Saturday 18 July 2015

Audiobook Review: The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer, Narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt


The fact that Georgette Heyer wrote The Black Moth at 17 is pretty astonishing. It's such a delightful book which, while perhaps not as polished as her later works, firmly establishes the charm and humour she would display throughout her career.

Heyer apparently first invented the story to tell to her sick younger brother, and it contains all the classic elements you'd expect from such an origin - an engaging hero who flirts with danger but actually has a heart of gold, a beautiful heroine who captures said heart, a ~dastardly~ villain you love to hate, lots of action, scandal and intrigue, plus a bit of bromance on top of all that.

I really enjoyed the characters, especially Jack and his best friend Miles, and I even empathised with the tiresome Lady Lavinia. One of my favourite things about Heyer's writing is not the lavish period descriptions or even the melodrama (though they're great too), but the connections between the characters. Whether it's sibling bonds (or lack thereof), enemies, friends, married couples or people just falling in love, the relationships always feel so very real and universal, enhanced by the witty and engaging dialogue.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt and he does an excellent job. The voices he gives to each character are strong - the male characters in particular - and his pacing and delivery are good.

The story was a little uneven and frankly quite baffling in places (the reason Jack had to leave the country seemed weak, for instance, though maybe I'm imposing too modern a judgement), but overall The Black Moth was a fun read and a great way to start my quest to consume all of Heyer's romances.

Rating: 3.5/5

Fine Print
Published: 2013 (Originally 1921)
Get It: Audible

Monday 16 March 2015

The Movie Was Better: The DUFF

I read The DUFF a few years ago and I thought it was OK - I think the hype around it meant my expectations were high and sadly not met. But when I heard they were making a movie based on the book, I was intrigued by exactly how they'd pull off the story of a pair of teenage fuck buddies on the big screen. When the first trailers came out I realised they weren't actually trying to do that, and had instead turned it into yet another hot-guy-makes-over-schlumpy-but-actually-really-hot-girl movie.

I was kinda mad about it because, despite not LOVING the book, the honest portrayal of Bianca's sexuality was one of the things I found refreshing and appealing about it. And, like, been there, done She's All That. The more trailers and snippets I saw, the more I thought that, frankly, the movie was going to be terrible.

So, unlike the book, I had low expectations going in to the movie. And I am glad to say they were NOT met - because I was pleasantly surprised. The DUFF was fun and adorable and delightful. The characters were quite endearing, and Mae Whitman and Robbie Amell as leads Bianca and Wesley had great comic timing and pretty hot chemistry. Obviously Mae Whitman is by no means "ugly" or "fat" but they put her in overalls so that automatically signalled she's a beast. J/K - it's actually more about how she sees herself, and how she's got to love herself despite being surrounded by jerks who judge her for not being ~conventionally~ beautiful. The "DUFF" thing could have turned into an offensive trainwreck, and while there are a couple of iffy moments, overall it's pretty well-handled, with a nice message of loving yourself and not caring about what others think

The dialogue itself is cringey at times - particularly whenever technology is mentioned, with a serious reek of trying too hard - but there's also some really funny moments. And it's cheesy, but in a way that makes you pull the heart eyes emoji face IRL.

So yes, I went in expecting to feel bored at best and ragey at worst, but I walked out with a big grin on my face. I'm already keen to watch it again. It's obviously not for everyone and it's by no means perfect, but I'm a sucker for a good teen rom com, and The Duff is definitely one of them.

And I'm just gonna leave this here, for... reasons...

Thursday 1 January 2015

Bye 2014, Hi 2015


2014 went by so fast and in the latter half of the year in particular I fell into a bit of a reading/blogging funk. But I'm still pretty happy with how I went on my challenges, the only one I didn't reach was the Australian Women Writers Challenge (bummer!):

Aussie Author Challenge, hosted by Booklover Book Reviews
Aim: "Kangaroo" level. Read and review 12 titles written by Australian Authors.
Achieved: 15 books.

Aim: I want to read 20 books by Australian women this year. 
Achieved: 15 books.

