard?) and a gorgeous cover, and I know Richelle Mead has a lot of author credit to her name. I've never been particularly drawn to the VA books, but Soundless got me wholeheartedly interested and no way was I passing up the opportunity to read such an interesting book.

Unfortunately, it didn't work out, which may be obvious. I struggled virtually from the start with the narration and the fact that I felt like I was being told a story in an entirely uninvolved way, or at least in a way that left me uninvolved. I never felt a thing for Fei, her sister, her love interest, or the rivalry with the romance; my intrigue with the deafness and oncoming blindness of the townspeople did spark prolonged intrigue that kept me reading, as did Fei's work as an artist who captured the towns news, along with other prestiegious artists, but it petered out as scenes continued and I remained unmoved or involved by any. And I couldn't keep reading, not feeling like that about it. Not even for ziplines.

Thanks to Penguin Books Australia for this review copy!
Image source: Penguin Australia.

The Mouse and His Child- Russell Hoban. Allen and Unwin/Faber.

Last year was an excellent "old childrens classic" year for me, with a whole heap being republished with generally lovely covers and many sparking my interest. When I heard about The Mouse and His Child, I had hoped it would prove to be a continuation of that theme, carrying me into the new year.

It is the story of a clockwork pair, the mouse and his mouseling child, who are created, sold, bought, used, broken and thrown away, although their story doesn't end there. It sounds perfectly like the excitement of many a childhood classic to me! Only... I was again left uninvolved by the narration, reading scene after scene and never feeling like they truly could pull me right into the story and hold me fast. The stakes were high for this clockwork pair, and I dearly wanted to know their story, a story that had everything it promised me, yet not the magic of a children's classic. Not for me.

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

So You Want to be a Jedi? - Adam Giowitz.
Beware the Power of the Dark Side! - Tom Anglebeager.

After my rather fair sucess with the first book in this series, a retelling of A New Hope by Alexandra Bracken, my Star Wars fever grew exponentially. I was watching the movies, I was awaiting the new one, I was pumped by the stories being published all about, and I had the good fortune to be sent these, the other two books in the sequence, two books that don't exactly retell the original films, but also bring you up to speed with the plot, detailing extra parts, characters, scenes and giving knowledge boosts along the way.

Thanks to Hardie Grant Egmont for these review copies!
Image source: Hardie Grant Egmont.
Except... well, they kinda did retell. Almost exactly. I got through enough of each of these two novels I had been so luminously excited for, only to realise they weren't for me- simply because they didn't give me enough new content or make me consider aspects of the original stories The Princess, The Scoundrel and The Farmboy had managed to. Instead, it felt like a play-by-play of what I already knew, only the unspoken actions were told rather than seen.

Each book did have a definite originality to it: in So You Want to be a Jedi? you get a first-person narrative that distinctly reminded me of those "choose your own adventure" books one may've grown up with, and you are guided- as Luke- on your journey to becoming a jedi, lessons and training interjecting the chapters, giving you steps to follow; in Beware the Power there is a potential wealth of tidbits about the side characters you catch sight of and the places you travel across. Ever wondered about everyone in Jaba's palace? Wonder no more.
And yet even then, it wasn't enough, for the story went back to what I knew, only directed very surely at a younger age group, making me feet detached and, unfortunately, tired by reading a story that wasn't proving to surprise me at all.

They are an exciting introduction to the Star Wars films, this series of books, and I did enjoy the first one, but overall? I think it's the films that tell the story best of all, at least for me.

Image source: Hardie Grant Egmont.