27 January, 2013

Book Review - Die For Me


From Goodreads: In the City of Lights, two star-crossed lovers battle a fate that is destined to tear them apart again and again for eternity.
When Kate Mercier's parents die in a tragic car accident, she leaves her life--and memories--behind to live with her grandparents in Paris. For Kate, the only way to survive her pain is escaping into the world of books and Parisian art. Until she meets Vincent.
Mysterious, charming, and devastatingly handsome, Vincent threatens to melt the ice around Kate's guarded heart with just his smile. As she begins to fall in love with Vincent, Kate discovers that he's a revenant--an undead being whose fate forces him to sacrifice himself over and over again to save the lives of others. Vincent and those like him are bound in a centuries-old war against a group of evil revenants who exist only to murder and betray. Kate soon realizes that if she follows her heart, she may never be safe again.

Thoughts: Hmmm, what to say? It's not that I didn't like this book, I just think I'm not the target audience. I'm all for anything that gets young people reading, and these paranormal teenage fiction seem to fit the bill for many young girls out there, but there are a few issues for me.
In many of these books the girls seem to have body image issues. Despite friends and family and their new love interest saying they are pretty, attractive, beautiful, nearly all of them describe themselves as plain or not attractive in some way. Meanwhile their male love interests are all gorgeous, movie star, flawless types - physically and mentally. It does make me wonder what message we are sending the girls who are reading these books and what expectations we are giving them about the relationships they are likely to have.  Then again, if it gets the reading...
Plum's book is well written - the idea is original (not your normal vampires/ werewolves etc) and the choice to set it in France rather America gave a nice change of scenery. The story flows well and the characters, while a little formulaic, are fleshed out nicely. But, in the end, at 41 I think I'm just a little too old to be get any real enjoyment out of it. I'm pretty sure I would have loved it at 16, but at this stage in my life it left me feeling...empty.

26 January, 2013

Book Review - The Rook

From Goodreads: "The body you are wearing used to be mine." So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her.
She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own.
In her quest to uncover which member of the Chequy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined.

Thoughts: The first thing this book manages to do is make me feel old - not the fault of the author, but the fault of the person who recommended it to me...who I use to babysit...who just got married...whose sister has two children...making me old!
Anyway, once I'm past that I take the book on it's own merits. The premise of the book is interesting - the main character awakens in a London Park, surrounded by bodies and no idea who she is. A letter in her pocket begins with the words "The body you are wearing use to be mine." The letter then goes on to give the new owner two choices - select box number one, run away, become someone else or try and figure out who did this to them. Sensibly, Myfawny (rhymes with Tiffany) chooses option one - until events force her to choose number 2 instead.
Luckily for her, her predecessor knew what was going to happen and has left some most helpful letters plus a file detailing all she needs to know to continue living her life as an administrator for a paranormal secret service while trying to solve the mystery of who wants to kill her.
The book is well written and a very enjoyable read. A really enjoyed the clear division between new and old Myfanwy is clear and evident. Personally I think the amnesia has done her a favour. The world constructed by O'Malley is believable and fantastical - and it's nice that for once it all started in somewhere other than America! If I had one criticism it's the fact that old Myfawny seemed to have managed to include all the information new Myfawny could possibly need in her letters and file. At no point was new Myfawny left frantically scrabbling through her information only to find a hole. For me the file and letters became a bit of a plot device - almost clunky. Thankfully the use of both dropped off and the pace of the book picked up because of it.
The Rook is worth reading - some great funny parts (like the future telling duck!) and I look forward to the next in the series. Best of all, it fits into all my challenges!  Thanks to Luke for recommending it, can you go back to being 10 now? 

Challenges:  Ebook Challenge, Aussie Author Challenge, 13 in '13 

18 January, 2013

Men and Children

There's something not nice in society at the moment. Something I really, really dislike. It's the immediate suspicion placed on any man, in any public space, without a woman, but with a child. Obviously he must be a paedophile.

In the past week I have read two different articles - one Australian and one American - about this phenomenon, with two very different reactions.

The first was posted on the Australian website Mama Mia and was titled She Thought I was Abducting My Own Child. Basically the author, Mike McLeish was with his daughter when the following happened.

