Friday, July 31, 2015

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath...

Title- The Bell Jar.
Author- Sylvia Plath.
Publish date- 1981, 2006.
Publisher- Harper Perennial Modern Classics.

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
It's not a synopsis, I know, but I THOUGHT THIS WAS IT.

What I thought:
You know how there are some books you hear about and you're sure they'll be for you, maybe not incredibly so, but they'll hit at something within you and that'll be it. The two of you feel almost destined to connect- although I shouldn't really speak for the book.
I'm thinking I should be wary of the books I think of in this way, after my experience with E. E. Cummings (I'll never recover) and The Bell Jar. And in the same month, too!

I had owned a (really gorgeous) copy of The Bell Jar for around two years and to actively get through my physical tbr I've decided to take a photo of three books each month and instagram them, because you can't lie on the 'gram (lies), and it worked so well.
Only I loathed two out of the three books.

About twenty minutes after starting and feeling like the pace of the story was easy enough to get used to, I updated my goodreads and saw someone reference TBJ, in a way, as the female version of The Catcher in the Rye, which just happens to be my second most hated book ever.
So that got me a little concerned.
And while I wouldn't call it the female "version", I would say the two and their respective characters are very similar. Esther Greenberg moseyed along in a disengaged- and disengaging- way, thinking about death and comitting suicide a lot and really just being "there"  but not. Which I suppose is the whole point. But it only frustrated me, left me feeling like I was waiting and waiting for something more, only for that more to never come.

It is quite poignent, how Esther grows depressed, because it showed very clearly that there isn't always a reaosn, that it can just be life, even when life is giving you so much. I recognised a lot of elements of genuity in the descriptions and progress of Esther's depression and that struck me, but what also struck me was how little, a lot of the time, Esther did for herself. Her safety or health or happiness or just because it was the right thing to do.
She left her friend, drunk and in an apartment with a man she'd just met, without saying a word, and when she came to her door, sick and crying, she let her fall asleep in the corridor in a pool of her own vomit.
She came close to being raped and I know the issue is not and never will be the fact you "could have" done something, it's not as if the victim is to blame, but I didn't know how she almost let it be, when she knew what was about to happen. Why she almost didn't struggle.

Rating: Oh nooo...
The Bell Jar and I may have been destined for each other, but if we were it wasn't so we could have a happy experience. Or future.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Feature a Movie (3)

For a while, I’ve been wanting to start reviewing films, the occasional one, to try, so that’s what this is: each month, I’ll pick a film I watched and review it. It could’ve been the most memorable film, the strangest, the one that made me think or fear or- you guessed it- hope. You’ll just have to see.
This month I'm featuring Into the Woods and Plesantville.

I watched two particularly thought provoking films in June, so who cares for reviewing only one film a month! I'll review them both!

Into the Woods.
I haven't actually read the script or watched the original production (I gave up on them both) but the film looked- and was supposed to be- well done, and though I didn't love it, I love the discussion it presents.
The songs haven't been memorable, but I liked their use of language and rhyme- although the song between the Princes was wonderful in how ridiculous it was. I couldn't help but feel sorry for the actors in those leather pants, though.

These days I know plenty of people who don't like fairytale retellings, but I for one do. A lot. And I liked seeing seeing Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack, Red and the bakers come together to tell their stories in a way that was wonderfully (and darkly) close to their original forms.

My main annoyance was that Cinderella was so indecisive, even if that was her character struggle. It was a little ridiculous how she just kept on going to the ball and then running, so unsure about what she wanted. I mean, I'm fine with not making a snap decision- she was going to be losing her freedom either way- her the way she went about it frustrated me.

The best thing about the film, though? It's not about good people and bad people. It doesn't have a happily ever after. It deals with people who do wrong things or bad things but aren't evil- and they're not good, either. They're just human. The Witch isn't bad, she's determined and she does the wrong thing, but she loves her daughter and wants to protect her and stop her from being stolen away.
Jack kills the giant, he steals, but he is desperately trying to get his best friend back the only way he knows how.
Everyone, practically, was just human. For good and bad.

