an ending

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So if you read this blog regularly, you probably would have noticed that it’s been a long time since I last posted anything.

The thing is, I’ve lost my energy for it.  My drive to write book reviews and lists and rambling reflection posts.

This blog was an incredibly important part of my life for the year and a half that I was writing it.  I talked a little more about how it – and the blogging community in general – gave me a lifeline in a time of my life that was marked by incredible isolation and loneliness.  I don’t think I have words to say how thankful I am for each person who read my words over the months, and commented, and with whom I gradually built friendships.  You all meant – and continue to mean – so much to me.  (With an extra-special shout out to you Sarah and Lauren for welcoming me into the community in the first place, and you Romi, for all your awesome comments and loving Kami possibly even more than I do.)  I will miss you all and your words and the way you made me think and smile and feel accepted.

I know books and writing will always be a massive part of my life.  And perhaps I will come back to blogging one day, when I have something else to say.  If I ever fulfill my dream of getting my own novels published.  I’m not sure.

But right now, I think this is a good place to end.

Thank you for everything.

xo

reasons

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everything

or another way of looking at it – in everything, reason can be found.  even if it’s only in retrospect.  i think – at least, in my own experience – life is frequently difficult, and nonsensical, but looking back i can see the patterns and threads that weave through the chaos and order it into my own story, my own reason.

that’s what i think.

Book review – India Dark by Kirsty Murray

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India Dark by Kirsty MurrayIndia Dark by Kirsty Murray

Allen & Unwin, 2010

YA historical (fiction but based on a true story)

Summary

Madras 1910: Poesy and Tilly are caught up in a scandal that will change their lives forever.  Singing and dancing across a hundred stages as a troupe of Australian child performers, they travel by steam train into the heart of India.  But as one disaster follows another, money runs short and tempers fray.

What must the girls do to protect themselves, and how many lives will be ruined if they try to break free?  India Dark is a story of things kept secret, of conflicting wills and desires, set against the heat and dust of a lost Empire.

My Review

I cannot quite decide if I liked India Dark or not, but I was certainly engrossed in it from very nearly the very first page.  The story is told split perspective between our two heroines, Poesy and Tilly.  It is immediately apparent that there is a strong disconnect between how they see themselves, and how they see each other, so while you’re told a lot about them in the early part of the book, it is hard to know who they really are beneath the words.  Adding to the confusion, both girls explain/validate their perspectives with references to the events of the book – the things that they’ve lived through, but we haven’t read yet.  In a nutshell, Poesy appears in her own chapters as a little timid, but mostly naïve, in Tilly’s as calculating and impossible to trust.  Tilly sees herself as capable and intelligent, Poesy sees her as confident but also pig-headed and destructive.  This theme of appearance versus reality, the way that we choose to present ourselves versus who we really are, is enormously important, recurring again and again as the story progresses.

 

Beginning with panic and fear at an Indian Court House, India Dark shifts gears and slows, jumping back about a year, back to Australia, to the auditions for the new tour and Poesy’s joining the Lilliputian Opera Company, back to where it all began, but the setting soon expands as the tour begins and the children set off, heading for Borneo, Singapore, India – their steamboat slowly making its way into the temperature and damp of the tropics.  Murray herself lived in India for a time while she was researching the book, and while the girls don’t describe in detail the places that they go to, the setting is always a strong background presence, and there’s a familiarity to the way that Murray writes the sticky heat of Singapore, the dry heat and colour of India.  She does a good job of capturing both place and time – India in the age of the British Empire, where etiquette was that white women should wear long ruffled skirts and sleeves, and men wore full suits, despite the heat.

There is a large cast of characters – for the first part of the book I was frequently checking back to the “Cast and Crew” list at the front to help me keep names straight – and not all of them are particularly well developed, but the over the course of the story the main ones are, and they’re given complexities and shades of grey that make them feel very real.  The children’s ever-shifting friendships, rivalries, dramas and power-plays are magnified in the tight fishbowl-bubble-world of the Company, and Murray affords them tremendous respect, exploring the impact of each small indignity right alongside the large ones.

 

But most of all, while reading this, I was struck by the sense of foreboding present – after all, we already know from the synopsis and opening chapters (and occasional retrospective remarks – “Looking back, I can see…” etc) that everything is somehow, somewhen, going to go horribly wrong – but Murray builds slowly, reveals gradually, as Mr Arthur Percival’s grip on the Company begins to slip and long-kept secrets begin to spill out.  Much like a river, India Dark is a sometimes uncomfortable, fascinating story that flows inexorably on.  Definitely worth a look.

An introduction to Classics Retold

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Classics RetoldSo, a little while ago I saw a project that a number of bloggers were putting together called Classics RetoldClassics Retold is hosted by

Alyssa @ Bookstakeyouplaces (she’s in charge of Ancient to Renaissance Lit Classics)

Brittany @ Book Addict’s Guide (she’s in charge of Mythology Classics)

Charlene @ Bookish Whimsy (she’s in charge of 19th Century and Gothic Classics)

Alison @ The Cheap Reader (she’s in charge of Children’s Classics)

and Wendy @ Excellent Library (she’s in charge of American & Misc. Classics)

The whole thing was born from Project: Fairy Tale (originally hosted by Alison @ The Cheap Reader) and it basically involves taking a classic novel or tale, and blogging about its adaptations during the month of September – through reviews, discussions, character analyses, etc.  Which I thought looked like a lot of fun.  So I decided to sign myself up for it, and picked one of my all-time-favourite legends, the story of Tristan and Isolde/Iseult.

I know it’s a while away, but I’m pretty excited.  Also, if you guys happen to know of any adaptations, I’d love to hear them!