I walk outside and go and squat beside my daughter who is still gawking at the yoga women, her nose squished against the glass. I tell her we have to go now. She asks if we can go to the park. I tell her that we’ll have to wait until it stops raining. She’s happy with that. So I proffer my hand, she takes it and we wander happily back to the car. We are just arriving at the car when I hear a female voice behind us, “Sweetie. Sweetie?”
I recognise the voice, although the slight quiver in it sounds odd.
I turn around to see a woman I recognise as the yoga instructor approaching us. She looks concerned. She is not looking at me at all. She is bending down and trying to get my daughter’s attention. “Sweetie, where’s your Mum? Where’s Mummy, sweetie?
I adopt my friendliest smile, “Oh, it’s ok. I’m her dad.”
By this stage I am helping my daughter into the car. The yoga instructor ignores me completely. She is wringing her hands and trying to manoeuvre herself between me and the car door. She speaks again to my daughter, this time with more urgency and insistence, her voice starting to crack, “Princess. Where’s mummy? Where’s your mummy, sweetie?”
Eventually he manages to convince her that it's OK, he is her dad and off he goes. And in thinking about it, he is actually OK with what happened.

I can’t presume to know what motivated that yoga instructor to do what she did. Maybe her actions were fuelled by paranoia. Maybe she’s been convinced to believe that a man on his own taking a little girl’s hand has as much chance of being a paedophile as he does of being her father. Maybe it was just blind instinct. I don’t know. I don’t care. I choose to stand and applaud her, because I believe what she chose to do was the right thing; was good.

This man must be ok, there is a woman with him. Source

 At the time I agreed, although I was unsettled. I know how offended my own husband would be. I know how pissed off he gets with the looks he gets if he is alone with our daughter. But surely we are better off being safe than sorry, right?

Then I read another article over on Free Range Kids. The title of this one was a lot more provocative. Thanks For Assuming I’m a Pedophile Just Because I Was Out with My Grandson. In this American situation a gentleman was at a water park with his grandson when this happened.

You may remember seeing me at Kidsview water park Sept. 22. I brought my grandson to play in the water. For some reason you profiled me as a child predator and called the cops. I read in the police report you told them I parked in the “bushes.” There are no bushes in the area of the splash pad. You also accused me, according to the report, of acting “suspiciously” with the children. Lie No. 2. The only person I interacted with in any way was my grandson. That’s it.
The full text of the letter the man wrote can be found here.

Truth be told, I did find this situation a little more disturbing. I mean, they called the police - on a suspicion. I accept that American culture is vastly different from Australian, but still - the police. And four police officers turned up...overkill I feel.

This situation should obviously be viewed with suspicion. Source

But both situations highlight a disturbing trend - men are apparently not to be trusted alone with children. As women we are offended when we are treated differently because of our gender. Men have every right to be offended because they are treated differently of their gender - which is what is happening to these men. If you are going to question a man at the park alone with a child, question a woman alone with a child. We cannot as a society complain about men being disconnected from their children when we make it so hard, so uncomfortable for them to be out in public with their children. Instead of viewing a man at the park with a child suspiciously, do what you would do to a woman at the park - smile, strike up a conversation, make him feel comfortable and welcome. Who knows, you may just make a new friend!

And before you hit comments to tell me it's better to be safe than sorry, consider this passage from Lenore Skenazy's book Free Range Kids

 But there are two more reasons why all this good news may not be at all reassuring to you:

1. It's lovely that abductions are down. But what if that 1 in 1.5 million is YOUR KID?

2. It's lovely that abductions are down. But what if that 1 in 1.5 million is MY KID?

That's how everyone thinks - including me. And I've been thinking that way even more, ever since the world decided to weigh in on whether or not I was irresponsible jerk to let my nine year-old ride the subway alone. Usually after I replied to my detractors by rattling off all my safety stats, the person would probe, "But what if that one was your kid? followed by, "How would you ever forgive yourself?"
Answer: I wouldn't
Of course I wouldn't! But what was so upsetting about these questions was the notion behind them: that I'd deliberately put my son in harm's way - and didn't give a hoot - when actually I was allowing him to do something that was extremely safe. And confidence building and competence building too.
Then one day I got an e-mail...It suggested that from now on, whenever anyone asks, "How could you possibly let your child get around on his own? Wouldn't you feel terrible if something happened?" you respond "How could you possibly let your kids get in the car with you? Wouldn't you feel awful if they were in a crash? 
After all a child is forty times more likely to die as a passenger in a car crash than to be kidnapped and murdered by a stranger.
..."How could you possibly make you kids stay inside after school instead of letting the wander on their own. Wouldn't you fell awful if they were burned to a crisp" After all, there are about 50 children killed by kidnappers each year, but ten times that number are killed by fires at home.
"How could you possibly let you kids visit a relative?" After all, they are eighty or ninety times more likely to be molested by someone they know than..
- pages 183/4

Book Review - Ship Breaker

From Goodreads: In America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota--and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it's worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life...