I was a little apprehensive about Pleasantville, after hearing about a certain scene- I thought it might be uncomfortably explicit and that unnerved me.
But it wasn't. Not for me.
It deals with lust, sex, sexual pleasure, discovery- sexual and emotional- and it was all handled really well. Not explicitely or in excessive detail- kind of beautifully, actually. And these elements were so important to the film and the story it told.

The idea of Pleasantville is that it's the setting of a TV show where everything is just nice. Not necessarily good or bad or different, not emotional- just pleasant. And when a brother and sister from the 90s are transported there, back to the lae 50s, they consciously and unconsciously take elements of the life they're used to back- sex, reading, proper education, art. Joy. And gradually, as the citizens experiment, they change from black and white to having red lips and bright clothes.
This leads to some of the townspeople showing some spectacular racism, "No Coloureds" signs appearing in storefronts, hate crimes, even book burning.
There is a courtroom scene and all the "coloured" people were on the balcony, all the grey people below. It was enchanting, to see that stand taken, and horrible ad mournful. But so effective in the message it carried across.

Pleasantville gets you to appreciate the colour of everyday and it asks the leading question of what is the thing that brings you enough joy and independence to become yourself.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

From me to you and back again -4-

-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.-

This post has a trigger warning for abuse. I don't go into the topic, but it is present.

Recently I read something about an actor. It made me decide firmly to boycott their work, because a. I didn't want to support them, and b. I don't think I could watch them anymore. But just now I was thinking and wondering and I'm trying to figure out where you separate a person from their work. There are thousands of people who do horribly awful things- people who are in the spotlight, have been in the spotlight. We have painters who started wars, creators who want to put people into catagorised boxes, actors who abuse. And wouldn't these people or their acts, but I'm not sure about whether I can appreciate their art- whether it was solely their doing or a collaboration- or whether I should separate it from the person.

If an author goes against their readers, as we bloggers have witnessed many a time, or they speak out against (and I mean deadset offensively against) something I am passionate about, then I am quite happy to claim my spot as someone who won't read their work. But if I find out about the history of an actor, history that horrifies and disgusts me, can I refuse to watch a film their in when they are really only a part of that process? Writers, also, play but a part in the creation of their work. They create and mould the stories, but editors and agents, family and friends and the readers, they play a critical role, too. So if an actor is starring in a film from a book that someone else is scripting and directing and producing, what part do they play and what about the other creators, whom you may love or respect or feel rather passionate about?

I feel conflicted, because I know I don't want to watch a film with this person in it anymore, but what about the people whose work I do and have appreciated when they have done similarly awful things (I can only think of one, right now, but still)?

So my question for you, from this kind of dark post, is whether we can separate an artist from their work, how do we do that and would you keep reading/listening/watching something made by someone who had done something terrible?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Reading on Holiday.

So I packed many books to read whilst I was away. I imagined I'd read them all, but when it became clear that wasn't likely... well I'm still surprised by how many I did get through. Lets do a roundup!

So THIS is the collection of books I packed. Minus manga and audio books. And Magonia.
I read-

Not as "Romi must read this for it was written for her" as I imagined it would be. Astounding and incredibly creative, but not that.

This is Shyness (a reread):
No longer a 5 star read for me, but a very happy 3. I really loved going back into this world of wonder and confusion, although subconsciously I've been mixing parts of this and Un Lun Dun together, so no wonder it came out a little different the second time.

Scarlet (audio):
This wasn't going so well for me, before I went away, but it ended up finishing pretty well! I actually started liking Cinder (which I didn't anticipate), although Wolf and Scarlet don't have a hold on my emotions. They were both pretty stupid, I felt.

A Bride's Story #5:
I really enjoyed this. The twins are a little hyper, yes, but I enjoyed seeing the progression of their wedding. Not sure how I feel about the Amir oriented chapter, though.

Dawn of the Arcaa #3:
This is such a twisting series. The first book I love-hated, the second I loved, now I'm back to love hate. I really dislike some of the characters. It has some awesome character development, though, even if it feels too soon.