Aim: "Stenographer" level. Listen to 10-15 audiobooks.
Achieved: 35 books.

New Release Challenge (a personal challenge)
Aim: Read at least one new release a month, a total of 12 books published in 2014.
Achieved: 18 books.

Goodreads Challenge
Aim: Read 75 books.
Achieved: 89 books.

As for 2015 - I've decided I'm not going to sign up for any challenges, I'm just going to read what I feel like and see how I go. I've been umming and ahhing over what to do about my blog and I've come to the decision that I'm only going to blog if I feel like it. No pressure. That means no challenges. Well, except the Goodreads Challenge - which I've set to 100 books this year! But that doesn't necessarily require a review for every book, so hopefully it won't be stressful (although I am a little nervous about the number tbh). I plan to keep track of my reading on Goodreads still and will probably note down thoughts on each book there, but I don't know if I will aim to do full reviews for every one as I have tried (and failed) to do in the past. The goal is to do what I feel like, what makes me happy. It's all about having fun, after all. We'll see what happens! That said, I do have a couple of reading goals I will probably (hopefully) blog about regularly:

-The Heyer Project. I want to read through all of Georgette Heyer's Regency novels in chronological order. It will probably be mostly through audiobooks.

-V.C. Andrews Recaps. I started this last year but got distracted by other things - but I'd like to continue doing it this year, starting (again) with Flowers in the Attic.

So that's my plan for the year. Low key and hopefully fun. 

Happy 2015!

Top Ten Books I Read In 2014

Not counting rereads (which I happily did a lot more of than in previous years), and in no particular order, these are the books I really loved in 2014...

1. Beauty by Robin McKinley. A gorgeous rendering of Beauty and the Beast, made all the more captivating in audiobook form.

2. Enchanted by Alethea Kontis. A retelling of the Frog Prince (mashed up with other fairy tales), this was a really fun and lovely audiobook.

3. Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness. I'm cheating by including the whole series here, but it is really AMAZING and everyone should GO READ IT NOW.

4. False Colours by Georgette Heyer. I love, love, loved this story of twins switching places in Regency England - Heyer is a happy place kind of read, and it was extra fun in audiobook.

5. You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sarra Manning. Another fantastic audiobook (I'm sensing a pattern here), I related to Neve and her story so much it was scary.

6. Zombies Vs Unicorns, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier. The literary equivalent of a dance off, the short stories featuring - you guessed it - zombies and unicorns in this book are by turns delightful, hilarious and touching.

7. About a Boy by Nick Hornby. I had low expectations due to hating the only other Hornby book I've tried (High Fidelity), but I ended up loving this darkly humorous story - and I listened to it in a fabulous audiobook of course.

8. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. This. Book. It was utterly heartbreaking but completely worth it.

9. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling. I read this at the very beginning of the year and it instantly became one of my all-time faves.

10. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. I actually listened to a bunch of Wilde's plays performed via audiobook and they were all great, but I loved this one the most.

Tuesday 30 December 2014

GIF Reviews: Rounding Up The Last Few Months Of Reading

I have been a terrible blogger this year. I haven't really had the time to blog and have considered just shutting it down several times. But I can never bring myself to do it. This blog has brought me a lot of joy and friendship over the past few years and I don't want to let that go. But it sits here, lonely and neglected, leaving me with an uneasy feeling of failure. I tell myself I'm just going to blog when I feel like it, but the pile of unreviewed books mounts and the task of getting back into it becomes more and more overwhelming. So, in an attempt to get past that and to start fresh in the new year - and see where that takes me - I'm cheating a little and doing the briefest reviews possible in an attempt to catch up, because I still want to log my feelings on each book but I don't want to write full reviews. So I'm going to do it in the language I'm most fluent in, other than English - GIFs, of course. Here we go...

