Thursday 28 February 2013

Be My Guest: Michelle From Maree's Musings

Today I have Michelle Maree from Maree's Musings as my guest. I was lucky enough to meet Michelle yesterday (along with lots of other awesome bloggers) and she is just as lovely in real life as she is online. She has a gorgeous blog which showcases her love of books as well as movies, TV and music - especially The Beatles. She's made me want to read so many books, including All This Could End by Steph Bowe, the Girl Heart Boy series, Saltwater Vampires by Kirsty Eager, This is Shyness by Leanne Hall and Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

What are we eating and drinking at this party?
I'm thinking milkshakes. My favourite flavour is lime and banana, I know, it's kinda crazy, but so yummy! And I think we need TimTams to eat! We always need chocolate. Always.

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 town in Central Queensland called Rockhampton, which loves to call itself the beef capital of Australia. We have a Beef Week every three years and a pub with a bull riding ring inside. It is a pretty awesome pub. We also have bull statues all over town with puns like 'remove-a-bull' and 'contain-a-bull' written on them at local businesses.

Tell us one random fact about yourself.
I am super protective/paranoid about my books being kept in good (read: perfect) condition.

What do you do when you're not reading/blogging?
At the moment I'm studying at university, so really I don't do anything else. It's basically reading for uni and then reading for fun and relaxation. I used to enjoy crafts but since moving out of home I haven't really had the chance to do anything.

What kind of books do you read, and what is your ultimate favourite?
I love contemporary young adult, that is by far my favourite genre. However, I do try and read as much YA as possible because there are so many good books out there. Since I started blogging I've found books I love  thatI never would have thought of reading before and that has been a really lovely experience. It's hard to pick an ultimate favourite, but I think it would probably be the entire Harry Potter series.

Describe your blog in three words.
Books. Beatles. Rambling.

What is your favourite thing about your blog/blogging?
It is definitely the wonderful people I have met. A lot of my friends at uni don't read the same types of books as me, so it has been lovely to find people who love the same books I do. There are certain bloggers who have such similar tastes to me that I can pretty much always email them and vent my feelings about a book. The best bit is they usually feel the same! It certainly makes reading even more fun.

I've also really enjoyed developing my writing style. As a journalism student the experience of book blogging has been invaluable to me and has made me more confident in myself and my writing ability. 

What post or review are you most proud of, and why?
I have to say my review of Every Day by David Levithan. I find it really hard to write reviews of books I didn't like and I feel like I justified everything I didn't like in this review without sounding too snarky. Well, I hope that's the case anyway!
I am also really proud of the joint reviews Mands and I have written for Scarlet and Beauty Queens. Mands and I have such similar taste when it comes to books that it was really fun to write these reviews together. We are planning many more joint reviews this year!

What are your top three favourite book blogs, and why?
Not including Belle's Bookshelf, my top three blogs are Wordchasing, Wear the Old Coat and Vegan YA Nerds. I love all the blogs on the sidebar of my blog, but these three (and yours) are the ones I tend to turn to first for recommendations simply because we all have similar tastes.

Can you think of a time another blogger's review made you actually buy/borrow/read a book?
The four blogs above encourage me to read so many books. Almost every book Mands reviews I end up wanting to read (if I haven't already). Not only does she encourage my book buying addiction, she sends me books to add to my overflowing shelves! But I am very grateful :)
Jo's review of Keren David's When I Was Joe made me want to read the series - I still have one book to go, but I am loving it so far and I never would have known about it were it not for Jo's review. I also bought some books based on two of Jo's reviews (The Earth Hums in B Flat and All Fall Down) but have yet to read them. Rey's recent Five Reasons to Read: The Montmaray Journals by Michelle Cooper has got me very interested in this series.

Name the first and last books that made you...
First: I honestly have no idea! I mean, I've been avidly reading books since I was very young so I can't definitively say what the first book was. However, there is one book which sticks in my mind as having made me laugh so hard I actually got an asthma attack and that was Can You Keep a Secret by Sophie Kinsella. I think I really need to buy a copy so I can read it when I'm feeling a bit down.
Last: The last was The Year Nick McGowan Came to Stay by Rebecca Sparrow. This was so, so much fun to read, but I also felt a real connection with both the characters and the Brisbane setting.

