Friday, November 27, 2015

The end of my year is nigh.

So let's talk about books. Since I go offline at the end of November, and have the last couple of years, I... kinda haven't talked about my favourite books of the year in a while. I come back online and see the December posts I miss out on reading (and writing) but by February it feels too late, and besides I always have a bunch of reviews to post, so I haven't been noting my yearly favourite and notable reads for a while. Years, even.

Until now. Obviously I should be in a dramatic movie of sorts. Yes, it is November. Yes, I will read more books before the year is out. But I still thought heh, I'll do a round-up. For once I SHALL BE FIRST.

Books read: 
137. (My goal is 153, I believe.)

Most were rated:
Four stars, which is fairly pleasing. I mean, I'd love a year where 80% of my reads were five stars, but four stars is certainly nothing to grumble about.

How many five star books did you read?
27! That's actually fairly fabulous. Even if eight of those were manga. IT. COUNTS. (It does.)

How many one star books?
A total of 14. (Which is the same amount as last year, actually.) And three of them? Were from the same series

Most shelved?
"Series" and "young adult" were my most frequently used shelves. Apparently I didn't read as many "quote worthy" books this year as last. *sobs*

Longest book?
Ava's Demon by Michelle Czajkowski (which I reviewed here). It is gorgeous and you can read it online and you should.

Favourite book out of all the books?
That'd be Dumplin' (which I reviewed here). I loved it to pieces. It was just... imperfect and gorgeous and so, so right. I also adored and cherished the manga series' I've read (FB, Ouran, Wandering Son, A Bride's Story) and Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto. It was beyond words incredible.

Favourite book that was: part of a series?
The Boy who Lost Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente. It was heartbreaking and gorgeous and although I desperately missed September and the lack of her presence, it was just... unsurprisingly wonderful. Also It was between Waistcotes and Weaponry by Gail Carriger, which is thus far my favourite book in the series. So good.

Favourite book that was: a debut?
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto, since I believe it was her first work. For this year it'd be Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which stuns everyone (and me) in being contemporary.

Favourite character?
I'll give you five-

Favourite book that was: fantasy?
Because hey, it's my favourite genre.
Pantomime by Laura Lam. It was absolutely gorgeous and just... aah! Definitely would recommend to everybody.

Favourite cover?
I adore The Princess, The Scoundrel, and The Farm Boy, but also the whole cover design for A Bride's Story. G-o-r-g-e-o-u-s.

Most read author?
Natsuki Takaya, author of Fruits Basket. As of now, I've read 20 of the 23 volumes this year.

New favourite author?
Need you ask? Banana Yoshimoto. I'm in love.

Favourite manga?
Although of recent times I've been devouring Fruits Basket, I did finish Ouran High School Host Club in January-February this year and it HOLDS MY HEART. Volumes 17 and 18? SOBBING.

I feel like I've had a really good year in reading, looking at this! A couple more weeks until my internet hibernation and a whole month more, after that, of reading- hopefully I find a good few more favourites and reach my reading goal.

*What has been your... most surprising read/favourite cover of this year?*

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Princess, The Scoundrel, and The Farm Boy by Alexandra Bracken...

Publish date- July, 2015.
Publisher- Hardie Grant Egmont/Chirpy Bird.
RRP- $17.95

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
A retelling of the classic, the magnificent, the Star Wars film that really started it all. We delve into who the people behind the names are, having time to get to know and understand The Princess, The Scoundrel and The Farm Boy.

Thank you to Hardie Grant Egmont for this review copy!
Image Credit: Hardie Grant Egmont.

What I thought:
The Princess, The Scoundrel, and The Farm Boy really, really had me hooked. From the gorgeous design of the cover to when I saw Alexandra Bracken's post discussing the book that made me understand I was going to be reading something that was not just a retelling, of sorts, of a film I loved, but a book about the people behind the titles, about Leia behind a "princess" and Han behind a "scoundrel". I hadn't really considered what the book would be, but as soon as I read her post I couldn't wait to slide into the story.

