Friday, 30 January 2015

Every Day by David Levithan - Narrated by Alex McKenna

I was hooked from the first minute. It was the combination of an intriguing premise and the pleasant sound of Alex McKenna’s voice. She has this low, husky tone with a gentle and musical accent, which was very easy and pleasant to follow. Sometimes people tell me the reason they wouldn’t be into audiobooks is because they would find it hard to follow, that their attention would wander. I thought so too, but I found that as long as the reader doesn’t go too fast (and that I like the voice, of course) that problem doesn’t occur. Needless to say, I never had that problem with Alex.
The story follows A as he/she tries to lead a normal life when everything about her/his/its (hir?) life isn’t. A changes bodies every day, never having owned their own (yeah, I’ll go with their, although I thought of A as 'she' while listening). I find this concept mindboggling. How does one define themselves without not just a body, but a life and an identity that never change. A family, a history that belongs to you. Without friends that know the real you, not the person you’re inhabiting. None of this is part of A’s life. A has to adjust to their body and life changing every day without having any control over it. It sounds like the stuff of nightmare, but A has decided, now at the age of 16, to accept it and go with the flow, to live in the present and not worry about it too much. Until A meets Rhiannon and falls in love with her.
 Now, I can’t tell much more without giving it away, but let me tell you it kept me hooked till the very end. It’s not a perfect book by any means, but I loved it all the same. It explores many issues: body image, identity, morality, sexuality, love. Especially love. We like to say that it’s what’s inside that matters. That the physical part is not as important as one’s personality, one’s “soul”. But do we really mean it? How much of our love or infatuation is based on appearances, on the physical aspect of it? I am not ashamed to say that for me the physical side is very important. I fall in love with the person as a whole, I love their personality and mind as much as their bodies. But with A you can only get one immutable aspect of the package. The rest is up to fate. Loving A would mean loving a ‘conscience’ but not a ‘person’, at least not in the way we’re used to. For this reason, and for many others (lack of lasting relationships, including the love of one’s family, for one) my heart ached for A. It still does, if I think about it. I read some reviews where people were outraged by A’s behaviour. They resented them the way they “used” their bodies, for their own purposes. I would agree with this view if A had any choice in the matter. If A had a body to return to and used their powers to do as they please, while hijacking other people’s lives, but that’s not the case. A has NO body, NO life of their own. What are they supposed to do, surrender to their fate and pretend to be someone else their whole life? Be completely selfless and devote their life to be as invisible and innocuous as possible? Just passing through, pretending they don’t exist? It seems cruel, to ask this of someone’s life. It’s easy to accuse but what would you do, especially if you fell in love? And remember, A is only 16.
 In any case, whether you'd love the book or not, it'd still be worth reading (or listening!), even if just to boggle your mind for a while.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

The irresistible lure of audiobooks

I never would have thought I’d say this but I have totally fallen into the alluring and comforting arms of audiobooks. Not that I have ever had anything against audiobooks before. I just always thought they weren’t for me. I had tried one, years ago, and didn’t particularly like that experience, so I thought that had sorted the matter. But I had underestimated the love I had always had for listening to stories read aloud to me. I remember my Middle School English teacher reading to us from Momo by Michael Ende, and that was my favourite hour of the whole week. So I shouldn’t be surprised audiobooks would be such a pleasure. Obviously that very first attempt was a poor one. Either I didn’t like the narrator’s voice or I wasn’t too interested in the book. Anyway, last year I came across, completely by chance, a copy of The Order of the Phoenix read by Stephen Fry. I gave it a try and I was instantly hooked. I went on listening to 4 more Harry Potter books, but even after that I was still a little hesitant. “It’s Harry Potter” I told myself. “Easy to listen to. And Stephen Fry as well did an amazing job, it must be a fluke.” Still, I made a list of possible audiobooks for the future (as I do) and left it at that. Until recently, when I remembered how I love listening to stuff read to me and gave it another try.
Well, let me tell you, it was no fluke. I mean, there's so little effort involved. One can listen to audiobooks with eyes closed,  in the dark,  in the car (and not get car sick), while cycling or cooking.,,
  Although I must confess my favourite way of listening is while lying in bed, cuddled to my phone, listening to the invisible person with the soothing voice telling me goodnight stories.
Recently I have been introduced to the wonders of Audible and oh boy do I love it. You can listen to all the samples and decide whether you like that voice or not, you can a free one to start with, even if that one if like 60$ or something and after that 15$  a month for one seems very cheap compared to most audiobooks' prices. I have already placed 156 items on my wishlist (and then discovered that so many of these aren't available here - * sad face*) and I haven't even finished yet. 