Fruits Basket #2:
I'm loving this so much. It's covering a huge amount of the anime in the early issues, though- where will I be by #10?!

Fushig Yugi #1:
A new manga I got from the library whilst I was away, this I knew nothing about (who'd a thunk it), but it was really interesting. Possibly overly dramatic, but enjoyable aplenty.

Rat Queens #1:
I surprised myself by how much I loved this. It was violent and full of cussing, but I really, really enjoyed it. So much. Like, it's a favourite. WHAT IS THIS.

Pippi Longstocking (reread, started earlier in the year):
I was reading this to my niece and finally I finished. I like Pippi less than I remember, although she's one of those wonderful characters who is eternally brilliant, even if she doesn't always do the right thing. Next we're onto The Wizard of Oz!

Murder on the Orient Express (already started this one, was about halfway through):
It droned on a bit and I could've done with 100 pages less, and I knew the ending (although I wasn't sure it would be the same), but it's a pretty spectacular twist.

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding:
So good. Loved this. Agatha Christie could make her short stories a wee bit longer and more detailed and her novels (or some of the ones I've read) a bit shorter and less monotonous. But these were all really solid and fun.

Life, the Universe and Everything:
Not a favourite in the series, possibly my least favourite so far (and I dislike the cover, although it's nice to own all the copies)- it was amazing, of course, but felt like it was being overly bizarre just for the point of being confusing. Which very well may have been the point.

This was one of my favourites! Have had a copy for years and am so glad to have read it- it's all written as letters and was so, so enjoyable.

The Lives of Christopher Chant:
This was excellent. I was wary, after Witch Week, but this was really wonderful and ingenious and I enjoyed it so. much.

(And I started Cress and Souless on audio)

I decided against:

Tiger Lily:
This was a reread, one of my favourites the year it was released, but... I got about halfway and it was uncomfortable and I wasn't feeling the beauty of it. Or I was, but it wasn't the same. I'd prefer to try and remember how gloroious it was the first time.

Code Name Verity:
I'm not sure, but this just wasn't for me... I think it felt similar to a bunch of books I read when I was younger and they've stuck with me strongly, and having... ahm... skimmed the entire book, I feel like I anticipated the ending from those other experiences.

Captn Hook:
Wasn't for me, at all. It didn't seem to even reall focus on the magical side of things- it was just Hook at school, and I wanted more of that.

I'm SORRY CHIARA. I just could not get into or through this. But I did try- I did!

I think I went fairly (extremely) well. It felt so nice to just get down so many books, many that'd been on my owned shelf for months or even a year or two! This is something I want to focus on continuing. And of course I need to get to those ones I didn't... get to. BAM.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

That time I took my puppy to the seaside. In winter.

I'm back! I return to the world of internet and to do lists and days filled with things to do. I'm a little doleful about it, actually, and am struggling to retain a sense of calm. I'm suddenly getting thoughts about whether I want to keep on blogging, because I've enjoyed getting through masses of books without having to read review books first or focus on the blog (sorry, ol' thing), but I shall strive to sort things out in a way that doesn't mean I leave. I should take a look at the things my week is filled with and maybe lessen my load. It'd be a start. I'm one of those people who puts a lot of stuff on them, 20 things on a days to do list, so having none of that for two weeks- it's hard to pull myself away.

BUT ANYWAY! Lets talk about that time I took my puppy (soon enough she'll grow into the title of "young dog", but not yet- NAY NOT YET) to the beach for a week in winter.
My mother and I ventured into the depths of apparently one of the most beautiful places in the world, and specifically Australia, packing the car and three pets for a two week hiatus from the internet and stresses of daily life. I packed around eighteen books. You know the type of holiday. The horrors when one of the animals starts to get unsettled during a three hour trip. Sacrificing your doona for your books. Your "foods to make" list being mostly comprised of cookies and cakes and sweet things. The lasanga's that never get made. That sort of thing.

Said puppy got into the habit of sitting in front of the gas heater as we turned it on. She knew what was going on.

