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
tidy
organise
clean
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)
cook
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.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Q&A and a giveaway! (Open AUS)

Hello! Today I have something incredibly special and equally exciting- a Q&A with the fantastic Becky Albertalli, author of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, which I recently reviewed, and the lovely Penguin Books Australia is giving a copy away- lets party, I say to that.

I'm so excited to have had the chance to ask Becky some questions relating to her writing process, Simon and Oreos. Lead me to the gluten free isle and I am there with those suggestions.


*Q* Did you always know you had stories inside of you that you needed to get onto paper?
*A* I think I always knew I had to get stories out on paper (I’m one of those people who thinks about writing all day, even if I sometimes hate actually sitting down at the computer and doing it). I never expected I’d ever be published. I wrote Simon after leaving my job as a psychologist when my son was born, because I wanted to give writing for publication one shot. 


*How long did it take you to write Simon?
Simon took about five months to write and revise – I worked primarily during my son’s naptimes!


*How do you keep inspired?
I tend to be very inspired by my own memories and little moments in my daily life. I also reread my journals from high school before beginning new projects.


*What is your writing routine?
I usually write on my couch or bed – never at a desk. I tend to reread what I wrote the previous day to ease back into the story. I edit compulsively as I draft. I definitely have a hard time staying focused, but I try my best to unplug from distractions during my writing time – especially because, as a parent of two very young kids, I get so little time to actually write. 

*Is there a character in Simon you liked more than any of the others, or connected to more distinctly?
This is probably a very predictable answer, but I definitely felt most connected with Simon. He is kind of a more charming, less self-aware version of me, and so many of his thoughts and feelings are based on my own memories of being a teenager. I would also say I’m pretty similar to Leah, Alice, and (I have to admit) Simon’s mom.


*If there was a film version of Simon, who do you envisage as the main characters?
I’ve always pictured Miles Heizer from Parenthood as Simon, but some other contenders have come onto my radar lately: Dan Cohen from My Mad Fat Diary and Logan Lerman. I love daydreaming about this!


*What do you think is the most important thing for aspiring writers to remember?
I think writers should always remember to listen and observe. Try to be fully present and engaged in every conversation and interaction, and get in the habit of noticing the details about friends, family, and strangers.


*Do you like Oreos? What’s the best way to eat them?
I love Oreos as much as Simon does! My favorite ways to eat them are:

-In ice cream or milkshakes
-Oreo balls/Oreo truffles
-Double Stuf dipped in milk  

Thank you so much, Becky, for answering my questions!

And now, one Australian reader has the chance to win a copy of Simon for their very own. It's a wonderful story that features, among other things, 1. Family 2. Oreos 3. Discussions on coming out 4.Adorable emails 5.Two guys falling for each other in a way that is simple and gorgeous and so needed in literature right now.
Enter below!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Disney Princess TAG!

I decided to do the Disney Princess tag. Why, you probably don't ask? Because I wanted to. It looks like a super tag created by Of Stacks and Cups. I wasn't tagged. I am a strong, independant woman. I don't need to be tagged. Hear me type creatively. (And tag yourself, if you're so inclined.)

I think I have to do Three Disney Princess facts, so here we go:
*I do not have a good standing with Disney's Ariel, though she is my favourite fairytale character.
*I trained my niece to sing Love is an Open Door, from Frozen, in the Anna-Hans style with me.
*My least favourite Disney film/princess is Snow White. I get shivers when I see even a minute of that film (and it used to be on all. the. time.).

One. Snow White- Name your favourite classic.
Well it's not Snow White, that's for sure- harharhar. I know, I'm dreadful. My favourite Classic is a tie up between Pride and Prejudice and The Little Prince. I have an endless love for Lizzie and Darcy (lucky some real creative people in the world do, too!) and The Little Prince is gorgeous beyond words. It's the book I collect in all different editions, though it's so teeny that I'll probably never fill a shelf just with the books!

