Thursday, June 30, 2016

From me to you and back again -7-

-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 being the blogger I'm not.

When I started blogging, I didn't really have an end goal in mind. I didn't know there were really popular bloggers, and I didn't get the idea of blogger perks, so those weren't things I was trying to achieve. I didn't consider whether I would stick with this for years, which I have. I didn't know if I would meet anyone else, or if it would just be me, talking to myelf about books I loved on the internet. My blog title, which I've never changed, shows a little of my intention, because I am as much a writer as I am a reader and I planned on talking about my books, my words, a lot more than those of other writers.

Another factor, and the only other one I can really put into words, is the fact I wanted someone to talk to. I was lonely and I wanted to meet people who cared about the same things as me, and didn't know what the past three, four years had been like for me.
And I found that. I found a community that came to me, and showed me how to be a part of it, and over the years I feel like I've found other new bloggers and hopefully made them feel at home in this massive, sprawling community that we are.

But things do change. Things have changed for me, bloggers I was good friends with have left, and I myself have considered leaving a number of times because it got the stage, towards the end of 2014 and for the beginning months of 2015, that I didn't find myself enjoying anything but the interaction with newer blogging friends. I turned more to my writing, shared more of it than I ever have before, and that kept me going for a year. And last year was, almost certainly, the best, most enjoyable year of my blogging. I was still a part of the reviewing community, but I was also distanced from it. Reviewing wasn't my full focus, and that has remained true this year. I write discussions, do creative posts, pen out my thoughts and share them, and I also write the occasional book review. This is a mix that works for me, keeps me passionate and enthused, and it's probably closest to the mix I had envisaged for myself when I started off.

It is so easy to get swept up. There are posts telling you how to do this whole thing, and posts telling you how not to do it, and there is drama and there is meanness. And it's hard to write this and know I will post it, becase I'm a part of this community still. And I'm looking it in the eye and saying these are your faults, and I don't like you for them. It is so easy to say well I'm not a part of that, it doesn't affect me so I can ignore it, I don't want to get involved, but know it is the truth. Any community can have aspects you don't like, and being aware of those aspects, and not ignoring them but talking about them is, I think, the way for me to continue doing this. Because for the first time in a while, I actually really care about what I'm doing here. I'm enjoying myself, and I think that matters so much. And I think, for it to keep mattering, I have to be honest with myself. I have to stop being quiet about the things I don't like about this place, because they've been growing and it's starting to make me want to stay away.

Being a blogger is tough. Being a part of this community is tough. There are aspects of it that I really don't like, integral facets and quieter ones, and there are aspects of it that I do really care about. Because people from this commuity were here for me when I needed them, they found me when I was alone, not knowing what to do, on this little blogging island, and I don't want to pretend it doesn't matter to me anymore.

This is definitely a more up-front from me to you than I usually post. Which is okay. It's probably the start of a theme. My question to you is what part of being a blogger is the hardest for you, besides keeping up? And have you ever wanted to leave?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Winter by Marissa Meyer... (audiobook review)

Publish date- 2015
Publisher- Macmillan Audio.
Lunar Chronicles #4. See my reviews for CinderScarlet and Cress.

*Please note that this review contains spoilers for previous books in the series!*

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
I just wrote "everything ends. Everything" for my synopsis for Why is this night different and that applies here. So. Everything concludes. It's time for all of it to come full circle.

What I thought:
Winter was a nice end to the Lunar Chronicles. It was long, but the effect was lessened when it was discs you were switching out rather than continuous chapters (I believe there were close on/over 100 chapters, which *was* admittedly terrifying to comprehend). There was a lot of story to be told, and I heard all of it.

I find this slightly amazing, after my slight failure to enjoy Cinder and Scarlet, books full (sans Thorn) of characters I found highly unlikable/irritating, plots that rarely surprised me and romances I... helfeltd nothing for.
Cress changed how I felt about the series as a whole, although not how I felt about the first two books specifically, and I knew things could again regress with Winter. They didn't, and I didn't really think they would have, but still it wasn't amazing. This series, unfortunate as it is to say, never ended up being quite what I had expected of it when I set out. I enjoyed it and disliked it- and was never all consumed, which is such a pity.

One of the things I appreciate and simultaneously struggle with in this series, and especially so in Winter, is the detail. We now have 10 characters whose perspectives we see whose paths we've got to follow, characters who all have their own hopes, dreams, plans, and it's a lot to keep up with. We need to see all of them grow and change, and, at least for the titular characters, we need their stories to pan out in the fairytale way in which they began. And I really felt as if some of those elements were shoved in just to keep following that fairytale path, and it sometimes felt unnecessary or didn't even work with the story.

