Tuesday 25 June 2013

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far In 2013

1. Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan. Gorgeous, descriptive writing telling a beautiful, harrowing, whimsical story about selkies.

2. This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers. A zombie novel focused on human relationships and emotions. So many feels.

3. Adorkable by Sarra Manning. Realistic characters + authentic romance = pure fun.

4. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. After loving the show for two years, I actually got around to reading the first book this year. It was a bit of a slog, but worth it. Westeros is such a rich world, populated by wonderful, flawed characters.

5. Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley. An all-in-one-night story (my favourite kind) featuring a smart girl and mysterious boy wandering around the streets of Melbourne. Le swoon.

6. The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. After enjoying the first book and being disappointed with the second in The Queens Thief series, I finally saw what all the fuss was about with this third book. I loved the twisty plot and awesome characters, especially the King of the title, Eugenides.

7. Liar by Justine Larbalestier. The kind of book that stays with you long after you’ve read it. Mostly because the unreliable narrator totally messes with your head.

8. Between the Lives by Jessica Shirvington. I enjoyed this way more than I thought I would. What could have been clichéd was actually quite lovely, and the idea of one girl living two lives simultaneously was unique and interesting.

9. In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose MacColl. A moving historical novel spanning generations and countries, with a tale of the relationships between women at its heart.

10. Alaska by Sue Saliba. Beautifully written and designed, this book is about finding yourself.

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

Monday 24 June 2013

Review: Sister, Sister by Andrew Neiderman

I picked this up randomly at a secondhand store for three dollars while I was away in the Blue Mountains. I had just finished reading Floundering and I needed something that wouldn’t hurt my head. A trashy horror novel about telepathic conjoined twins by V.C. Andrews’ ghostwriter seemed like just the thing. Also did I mention it was three dollars?

Anyway, to some extent I did enjoy it in a so-bad-it’s-kinda-good way, but I wouldn’t exactly recommend it to anyone. Because it was really, really bad. Sure, it was still pretty entertaining to start with, but by the end of the book I found myself just getting irritated. The dialogue was so forced and silly, and the plot was predictable and unfortunately not very scary. If you’ve read any V.C. Andrews, you’ll recognise the writing style from a plantation away. Except instead of incest, there’s conjoined twins who can hear each other’s thoughts and move things with their minds.

Which brings me to the worst part of this book: it is so incredibly offensive. The treatment of conjoined twins and kids with birth defects as freaks and monsters was absolutely appalling. Meanwhile, the main character is a macho douche, yet his supposedly intelligent co-worker, a female psychologist, treats him like he’s some sort of god. He, on the other hand, is completely condescending to her, like “oh, you’re so cute, with your degree and individual thoughts and no wedding ring, how novel!” Ugh. They have sex once and are talking marriage, because of course you can’t have sex unless you’re going to spend the rest of your life with that person. Oh, um, spoiler, I guess. Except it’s not really a spoiler because you can totally tell it’s going to happen from the moment he skeezily looks her up and down the first time they meet. Also I don’t really care about spoilers because I don’t think anyone should read this book.

Seriously, don’t read this book. Just don’t. It got to the point where it was more crap than craptastic. Which is a shame. But if you have any recommendations for trashy horror novels that won’t drive me completely nuts, I’d love to hear them!

Rating: 2/5 stars

Friday 21 June 2013

Friday Link Dump: Divergent, Anchorman 2 and Lego

-New photos from Divergent have been released and it looks pretty good. (EW)

-I want to go to all of these bookish restaurants. (Flavorwire)

-Love the illustrations of this Tumblr artist, especially her Sleeping Beauty retelling. (Tumblr)

-Game of Thrones meets Terminator II in the mash up to end all mash ups. (YouTube)

-Meanwhile George R. R. Martin and Peter Dinklage are coming to Australia, squee! (Sydney Opera House)

-The Feminist Taylor Swift is my new favourite Twitter. (Twitter)

-Is it just me or does The Lego Movie look totally awesome? (YouTube)

-Also awesome looking: Anchorman 2. (YouTube)

-This review of James Franco's review of Man of Steel is the funniest thing I read all week. (Junkee)

-Speaking of Man of Steel: Helloooo, Henry Cavill. (BuzzFeed)

-This wedding gift drama is both appalling and amusing. I can't believe someone actually said "weddings are to make money". Ummm, no. (The Spec)

Review: Floundering by Romy Ash

This book was such a disappointment.