The New World (Chaos Walking book 0.5) by Patrick Ness
In a sentence: This short story of how Viola came to the New World, and the crash that killed her parents, complements The Knife of Never Letting Go brilliantly.
In a GIF:

Rating: 3.5/5

The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking book 2) by Patrick Ness
In a sentence: The stunning, action-packed sequel to The Knife of Never Letting Go, that sees Todd and Viola separated and forced to make impossible choices that will leave you emotional, raw and bleeding all over the place.
In a GIF: 

Rating: 5/5

The Wide, Wide Sea (Chaos Walking book 2.5) by Patrick Ness
In a sentence: A short story that gives a little bit of background info on Mistress Coyle, Viola's mentor of sorts, and tells of the impossible love between a Spackle and a human - a beautiful, bittersweet interlude that deserves a book of its own.
In a GIF:

Rating: 4/5

When Love Comes to Town by Tom Lennon
In a sentence: Rugby-playing bloke's bloke Neil comes to terms with his sexuality in 1990s Dublin - at times heartbreaking, at times touching, the book is let down by several plot holes and a lack of cohesion.
In a GIF:

Rating: 3/5

Ever by Gail Carson Levine
In a sentence: Bland, simple god falls for bland, simple mortal and the bland, simple plot drags on through bland, simple writing towards a bland, simple HEA.
In a GIF: 

Rating: 2/5

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving, audiobook narrated by Tom Mison
In a sentence: The classic tale of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman is surprisingly funny in its original form, narrated perfectly here by the same actor who plays Crane in the new TV show.
In a GIF: 

Rating: 3.5/5

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, audiobook narrated by Davina Porter
In a sentence: WWII nurse and awful person Claire is on a second honeymoon with her husband in Scotland when she is pulled back through time; she soon forgets her husband when she conveniently ~has to~ marry a hot Scottish guy - who is also an awful person who beats her, but that's somehow OK because they have lots of sexy sexy sex times together.
In a GIF:

Rating: 1/5

Forever by Judy Blume
In a sentence: This story of first love and first times is important and fills me with nostalgia - but upon rereading it's hard to look past the frankly bad writing and story (which feels blasphemous to say but is sadly true).
In a GIF:

Rating: 2/5

Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde, audiobook performance by Roger Rees, Eric Stoltz, Joanna Going and Miriam Margolyes
In a sentence: A delightful performance of the classic play, I found it entertaining but I didn't ~love~ it as much as some of Wilde's other works I've read (a.k.a. listened to) this year.
In a GIF:

Rating: 3/5

Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking book 3) by Patrick Ness
In a sentence: Edge-of-your seat, gut-wrenching conclusion to the Chaos Walking series that stays with you long after you've finished.
In a GIF:

Rating: 5/5

Snowscape (Chaos Walking book 3.5) by Patrick Ness
In a sentence: Basically an extended epilogue to Monsters of Men WHICH WAS 100% FINE WITH ME.
In a GIF:

Rating: 4/5

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
In a sentence: Rich white woman goes missing, the husband is the number one suspect - but it's so much more than that, and left me feeling very, very conflicted.
In a GIF:

Rating: 3.5/5

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
In a sentence: This was a reread-a-long, and I unfortunately didn't love the book as much on the revisit - but I still liked it.
In a GIF:

Rating: 4/5

Fawn Brown by Zoe McAuley, audiobook narrated by Katherine Kellgren
In a sentence: Fawn Brown is Snow White's overlooked half-sister, revealing the "true" story of the fairy tale. This is a short novella with an interesting take on the classic story, narrated beautifully by Kellgren.
In a GIF: 

Rating: 3.5/5

Salome by Oscar Wilde, audiobook performance by Rosalind Ayres, James Marsters et al.
In a sentence: A historical/biblical play with feminist undertones - although a little hard to follow at first, this performance really was wonderful to listen to.
In a GIF: 

Rating: 3.5/5

Language A to Z, audio lecture series by Professor John McWhorter 
In a sentence: An engaging intro into linguistics using a word for each letter of the alphabet as a clever and interesting framing device.
In a GIF: 

Rating: 3.5/5

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, audiobook narrated by Rebecca Macauley
In a sentence: I revisited this emotional and authentic story of a teen girl dealing with her mother's depression - and her own issues - via audiobook, with lovely narration by Macauley.
In a GIF:

Rating: 5/5

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta, audiobook narrated by Michael Finney
In a sentence: The heart-wrenching follow-up to Saving Francesca, this time from the perspective of Hot Mess Tom Mackee and his aunt Georgie - a revisit for me via audiobook again, with good narration from Finney.
In a GIF:

Rating: 5/5

Sunday 16 November 2014

Event Recap: High Tea With Melina Marchetta

Every so often Better Read Than Dead in Sydney hosts high tea events with Australian authors, and yesterday they had their biggest ever with Melina Marchetta. There was so much interest they had to  move the event out of their bookshop and in to a hall around the corner. They do a great job with creating a lovely high tea atmosphere, the food is awesome, and you get to hear an amazing author discuss their work - it's basically my idea of heaven. Also tickets are only $10, which is crazy good value. Seriously, I am obsessed with how brilliant these events are. And of course yesterday's event with one of my absolute favourite authors was extra brilliant.

If you're wondering what those non-Melina Marchetta books are - I won the lucky door prize, woo!

Melina discussed everything from writing Looking for Alibrandi to the On the Jellicoe Road film script and the novel she's just finished. Some of the highlights:

  • Melina left school in Year 10 and at her mother's urging did a course to learn to type. Instead of typing random things she began writing what would go on to become Looking for Alibrandi. She would write little snippets of story and pass it to the girl next to her, who kept asking for more, which encouraged her. So her very first reader was a 16-year-old girl. But she said Alibrandi went through many, many rewrites, and even after she got an agent and later a publisher it needed work. She didn't keep a record of the process, but she believes she got rejected between five and eight times before Alibrandi was rescued from the slush pile. From the time she first started writing it through to when it was published, it took about five years. Her other novels have taken about 18 months from writing the first draft through to being published.
  • Her love of reading was what got her in to writing. She had never seen a character like herself or her world portrayed, and that's what really drove her to create Alibrandi. But although she created a story within her world and tied to her experiences growing up in Australia with Italian heritage, she said it's not her life story and Josie Alibrandi is not her: "Josie is much smarter than me and I am much nicer than her." 
  • She said "write what you know" is great advice, but that doesn't mean it has to be exactly your story - you can use your experiences or emotions to create a fictional journey: "My own life is very boring - the highlight of my day can be getting an email or going up the road to get a coffee." Melina used Saving Francesca as an example of this - working at an all boys school, she knew what it was to be a minority in that environment, and she used that in Francesca
  • She was very proud of On the Jellicoe Road but when it was first published, nobody was really interested in it. She even had a bookseller tell her to her face that she didn't like it. People wanted her to keep writing Alibrandi and Francesca again and again, and didn't know what to make of this completely different story. But then it was published in America, and it was really what cracked the American market for her, and suddenly people in Australia were interested in it too. Now it is one of her most beloved books.
  • Despite the themes of her first two books, she was never interested in writing about multi-culturalism forever - what interests her most, and what ties all her books together, is identity.
  • Melina sees Finnikin of the Rock as a companion novel to Alibrandi. It has the same theme of identity, and searching for who you are, and of people displaced from their homeland. She was inspired to write Finnikin when she was living in New York for a couple of months, and she was sitting on the subway and saw an advertisement about refugees. And as she was sitting there she realised everyone around her was talking in different accents and languages, and everyone, included herself, was disconnected from their homeland. Those two observations led to Finnikin. She wanted to write a story about refugees but she didn't want to set it in the here and now because it would be too political, so she created the fantasy world. 
  • Finnikin is almost as much Evanjalin's story, but Evanjalin didn't get a POV because she's got too much to hide.
  • The descriptive language was something she worked hard to get right when writing fantasy. While most of her novels undergo at least five rewrites, she rewrote scenes in the Lumatere Chronicles up to 20 times. She would write a scene, and then sit there with a thesauraus to find just the right word for each thing she wanted to convey, to create a rhythm within the prose. She said the important thing with fantasy is that there is a song that is sung through the writing.
