Just another teen novel

18. A book published this year

While this isn’t your average teen novel, it is your average teen novel. YA fiction is so diverse these days that characters like these don’t really stand out. The setting makes a small difference, small town rural NSW, but my feeling is that change permeates all of society.

The main character is a lesbian and both her sidekicks are Asians. I don’t​ think that any of this actually matters in the scheme of things. It’s kind of like a diversity love triangle mixed bag sub plot. What actually matters in this novel is figuring out who you are without letting others aspirations for you cloud your judgement.

It is a pretty sad story. The dementia plot line is all too real, as is the one of patriarchal abandonment. Though perhaps that’s only because of my personal experiences. I cried a bit, which means it’s pretty well written, I’m not usually a crier. It also made me go

Ah, that’s so true 

In a lot of places as well.

 So maybe there is more of me in this novel than I realised.

I did have a conversation about censorship with this book at the centre. I honestly think though that adults like to cover their backs rather than offer teens the things they might need. And it’s funny how people are ready to ban things that don’t match their way of thinking. If it’s an alternative lifestyle, that is, not heterosexual, it must be going to lead someone astray. 

26. A book with multiple authors

I’m actually skipping writing about a book I read before this one firstly because this is an awesome book, and secondly because I don’t know what to write about Anthony Bourdain yet.

So this is another book about books. It’s kind of my favourite genre.

I just love reading about what other people think of books. Though not reviews, per se. I like knowing what they think about books or what it made them feel or what makes it great. I don’t want to know plot. If you can convince me it’s a good book without really talking about plot then I might read it and I don’t want any spoilers.

This book sees a whole bunch of Australian authors who mostly write for children and teens talk about books that affected them most. I didn’t read it with post its beside me this time but I should have.

It is completely fascinating to see how books imapct on people and then to consider how they may have impacted on you. I don’t know if I could pick just one book to say affected me most, and some of the authors don’t just choose one.

Jane Eyre or Northanger Abbey are my go to books for a re read but that’s mostly because I like the story. Nothing jumps to mind in terms of having a profound effect on the trajectory of my life. I do wish I had every Teen Power Inc ever written but alas I borrowed them from the library. 

I’m going to have to give it some more thought and get back to you.

15. A book that takes place on an island

And very conveniently, and homophonic, Ireland.

I did not like this book very much. At least, not as much as Kent’s first book Burial Rites which I read a few years ago.

This is another truish story about an alleged crime, inspired, as they say, by true events. I just didn’t really care about those events. Though I didn’t dislike it enough to put it down either. As you all know I never finish a book I don’t like (I’m looking at you Ian McEwan).

Set sometime before running water and electricity in rural Ireland, this book looks at the transition between pagan and church ways of thinking. It questions customs and beliefs, and tries to get the reader to understand how these can come and go out of fashion.

I think I had a hard time reading this book because I read so much fantasy. In those books fairies and magic are ‘real’ whereas in real life they are not. So I just couldn’t get my head around this as historical fiction with all the talk of the Fey. Her writing couldn’t make me believe that people really used to think this way. I wasn’t convinced, perhaps because I now have running water and electricity.

She is a good writer, don’t get me wrong. She evokes the period and tells the story in an enthralling way. It just wasn’t a topic that really drew me in.

Like her other novel the build up to the event took a long time too. Though this was written in the present tense, rather than looking back like the other one. It still had the same sense of foreboding though, that dramatic irony where you know something is going to go wrong. It just wasn’t the injustice of the other novel. It was just a bit meh for me.

3. A book set in your home state

I’m not sure how I feel about this book.

I did read it in about two days which means I must have liked it because I stop reading when I don’t like a book.

I think it is a good book. It’s set back on the early 1990’s and I like that because I’m a child of the nineties. It’s also set in rural NSW and I like that too because I’ve spent a lot of time there.

Normally I don’t like modern Australian fiction. Too much of the convict mentality taints it. Or perhaps that’s just David Malouf. But I’ve found myself reading a little more of it lately. Last year I read all of Inga Simpson’s novels and I can’t wait for her to right more. And I love all Helen Garner’s true writing.

In this novel, I think it’s the way it unfolds that I like best. Because the narrator is writing from the future, after all the events have taken place, she tells the story on real time, as it happens, even if she didn’t know the information in real time. This way the mystery unfolds chronologically and I’m not confused or kept in the dark as a reader, something I loathe. 

All good mystery/crime fiction should allow the reader to become the sleuth. There should be just enough information for you to have a stab at picking the killer but not so much that you actually do. The twists and turns of this story really fit with the rural community setting, reflecting both the historical time and some contemporary concerns.

The ending was a little abrupt but I was unsatisfied, just a bit taken aback that it was finished.

My problem at the moment is that I dont know what to read next because there is no YA fiction on my shelf and the ones I want to read haven’t been published yet.

The Flipside

Then there is the not so great fantasy.

