Sunday, November 23, 2014

Books for when you're... (18)

Each fortnight, month, fifteenth full moon of the half equational motion of the earths full circuit I will showcase 1-2 books that I think would be fantastic reading if you're going through a  certian emotion/stage in your life.

Simply Wanting a Heartstring Pulling Read with Characters Who Will Make You Swell Up With Joy and Pride.
It's all in the title.

Anne of Green Gables- L.M. Montgomery.
Inspired by Aylee to watch the TV adaptation, my intense love for Anne in all her glory- feisty, good natured or hot tempered, spirited- was rekindled. She is someone you become quickly fiercely loyal to, and she feels like she stands by you every moment, trough every trial.

A Wrinkle in Time- Madeleine L'Engle, Hope Larson.
So far only from the graphic novel, but Meg and Charles Wallace are two of the most awe-inspirng characters in any book I've read. They have by no means led simple lives, and they're certainly not unhurt, and Meg's wounds follow her, but they want right and they fight- oh how they fight- for goodness to fight off the dark.

Little Women- Louisa May Alcott.
Jo may be my favourite bar no one, but all of the girls (a lot of the characters overall, actually) are there for you to relate to and love and cry alongside. The pain they feel is real. The anger and joy (I was furious at Amy in the manuscript incident!), and with every emotion you only grow to adore them more.

Stay tuned for some more bookish suggestions for the good times, and the bad.
So far I've covered-

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Circus of the Unseen by Joanne Owen...

Title- Circus of the Unseen.
Author- Joanne Owen.
Publish date- November, 2014.
Publisher- Hot Key Books.
RRP- $16.95 (AUD)


Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
Rosie loved her grandmother, and when she dies- when Rosie was with her only moments before- Rosis doesn't know how to process it and move on, especially when everyone else around her seems to just want to forget the woman her grandmother was. And then Rosie has an accident, and finds herself in the circus, a place that her grandmother might have known about...

Image Credit: Hot Key Books.
Thank you to Hot Key Books for this review copy!

What I thought:
Circus of the Unseen did pose a few different questions and feelings with me. I'll review in a dot-point style to accommodate for that.

  • Expectations/Ideas
Prior to requesting a review copy of this I read the synopsis. Possibly even twice, which I often do, and then upon it's arrival I read the back cover. I start reading 5 days later and have very little idea of what the content is about. And from what I did "remember", the story surprised me! I certainly anticipated some creepy, sinister feelings and characters, but I didn't actually get that. When Rosie gets to the circus she not only takes a strangely long time to put some really quite obvious pieces together, but is welcomed. Nicely. Sure it's scary for her, and she doesn't know how to feel about the strange people, the place she's turned up in, but they are magnificent. They are not cruel or, apart from one instance that's really rather slight, mean to her- she is treated fairly, because this is strange for them, too, and my favourite character? Mother Matushka. I thought she was well defined, wise, and she worked out the way things were and how to respond to the unpredictable things quickly. She wasn't frightening or evil, like I had started to believe. She was grand.

  • The grandmother mystery.
It played out very differently to how I thought it would before beginning, but I wouldn't say, once I got into the rhythm of it, it was full of revelations about the person she was and secrets she's been keeping, exactly. The only revelation was something I was sure would happen that didn't. Most things played out how I anticipated, though that didn't affect hugely on my enjoyment- what affected me more was that Rosie's time with the circus felt like it was full of stalling. Once she gets there, she wants to get away, and everything leads up to the time when Rosie'll have a chance, so though the circus was eighty perfect of the novel, it felt like a big filler, which was a bit difficult to enjoy.

  • Rosie's age!
I don't believe it's ever broached, and I don't thikn it's ever particularly important, but I imagine her to be about sixteen, yet she often acted or thought in a way that was younger, with the occasionally older thought, understanding, dotted in there too, and that made things a bit confusing and frustrating for me.

  • The design.
It's a mic of like a dislike. I love book design- typography, chapter headings, illustration- and here it was a big mix of good and not so good (though not bad). I loved the cover- the babushka and dark colours- before  saw it in the flesh, but like it a lot less upon inspecting a physical copy; I don't feel like it's especially finishd, like there are still elements waiting to be refined, and while I did really enjoy the chapter headings, one just doesn't fit (an envelope with a heart on it) and I couldn't make sense of why it was done like that. I love that the cover is paper in texture- not gloss or matt. It really suits the book.

  • The fairytale.
It's told between parts and is really interesting. I didn't like it finalised as it was and felt an open ending for that would've worked a little better, but apart from that it was marvellously neat.

  • The wonder, the circus.
It was captivating. The scenes inside the big top, the characters showing their talents and the things the circus allows them to become was entirely captivating, and I followed it with, I'm sure, far more awe than Rosie.

Rating: More than Hmm, less than Excellent.
An enjoyable, memorable read, but one that raced too fast for it's end, I felt, and left the majoirty of the story feeling a bit too filler-esq.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell...