It is geared towards a Middle Grade audience and I have to say I'd have enjoyed it more if it was YA or adult. Having Leia, Han and Luke toned in a way that didn't make them feel quite how they did in the film left me a little unhappy- besides the discussions on who they all are, all of them having issues with the titles they've been given or born into and wanting to find out who they are -beyond- those monikers, there were elements in each story that just didn't feel like they sat right with the one I already knew, especially with Han's part; he's my favourite character and perhaps I'm very sensitive to him, because of that, but the way it was gone over numerous times that he really did want to join the rebels, he really did care and felt hurt that Luke thought he only cared about money... I wasn't really into that. I got the feeling Han was trying to be painted as a good character, despite the less than typically heroic things he does, which felt unnecessary to me. I guess I don't feel like he cares about being seen as redeemable or redeemed.

The fact this was MG, apart from those elements where the characters thought and acted in ways that felt out of place, didn't really affect the storyline. It felt mostly true to the original (and death wasn't sacrificed) and was super enjoyable for me to read and get into the heads of the characters as they each had their part in the story. It's also not a classic "retelling", as I had believed it would be. We're not getting A New Hope retold, we're just spending time with specific characters for specific amounts of time and getting the story we may already know, but also extra bits about them and their history, their feelings and thoughts.
Starting with Leia, whose part was brilliance and gorgeous and my absolute favourite, the story begins at the beginning. Her part, sadly, is the shortest, but it's really just glory to behold and the ending... the ending was stunning, just with the wording and everything. I really loved the way Alexandra Bracken got us into Leia's head and dealt with her history and all the misconceptions and pressure, presumption and guilt Leia has thrust upon her, and the way we find out who Leia is behind Princess, Senator, Rebel... it was stunning.
Then we have Han, whose part I was... looking forward to. A lot. As I said earlier, I wasn't wholly happy with the way he was painted, but I still enjoyed his part and getting into that thought process and part of the story, which focuses on his meeting with Luke and the Death Star business.
Luke has never been a favourite character of mine. I find him pretty annoying and in general wasn't all that pumped for his part in this. It did feel like he was the youngest and that probably does fit with his character in the film, but it still meant I found him a little annoying. Although I have to say, I liked him more than I ever have before!

Rating: Excellent.
I did have my issues with this. I'd have enjoyed it more if it weren't really aligned with a particular age group, but I still enjoyed it splendidly. It's not a retelling, as such, but it isn't just the plot of A New Hope in book form. It's more than that, and it is so worth reading.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Perceivable Intensities (7) Vote for a character name!

Soon the time to start posting Ashes, Ashes will be upon me (which means you should follow me on WattPad in preparation). I'm still vaguely considering when I'll start posting, since I plan to post a chapter every week and yet it all begins in December, so do I post the first chapter Sunday the 29th, or the first Sunday in December? Or just on the first of December and every sunday after that. Likely it'll be option number last.

I finished editing Ashes the week before last, I think- or, rather, I finished my reread/edit which was more of an edit but is still the last thing I'm doing for it. I added a scene with dinosaurs, redefined the romance and romantic elements, worked out where I needed and viably should have some swear words (because I may have gone a little too all out in my first edit) and realised that a secondary character didn't have a name I liked and now remains unnamed.
I got some awesome suggestions for a faintly Irish name last week, so please comment with your favourite from the ones I compiled below! (I was going to use a poll but... I can't find one I like in the blogger apps, so we'll just have to do with this.)

And here are the three names you can vote for. I will totally pick whoever has the most people vying for them, so you are basically deciding on my entire book's content (not really, but close)- MY FATE IS IN YOUR HANDS PLEASE CHOOSE WISELY OTHERWISE I'LL COMBUST.

