Thursday, October 23, 2014

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas...

Title- Heir of Fire.
Author- Sarah J. Maas.
Publish date- September, 2014.
Publisher- Bloomsbury.
RRP- $15.99 (AUD)

*Contains spoilers for the other books in the Throne of Glass series*

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
Did you think Celaena would have it easy?

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

What I thought:
I cannot believe quite how much I love this series. With every twist, be it amusing, intense, joyous or heartwrenching (the latter of which many are) I just get so involved in the story that very little else matters. Other stories, many of my projects faltering until I've finished.
The Throne of Glass novels are, for me, like an emotional sweeping machine, taking practically everything I've got and sucking it up. It's been a long time since I've felt so much for a single character as I do for Celaena, and for the others whose stories are simultaneously unfolding in their world, for te future of the world itself. Sarah J. Maas proves herself again and again, besting herself with each novel, proving she is willing to send her characters to dark places, willing to write them as much fear and horror as joy, and I respect her immensely for that.

I throughly enjoyed all of the varying POVs, and all the new characters, the levels added to the old, and I quite enjoyed seeing the Glass Palace without Celaena in it, though it only seems the more terrifying in her absence. Still, it is Celaea, raw from her soul shattering sorrow and departure, who remains outstanding above Manon and Dorian and Rowan and all the rest; she opens herself so brutally in this book that I felt it all, and she is in so much pain for so many things that I could hardly bare it, could hardly imagine how she did, that every moment I wanted to be there as she struggled on, rediscovering her fae half in fascinating, carefully written scenes.

There were so many passages filled with hope, joy, anguish or amusement, and yet I underlined non! Later I was glad, though, since this means I can do a reread (of the whole series) when Summer comes, and oh how I look forward to it.

There were no faults, nothing I could point to and wish away or altered; I took close on 80 pages to truly feel myself in the story, really there and feeling it all, but I still enjoyed those pages. Even the ending, which damn near ruined my Throne of Glass heart with it's power and majesty and horror, even that didn't leave me unhappy. Terrified, yes. But I'd not change it. I'm glad to know that there is risk for these people I adore, even as I hold back tears.

The best of all of them.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Brick Flicks by Warren Elsmore...

Title- Brick Flicks.
Author- Warren Elsmore.
Publish date- October 1st, 2014.
Publisher- Allen and Unwin.
RRP- $24.99 AUD.


Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
The cover says it all. Films. Films you may have watched, heard of, or never known existed. Scenes from them. Lego. Put it all together, and you have Brick Flicks.
Thank you to Allen and Unwin for this review copy!
Image Credit: Allen and Unwin.

What I thought:
Brick Flicks is an idea I love- showcasing 60 films in Lego? Fantastic! And the potential, not only with the creations but with the new films to be discovered, too, and the intrigue as to what fi;ms would appear (I was overjoyed to see Dirty Dancing, a film I discovered for the first time only recently and ADORE in endless capitals, featured) was immense. I have a mass of markers (26 by my count!) for films I now want to see, and I am really fascinated by the fact many of them, like The Italian Job, I may have heard of but never been particularly interested in until now, for the information, facts and summaries (though painfully spoilery on more than one occasion) are very intriguing and make me want to find out more, see the related film for myself.

I was not particularly surprised, when I think about it, by most of the fi;ms chosen for the book; a lot are films hailed as the best (and this is of the most iconic, I relent), ones featured in top ten lists, and though some (movies I've heartily enjoyed like Austen Powers and Waynes World) did surprise me by being included, I would've liked a bit more diversity. Isn't it a fantastic idea to recreate a scene from Labyrinth in Lego? It is, I think, very iconic, and yet there were few films I have truly loved featured (and no period dramas!) which makes me a little sad.

It was not the Lego, as I would have expected, however, that stood out as the best part of the book for me, because I can only say that there were four I thought truly wonderful, the best of them being Dracula. I felt disappointed, because though I can't imagine the lengths to which time and effort was put to make these scenes what they were, I often wished there was more- a bit more detail or intricacy or link to the film. Many were surprisingly simple, and whilst for The Birds that works very well, for many it left me dissatisfied.

