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

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Top Ten Books On My Wishlist

1. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins. I probably don't need to explain this one - I think if you're a book blogger and don't already own it, you want it!

2. The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su. I adored the web series so I'm interested to see how they've adapted it as a book.

3. Well-Read Women: Portraits of Fiction's Most Beloved Heroines by Samantha Hahn. This book of illustrations of female characters looks gorgeous.

4. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake. This one has been sitting on my wishlist for years. No idea why I haven't managed to get my hands on it yet.

5. Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson. I loved Matson's first book and liked her second so I'm really keen to read this one too.

6. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan. I've heard mixed things about this book but I adored Lanagan's Sea Hearts when I read it last year and have been meaning to check this one out since.

7. His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman. I am one of those terrible people (or possibly the only one?!) who is yet to read this series. I almost bought it recently but held myself back because I was buying other books - but I will have to get this one some day soon.

8. Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson. This is another book that has been on my wishlist since it came out, a couple of years ago now. For some reason it's never made it to the TBR pile, but I still really want it.

9. The Messenger by Markus Zusak. Despite loving The Book Thief A LOT, I haven't read any of Zusak's other books, which I kind of kick myself over every so often. I need to remedy that.

10. Bossypants by Tina Fey. I was desperate to read this when it came out and then never got around to buying or reading it. Again, I really need to!

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

Sunday 10 August 2014

Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

I don't know what I can say in this review that hasn't already been said by many other reviewers. But I can't not say anything about it because this book affected me so much. So I'm adding my voice to the chorus. It's true what they say. We Were Liars is an incredible book. And the less you know about it going into it, the better. Suffice it to say it's about four teenagers - three cousins and a friend - called the Liars, who spend each summer on a private island together. But nobody wants to talk about what happened two summers ago, when there was an accident that caused Cady to lose important memories. As she tries to piece together the past, she has to come to terms with the messed up present - with the help of her Liars, of course.

So yeah. This book is a mystery. But it's also about friendship and family, anger and love, grief and desire... you know, all the big little stuff - or little big stuff. It's simply beautiful. I know the writing style is not for everyone (many other reviewers have mentioned how it bugged them), but I ADORED it. It's rich and elegant, the kind that you want to read out loud, that evokes the texture and taste and smell of a place and a story and the people in it.

And oh, the people in it. This book is not about poor little rich kids that you can't feel sorry for. Cady and her Liars are all interesting and real and loveable. Along with Cady, I especially loved Gat, the outsider on the island who belongs and yet doesn't. He got under my skin, as did all the Liars. The one part that was mildly annoying was that it's never clear why they were called the Liars in the first place. But that was no big deal. A surface issue. What really matters is the amazing story and the brilliant characters and the vivid emotional core.

I hope it's not spoiling too much to say this book made me ugly cry. Hard. FOR HOURS. I am not exaggerating. I can't remember the last time a book made me cry so much. It didn't help that I wasn't expecting it to be so emotional, and I was up late reading it long after everyone else had gone to bed (because yes, it's impossible to put down), and so suddenly I found myself alone and CRYING AND CRYING AND CRYING AND CRYING AND CRYING. It hurt so much. I went to bed and cried some more. My husband woke up and was all "WHAT'S WRONG?!" and I had to be like "This bo-oo-ooo-oooooook." And he hugged me and I cried some more until I finally fell asleep. And then in the morning I woke up and remembered and CRIED SOME MORE.

To be fair, I read this book along with Bree at 1 Girl 2 Many Books and I don't believe she cried at all. So it could have just been the right book at the right time (or maybe the wrong book at the wrong time) for me. It might not make you cry so much. But I just want you to know that it tore my heart out and stomped on it a bit and offered it back to me slightly mangled.

But it was worth it. This is a beautiful book. One of my favourites of the year. You should read it. With some tissues and somebody to cuddle nearby.