First: I rarely cry in books actually, but the first was probably in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when *SPOILER ALERT* Dobby dies. That part still has me SOBBING in the movie. Always.
Actually, that whole book had me bawling.
Last: The last was definitely the gorgeous Friday Brown by Vikki Wakefield. I loved this book so much. LOVED IT. But Ms Wakefield just broke my heart into tiny little pieces.

-Throw them across the room in fury.
First: I think maybe Breaking Dawn. Actually, the entire Twilight series. Oh, how I wish I could get those months of my life back!
Last: I'd have to say Praise by Andrew McGahan. I found this to be vile. I was so glad I could just skim it, but there is no way I would have read it had it not been for a uni class.

-Push them onto others.
First: It was definitely Matthew Reilly's Seven Ancient Wonders - the first in the Jack West Jr. series. I pushed this onto my best friend (who had got me hooked on Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider Series) and she loved it. Actually, and this is kind of embarrassing, she has now read all of Mr Reilly's books while I have only read the Jack West Jr. series. I need to get my act together!
Last: Unravelling by Elizabeth Norris. Kim from Two Girls and a Novel and I were talking about what books we were planning to read next on Twitter when I mentioned I'd soon be reading the second book in the series. Kim had Unravelling on her list anyway, so decided that would be her next book. I'm very glad to say she loved it!
-Stay up till 2am reading.
First: I'd say it was one of the Harry Potter books, but I can't be certain.
Last: The last was Sweethearts by Sara Zarr. Gosh, I have so much love for this book and this author. I can't wait to read the rest of her work!

Thanks for being my guest Michelle!

Review: What's Wrong With Homosexuality? By John Corvino

Being primarily a fiction kinda girl, this isn't the type of book I usually read, but I was browsing Netgalley one day and let's just say the title grabbed my attention. I clicked through to read the description, prepared to be outraged, and was somewhat relieved to see that the book is actually written by a gay rights advocate and philosopher who also happens to be a homosexual man himself.

Of course, in answering the question of the title, “What's wrong with homosexuality?”, Corvino could just simply state: “nothing”, but that's the short answer and this book seeks to look at the bigger picture, and examine why there's nothing wrong with it. Chapter by chapter, Corvino systematically addresses all of the arguments commonly used against homosexuality in general and same-sex marriage in particular and essentially decimates them. He does so in such a logical, even-handed and engaging manner that it's not only easy to read and digest, it makes his argument all the more powerful. While being very open about his own very personal stake in the issue, he approaches each topic in a remarkably objective way, backing up his statements with evidence and combining it with his own experience only when appropriate. The subjectivity inherent in the latter aspect could have weakened his argument but, as used sparingly here, it actually strengthens it, powerfully reinforcing the importance of homosexual rights and the effects the lack of them can have on people's lives.

What I found most fascinating, in terms of the anecdotes Corvino describes, was his relationship with Glenn Stanton, an evangelical Christian who vocally opposes same-sex marriage. The two frequently travel together for debates on the issue, and despite their fundamentally different beliefs, actually consider each other friends. The story that particularly struck me was Corvino's account of when he told Stanton about his intended commitment ceremony with his partner, Mark, and Stanton wished him a hearty and sincere congratulations. It just boggles my mind that people like Stanton count gay people amongst their friends, and actually wish those friends well in their relationships, but then turn around and say how wrong those relationships are. For Corvino, it's a sign that he's getting through; that things will change, even in the minds of the most strident opposers of same-sex marriage. But I'm not so sure – to me it feels like if such a friendship still hasn't gotten through to these people, then it seems nothing will.

Perhaps it's the fence-sitters who will be persuaded, and maybe that's what counts. If anything was going to persuade them, it would probably be this book. The title works in making it appear that it could be arguing against the very thing it's in support of, and so perhaps it will challenge people who turn to it looking to have their views reaffirmed and instead find quite the opposite. But again I worry that if someone like Stanton - who knows and likes Corvino personally and has heard his arguments many times - can't be persuaded, then few can.

