Wednesday, September 17, 2014

State of Grace by Hilary Badger...

Title- State of Grace.
Author- Hilary Badger.
Publish date- October 2014.
Publisher- Hardie Grant Egmont.
RRP- $19.95 (AUD)

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
A carefree, happy, perfect world where you only have to be dotly to be happy. Two or three rules to be abided by and your days are free for however you would like to spend them. It's all you could wish for.
Or it's a lie, because something isn't quite right. 

Thank you to Hardie Grant Egmont for this review copy!
(The way this ARC was posted was so neat! It came wrapped in twine with the paper flower in the middle and made quite a talking point for whoever saw it!)

What I thought:
It was not until I was very nearly finished that I knew without a doubt that I was definitely reminded of The Maze Runner when I read this, just it had more people and htey were all glad to be where they were.
I had briefed the idea fairly early on- there are similarities throughout that felt familiar- but when there came a really unfortunate seeming and very spoilery sucession of words very close to the end there wasn't really any going back, and as different in many other ways as the books are I don't know that I'll ever be able tot think of this as anything but "The Maze Runner where people were happy".

It was very readable, though, and from the get go I was intrigued. I hadn't heard of the book before and decided not to read more of the back cover than the words "creepy", which made it a really interesting experience, going in completely blank- and I was perplexed, too, because the creepy-ness did take a fair while to come into the story, though the anticipation for it was actually fantastic. I couldn't stop wondering how the idyllic paradise in which these 100 teens were living would be suddenly changed, and when it came it was the kind of creepy that is slow. You don't even think it is creepy, not at first.

The setting was really interesting for me, too- where could the place these people are be? I was taken in by their day to day life, lernt the rules they had to abide by with interest and internally grimaced at the very, very, awkward names boobs and male genitalia were given- I actually have no idea why the names were changed, now on the other side of the story and knowing everything, but it was disconcerting, to say the very least.

Wren, as the protagonist, went through a pretty massive transformation: from the carefree, happy girl who loves the life Dot has given her to a girl afraid and anguished by the strain of feeling like she's somehow upset her creator and is terrified of what that means for her, and it really a believable journey, though I have to say I did miss the joy that shone through from Wren in the very first chapters more than once. I felt a sense the deeper I delved into the story, as if I too was leaving the bright, sun filled carefree life I'd led before, just like her. I was, however, not truly attached to her or any of the other characters, though many held aspects that were possessed really wonderfully, and the scenes in which they truly lit those aspects up were beautiful ones for Wren, Blaze and Fern.
Wren's narrative was very much one full of multiple words to try and multiply the expressive point of a single thing, with lots of "totally"s, "seriously"s and "obviously"s, and whilst a lot of the time it fit her character and all kept up the flow of her storytelling, more than a couple of times it got to be a little too much for me.

I was lucky enough to be provided with an ARC to review, and as such it had a few spelling mistakes and the like, but I would also hope that the number of people in paradise would be lowerd in the final publication, from 100 to fifty, because we met perhaps 10 of those people and I could never believe there were more than even 40. The writing and description made me feel like it was so many less.
There was also a pretty spoilery thing with a name, and it really took away from the story for me, felt so easily explained away. I could've liked the story a level or two more without that coming in altogether.

So whilst it did feel like Maze Runner in some really important ways, and I never was truly in the story, it was enjoyable for the most part, and exciting.
I could believe it might be real, for sure.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Plotting a Takeover: Character Buys 7. (Plus a competition!)

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...

As Red as Blood by Salla Simukka.
Focusing on Lumikki.

The starting point for all of this is that Lumikki doesn't have many possessions during As Red As Blood, as, I think, a kind of protection. She doesn't want to be used by someone and she doesn't want to put down roots (though I do think she plans on getting more things), so these things I imagine she would have when she's not scared of that, or when she feels like she can make a place her home.

