Sunday, 29 September 2013

Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Let me say this. Those who work in the publishing industry, in particular Samantha Shannon's publishers, need to take a long, hard look at the way that they market books. Is the Bone Season a good book? Absolutely. Is it the next J.K. Rowling? No.

Samantha Shannon was twenty-one years old when she wrote the novel for heaven's sake. It is good book, not without it's failings (far too much information dumping,) but hey she's young and it's a first novel. But JK Rowling she is not. I'm afraid there is only one author who is qualified to be JK Rowling and that is JK Rowling. Or perhaps I'll make an exception for Robert Galbraith. 

As a reviewer, one of the biggest problems I have with publishers is that they throw all of their weight behind one particular novel. They want us to read their books. Awesome. The trouble is, they want us to all read the same book. And so a huge budget is created and spent promoting one author. Which brings me back to Mr Galbraith. Who actually was JK Rowling, but Random House didn't know that at the time of publication of The Cuckoo's Calling and, consequently, the novel was barely promoted and sold a modest number of copies. Then the truth came out and suddenly The Cuckoo's Calling was being printed and distributed right around the globe and shot up the best seller lists. But if anyone else had written that crime novel which was reviewed well by fellow writers, then very few people would have heard about it or cared. And sadly, I suspect, without the JK Rowling comparisons, The Bone Season would not have produced nearly as much hype or interest. Which is a shame. The author's journey to publication at such a young age is a interesting one and the novel, while not perfect, showcases Shannon's rich imagination and her ability to transform her imaginings into a full and interesting parallel universe. 

It's just a shame that nearly all of my review thus far has been of her publisher and their idiotic marketing of this novel. 

Anyway, The Bone Season introduces us to Paige Mahoney a nineteen-year-old Clairvoyant who lives in a world that is just like ours, but for the fact that it's 2059, London is known as Scion and all forms of Clairvoyance are banned. Which, you know, is nothing at all like Harry Potter. Anyway through a misadventure on the train, Paige discovers the full extent of her abilities. And then something called the Bone Season occurs and she is sent away to an alternate version of Oxford where humans act as slaves for the ruling race, either as entertainers or soldiers. The ruling race treat all humans badly, but Paige has rare and special powers that the evil leader wants and she intends to murder her publicly in order to inherit these powers. Sound complicated? It is.

There are also some interesting parallels with what happens in Ireland in Paige's universe with the real twentieth century history in Ireland, particularly The Troubles.

The Bone Season is long, overloaded with information and alternate names for things that are quite common in fantasy and paranormal fiction. When there was a lot of action, it was a pleasure to read this novel. When the author dumped a whole lot of information, reading this novel became something of a chore. I felt that it could have been a lot shorter. The ending left much up in the air, but that can be blamed on the fact that it is the first in a seven book series. I mean, who really wants everything to be resolved before the sequel hits.

Shannon's writing will no doubt change as she grows and matures as a writer, perhaps becoming a little less pretentious, and I expect that her journey will be an interesting one. I just hope that she concentrates on being the best Samantha Shannon, rather than trying to live up to impossible comparisons that have been set by her publishers and the media.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Friday Funnies: Everything's Normal

Monday, 23 September 2013

Review: Rosalee Station by Mandy Magro

After enjoying Mandy Magro's second novel, Jacaranda, I knew that it was only a matter of time before I went back and read her debut novel, Rosalee Station. A little less accomplished than Jacaranda, Rosalee Station tells a love story between an unlikely pair of twenty-somethings against the vividly depicted backdrop of outback Australia. Sarah, who has grown up on a fruit farm in rural Queensland dreams of working in the outback and offered the chance when a cook is required at Rosalee station. Her relationship with her boyfriend soon fizzles and she finds herself attracted to the rich, gorgeous and very unavailable son of the station own, Matt. Matt has relationship troubles of his own but ...

Come on. You don't really want me to tell you how this one ends, do you?

This is an interesting read and paints a picture that is as vivid as it is romantic about life in the outback.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Peppermint Patty: I Cried and Cried and Cried

Unrequited love is a common theme in the Peanuts Comics and is one that I have previously explored on this blog. We know that Lucy loves Schroeder, Sally loves Linus and Charlie Brown has a crush on the unseen, unnamed and utterly unattainable Little Redhaired Girl. But perhaps the saddest unrequited love stories from the comic is that which ran in late June 1972. It was the series of strips where the usually self-confident Peppermint Patty came face-to-face with the Little Redhaired Girl with the intention of thumping her and then something surprising happened:

Here we have a usually self-confident girl, who is funny, unashamedly herself and talented at sports reduced to tears by the realisation of who she is not and never can be. I really feel for her in this series of comic strips. She knows that Charlie Brown can never love her, when he is so hung up over a girl who represents a supposedly ideal feminine beauty. Fortunately Linus, the most spiritual member of the Peanuts gang is on hand to offer some advice:

And that's really it. The advice Linus has to offer is that while Charlie Brown may not be attracted to Peppermint Patty, it does not mean that someone else won't be attracted to her in the future. Of course, there has been all kinds of speculation among Peanuts fans about Peppermint Patty's possible relationships (the most common one being that Peppermint Patty and Marcie are meant to represent a lesbian couple,) but this particular story remains one of the saddest moments in the strip. 

