Thursday 31 January 2013

Mini Reviews: Glitter Kiss and Ghosting

Glitter Kiss by Adrianne Ambrose, illustrated by Monica Gallagher
Tinka, the school slut, unwittingly gets revenge on jerky guys when she kisses them wearing a magical lip gloss. Lets just say it makes them see things from her point of view. It was a pretty cute story, but a little throat-ramming with its message. It also has a kinda negative view on gender – most of the boys are complete a-holes and it focuses a lot on how hard it is to be a girl. This is a graphic novel and I dont have a lot of experience with them, but the characters – especially the secondary characters – were quite two-dimensional. The ending was really abrupt, which detracted from the overall experience. The illustrations were lovely, however.
Rating: 2.5/5

Ghosting by Keith Gray
Nat and his sister Sandy make their living by scamming grieving people into believing they can communicate with the dead. But they get way in over their heads. Unfortunately the plot is totally predictable and so the events are not scary at all. I saw what was coming - right down to the twist at the end - from miles away. I know its only a short story but there wasnt much in the way of character development. The villain is entirely obvious and his MO is like something ripped out of a bad episode of Law and Order. There were several improbable plot points. Altogether a very ordinary read.
Rating: 2/5

I received review copies of these books from the publishers via Netgalley.

Sunday 27 January 2013

Ten Reasons You Should Read Graffiti Moon By Cath Crowley

1. It takes place all in one night, which adds at least 70% more awesomeness.
2. It's told from two (and a half) perspectives: Lucy, who is on the hunt for graffiti artist Shadow and Ed, who secretly is Shadow. Seeing both points of view as they get to know one another, keep secrets and miscommunicate is a lot of fun. The half perspective is the occasional poetic insight from the mind of Leo, a.k.a. Shadow's partner in crime, Poet.
3. The writing is gorgeous. It reminds me of Melina Marchetta in its raw beauty.
4. The characters are all well fleshed-out, unique and likable. Even when they're planning to do kind of terrible things, you can't help but root for this bunch.
5. There are so many adorable interactions that will make you want to squee. Ed and Lucy have a strong chemistry from the start, even when they supposedly hate each other.
6. It's about art and the way it touches your soul. Crowley paints colours with her words as vividly as Shadow does with his spray cans.
7. It's also about love and finding yourself, but not in a cheesy, naff way. It's incredibly authentic in its untidiness while still being uplifting and hopeful.
8. It's set in the beautiful city of Melbourne. I want to go to there (seriously, I can't believe I've never been!).
9. You won't want to put it down. It's one of those books you devour every chance you get.
10. It won't take long to read, but it will leave a lasting impression. It's lovely and brilliant and wonderful and every good adjective you can think of.

Rating: 5/5

Friday 25 January 2013

Friday Link Dump: Bookish Board Games and Shirtless Vampires

Here are ten literary board games you know you want to play.
How well do you know the chests of The Vampire Diaries boys? I got seven out of nine right, which is just not good enough. Clearly I need to study them some more.

The new publicity images for season six of Mad Men are gorgeous. I still need to catch up on season five!

Love these vintage photos of Australian beach life and Paris fun. 

I need to eat make this Milo cheesecake. It looks amazing.

Here are some very creative (and cute) photos of Stormtrooper lego. 

On this blog
I introduced a new feature!
I reviewed The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.
I found some gorgeous typewriter-inspired products.
I talked about how addictive it is to DNF.
One of the top search terms was "Alexander Skarsgard huge cock." Unfortunately, I don't have the answer to that, but I do have this gif...


Thursday 24 January 2013

Be My Guest: Jo From Wear The Old Coat

Welcome to my new feature! It even has its own theme tune.

Yep. Totally original. Anyhoo, I wanted to create a feature that focused on how awesome the book blogging community is (as opposed to all the drama of last year), and what better way than to have a new blogger be my guest each week. I'm very happy to have Jo from Wear the Old Coat as my first ever guest. I've been following her blog for so long I can't say exactly how I discovered it, but I love it for Jo's wicked sense of humour and wonderfully written reviews. Some books she's single-handedly added to my wishlist include This is Shyness by Leanne Hall, Adorkable by Sara Manning, A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley and Brown Skin Blue by Belinda Jeffrey. Plus her reviews of books like Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey, Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver, and The Lumatere Chronicles and On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta made me want to read the books even more than I already did. She also has awesome features like Under the Covers, about the stories behind the books on her shelf (as well as some guests' books - including mine!), and On Writing, which features amazing interviews with authors, filled with insightful advice about writing. But enough of me waffling. It's time to grill Jo...  