Still, even if it is mainly preaching to the converted, What's Wrong with Homosexuality? provides a useful and enlightening discussion on the arguments relating to same-sex marriage, and empowers the reader with plenty of facts and persuasive points in favour of it. This was what initially attracted me to reading it; especially the chapter on the biblical arguments against homosexuality, as these are what I've primarily encountered in real life and also the ones I have felt least able to intelligently argue against, not having read the Bible myself. Corvino quotes and analyses each of the references to homosexuality found in the Bible, examining ways they may have been misinterpreted (eg: Sodom's sin is inhospitality/aggression against heavenly creatures, not homosexuality) or become outdated (“If you adopt a simplistic 'God said it' approach to the [Bible], then be prepared to swallow some pretty nasty conclusions about slavery, women, and so on. If, instead, you insist on sensitivity to historical and cultural context, then the homosexuality passages must be reexamined in that light”). Because of the encounters I've had with certain people using their religion as an excuse for their homophobia (amongst other things), and my own lack of knowledge on biblical matters, I found this chapter to be incredibly fascinating and enlightening.

Indeed, the whole book is, though much of the rest contains arguments and conclusions I've heard of/come to before. Still, it's important that they're said, and said well; as he does with the biblical chapter, Corvino eviscerates the notions that homosexuality and same-sex marriage are wrong based on the risks, the “unnaturalness” or the “slippery slope” (you know, the ridiculous idea that “if man marries man, what's next?! Man marries dog?!” Because two consenting adults is totally the same thing as bestiality, uh-huh).

Importantly, What's Wrong with Homosexuality? never feels like it's sermonising or lecturing. It remains conversational throughout, and it's clear that Corvino wants to engage the reader and talk to them and with them, rather than down to them. Even for someone who isn't a massive non-fiction reader, I found this book to be extremely interesting, engaging and yes, even enjoyable. I came away feeling more informed, more fired up and frankly, more touched than I thought I would be. Because what this book highlights most of all is that, at its very root, this argument is one of love and compassion – and it cannot be won without those things.

Rating: 4/5

Fine Print
Published: March 1, 2013, by Oxford University Press
Source: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.
Get It: Book Depository

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Top Ten Authors On My Auto-Buy List

1. Melina Marchetta. I was going to make a joke about being so willing to buy anything she writes, I'd purchase her shopping list, but then I realised that sounded totally stalkery and so I won't mention it at all. Ahem.

2. Markus Zusak. I loved The Book Thief and am eagerly anticipating Zusak's next novel, Bridge of Clay. In the meantime I should really get around to reading his earlier stuff.

3. Caroline Overington. Overington's stories cover so many important issues, but at the centre of them all are very authentic characters and realistic emotions. I've loved everything of hers that I've read.

4. Shirley Marr. I love Marr's writing style and the unique stories she writes. Cookie cutter they ain't.

5. Gayle Foreman. Foreman's If I Stay and Where She Went shattered my heart into a million teeny tiny pieces. I admire a writer who can do that.

6. Stephanie Perkins. On the other end of the spectrum, Perkins' Anna and the French Kiss made my heart all light and happy. It's literary fairy floss at its finest.

7. Craig Silvey. I have a bit of a literary crush on Mr Silvey. I devoured Jasper Jones and adored The Amber Amulet, and have Rhubarb on my husband's Kindle waiting for me to steal it away. I can't wait to see what Silvey does next.

8. J. K. Rowling. C'mon. It's the Queen.

9. Charles Dickens. I know, he's dead, but he managed to release a helluva lot of books in his lifetime that I'm slowly making my way through. I've loved what I've read so much I don't hesitate to buy his work, especially when I come across a really cool edition. I totally judge books by their covers.