I picked it up at the Sydney Writers' Festival after it won the SMH Young Australian Novelists of the Year award. Seeing that it also made the Miles Franklin Award shortlist, amongst others, I expected it would be amazing, and I liked the concept. Told from the perspective of a little boy, Floundering details a road trip and stay in a caravan park with his brother and his mum – who has actually kidnapped the boys away from their grandparents because she's a terrible mother.

For the first part of the road trip I was quite enjoying the ride. I liked Ash’s interpretation of a child’s view of the world, and while some of the language seemed too adult, I thought it was mostly quite authentic. The lack of quotation marks was strange but effective.

Then the road trip just kept going. And Loretta, the boys’ mother, got progressively more awful. I was impatient for them to get where they were going and things to start happening. The language started to bother me a little, but I was still willing to stick with it.

When they finally got to the caravan park I thought, now we’re getting somewhere. Except we didn’t. We didn’t get anywhere. Ash achieved an atmosphere of intense, hot, boredom – but while that was probably what she was going for, it was unfortunately incredibly boring to read. It felt like nothing ever happened, except Loretta was becoming more and more neglectful. When something did finally happen, it was so utterly sickening that I don’t even want to think about it.

By that stage the language was well and truly grating on me and the formatting just felt like it was trying too hard. I had to actually force myself to finish the last half of the book, and it was only because I had already come so far that I kept going. There seemed no point to the story, other than to show a snapshot of some really terrible things happening to two children. Even when there’s some hopeful imagery, it gets dashed and the kids just wind up more miserable than before. Floundering was bleak, boring and ultimately a horrible reading experience.

Rating: 2/5

Fine Print
Published: 2013, Text Publishing
Get It: Book Depository


Review: This Is Not A Test By Courtney Summers

Holy crap did I love this book.

It reminded my a little of The Walking Dead, in that it’s set in a zombie apocalypse but the zombies are merely the backdrop for the human drama. But while The Walking Dead features a mostly adult cast (give or take an annoying kid or two), This Is Not A Test focuses on six teens as they hole up in their high school and try to figure out how to survive. Or if they even want to.

You see, the book opens with the protagonist, Sloane, contemplating suicide. But not because of a zombie apocalypse. Because of the very human problem of living in an abusive home and feeling abandoned by her sister, the one person who promised to take care of her. Then zombies appear on the scene and it’s almost a relief to her. She’s away from her abuser for the first time in her life, but she’s still despairing that her sister left her. Oh, and the fact that the world’s gone to hell. Much of the book centres around the tension between her desire to die and her increasing interest in life, and it’s quite a fascinating concept.

I also really enjoyed watching the dynamics of the group unfold. A lot of conflict derived from who survived when they perhaps shouldn’t have – and who didn’t survive when they should have. It was also interesting to see how people who wouldn't normally interact adapted to living in constant close quarters. There was a lot of tension but also a lot of lovely bonding moments.

The setting of the school and the atmosphere of impending doom was awesomely claustrophobic. There's one particular section early on where the zombies are constantly banging on all doors and windows and it's dreadful (in a good way). The repeated unchanging messages of "This is not a test" also added to the tense mood. It all felt very authentic.

What I loved most of all about This Is Not A Test were the raw emotions. Anger, despair, hope, fear, love, hate, attraction, detest, grief... there are so many emotions the characters go through and they're all beautifully and realistically rendered. Forget braaaaains, this zombie book will grab your heart and twist it and rip it and squish it until all your left with are frayed nerves and FEELS. So many feels.

Rating: 5/5

Headcanon Cast

Lily Collins as Sloane

Steven R. McQueen as Rhys
Fine Print
Published: 2012, St Martin's Griffith
Get It: Book Depository

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Top Ten Books On My Winter TBR

I feel like I was just doing one of these, and embarrassingly I've read a big fat ZERO from my last TBR list. Hopefully I'll do better this time - here's what I'm hoping to get to...

1. Trumpet by Jackie Kay. I have to admit I'd never heard of Jackie Kay before seeing her at the Sydney Writers' Festival - but I was blown away by her talent, humour, wit and wisdom when I saw her. I immediately bought this book, which is about a transgender Jazz musician, and was lucky enough to get it signed. Now I just have to read it!