Rating: Ooh, Very Good.
Overall, though let down a bit by the Lego, this is a marvellous book and has introduced me to many a new film, and heightened my wish to return to many more. And seeing film scenes and posters made from Lego is reliably hilarious.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer...

Title- Belzhar.
Author- Meg Wolitzer.
Publish date- October 1st, 2014.
Publisher- Simon and Schuster.
RRP- $16.99 (AUD)


Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
Jam is unable to recover from a tragedy that shook her life, stealing away her happiness and will, and so her parents send her to a school. There she is put into a special english class and meets four other teenagers who have all been through their own tragedy, and she is also given a very strange journal, which brings on stranger things when she writes in it.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for this review copy!
Image Credit: Simon and Schueter.

What I thought:
I was intrigued by Belzhar (which, after a very long time, I can only just begin to pronounce properly- or what I hope is properly). Intrigued, captivated, moved and, ultimately, let down.
But that, as people in novels often say, is getting ahead of myself.

The story starts with possibly the best (vying with The Book of Days) opening I've read this year, and it caught my attention and held it, wondered about loosing it a little later, then held it in a not particularly firm grip, but a grip nonetheless.
The point where the 5 Special Topics (not tropics, as I often mistook and read) in English class students (students of a school for teenagers who would not cope in a regular school situation) start to share their stories was captivating. These are dark stories, the reasons behind why they are at the school and whilst I did throughly enjoy getting each story, felt the characters truly taking shape before me as I understood them, their motives and, in all 5 cases, what had left them broken, yet it felt a bit clockwork-like. I knew I would get the next story within the next two chapters, and I would have liked some to be more unexpected in how we discovered them- I also found it frustrating/unfair, from the point of view of the other characters, that through we readers learnt all the stories, two weren't shared with the group (one is planned to, in mention). Everyone else cracked open a dark part in their lives, gave something precious and intimate to these others, and it seemed bitterly unfair that not everyone reciprocated, not everyone, apart from Jam, got to know each story.

This, and a few other things, were relatively small (that the biggest until we got to the end) problems for me, though, and they didn't stop me following the story avidly (I thought to use the word "enjoy", but from my experience with this novel that would be a very unfitting word) and wanted to know the truth of these broken characters in such a strong manner that I felt like they had become little more than presentations at a show, with me the eager onlooker.
I can't say that, apart from Sierra, I truly liked any of the characters. Her story hit me with few stops pulled, and her character felt like the most vivid and real for me, though I also note that liking the characters didn't feel wholly necessary. I understood them and I felt for and with them and I think that's what was needed. Not like or dislike. Understanding.

The reason I ended up feeling so disappointed in the story, why I started to feel dislike for the way things turned creeping forward, that would involve revealing something incredibly spoilery, the whole plot (well, a large, large portion of it) gone. I will try very hard to keep it clean, but best you've read/don't plan to read the book before reading the following (highlight it), just in case.
*Spoilery!*The truth about Jam's story was really surprising (well, I'd suspected but not for a while, and the way it came about still surprised me) and for the sympathy I had felt for her, the emotion I and other characters had felt, I felt like I had been deviously lied to. And I'm very mixed when I think that, because I still feel sorry for her, still understand and if it was a true to life situation I would understand it more clearly and not feel the frustration or annoyance, but with Jam, what she did and felt and how she acted, I couldn't help but thikn she was a little ridiculous. I couldn't believe her, actually, and I felt very, very frustrated.*Endofspoilerybits!*

My final (well) point is that Jam calls herself, referring to her past, one of the "nice" girls. Three times this happens and it just frustrated me endlessly. She uses it as an explaination as to why her behaviour was so surprising, like she wouldn't usually do this or that because she was one of the nice girls, and I got sick of it- because of how she paints herself and her actions and other people around her who don't fit into that catagory. I started to wonder if maybe she was truly evil and wanting to ward everyone off the signal.
Jam is also quite judgemental, I felt, of a number of things.