First up, the important stuff - what are we eating and drinking at this party?
OK, I should probably say something really delicious and fancy like… um… something delicious and fancy. But, and this may surprise you so brace yourselves, I don’t actually get invited to that many fancy parties. I actually have a really sweet tooth, so I’m going to bring some Jazzies (I understand you Aussies call them Freckles?) because they’re my favourite sweets in the entire world. And to drink? Pink bubbly because when I’m a Rich and Famous author, that’s all I’ll drink. You can imagine what my books will be like…

What part of the world do you hail from, and what's something not many people would know about that place? 
I’m from a little town about 40 minutes away from Manchester. The song "It’s a Long Way to Tipperary" was written in my hometown by Jack Judge.  

Tell us one random fact about yourself. 
My great granddad had tickets for the Titanic but swapped them at the last minute for tickets on another ship with his friends.
I’m not entirely sure that’s 100% true but it’s one of my favourite things to ask my grandma about, BUT if you want one that definitely is true: I was taught by someone who taught Danny Boyle.

What kind of books do you read, and what is your ultimate favourite?  
I’ve always said if I could get away with reading only contemporary YA books, I would. But I fear I would quickly run out because there is a distinct lack of contemporary books getting published at the moment. I find that they often get overlooked for the more in-your-face books that are perhaps easier to sell, but when you find a good one, one that grabs you by the cardigan and refuses to let go, it’s so worth the wait.
My ultimate favourite? God, that’s such a difficult question. There are different books/series that mean a lot to me because I read them at different stages in my reading life. Harry Potter were the first books that made me excited to read. The Hunger Games were the books that showed me how important it is to read what you want and not what you think you should. But my favourite books, absolute favourite, are His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. Those books changed the way I thought stories could and should be told.   

What do you do when you're not reading/blogging?
When I’m not reading or blogging I’m actually writing or working. The former a lot more glamorous than the latter… except not really because I write the best when I’m wearing PJs. Seriously though, I’m always writing and coming up with stories. I started reading YA because I wanted to read books that were aimed at the group of readers that I want to write for… and I guess I started blogging because I wanted to have a place where I could talk about the books I loved and loathed with other like-minded people.
I also love music and there’s nothing better than discovering a new band and song to play on repeat. Oh and I adore watching films, something that has kind of taken a bit of a backseat with all my reading/writing malarkey but I will always be a film geek. In fact, I probably have more DVDs than books….

Describe your blog in three words.
Extremely high brow.
Nah, I’m kidding.
Rambly, fun, different.
What is your favourite thing about your blog/blogging?
I know this is probably the part where I should say that my favourite part of blogging is meeting other like-minded people who love the books I love and encourage my passion for them. And please don’t get me wrong, that is my favourite thing.
But you’ve probably heard the same things from other bloggers so my second favourite thing about blogging is gaining the confidence to voice my opinion on the things I’m passionate about. I wouldn’t say I was necessarily a shy person, but I’m quite a conscious person, if that makes any sense. I’m very conscious that if I keep rabbiting on about Marchetta or Pullman or Collins or Rowling then people will roll their eyes and move away. But with my blog, I have this little part of the internet where I can ramble on as much as I want to about the things I love the most and people who feel the same way (or differently! I’m always up for a discussion!) can stumble upon it and start a discussion.
Unless they’re the ones who find my blog through searches for “Where can I buy an old coat?”… they probably don’t care about Peeta and his burnt bread.
What post or review are you most proud of, and why?
My favourite post(s) I’m proud of is probably my On Writing feature. I started the feature for a completely selfish reason: I’m an aspiring YA writer and I wanted to know all the writing secrets. But as I posted more interviews and posts, it seemed to have turned into something else entirely. And it’s so brilliant to see other aspiring writers, my friends and strangers, all at different stages of their writing journeys reading the interviews and posts and finding them useful. It makes me think that the hard behind-the-scenes work (persuading the authors they want to be interviewed by me, the questions, etc etc) is more than worth it.     

What are your top three favourite book blogs, and why?
Oh good grief, this is a horrible question. Just three? Can I not just direct to the side bar of my blog? That is my ultimate list of book blogs that I love. But seeing as I’m wimping out of narrowing it down to just three, I’ll give you my top three things that will make me love a blog. 1) I love bloggers that don’t take themselves too seriously. Blogging is supposed to be FUN. 2) Bloggers who have an opinion. No reader can love every single book they read, if you don’t like it, I want to know why! You never know, the reason you might dislike it might be the reason I love it! 3) Bloggers who write fascinating and unique posts and not ones that are loosely based on something that was marginally controversial because you want to get more hits.  