  • Finnikin and Francesca were both written as standalones, but they each had characters that wouldn't leave her alone (that'd be Froi and Tom!).
  • Tom Mackee was originally supposed to be the villain in Francesca. But one comment he made in the novel - about being the first Mackee male to get to a certain age with his liver intact - stuck with her over the years. One night Melina was watching an Australian Story about Vietnam vets who were going back to Vietnam because the bodies of five soldiers had never been recovered, and she had a "mystical moment" where she felt Tom Mackee sitting next to her saying "that's my grandfather." He also said "and Georgie Finch is my aunt" - she had been thinking of Georgie as a character for another story at the time. She said she doesn't really buy into what a lot of writers say about things just coming to them, or that writing is some mystical process - "it's mostly really hard work" - but that was one of the few moments she's had like that. And that led to The Piper's Son.
  • Jimmy Hailer's story is very much in Melina's head right now. He and Siobhan did not appear in The Piper's Son because she could only include who Tom brought with him, and he didn't bring those two characters, but she was aware their absence was a presence that was felt, and they were still there even if they weren't an active part of the story. She has been thinking of Jimmy in the past two days in particular, and she knows what will happen in his story, but she needs to get the chance to write it. She said she firmly believes stories are written at the right time - and she feels that now is Jimmy's time. She wanted to stress that it won't be YA - Jimmy is about 25 or 26. He is still drifting, as Jimmy does. He will get stuck in a house for three days due to a flood, with another character who was in a short story Melina wrote last year (I have yet to read that one - I need to).  There will be two other main characters, in their 40s - another woman who was in that short story, and her love interest. It will be about these four characters, but the old gang will definitely show up in some way. 
  • The novel Melina just finished is unlike anything she's written before. Her agent describes it as a "literary thriller" and it is an adult novel set in London. It's about an explosion on a bus that is tied to an explosion on the London underground 14 years earlier. She said while in the past her novels have been about young people where older people play an important part, this one is about older people, where younger people play an important part. It was partly inspired by Melina's feelings over anti-terror laws. 
  • Melina is currently tinkering with the Jellicoe film script. She said it has to be absolutely perfect because they're hoping to get the right backing in the new year to finally get it made. They've auditioned actors and she said if it was made tomorrow, she knows they definitely have a Jonah Griggs, Ben Cassidy and Jude Scanlon - and they are all "amazing, and hot too". But she can't say who they are because by the time the film gets made they might not be able to do it for whatever reason (Hollywood might snatch them up - "and Hollywood will definitely snatch them up" - or they might get too old, for instance).
  • Melina said film scripts are incredibly difficult and complicated because there is a lot more to consider than when writing a novel. And the people who are funding it are not necessarily interested in what's in the novel. It sounds like the Jellicoe script might be quite different from the book, but she said the "six most important things" that are in the novel are also in the script. She also said that everyone who has read the script has loved it.
  • Her advise for writers: just write! Melina said she meets a lot of people who say they want to be writers but aren't actually writing anything, and she understands the difficulty of putting things on the page and the fear that it will never live up to what's in your head. She said her latest novel was in her head for a year before she put anything to paper - and it ended up being even better than what was in her head. She said you need to write something every day - it doesn't have to be much, and you might end up throwing out three quarters, but that one quarter might be the hook you need to hang the next thing on. Even if one sentence out of hundreds is gold, it's worth it and that's what you need to do. 
  • You should also rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Melina said people ask her how she, for example, plants something early in a book that doesn't have meaning until much later on, and she said that's the sort of thing that comes through rewriting. It's only when you rewrite that you really know the characters and can really flesh them out and add those little, meaningful details. But you need to get that first draft done as the foundation to then go back and rewrite and make it better.
  • Melina is the queen of YA and it seems she will soon be the queen of adult fiction too - of course she didn't say this, but I am. If you haven't read her books you should go buy them all right now.