I had a pretty nice time away, although I only took three pictures, contrary to what I may or may not have said in the comments of my going away farewell all post. We spotted many pods of dolphins, some crusing along the waves like they owned the bay, not to mention a gorgeous seal who seemed perfectly happy to float around and flap it's flippers around in the air as it got each wave like nobody's business. These ocean types school me.
But the best part? Was when I came home. (Well actually about a day after I got home, but I regress.) Which happened to be a week early. You know when you're away and you suddenly long for home and think it out and just realise you're ready with being away, and you'll still be on holiday if you're at home and ensure you make being home a holiday. There's nothing stopping you. So you go home. And that's the best part of your holiday?
That happened and I have NO REGRETS. Especially when my sleep pattern at the moment was only becoming more distressing with every night away.

Stormy beaches are my favourite beaches. Tis a truth.

You may recall I mentioned I was entering an agenting contest whilst I was away. The deadline for hearing back on that has passed and unfortunately I didn't hear back, although I experienced the horrible-yet-wonderful anonymous critiques that editors tweeted and tried to pick my manuscript out via age group and genre. It was thrilling yet, as I say, kind of horrible. In a mostly good way. But it was a lot of fun and I'm so glad I entered and polished my work for it, and now I'm able to get in touch with my critique partners and share my work and I'm really happy about that. And we know what happens then.


So I did want to recap the books I read whilst away, but I don't want this to run on (especially when I have so few pictures!), so I'll put that into an upcoming post.

Romi out. xx
P.S. Kastie loved the beach, by the way. I think. She loved our morning walks along it. Or she loved the puppy milk she knew she would get on return.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Farewell. Writing Update. More Happy than Not.

A post in three parts. What is the cause to this instability of Romi's irregularly but reliably scheduled programming? I'm going away. And I wanted to leave the blog with a big enough post for two weeks. Come back and read a little each day (it's not going to be that long)!

So. My farewell.
Goodbye. Imagine me with a pile of about 20 books staring at a colder version of this view-

I'll be gone for two weeks, internet free except for the fact I'm taking my laptop. Which brings us on to-

A Writing Update.
I don't do them often, do I? Which is amusing, if you take note of my blog title. But I'm doing one now!
I've just finished doing a read through and edit on a novel, and I'm particularly estatic at this stage because I managed to get it from 69K to 80K which is a dream for this story. It's something I'm incredibly passionate about and although I don't particularly enjoy talking about my work (I'm a secretive type, you know) I will give you five facts about it:

  1. I wrote it during NaNo in 2013.
  2. It takes a satirical view of the fairytale.
  3. In it I investigate the Hero-Villain discussion.
  4. There's a fiesty princess.
  5. And I added a very bad swear word at two in the morning and officially decided it isn't ever going to be classified MG.
And I'm proud of it. I'm proud of myself. And I'm so incredibly excited for the future of this novel.
The reason I'm taking my laptop to this power-free retreat for two weeks, when I was the one who solidly said we would be taking no electronics (I call the shots- are you even surprised?) is because I heard of a little event called Pitch to Publication, and I'm entering this novel into it.
And it just happens to be going whilst I'll be away.
So here we are! Depending on how PtP goes I'll be starting the agent querying process in the next month or two. Which is as terrifying as ever.

More Happy than Not.
And now I'll leave you with a tag! This is an excellent one because it is all about happiness and positivity and I'm in love with it, even if I'm only positive myself around fifty percent of the time. The glorious Chiara of Books for a Delicate Eternity tagged me- thank you, lovely! It was created by the epic Shelumiel.
Let's get listing, shall we?
I am more happy than not when I-

feel hopeful.
believe in myself.
am writing, editing, drafting or rereading my work.
am reading.
am jogging
have a sleeping puppy on my lap
get to read for at least a half hour
talk to my friends (whether it be in person, via skype, email or in the comments)
get a new (or old) book
meet new glorious people through our blogs
listen to Conchita
watch Eurovision (I have a handful of passions and that is one)
wear winged eyeliner
play monopoly or watch a movie with a friend who doesn't live in the same country as me
find home through a book (See: Fairyland)
think about all I could be. all I might be. all I want to be.
decide exactly how long until I get my next dog (7 years. It'll be a greyhound. Then I'm going for a wolfhound. And obviously my black cat'll be in there somewhere.)
watch a really spectacular film
feel like I am intrinsically understood
have one of those conversations where you get out all thw words you need to and you understand and are understood
look at my collection of books
meet a new character born of my imagination (and... occasionally when I throw them into a really amusing, deadly or emotionally turbulent plot twist)
can investigate a passion
am alone
am with people I love
arrange flowers
pelt through rain