I think she would definitely use these for school/work. They're so neat and I really connect Lumikki with the night-sky and constellations, possibly because of the darkness associated with that time of day, but these are perfect.

And a planets tote! I think this, especially in this black is absolutely wonderful, because it would match her style and it's intriguing and perhaps a little mysterious.

This journal is very intricate and subtle, one of those things you notice more things about the more, longer, you look at it, and in ways that's how I feel about Lumikki as a character.

Lumikki's world is Finland, the home of Moomin, and I loved the fact that she did own something Moomin. It inspired me to try and find a couple other things she would covet, and this is one of them.

And she would have to have a Moomintroll soft toy! I adore this and think she would too, whether it be something she takes to her new home from childhood or a particular buy as an adult, I am doubtless she would have something just like this.

One particular thing that doesn't fit the character we've seen so far is that she doesn't really wear vibrant colours, and yet I strongly imagine Lumikki with a really bright, hand knitted scarf, and this is a pretty swell match for it.

This is a really subtle piece of jewellery, but it's very beautiful and I think she would have something like this that isn't big or something you can't help but notice. It's small and delicate and fragile seeming, and I think that's perfect.

I find it pretty hard to work out, in my mind, what kind of art she would have, but maybe that's because her life, not just things on her walls, are a kind of art. Still, this piece and the next are, I believe, an exception.

I love the dark, misty feeling to this. Like a gray day, but it's got so much to it. I absolutely love it and think she would, too.

I am incredibly lucky enough to be able to offer, thanks to Hot Key Books, three copies of As Red As Blood to be won! Open in Australia only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Astrologer's Daughter by Rebecca Lim...

Title- The Astrologer's Daughter.
Author- Rebecca Lim.
Publish date- July 2014.
Publisher- Text Publishing.
RRP- $19.99 (AUD)

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
Her mother may have warned her that it would happen one day, but when she disappears Avicenna is not willing to let fate and destiny take her the only person she has left away. Not just like that. Not without some fighting.

Image Credit: Text Publishing.
Thank you to Text Publishing for this review copy!

What I thought:
During my read and upon my finishing of this, my feelings were fairly well the same:
that was fast/unexplained/didn't make sense
It didn't stop this from being a very quick read for me amid a book I just couldn't seem to get through, and it has made my reading bcome pleasantly quick once more and it wasn't ever exactly unenjoyable- it was just... confusing.
I read the first 60ish pages in one sitting and when I paused to have lunch, it just seemed like the things that happened had happened fast.
And a lot did happen- it felt like there was only really a single plot, but by the end I'd found there were at least two, maybe three or four, and, well, none of them really felt like they were properly finished. Maybe one. It was left up to the reader, I suppose, to decide how they wanted to take in the semi answers that were given, and that's not a bad thing, but here it didn't work for me. It just felt even more confusing and very unfinished. A blunt ending, going against so much of what the book had been working towards.

Avicenna Crowe, who is featured in the title, didn't make much of an impression on me, but oh the maybe-antagonist maybe-love interest did, and it was the impression that maybe, just maybe, amid the investigation into Avicenna's mother's disappearance someone would have realised he seemed like a bit of a stalker.
She hates him and I do not remember this being something she exactly hid, but she kind of gets over it as he turns up more and more, just waiting around at her street corner at 6.30 in the morning. What?
Also, from the brief wordplay glimpse we get of her, Avicenna's mother sounds like a complete ringer for Severus Snape.

Rating: Hmm...
So, though it felt oddly put together and there were coincidences, eyebrow raising conversations, scenes that made little sense, connections made that, also, made little sense, and things that were questioned and left unexplained, I didn't overtly dislike this story.
It wasn't wonderful and I didn't really *like* it, but... it was a pretty okay read, and it held my (occasionally mystified) attention fairly well from start to finish.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Illusionists by Laure Eve...

Title- The Illusionists (Fearsome Dreamer #2).
Author- Laure Eve.
Publish date-
Publisher- Hot Key Books.