Saturday 25 October 2014

Review: The Knife Of Never Letting Go By Patrick Ness

The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first in the Chaos Walking series. It introduces us to Todd Hewitt, who is a month away from becoming a "man" at 13 years old. He lives in a town on the New World that is populated only by men - men who constantly hear each other's thoughts, known as "Noise". The women all died long ago of some germ released by the Spackle, New World's native inhabitants - who were also wiped out in a war with the humans. But one day Todd, with his faithful dog Manchee, discovers something in the woods that literally changes everything.

I was initially drawn to this book because of the premise - not to mention enthusiastic recommendations from friends - and I was not disappointed. From the very first pages, you're drawn into Todd's world and captivated by his journey. The writing style is unique and vivid, with Todd's voice written phonetically to beautifully convey his character - uneducated but intelligent, lonely but incredibly caring, inexperienced but open-minded, surrounded by bad things but inherently good. The prose might not appeal to everyone, riddled as it is with purposely misspelled/mispronounced words, but I loved it. It immediately creates a strong picture of who Todd is, and it's hard not to love him. He's flawed, he makes mistakes, but he is so very human.

The Noise is also communicated in a creative way - through different fonts and font sizes, scattered over the pages. It really does create a stream-of-consciousness feeling, and it's particularly interesting when it's used as a contrast to the actual dialogue spoken between characters. It's a fascinating exploration of how our inner lives contrast with our external lives, and how we probably really don't want to know what other people are thinking.

Interestingly, Ness also gives voice and Noise to all the animals in the book. Which might sound ridiculous, but it is SO well done. Manchee, Todd's dog, is such a fully-fledged character, and his voice is exactly what you would expect of a dog if he could talk. He worries about food and pooing and squirrels, but most of all, his human. I really, really, really love Manchee.

I also love Viola, the first girl Todd ever meets. She is one hell of a character. Strong, determined, caring, intelligent, brave, fierce - this character just made me so, so happy. I adored seeing the way she and Todd interacted and came to care about each other. They each have to make tough, terrible choices, but they get through everything together. This is Todd's story, but Viola is just as important as a character. She has agency and strength and everything you want in a heroine.

The other characters are also brilliant. Ben and Cillian, Todd's adoptive parents, are lovely and heartwarming and heartbreaking all at once. The bad guys - Aaron, Davey Prentiss and the Mayor -are creepy and complicated and so deliciously awful. The more minor characters are all just as fantastically crafted, each standing out from the pages, no matter how little time they actually appear on them.

The Knife of Never Letting Go is action-packed and completely unputdownable. Although I say that, and yet there was one part where I had to put it down (before picking it up and devouring it again a couple of days later). Something happened that I wasn't expecting and it totally destroyed me. I hated that it happened, and I needed a breather, but in the end I appreciated that this is not a book - or a series - where bad things don't happen. Not by a long shot. It might be in a fantastical setting in a futuristic time period, but at its core this is a story about real life, about what makes us human and about how the choices we make shape us. Choices that are as difficult, emotional, messy and chaotic as we are.

When it comes down to it, we really are all chaos walking.

Rating: 4/5

Fave Quote
"Here's what I think," I say and my voice is stronger and thoughts are coming, thoughts that trickle into my Noise like whispers of truth.  
"I think maybe everybody falls," I say. "I think maybe we all do. And I don't think that's the asking." 
I pull on her arms gently to make sure she's listening.
"I think the asking is whether we get back up again." 

Fine Print
Published: 2008, Walker Books
Get It: Book Depository

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Top Ten Authors I've Only Read One Book From And NEED to Read More

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic feels like it was made for me because there are SO many authors I've only read one book from and really, really need to read more of. Like:

1. Markus Zusak. I have the hide to call him one of my favourite authors and yet have only read one of his books (The Book Thief). Don't ask me what's taken me so long. It's terrible.

2. E Lockhart. I recently read and LOVED We Were Liars so I'd like to go back and read Lockhart's other books now.

3. Kate Forsyth. As soon as I finished Bitter Greens I immediately wanted to read more of Forsyth's work. Aaaand I still haven't. I do have two of her other books in my TBR though so that's something, right?

