Tuesday 28 February 2012

Review: On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Oh boy. Ive been putting off writing this review, partly because I just dont think Ill be able to do justice to this wonderful book. And also

Seriously. So many emotions. To the point where every time Ive tried to write this review in my head*, Ive been unable to form coherent sentences. I just have all these FEELINGS. All I can think is oh, the heartbreak! The pain! The love! The awesomeness! The flashbacks! The mystery! The beautiful, beautiful language! The characters! Raff! Taylor! WEBB! FITZ! JONAH MOTHER EFFING GRIGGS!

So, yeah, thats whats been going on with me. Im going to try to be slightly more articulate, but please forgive me if every so often I resort to crying in the corner.

I didnt know a helluva lot going into On the Jellicoe Road, other than the fact that its supposed to be freaking awesome and Jonah Griggs is amazeballs, if the blogosphere is anything to go by (which it totally is, natch). I knew it centred around a girl whod been abandoned at a 7/11 by her mum, that it involved some kind of territory wars, and that it told two stories simultaneously – one in the past and one in the present. I have to say, not knowing any more than that was a really good thing. While it was initially a little disconcerting to have no idea what was going on, it made the mystery and the final revelations all the more powerful. One of the best parts of On the Jellicoe Road was the way the plot was slowly unraveled and everything began to click into place, as the events of the past and present converged. There are so many amazing twists in the plot, and the way theyre revealed in a non-linear manner is very effective – and totally heartbreaking.

Ahem. Yes, this book is incredibly sad. But – importantly - its not depressing. There's a big dose of tragedy in there, but its also filled with hope, healing and even a touch of humour. The very reason its so sad is also part of its warmth, as there's a strong sense of connection with the characters. Like all Marchettas novels, On the Jellicoe Road features chracters who are extremely strong, realistic, unique and, well, downright amazing. I loved them all – but I especially adored the five in Hannahs story. It was so interesting to see the way they were intertwined with Taylors story. And did I mention it was heartbreaking?

This is one of those books that stays with you for days after finishing it (and possibly longer – Ill keep you posted). Partly because of the characters. Partly because of all the twists and turns in the plot. But mostly because everything is so bloody perfect.

Rating: 5/5

*Random side note: Does anybody else write things out in their head before putting anything on the page/screen?

Spoilery talking points

  •  I was shocked at what happened to Webb. SUCH a good twist. Poor Fitz! I really want to know how/when he figured out what actually happened. Sob.
  • Im so glad that, by pure coincidence, I read To Kill a Mockingbird immediately before On the Jellicoe Road. Its not a prerequisite, but it did make the references to the Mrs Dubose situation all the more meaningful.
  •  I loved the way everything was connected – even seemingly random things turn out to be deliberate and tie in perfectly, but not in a forced way. Like Taylors dream boy, the serial killer, the postman in Yass, the tunnel, the purple book sigh.

Eye candy
Marchetta has written the film script for Jellicoe (squee!) and Cathy Randall is attached to direct, but there's no word yet on the cast. I pictured Marny Kennedy as Taylor and Liam Hemsworth as Jonah.

I'll never hear 'Flame Trees' in the same way again. I know Webb would've been listening to the original by Cold Chisel, but I love Sarah Blasko's version.

Fine Print
Genre: Young Adult
Published: 2006, Penguin
Get It: Abe Books

Monday 27 February 2012

Reading Icons: Meryl Streep

In honour of her Oscar win, and the fact that She-Devil was on TV last week...

Saturday 25 February 2012

Review: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Don't ask me how I got to my age without having read or watched To Kill a Mockingbird. I guess it's coz I didn't study it at school like so many seem to do, and I never felt particularly compelled to pick it up in my free time. I finally read it last week, as it was suggested reading for my writing course, and I'm so glad I was forced to make the time for it - because it was awesome, natch.

I have to admit, it was kinda slow going at first, as Tom Robinson, the black man Atticus Finch is assigned to defend in court, is completely absent from the first quarter of the book, and I was impatient for what I perceived to be the main plot to begin. Little did I know everything that was happening would become important down the track - and the way it all came together was masterful.

I adored Lee's whimsical way of storytelling. While the book deals with some pretty heavy issues, the use of the young Scout as narrator gives it such a sense of warmth, humour and hope. I think Scout is one of my favourite characters ever. The way she saw the world, together with her innocence, her stubbornness and her strength, made her a remarkable – and, importantly, believable – kid. I also adored her family - especially her relationships with her father, Atticus, and her big brother, Jem. The supporting cast of neighbours and friends were also wonderful, and even the antagonists were superbly and realistically drawn. Bob Ewell gave me goosebumps, he was so icky. The one character I wanted to know more about was Boo Radley, though of course this would have completely undermined his place in the plot as a mysterious, almost mythical creature. He was just such a fascinating character - as they all are, really.