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Review: The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane

Shout out to Anna from the Reading Room for my review copy of this brilliant novel.

The Night Guest is one of this years picks for the Get Reading! Fifty Books That You Can't Put Down promotion that runs every September and to be totally honest, when I started reading the novel, I had my reservations as to why anyone would pick this slow moving and sometimes depressing novel for a campaign designed to encourage people to read more books. By the time I got midway through the book, I began to understand that this was more than a slow moving tale about ageing and female friendship. Like the tiger that Ruth thinks that she may be hearing at night, there is something far, far more sinister afoot. Is her carer Frida all that she claims to be? What is really going on inside Ruth's isolated by the beach, and is Ruth's mind really as muddled as Frida makes out?

The Night Watch gives the reader clues in small portions bit-by-bit, in between the telling of Ruth's childhood in Fiji. By far more literary than a page turner, it builds up to an ending that I am not going to give away here. (That would be doing any potential readers a grave injustice.)

I cannot say that I loved this one, or that I hated it, but even so I suspect it will linger in my mind for a long time ...

Friday, 20 September 2013

Friday Funnies: Alexei Sayle, Ullo John Gotta A New Motor-1982

Just for something completely different this week, I thought I'd share the clip to Alexi Sayle's Ullo John Gotta New Motor. A rap of sentences, mostly in British slang, along with some spoken monologues, this one reached number 14 on the British charts in 1984, two years after its initial release. The song's eventual success was due in part to Sayle's brilliant comic role in the Young Ones as various members of the Balowski family. (And the occasional British thug.)

The song has enjoyed some longevity and enjoyed the occasional replay on ABC1's music video programme, Rage

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Review: Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead

Well, finally, two and a half years, or perhaps closer to three, years after everyone else, I have read the sixth and final novel in Richelle Mead's brilliant Vampire Academy series, Last Sacrifice. And it's a winner.

The novel opens with Rose Hathaway in jail awaiting trial for the murder of Queen Tatiana. Rose didn't do it, but a palace that wants vengeance, no one is really listening. Well, you know, apart from a few certain key characters who help to orchestrate Rose's daring escape during Queen Tatiana's funeral. And from there, a series of escapes that are fitting with each of the characters and their own part in the series ensures. Rose has to work to clear her name, the long-lost member of the Dragomir family is found, and Lissa is put through a series of challenges in the lead up to her coronation as Queen. And that's not mentioning what happens with the love triangle between Rose, Dimitri and Adrien, what happens to Victor and Sonya, just who the long-lost Dragomir princess is and her relationship to Lissa and most importantly, who really is responsible for the murder of Queen Tatiana.

Last Sacrifice is a brilliant conclusion to this YA paranormal romance series. All loose ends are tied up, questions are answered not everyone gets a happily-ever-after. I'll definitely be looking in to the spin off series,  Bloodlines sometime in the near future.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Phrases and Idioms: Tickets on Himself

To have tickets on himself:
(Australian slang.) To be conceited or vain. To have an overinflated opinion of oneself. 
He's got tickets on himself if he thinks that any woman would fall for that.

I was thinking about this particular bit of Australian slang the other day, after my boss said, "He's got tickets on himself," to describe the actions of a particular individual. At the time, I smiled, knowing exactly what the boss meant. Later on, I started to ponder on this unusual phrase and wondered where it might have come from.

A search on google helped me find the definition, but that was about all. There are no references to it being used in pop culture or literature (if you find one, let me know,) and at the time of writing this post, Tickets on Himself was not listed on Urban Dictionary. (I tried to add it, but the fuckers rejected my definition. They probably think I have tickets on myself or something for trying to add a relatively common piece of Australian slang to their exclusive and very well-researched database.) Anyway, I found some variants, such as Tickets on Myself or Tickets on Yourself and the far less common Tickets on Herself (which suggests the use of the term is predominantly or perhaps historically geared toward men). The word tickets itself has a number of meanings, most of them positive. Tickets can be used to mean a pass that gives entry or certain privileges, a pass that signifies ownership or a prize or a large price tag. There are a few negative connotations, such as a speeding ticket, however that hardly seems relevant to this particular expression. In this sense, we can say that someone who has tickets on themselves probably thinks that they have special privileges, are worth a high price or are prized in some way. Isn't that just the ticket?

