A very short taste of Viola Stewart, a steampunk world of danger and intrigue, and the dark threats that loom there. A few clumsy sentences here and there where I would have preferred more clarity, but some great sentences that made up for them. I love the interconnectedness of the stories, and the feeling of whimsy mixes well with the creep of impending doom. A sweet introduction to the world of steampunk.
Which is odd, because in general and in particular, I HATE with a passion those love stories which rely upon a previous love returning. I think the difference with Persuasion is that I really love Anne, and I'd happily read about her doing anything. Also Jane Austen's humour (in particular the delightfully and lightly sketched hypocrisy of Mary, Anne's sister) makes this a great read
This book was a weird, interesting, fun, mixed read. I really enjoyed it. The closest thing I can compare it to is Don Marquis' Archy the Cockroach, which is also weird, interesting, and fun.
I loved the interview format, and the bits and pieces of poets' and authors' lives that I never knew about. I loved the funny interim pieces with Madame Delatour and the narrator. Although I'd come across and read almost all the authors/poets in the book, I learned something new or amusing about each of them, and I actually found one I now WANT to read!
Oh, and I REALLY appreciate it being set in Sydney, Australia. So few books I read are set in Australia and I love reading the ones that are :)
"So passionate! So elegantly written! I can't wait to see what Mr Shelly is like in person. And for the occasion I have prepared a plate of vegemite sandwiches."
I found a book in an opshop one day. That's not unusual, of course. I've found many books in many opshops around Australia (and a few in America). It was in one of my book-binge shops, where I ended up with a whole plastic bag full of books at 10c each, paperback and hardback alike.
That book was THE HILLS IS LONELY by Lillian Beckwith. I picked it up sheerly because I liked the title, but the blurb on the back really sold it. The blurb read:
When Lillian Beckwith advertised for a secluded place in the country, she received a letter with the following unusual description of an isolated Hebridean croft: 'Surely it's that quiet even the sheeps themselves on the hills is lonely and as to the sea it's that near as I use it myself everyday for the refusals...'
Her curiosity aroused, Beckwith took up the invitation. This is the comic and enchanting story of the strange rest-cure that followed and her efforts to adapt to a completely different way of life.
It sounded wonderful, and I'd been meaning to read more non-fiction anyway. THE HILLS IS LONELY seemed like a good place to start.
It was. I'm not sure exactly how much of it is from Lillian Beckwith's actual experiences and how much of it is made up (she writes fiction also), but whatever the breakdown is, the whole of it is enchanting. She has such a way with words, and such a fine hand for characters that you can't help feeling that you're there, and that you never want to leave.
"I like the way you townfolk seem to be able to dance on your toes," panted my partner admiringly.
"You're dancing on them too," I replied with a ghostly chuckle that was half irony and half agony.
"Me? Dancin' on me toes?"
"No," I retorted brutally, "on mine."
"I thought I must be," said Lachy simply, and with no trace of remorse; "I could tell by the way your face keeps changin'."
I've a link here for the Kindle Version of THE HILLS IS LONELY, though I really recommend getting the paperback. This is one of those books that you'll want to feel in your hands and smell the scent of as you read it.
But whichever format you prefer to read, just read this one. I promise you, you'll want to go on to the next, and then the next...
If I were to describe The Hunger Games in a paragraph, I'd clip this little one from the book and use it:
"And there I am, blushing and confused, made beautiful by Cinna's hands, desirable by Peeta's confession, tragic by circumstance, and by all accounts, unforgettable."
Katniss could so easily be a marysue. And again, it's impossible that she should ever be one. You see, she actually is all that the other characters think she is. We know this not because they tell us so, but because we see her act in character again and again. We see the way she shapes the world around her simply by being who she is. By doing the right thing. By fighting and scrapping and loving, fiercely.
And we see how she shapes the world around her because of the way the people around her use her. She's the perfect figurehead for the rebellion you can sense brewing all through this first book in the trilogy. And she is utterly oblivious to it because she's Katniss. She's just trying to survive, trying to save the lives of the people she loves.
I could go on and on about this book--I loved it, can you tell?--but I think the most important thing that I can say about it is that despite its flaws--and stylistically I thought there was a tiny flaw or two--it sinks its teeth into you and never lets go. If you're like me, you soared through this book, heart pounding, eyes glowing, tears gathering, and breathless with the rush.
This is why I became a writer. To be able to do this to people.
Still really enjoying this. Book Katniss is more capable of empathy and the art of understanding--or at least wondering about--what other people think, and why they do the things they do. Movie Katniss isn't capable of that, it's like there's bit of her missing--DEFINITELY not a flaw, I LOVE that about Movie Katniss--but somehow they manage to still be the same person.