Two. Cinderella- Name a book that kept you reading well past your bedtime.
The only time I have stayed up super late was when I was cramming and was up til 2AM, and that was the first time. I really got into reading about psychologists and their child development theories. But with books? This never happens. I think I've stayed up until 11 a few times, but I don't even remember what book it was with!

Three. Aurora- Name your favourite classic romance.
This would be either Lizzie and Darcy from P&P, because their dynamic and love to hate and the angonising wait for readers as they finally realise they love each other and are so sweetly pathetic, it's my kind of thing. I'm pitting it up against Anne and Gil from the Green Gables series- apparently I like love-hate romances? I actually never knew that- because they are supreme.

Four. Ariel- Name a book that's about making sacrifices and fighting for your dreams.
In a way I would say Inkspell and Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke. So many of the characters, particularly Meggie, fight for what they believe in and give up aspects of their lives to achieve their dream, and it really is moving, how strong willed they are in the face of terror.

Five. Belle- Name a book with a smart and independant female character.
The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, particularly CoM and HoF. Celaena is fierce and desperate and traumatised, and I do adore her so. She holds her own, persues her interests (namely books and cake) and can take down a battalion. Probably just with a glare.

Six. Jasmine- Name a book with a character who challenged the social conventions of their world.
Katsa and Fire from Graceling and Fire by Kristen Cashore. Katsa refuses to marry or to be married off and, even though she is expected to by those around her, she holds firm with her decision and independence. Fire similarly makes choices about herself that ensure her freedom and choices continue to be her own, even if she has certain expectations levelled against her.

Seven. Pocahontas- Name a book whose ending was a roller-coaster of emotions.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix because it got me even when I knew what was going to happen and The ABC Murders by Christie because it was detailed and unexpected and I had been going utterly the wrong way. It was great.

Eight. Mulan- Name a book with a kick-ass female character.
Obviously Celaena and Katsa, but to add someone new to the mix I'm going to throw Kat from Ally Carter's Heist Society. She is a criminal and she knows her mind. She goes solo. She made a decision (add her into number six!) that went against all her teachings, her entire family. She can rob the most highly protected museum in the world, not to mention the biggest bank.

Nine. Tiana- Name a book featuring a hardworking, self-made character.
I'd say Lumikki Andersson from the trilogy by Salla Simukka. She is pretty much a teen detective, but this is on a different level. Think Veronica Mars except she is getting locked in freezers and the whole aspect is a bit darker than V saw in the early seasons. It's intense. It's glorious.

Ten. Rapunzel- Name a book that features an artist.
Hold Me Closer by David Levithan is the musical in a book of Tiny Cooper. He wrote, directed and starred in his own musical. That is art.

Eleven. Merida- Name a book that features a mother-daughter relationship.
Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers. The book is comprised of these notes passed between mother and daughter and it tells such a strong, emotional story. It was really shocking and surprising and beautifully done.

Twelve. Anna and Elsa- Name a book that features a great relationship between siblings.
All the Harry Potter books (the Weasleys!) and Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda. The Weasleys stand by each other through thick and thin (well, apart from Percy), and Simon has such a sweet relationship, that is geuine and lovely, with his two sisters. I really love them.

This was great fun, and a more in depth tag than I've done in a while. Like Disney? Like fairytales, tags or princesses? Do it.
Romi.x

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Blogging and jealousy and discussing things.

You know, as I typed the title of this post into the title field (words) I hesitated. I almost backed out from writing down my thoughts on this topic at all, because it's not nice, is it? Jealousy is one of those things that I see spoken of in a post and oftentimes I kind of want to avoid, because being jealous and admitting to being jealous and talking of other people who are jealous, it's a big bunch of things that basically say "this isn't a nice thing and look what it does". And Jealousy, with capitals, is not a nice thing. It's bitterness and anguish and pain and hopelessness and hope forsaken.
To me.
For me.