This truly is a glorious tag. My motto is if you're inclined, do it, but also if you're Cayce, Aylee, Joy or Kelly.
And I'll see you in two weeks. Watch Instagram for a picture of the books I'll be taking!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward...

Title- The Potion Diaries.
Author- Amy Alward.
Publish date- July 2nd, 2015.
Publisher- Simon and Schuster.
RRP- $16.99 (AUD)

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
When the Princess of Nova drinks the love potion she made, trouble is the only thing that can come for it. So the Potion Makers throughout the country are called to participate in an event to create a potion and save her.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for this review ARC!
Image Source: Simon and Schuster AU.

What I thought:
I admit, in all fairness, that I was not convinced on the way The Potion Diaries was sold to me, as a reader: a mix between The Hunger Games and The Princess Diaries? Even without having read the latter series, the idea does not intice me into reading a book that is a supposed mix of the two. I can't even imagine how a book could possibly be a mix of two so very different ideas- lucky for me, I didn't feel those vibes. Here's what I got that was similar:

  • there's a princess
  • a bunch of people are called together to participate in a competition to heal said princess from love potion-induced madness
  • someone is eliminating said teams offscreen (no deaths, mind)
  • there's a kind-of "forbidden" romance (and insta love) between contestants on two opposing teams
  • there is a diary, though it's more like a recipe journal
And that, as far as I could tell, was it.
This was an original, intriguing idea (though I'm not personally feeling the need for there to be a sequel) and I would have rather gone into it not anticipating an odd race between killer princesses. Though actually, I'd love to see Libba Bray tackle that.
But the way this story played out didn't turn out to be as enjoyable, captivating or interesting as it could have been. I felt like it was aimed at a slightly more juvenile audience than I personally can enthusiastically read- in the writing style, actions and reactions of the characters.

Samantha, the protagonist, doesn't feel to me like more than an incomplete shell. I don't feel like I got to know her, apart from the fact that she a. is a very talented potion maker,  she b. had long liked this one guy, and c. she abandoned her friends (only to be let off her subsequent guilt far too easily) without real thought.
We also get to meet the Princess Evelyn, poisioned by the love potion she made for, ah, that one guy, and now falling deeply for the person she believes her reflection to be. I didn't enjoy these alternate POV chapters- they were a way of showing Evelyn getting progressively volatile in her illness, but I just got the picture of a princess who was young, reckless and irresponsible.

The world of The Potion Diaries is one of the most intriguing aspects of the novel; it's a place where technology is incredibly advanced, yet they have unicorns and abominals and magic, potion making. Something I had issue with a few times during the novel was that the media, who were tracking the Wilde Hunt, were so easily controlled. If there's an evil lady going around and taking out the participants they're videoing, surely they'd get it on camera at least once? Or even just get her on camera. They didn't even get wind of the Princess' illness until, presumably, it was released officially- they certainly hadn't gotten wind of it when the potion makers had been told and given the chance to participate, which means not a single one of them sold out?

Some other notable instances:
  • hashtags exist in this world!
  • as do references to being a withering vine.
  • Though Sam and her Finder Kirsty decide to stay under the media radar, once they're presented with the opportunity of having a journalist tag along with them they agreed immediately...
  • this book involves a moment that felt like it was a little too familiar to THG, involving Peeta and Katniss' sleeping arrangements.
  • Oh, and the media? They turn on Sam for no actual reason and get a bit of girl hate going on. I don't even know.
  • Did I mention insta love?
  • Also: easy forgiveness.
And I'm done.

Rating: Poor/Hmm...
Lies. I'm not done at all.