What I Thought: This book came from my list of books recommended by bloggers. I have a bit of a personal challenge this year to reduce this list. Having said that, it's been so long I added this to the list I couldn't quite remember why! 
Bacigalupi is known as a sci-fi/ fantasy writer, but I found this to be more dystopian than either of those. The world has been drastically altered by raising sea levels and environmental changes.
Truth be told, it took me a little while to get into the book, but by about half way the pace picked up and by the end I couldn't put it down. For this reason, I'm not sure it would hold the attention of a teenager unless they were willing to persevere. I am interested in reading more of Bacigalupi's stuff and I know we have The Windup Girl around here somewhere. In the meantime, I don't feel right putting this down for my 13 in '13 challenge.

Challenges: None

13 January, 2013

Book Review - Pulling Down the Stars

From Goodreads: Charlie Lansdowne’s life is going nowhere ... fast.
Trapped at home with his eccentric father and his stroke-affected grandfather, he finds life a daily exercise in dysfunction as three generations of men strive to get along.
But when Charlie meets the volatile and tempestuous Maxine – a surfer girl who works at the local abattoir – his life goes supernova. Friendships implode, passions ignite and death comes stalking in the night.
Set in the seaside country town of Warrnambool, this is a contemporary Australian thriller likened to 'Jasper Jones'

What I thought: Back in May 2011 I reviewed a book called The Taste of Apple by James Laidler. I loved it and was thrilled when the author contacted me and asked if he could use my review on his website. (for the record, I said yes.) I was even more thrilled when he contacted me again late last year and asked if I would like an arc copy of his new book. Again I said yes and just before Christmas, Pulling Down the Stars landed on my Kindle.

First off, can I just say I love the cover! Almost makes me wish I owned a hard copy - but lets face it, it's what's inside that counts.  From the opening chapter where we meet Charlie as he baths his invalid grandfather, I wanted to know more. More about Charlie and his dad, more about how Maxine and Charlie cross paths, more about Bill and his...lets just say more about Bill.

There is a thriller element to this book, but it is so much more. In fact, the thriller aspect can be forgotten at times and then, when your drifting along nicely in the story, you're brought back to the darker side, rocketing back like an elastic pulled tight and then released.  Each of these thriller moments are short, like a quick glimpse into the side of life we don't want to acknowledge is there. We turn back to the light, but with the thought in the back of our mind that things may not turn out the way we want.

Laidler's strength lies in his characters. Both Maxine and Charlie are looking for direction in their lives, but come from very different backgrounds. Maxine with her privileged up bringing resents  her parents, rebelling against her mother's  expectations and her father's infidelity. Charlie has spent his life aware that his birth caused his mother's death, leading his grandfather into alcoholism and his father's servitude to the old man. I felt for both of them and the other characters caught up in this tale. The strength of the characters and the readers empathy for them carried the book in areas where the story wasn't quite strong enough. At times issues seemed to be resolved rather abruptly with little or no lasting effect (such as Charlie's falling out with his best mate).

Unlike The Taste of Apple, which was written in verse, Pulling Down the Stars is prose. Yet in some of the text, that lyrical, poetical feel is obvious.

I am all at sea.
First there's the surge, followed by the rush, as lying on my surfboard my hands excavate the water - fingers panning for hold.
I am all at sea,
feeling the lactic burn across my shoulder blades and the slow building elevation from behind.  
 The moments Laidler hits these lyrical bits are the best bits. They provide strong imagery, clear pictures of the characters and an ebb and flow that carries the reader easily, leading them further into the story.

All in all I enjoyed Pulling Down the Stars and would recommend it, especially older teenagers looking for that bridge between young adult and adult books.

Many thanks to the James Laidler and Hybrid Publishers for providing me with a copy to review. All views in this review are mine and mine alone!

Challenges: Ebook Challenge, Aussie Author Challenge

11 January, 2013

I tried, I really tried

One of the books I picked up off a recommendation from anther blog was this one.