The character who'll be getting the name is of Irish descent, he's got a little brother called Tommy, is fiercely caring of his brother and the two siblings somehow managed to break through Allison's tough exterior in the early days, which is a remarkable feat- so obviously he's a persistant one. The three once worked together as agents, although after an accident this character was removed from the ranks and holds a different position. He's sweet and can still smile after having his arm separated from his body (which... happens, as per the magic of flashbacks),

Fintan. (This is incredibly pretty and, like the other two options, would suit the character perfectly.

Finn. (This makes me wonder why "F" names were popular suggestions. I do love this one. He could definitely be a Finn.)

Irke. (It'd be pronounced Irk-ah. This, clearly, is my own recommendation, simply because I saw the word "irks" and wanted to try and make it into a name because it is pretty and interesting. I'll totally use this as a character name in the future, whatever happens.)

Please do contribute to helping me name this character! I'll only endlessly bug you if you don't. *smiles vapidly*

Friday, November 20, 2015

Blogversary? What Blogversary?

Possibly my blogversary has been one of my most thought about (and talked about) events of the year, apart from releasing my novel, Ashes, Ashes, on WattPad. I've been anticipating it for... a good while, and the fact I haven't celebrated the last four-ish only means that I've got more celebrating to do this time around.

Each of my years blogging have been distinct. Well. Most of them. Here's a brief rundown:

Year 1: This is the year I started! It was all the excitement, working out how to review books, posting about whatever I felt like and realising I wanted to write a personal blog as well.

Year 2: Was about reviewing professionally. I also really started to focus on my writing, this year, doing my first ever NaNo.

Year 3: Is the year I don't remember. What even happened? My memory draws a blank. Obviously it was either a huge party, or... not.

Year 4: This was when I started becoming more distinct in my own blog, I think. I focused on things other than just reviewing, doing my own features and commenting on more blogs than ever before, which meant I met a ton of awesome fellow bloggers!

Year 5: Has arguably been my favourite. I shared my writing, I decided to post a novel online, I made the decision to focus more on my own writing, here, than reviewing (although there's still both) and I made really, really fantastic new friends and strengthened relationships with old ones. It's all been good times.

Of course, with my blogversary comes the marker of my annual histus. In ten days I'll be shutting off my computer and putting my blog on pause until February. I will be sporadically online, mostly just for work purposes and posting Ashes, which will have a chapter posted every Sunday, but the blog will be silent until sometime in February when I drag myself (and I always do drag, because the glory of two months offline? It can't really be beaten) back.

So this is it. Five years. Half a decade, as Joy informed (and terrified) me. It feels like it's been hardly any time at all, but also like it's been years and years. And these years have been intense and gorgeous and heady and moving. I've changed. I've feared my past and my present and my future. I haven't loved every moment- some moments I hardly thought I'd come out the other side. But I did. And I am so, so glad.

I love this community, and this experience, and you people. I love you and it all to bits.

And hey, I didn't think I would but what's a blogversary without a competition? If you live in Australia and fancy your chances at winning a postpak of books (not new, but in excellent condition) then enter away. Best of luck to you. And thank you for such a fabulous five years.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Mini Reviews (17)

Where's the Wookiee- Ulises Farinas.
My love for Star Wars is intense. It knows no bounds (it does) and leads me into brilliance and sorrow (what do you mean the Queen Amidala Funko is unavailable?). Where's the Wookiee, it's a classic step in that love/passion direction, and such a wonderful idea! I grew up reading Where's Wally (or Waldo, as it's known in the US and Canada) and playing Star Wars, so give me some Wally figurines because then the role reversal is complete.

Basically, Where's the Wookiee has you searching the far reaches of the galaxy, from Hoth to the Death Star, the Ewok Village (probably my favourite) to Cloud City, finding the most treacherous villains known to the galaxy. Instead of Wally, Wands, Whitebeard and Odlaw, you have Chewie, Han, Gredo and Bobba Fett for starters. I did my best just to find Chewie and Han, although Gredo and Bossk were both easy to pick out, but... Chewie is hard! He blends in super well. I also enjoyed seeing R2, Leia and Yoda dotted throughout.

