Monday, July 21, 2014

Book Review: The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents MACBETH

I love reading. Books are amazing. They are a form of escapism, yes, but they are also inspiration, joy, and... well. Goodness. I think in some ways I have used my appetite for reading to define parts of my personality, so it made sense for me to review some of what I read! Here we go...

Title: The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents MacBeth
Author: Ian Lendler and Zack Giallongo
Series: A series of a kind - I believe the next one is Romeo and Juliet.
Publication Date: September 30th 2014 by First Second Books

Synopsis: "The Stratford Zoo is like any other zoo...until closing time!
That's when the animals come out of their cages to perform Shakespeare's greatest works. They might not be the best actors, but they've got heart. (Also fangs, feathers, scales, and tails.)
Ian Lendler's hilarious tale of after-hours animal theater is perfectly paired with the vivid, adorable artwork of Zack Giallongo. So take your seats and prepare for Shakespeare's greatest tragedy as you've never seen it - funny! And with tacos!"

My thoughts: This book was a really fun read. It's around 70 pages, so it's quite quick, and the illustrations are amazing. There's so much colour and it features quite a few characteristics of the actual animals, which I find awesome.

The story, however, has been quite watered down as I think this is created for children - and those who have read Macbeth the play will know that it is quite bloody and filled with huge blocks of text about blood. Not really kid-friendly. I applaud the way the author has approached this and tried to make it more accessible to kids, but I'm not entirely sure it works - and that isn't a statement on the author's ability, just on the scope for a Shakespeare play to be effectively modified. There is a lot of grit to Macbeth, and I think quite a few things get lost in translation to this book.

If I were to read this without thinking of it's relation to Shakespeare, I think I would really enjoy it. I am interested in seeing how they go with the next book, Romeo and Juliet, but I think I will leave my sceptical hat on for now.

I received a review copy of this book from First Second Books.

You would like this book if: you like colourful animal characters, you like jokes involving ketchup-as-blood.

Rating:  6.5/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Thoughts on: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

After I finished Americanah, I wanted to write about it. But I didn't think my usual book review outlook was what I wanted to do for this book - after all, it is something I read just because I felt like it, and I feel that I would be a little lost as to how to approach it in my usual way.
Instead of reviewing the book and giving you an overall score (you can check my goodreads profile if you really want to know) and trying to break the book down into my thoughts on plot, character design, and overall impression, I just wanted to talk a little about what this book made me think about.

First of all, there is no doubt that Adichie is an excellent writer - she has had the recognition of an Orange Prize (now known as a Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction) for her book 'Half of a Yellow Sun', and the writing within Americanah is hard to describe. Somehow it manages to draw me in and keep me reading when I start, but if I am not currently reading the book, I can't help but think of her writing as intense and multi-layered. To try to explain myself a little further - when I was reading this book, I didn't want to put it down. When I wasn't reading this book, I sometimes had trouble convincing myself to pick it up. If you haven't had this experience with a book, perhaps ignore my ramblings until you do.

The main theme that runs through this book is that of race - how it is noticed, perpetuated, whether it exists in places like Nigeria, and why it exists in America. What it means to the individual, and to specific groups. Adichie manages to take on this subject with quiet determination - she draws attention to it and discusses it through her characters, but it never felt absolutely confronting for me. It did get me thinking about the implications of race in Australia and how I am vastly privileged as a white female. I thought about it, and I had some rather intense discussions about it with people I know because of this book, but I almost felt like Adichie was in the room, mediating and facilitating the discussion.

I hesitate to recommend this book to everyone as, while I enjoyed it and want to read more of Adichie's work, I am not sure that others would have the same experience that I did. Regardless, I think it is worth a look - food for thought.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Spoonie Diaries

I had a bit of a realisation today. I have been coping with various illnesses and such for about 13 years now, and I write about those things occasionally. I try to be open and talk about things with others whenever they have questions. But I have never really actively looked into my health on my blog with the effort to help others feel a little less alone.

I want to show others that sometimes everything can seem really truly awful, and like it will never get better, but that there is always a glimmer of hope. It might not be a big one, but it could be that you still enjoy reading, or even the fact that it didn't rain while you had to be out. It might be that it did rain, but you needed a drink and couldn't afford a bottle of water at the time. It can be something ridiculous like the determined little snail working it's way across the floor nearby, or the beautiful leaf that somehow got stuck in your hair. But that glimmer of hope is there - you just have to learn to look for it.

Much of my issues with my health culminate into a general feeling of being in limbo. I was never quite sick enough to be in hospital or have a team looking for a solution for me, and yet I wasn't well enough to leave my house more than once a week. I'm doing better now, but in my darkest months I remember little outside of sleeping most of the day, watching a lot of Friends reruns on my DVD player, and reading when I could. Making myself food was ridiculously hard - I once updated my status on Facebook saying something like 'you know you're unwell when you have to sit down just after starting to make a batch of cookies'. I made jokes out of things, but the truth was that I was really struggling.