*May Contain Spoilers for book #1 in the series*

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
Now Rue is in World and things are wonderful, but not what she expected. She's sure this could be enough, but with so many lies and truths swirling around her and mixing themselves up, she can't help but think back to all she left in Angle Tar. And darker things are on the horizon, coming closer every moment.
Image Credit: Hot Key Books.
Thank you to Hot Key Books for this review copy!

What I thought:
I had been trying to work out why it was that both books in this series took me so long to read, and I think I may have it. The storyline, it's not deep in the way that you'll miss everything if you don't read a word or two, but you... well, it's the kind of story you (in this case I) have to take your time with, to understand, and thus it took me a long time to get into. When I did, I managed to read the final two thirds in a day, but it still feels like reasonably slow reading.
The plot? It's fairly fast paced in that the world is at risk and it's got to be saved, but it's not rushing anywhere, either, and while I had less problems, characterwise and overall, with this compared to the first book, it still had it's issues, in my opinion. AND YET. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it quite a lot, again more on the finishing and looking back than during the read.

Rue becomes such a... a character I felt for and with. I understood her as she changed ad started to take herself seriously, trust herself, and it was quite a slow going, wonderful period of growth. I liked her and I could root for her in a way I wasn't able to imagine doing in the first book.
The other characters, they don't really measure up to her in their on page time or strength of character; basically, the others could've experienced a similar kind of growth, but would they have measured up to Rue, in the end? Probably not. Still, they doubtless could have benefited from more learning and growing and changing.

It wasn't until we got to the end, however, that things started to get pretty confusing. There was a major revelation that just didn't seem to fit or make sense, and I didn't undersand it, not really- didn't see how it could fit even when it was explained. Fortunately for me it didn't effect how everything ended (though it could have quite seriously).
The end itself is quite open, in it's way, leaving the reader to ask questions they may've liked answered or not asked at all.
I, myself, would've liked a particular eventuality not bought up at all, but even though aspects of the last 30 pages didn't feel necessary in the way they were written and the new things they bought forth, I wasn't too bothered, overall.

Rating: Ooh, very good.
I like that these books unashamedly don't hold back- language; awkward, believable conversations; sex/ual refrences. It stays true to itself, and that doesn't mean I'll always like the places it goes. I don't. But I love the way it gets there.

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Feature of Pictures (and Books!) No. 6

A mix match pair- one book has illustrations I loved but a story that didn't quite end up being what I had hoped for, one went the opposite way!

Title: Sylvia and Bird.
Author: Catherine Raynar.
Publisher: Hardie Grant Egmont. Imprint: Little Tiger Press.
Publish Date: 1st July 2014.
RRP: $14.99 AUD.

Whilst it didn't quite blow my socks off the way I was absolutely sure it would, Sylvia and Bird is quite a special little read, and (this is where it gets to the predictable whats-Romis-favourite-thing-about-picture-books part) the illustration was just... so, so wonderful. It had a mix of blue and green and hold and white in Sylvia that was so beautiful, and she was drawn/painted so exquisitely. You can see the paint actually cracking on the white and gold spots on her back!
The backgrounds weren't quite so splendid- she totally stole it for me.
The story was touching and quite sweet, too, though as I say not all I hoped it would be. A simple story that left me with a little bit of a single eye squint as I pondered an unanswered, and prominent, question, but it was still very nice.

Image Credit: Hardie Grant.

Thank you to Hardie Grant Egmont for providing both of these review books!

Image Credit: Hardie Grant.

Title: Outside.
Author: Libby Hathorn. Illustrator: Ritva Voutila.
Publisher: Hardie Grant Egmont. Imprint: Little Hare.
Publish Date: 1st August 2014.
RRP: $24.95 AUD.