Can you think of a time another blogger's review made you actually buy/borrow/read a book?
Oh, I rely on bloggers to recommend at least 75% of the books I read. Recently though, two reviews (well, one is technically a post) that come to mind are Rey from Wordchasing’s  Five Reasons to Read The Montmaray Journals and Heidi from Bunbury in the Stacks’ review of Fire Spell by Laura Amy Schlitz.
What was the last book that made you... 
-Laugh. The book I’m currently reading, Crow Boy, made me laugh but I don’t think it was intentional. It’s about a boy from Manchester (waaaayyy) who goes to Edinburgh and he’s getting bullied because he hasn’t got a coat and one of the bullies is like, “Oh he’s Liam Gallagher, he’s too cool for a coat”. Which is obviously a lie because it’s common knowledge that Liam Gallagher is rather partial to a Parka. OK, maybe that’s just me finding that funny.  
-Cry. I was an absolute wreck after Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta.   
-Throw it across the room in fury. And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky. Urgh, I could barely get past the first chapter because it touched a raw nerve about something that I admit I’m sensitive about. But yeah, it just made me angry.  
-Push it onto others. Recently, I’ve got two people, Maree and Anna, to read Keren David’s When I Was Joe series.  
-Stay up til 2am reading. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater – gosh that book is good.  

Would you rather read only five books for the rest of the life, but they're really amazing - or read hundreds/thousands that are all mediocre?
Five books, definitely. I’m a strong advocate of giving up on books if you don’t like them because… well, why would you want to read a crap book when there are so many other books to discover? I’m also a strong advocate of re-reading your favourite books… so yes. Definitely only five books. 
You’re not going to ask me which five, are you?!
OK, time to play Snog, Marry, Avoid, The Marchetta Edition. Who would you snog/marry/avoid out of...
You are a cruel, cruel, horrible woman, Ms Belle
-Finnikin, Froi and Lucian
(Small spoilers for Froi of the Exiles & Quintana of Charyn!) 
OK, I’d avoid the ginger cat (sorry Finn!), I’d…. snog Lucian and I’d marry Froi. Although, actually, maybe I should snog Froi and marry Lucian. I think I would fare better in a fight with Phaedra than Q… and I’m quite fond of my hair on my scalp. I adore Froi and would marry him in a heartbeat but I don’t want to be responsible for splitting him and Q up.
Sorry Phaedra, Fleece Boy is mine.  

-Tom Mackee, Jonah Griggs and Jacob Coote
HA… OK. Sorry Jacob, I’m giving you and your leather jacket a wide berth. Jonah will get snogged silly in the tree house and Mackee’s going to propose at the Sydney International Airport. 
Thank you Jo for being my very first guest!

Review: The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

You know those books, where you look at the book, then look at reviews, then back at the book and think, Am I reading the right book? The Woman in Black was one of those books for me. It seems like everyone loves it, my edition is even part of the Vintage Classics* range, but I didnt enjoy it at all. It was a chore to get through. Maybe I just wasnt in the right mood for it or maybe its just not the right book for me.

The premise is enticing: a young solicitor goes to stay in an old mansion to sort out the paperwork of the recently deceased owner, only to discover its haunted by a mysterious woman in black. Doesnt that sound thrilling? Alas, it is not. Not one bit. Of the 160 pages (yes, this book is tiny), it felt like only about five of them contained something actually interesting. The rest was filled with Arthur walking, Arthur eating, Arthur thinking about walking and eating, Arthur talking about walking and eating, Arthur looking around, Arthur riding a bike, Arthur talking about looking around and riding a bike and Arthur thinking and talking and walking a little bit more. The actual scares were few and far between, and when they came I was so close to falling asleep from the long, descriptive passages that I barely mustered a goosebump.

I like descriptive writing when the thing that is being described is interesting or beautiful, or the writing itself is interesting or beautiful. But Arthur describes everything and everyone he comes across, even if he only spends five minutes in a room or never meets that person again. It was all just so tedious. The writing itself was dull, and although it's in the style of a Victorian novel, it felt rather forced in several places, and jarred with the un-Victorian setting.

Thats right, dont let the movie posters fool you – this book is not set in Victorian times. Its actually never exactly clear what time period its set in. Im guessing the early 1900s. Arthur refers to the Victorian period as though it was a fair while in the past, and speaks of a pony and trap as though its a novelty over a car. Theres electricity everywhere and apparently a battery-operated torch. But theres no mention of World War I, something which would have shaped Arthurs life and personality had the book taken place during or after that period.