All this to tell you that my first audiobooks review is coming up shortly :)

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Books read in 2014

  • 1) Fanfiction. Lots and lots of SG-1 Sam/Jack fics.
  • 2) National Geographic magazines, every month since April
  • 3) Listened to Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter 5,6 7, 1 and 2 in this order.
  • 4) The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  • 5) The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
  • 6) The strange and beautiful sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
  • 7) Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
  • 8) Black Maria by Diana Wynne Jones
  • 9) Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  • 10) Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
  • 11) Castle Waiting vol.1 by Linda Medley
     Yep. That's it I'm afraid.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children & Hollow Ciity by Ransom Riggs

I did not expect to like this book (and its sequel) as much as I did. Somehow I had it in my head that it was all about the photographs and that it was a story about freaks, and I'm not into freak shows and all that, they give me the heebeegeebees. But I figure it would have been a perfect read for R.I.P. so there we are. As it turns out, it wasn't just about the photographs and the "freaks" were adorable and I loved them all, individually and as a group.
The first book is, I dare say, perfect. It builts up nicely at the start, then it throws you into another world and you get to know the characters and why they are there, and there's even a sprinkle of romance, which is always good, and then there's Miss Peregrine and she's so much like McGonagall I wanted to squee. My favourite of the children had to be Bronwyn. She is lovely and motherly and cool. But it's true that I loved all of them and I was so afraid some of them were going to die.
I need to express my excitement now so if you don't want any spoilers skip the next paragraph:

There was time travel (!) and time loops (!) and that's already two of my favourite tropes in the history of tropes.

There were some things I wasn't too clear about, like for example, how come the children kept feeling like children after all those years. But I just went with it.

End of spoiler

 And when it was over I was like hell no, I'm not going to start another book, Imma download the sequel right now. And I did. I'm starting to love this ebook business.

And the sequel was also great fun, because it had all the characters I loved and there was adventure
and ass-kicking and new photographs (although these were less believable, especially as they were meant to be taken when it would have been impossible for them to take photos, or at least very unlikely), some more romance and I love how Emma kept being the leader of the group, because I love Emma. And the animals were cool and the enemies were scary and I really just wanted them to have Miss Peregrine back, but I had a nudging feeling that it could all go so very wrong. And then it does and I was like shiiiiiiit but also damn they should have thought of that possibility at least and now they're kinda screwed, except that the ending gave some sort of hope, even though they're still pretty screwed.

Now I need the third. Now, like.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

R.I.P Challenge IX

(artwork by Abigail Larson)

Well, seeing how I'm totally getting my blogging mojo back, why not join a challenge, while I'm at it It's that time of the year, after all, and I'm up for some spooky treats anyway.
For anyone who doesn't know, The R.I.P. Challenge involves the reading of the following:

Dark Fantasy.

Basically, anything HALLOWEENY.

I'm going with Peril the First: Read any four R.I.P.ish books.

  • Wicked by Gregory Maguire (Because WITCHES)  - I'm on it already.
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (Because FREAKS)
  • The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (Because MYSTERY and SUPERNATURAL)
  • The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs by Jack Gantos (Because CURSES)
All books I've wanted to read for ages :)

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Black Maria - Diana Wynne Jones

I like happy endings. And I asked Chris why something should be truer just because it's unhappy. He couldn't answer.
I’ve learned to always expect the unexpected with Diana Wynne Jones. Her stories are highly originally and she obviously had plot bunnies coming out of her ears. I can’t say I’m an expert on the Wynne Jones, this is only my second book of hers, but I plan to become one, if all her books are as fun as this.

Black Maria is mostly a story about power, about ancient rules and feuds and treachery, in a remote village on the coast of England (I’m assuming).  When their father dies, Mig, Chris and their mother are forced to spend their Easter holidays with their annoying Aunt Maria. The three of them find themselves slaving away to accommodate the old woman’s needs, while the other Mrs  of the village keep court in her leaving room every afternoon.
It’s the stuff of nightmares for the kids who were looking forward to some holiday fun. But their fears take a different meaning when things start being not just boring, but REALLY weird. For starters, there’s a ghost in Chris’s bedroom. Then there’s them kids in the orphanage who look like clones. The men who look like zombies. And a cat who looks like an old lady. There’s definitely something dodgy about the whole thing. It’s only a matter of time until things start to get out of hands and action needs to be taken.

I admit it started off slow. I had no idea where she was going with this, but I liked the narrator’s voice, a girl of undisclosed age, I'm guessing 12 or 13, who is certain she is going to write Famous Books one day and practises daily on her journal. I also liked her snarky brother and even more so their mother. I liked the mother from the start, even though she’s not a prominent character until much later (at this point I should just admit I have a thing for mothers and get it over with), but this one was particularly adorable, especially through the eyes of her daughter.  Without giving too much away, I can say that this is not your typical kids fantasy adventure, where the parents take a background role. This is full-on mothers/daughters action and I loved it for that.
There are mysteries to solve, brothers to save and time travels to be had. And there’s that mother/daughter bonding through ass-kicking that was totally awesome.