For a human, jealousy can be immense or managable, and for me it's always been the latter, and I hope for it to always be the latter, but it doesn't mean that it isn't frustrating and painful and difficult, overall. Difficult for how it makes you feel and think and for the fact it's there at all, but I don't necessarily think that jealousy is bad. It's something I try to steer away from, personally and when it's discussed, because of how I feel about it, but I'm also interested in understanding why that's my reaction- seeing something someone else has and feeling jealous is, likely, something that has carried people across the ages, and yet I'm intently uncomfortable with the mention, even of it.
In book blogging, jealousies can run high. Book bloggers get hundreds of comments! They get free books! They have amazing support groups! And I think something that also has to be understood, when it comes to those things, is that an incredible level of work has also been put into the reviews and blogs of those bloggers, and even if it sometimes seems a little unfair that you haven't yet reached  that level of blogging prowess I think it's important to understand that it doesn't come easy.

I've been blogging for almost five years and I'd classify myself as having a small blog. I don't get inundated with comments and I've been on top and able to stay up to date with my review tbr for around 6 months, and I'm proud of my blog and where I have taken it. I still want to meet more bloggers and make more friendships, and I want to get to know the bloggers I count as my friends even more, because they're great! But I still do get jealousies, now and then. I'm not immune just because I write via keyboard. I feel left out, sometimes, and it's a bitter, sad thing to feel. But I don't think it's necessary to hate or even dislike myself for that, and, right at the bottom of it, that is something I mentally link with jealousy: Hate. Loathing. And I think, in many cases, it could be more important to try and understand the feelings being expressed or felt on both sides.

What are your thoughts on jealousy? Does it affect you when it comes to blogging? Do you get book envies?

Romi.xx
P.S. INSTAGRAM. I'm there. Are you?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Mini Reviews (10)


The Golden Twine- Jo Rioux.
I love manga and graphic novels and books full of art. Sometimes it’s not the story that makes me hold on and keep reading, it’s the art, so exquisite and well defined that I couldn’t turn from it. We might miss out on illustration in the large majority of YA, MG and adult lit, but we still have these!

The Golden Twine was a really interesting story, though possibly presenting itself more like a web comic than something you’d generally see printed. I enjoyed it a lot, and the art was very nice, but it was a strange mix of being aimed at MG and the character seeming very young, to the far end of MG with some of the feelings and themes. To be truthful, I don’t remember all that much about it (then why review it?), as you can probably tell, but I remember I liked it quite a bit, it was quick and the art was nice. So that’s positive!
It was a really neat fantasy story, strange and nice and thoughtful, with levels to it, but it ends with you wanting to know what’ll happen next and though there’s supposed to have been a sequel, I can find practically nothing about it. It’s a mystery! I only hope it comes out eventually, before the story of this becomes too much of a mystery to my mind.


Me Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You Being You- Todd Hasak-Lowy.
To be honest, I didn't anticipate that I was going to like this one. Cait wrote a great review and it clearly showed me elements of the book that I felt I would not like nor want to read, though I was perfectly willing to give it a try when a lovely surprise package was sent to me from S&S. Afterall, I do love some lists (and this book? Comprised entirely of lists, it is) and the cover is so neat when you really take it in.
The cover remains something I really like and I admit that, while I didn't like the story, characters or writing style personally (these male characters who gripe, talk excessively about girls and their various attractions and do close on nothing- another one of these, like Cait said, is Greg from another book I disliked- are hugely annoying to my system. I am all for more male protagonists in YA, but these I do not like), but the use of lists to still tell the story and point out feelings and events was really clever. The feelings and events were too nondescript, filler-esq, disengaging and irrelevant for me to enjoy- they failed to grip me and I started to get a sore head whenever I was about to start readng. I got to about 165 pages, but in the end? I am not one to continue with a book when there are others I want to read more and I am seriously not enjoying it. There just isn't time in my life for that, and I could feel poorly for giving up (I'm a reviewer, after all), but I don't. I simply don't have time for such things. So:
Go. Me.

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

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Feature a Movie (2)

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 (or last!) I'm featuring The James Bond Films.