I can't say that I was particularly surprised by how things panned out, here. Cinder organises a rebellion, of sorts, and the people join her at a remarkably quick rate, and we spend much time in the preparations- only to spend almost no time at all in the actual uprising, 2 or 3 chapters at the very most. It was expected- was almost easy- to see how it would fit together in the end. And I enjoyed it, but I would have enjoyed it more if I had been surprised, if it hadn't been quite so easy to plot out the ending myself.

A quick note, now, on narration: I wasn't the biggest fan of the series narrator in Cinder and I struggled with her accents at times, but by the end, here in Winter, I elieve she did a lovely job. I can't imagine anyone else. I don't know why Scarlet spoke with an Irish accent for that one line, but overall I was satisfied. She does a brilliant Iko, and her Wolf was... not my favourite, but everyone was distinct (apart from Jacin and Kai who *were* distinct in the reading, but not so much in written personality/traits).

There are so many characters, now, so I'll bio all of them because they must be discussed. And also to make this the LONGEST REVIEW EVER.

Cinder and I never got on well. She has tended towards be selfish and I don't remember her getting called out on it, although I did like that, as she grew, she became a little bit selfless, too. A note, though: She's not a very good mechanic for the best mechanic in New Bejing (what if you'd broken Kai's android, Cinder? WHAT THEN?) and this never made sense to me. We spend a whole book with her as the primary guide and we see a handful of chapters where she's working- and most of the other times, the storyline darts to someone else. Which has left me discontent.

Kai is ehh to me, and always has been. He and Cinder have sweet moments, true, but he only kisses her when he realises she's royal too, which is not okay, Kai. It's actually kinda awful. In many ways. And no one ever realised it.

Scarlet has annoyed me even more than Cinder, but I think about 50% of that was because of Wolf. Here she spends a lot of time with Winter, and while the whole thing with her calling Winter crazy, blatantly ignoring her, and speaking of her as if she's not standing right there is written off as an endearing facet of their relationship (even by Winter)- which it was very much not- she was also there for Winter. Mostly. A bit. When it suited her. She showed that she *could* be supportive of someone other than Wolf.

Wolf moons after Scarlet so much, although I did actually grow to like him a little. Not much, because he irritates me a whole lot, but a little.

Iko makes up half of my favourite trio. She is a bit whiney and self-focused, but beneath that her top priority is Cinder and that plays out so very sweetly in this series. I adore Iko. The sweetie.

Levana is interesting, but she could be more interesting, more complex and more convincing as the cold hearted queen. And I realise that the only reason I think she's even interesting is because I listened to Fairest and it built up her backstory- if not for that, I wouldn't care. I wasn't convinced by her character arc at all.

Cress, my favourite, is the character I most liked getting to when each of her POV chapters came around. Especially when it was her and Thorn. She is quite focused on being in love with him and that gets a little thin- her character is not the guy she likes- and she has an outburst that was... odd and really poorly timed, all things considered, and made me frown at her. I was disappointed in, too, when she went in the direction of well that person you kissed was a guy so *pointed looks to you* because no, Cress, no. It doesn't come into it.

Thorn could have been so much better, so much truer, and he takes so long to get to that point. But he is also an utter adorable lovable sweetie who I love, and because we get to see his side of things in the POV chapters it makes it easier to forgive him. He was still stupid, but at least we were given a reason why.

Winter is surprising and so detailed, a character so much deeper than maybe any of the others, and I really loved getting to know her, getting to see how not using the Lunar gift affected her. She hallucinates, can hardly see the world through the blood and hurt and death that has cut up her mind, and she is so incredibly strong throughout. Everyone underestimates her, thinks of her as weak and crazy (looking at you, Scarlet, quite pointedly) but only a part of her is fragile and she is well aware of it. And it was so wonderful to see her hold her own, prove she was more than her mind.

Janice is a little controlling, a little possessive, quite irritating and, for someone who cares about Winter so, he doesn't see her at all. Boo, Jacin. Boo. You and I didn't get along.

Rating: A middling OOoh, very good.
It wasn't quite a whirlwind, and it wasn't quite unexpected, but it was a journey and a journey I enjoyed the latter half of. I'm not sure I'd ever do it again, but I did it and I met some wonderful characters for that, which is kinda wonderful.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

On Falling Out of Love (with something)

Sometimes I will love something with such a passion that I don't think it will ever die. I will feel as if this is where I am meant to be and my love is just so intense that it's never going to change- how could something so strong, so sure, ever change? When it makes me feel like a dazzling bolt of light amidst moments when I am nothing so much as a swirling storm, made of rain and wet and roiling electricity, the idea of it changing simply isn't a part of the experience.