  
I just don’t think I can do high fantasy anymore. And this isn’t even it in its most purest form because there are portals from the fantasy land to the world as we know it.

I must have like the first story in this series though, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, because I did by this sequel. Though it has been sitting in my shelf for about a year I think. And I won’t be buying the third in the trilogy to see how it all ends because I just don’t care.

Some of the concepts in this series are good. I like the resurrecting, and the mysterious far off land they introduced in this book, but overall there is just too much gore. And not enough explaining. I don’t get why the two different peoples are fighting so much, I don’t get why they want to take over earth, I don’t really see where it could be headed, there doesn’t seem to be a solution to the problem the author has posed. Or at least not one I want to read about.

What is good about these books though is that the love story is not the focus as it is in so much fantasy. It’s important, but more important are the ideas of hope and peace. But that is also one of the problems with the series. I don’t really care about the peace because I haven’t been given enough information/back story to care and so without romance, there is nothing tying me to the characters. I guess it’s just really hard to empathise with them. Perhaps because they are not human.

And that’s another problem with high fantasy, it’s mostly just doom and gloom and nobody gets what they want. Including the reader.

In case you didn’t know, Garth Nix is the greatest writer of all time

  

I could totally live in the Old Kingdom. Well, except for all the dead and demonic beings wandering around. 

The new cover art for The Old Kingdom books is not the best but really, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. So don’t go judging this one by its cover. They are too old school fantasy for my liking, I wish they’d stuck to the versions that were black with the symbols, but perhaps that was a different publisher.

This new novel comes after Clariel, and I think before Sabriel, but I am going to reread them all anyway, that is the power of Nix’s prose. It’s got all the best bits of fantasy; a little magic, a little romance, a very well thought out history and lore. And none of the bad bits; no overly long descriptions of scenery, no overly long journeying sequences and everything turns out right in the end.

Nothing I could write here though would do any of his novels justice. You just really, really, really have to read them.

Electronica

Sometimes I wonder if I’m truly a Luddite at heart. I have no problem turning my phone off overnight, I don’t need to be able to access the Internet 24/7, and I only feel truly naked if I leave my house without my watch – analog of course.

I am very suspicious of electronic copies of things. Give me a hard copy any day. I still buy CDs. I still buy books. And while I can see the benefits of google docs, I can’t think properly without a pen in my hand.

But I do not stick solely to the physical, hold in your hand version of things. Yes, I have an iTunes account. It’s the only way to buy ‘singles’ these days. And I will read the occasional ebook.

Every so often there is the apocalyptic article about how one or other traditional form of entertainment or media consumption is dying. This week it was books.

  
The tweet links to an article in the Chicago Tribune that says Americans are reading books, paper based page turners, just as much as ever. That ebooks haven’t taken over yet. All I can say to that is 

Der

This year I have read one series of ebook, five books in total. Normally I would read none.

  
I started with Not Famous in Hollywood by Leonie Gant because my read harder challenge dictated that I read a book by an author with the same first name as me. And boy are there slim pickings for someone named Leonie. But once I’d read that first one I had to read them all. I even had to go out and buy an iTunes card because I ran out of money by the third book.

These books are what I consider perfect ebooks.

They are interesting, funny, have a decent romantic plot line, and cost less than five dollars each.

I read ebooks when I want something light. They weigh nothing in the hand and should weigh little on my brain. If I’m reading something heavy I want to feel that physical weight too. It seems silly to cry into a screen, it doesn’t soak up tears as well as paper pages do. Nor does it make that satisfying thwack on the bed or ground if you grow your device down in disgust at a character’s actions. More likely than not you’re just going to be doubly mad as not only did something terrible happen in the boo, but you also cracked your screen.

Anyway.

This series by Gant follows an Australian (though she hardly acts like it) personal assistant in Hollywood as she sees to her clients needs and becomes entangled in murders that happen around them. The main character Trudie is the perfect balance of funny, needy and friendly. And the love interest, a cop is the right mix of condescending, confused and conscientious. The mysteries themselves are not overly predictable and all the supporting characters make this series really readable.

Now if only she would write more.

29. A favourite book from your past

 I can’t remember why I picked up this book originally, or how many of the four books I have actually read

   
But I’ve chosen the following

 
As a favourite book from my past, not so much for the novel itself, but rather for the time that I read it.

Now, A Wizard of Earthsea is your pretty basic fantasy novel that deals with good and evil and how they balance in the self. It’s got a pretty good demon metaphor that at the end makes you go “oh, that’s deep”, but other than that there’s not much to write home about.

In year 9 my English was given this book to read. We had an enthusiastic new (young) teacher so along with all the normal things you do with novel study – character analysis, themes, literary techniques – we also did some of the most fun activities that I can still remember and think fondly of today.