Peeta is also different but the same. I think a lot of that is because we see him through Katniss's eyes: he changes in our perception as he changes in hers.
One thing does bug me a bit, stylewise: I don't like the habit Suzanne Collins has of breaking up chunks of dialogue with entirely unnecessary "Haymitch says"s and "Effie says" when it's perfectly obvious who's speaking. It interrupts the flow for me. I've nothing against dialogue tags, but when you cut a paragraph of dialogue right at the end with a "So and so says", it stuffs with the rhythm.
Oh, and last but not least:
Haymitch guffaws, and we all start laughing--except Effie, although even she is suppressing a smile.
"Well, it serves them right. It's their job to pay attention to you. And just because you come from District Twelve is no excuse to ignore you." Then her eyes dart around as if she's said something totally outrageous. "I'm sorry, but that's what I think," she says to no one in particular.
I flamin' LOVE Effie Trinket! She's adorable! With all the disadvantages of a spoiled upbringing in a mentally-twisted city, and natural stupidity, she really is wonderful! I just LOVE that she's capable of growth. She's on the wrong side of the story (at least at first), but I really like seeing her edge toward the right side. It's more obvious and better drawn in the book than in the movie for sure.
Okay, so I was reading this today, and realised how INTO it I was. I was feeling like I haven't felt since I was a kid and was reading 2-3 book per day.
At first I thought it was 'cos I haven't been this engrossed in a book in a long time, but that's rubbish, cos I've read Kate Stradling, and I defy ANYONE not to be absolutely engrossed to the point of not being able to stop reading her books.
Then I realised that this feeling is because the breakdown of my reading preference by genre has changed. I used to read almost NOTHING but adventure. Robert Louis Stevenson, Walter Scott, The Hardy Boys, swashbucklers of any kind. High energy, high adventure, and high emotions. I ate them up. I was engrossed in the adventure.
And that's what I've felt again reading The Hunger Games.
I still read adventure, but this one has taken me back to my high-flying, breath-taking, thrill-reading 12 year old self. I'm just sorry I didn't have these to read back then.
Because my debut novel MASQUE is one year old Feb 1st, I've been running a bookswag giveaway on my blog (and the blogs of several other lovely bloggers). I've also been writing new content (aka, short stories) and generally having a lot of fun with it.
This is the second of my related short stories, wherein the main characters from MASQUE are seen tangentially, and new characters take the foreground! I've not posted the entire short story here, since it's about 6000 words: if you'd like to finish reading A GLITCH IN THE PATTERN, just click through the link below to my website. And if you want to win cool bookswag, click the link above :)
-a MASQUE short story-
When you’re the only son of the best-known poet in Glause, people expect things. Things like picturesque dress and beautiful hair. Graceful manners and a way with words. They expect that you’ll sparkle at parties and whisper pretty nothings into the ears of all the most beautiful women.
Nobody really seems to know what to do when you turn out tall and awkward, with a big nose and bigger ears, and absolutely no talent at all for the written word. Father, after a few years of despondency, wrote a series of sonnets on the subject of his disappointment and moved on. I haven’t yet told him that I mean to join the Glausian Watch. I don’t think I could stand another series of sonnets.
My name is Tarquin, but everybody calls me Quin. It helps to keep expectations down.
I don’t like parties. I’m too clumsy to be a welcome dance partner, too uninteresting to be a sought-after companion, and too tall to hide from everybody unless I fold myself behind the furniture. Father loves parties: he sparkles, ripostes, and charms. Tonight he was in his element, reciting his new villanelle in sweeping, lyrical phrases with his arms high and graceful. I’d made out better than usual, fortunate enough to find an out-of-the-way seat in a line of five or six that were lined up along an inconvenient wall at the top of the room and all but hidden by two enormous urns. I wedged myself into one of the chairs with my knees as awkwardly high as ever, dwarfing its spindly legs with my own long ones. From there I could watch the crowd without having to be one of them. There was the usual swell around Father, a constant coil of attention that waxed and waned, its edges always in flux; and around his compelling current was a vast ocean of push and pull. There was the usual knot of determined-to-shine young women around the piano, glaring in concert at the one fortunate enough to have seized it first, and around them in gently wafting layers were doting mamas, reluctant swains, and sisters young enough to be counted on to vigorously jostle for position without outshining their older siblings. This knot would be dispersing when the dancing began, but for now it merged with Father’s circle in an undulating give and take, his voice sometimes rising over the piano, and the piano at times swelling above him. His circle met with the rest of the room, in all its familiar currents, knots and eddies. I knew those patterns almost better than I knew the streets of Glause’s Imperial City: everything swirled in the same unending patterns, predictable and calculable.