I wasn't expecting to love To Kill a Mockingbird, but I did. I can see now why it's so popular. It's pretty amazeballs.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday 23 February 2012

Bookish Fun: Art by Oona Patterson

Although I still feel slightly uncomfortable about the idea of cutting up books, when it's for the purpose of creating amazing artwork like that of Oona Patterson, it's probably worth it. My favourite is Ream, which actually tells a story. Check it out in full, plus more of her work, at her website.

"Ream is the story of a little girl made out of paper who lives inside a book. It is told via a 3D model where each page of the story has its own area."
"Ream was a little girl who lived on a boat. Far out to sea, she watched the Sun and Moon shine day and night. One night Ream decided that she would do whatever it took to shine as brightly as they did, so she sailed off in search of some advice…"
"The road was long and steep, and only after walking for a long time did Ream come to its end. A large Palace made of silver stood waiting for her." 
"When she awoke the Dancer took Ream to the sea. She parted the waves and revealed a path along the sea bed. Ream followed it to a Palace made of jade, guarded by a large sea Monster. 'Excuse me,' Ream asked once more, 'do you know the rest of the way to the Land beyond the Waves?'"

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Review: The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

Do you ever read a book that you don't dislike, but you don't really like it, either? It's just kinda "meh". That was what this book was for me. Which is disappointing, coz I was so excited to read it thanks to its brilliant premise - it's set in 1996, and two friends find they can magically log on to Facebook 15 years in the future. Seriously, how cool does that sound? It's such a unique idea and opens up so many possibilities - but unfortunately, the execution falls far short of the potential.

My main problem was with the two protagonists, Josh and Emma. Josh is OK, just an average teenager who has some funny moments - but overall he's kinda bland. And Emma, well, she's whiny, selfish and really, really annoying. The bulk of the FB-related story (which sadly becomes less of a focus as the book progresses) is taken up with her freaking out about her future husband(s) and how unfair her life is. The carelessness with which she treats not just her own future but also that of her friends is disconcerting. Plus the way she treats her family and friends in the present - and Josh in particular - is pretty awful. I didn't care for her at all.

I was also disappointed at the lack of resolution to the plot. I was hoping you'd be able to see Josh and Emma's "current" Facebook profiles to find out how things turned out after all, but the book just kinda ends. I get that the main message was that you should live in and enjoy the present, but it just felt unfinished. There were a few subplots left dangling, too, and the lack of closure made me wonder why they were even in there in the first place. They just took time away from the main story without really going anywhere.

What the book did do was make me think - if I'd been able to see my Facebook profile back in the day, what would my reaction have been? It actually made me realise that I probably would have been pretty happy with the way my life was turning out, and reminded me of all the cool things I've done and achieved over the past 10 years. Which makes me sound all braggy or something which is totally not cool - but my point is that it made me think about all the positives in my life. Which is cool.

It also made me think about how truly random, weird and occasionally frequently stupid Facebook is. It's pretty crazy that we spend so much time on it - and put so much of our information out there. But that's a whole 'nother rant. As for The Future of Us - it's a fantastic idea squandered on disappointing characters and a patchy plot. Such a shame!

Rating: 2.5/5

Eye Candy
As the setting was 1996, I just had to go back to my mid-90s celeb crushes to "cast" The Future of Us. Which essentially meant I pillaged two stars of The Babysitter's Club - Austin O'Brien for Josh and Marla Sokoloff for Emma.

Fine Print
Genre: Young Adult
Published: January 2012, Simon & Schuster
Get It: Fishpond

Monday 20 February 2012

Reading Icons: Joan Crawford

"Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your hearth or burn down your house, you can never tell. " - Joan Crawford

Friday 17 February 2012

Top Five: Underrated Classics

Everyone has heard of (and many have read) the likes of Dickens, Austen and the Brontes. But there are a lot more amazing classics out there that just don't get the same level of attention. So I've decided to give them a little more. Obviously, this list is limited to my personal reading experience, so if I've missed any (and I'm sure there are many), feel free to rant about it in the comments. 

Meme created by Hyperbole and a Half

1. Anything by Elizabeth Gaskell
If Dickens and Austen’s books had a baby, this would be it. Meshing romance and strong female characters with social commentary and serious issues (even death!), Gaskell’s stories are often heart-wrenching, frequently hilarious and always awesome. Definitely worth a read – and a viewing, if you haven’t already seen the amazing BBC adaptations of North and South, Wives and Daughters and Cranford

2. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
OK, I know The Moonstone is his most beloved work, and here I am writing a list of underrated classics without having read that one. Awkward. But I HAVE read The Woman in White, so I’m going to rave about that instead. I originally picked it up after reading the blurb on the back about Dickens mentoring Collins – and I was completely blown away by the contents. It’s a beautifully constructed mystery that was hard to put down (not always the case with the classics!). 

3. Evelina by Frances Burney
Written and published at a time when it was unthinkable for a young woman to read much, let alone write, Burney’s epistolary novel is a charming, funny and touching account of life in 18th century aristocracy. Evelina gets herself into so many awkward situations, she's easy to relate to - even 200+ years on! Plus, her love interest, Lord Orville, is totes book boyfriend material.