2. Going Bovine by Libba Bray. I've been wanting to read another Libba Bray book since reading and loving Beauty Queens, and seeing her at the Sydney Writers' Festival gave me the perfect excuse to take home another of her books. I can't want to dive in to the story of a boy with mad cow disease.

3. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes. This was another Sydney Writers' Festival discovery (seriously I spent so much on books that weekend). As soon as I heard the words "time traveling serial killer" I was sold.

4. A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin. I loved A Game of Thrones when I read it a couple of months ago, but I needed to take a bit of a break before I read the rest of the series because it was kinda exhausting. But lately I've been obsessing over it a bit (can you tell?), thanks in no small part to the end of the latest season of the show, so I now I'm itching to read book two. I just have to wait for it to arrive from The Book Depository!

5. Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead. I love Mead's Vampire Academy series and have been wanting to read more of her work. Even though it's gotten mixed reviews, I'm excited to read this one.

6. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I think this has made every one of my TBR lists since it came out, because I really want to read it, but can never quite bring myself to do it. I will one of these days!

7. Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel. I have a thing for zombies lately, and this is one of the few zombie books I already own, so I want to get to it soon.

8. Between the Lives by Jessica Shirvington. Love the concept of this one - a girl lives two lives simultaneously, switching day by day. It's also got some great reviews from my Goodreads friends.

9. Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan. I really enjoyed Larbalestier's Liar when I read it recently and I've heard great things about Team Human.

10. Night Beach by Kirsty Eager. So many people have told me I need to read Eager's books. I have this one so it's a good place to start!

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

Friday 14 June 2013

Friday Links: Judy Blume, Giraffe Butts and Game of Thrones

-Judy Blume did an AMA on Reddit. Best ever. (Reddit)

-I've been in a bit of a Game of Thrones Google binge since it ended this week. In my travels I came across this awesome Hitler reaction vid on the Red Wedding. Spoilers if you haven't read/watched it (YouTube). I also discovered Game of Kittehs, which is ridiculous but made me giggle (Tumblr). Then there's ah-mazing 80s-themed character posters (Society6), along with this 80s-style Jon Snow training sequence that totally needs to happen IRL (YouTube). Finally, a fan who is also a dwarf gives his perspective on the character of Tyrion, and it's brilliant (Reddit).

-The worst from the slush pile - or, what NOT to do in a query. (Tumblr)

-The actress of one of my all-time fave movies, Matilda, reveals her inside knowledge on why child actors go crazy so often. (Cracked)

-One child actor who didn't go too crazy (unless you count his obsession with skeletons and ghosts) is Ryan Gosling, who, speaking of skeletons and ghosts, had one of his earliest roles in the Goosebumps series. Watching it makes me all nostalgic. (Vulture)

-Mean Gurlz is the best Mean Girls parody I've seen in a long time. "You can't twerk with us!" (YouTube)

-I'm obsessed with this cinemagraph blog. Just stunning. (Tumblr)

-One photographer takes the 'Dear Photograph' concept to another level by going to the places old movies/TV shows were filmed and juxtaposing new photos with old shots. Awesome. (Tumblr)

-If you've been living under a rock and haven't yet watched The Greatest Event in Television History, you should probably go do that now. (YouTube)

-Here is a gallery of everything Ron Swanson has eaten on Parks and Recreation. It's a lot of meat. (Vulture)

-ZOMG ZOMG ZOMG ZOMG new season of Skins is out soon and here is the trailer. Sad that Sid isn't in it while Cassie is, feel pretty meh about Effy, but interested to know what happened to Cook. (YouTube)

-A new show that I'm excited about is The White Queen, based on the series by Philippa Gregory. I haven't read the books but the trailer looks great, so I'll have to read then watch. Max Irons, hello! (YouTube)

-Pomeranians are probably are the key to world peace. Meanwhile, did you know giraffes use their BUTTS as pillows?! If that's not adorable/hilarious enough for you, these gifs should do you in. (BuzzFeed)

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Top Ten Beach Reads

1. Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Ann Brashares. It's all about summer (amongst other things), and it's so much fun. My kind of beach read.

2. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. Teen romance at its best.

3. Adorkable by Sarra Manning. Teen romance at its second best.

4. Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding. Just pure fun.

5. Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan. Not exactly a light beach read, but the ocean is such a central part of the story it would be fantastic to read this book surrounded by the sounds and scents it describes.

6. Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst. A book featuring vampires that are actually deadly, that's still fun, light-hearted and highly entertaining. Awesome.

7. Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles. Teen romance at its trashiest. Perfect for sunny, no-brainer days on the sand.

8. Cargo by Jessica Au. This is another book which is not exactly light, but the beach is central to the story.

9. Puberty Blues by Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey. Again, it's all about the beach and surf culture. Even though it goes to pretty dark places, it's also hilarious.

10. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. It's Toddlers and Tiaras meets Lost. And it's as brilliant as it sounds.

Friday 7 June 2013

Review: Liar By Justine Larbalestier

Micah lives with her parents and little brother in New York City. She spends summers with her eccentric grandmother and great aunt. She loves to run. She has a boyfriend who has gone missing. And she is a compulsive liar. Talk about an unreliable narrator!

Liar is split into three parts, and in each Micah tells a version of what she claims is the truth. I loved the first part of the book and was intrigued about the unfolding mystery around Zach's disappearance. I couldn't put the book down. Then I just about threw it down when it took an unexpected supernatural twist in part two. I thought I was getting a contemporary thriller so I was disappointed  - even angry - when it turned out I was apparently reading something else. Then I remembered Micah is a liar and decided to keep reading to figure out whether this twist was actually "true". By the third part I was very much drawn into the story again. Then the end came and there was no concrete resolution. Being a stickler for closure, I was frustrated once again.

But, I have to say, Liar got me thinking. And the more I thought about it, the more I appreciated it. You see, while you never find out the exact "truth" in the text, there are two clear options - and it's up to you to decide which one is right. There are other interpretations that work too, discussed by fans on the SPOILERY SPOILER thread at Justine's website, and reading through them kind of blew my mind. Instead of being frustrated as I initially was, I became awed at the possibilities and loved how the book really encouraged creativity and imagination in its readers. I like that you can make up your own mind about the truth. Or whether there even is a "truth".

So yes, Liar makes you think, which is awesome. But it also makes you feel, which is even awesomer. I didn't warm to Micah at first - I mean, she's a compulsive liar, it's hard to love someone like that - but boy, did she get under my skin by the end. My heart broke for her in places. She may not be likable or reliable, but she's complex and interesting and unique and fierce. This is her story, and while the facts might be blurred, the emotion is distinct and true.

Liar is a remarkable book, and has definitely made me want to read more of Larbalestier's work. It's amazing that she pulled this off and a testament to her skill as a writer. It might not work for everyone, but it really worked for me.

Rating: 4/5

Spoilery Talking Points
  • After thinking about it a lot, I believe Micah was lying about the whole werewolf thing. I think it was symbolic of her wildness, perhaps even her sexuality, that her parents tried to contain.
  • I think maybe her brother died in an accident that Micah was somehow responsible for, and she probably killed Zach during a blackout. I think the other wolf was a personification of a fragmented part of herself, the part she felt had been abandoned by her parents, the part she hated herself.
  • I think the farm is symbolic of a mental institution. It was so heartbreaking when her parents left her there.
  • At the end I think she's probably still in some sort of facility, but on her way to healing. I'd love to know if anyone else who has read Liar has any theories!

Fine Print
Published: 2011, Allen & Unwin
Get It: Bookworld

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Top Ten Books Featuring Travel

1. Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson. The best roadtrip book I've read. It will make you laugh, cry and swoooon.

2. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta. I could put the whole of The Lumatere Chronicles, but Finnikin is the one with the most travel. They're all wonderful.

3. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. The magical, gorgeous tale of one unicorn's quest to find others like her.

4. The Reluctant Hallelujah by Gabrielle Williams. A roadtrip book with a very unique twist. Not for everyone, but I loved it.

5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Trip to the Peak District, anyone? Namely Derbyshire.

6. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. What better way to travel than through time? Though it doesn't exactly work out well for Henry. This book gives me All The Feels.

7. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares. Four friends use a magical pair of jeans to stay in touch when they're separated over the summer. It's nowhere near as lame as I thought it would be before I read it.

8. Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie. Second star to the right and straight on till morning!

9. The Princess Bride by William Goldman. One of my favourite books of all time, I wouldn't mind a trip with Fezzik and Inigo - and Westley, of course. Buttercup can stay at home.

10. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. While it's mostly set in Paris, the kids do travel there to start with (and to America and back again over the holidays). Anna may whinge about it at first, but I wouldn't have minded going to school in such a gorgeous city!