Title- The Sleeper and the Spindle.
Author- Neil Gaiman.
Illustrator: Chris Riddell.
Publish date- November, 2014.
Publisher- Bloomsbury.
RRP- $19.99 (HB, AUD)


Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
A retelling, reimagining, rewriting and picturing of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, the two stories intertangling and forming something very new.

Image Credit: Bloomsbury Australia.
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia for this review copy!

What I thought:
I have awarded this astonishingly, unfathomably beautiful book the "Most Beautiful Book" for 2014, and I feel that it is likely to crash into the awards for the next decade or two and steal all those awards, too, because goodness. This was just... head shakingly good. I have in this book one of my favourite authors and my favourite illustrator, and I'm proved for the third time, though none so powerfully as this, that they are a team of wonder.
I don't think either could reach the level of wonderment in this book that they did together, for though I am in pure delight from this retold fairytale, weaving the afterwards of Snow White and the end of Sleeping Beauty together in a way that is truly Neil Gaiman's own, though the incredibly detail and intricacy, the exquisite use of only black, white and gold in every illustration captivated all of my senses, never more so than when the two were paired. It became, quite simply, a masterpiece, with the exquisite work of two such fine artists put together to make what I believe is not only the most beautiful book of the year, but my favourite fairytale retelling, fit for early YA all the way through to adults and beyond.

Snow White and Sleeping Beauty is a fairytale mix that coule pose an interesting reaction from me, since the second is my favourite (apart from the kiss) and the first my least, but they came together seamlessly, originally, spectacularly. Snow is a true heroine here, in a way I never expected to see her (apart from in Lumikki), but she is forthright and wise, full of courage and strength and bravery, and she is real. She is so, so real.

Rating: Big explosion MIND BLOWN.
The most exquisite book I've held in a long time. I could dedicate a whole bookshelf just to the magic that is contained within it's pages, not to mention how exquisite the exterior is.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Head of the Saint by Socorro Acioli...

Title- The Head of the Saint.
Author- Socorro Acioli.
Publish date- October, 2014.
Publisher- Hot Key Books.
RRP- $16.95 (AUD)


Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
A boy follows his mother's last wishes for him by going to the town where his grandmother, and possibly his father, live. There he finds very few people, some rampaging dogs who quickly gnaw at his flesh, and the broken head of a Saint, where he decides to camp out for a few days, before moving on. The he hears the prayers, and things get particularly interesting.

Image Credit: Hot Key Books.
Thank you to Hot Key Books for this review copy!

What I thought:
The Head of the Saint was, and is in my opinion, many things. Unusual. Surprising. Peculiar (unusual v.2). Unexplained. Connected.  Strange (v.3). Readable.
For me it was all those things and more, with the added element of having some particularly strange, thought-provoking elements of religious power, which I cannot believe I did not expect. Okay, maybe not the "magic" element, though I don't think that's the right way to explain it, but I did not realise religion would play such a big role in this book, titled The Head of the Saint. It was in the title, Romi. Come on.
And yet, while in some instances that mightn't have been so enjoyable for me, it didn't play a huge part in likening or dislikening me to the book. It was just odd.

I did enjoy this quite a bit. It was a really quick read for me, and I found the strange elements, the interconnecting storylines, the ways the people in the small town were linked to each other and to Samuel, the protagonist, quite interesting and well done. I thought the setting was vibrant, and I really felt the trueness of the community as it grew around Samuel's special gift, yet while I did find myself enjoying these things I couldn't say that there was anything that particularly struck me and held me fast, any one element- from Samuel's strange ability to hear the townswomen's prayers from the inside of an abandoned Saint head, left in a forest area after construcion on it ceased, to the townspeople themselves, who were interesting and all had their own wants and feelings and thoughts, but weren't coming off the page with life or any strident feature, personality or general likability (I felt little about everyone, overall)- that made this more than a quite enjoyable book that left a couple of things underdeveloped or unexplained.

It was an unusual story, and I did certainly follow it with a particular keenness, but I didn't thikn it was great or fantastic- well, not wholly. The thing I did thikn was wonderful was the design! I adore the vibrancy of the cover, the green and blue and cream and these stark colours, all playing together. It tells a bit of the story, you realise after reading it, and the fantastic design continued inside, with a full page of block illustrations at the beginning of each new chapter, images that would relate to the content within. That was truly brilliant, and really effective.

Rating: Good but still Hmm...
Not brilliant, and the couple of spoilery things that were left intentionally mysterious do play on my mind, but I enjoyed this. I love having a copy to look at, love some of the particularly beautiful passages, love the creation of it, visually.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones...

Title- Charmed Life (Chrestomanci #1)
Author- Diana Wynne Jones.
Publish date- 1997
Publisher- Harper Collins.
RRP- ?


Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
A romping fairytale of magic and very badly behaved guests at a castle, with a little dragon who is marvellous, a resplendent man always dressed very finly, a box of matches and a protagonist nicknamed Cat who is really called Eric.