10. Charlotte Bronte. Same deal as Dickens, except I've actually only read one of her books, that I happened to absolutely love. So I really want to get the rest of Bronte's work.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Monday 25 February 2013

Review: Sea Hearts By Margo Lanagan

Like the men of Rollrock Island, Sea Hearts has me enchanted by selkies. I didn't know a great deal about the mythology going into this book, but the story of Rollrock Island and its inhabitants, whose relationship with the selkies is fraught with obsession, possession and heartbreak, captured my fascination and left me wanting so much more. While the mythology itself is interesting, it's the wonderful way Margo Lanagan expands on it and builds her world around it that makes Sea Hearts truly magical.

Rollrock Island is an isolated, wind-swept, sea-drenched setting that is powerfully evoked through Lanagan's beautiful writing. She will make you actually feel the damp air, smell the salty ocean and taste the sea-heart delicacies. Not to mention all the emotions - from wonder to fury to heartbreak, you're fully immersed in the feelings of the characters, leaving your heart raw and exposed, but ultimately satisfied.

The story is told from multiple perspectives across generations. The first part focuses on Misskaella, the witch who can transform seals into humans. We learn why she's determined to give all the men on Rollrock Island "sea wives", and it's quite a heart-wrenching journey, although it also has some magical and delightful moments. Of course, it's not spoiling anything to say she doesn't exactly have a happy ending (the book opens with her as an old woman), and her bitterness has devastating consequences for everyone, as the subsequent chapters, telling the stories of the women and men from two of the Rollrock families, reveal.

While Misskaella's section was a highlight, my favourite part of the book was probably Daniel's. As the son of a Rollrock man and a sea wife, he's torn between wanting his family together and wanting his mother to be happy. What he does to make things right is powerful, rendered especially so through Lanagan's stunning language and imagery. As awful as it is, I have to say I felt kinda gleeful at the comeuppance the men of the island got for their sexist, possessive selfishness.

Sea Hearts explores some pretty significant themes - love, passion, grief, revenge, obsession and even gender roles. It's intense, but never too heavy. Lanagan's beautiful way with words, elegant plot structure, whimsical world-building and remarkable cast of characters weave together to form a breathtaking book that I think everbody should read.

Rating: 5/5 

This Q&A with Lanagan about the book is fascinating. I can't believe she got the idea for the story from something as simple as knitting a scarf!

Fine Print
Published: February 2012, Allen & Unwin
Get It: Bookworld

Wednesday 20 February 2013

Bookish Buys: Party At Gatsby's

So I just got this jumper today...

From Gatsby Tees

...and it inspired me to look for other Gatsby-ish products. I was going to wait and post these when the movie came out but, well, I'm impatient. Speaking of - can the movie come out already?!

Flapper hair piece



Phone cover


Quote print

Small print




Monday 18 February 2013

Review: Picnic at Hanging Rock By Joan Lindsay

Isn't this edition purdy?!
Picnic at Hanging Rock is an iconic Australian story. The disappearance of three girls and one woman from a civilised picnic into the mysterious Hanging Rock plays on the worst fears of the landscape that are ingrained in the Australian psyche, which is why I think it has become such a classic. The tension between the European settlers and the harsh Australian bush depicted in the story is central to our cultural heritage. Its an important story, so it makes me cringe to admit that I didnt love it.

Ive always been fascinated by the central mystery itself, but this book is less about the actual disappearance of the girls and more about the effects the event has on those connected. It was interesting to see the ripples come into play, although it sometimes took a while to get there. I found the beginning quite good and the ending great, but the whole middle section was pretty tedious for me. Im not sure if its because I knew what was going to happen (or rather, what wasnt going to happen), but I just wasnt compelled to pick it up. In fact, I kind of dreaded it, because every time I did, Id get two pages in before I started to do this:

Maybe its the magic of Hanging Rock, which makes anyone who comes into contact with it sleepy and delirious. Maybe it's just a boring book. It doesnt help that its more character than plot focused, when many of the characters are two-dimensional stereotypes. Theres the perfect, pretty, popular girl; the fat, ugly, dunce; the strict and frugal headmistress; the pretty young French governess none of these characters had any real depth, and I didnt particularly care about any of them.

