Saturday 30 November 2013

November Haul


This month I treated myself by ignoring any amount of self control I have and going absolutely bonkers. As you can see from the pictures, I bought a fair few books.

Click the link here to watch my November Haul!

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Raven Girl - Audrey Niffenegger


Once there was a Postman who fell in love with a Raven. This begins the story of a postman and a raven who later have a daughter, referred to as Raven Girl. She grows up as a raven in a human body, feeling misplaced in the world. Then she is given the chance to change herself and the life she has tried hard to exist in.


Ever since I read the premise of this story, I was intrigued and very willing to give it a go. I only got my hands on it today and finished it in 15 minutes. It's an 80 page modern fairy tale, and there are illustrations that take up some pages. Definitely not a long read.

I was quite surprised by the length, but apparently everyone else who has read it knows how short it is. Whoops. However, despite it being small it's been able to create some sort of impact on me. I'm not sure writing a review 10 minutes after reading it is the best idea but I've had enough time to mull over it.

Whilst traditional fairy tales usually contain lessons on good triumphing over evil, and acting righteously is the best way Raven Girl differs a little. The dark and mysterious tone of the story meant I had to think a little about what it was trying to convey. I found that whilst it was a sweet story of love crossing boundaries and the more controversial issues of human nature, essentially the story comes down to just being who you want to be.

Raven Girl felt entrapped in a body that wasn't right for her. Her entire life was lonely and she had a father who could not understand her. Eventually, she sought to become what she had always dreamed of, however absurd it was. Of course there were protests but at the end, it was the people who mattered most that accepted her for who she was. I took that from the story and loved it. It certainly brings to mind a lot of issues that are circulating, from gender to race. Somehow Raven Girl is able to disregard the different natures of a being and portal a world where anything and everyone can exist as a whole.

It was written beautifully, perfect for a fairy tale. Niffenegger starts the story off with a traditional beginning, similar to "once upon a time". She gets right into the crux of things as the illustrations are able to assist in building scenery and images. The illustrations aren't very pretty but they are striking. At some points they also become quite creepy, or maybe it's just me. I noticed that the writing was predominately short sentences but when I was reading it, in my mind it sounded very much like how a parent would read a bedtime story to their child.

Niffenegger has been able to create a fairy tale fit for the modern reader. I liked the interesting concept behind it and will try to find a lot more modern fairy tales to read from now on. There were still a little things I was iffy about, such as the rushed ending, but with the interpretation I got from the story I overlooked that.

It is an enjoyable and haunting read. Brilliant even for some younger readers. The story is actually being made into a performance and if I can, I shall try to watch it.

Rating: 4.5/5

Monday 25 November 2013

Deathless - Catherynne M. Valente


Marya Morevna meets her fate one day, who takes her away to a land that only exists in fairytales. His name is Koschei and he is the Tsar of Life. Marya learns to help fend off the Tsar of Death, Koschei's brother, in countless battles over territory. Then she meets Ivan, a man who can give her the chance to relive a normal life again.

A Russian folktale retold as a modern day fairy tale, Deathless tells a story of love and war with a magical twist.


I really enjoyed Deathless, which was a great change of scenery compared to the usual novels I read. The modern day fairy tale really gave me some nostalgic feelings, back to when I was reading/watching fairy tales as a young child. Except Deathless is a lot more similar to the Grimm Brother's fairy tales so I don't really recommend for younger readers. Only because there are few dark and pretty explicit scenes.

It was intriguing from the very beginning and the ending was actually so surprising. It got really sad and I was quite shocked, in a good way though.

Do check it out, Valente's writing really shines in Deathless. It's the correct tone for a fairy tale so that was enjoyable as well.

I go through the novel a lot more thoroughly(-ish) in my latest video here.

Rating: 4/5

Friday 15 November 2013

November TBR


Yes, I know it's basically halfway through the month already but I've only been able to start reading now.

