The Best Books I Read in 2014

December 21, 2014 § 1 Comment

2014 has been a busy year for me, and sadly that means I haven’t been able to blog as much as I would like. But in between work and study, I devote almost all of my spare time to reading, and I have encountered some wonderful books this year. Some of them, I can’t wait to write about, and I will have jumped straight online to review them. Others, I hold to myself, and try in vain to put together the words that would accurately portray how much I loved them. So here is a list of the best books I read in 2014 – some that I raved about and some that I quietly loved. All wonderful!

  1. Daughters of the Storm – Kim Wilkins

2014 1I don’t want to be that boring reviewer who just keeps saying how much she loves something, but…I love this book. I have pushed it onto everyone I possibly could, because I believe there’s something for everyone in Daughters of the Storm, which features my favourite character of the entire year – Bluebell. This one of the ones I wanted to rave about immediately after finishing, so you can read my review here. Also, side note – Kim Wilkins is absolutely lovely, so you can add that to the list of reasons to buy this book.

  1. Queen of the Tearling – Erika Johansen

Before I read Daughters of the Storm, I would have said that QoT was my favourite fantasy of the year. Now, I’d have to tie it, but it’s still brilliant. I haven’t had as much success convincing my friends and family to try this book, but it’s just as deserving as Daughters. Kelsea, the hero of this novel, is at once a mash up of Danearys Targaryen, Katniss Everdeen and Hermione Granger, and an entirely fresh character. Emma Watson got on board with Queen of the Tearling, so you know this is gonna be good. I will review this one in the coming months, as I plan a reread!

  1. Winter’s Bone – Daniel Woodrell

Winter’s Bone. It’s so hard to put into words how I felt reading this book. Maybe “emotional” would be a good starting place, but it still doesn’t even tap the surface of how it feels to be a part of the world that Ree and her brothers inhabit, if only for those 193 pages. Winter’s Bone is harsh and stark, in setting and in prose, but it is uplifting and life affirming at its close. Not only one of the best books I read this year, but one of the greatest I’ve ever read.

  1. The Last Policeman – Ben H. Winters 

2014 7I finished The Last Policeman only recently, and am still unsure of whether I want to read its sequel. You see, The Last Policeman was so affecting, so distressing, that I don’t know if I’m ready for another installment. An asteroid is six months away from hitting the Earth and devastating all human life, and recently qualified Detective Palace is called to investigate what appears to be another pre-apocalypse suicide. Existential in philosophy, hard-boiled in nature, The Last Policeman is traumatic and an exceptional work of genre fiction.

  1. Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

I’m not one for chick lit, and I don’t go in for romance – so I was happy to find that Fangirl was neither. I have reviewed Fangirl (you can read it here), and I have rhapsodized about how it elevates fandom as a means of identity, so I won’t bore you with my love for the book all over again. What I will say, though, is that Rainbow Rowell recently announced that she is writing Carry On – the Harry Potter-esque novel upon which Cath’s fanfiction is based. TRUST ME WHEN I SAY THAT I HAVE A GIANT SMILE ON MY FACE AS I TYPE THIS.

  1. The Scorpio Races – Maggie Stiefvater

2014 3Maggie Stiefvater definitely has the capacity to become one of my favourite YA authors. I’ve read Shiver, the first in her werewolf trilogy and loved it, but sort of forgot to read the rest. For some reason, I picked up The Scorpio Races a few weeks ago, and for twenty four hours, nobody could see my face because the novel was stuck in front of it at all times. The Scorpio Races is a standalone novel about water horses, the dangerous animals that emerge from the sea every year on a Gaelic island. With sparse, melodic prose, Stiefvater paints a portrait of an insular community with its own set of values and ideals, and the two people who subvert those for the love of family, and of horses.

After reading The Scorpio Races, I immediately purchased the first in Maggie’s Raven Cycle, which is sitting patiently on my bedside table.