Numbers by Rachel Ward
I was enjoying it and then it happened. It stopped me in my tracks. But I shook it off and kept going, until it was there again and a third time - in the space of about 15 pages. I had to stop, I couldn't keep going.

What did this? What word appeared to stop me in my tracks? The R word. Retard. I hate it. With a passion. And I can accept it in literature in context, but there was no meaningful context for this word. I believe this is one of the most hurtful words in the English language today and while I understand an author may use it to make her characters able to relate to her readers, I also believe authors have a responsibility when they use those words - or a responsibility to not make the use of those words acceptable. So Rachel Ward, I'm sorry. I'm sure your book is a good one, and I was enjoying it, but I cannot get past your use of the R word.

Don't get what my problem is? Don't understand my pure hatred of the word? Read this. Watch this. Stop the R Word.

09 January, 2013

Book Review - The Child Thief

From Goodreads: Peter is quick, daring, and full of mischief--and like all boys, he loves to play, though his games often end in blood. His eyes are sparkling gold, and when he graces you with his smile you are his friend for life, but his promised land is "not" Neverland.
Fourteen-year-old Nick would have been murdered by the drug dealers preying on his family had Peter not saved him. Now the irresistibly charismatic wild boy wants Nick to follow him to a secret place of great adventure, where magic is alive and you never grow old. Even though he is wary of Peter's crazy talk of faeries and monsters, Nick agrees. After all, New York City is no longer safe for him, and what more could he possibly lose?
There is "always" more to lose.
Accompanying Peter to a gray and ravished island that was once a lush, enchanted paradise, Nick finds himself unwittingly recruited for a war that has raged for centuries--one where he must learn to fight or die among the "Devils," Peter's savage tribe of lost and stolen children.
There, Peter's dark past is revealed: left to wolves as an infant, despised and hunted, Peter moves restlessly between the worlds of faerie and man. The Child Thief is a leader of bloodthirsty children, a brave friend, and a creature driven to do whatever he must to stop the "Flesh-eaters" and save the last, wild magic in this dying land.

What I thought: The opening of The Child Thief captures you immediately.
 It would happen again tonight: the really bad thing. The girl had no doubt. It had started a few months ago, around the time her breasts had begun to develop, and now, with her mother gone, there was no one to stop him.
From her bedroom she could hear him…He was in one of his fits, muttering to himself, cursing the television, his boss, Jesus, but mostly cursing her mother for taking all those pills...There came the sharp snap of a beer tab, then another, and another. Her hands began to tremble and she clutched them to her chest. She wished she could fall asleep…but she knew there’d be no sleep for her tonight. 
 And you want her to be saved, wanted Peter to intervene and take her away to safety. And he does, but them Brom puts true fear into your heart.
The boy came and knelt beside her. While she cried into her hands, he told her of an enchanted island where no grown-ups were allowed. Where there were other kids like her, who loved to laugh and play. Where there were great adventures to be had…What else did she have to lose?…If the girl could only have spoken to the other boys and girls, the ones that had followed the golden-eyes boy before her, she would have known that there is always something left to lose. 
 Could where she is going possibly be worse than where she already is?

And thus the tone for the book is set - one minute Peter is a saviour, the next a devil. What of his own tortured past has lead him down this path?

Brom wrote this after reading the original J.M Barrie book - not the sanitised Disney version - of Peter Pan. The one in which Barrie writes:

The boys on the island vary, of course, in numbers, according as they get killed and so on; and when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out.
"I forget them after I kill them" he (Peter) replied carelessly.
A lot darker than you remember? Yep, me too!

From this Brom leads us through a world that is magical, but with a darker side. Are the children who are there, there voluntarily or have they been brainwashed? And why is Avalon - the home of faeries and magical creatures slowly dying? What is the price of saving it?

The artwork in this is spectacular. You can check out more of it on Brom's homepage, but these would be two of my favourites.

The Child Thief is dark and horrifying. In the space of one page I would be disgusted by Peter and then feel a heart wrenching sadness for him. Brom has weaved a tale that I think is closer to Barrie's true vision of Peter Pan - a vision Disney and it's like have strived to keep out of sight. By using aspects of Welsh mythology, Brom has made the tale of Peter his own, setting it in a framework that allows it to fit seamlessly into today's world - a world with many lost children looking for love and acceptance in the wrong places.

Challenges: 13 in '13.