I'm hoping to start a new series of blog posts, in a similar vein to the ones I wrote for Tune In Not Out (find the first one here), but with a much more personal view of what I've been through, and how I learnt to cope with it. I don't want to make it seem like I'm being presumptuous about other people's lives and their own circumstances - to be clear, this is my experience. I am not a medical professional, nor have I done rigorous scientific studies based on my own experimentation with life. That aside, I do hope that what I write will be able to help some people, regardless of whether they are going through something similar to what I've been through or not.

The thing is, one of the biggest problems I had when I started to get sick was that I was surrounded by people who were, for the most part, perfectly healthy. As I got worse, I came across a couple of people with relatively similar experiences, but either we weren't that close, or I found them reluctant to talk about their experiences (which I respect). Really, I just wanted someone that I could talk to, or learn from, so that I knew I wasn't alone. So that's what this is about for me. I want people to know that they're not alone, regardless of what they're going through.

I will post the first official entry for this series next week. I hope you'll read.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book Review: The Young World by Chris Weitz

I love reading. Books are amazing. They are a form of escapism, yes, but they are also inspiration, joy, and... well. Goodness. I think in some ways I have used my appetite for reading to define parts of my personality, so it made sense for me to review some of what I read! Here we go...

Title: The Young World
Author: Chris Weitz
Series: Book One of The Young World Trilogy
Publication Date:

Synopsis: "Welcome to New York, a city ruled by teens.
After a mysterious Sickness wipes out the rest of the population, the young survivors assemble into tightly run tribes. Jefferson, the reluctant leader of the Washington Square tribe, and Donna, the girls he's secretly in love with, have carved out a precarious existence among the chaos. But when another tribe member discovers a clue that may hold the cure to the Sickness, five teens set out on a life-altering road trip to save humankind.
The tribe exchanges gunfire with enemy gangs, escapes cults and militias, braves the wilds of the subway and Central Park...and discovers truths they could never have imagined."

My thoughts: Again with spoilers in the synopsis... euch. ANYWAY. I will be the first to tell you that I'm not a huge fan of dystopians - particularly YA dystopians. It doesn't stop me from reading them very often, but I went into this one with a large dose of expectation. Expectation that I wouldn't like it, that is.

You know what's coming. This book actually really surprised me. The character of Jefferson, in particular, was really interesting. You could see how he didn't want to be a leader, but he still kept pushing himself to do it. He tried to keep people together despite being in such an awful (and sometimes darn awkward) situation. Donna's character seemed more similar to the typical teenager just trying to deal with the aftermath of the Sickness - she occasionally irritated me with her speech (I honestly didn't know what she was saying sometimes) and her attitude to some things (super obvious avoidance of spoilers here).

The story kept me interested, and I am still thinking about it a few days after I've finished it - which is a good sign to me that I will probably pick up the second book when it comes out. However, I did think some parts of the storyline were a little too convenient, and I dislike that this book mentions the romance side of things in the blurb when I didn't really find that to be a main focus - it was there, yes, and I'm sure others would argue with me that it takes over more of the story than I think, but I just didn't think it was big enough to warrant a mention in the blurb.

The Young World was much more enjoyable than I thought, and I am interested to see what other people will think of this new dystopian YA.

I received an unsolicited proof copy of this book from Hachette.

You would like this book if: you like dystopian YA books, you're interested in certain stereotypes getting turned on their head.

Rating:  7.5/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Random Things: Music videos I adore right now.

Hello lovely people!
Today I am feeling like sharing some music videos I seem to have on repeat lately. Because, music and yay. Be warned though: all of it is Kpop or Jpop. Yay!

I am in love with Akdong Musician, or AKMU. They are a sweet little brother-sister duo, with awesome voices and adorable lyrics and I want their album, Play. I might buy it soon. eee!

This wouldn't be a list created by me without some SHINee on it, because they are love forever. This song, Breaking News, is one that I fell in love with on YouTube, rather than through the albums of theirs I now own. I still don't own this one on CD, but I love watching them pronounce 'Breaking News', and I find the dance in this to be most awesome. Plus, Key just looks amazing in this which made me love him more than I did previously, even though Jonghyun remains my bias~

Because G-dragon is the bomb, and you get to see him with crazy David Bowie-esque make-up, doing little dances, and did I mention a crazy white scarf womb thing that he wanders around in? (Okay, it probably isn't a womb, but seriously.)

Despite the overwhelming ego of this song, certain parts of the dance are ridiculously adorable/amazing, and these guys are freaking hawt. I forgive them for the ego.

That's it for now! What are your thoughts on these videos? Do they make you smile or feel a little confused? What music videos are you loving?
Love to all who read!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Notes on Writing

This month I have been - ever-so-quietly - taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo. Camp NaNoWriMo is basically a smaller version of NaNoWriMo in a way (National Novel Writing Month, which takes place in November and involves people trying to writing a 50,000 word book in one month), but during this one, you get to choose how many words you're aiming for.
I've been wanting to get back into writing for some time now, and it is still one of my biggest dreams to one day be a published author. Camp NaNoWriMo appeared and I was excited to try, given that July signifies a month off for me between semesters, and I also wanted to explore the idea of hibernation during Winter.
So, as all good bears must (that's right, I can be a bear, too) I took up my pen and paper (and by 'pen and paper' I mean 'Macbook') and began my story. Here are some things I have noticed about writing...