  1. The Girl Who Would Be King – Kelly Thompson

2014This book is brilliant. To call it a ‘feminist superhero story’ would do it no justice, but it’s probably a good start. There are few male characters in the novel, in part because the two protagonists are so very large. Bonnie, innately good and incredibly powerful, was literally born to oppose Lola. Lola really steals the show in The Girl Who Would Be King – she’s inherently evil and she doesn’t really understand why, but because she’s evil, she doesn’t care. Lola sets out to make herself the King of LA, killing anyone who stands in her path – except for Bonnie, who cannot be killed. This book also features a short epilogue with one of the best twists I’ve come across in genre fiction. Watch out for this one, it’s going to be big.

  1. The Fever – Megan Abbott

If you haven’t read a Megan Abbott novel yet, you’re doing yourself a
disservice. Megan writes about women in a way that no other author can. I’m a huge fan of her noir fiction, but The Fever is perhaps more accessible to non-genre fans. Like Dare Me, The Fever explores the horrors of female adolescent relationships. It’s entirely relatable and completely terrifying at the same time. An infectious disease that causes seizures grips the girls of a small high school, and nobody can work out what is causing their illness. Mass hysteria? Something in the water? You won’t be able to tell, because it’s Megan Abbott. 

  1. Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Laini Taylor (and Days of Blood and Starlight. I’m still holding on to Dreams of Gods and Monsters for a rainy day)

2014 8I have this stupid habit of not reading the books I am most excited about. This year, I have been massively excited about and have not read: The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman, Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson and Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor. I harassed my booksellers on the day they were supposed to arrive, so I would know the second they landed, and then rushed into the store to get my hands on them (for WoR, it was a two-handed ordeal!). I then put them on my shelf, and told myself I would wait for the right moment to read them. The right moment still hasn’t come for Magician’s Land and for Dreams of Gods and Monsters. Both are the conclusion to incredible trilogies, and I don’t know why I can’t read them. But I think it’s because I just love them so much, I don’t want them to be over. It’s not even because I think they’ll end badly – I know they’ll end wonderfully. I just…can’t do it. Also haven’t watched the final seasons of my favourite shows, including Gilmore Girls, Frasier, and 30 Rock. I just…can’t.

Suffice it to say, I loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone, to the extent that I cannot yet face its conclusion. Review here.

Also, I am halfway through Words of Radiance and it is so beyond excellent that I can’t yet articulate how much I love it. So maybe it will be Karou’s turn soon.

  1. Shatter Me – Tahereh Mafi

2014 5Last but not least, Tahereh Mafi’s trilogy, beginning with Shatter Me, was my favourite YA of the year. With flowery, musical prose, Mafi tells the story of Juliette, whose burgeoning superpowers are more frightening than they are magical. In The Juliette Chronicles, we go from Juliette’s asylum prison all the way to a military compound for superheroes, all the while watching a damaged protagonist become the physical and mental champion she was destined to be. Another awesome attribute of this series is the relationship side of things; Mafi is one of the few YA authors to really, truly portray the transition from one relationship to another without simplifying or minimizing any of the emotional content involved. Such a fun, addictive trilogy, for fans of dystopian YA looking for their next obsession.

 

As 2014 comes to a close, I’d like to thank Pulp Fiction Booksellers for giving me the opportunity to work with them at Supanova, and for providing me with ARCs throughout the year (including Daughters of the Storm)!

Happy Christmas to you if that’s your thing, and if not, I hope 2014 ends peacefully and happily for you all.

Look out soon for my picks for books to watch in 2015! x

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My Votes for the Goodreads Awards!

November 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

So, I just voted in the Goodreads Best Books of 2014. I’m not the greatest advocate of Goodreads, given its affiliation with Amazon, but I voted in the poll for two main reasons:

  1. Much as we may hate to admit it, Goodreads is an important platform for authors, especially up-and-coming ones. Authors frequently request that if you enjoyed their book, you should leave a positive or starred review on Goodreads. I can’t review every book I read, so I do sometimes like to do this for the books I enjoyed. To be a ‘Goodreads Best Book’ is quite a boon for a book, so why not put my two cents in and help out the authors who have made my year awesome?
  2. I really like filling out surveys.

Oh, and I really only voted in categories where I’d read more than one of the books. Just FYI.

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

Fiction:

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld was, hands down, the best of the selection. This book is magical and sorrowful, and exceptionally moving. The author knows what she’s talking about, as she has worked closely with death row inmates. Read The Enchanted, and you might find yourself rethinking how you see death row criminals. Especially when you get to the unexpected, agonizing reveal at the end.