Theres not much of a secondary cast to speak of – in fact, my favourite character was the dog. She was adorable, and the scariest scene for me actually involved her. There were a few other parts which were mildly creepy, but my butt remained firmly far back from the edge of my seat. The central mystery around the woman in black was so predictable, and even though I was waiting for it, the climax felt rushed and ultimately unsatisfying.

Im trying to find something positive about my reading experience but to be honest I cant think of anything. Im hoping the movie is better. It won't take much.

Rating: 2/5

Fine Print
Published: 2007, Vintage Classics (this edition)
Get It: AbeBooks

*Random note: How old does a book have to be to be dubbed vintage? This one was first published in 1983. Not what Id call a vintage classic, even if it is written in ye olde language.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Bookish Buys: Just My Type

I love typewriters. They look cool. They sound cool. They feel cool. Unfortunately, their price is generally very uncool. These days they're classified as "vintage" which is code for "old and mega exxy". I'd love to own one (or ten) some day, but for now I'll have to make do with typewriter-inspired products. Coz they're pretty cool too...





Notecard set

Kindle case










Tuesday 22 January 2013

Talking Point: The Addictiveness of DNF

A little while ago I wrote a post about how much trouble I had not finishing books, because I felt like I had to finish what I started. At the time, I had only added two books to my DNF list. I wanted to get better at it, because life is too short to read crap books.

Well, I can report today that I did get better at DNFing books. Probably a little too good, because since the start of the year and my post-Lumatere hangover, my patience has disappeared and I find myself giving up on books ridiculously easily. In fact, there's been a few books I've had to force myself to finish, just so I had actually read something rather than collecting a bunch of half-reads. Since my last post on DNFing, I've completely given up on:

I've also stopped reading, with the intention to come back to them at some point:
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. It was too intense for my mood at the time, and also quite slow.
  • The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling. I got 50 pages in and was sooooo bored. I was on summer holidays and needed something fun, so I gave up for the meantime.
  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel. So many people told me this book was amazing but I found the small part I read incredibly tedious. I'm very impatient at the moment so I thought it best to try again later.

Right now I'm reading The Woman in Black by Susan Hill and even though it's a small book and I'm enjoying it enough when I do read it, I find I can only read it in small bursts and I'm not compelled to pick it up very often, so it's slow going for me. It's not a particularly hard book to read, but the other day I found myself considering DNFing it. Then I realised I have a problem. Like I said, I've gotten too good at giving up on books, and it's kind of addictive now I've started. The thing is, there are so many good books out there that I have less and less patience for the bad ones. With that said, I have pushed through two very ordinary books lately, when I was incredibly tempted to DNF:
Some books you just have to persevere with, I guess, because in the end they might really be worth it. I've just got to learn when to stop and when to keep going, and find the happy medium between never giving up and being addicted to the power of the DNF.

Do you ever DNF books, or do you force yourself to read to the end, even if you're not enjoying it? How do you balance giving up too easily with not wasting time on bad books?

Thursday 17 January 2013

Talking Point: Spoilers

I know some people don't care about spoilers. Unfortunately I am not one of them. They're ony of my biggest pet peeves, and I get really annoyed with people who reveal them with no warning. I nearly disowned my own nanna when she told me the ending of The Sixth Sense five minutes into the movie. If you put spoilers in a review and don't tag them, it's the fastest way to get me to unfollow you. That may sound harsh, but IMO spoilers without warning are really inconsiderate. I don't mind spoilers if there's a warning - then I can choose whether to view them or not. After all, sometimes I do want to see spoilers. They can help me decide whether I actually want to read/watch something or if it would be a waste of time.

But the worst kinds of spoilers are those that assault my eyes when I'm just doing some casual browsing. They come out of nowhere and forever ruin my ability to experience the emotions and enjoyment of a first-time viewing for that particular book or movie. And it really pisses me off.

Spoilers have been on my mind lately because, well, I can't go on Tumblr without a Les Misérables spoiler jumping from my dash. Now, I know a lot of people believe spoilers have an expiration date. Some say if you haven't read a book/seen a movie within 50 years of its release, then it's your problem. Others give it a bit more time - a century or two at least. The thing is, while Les Misérables may have been around for 150 years, I haven't. I've only had my limited lifetime - and reading time - to become acquainted with it. So there's no reason to assume I - or anyone else - knows all the details. We aren't all born with an inherent knowledge of the classics. We have to read them and learn them.

TL;DR version: spoilers are lame.

I'm really interested in seeing if anyone has a pro-spoiler view and can persuade me otherwise. Or if other people hate them as much as I do. So tell me, dear readers, do you hate spoilers too, or are they OK in your book? Do you think there's an expiration date on spoilers? Sound off in the comments.