What I did love was the vivid imagery and evocative atmosphere, which was by turns dream-like and oppressive. The contrast between the open and uncontrollable Hanging Rock and the repressive, closed-in boarding school is powerful. Unfortunately it wasnt enough to make me really enjoy Picnic at Hanging Rock. Am I going to be kicked out of the country now?

Rating: 3.5/5

Spoilery Talking Points
  • I thought I desperately wanted to know what really happened to the girls, so I looked up The Secret of Hanging Rock. I think the editors were right to leave out the last chapter. Because it's kinda effed up, and not in a good way. Keeping the mystery, well, mysterious, makes the story so much stronger.
  • Maybe this is me being stupid again, but I was unsure whether Sara committed suicide or was murdered by the headmistress. 
  • I also couldn't figure out why Michael suddenly went off Irma, considering how well they were getting on. He seemed to just drop it without any real explanation. Weird.
Eye Candy
It was impossible to get the images of the actors from the movie out of my head. 

Fine Print
Published: Viking, 2012 (first published 1967)
Get It: Fishpond

Sunday 17 February 2013

Review: The Thief By Megan Whalen Turner

I've been told by so many people that this series is amazing, but that the first book is kinda lackluster. I didn't know much more than that going into The Thief, and perhaps that's why I enjoyed it more than others seem to. Importantly, I didn't know there was a twist at the end and so I didn't see it coming and also didn't spend my time trying to figure out what it was. I just enjoyed the ride.

The Thief follows Gen, the eponymous trickster, as he is forced to journey through multiple countries with the king of Sounis' advisor and his apprentices to retrieve the mythical Hamiathe's Gift, said to bestow the right to rule Sounis' neighbouring kingdom of Eddis on whomever posseses it. The bulk of this book is taken up with the journey itself, and I've seen multiple reviewers complain of the slowness of the narrative as a result. Perhaps because I was using this book as a break from the snail's pace of Picnic at Hanging Rock, I actually didn't find it particularly slow. Sure, there's a lot of description of winding roads, meals of bread and cheese and a helluva lot of olive trees, but thanks to Megan Whalen Turner's strong writing, it all managed to maintain my interest.

The characters also helped negate the potential tediousness of the journey for me. Gen is an unreliable but compelling narrator. His voice is strong, and his cheeky arrogance is somehow endearing. His travelling companions are a curious bunch, each hiding their own secrets. I only wish there had been a girl or two as part of the party - it was very male-centric for most of the story. But at least this is somewhat balanced by the fact that the women who do appear are all very powerful.

Maybe I'm getting stupid, but as I already mentioned I didn't see the twist coming, and there are a few threads that left me a bit confused. Nevertheless, The Thief was an enjoyable read that has me excited for the rest of the series, especially as it apparently gets even better. Now excuse me while I go hunt down some olives and cheese. All that reading about them has made me hungry...

Rating: 4/5

Spoilery Talking Point
  • The part I'm a little unsure about regarding the "twist" is how much Gen actually planned. Did he deliberately get caught because he knew the magus would use him to retrieve Hamiathe's Gift? Or was it a lucky coincidence? The magus mentioned he probably wanted to make a name for himself, but I wondered if it was more than that. Did his queen or his father send him to Sounis with that intention all along, or was he acting on his own? I would have liked more explanation. But like I said, maybe I'm just getting stupid.
Eye Candy
I'm a bit obsessed with Joe Demspie after watching Skins and Game of Thrones recently, so that's who I pictured as Gen.


Fine Print
Published: 2005, Greenwillow Books (first published 1996)
Get It: Book Depository

Friday 15 February 2013

Friday Link Dump: Sylvia Plath, Dreamboats and Gossip Girl

Flavorwire has rounded up a brilliant collection of essays and posts about Sylvia Plath in honour of the anniversary of her death. I really should get around to reading The Bell Jar.

Which '90s dreamboat is your Valentine? I got JTT, not impressed.

Tweetpairing exposes the hypocrisy and idiocy of people on Twitter. Love it.