 Best Fantasy:

Tough choice, but had to go to Queen of the Tearling. One of my two favourite fantasies of the year, tied with Kim Wilkin’s Daughters of the Storm. If Emma Watson’s endorsement of QoT isn’t enough to tell you that this book is amazing, take my word for it: this is the next Hunger Games.

Lock In by John Scalzi

Lock In by John ScalziScience Fiction:

Best Science Fiction:

For someone who doesn’t think they read SF, this was a surprisingly difficult choice. It came down to a trade off between Annihiliation by Jeff Vandermeer and Lock in by John Scalzi. Lock In won out, due to the sheer obsession that it incited in me for the short time it took to read it. The concepts and the plot will have you thinking long after you finish it!

 Horror Fiction:

I was torn between three contenders for this one. I loved Sarah Lotz’s The Three, was glued to Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes, and The Girl with All the Gifts had me in its thrall from its first page to the last. All of these deserved my vote and the exposure that the Goodreads Best Book title might provide. However, at the end of the day, I wasn’t 100% sure that Girl with All the Gifts is true horror. Gotta make a decision somehow, so I scratched it. And The Three was pretty scary, but it didn’t incite the gleeful revulsion that Broken Monsters did. So, my vote went to the latter, with honorable mentions to two other books I really did love this year.

 Graphic Novel and Comics:

Saga. Always Saga. Nothing further.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Debut Goodreads Author:

Red Rising by Pierce Brown, which is one of the few books I have read twice this year. Honorable mention to QoT, which I almost voted for again, I loved it so much. Side note: pretty excited for Son of Ares to come out in Jan!

 YA Fiction:

We Were Liars by E. E. Lockhart. What a wonderful book. It’s impossible to tell you why, because of the twist at the end. The twist that you might see coming, that might sound predictable if I were to explain it to you, but which feels like an ice-cold glass of water poured slowly over your head as you come to realize you’ve been fooled all along… We Were Liars.

 YA Fantasy and Sci Fi:

Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi

Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi

Titles I considered nominating were: Red Rising (again); Laini Taylor’s Dreams of Gods and Monsters; and Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi. Dreams of Gods and Monsters was out of the running for one very simple reason – I haven’t read it yet. I loved DOSAB so very much that I keep finding reasons not to read Dreams of Gods and Monsters, because I simply can’t bear for it to be over. This might be a reason to vote for it in and of itself, if it wasn’t for the inclusion of Ignite Me. Red Rising obviously got scratched from this section because I’d already voted for it, and I wanted to share the love.

I would never have picked up Shatter Me, if it wasn’t for the recommendation of one of my dearest friends. Earlier this year, I burned through Tahereh’s trilogy obsessively. Ignite Me has everything – beautiful, poetic writing; a wonderful protag; a really exciting magic system; a dystopian society to be scared of, and a very intriguing romantic lead. (shoutout to Chapter 62!) I LOVED it, and it’s one of my favourite books of the year.

Did you vote in the Goodreads Best Books awards? Who got your vote?

Top Ten Gifts for Booklovers This Christmas

November 25, 2013 § 5 Comments

Being a booklover yourself, there’s a good chance that you’ll need to do some holiday shopping for the other bibliophiles in your life. So, what to buy? To some, the answer would be obvious: a book. But we readers know that picking out a book for someone who collects them can be a little hit and miss. What if they already have it? What if it’s not quite their style? It can be kinda risky. So, I’ve put together a list of the top ten book-related gift ideas for the holiday season that booklovers are guaranteed to love.

1. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

Okay, apologies for the immediate hypocrisy – I did just say that buying books for other readers can sometimes be risky. However, when the book in question is stamped “Man-Booker Prize Winner”  the risk is nearly entirely eliminated. The Man-Booker prize is one of (if not THE) most prestigious literary awards, and this year, twenty-eight year old Eleanor Catton’s hefty historical novel has taken the cake. I treated myself to a beautiful hardcover edition a few weeks ago and I can’t wait to start. By all accounts, The Luminaries is a life-ruiner – you won’t be able to do anything but read once you’ve started it.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton - This year's Man Booker winner

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton – This year’s Man Booker winner