Currently I am reading Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente, which has been quite interesting actually. I am definitely going to write a review on that. Then I plan on reading:

  • A Clash of King ("A Song of Ice And Fire" #2) - George R. R Martin

If the the second book is amazingly captivating I am probably going to end up reading the entire series. If not:

  • The Secret Keeper - Kate Morton

  • Eyrie - Tim Winton

It's not much but seeing as I only have 16 days-ish to read, hopefully I'll get through it all.

Watch my video (where I talk about what I've written basically) here.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

A Game of Thrones - George R. R Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire #1)

Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.
As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must … and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty.

The old gods have no power in the south, Stark’s family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, the vengeance-mad heir of the deposed Dragon King has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities. He claims the Iron Throne.
(Source: Goodreads)
I will admit I am slow on the uptake for this series but better late than never, right? The hype around the TV certainly made me very curious about the series and so I decided to read it before actually watching it.
A Game of Thrones is definitely a long read. It took me probably a month or two from the day I bought it to finish. It's not that it was boring or anything, just that I needed time to actually sit down and focus. For a novel that big there were a lot of complexities that does require some thinking. Initially I was pretty confused with all the similar names of previous Kings and the structure of the kingdom but that didn't affect my reading, much. In fact afterwards it really didn't matter whose name was who, so long as you understood the main plot line.
The novel is written through the point of view of different characters. Each chapter is titled by the name of the character telling the story. The Stark family plays a central role but there are also appearances of Daenrys, the last living heir of the previous regime and Tyrion Lannister who's sister is Queen of the Kingdom. There's never a moment missed though, so I'm not too bothered by the constant voice changes. Although I do feel like there were some minor voices that weren't necessary.
The character themselves could probably be split into two categories - those that I like and those that I don't. I don't even think there's a middle ground. They all certainly left an impression good or bad but I found some of them pretty cliche. For example, the two sisters being total opposites, one a "girly" girl and the other a tomboy. The characters that I probably like the most are Daenerys and Jon for reasons that would probably spoil the novel so moving on.
What I enjoyed was that the novel delivered a typical story of a fight for the throne in a more intriguing and dark way. There's a lot more controversy surrounding the throne and who is the rightful heir. Things that aren't morally right but happen anyways. Furthermore Martin's creativeness is to be applauded for producing a unique setting and the different tribes and families that contribute to the story. Daenerys becomes part of a tribe - the Dothraki, house warriors. Their culture is both fascinating and repulsive. I know a lot of people think Martin probably went too far but there are cultures that exist, with practices that are beyond what we think is morally right. I could see their humanity through Khal Drogo though.
The repulsive in their practices along with a lot of nudity and sexual intimacies are some things I would've liked to be reduced. I'm not a prude and I have heard things are worse in the TV show, but at the same I felt like the story could've done without some of those things. Amongst those are also reoccurrence of misogyny, which I did overlook because the world is pretty much a patriarchy. Still, Martin does try to embody power in most of the major female characters - Ayra, Daenerys, Catelyn and Cersei - which I appreciate.
The ending definitely grabbed my interest and has spurred me on to read the next book. If you have an interest in fantasy, history and adventure do give A Game of Thrones a try. It's different from what I have read and gripping enough to continue on with the rest of the series. I do hope that with the length and amount of books following this, there are a lot more character developments. Just a warning, this isn't really suitable for younger readers considering the content it contains.
Rating: 3.5/5

Monday 11 November 2013

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Foer

Title: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Publication Date: April 4th, 2006
Add to Goodreads
Nine-year-old Oskar Schell is an inventor, amateur entomologist, Francophile, letter writer, pacifist, natural historian, percussionist, romantic, Great Explorer, jeweller, detective, vegan, and collector of butterflies. When his father is killed in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre, Oskar sets out to solve the mystery of a key he discovers in his father's closet. It is a search which leads him into the lives of strangers, through the five boroughs of New York, into history, to the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima, and on an inward journey which brings him ever closer to some kind of peace.


Don't expect a conventional formed novel. The book is long but there are images that add to the story, including one that really brings out strong emotions. There's also a couple of pages of just numbers that can be decoded via the keypad of a phone but I didn't get time to do that. What I liked the most though was the pages that had words written over words until the page went black with just the overlapping of writing.