So this week I found out who Gossip Girl is (yes, I'm a bit behind), and I thought it was the stupidest plot twist ever. Which is why I was happy to discover someone is rewatching the series to point out why it makes absolutely no sense, so I don't have to do it myself (spoilers at the link!).

This gifset from Buzzfeed of things that will make you say "noooooo" is pretty amazing.

Speaking of gifs, there's a new search engine in town, dedicated to these delightful moving image files. Move over Google image, Giphy is here.

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Bookish Buys: Drying The Dishes In Style

I can't believe I'm doing a post about teatowels, but I found some awesome book-related ones, so I thought why not! If you've got to dry the dishes, you may as well do it with something fun. Although some of these are almost too cool to use...

I Capture the Castle

Costume drama "dishes I'd rather be doing"

Read more books

Alice in Wonderland

Book lover

Literary map of Britain


Popular Penguin

"She is too fond of books..."

The Canterville Ghost

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Top Ten Favourite Romances

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Need I say more? OK, I will anyway. It's Darcy and Lizzy. Two of the greatest literary characters ever, combined in the romance to end all romances. Or the romance to start all romances, rather, given the thousands of remakes, rejigs and rip-offs.

2. Persuasion by Jane Austen. Another Jane Austen, I know. But if Pride and Prejudice is the Greatest Romance of All Time (which it is), then Persuasion is a very close second. The tale of Captain Wentworth and Anne Eliot's reconnection is bittersweet and beautiful. Don't even get me started on the letter.

3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I adore how passionate and strong Rochester and Jane's love is, and the way they respect each other and value one another as equals.

4. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. Thornton and Margaret's love reminds me a little of Darcy and Lizzy, in that they can't stand each other at first but eventually see each other in a new light. Their story is filled with a lot more heartbreak than Austen's novel, but that just makes the happier moments all the more meaningful.

5. The Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery. Anne is my hero, and I worship her almost as much as Gilbert does. The only downside of their romance is that in the later books Anne goes all wifey and motherly and forgets her own creative dreams and ambitions, which might be historically accurate but is disappointing nonetheless.

6. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. An American girl falls in love with an English boy at a school in Paris. Oh, how I love everything about this book.

7. The Princess Bride by William Goldman. "This is True Love. You think that happens every day?" No, Westley, no it doesn't. Which is what makes this book so special.

8. The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. Set in the Soviet Union during World War II, there's only one word to describe Tatiana and Alexander's love story: Epic.

9. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. This book made me ugly cry for a good half an hour after I finished it. Now that is a strong romance.

10. Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles. This one is extremely cheesy but totally addictive. I devoured it and was left wanting so much more. Pure, trashtastic fun.

What are your fave romances?

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Friday 8 February 2013

Friday Link Dump: Casting News, Bookshelf Porn and Semi-Naked Beckham

-Big casting news this week. First up, Vampire Academy. Dimitri is actually being played by a Russian... I kinda like it. But I'm most excited about the The Book Thief news - Geoffrey Rush is great and the rest of the cast seem good, although I never pictured Max quite so... baby-faced. I'm also slightly concerned about how they'll translate the beauty of the book into movie form. What I really want to know is who will play Death!

-I'm not sure how I feel about this new adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. It's like they're trying to cash in on it AND Downton Abbey. Who am I kidding, I'll still watch it.

-BOOKSHELF PORN. 'Nuff said.

-Book-inspired hotels: I want to go to there. And there. And there and there and there.

-Celebrate Valentine's Day with pop culture thanks to these fun e-cards. My faves are the Golden Girls set, natch.

-I love a good mash-up - and this The Avengers/The Breakfast Club mix is the best.

-Here are 20 reasons why Community is totally awesome. 

-These baby fennec foxes are the cutest thing you'll see all week.

-Except for the boy stuff (I'm lucky enough to have a lovely husband, vom, I know), this GIF post pretty much sums up my life. 

-This week the internet had fun with Beyonce. It's my new favourite meme.

-Apparently, you can do amazing art with some Oreos. Personally I just like eating them.

YouTube Clip of the Week