2. Frostbeard Studio Candles

Tom and Rox, the married couple behind Frostbeard Studio, are nerds, just like me.Being the creative powerhouse that they are, they drew upon their vast well of nerd-culture knowledge to create beautiful handmade crafts that you can buy online. Frostbeard Studio’s candles take their inspiration from books, games and literary goodness. Tom and Rox are the makers of the infamous Bookstore candle, which will fill your home with the scent of timber, driftwood and just a little coffee. Featuring scents such as Sherlock’s Study, Dumbledore’s Office, Wibbly-Wobbly Timey-Wimey, Mockingjay and The Shire, I guarantee you will find the perfect scent for each and every booklover on your Christmas list. Check them out here.

Who doesn't want their house to smell like a bookstore?

Who doesn’t want their house to smell like a bookstore?

3. Spineless Classics

Spineless Classics are the ultimate wall-art for literature lovers. High quality posters with entire manuscripts printed on a single page, they are designed to fit easily obtainable frames from Ikea. I was lucky enough to be given a Spineless Classics copy of Macbeth, my favourite Shakespeare play, and I love it. Macbeth is printed in the shape of Scotland and although tiny, its text is entirely legible. Spineless Classics are a perfect gift for someone who already has every edition of their favourite book!

Macbeth from Spineless classics.

Macbeth from Spineless classics.

4. Megan Lara’s Artwork

Megan Lara is a self-proclaimed pop-culture addict and a highly talented artist. Famous for her stunning art-noveau style portraits, Megan portrays her favourite fictional characters to life. Her digital artwork is nothing short of phenomenal, and I don’t think there’s anything else like it out there. I have her Katniss and Luna Lovegood shirts, and I just placed a rather large order of her prints in sticker-form on Red Bubble. Her art is available on t-shirts, stickers, high-quality prints, tote bags (my next purchase) and more. I suggest checking out her store on Red Bubble and also liking her page on Facebook. She also does a mean Rose Tyler cosplay!

The wonderful Megan Lara. She's only cosplaying Rose, but you'd be forgiven for think it was Billie.

The wonderful Megan Lara. She’s only cosplaying Rose, but you’d be forgiven for think it was Billie.

5. Gaming Concept Art books

I am a horrible gamer. I have no hand-eye co-ordination and watching the screen swing around makes me dizzy. I do, however, appreciate the incredible amount of effort that goes into the artwork behind the games. In fact, I love it. I recently bought the art book for The Last of Us, which features countless portraits of Ellie and Joel, as well as in-depth  drawings of the transformation of the in-game monsters. The book itself is a lovely keepsake, but the artwork is what really makes it special. The CGI characters are the result of hours of tireless sketching and re-working, and the concept art books let non-gamers like me see this process. On top of that, they explore the story too! Pulp Fiction Booksellers has an excellent range of gaming and general fantasy art books, including a few that you’ll have trouble finding anywhere else!

Gaming concept art books are a way for non-gamers to enjoy the vast worlds within current games.

Gaming concept art books are a way for non-gamers to enjoy the vast worlds within current games.

6. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Goldfinch is the highly anticipated third novel from reclusive author Donna Tartt. After the wild success of her debut, The Secret History, and the dismal disappointment of The Little Friend, the release of The Goldfinch had fans waiting with bated breath. But the reviews are in, and it’s decided: The Goldfinch is a masterpiece. I’m a quarter of the way through it at the moment (review to come, naturally), and I’m engrossed in it. There’s something about it that reminds me of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind – that intangible compulsion to explore. I tentatively suggest that this book will be beloved by readers all the world over. 

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch

Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch

7. Pulp calendars

Who doesn’t love pulp art? If it were up to me, I would wallpaper my house with the stuff. Seeing as that option is not available to me, I will have to settle for one of these awesome pulp calendars, available from Pulp Fiction in Brisbane. Give the gift of pulp art all year round!

Pulp calendars from Pulp Fiction!

Pulp calendars from Pulp Fiction!