I liked to sit in the corner and watch the patterns move, calculating when this would happen, what was the likelihood of that couple meeting on the dancefloor, and generally making a satisfying exercise of it. It seemed like good practise, you see. I would be enlisting in the Watch just as soon as I could bring myself to tell Father, and I was an eager student of the Watch Commander’s methods. He was a great believer in surveillance and patience.
I’m not sure when I began to notice the contrary ripples in the pattern. It could have been when one of my predictions first failed. They didn’t often fail nowadays, especially when I was so familiar with the crowd and the house as I was tonight. It was a simple, silly thing, too. The man in blue should have crossed the room and asked the woman in yellow to dance. All the signs had been there, and the crowd had thinned enough: it was even flowing in the right direction. He took one step into the flow, met with a sudden surge of blue-uniformed horselords, and went back to his place against the wall as the gap in the current closed again. He wasn’t the only one going against my predictions, either. There was another gentleman, this one in a brown coat, working his way gently against the flow and up the room.
My first thought was that I’d calculated wrongly. Blue Coat could have simply been staring across the room without a thought in his head. I didn’t think so, but he couldhave been.
Then I saw her: red hair, elegant, her dress expensively plain. She was a steady, wrongwise current pulling through the crowd and leaving changed patterns in her wake. A touch here, a word there, and suddenly my patterns were no longer predictable and reliable. Who was she? What was she doing?
I watched her, frowning, and it occurred to me that she was following the other moving disturbance in the pattern; the smooth-faced older gentleman I had noticed earlier. His brown coat was drawing closer as he approached the top of the room and my hiding place, and she kept pace with him from the other side of the room. What was going on in the ballroom tonight?
I turned my head to watch Brown Coat exit the room via the top door to my right, craning to see him around the other urn.
As I did so, a friendly voice said by my ear: “Would you be so kind as to loan me your pocketknife?”
It was the woman who had been following Brown Coat. Her red hair was caught up in big loop down her back, and she had a narrow, clever face that was a lot closer than I had expected it to be. I stood abruptly in a rictus of politeness, and sent my chair tottering back into the wall as I looked uncertainly down at her. She wasn’t pretty, but her eyes were laughing up at me, and I felt my heart do something stuttery and pleasantly uncomfortable.
I gazed at her in silence for far too long: she must have thought I was an imbecile.
“I’ll bring it back,” she added.
A FEW NICE THINGS:
The writing. Goodness, but there was some beautiful writing in here! Some of the descriptions were so extraordinarily apt, and the conversation between characters (especially side-characters who were being interviewed) was well done indeed. There was a real sense of character conveyed by the dialogue.
The mystery unfolds very well, the pacing even and enjoyable. It had that deep-set, community feel that you get from watching Misdsummer Murders and its ilk—in fact, the one thing I kept thinking as I read JANUARY KILLING was how very similar it was to watching one of the village-type police procedurals. And I mean that in the best sense. It was an excellent sample of its genre.
LOVED learning about things like the Wassail! It was woven in beautifully, like Ball’s constant burr of ‘zor’ instead of ‘sir’. It added a lovely layer of worldbuilding and place setting that I found very satisfying. It also gave a great sense of the community.
The cover. I know it’s unfashionable and frowned upon to judge a book by its cover, but this cover is truly fantastic. I love it! It has exactly the right mood for this book.
A FEW PROBLEMS:
Too hard to tell which POV was being used, because there were so many of them. Standard for this genre, but it was made harder by the fact that their thought ‘voices’ all sounded exactly the same. The same rhythms, the same patterns, even the same habit of addressing themselves by their own names in their ruminations. I understand that this was probably to help with the confusion, but it didn’t. And sometimes the POV seemed to change several times in a single paragraph. VERY hard to keep up with.
Content warning for swearing and some blasphemy (ie, using Christ as a swear word). If you’re not a Christian this most likely won’t bother you. And it's only a few times.
The female characters. Hm. They all seem to be very fragile. Seriously, every woman who comes into contact with anything nasty seems to need to be sedated. Just a little niggle, but it DID niggle at me.
**OVERALL: Very well-written book with a few flaws that won’t be flaws to everyone. Buy this if you love Broadchurch, Midsummer Murders, Endeavour, etc. You’re not going to be disappointed**
To celebrate The Holiday season, I am giving away TWO $10 Amazon gift cards.
This is my fourth giveaway, and I am feeling very merry fucking excited about it.
The Giveaway is open from 14, December - 24, December.
Due to living in Europe, and having all kinds of limitations with Amazon service, this giveaway is only for people who use Amazon US (others can join in as well, but I can't promise I am able to deliver the gift card. I may be, I may be not).
To take part to this giveaway, leave me a comment to this post. I will use random number generator to choose the winners, and will then contact the winners and ask your email address, where the gift card will be delivered.
Good luck, happy coming book shopping.