What I thought:
There's something about Dianna Wynne Jones's writing that I just get. Each time. This is only the 4th book of hers I've read (the others have experienced numerous re-reads), but a feeling carries across the lot of them. A magic. I was delighted, because though I knew Howl and Sophie and Cal weren't a part of this story, I felt like they could show up, my old friends, at any moment and it would be perfectly natural. I felt like I was reading another of their stories, and even if they neglected to show it was still a completely wonderful experience, and one I hadn't realised was out there.

Cat is a really neat character (though I agreed with Chrestomanic on the fact he's a bit weak- I did wish he'd stand up to Gwendolen, who was levels more awful than I'd ever anticipated, but it worked so well for the conclusion, his weakness); he may have lacked backbone or common sense, but I still really loved Cat, and Chrestomanci castle was the perfect setting for the story. Magical, with places to explore, creatures to meet, like the little dragon that was almost the equivalent of Cal from HMC. And Chrestomanci- well, he was simply splendid. Very resplendent and similar to Howl, which I adored, learning how he worked was really interesting and enjoyable.

In conclusion-

Rating: Excellent fireworks.
I can't wait for the next book! And I believe there are a total of 8! *Cries of joy*

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Feature of Pictures (and Books!) No. 8

This edition of A Feature of Pictures is quite blazing with the two books featured- both are exquisite, both are unique, both are wonderful and memorable.

Title: Mix it Up!
Author: HervĂ© Tullet.
Publisher: Allen and Unwin.
Publish Date: October 22nd, 2014.
RRP: $19.99 (AUS)

This was quite fantastic. A very me kind of book, I was eager and joyed by it; following the steps my heart beat faster as I felt lifted- truly lifted- while my imagination took off and I shook, squashed and painted across the pages. For me, it was simply an incredible experience, and to any age I could easily recommend it (though the outline of the hand, that didn't fit mine and I was, truthfully, upset)- all the time I read I could not WAIT to show it to my niece on October 22nd. (And I am sure, from her expression as she followed my prompting, that she adored it quite as much as I did.)
Creatively, colourfully, joyously wonderful.

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

Image Credit: Penguin Australia.
Thank you to Penguin Books Australia for this review copy!

Title: The Wild One.
Author: Sonya Hartnett. Illustrated by: Lucia Masciullo.
Publisher: Penguin/Viking.
Publish Date: September 24th, 2014.
RRP: $24.99 (AUD)

This was a picture book that went beyond itself. It told a story on many levels, got me thinking, feeling, hoping and imagining, and I believe it's the first picture book for this year that I didn't have a preference over words or illustrations. Both were exquisite, perfect, beautiful matches for the other. I loved the fauna/flora sketches and latin names dotted throughout, placed among the other, bigger pictures, and that the pictures did truly tell a story as fully as the words. They could both work beautifully alone, but together they were an absolute masterpiece. I think this is the most wonderful picture book I've read this year, and I will treasure it for years to come.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mini Reviews (8)

Mini Reviews

I was determined to give Apple and Rain a good shot. I've seen lots of positive words on it popping up recently, and it was promising- the novel sounds bittersweet and moving and, though I was wary after not having had a positive experience with The Weight of Water, the only other novel I've sread by Crossan- but unfortunately I just couldn't get through it.
I got close to halfway through before deciding, with regret, that it wouldn't be good for me to keep going.

The story focuses around Apple, who was left with her grandmother as a baby when her mother decided to go to America and take up acting, and when her mother re-enters Apple's life 11 years later, when she's 13, I just could not understand Apple's behaviour- or I could, but to the extent she took it was too much for me. I found her to be really frustrating, but also the behaviour of those around her, who were so wrapped up in themselves they couldn't spare a moment for her. From the situations she was put in by her mother, where Apple was encouraged to drink under her mother's acknowledgement and approval, a mother who has had years to learn to be responsible but at 31 still can't take care of her own children, to the actions of Apple's father and stepmother and even her grandmother, who should have just explained, trusted Apple to be old enough to understand. If anyone had give her some responsibiliyu and trust, maybe she would have been bearable.

Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia for this review copy!
Image Credit: Bloomsbury.

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

Tashi and the Wicked Magician and other stories- Barbara and Anna Fienberg. (Link to Allen and Unwin- unavailable on Goodreads)
I grew up reading (devouring?) the Tashi books, and between me and my two siblings I believe we have the whole collection. I could not pass up reading some new Tashi stories for a moment.
For each story (there are four, one in two parts) there is a colour illustration on one page, and these, quite possibly, were my favourite parts of the book. I loved seeing Tashi, his world and his friends come back to life, and the illustrations (though I yearned for more!) were just beautiful. Amazing detail and colour and ability to capture the scenes.

The stories, unfotunately, did not work quite so brilliantly for me. They are short stories, probably less than half the size of the stories I grew up with, but they didn't captivate me, didn't give themselves enough time. The way they would play out, though not from a plot point of view, was predictable and for me it didn't have the magical wonder of the old Tashi books. They would, however, be excellent bedtime story reads, since they're a good length for that.

These stories did still hold lots of wonder, and the imagination of the plots in each, from a dragon born of Tashi's own imagination to the consequences of a boy with a beautiful voice, was the same. They were unique and creative, and I just wish they'd been longer so they could've been marvellous, too.