All in all, I enjoyed this quite a lot. I would've liked a bit more detail in regards to the art, which I didn't fel was the best representation of the detail and style of the series, but overall it was pretty wonderful and a neat introduction to the world of Star Wars.

Thank you to Hardie Grant Egmont for this review copy!
Image source: Hardie Grant Egmont.

The Secret of the Blue Glass- Tomiko Inui.
It's always disappointing when you get to the end of a book and realise your favourite thing about it wasn't the story, the characters, even the writing, but the cover. Unfortunately that's what happened with The Secret of the Blue Glass, a classic in Japan and originally published in the late fifties, now published in English by Pushkin Classics. To begin with I certainly did thing that by the end of it there would be a different story- I was captivated by the beauty and lyricism of the writing, the unique tone to the story. It is very similar to The Borrowers in there being this family of tiny people who live in a house and rely on the big people for their livlihood, although the relationship between families is rather different here, as the family knows their responsibility to keeping the little people alive by putting out a glass of milk every night.

It was an intensely interesting story- it takes place around the time of the second World War, starting a little before and then carrying on throughout- and that setting, plus the tone of the family and their conflicts with what Japan was doing, what they believed was right, it was just really interesting and intriguing for me, but... unfortunately it ended up moving from softly beautiful to quite boring. I couldn't hold onto my interest in the story and it felt like it turned rather dull, the story moving along simply and not really having any great pull towards me wanting to read it, find out what happened or enjoy it. I really lost grips with it and although I did finish it, I struggled and a couple chapters from the end considered DNFing because I just was not into it.

I think, in the end, I was affected by growing up with The Borrowers- this felt really similar and, although the dynamics weren't the same, there wasn't a single element that made it stand out or made me fall in love with it, after that intial phase. The cover, though, is absolutely stunning.
Thank you to Allen and Unwin for this review copy!
Image source: Allen and Unwin NZ.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Perceivable Intensities (6)

It's that time of year when I end up posting either most days, or fewer days than intended. My blogversary is coming up (5 years! *fistpump*) in four days and I was going to have a celebration, because parties are fun and I have lots of review copies I'd like to giveaway, but... christmas shopping. That and postage prices makes it unlikely.
I've only got a couple more weeks before I go onto my third yearly hiatus until february, though, although I'll still be online irregularly- I'll have WattPad posting to do, work rostering to check, that kind of thing. No IG or blogging, though, so don't expect to see me around much, come December!

After the list of things you won't be finding in Ashes, Ashes last week, Vlora set me the task of sharing a particular range of snippets after she correctly guessed that you actually will find poisoned blades in the story. Although after some persuasive commenting, there are also dionsaurs. *shrugs*
So, without further ado, here are some more snippets!

1. Something funny.

" guy did actually try to make a gift of a knife to me, which was pretty nice.’
‘He tried to stab you?’ Pepper squeaks, like she can hardly believe it.
‘Not quite,’ a girl Allison thinks she recognises from her languages classes says, stopping as she walks past. ‘He gifted it to her- pretty nice one, too, wasn’t it?’ Allison nods. It had been very nice, gilt and ivory and all the best things. ‘Apparently he'd had a bet on with the homophobe’s mother. She thought his behaviour was just mumps or something.’

‘We should have employed that man,’ Allison muses serenely."

2. Something dangerous.

"‘So,’ --- says, striding closer as the blades hover just centimeters from Allison’s eyes. ‘What was it I heard dad tried to rid you of?’ She raises her eyebrows expectantly and tuts when Allison doesn’t answer, gun held frozen in place, knives obscuring her vision. ‘Oh come on, Allison, it’ll only cut out your eyes if you’re not quick enough.’"

3. Something angsty.

‘It’s not that I... I didn’t realise you disliked me that much or else I-’
‘I can’t stand you.’ She puts down the paper, crossing her arms on the hard gloss of the table. ‘Not in a working environment. And I can’t stand the fact that I’ve just kept on putting up with you.’
‘But Allison, we’re the best.’