*Another note*
Jam has been sent, unwillingly, by her parents to the Wooden Barn, and she wants to go home but they don't allow it, not until she's lasted a semester at least, AND YET her mother, later in the book, suggests pulling her out early when she is actually starting to show improvement. I found this very irritating.

Rating: Poor. Sometimes a level down, sometimes a level or even two up, but smushed together...
Belzhar was unique (though I was reminded a bit of The Dead Poets Society with the descriptions, way of teaching, school feel, ect.) and intriguing and I thought it was done well, but Jam was a character I didn't have a connection with, and my irritations with some of her actions outweighed my enjoyment in or of the story itself.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour...

Title- Everything Leads to You.
Author- Nina LaCour.
Publish date- May 2014.
Publisher- Dutton Juvenile.

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
A young woman finds love at the same time she finds mystery and work and life mixing themselves together, all sweet and intense and hard to define. (Yes for good through synopsis' Romi.)

What I thought:
I flew right into this, the story enveloping me in a way that doesn't often happen so quickly; it was really an encompassing tale, and I'm so glad that I read Lesley's beautiful, inspiring review, because it made me want to read this book I hadn't even heard of before as soon as physically possible.

It was written so vividly and I just loved the detail of Emi's job as a set designer. The detail of what it took her just to find one couch was incredible and I really felt her passion for her work and appreciated it so much. She loved it and dreams of making it her job, and she is incredibly talented at her work. The passion was just so strong and I felt it myself, passing through the pages of the story and into my own feelings.

The mystery element of the plot, however- the plot as a whole, really- capitvated me as I read but didn't leave me with much else, and I can't say I really liked it that much. Not all of it. Possibly not most. Similarly, Ava. She had her moments where I enjoyed her part of the story, certainly, but on the whole I always felt like there was something a little off, or false, about her.

I feel like this goes against the whole point of it, but I did love how Emi's love for women wasn't mentioned in the negative by anyone, not once- it was written so naturally and no one made fun of her, picked on her or anything, and I really just appreciated that. Wish there were more books where sexuality was just accepted, whatever way it goes, though almost always it seems to be the point where characters have to learn from by being bullied.

Rating: Between Hmm... and Ooh, very good.
I felt inspired, moved and impassioned by this beautiful story, and while there wasn't much in the plot itself that I really enjoyed, there was beauty in the characters and he love they felt, and that was enough.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel Vol. 1 by Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell.

Title- The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel, Vol. 1.
Author- Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell.
Publish date- August 2014.
Publisher- Bloomsbury.
RRP- $19.99 (AUD)


Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
A graphic novel adaptation, by seven artists, of the story of a boy called Nobody who lives in a graveyard.

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

What I thought:
I listened to Neil Gaiman (the, I believe, perfect voice for this story) read the audiobook of The Graveyard book a few months before, and I adored it. The story is odd., intriguing, amusing and whimsically blunt at times, and always with that vein of darkness- Bod is living in a graveyard, afterall, and he's there because someone (who may still be after him) killed his family one night when he was just a baby, though really that dark fact can be sidetracked every now and then as Bod's adventures take up the page and your mind alike.
It's a very vivd story, the characters unique and clear in my mind, and though I had very few troubles with the graphic novel, the fact that these characters are now drawn, pictured before me as they are in someone else's imagination, that took me a little but of time to get used to.

There are 7 different illustrators working on this, basically one for each chapter + the interlude covered in this volume, and that really struck me as neat- each had a different way of conveying the story, representing the characters (the favourites of mine being Stephen B. Scott with the Interlude and Galen Showman with Chapter 4), though none of them, no matter how intricate or fascinating or enthralling, truly fit what I already thought. Some characters, like the Indigo Man and Silus and the Sleer, they just are what they are in your head, and whilst I was so intrigued by how these artists chose to represent the characters, I can't say they felt right to me.

Rating: Ooh, very good.