It wasn’t a perfect book. There were some bits that left me confused, especially the kids’ relationship with their father. And I had hoped for a slightly different ending concerning Aunt Maria.  But other than that, it was just pure great fun, and I look forward to more of the same with her other books.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Attachments - Rainbow Rowell

Oh, Rainbow. I want to hug all of your books, and then I want to hug all of your characters, and then I want hug all of you. I just feel very huggy every time I read your stuff. And now I feel like I have to save up Landline for later times because that’s the only one I haven’t read yet and after that there won’t be any more and if I read it as fast as I read this one  I’ll be done tomorrow and that’s not OK. So I’ll wait a bit longer.  I need to know there is still something Rainbow-y out there that I haven’t read.

Attachments is another Rowell-y romantic story, except this is a romantic comedy.  And it’s her first book, which I would have never guessed. Set in 1999, when the Internet was still new and there was no Facebook or Youtube or Tumblr and god knows what people were doing online back then. Nevertheless, they still managed to waste time on it. Come to think of it, wasting time is a big theme in this story. There’s Beth and Jennifer, two journalists who email back and forth at work and talk about their life and sometimes even about work, but they never seem to actually, you know, work. And then there’s Lincoln, who is the guy who’s supposed to check all the filtered emails workers send to each other and then report them if they’re using them inappropriately. This was before Gmail, although I’m pretty sure Hotmail already existed then so why weren’t they using that. Anyway, Beth and Jennifer aren’t using Hotmail, they’re using the company email service which can be controlled and flagged. Their emails get flagged constantly, but they’re so funny and smart and likeable in their messages that Lincoln can’t bring himself to report them. Mainly because that would mean stop reading their messages and he doesn’t want to do that. Beth’s and Jennifer’s emails are the only form of entertainment that Lincoln has at work. He works late shifts  and doesn’t have much to do, so he’s always hard pressed to find something to fill his day and not make him feel like he’s wasting his time and his life. Which he still does, inevitably. And then slowly but surely, he starts falling in love with Beth, even before meeting her.
“There’s something really romantic about that. Every woman wants a man who’ll fall in love with her soul as well as her body. But what if you meet her, and you don’t think she’s attractive?
“I don’t think I care what she looks like,” Lincoln said. Not that he hadn’t thought about it. Not that it wasn’t exciting in a weird way, not to now, to imagine.
“Oh, that is romantic,” Christine said.
Now, these premises could be extremely creepy. And I’m sure some people might still think they are. But it’s all down to Lincoln and his adorableness. I wish I was straight so I could have a proper crush on a fictional character and cry because he’s not real. He is perfect. OK, he’s not because he keeps reading those emails even though he should have stopped as soon as he decided he would never give them a warning. And I did cringe every time those messages appeared on paper because it meant he hadn’t stopped reading them LIKE HE SHOULD HAVE. But still. He’s Lincoln and he’s precious. He never really got over his first love which he thought was gonna last forever; he plays Dungeons & Dragons on Saturday nights; he prefers reading books then going out in loud bars with crappy music and smelly people to try and meet girls. But most importantly, he’s nice. Incredibly, genuinely, painfully nice. Not boring nice. Just REALLY nice.And apparently also really cute. Now, remember how wasting time was one of the big themes? Well, that also relates to Lincoln’s approach to life, and, more specifically, to how he keeps putting off meeting Beth, even when he’s completely sure he’s completely in love with her. It might have something to do with the fact that Beth has a boyfriend, but still, boyfriend’s a douche. It was one of them cases of seeing the pages getting dangerously near to the end and realising with increasing anxiety that there was no time for EVERYTHING THAT NEEDED TO HAPPEN. 

But even without all the things that I needed to happen that weren’t happening , I loved everything that leads up to them. Lincoln’s relationship with Doris.Christine and all his D&D friends, but mostly Christine.His mother.HIS MOTHER. I fucking loved his mother, I think I had a tiny bit of a crush on her, actually. She sounds really cool, what with her doing massages at festivals and knowing all about how plastic is bad for you because it leaches into the food and how she’s divorced and then had a child from some guy that we don’t know anything about. It’s all very intriguing. Also, she’s funny and she cooks delicious meals for Lincoln and she really cares for him. OK, she might have some trouble letting him go and live his life, but nobody’s perfect.

And I loved all the song references (which I sometimes played on my phone on youtube as soundtrack when they were mentioned), and all the movie references and now I really want to watch The Goodbye Girl and ruin any other romantic comedy I might watch after that.
And of course I enjoyed reading Beth’s and Jennifer’s  emails, which were witty and smart and funny and sometimes insightful,  but not as much as I loved reading about Lincoln.

The only downside effect of reading Rainbow Rowell is that now I feel like I want a romance like this. Something so intense and everlasting and inevitable. But without the invasion of privacy.