4. The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy
There's been a bunch of adaptations of The Forsyte Saga, so I'm always surprised at the number of people I speak to who haven't read it or even heard of it. Spanning three novels, and multiple decades and generations, Galsworthy's masterpiece both satirises and humanises the British middle-class with the money-obsessed, eccentric Forsytes. There are so many amazing characters to love - and love-to-hate.
5. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
Thanks to the musical, everybody has heard of The Phantom of the Opera. Plenty have seen it. But not too many seem to have read it. Which is a shame, coz it's an awesome book! And way creepier and more heartbreaking than anything the musical has to offer (and I LOVE the musical).

Which classics do you think get neglected?

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Top Five: Books That Make Me Go "Awww"

So it's Valentine's Day. Y'know, in case you hadn't noticed from the 367 smug updates in your Facebook newsfeed (what, was that just mine?). Whether you're a lover or a hater, it's a good excuse to talk love stories. These are some of my fave feelgood reads...

Source: Hark! A Vagrant
1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. As if any love story list would be complete without Elizabeth and Darcy. Do I even need to explain why? I'll just leave this quote here to simmer:
"The happiness which this reply produced, was such as he had probably never felt before; and he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do. Had Elizabeth been able to encounter his eye, she might have seen how well the expression of heartfelt delight, diffused over his face, became him; but, though she could not look, she could listen, and he told her of feelings, which, in proving of what importance she was to him, made his affection every moment more valuable. They walked on, without knowing in what direction. There was too much to be thought, and felt, and said, for attention to any other objects."
2. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. I've been whoring this book out since I read it back in July. It's got everything you need for the perfect romance: A relatable, awesome heroine; an adorable, smart, funny, devoted guy (with the bonus of a cute accent); an obstacle (or two) to overcome; a beautiful setting; strong secondary characters and a helluva lot of sexual tension. Le sigh.
"Is it possible for home to be a person and not a place?"
3. The Princess Bride by William Goldman. Sure, Buttercup might be a complete idiot, but Westley is amazeballs enough for the two of them - and hey, it's True Love. Westley comes back from the dead for it - twice. Buttercup... er, jumps off a ledge and... almost stabs her "perfect breasts" for it. Ahem. Like I said - True Love.
"I've been saying it so long to you, you just wouldn't listen. Every time you said 'Farm Boy, do this' you thought I was answering, 'As you wish', but that's only because you were hearing wrong. 'I love you' was what it was, but you never heard."
4. Persuasion by Jane Austen. I know I probably shouldn't make two out of five books in this list by Jane Austen - but frankly, they're worth it. I love Persuasion almost as much as Pride and Prejudice - which is saying a lot. The relationship between Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot is a little more angsty than Darcy and Lizzie's, but it's perhaps even more beautiful and powerful because of it. Plus, Persuasion contains one of the greatest love letters to ever grace the pages of fiction.
"You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago."
5. Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery. From the moment Anne breaks her slate over Gilbert's head, I fell head over heals in love with her - er, I mean, Gilbert did. Seriously, though - it's a fantastic beginning to an amazing relationship. Their attraction-turned-hate-turned-competition-turned-friendship-turned-love is one of the loveliest love stories ever.
"As she held out her hand, their eyes met and all doubt was swept away in a glad certainty. They belonged to each other; and, no matter what life might hold for them, it could never alter that. Their happiness was in each other's keeping and both were unafraid."
What are your favourite happily ever afters?

Monday 13 February 2012

Reading Icons: Cary Grant

"Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant." - Cary Grant.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

My Book Boyfriend: Tom Mackee

As soon as she saw I was reading The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta, Jo from Wear the Old Coat predicted that Tom Mackee would be my book boyfriend very, very soon. She also said I'd have to fight her for him. Well, Jo, this one's for you...

Ahem, now about Tom... He's a total blokey slob on the outside, but underneath he's really sweet, sensitive and smart (natch). He turns into an a-hole when his heart gets broken, taking his hurt out on those around him (and himself). But eventually he comes around and does some very romantic things (in an ordinary, believable way). He's flawed but awesome. Oh, and did I mention he can play the guitar? Instant hotness points. I pictured him as Benedict Samuel.

Swoon-Worthy Quotes

"She's tired and leans her head on his shoulder, which is the resting place for all their heads, but when Justine and Siobhan and Francesca use his body so shamelessly he doesn't feel the need to turn his head and press his mouth against their hair."

"Thomas Mackee on the dance floor is totally uninhibited and is hysterical to watch.  Despite his lanky slobbiness, he moves well.  He makes the most ridiculous faces as he twists, his mouth in an O shape and we're laughing so much our stomach hurt."

"He kisses her and wants to beg her and the others to never give up on him. Ever. But he gets a feeling that he would be preaching to the converted."

“'Don't let anyone take care of you. Can you maybe leave that for me to do? I mean, take care of you? Feel free to take care of me in return... because I think I'll need you to do that.'”    
Thanks to Missie from The Unread Reader for creating/hosting this awesome meme.

Image sources: One, Two, Three, Four.