4. Courtney Summers. I adored This is Not A Test and have heard great things about Summers' other books.

5. Margo Lanagan. Loved Sea Hearts. You know the rest.

6. Cath Crowley. Graffiti Moon is great and apparently so are Crowley's other books.

7. Jackie Kay. I really liked Kay's memoir Red Dust Road and I'd love to read her fiction. A couple of her books are already in my TBR. I just need to get to them.

8. Libba Bray. When I read Beauty Queens, I vowed to hunt down and read all of Bray's books straight away... and yeah, still haven't.

9. Margaret Atwood. Of her books, I've only read The Handmaid's Tale and I clearly need to read the rest.

10. Wilkie Collins. I've been meaning to read more of Collins' books ever since enjoying The Woman in White a few years ago and it's yet another thing I haven't got around to.

Which authors do you want to read more of?

Sunday 31 August 2014

Audiobook Reviews: Beauty, Enchanted and Swordspoint

Beauty by Robin McKinley, narrated by Charlotte Parry
This is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and it contains all of the elements of the story you usually see. Loving the story so much, I was expecting to enjoy this too, and I was not disappointed. It's beautifully told, and McKinley's interpretation of the world and the characters is truly delightful. I adored Beauty, who was not "typically" beautiful or by any means perfect, which just made her all the more real and powerful. I loved the slow build of her relationship with the Beast. I loved her relationships with the rest of her family. I loved the twists and turns of the plot. I loved the narration by Charlotte Parry. I just loved this book.
Rating: 4.5/5

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis, narrated by Katherine Kellgren
Beauty left me hungry for more fairy tale retellings, and having seen Mands at The Bookish Manicurist rave about the Enchanted audiobook I decided to give it a try. It was a lot of fun. This time the fairy tale was the frog prince (with a few more mixed in!) and it was a charming and interesting take on the story. I really liked the main characters of Sunday and Rumbold, and the secondary characters - who apparently take centre stage in later novels in the series - were also great. I did find myself confused in a couple of places, where I thought the backstory of exactly what was going on could have been explained better, but overall it was a lovely book, with excellent narration by Katherine Kellgren.
Rating: 4/5

Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner, narrated by Ellen Kushner with performances by Dion Graham, Katherine Kellgren, Robert Fass, Nick Sullivan and Simon Jones 
I was drawn to this book by the "Neil Gaiman presents" label, and the idea of the "enhanced" audiobook, complete with performances - including by Katherine Kellgren - intrigued me. The story itself, a swashbuckling adventure that Gaiman describes as "if Jane Austen wrote fantasy", completely sold me. So this book had a lot going for it. It's a shame it didn't live up to that potential. First, the narration was terrible. The author's own American accent just sounded completely off for her clearly not American story and characters, and she was not great with the various voices. The fact that character voices were replaced by actors in certain scenes was more jarring than anything, and the sound effects and music were totally ridiculous and distracting. As for the story itself, considering it's all about sword fighting and murder plots, it was surprisingly slow-paced and boring. There was too much focus on high society politics for my liking. It didn't help that not one of the characters were likeable - not even in a love-to-hate kinda way. They were just annoying, infuriating, or tedious. I had to force myself to finish this book, and I was SO glad when it was over.
Rating: 2/5

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Bookish Buys: Outlander Edition

I haven't done one of these posts in awhile but I'm trying to get back into regular blogging so here's hoping this will be the first of many regular features to get back up and running. I'm reading (or rather, listening to) Outlander by Diana Gabaldon at the moment and even though I'm basically hating it I know A LOT of people love it, so out of curiousity I thought I'd see if there were many related products available and, unsurprisingly, there is! Like...

Outlander book necklace
Outlander coasters

Jamie and Claire earrings

Claire-inspired ring

Outlander scented candle

Sassenach bookmark

Craigh na Dun necklace

Je Suis Prest necklace

Jamie necklace

Sassenach mug

Thistle earrings


Time and place necklace

Dragonfly necklace

J+C earrings

Claire and Jamie card

Jamie doll