This one is about the opposite of the review above, though my feelings a little more strengthened overall.
The illustrations- though really just of the humans, cat & sheep- weren't my cup of tea and I actually found them a touch creepy, though think as I might I can't find wording as to why. I just found them... a bit too much. The rest, however, trees and the garden and birds, it's eye catching and vibrant and perfectly dreamy, which is oh so right for this book.
The words are like a rhyme that circles onto itself and I liked it, found it imaginative and dreamy and a little bit beautiful in it's toung-twistyness.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Stardust by Neil Gaiman...

Title- Stardust.
Author- Neil Gaiman.
Publish date- 1999.
Publisher- Headline Review.

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
A fairytale for adults and others, taking you back in time and filling your every pore with belief and magic and desire to be a part of such a magnificent tale. There are falling stars who wear the bodies of people, evil deeds and a quest. It's basically all you could ask for in a fairytale, this book.

What I thought:
I wondered about how Stardust and I would go together- I believe it was only after I bought myself a copy that I realised it was linked (the basis for) the movie of the same title. I'd seen that movie, and I had not liked it at all.
So was it a mistake to buy a copy, even if I didn't realise the connection until it was done, even if the synopsis sounded as glorious as the cover looked?

I wasn't sure.

Turns out I wasn't wrong.
Similar to my experience with Ella Enchanted, the book and the film really don't compare and are so different from each other that you couldn't automatically love or loathe either just having seen/read one.

The book was magical, dark and gloriously fascinating; it held my attention, even if it took a chapter or so to do so, and it's full of beautiful, fairytaleesq passages, and already I could go through and rea it again, meet all the fierce, powerful and omnious characters agai, particularly Yvaine, whose appearances I just enjoyed so much.

And you know what? Reading the book made me want to go and watch the movie again! I didn't love it by any means, when I did, and the appearance of the witches is still a little gruesome for my tastes, not to mention their deeds, but I enjoyed it more than ever I imagined I would.

Rating: Big Explosion MIND BLOWN!
With all that was up against it, this managed to become a favourite of mine, and I call that a triumph.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger...

Title- Parrotfish.
Author- Ellen Wittlinger.
Publish date- 2007.
Publisher- Simon and Schuster.

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
There's a teenager. She's decided to become a he. There is the reaction of family. School mates. Peers. There is true love. There is truth, horrifying and sweet, and all of it comes together to make a very interesting story.

What I thought:
Parrotfish, oh Parrotfish. This was a fantastic read for me because of the issue of being transgendered and the reaction by others that it tackled, ad it did offer up some information that was new to me, but on the other side of things it wasn't a fantastic read in general. I needed it, and I'm really glad I had the chance to read it, and I did quite enjoy it, but it had it's problems and I didn't think the plot itself- Grady's coming out not being the sole focus of the story- was quite so brilliant as some other aspects were or had the potential to be.

When Angela announces to her family that she doesn't want to be Angela anymore, they react in a mixture of ways- denial, anger, in a self-centered way, with awkwardness- and whilst I have little doubt that these are steps gone through and emotions felt by many, I still found it slightly grating and unfair on Grady's behalf.

My main, standing up and waving a red, angry flag issue with Parrotfish is the way it's characters, Grady most notably, are a touch on the hypocritical side. A big part of Grady's anguish in the novel is the refusal of peers and family to accept him as Grady and the way people just keep calling him Angela, and yet he goes after a school bully-esq girl and it's like a mission to take her down. I don't remember if it's directly or indirectly, but Grady, I believe- or someone in his immediate companion group- calls her a slut and it's all cheering and fantastic. Way to go!
Stand up to the bully and call them cruel names because of how they dress and be mean rigjt back at em. Hmm...

I also struggled with the christmas production element of the story, when the family, every year, dress up and put on a christmas show in their front window. No one but their father enjoys it remotely, and it becomes a "shut it down" issue. The way it was done felt more hurtful than tactful, and a lot of the amusement was lost on me.

Rating: Hmm...
Overall, it had hmm elements and great moments, a pretty honest portrayal and some nastiness, but I quite enjoyed it. I did.