So in May I had a moment of "what to watch" and there was nothing I felt like rewatching on my shelf. My mother and I, we gazed at the DVD cabinet- Hornblower? Rewatch (for the 5th time) Poirot? Then our eyes met (alright maybe they didn't but it's a dramatisation at this stage) over the James Bond box-set she had been given a year or so earlier.
We didn't take it seriously, the idea. Unwil we were watching Dr. No.

Throughout May we watched 16 of the Bond films, only skipping one (sharksss), and it became a project to record our thoughts. For me, it became a critical analysis of the sexism abundant in the franchise, which is even more pronounced and disgusting than I'd ever imagined or known before.
I don't plan on indivudually reviewing each film (though a sentence for each could be fun), rather I'll do an overall summary of my thoughts, irritations and feelings.

Favourite Film: For Your Eyes Only. Even though that end bit was, in my mind, slightly horrendous.
Favourite Bond: Brosnan, but who says I didn't already know this.
Favourite Female: Melina and Natalya.
Best/Most Believable Villain: Psychopath Walkin.
Favourite Moment: When Bond feels heartbreak and anything in which Jaws looked adorably ruffled. Seriously, he was so sweet!

And now, wh-hey! let's get onto the reasons I think James Bond is a git who needs more people to point this out to him.
He is sexist.
He is manipulative of women and uses them shamelessly, lying to get sex, making these women believe he'll stay with them, if that's what it takes.
He cheats.
He forces himself on women.
He hits them.
And he never gets painted badly for any of it. No stream of ex-lovers chase him, after revenge, he doesn't get anyone pregnant and have to shoulder responsibility. No women speak up (apart from Judi Dench as M), no men tell him to back down or stop being so bloody awful. Nup. Because he's James Bond, and- apparently- if he hits a woman and then presses himself onto her, even if she tries to fight him off, it's okay. Because he is a Hero.
Whereas to me it doesn't matter a for a damn moment that he's one of the best agents in Britain, because he is still perfectly villainous.

A point I made during Moonraker, my second favourite film because the villain actually realised he couldn't threaten to destroy a state or country and then run free with the ransom money (oh and because of Jaws), was that Dolly, the character who falls for aforementioned man of steel tooth, was never made to be a character Bond might have found desirable.
She wore sticky out plaits, glasses- she wasn't portrayed in all the ways the women he persues are- and she didn't give Bond a second glance. Is that all it takes for him to ignore a woman?
From experience, hardly.
She just wasn't his type and I would have found it so much sweeter if she had been. If she had rebked all his advances because she didn't care or she was too devoted to Jaws, and James had been left to feel rejection. But to get a happy ending he has to get the girl and he wouldn't have been getting her.

In The Man with the Golden Gun, Goodnight is forced to listen to James have sex with another woman from a cupboard, and then he wants to go onto her the next morning. She refuses, fed up with his promises and actions, and yet a half hour later- she is in his arms. No reasoning.

In at least half of the themesong-intros the dancing women are clearly naked, and amidst wincing as they leapt about in what could only have been painful ways, I noted that the men were not in such a state of undress. Why? No idea.

May Day had me terrified but cheering, for she was a women who used Bond as much as he used her (note I don't actually think that's good, the using, though the equal footing is) and remained staunchly on the "bad" side. She didn't turn or suddenly abandon her plans. She was a first, I believe, but- as drolly expected- she became good in the last five minutes of her screen time.
Is a woman not allowed to remain bad, despite James Bond using her and willing her to do otherwise?

Should I mention the fact few women were allowed to wear clothes that would be well suited to secret-agenting? Or do they all wear bikini's in real life?

In summary, was I impressed? No. I am interested, though. I do feel better informed, and like women are getting a better side as the films progress into newer ages. We even got a villain who was incredibly, bizarrely crazy and killed people with her thighs whilst yelling "yes", and a female who had an awful experience and became a kickass trauma heroine, Celaena Sardothian esq. I can only hope this trend progresses and eventually Bond gets some sense hurled into him.