07 January, 2013

2013 Goals

I did my first work out of 2013 this morning. I don't enjoy exercise, I have to force myself to do it, but reality is if I don't move it,  I won't lose it. This is my 2013 mantra.


I have 15 kgs to lose - that's around 33 pounds. I'm willing to take it slow - 15 kg is just over a kilo a month. This is the other thing I have to remember.

I don't do New Year resolutions, but I do do goals. So obviously 15kg weight loss is one of my goals for 2013, here are the others.

I want to blog at least once a day, either here or over at my sewing blog. This is going to become a more general blog - still book reviews but also a place to track my weight loss plus other random thoughts.

I want to read more - get back up to the 100 mark. I need to spend less time stuffing around on FaceBook and more time reading.

So that's it. My plans for 2013. What are yours?

06 January, 2013

Coming Out of the Feminist Closet

There's a picture I've seen on FaceBook the past couple of days which has finally spurred me to come out of the feminist closet - I am a feminist and proud of it.

Anyway, back to the picture. It's a picture of Australia's Prime Minister, Julia Gillard and US President Barack Obama about to do the traditional cheek kiss greeting. It's captioned "Kiss me, Ketut" - A reference to this Australian insurance ad.

I'm not going to post the picture - I'm sure you can find it if you want, but I have no intention of giving it space.

A lot has been said in Australia recently about misogyny and sexism, especially in the wake of this speech by Julia Gillard.

(It's about 15 minutes long, but well worth listening to)

To me, the Gillard/ Obama picture is indicative of an ongoing problem. It's sexism on the sly. It's considered innocuous enough that if you protest, say it's sexist, that it's not funny, you are accused of not having a sense of humour, of being too sensitive. And therein lies the problem. We have been sold that line - we have no sense of humour and we are being too sensitive. It's the same line we were sold when we started to complain about sexual harassment behaviour from work colleagues. The difference is we continued to say being patted on the backside was not acceptable, would not be ignored and laughed away. But now we are suppose to find pictures such as this funny - after all, who is it hurting? The truth is, it's hurting all of us. It's hurting your mother's, your sister's, your daughter's. It's say it's OK to use someone's gender as a comedic tool.

I don't want my daughter (or my son for that matter!) growing up in a world where this is classed as humour, where this is thought of as OK. It's not and it's time we stopped letting it be seen as such.

Just as an additional note, for those who are aware of my political leanings (left wing, Labor Party, if I was an American, I'd vote Democrat), I would have written this post if the picture had been Julie Bishop, a woman whose politics I definitely don't agree with.

Aussie Author Challenge 2013

I love my Aussie authors and always make an effort to read the books short listed for the Children's Book of The Year Awards - especially in the Young Adult category. So once again I am signing up for this.

I'm going for the Fair Dinkum level which requires me to:

- Read and review 12 books by Australian Authors
- Ensure at least 4 of the authors are male, at least 4 of the authors are female and at least 4 of the authors are new to you
- Ensure at least 2 of the books are non-fiction and at least 4 fiction genres are represented amongst your 12 titles.

If you want to see my list of reads, it will be here. 

If you want to join the challenge, click the link on my side bar!

05 January, 2013


That is the number of books I read in 2012. Down on 2011 which was 103 reads.

I finished the year off with this:

Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel
Finishing it on New Years Eve, giving me my 85th book for the year. You can view the whole list here.

As for my other 2012 challenges - A bit of a mixed result.

What's in a Name Challenge - I managed 4 of the 6 books for this challenge.

EBook Challenge - I made my original target of 10 books for this challenge and decided to go for 25. Missed it by 1! Mind you, my Kindle died twice this year so maybe if that hadn't happened...

Aussie Authors Challenge - was aiming for 12, read 20

Dystopia Challenge - totally failed at this one. Was aiming for between 4 and 7, read 2. I really struggled to find adult dystopian that interested me this year.

I've only signed up for one challenge in 2013 so far. Little White Dove's 13 in 13 challenge - with some modified rules. I'm not sure if I will go for any others, although I will continue to track my reading with a 2013 list. The only other challenge I'm contemplating is an ebook one and maybe an Aussie Author one - I like to set myself up for success!

As previously mentioned I'm also looking at changing the direction of this blog. I have decided to keep the sewing one separate. However you may find more than just book reviews appearing here. I often have thoughts about politics and other aspects of life I want to share and have decided to do it here rather than start another blog. I hope that whatever I do you find it interesting enough to pop in every now and then!