Top Ten Tuesday – favourite book covers of books I’ve read

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s topic is…

Top Ten favourite book covers of books I’ve read

Which was a really fun topic to think about.  Also, slightly harder than I was expecting, because my brain kicked into super-critical mode and started thinking, “Hey, wait though, are we sure that’s our favourite?  Favourite’s a pretty big call…”  But arguments with myself aside, this is what I ended up with (as usual, titles link to reviews or Goodreads):

Splintered by A.G. Howard

Splintered by A.G. Howard

If he had been with me by Laura Nowlin (it’s so beautiful and evocative and simple and it has rain on it and I love the rain)

I love this cover.  So much.

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier (close up, there’s all these teeny-tiny little details from the story and it’s so cool)

wildwood dancing juliet marillier

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (this is another simple-but-oh-so-perfect cover)

the scorpio races by maggie stiefvater

Out of Africa by Karen Blixen (just look at that gorgeous sky)

Out of Africa by Karen Blixen

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (because it is slightly creepy and dreamlike and intriguing and also because I want Mara’s dress)

the unbecoming of mara dyer by michelle hodkin

Falling to Ash by Karen Mahoney (I just think this is pretty)

falling-to-ash

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley (this is pretty too.  And it gives the exact right vibes for the book)

Graffiti Moon 2 Cath Crowley

I think those are probably my favourites… though I’m sure I’ll remember some others as soon as this is posted.  Looking over them, there’s quite a range of images/moods.  Which book covers do you like?

i’m back!

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so… you may have noticed i’ve been away for a couple of weeks.  there’s no major story, just life got interesting and all over the place for a while, and i needed to take a break from blogging to focus on it, but now i am back with lots – ok, not lots, SOME posts planned – and all is well.  i have lots of other people’s posts to catch up on too, which will be fun.

in the meantime, i went away with my Mum and Grandma to do a weekend clay therapy workshop (road-trip, yay!) and also acquired a boyfriend.  so all in all, i’m pretty happy right now.  :-)

have i missed anything important?  let me know!

Book review – Lola and the boy next door by Stephanie Perkins

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Lola and the boy next doorLola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Dutton Books, 2011

YA contemporary romance

Summary

(from back of book) Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion…she believes in costume.  The more expressive the outfit – the more sparkly, more fun, more wild – the better.  But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future.  And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighbourhood.

When Cricket – a gifted inventor – steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

My review

So I’ve made reference to this book – and its hero, Cricket Bell – a number of times in the last little while, so I thought I might as well actually review it.

What I liked

  • This is the companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss, and it helps – but isn’t necessary – to have read Anna… before this.  The main characters from that book, Anna and Etienne St Clair, pop up again in this one in quite significant roles.  I found that I liked rather than loved Anna in her own story, but I really enjoyed her here.  So yay for an awesome supporting cast!
  • Perkins’ exploration of family – most importantly in Lola’s own family, with her close relationship with her two dads and her strained relationship with her birth mother – but also in the everybody-knows-their-place dynamics of the Bell family.
  • Cricket Bell.  Seriously, Cricket is perfect – he’s adorable, and intelligent, and quirky and creative, and sometimes awkward and really, really nice.  I loved that he loves Lola just as she is, and both sees and values the real her.
  • Lola (in theory and by the end of the book).  I loved her creativity and fondness for costume.  Lola is also quite quirky and exuberant and – although she does tell quite a few lies over the course of the book – fundamentally honest in a look-world-this-is-me kind of way.  As Cricket recognises and notes, “maybe some people think that wearing a costume means you’re trying to hide your real identity, but I think a costume is more truthful than regular clothing could ever be.  It actually says something about the person wearing it.  I knew that Lola, because she expressed her desires and wishes and dreams for the entire city to see.” (p. 281)

What I didn’t like

  • Lola (in reality and for most of the book).  She’s very, very self-obsessed, and some/many of her decisions drove me CRAZY. (Also she leads Cricket on for so long.)  The thing is though, she’s not an unpleasant or unlikeable character, just… one with a lot of growing up to do, and to her credit, she learns from her mistakes over the course of the book.
  • Lola’s relationship with rocker boyfriend Max, which starts well and goes downhill fast.  Much of Max’s character devolution – the things that he says and does – felt as though it was there solely to further the plot, to excuse Lola for some of her decisions, and to highlight the difference between him and Cricket.

Other Thoughts

  • The writing style flows easily, and for the most part, the tone remains light, with occasional passages that are just begging to underlined.  Like this – “Just because something isn’t practical doesn’t mean it’s not worth creating.  Sometimes beauty and real-life magic are enough.” (p. 227)
  • As for the plotline itself, this is solidly a contemporary romance, the focus never veering very far from Lola and the things that she’s thinking and the things that are happening to her.  And the things that happen are not Big, Dramatic things, although they’re Big and Dramatic to Lola.  The plot is in no way unpredictable – you can probably guess what’s going to happen just from reading the plot synopsis – but it’s a nice, satisfying ride.
  • I’m sounding more ambivalent about this book than I really am.  Because yes, there are things that annoy me about it, but I’ve actually re-read this a couple of times now, and each time I read it, I find like it slightly more.  Because Perkins does a lot of things really, really right.  Lola’s imperfect and sometimes frustrating, but she’s a strong, interesting, vividly-drawn heroine.  The family dynamics are respectfully, authentically drawn.    And quite honestly, it’s worth reading just for Cricket alone *hearts*.  I think that this really is a must-read if you like YA contemporary, and if you haven’t read that much, it’s not a bad place to start.

I know you aren’t perfect.  But it’s a person’s imperfections that make them perfect for someone else.” (p. 327)