~ If you set yourself a regular time to write, it can makes things easier. For quite a while I was blocking out around 4pm to 5pm simply to sit down and write. Then I would get up and start dinner. I liked the sense of order that this gave things.
~ Sometimes I write more effectively when there's background noise, but most often that idea goes out the window. Background noise is distracting, regardless of what it is. To a lesser extent, you know what else is a distraction? Needing to go to the bathroom. Just go do it before you sit down, please. More often than not I would be halfway through my word count and I would need to save quickly and rush out of the room. Distracting!
~ Liquids are important. Before I start writing, I always make sure I have a bottle of water and a cup of tea nearby. This not only keeps my brain hydrated and ticking over, but it actually provides a welcome break every now and then. If my words are running a little thin, I just apply water and then things start to flow a bit better! In other words, if I'm trying to figure out what is happening in my book, the ritual of opening my water bottle or taking a sip of tea gives me a moment or two to ponder and gather my thoughts, and then I can continue on.
~ Yes, it is harder on some days. For the first week or so of the month, words were flowing through me so quickly that I was overjoyed. It made me feel so capable and joyous! Yes, I am a writer! Yes, I can write! And then you get to a day where writing is the last thing you can even think of doing. (Usually these days coincide with when I am feeling particularly unwell, like yesterday when I had a migraine, or today when I was recovering from said migraine.) But sitting down and opening up the Macbook helps. Every little bit helps.
~ Often I would feel better while writing... Honestly! Even just now when I sat down to do my daily words, I was still feeling pretty awful from last night's migraine and sleep deprivation. But while I was writing, I began to feel much better - energised, happy, and like I was doing something that I loved (which is true). Sometimes I need a break, yes, but other times my passions in life are just what I need.

That's about it for now! I might update again later in the month to tell you how I'm going, and I might not! It depends how I'm feeling about my writing ^_~
Love to all who read!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Book Review: The Seventh Miss Hatfield by Anna Caltabiano

I love reading. Books are amazing. They are a form of escapism, yes, but they are also inspiration, joy, and... well. Goodness. I think in some ways I have used my appetite for reading to define parts of my personality, so it made sense for me to review some of what I read! Here we go...

Title: The Seventh Miss Hatfield
Author: Anna Caltabiano
Publication Date: Goodreads states July 17th, Hachette states August. Keep an eye out if you want to read! :)

Synopsis: "Who is Miss Hatfield? Elderly neighbour or girl next door...
There's always been something odd about Cynthia's next door neighbour, Miss Hatfield. Something beyond the strangely familiar miniature photographs and ramshackle house. And when Miss Hatfield tricks Cynthia into drinking a drop of the Fountain of Youth, she finds herself immortal.
She is the new Miss Hatfield and the next in line to the curse and blessing that is her legacy.
But immortality has a price. Becoming the new Miss Hatfield means letting go of who she was.
Tasked by her predecessor with recovering a mysterious painting, Cynthia finds herself in turn of the century New York. But someone else has followed her..."

My thoughts: Firstly, the synopsis is a little frustrating. It states something that I think is a bit of a spoiler, and then sets you up for a different story than what you get. This is kind of why I don't really read blurbs that much anymore.

Anyway, on with my other thoughts. This book was actually quite a pleasant surprise as I actually didn't expect to find myself enjoying it. At 270 pages long, I thought it would just be a quick read-and-review so that I could move onto other things. But then I started really liking some of the characters, and loving the way the main character interacts with them.

One of the things that is being used to market this book (in a way) is the fact that the author is 17 years old. I think this is wonderful, and the fact that Miss Caltabiano is being published gives me hope for my own writing. However I did feel that this showed through quite strongly early on in the book. I don't mean that it showed she was young, but I do believe I sensed a certain hesitant attitude towards the writing, and there were a huge amount of info dumps in the first few chapters. I felt quite overwhelmed with trying to take in the Fountain of Youth thing, and the seven Miss Hatfield's element, and all of the history backing it up. The main character (I will call her Rebecca) seems to get over her frustration with the former Miss Hatfield relatively quickly which, while it helps the story move along at a fast pace, seemed a little hard to believe for me.

Once I was past those first few chapters, though, and Rebecca was on her mission, I really began to warm to the story. Caltabiano has a lovely writing style when she isn't pushing background information into your brain, and I felt myself easing in to the narrative really gently. However, I did find that occasionally things were just a little too convenient to the plot, and I felt a little underwhelmed with the ending, so I found it hard to give this a high rating.

While this book had some slow and frustrating moments, I still really enjoyed the writing style and the character design overall. I think I will look out for future books by this young author.

I received an unsolicited proof copy of this book from Hachette.

You would like this book if: you like books that involve a small amount of time travel, and a little romance, too.

Rating:  6.5/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!
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