Seriously, I'd love to know if you've seen this one used and where. As, as always, feel free to comment below ...

Monday, 16 September 2013

Review: Candy and the Cankersaur by Jason Sandberg

I do not usually review children's picture books, but when I received the review request for this one, I just couldn't resist. (The title drew me right in.) Candy and the Cankersaur is a picture book for kindle, suitable for reading aloud or one that kids in kids in the upper stages of junior primary would like to read alone. It tells the very cute tale of Candy, a little girl whose Dad buys her a pet dinosaur. And then the boy next door gets very jealous, leading to some surprising complications.

This is a fun tale with a good moral, though there are a few "big" words in places for a picture book.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Orginal Daria Pilot

This is the original pilot for the brilliant MTV series, Daria. For obvious reasons (i.e. it was never intended to be aired,) it isn't as polished as the television series, but I love the plot here, where Kevin stupidly believes that Daria is interested in him. 

Friday, 13 September 2013

Friday Funnies: Garfield and Friends - Coffee Morning (Quickie)

It's simple. It's kind of dumb. It's a quickie from the 1990s television series Garfield and Friends. Happy Friday, everyone.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Review: Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead

As soon as I finished reading Blood Promise, I knew that it wouldn't be long before I picked up the next action-packed instalment in Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series. Spirit Bound, novel number five in the series opens two months after the ending of Blood Promise, with Rose Hathaway's final exams and graduation from St Vladmir's Academy. And from there it's out into the real world as the newly appointed Guardian Hathaway. 

And the real world, it seems, isn't what Rose is expecting. Sure there are some amazing, action packed scenes where Rose and her friends break someone out of prison (for noble reasons of course,) but in the real world, Rose soon discovers that her actions have consequences. Chiefly in getting shafted with drudge work at Moroi headquarters. Queen Tatiania slides between being a friend and foe, there are the reappearances of some old friends such as Sydney and Abe, and Dimitri, is resurrected by Lissa in spectacular style. And then comes one hell of a cliffhanger ending.

This one is a bloody decent read, though perhaps not as happy or charming as Blood Promise. It serves as a good bridge between the events that occurred in Blood Promise and appears to be building toward a spectacular ending. How will Rose escape charges of Treason?

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Daria Movie Trailer (with Aubrey Plaza)

Just had to share this absolutely awesome clip I found on YouTube. Job well done, College Humour. Just a pity this one isn't a real movie ...

Monday, 9 September 2013

Review: Just between Us: Australian Writers Tell the Truth About Female Friendship

Shout out to Macmillan and the Reading Room for my very awesome review copy of this anthology!

Just Between Us is an anthology that pokes and ponders the tricky nature of female friendship. Written by a variety of Australian authors, the anthology contains both fiction and non-fiction. Some stories are happier than others, some pieces stopped and made me think about many of my own friendships past and present. Melina Marchetta's The Centre for example is a hilarious tale told totally in emails that examines past hurts, the hierarchy of female friendships and how women can manipulate the friends they supposedly care about the most. Meanwhile, Nikki Gemmel provides a thought-provoking essay on her five year old daughter's experiences at school, coupled with her own experiences of rude emails from trolls. And there are many other highlights as well (hmm, who would have thought an episode of Doctor Who would inspire two girls pretend that they are giving birth to slime?)

Sometimes fun, sometimes sad and sometimes uncomfortable Just Between Us is a book that every woman can relate to.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Review: Blood Promise by Richelle Mead

It has been quite a while between Vampire Academy novels for me--so long in fact that I didn't even have this blog back in 2010 when I read the first three novels in this series. I don't know why this is, as I enjoyed the books very much. I guess I got a little caught up in reading some of the novels that the author has written for adults, including the very brilliant and recently released Gameboard of the Gods

Blood Promise is the fourth novel in the series and the only one, so far, that is set almost wholly outside St Vladmir's Academy. Rose has travelled to Russia with one goal in mind. To kill her boyfriend, Dimitri who has become Strigoi (which is the evil and immortal vampires of her paranormal world). Dimitri, of course, has other ideas. And meanwhile, halfway across the country Lissa is feeling abandoned and may be finding herself in serious danger ...

Reading through Blood Promise, I couldn't help but wonder why I had put off reading this one for so long. The novel is certainly action packed and we get to meet Alchemist Sydney, who of course, is the star of a Vampire Academy spin-off series, along with another character, Jill. (It's kind of obvious from the way that Sydney is introduced that the author is planning this.) The showdown between Rose and Dimitri doesn't exactly go to plan, and the novel ends on a bittersweet but chilling note ...

Blood Promise is a worthwhile instalment in a well-written YA paranormal series. I definitely will not be waiting so long to read the next book in the series, Spirit Bound.