It was such a marvellous experience, and a different one from listening to the audio, reading/taking in the graphic novel, though- I was excited by it, diverted- and my attention was persistently held.
All I could think when I finished was that I truly, truly wanted to see how what happened next would appear, and I fully intend to find out.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Plotting a Takeover: Character Buys 8.

A not so regular feature in which I pick a book and then pick out things I think the character/s themselves would own/use or just really like. This week the featured book is...

The Fairyland series by Catherynne M. Valente.
Focusing on September.

A dark hued print that would speak of the sea and the dark things she hasn't yet met who live in it, of the world under fairyland where Halloween lives, of purple haired girls and the mysteries their eyes speak.

A glorious zine of witches and magic, perfect for crawling into bed with, or taking into your fort. I think any fairytale would speak magnitudes for her, forever after her adventures.

These just yell in high tones "September" to me, and I am not one to ignore high toned yelling, especially when I am the one doing it.

In her house would be things like this, wall hangings or bags or cloths with pictures of the creatures she longs to stay with, the ones she is so very fond of and wants to remember always.

The kind of dreamy thing she would see in Fairyland and remember, see and want to recreate at some point, to make sure she didn't forget.

I can imagine September as a young woman going to a fancy party, a fairy one or a human one, and thinking of Ell and wearing something like this, if she couldn't take him along with her.

For dancing with wyverns and around fairy circles and spending the night under the full, dreamy moon.

The first thing I thought of, practically, and this is just what I imagined.  A soft, thick, orange scarf for a girl who loves orange.

It's big and showy in it's way, but also delicate and small and I can imagine September falling completely in love with the detail and the flowers and wearing it always.

A pumpkin souffle scented orange candle? From Hagrid's pumpkin patch? I think September would be rightly thrilled by the very prospect. 

Orange, Orange, Orange. Like an autumnal pumpkin festival.

Witches around a table celebrating some deviousness? That is completely September, to me.
This is so Fairyland and September to me. It's kind of like the house is Fairyland and the creature is everything else, everything September hasn't found out yet.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Gentlemen Formerly Dressed by Sulari Gentill...

Title- Gentlemen Formerly Dressed. (Rowland Sinclair #5)
Author- Sulari Gentill.
Publish date- 2013.
Publisher- Pantera Press.

*Will almost certainly contain spoilers for the other four books in the series*

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
After their escape from Germany Rowland and his friends find themselves in England, where they wrongly assume they are safe. It turns out this country has a lot more to throw at them than any of the four could have ever imagined.

What I thought:
A part of me thinks that this was a disappointment, as a read, and that's only half true. I did dislike it more than I've disliked any of the other books in the series. I had more issues with the characters and the plot did feel pretty sluggish at times, but I also remember that it had some of the most historically interesting characters and places, for me, than the other books.
I really enjoyed Rowland's interactions with H.G. Wells, and with a sense of amusement Evelyn Waugh (that was sparky, I tell you), even the surprise appearance of a Prince (but which one I can't remember), which was quite peculiar and amusing, though my favourite thing was the intorduction of a stunning character called Countess, who was simply marvellous. He won my heart over in an instant, though I can't forsee him becoming a featured character due to the space of different countries.

There is somewhat a theme, a subtle one, where Rowland meets an important world figure in these books and here that just did not work for me, though it happens close to the end and I'm not willing to risk giving accidental spoilers by going into detail, but as much as I love Rowland, the implications of this meeting certainly felt like a stretch.

The plot was pretty sluggish for me, as I say, but it really picked up in the last... 75 pages or so, I'd say, when everything really came together- a few surprses and a few that'd already been guessed- and whilst one comment by the "villain" about why the circumstances were chosen simply felt strange and a little by someone in power, it was entirely thrilling and I was flipping the pages, hesitant and horrified and so captivated. That's what I want in a crime novel.

Rating: Mostly Hmm but also Poor at times.
I had some troubles with this, the biggest and most compared to any other books in the series, but it was by no means all fault and no joy or captivation. They just took more of a backseat this time.