Rating: 4.5/5

Fine Print
Published: 2014, Allen & Unwin
Source: Netgalley
Get It: Abebooks

Saturday 2 August 2014

Audiobook Review: Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters, Narrated by Elisabeth Rodgers

Bedbugs is a pretty standard horror. A young family moves into a new home and it seems like a dream come true, until of course things start to go wrong. Strange smells, strange noises, strange neighbours, and increasing tension within the family itself. Where it differs from a lot of horror, however, is that this time it's the mother, rather than the father, who is affected by the new place and whose sanity slowly starts to unravel and turn her against her own family.

I really liked this different perspective on the classic horror narrative. I liked the family at the centre, and loved Susan and Alex's relationship, making it hard to watch it start to unravel. True, Susan thinks some awful things even before she starts to go crazy, but that didn't make her an awful character - I found her to be incredibly realistic, actually. Everyone has bad thoughts they wouldn't ever say out loud, and it was kind of refreshing to see them on the page. I also really related to Susan's own guilt and anxiety, particularly about her painting - she left her job to focus on her art, and finds a million things to instead so she doesn't have to begin and risk failure. I wasn't expecting to connect so much on an emotional level in a simple horror story, but I guess deep down good horror is about everyday anxieties amplified.

Which I suppose is why this book puts the hysteria over bedbugs that happened in New York a couple of years ago at front and centre. It's a good device, a threat that most people recognise, and yet I do feel like it wasn't used entirely effectively here. What was most interesting was Susan's inner chaos, and the bedbugs could have been substituted with any kind of threat or annoyance, really. They didn't form an essential part of the story. If anything they made Susan's unravelling seem a little more unrealistic, because not a lot actually happens regarding bedbugs before she's totally freaking out over them and becoming obsessive. I get that there were other things affecting her but it just seemed a little ridiculous in spots.

There's a slow build to this book that I quite liked but it did drag in spots. It was very creepy for the most part but sometimes I just wanted something to happen. But when something did happen I was a little disappointed, the creepiness disappeared and it just felt a little... silly. I still liked it overall but I didn't LOVE it.

I listened to this on audiobook and the narration for the most part was very good. Elisabeth Rodgers captured Susan's voice really well and the supporting characters were great, with one exception - Emma, Susan and Alex's daughter. I get that it's hard for a grown woman to do a toddler's voice but it really got on my nerves. I think part of that was also the writing - some of the dialogue coming from Emma just didn't sound authentic to me, it was frequently overly cutesy, like how someone thinks a toddler would sound and not how a toddler actually sounds. But otherwise it was a pretty good listening experience.

Rating: 3.5/5

Head Cast
I pictured Alice Eve as Susan and Michael Rady as Alex.

via Dreamworks 
via CBS

Fine Print
Published: 2011, Audible Studios
Get It: Audible

Saturday 26 July 2014

Audiobook Reviews: The Importance of Being Earnest and A Woman of No Importance by Oscar Wilde

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, narrated by James Marsters, Charles Busch, Emily Bergl, Neil Dickson, Jill Gascoine, Christopher Neame and Matthew Wolf.
Although I've seen the movie, I'd never read - or listened to - the original play, so I was excited when I came across this audiobook performance on Audible. It didn't disappoint. I loved the story of mistaken identities, long-lost family and rich people's shenanigans, and the characters were all charming and endearing in their own way. The language is obviously gorgeous and witty, and it was brilliantly delivered by the actors in this edition. It all flowed really well and was just a delight to listen to.
Rating: 4/5

A Woman of No Importance by Oscar Wilde, narrated by Miriam Margolyes, Samantha Mathis, Rosalind Ayres, Jane Carr, Judy Geeson and Martin Jarvis. 
After really enjoying The Importance of Being Earnest I was keen to give this audio a try, and while it was good, it wasn't great. It too has long-lost family, mistaken identities and rich people's shenanigans, but it just wasn't as fun. The characters weren't as compelling, and the story wasn't as engaging. The performances weren't as great here either, they FELT like performances rather than like you were listening to actual conversations between the characters. I was also surprised that several of the lines were exactly the same as those found in Earnest - of course, this came earlier and so Wilde must have reused them for Earnest, and they ARE great lines, but I didn't like the repeated use. I wouldn't listen to or read this again.
Rating: 3/5