Because to feel like that- to have something make you feel like that, to find comfort, solace, hope, or love in anything, to be able to hold this thing up and say look at my passion, isn't it startling and beautiful and just perfect?- is one of the most gorgeous things in the world. It is something I yearn for,  even when I have it, and when I find it- when I find it I feel so full of glory it can be hard to stand, hard not to share and hoard and devote myself entirely to it.

Sometimes you can gaze at this thing and say look at my passion, isn't it striking and splendid and not perfect at all, but it is good and it makes me happy and I love it, so it's okay.

I understand that it isn't perfect. Not everything is. But I still love it. It still makes me thrill. And what could possibly be better? How could you get closer to actual magic than something that makes you feel like this?

And then, if it does, you wonder from afar: how could that have changed?
Why would it, when it was so terrific and joyful and lovely and not perfect at all, but as close as and all the more wonderful for that imperfection?

And yet... sometimes it does. It will. It has. I have felt it change. Sometimes there's a reason- the character or artist or person behind the work does something, big or small, and it just manages to shift everything- and sometimes there isn't, and I'll just look one day and feel less attached, see less of what is important to me. And sometimes I wish it didn't turn out that way. Sometimes I wish my passion never faded and that it could be easier to distance the creator from their work or the character from their actions, but not really. I have never wanted to support someone whose actions hurt.

Now and again the love fades for no reason at all and one day it's just gone, and you might retain the fondness, or the memory of what there was, even if it's no longer true. You're left with a way of not forgetting.

Sometimes love for a thing isn't constant, and you can put it aside and return to it and feel everything with full force once more, for as long as you're holding it, and you know that whenever you come back next it'll still be there, waiting, and it's so important but you don't always need to have it by your side to know that. You just need to not forget it- and how could you?

And sometimes... sometimes love doesn't fade. Sometimes you touch something and you know that even when it hasn't lasted every time, it will with this. And it is just as glorious and fantastic and splendid for every moment, and it doesn't negate your love for those other things, it doesn't mean that it's better or more important than any other thing that has become less necessary to your everyday life. It only means- to me, at least- that it's love. It is passion and imperfection and happiness, and it changes everything.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Why is This Night Different From all Other Nights by Lemony Snicket...

Publish date- 2015
Publisher- Egmont.
All the Wrong Questions #4. See my reviews for books 2 and 3.

*Note that this review may contain spoilers for previous books in the series!*

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
Everything goes down. Everything. It's all happening on this final night.

What I thought:
I have a long-term love for Lemony Snicket's work, a love for the bitterswet, often miserable nature of it and a never-quelled intrigue into the dark, sorrowfil past (including his relationship with Beatrice, the Baudelaire's mother) that, throughout ASOUE, we get but the smallest tidbits of information on. Snicket knows (or knew) a great number of the adoptive/foster parents and relations of the Baudelaire's, and I WANT TO KNOW ALL THE STORIES.

And here, in All the Wrong Questions, there was a series about Snicket as a child, his journey (as a member of the secret organisation) to Stain'd by the Sea, and the remarkable people he meets in that slowly dying town. I thought, for sure, that at least some of my questions would be answered, in due course.

Now, with the first book, I was a little uncertain because it's so different. Snicket, for the first time, is at the forefront and we're thrust into this new era and it was all fast moving and baffling.
But I grew to love it.
Each book was better than the last, the plot becoming more intense, the level of trust- something Snicket is relatably slow enabling himself to grant or feel- has been sealed, and the conclusion- the answers- it was all here.

Well. That's what I thought.

Unfortunately I realised too late that the things I was waiting for- a sign of Beatrice, more involvement than a single, momentary appearance from other members of the organisation- weren't going to be found here. And, though disappointed, I could have dealt with that, growing attached to characters and the plot and the race to stop this new dastardly villain, if only it hadn't felt as if the series came to a crashing halt in exactly the wrong place. Something happens, something big but also not terribly unexpected, and the reaction- from every single friend Snicket had made- was something I was completely unprepared for.

I was stunned, that things could end in such an abrupt, startling, sad way, that I had given so much time and put so much effort into something, only for the characters I had grown to love to change in behaviour and personality at the last, right when they ought, if I knew them at all, to have been the strongest, the most steadafast, to have proved, basically, that they really understood what danger they were all in, as they had already said they did, and it wouldn't change things. And maybe that isn't fair, since there are plenty of circumstances which change everything and this one, which I will not be spoiling, is big, as I said. But not a single one of them was who I thought, and that hurt. And it confused me.

This book felt different from the rest. Set over the course of a single night, mostly on a train, I end the series not comprehending what made things finish in this way. I feel like I have more questions than ever, and none of my old ones answered, and I really don't like that feeling. There were good points. Character interactions, finishing this four-book plot arc, the mystery of it all and the fresh questions I was met with, and received answers to, but too much was just... too much was not good. Too mcuh was less than I had hoped it would be, and that isn't how I want to feel at the end of a series.