One of the things about the novel is that, like many fantasy stories, the protagonist goes on a journey. He sails around a bunch of islands fleeing this demon. So as part of our study our teacher asked us to create a travel guide for the world of the novel. It was perhaps one of the most fun activities I have ever done. My friend and I partnered up and we raided the local travel agents for old brochures to cut out pictures from . We embellished on the descriptions of some of the settings and made up five day itineraries for potential travellers. Like I said, it was so much fun. It’s those activities, rather than the novel itself, that make me think back fondly about this text.

I recently found my workbook from this class, obviously I had loved it so much that I kept my book for more than a decade. Flipping through it reminded me of so many good times with my friends in this class (even being forced to watch Schindler’s List) and of the amazing teacher I had (who pretty much chose my career path for me).

When I re read the book I felt like a lot of plot was missing which makes me think that perhaps I did read some of the others as well. Or perhaps it’s just easier for me to read now that I’m twenty eight and not fourteen.

It’s not my favourite book from my childhood, nor is it even a favourite book that I have read this year, but it reminds me of such a happy and creative and formative time in my life that it fulfills this category perfectly.
Coming up on my next blog: It’s practically Christmas.

29. A favourite book from your past

 I can’t remember why I picked up this book originally, or how many of the four books I have actually read

   
But I’ve chosen the following

 
As a favourite book from my past, not so much for the novel itself, but rather for the time that I read it.

Now, A Wizard of Earthsea is your pretty basic fantasy novel that deals with good and evil and how they balance in the self. It’s got a pretty good demon metaphor that at the end makes you go “oh, that’s deep”, but other than that there’s not much to write home about.

In year 9 my English was given this book to read. We had an enthusiastic new (young) teacher so along with all the normal things you do with novel study – character analysis, themes, literary techniques – we also did some of the most fun activities that I can still remember and think fondly of today.

One of the things about the novel is that, like many fantasy stories, the protagonist goes on a journey. He sails around a bunch of islands fleeing this demon. So as part of our study our teacher asked us to create a travel guide for the world of the novel. It was perhaps one of the most fun activities I have ever done. My friend and I partnered up and we raided the local travel agents for old brochures to cut out pictures from . We embellished on the descriptions of some of the settings and made up five day itineraries for potential travellers. Like I said, it was so much fun. It’s those activities, rather than the novel itself, that make me think back fondly about this text.

I recently found my workbook from this class, obviously I had loved it so much that I kept my book for more than a decade. Flipping through it reminded me of so many good times with my friends in this class (even being forced to watch Schindler’s List) and of the amazing teacher I had (who pretty much chose my career path for me).

When I re read the book I felt like a lot of plot was missing which makes me think that perhaps I did read some of the others as well. Or perhaps it’s just easier for me to read now that I’m twenty eight and not fourteen.

It’s not my favourite book from my childhood, nor is it even a favourite book that I have read this year, but it reminds me of such a happy and creative and formative time in my life that it fulfills this category perfectly.
Coming up on my next blog: It’s practically Christmas.

I’d like a little less realistic with my fiction please.

I haven’t felt a lot like writing lately. Last year seemed to get away from me and this year is already a quarter over it’s all been a rush. And nobody really wants to hear about how crappy someone else’s work is or the sleep deprivation of a parent with a kid under two. So there’s been no real reason to write either.

But then last night I finished a book that I’m not sure whether I want to rant or rave about.

 

Sometime last year on Instagram some publisher asked which cover people liked best for a new book coming out in 2016. Well, this is that book and this is the cover I picked. When I saw it in the library I figured I may as well read it. 

The premise is fairly simple and cliche. Five kids forced together by adults to make the school yearbook. The Breakfast Club but without the 80’s styling. And with an Australian context.

  
Honestly, it’s a pretty good book. Told from the five different perspectives and close enough to my own experience (well, I was a teenager once who sat the HSC and I’ve been to Strathfield) that the familiarity of the story was endearing. It’s not a tear jerker, but each character is well rounded, more than your cut out high school stereotype, and you care about them and their stories because they seem so real and so like your own. But maybe not quite enough. 

The problem is that the ending is limp. There is this huge crescendo that seems to fall abruptly silent when so much more could have been done or said to actually make the message worthwhile. What gets me the most is that there is no justice. I guess that’s a lot like the real world but what hope is there for kids going through similar problems when they can’t even be resolved in a fantasy world? Isn’t that the point of literature! To hold a mirror up to society and say –

Take a look at yourselves world. Is this how you really want things to go down?

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the book. It’s just that I was really disappointed the author didn’t take a stand. It didn’t have to be cheesy and all fable moralistic like, but it shouldn’t have let the world get away with what it did. 

As always I’m not reading to be reminded of what a horrible place the world is. And yes, I know realistic fiction is supposed to reflect the world as it is today. But I already know humans are sucky and the Internet is a giant beast untameable and insatiable. And I know that it probably can’t be fixed in the real world, short of a mass brainwash if the entire human population. So why can’t it be fixed in book world?

Is that too much to ask?