The story is basically made up of he family's history weaved throughout Oskar's journey through unsent letters from Oskar's grandparents. His grandfather writes letters to his dad whilst his grandmother writes letters for him. If that makes sense. It does get a little confusing at first because there's really no indicator there's a shift in person but Froer's tone change is great that you pick up quite quickly. It is easy to telly he difference between Oskar and his grandfather although perhaps the voices between his grandmother and grandfather take a little more effort to tell apart.

In fact, Saffron portrayed the mind of a year 9 old exceptionally well. It's easy for a child to get lost in their thoughts and just talk about what's at the front of their mind, without really thinking. That's how Oskar in terms of his perspective. He retells moments with his dad but drops off and then picks up a little later. It's like a "keep you on edge" tactic, which does work - sorta.

I loved Oskar as a character. He was realistic and quite hilarious with his blunt attitude. Although at times I felt as though the things he did seemed a little far fetch for a 9 year old. Froer does try to rationalise it a little but at the same time I was like really. It didn't affect me a lot though. The minor characters really shone as well. Grandmother was a character that drew so much sympathy from me, whilst his grandfather just made me angry. He was pathetic and a coward.

Another thing that Froer did amazingly was convey the different ways a person grieves. It really did make me sad and yes, I did cry. I don't think I've ever cried reading that much and it was only one part. It carried such a sad tone for most of the novel but eventually it did lighten up and I liked how it ended.

I found that Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was an easy read because of how good it was. I was immersed as soon as it began. Warning: there are many moments where you will begin to tear up but because I ended up reading it on the train I had to hold it in. It's a lot more interesting than what I initially thought it would bring and I am so glad I did decide to read it. Not only was Oskar's journey amazing, the letters gave the novels more depth.

It's not so much about the characters or the event of 9/11, it's about the dynamics of a family and the impact a single person can give. Definitely a beautiful book.

Don't be intimidated by the size, seriously just read it.

Side note: I loved that whilst it was set after the events of 9/11, Froer avoided bringing in any of the controversial debates over race or politics.

Thursday 7 November 2013

Vampire Academy - The Trailer

A couple of months back I wrote a post about upcoming movie adaptions of books including the supernatural series by Richelle Mead, Vampire Academy. I was pretty unsure about it just from hearing the rumours, but I just stumbled upon the trailer today and had to share.



Hmmm. My initial excitement about the movie quickly subsided and I have to admit, I'm kind of disappointed. The trailer starts out with the Rose's voiceover  introducing us to the world of vampires. Cut to her best friend feeding from her and then a speech about blood. Then some other scenes that look a little too sexualised for my liking.

I really don't know where to start with this. Everything just seems wrong, which is pretty harsh but that's just how it is. The mood, setting and actors.

It's like the director is attempting to create a comic and sensual feel to this, which doesn't exactly mirror the novels tone. It's suppose to be a lot more dark and adventurous. There are quite intimate scenes in the novel but compared to the larger scale of things, I wouldn't have expected it to make it into the trailers. Although it can be an attention grabber for more mature viewers. I'm not sure that make out scene was actually done under gaudy red lighting. I think I've pinpointed the feel down to being a little bit like Gossip Girl but the supernatural version. Instead of actually being about a battle between the different types of vampires, it just seems to be about high school drama. Something I do not want this series to be turned into to.


The actors are also not what I personally imagined the characters to look like. Lissa Dragomir (the blonde girl in the trailer) is suppose to be breathtakingly gorgeous. Whilst Lucy Fry is pretty, she doesn't fit that supermodel-like appearance Lissa is suppose to have. Although maybe it's the fangs that make her mouth look funny. I'm still not sure about Zoey Dutch but I think it could work. So long as she can portray the perfect badass then I'm all cool. There wasn't the appearance of Dimitri although I've heard he's actually Russian so at least he can pull off the right accent.

From what I've seen, I think the movie is just covering what is in the first novel. I've made a pretty a big judgement from just a 1:27 video and so I dearly hope that I am wrong. I guess adaptions from novels are always going to be risky, especially if there is a large fan base. Too many expectations to uphold basically.

Watch the trailer here