Rating: Hmmmm.
A disappointing end to the series, to say the least. Not the fault of the plot, but by the unexpected, unsupportive reactions of characters who I thought were somehow truer than they were proved to be.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Ash by Malinda Lo...

Publish date- 2009
Publisher- Little, Brown Books for Children.

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
When Ash's mother dies, she loses a brightness and a spark that had alway been present and loving in her life, and it is only the tales of the fairy kingdom that sustain her as her father begins to drift. A fairy kingdom that, people whisper, her mother was a part of. A fairy kingdom Ash wants nothing more than to find.

What I thought:
I had absolutely no idea what my experience with Ash would be like. I very briefly gave it a try many years ago, and after that- despite the factors that drew me to it (including a gorgeousssss cover)- I never felt my interest revive, not until two of my favourite and most trusted bloggers, Chiara and Glaiza, read it, and came away with rather different thoughts.
So I decided to give it another go, hardly believing I would finish it after my own intial difficulty all that time ago.

And it was so very gorgeous.

Perhaps there is a singular something about books that delve into the fairy world that leave me entranced. Perhaps I am actually a changeling, since each glimpse into that magical world- from growing up with Rodda, to discovering Valente and Gaiman, and now Lo- leave me with the greatest sense that I have found my home (it's the one word I tend to use without fail in all my reviews for Valente's fairyland).
In Ash, we only get glimpses into that fairyland, but those glimpses utterly enchanted me: grand gatherings in the woods; beautiful, untraceable music; magic softly sparking off every living thing; promises made and prices settled upon. There is always a danger to fairyland, and Lo subtly weaved that into Ash with perfection. Her vision of the worlds (human and fairy) and the way they intermingled was so beautifully done, and whilst this is, most certainly, a slow moving novel, the intrigue and beauty of it being revealed alongside the well known tale of Cinderaella, I uncharacteristically didn't take issue with that factor. The slow moving quality only made me love it more, because it felt just perfect.

Apart from the section of the novel devoted to fairyland, one of my favourite elements was the romance. The prince does appear, briefly, but it is the King's Huntress and a truly lovely fairly Prince that capture Ash's heart. Often I've seen Ash called a lesbian retelling, but I read it as a bisexual retelling and I don't know why, when there is attraction on both sides, I had to go looking to see other people talk write/talk/discuss it as that. It was the one thing I found myself perplexed, maybe even a little frustrated by, because there is attraction and there is, I believe, love between Ash and both the Huntress and the fairy prince. It was gorgeous, realistic, perfect, the relationships built up over time and with such a honest quality weaved into them, and I fell for everyone.

Ash is a brave, scared, subtle character and she was just perfection as the protagonist of this story, and while I would have liked to see a little more of the Huntress, what I did see was someone who is sweet and confident and wishful. I liked her immediately and I liked how much Ash liked her. The fairy prince, too, was devilish and utterly charming, and so very dangerous for it. I didn't want to trust him, but I did- and I liked almost every moment.

Rating: Big explosion MIND BLOWN
This is a novel I finished and then had that sense of not knowing what to do with myself. It read beautifully for me and I throughly enjoyed all the characters, the way the plot deviated from the source, and the slow burning romance and walks through the forest where you didn't know whether Ash would be alright or not.
It was a triumph.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

A source of inspiraton: shifting boughs.

On one side of my room, there is a dresser.

On the other, six windows.

If I look to the left or to the right, I see one thing that has remained- grown- in inspiration, ever since I was little.


They shift in the breeze, fragile and utterly distracting, and their movement, their closeness, it never ceases to amaze or mystify me.

Trees play an occasionally massive role in my writing. With each novel I've written, there will be a forest, a cluster, trees both good and bad (I like to question more than just the role of villains and heroes, you know; what, I ask you, about the villainous trees?), dead and alive, in the shadows and with the sun shining over their boughs and making everyone take note.

I don't think  know of a novel I've written where at least two scenes didn't play out in the presence of trees, and I simultaneously wonder why that is, why they captivate me so, and hope it never changes. The scenes I set in forests- in, above, below, or around trees- those are some of the most magical for me to write, and are definitely some of my favourites to read.

Maybe trees such a big part of who I am, of how I think and feel and want, that they can't help but find their way into my stories. Maybe they have entranced me for too many years to ignore, and maybe one day I'll write a short story or novel all about a tree and it won't even begin to quench me.

All I know is, they are possibly my greatest form of inspiration. And I never want that to stop.

What was the last thing that inspired you?