‘And so we’ll split before we become too notorious, latch on to two new people and make them the best with us.’ She shrugs, as if it could ever be so easy as that."

4. Something action-y.

Her face drops all expression as she flows into motion, limbs moving to her exact determination and not a milimetre less. She kicks out sharply, her dirty black boot catching ---(male)--- neatly to the neck, sending him crashing into the control panel and initiating a sickening descent for the plane; she goes low, elbow darting into the woman’s exposed flank with delicious intent. ---(female)--- cries out, growling as she hunkers down, clutching the side that will soon be bruising magnificently and still taking the time to throw her fist out. It’s weak and Allison really only has to sidestep, walking over to where ---(male)--- is still unconsciously sending the plane into a perilous descent and pushing him to the floor with a shake of her head.

5. Wild card. (I chose something that might be quote worthy.)

‘And perhaps they’ll ruin me, just not today.’

Funnily enough all but... one of these are relatively close to the beginning. Either that means there's a lot of action, quotes, angst, amusement and danger throughout and I didn't want to spoil, or it's all in the first twenty pages. *shrugs*
Finally, I've got a problem. One of my characters is having name issues. I've given him three different names and nothing I can think of, and none of those ideas, fits at all- suggestions? He is around 20 and has a little brother called Tommy. They're of Irish descent. HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT.
I'll put my three favourites into a poll and have it up for votes next week!

*These snippets from part of Ashes, Ashes, my original work that's soon to appear on WattPad. Don't steal them. Don't. I'd be really, really, really cross. All rights and copyright reserved.*

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Pantomime by Laura Lam...

Publish date- 2013.
Publisher- Strange Chemistry.

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
A mysterious, twisting tale of two people, a young girl being brought up a lady, and a closed off boy who has run away to the circus. Their stories intertwine and with each revelation of truth comes a fight to keep a hard won freedom.

What I thought:
Pantomime was so much more than I hoped it would be, than I anticipated it would be. It's kind of one of those books you want to discuss at length, to think about deeply in the quiet of your mind and consider how profound and gorgeous it is. I've wanted to read it for years (thanks, Cayce!) and now that I have I am past pleased. Offline, I'm fairly quiet on the book front, but I talked about this one. My passion was so strong for it.

Pantomime tells two stories about one person. There is Micha Grey, a 16 year old who had fled their old life and, miraculously, joins a circus; and Iphegenia, or Gene, a girl bought up to be a lady, despite the fact she doesn't feel it, doesn't want it. They're told through alternate chapters and I loved both distinct voices. Neither Micha or Gene necessarily identify as female or male, which was so fantastic to read about, and their sexuality is something they're also discovering and comprehending. It was done supremely well.
The scale of acceptance Micha and Gene have to go through, both with others and within themselves, was written in a truly touching manner. Laura Lam's skill was truly marvellous and the fact that gender identity and also sexual preference weren't really the main story but at the same time weren't ignored, not at all, was just incredible and exactly what I think we need more of.

Not only did I enjoy both chapters (which is a rarity), but the world was vivid, even if we were rather confined within it, and so intriguing. I did have a few issues with the pacing, at times, where it would rush forward and a build up could've been a benefit, and also there were a handful of noticeable spelling mistakes, which made it feel overall less finalised.
The ending is this massive rush and I was afraid and didn't know how much was true and the emotion + worry I felt was true for the care I held for this story, although I still don't know exactly how I feel about it. It's big and changes lots of things and one element makes it feel convenient, but it was also pretty fantastically done. Like the whole book.
Pantomime was gorgeous and memorable and exactly what I wanted, plus some.

Rating: Excellent/Big explosion MIND BLOWN.
Exquisite. I cared for the world and the characters. The stakes are high, the feeings were true and fully explored, and it was just so darn good.