8. Catching Fire Soundtrack

In the interest of transparency, you should probably know that I am one of the original Katniss fangirls. I also adore Jennifer Lawrence in her own right. On top of this: I love Lorde, cried at a Coldplay concert, secretly believe that The National is the soundtrack to my life, watch Imagine Dragons’ video to Radioactive when I need a pick-me-up and listen to Ellie Goulding just about daily. So I was always going to recommend the Catching Fire soundtrack to you, given that it combines so many of my favourite things. I’m just sorry about the Christina track. I don’t know why it’s there. Otherwise, Catching Fire’s soundtrack is a brilliant album, and a lovely gift for the musically inclined readers out there!

Lorde. Can she just stop being such a prodigy, please? It makes the rest of us feel inadequate.

Lorde. Can she just stop being such a prodigy, please? It makes the rest of us feel inadequate.

9. Audible Membership

If you haven’t listened to an audiobook recently, you’re missing out. Since the advent of the iPod, audiobooks are enjoying a well-deserved renaissance. No longer are we forced to listen to the droning voice that George Castanza despised when he listened to his books-on-tape. Stephen Fry, beloved by humans in general, read the entire Harry Potter series. Could you think of anyone more perfect to undertake such a task? Listening to your favourite books is a whole new way to experience them, and when it’s done right, it’s wonderful. Audible has a whole variety of gift packs you can buy for the busy reader, starting at $45 for a three month pack, which entitles the giftee to one audiobook per month. 

Audible is designed to work with iPhones, so you can always have your books with you.

Audible is designed to work with iPhones, so you can always have your books with you.

10. Folio Editions

If you know someone’s favourite book, why not treat them to a Folio Edition? I think the Folio editions are some of the most beautiful hardcovers in the world. Although they don’t come cheap, they make a lovely gift for someone special, and are sure to be treasured for a lifetime. The Folio Society has a surprisingly large range of hardcovers available, so you’re bound to find a favourite in stock! 

Lovely Folio Edition of The Handmaid's Tale

Lovely Folio Edition of The Handmaid’s Tale

Top 5 Literary Monsters – A Beginner’s Guide

October 25, 2013 § 3 Comments

Dracula
Bram Stoker’s DRACULA was first published 116 years ago, but don’t go thinking that this means Count doesn’t belong on this list. The myth of the vampire is centuries old, but Stoker’s Gothic tale is widely considered the vampire’s true introduction to popular culture. Since the publication of Dracula in 1897, vampire stories have retained the popularity of Dracula. Compared to the uncanny creepiness of Count Dracula, though, many vampires…pale in comparison (not sorry).

The Count has manifested in other literary incarnations over the years. Of particular note is Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, which brings the Dracula mythos into the realm of historical fiction. NOS4R2, another recent success in the world of vampire lit, is the breakout novel of Stephen King’s son, Joe Hill, and it’s worth a look if you’re a King fan!

Less scary, more gratuitous enjoyment of JRM, who is set to star in an upcoming 10-ep series!

Less scary, more gratuitous enjoyment of Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who is set to star in an upcoming 10-ep series based on the original text!

Dementors
Dementors are among the creepiest beings I have ever had the displeasure of reading about. Skeletal, hooded creatures with decaying skin and rattling breath, they guard the wizard prison Azkaban. They serve dual functions at Azkaban: they’re both a deterrent against criminal activity, and they stop prisoners trying to escape. How do they do this? They gradually suck the intelligence, hope and happiness out of anyone near them. Those deserving of the gravest punishment will be subjected to the Dementor’s Kiss, which is essentially spiritual rape – the Dementors forcibly pull the very soul out of your body. If they didn’t make your skin crawl when you first read about them, you’re made of stronger stuff than I.

Dementors swarm Hogwarts

These things are in a children’s book. Just let that sink in.


Pennywise

If you didn’t suffer from coulrophobia before reading It, you probably came down with a strong case afterward. Although Pennywise is actually a shape-shifting being with the capacity to take the form of whatever its victim most fears, most of us remember It as the clown lurking in the storm drain. Although the book is widely considered to be one of King’s best, it is undoubtedly Tim Curry’s nightmarish portrayal of Pennywise that haunts our nightmares. The combination of his gravelly voice, the absurdity of the clown make-up and the sudden shock of the fangs is sure to have your skin crawling.

NOPENOPENOPE. Click on the photo to see the famous "drain scene".

NOPENOPENOPE. Click on the photo to see the famous “drain scene”.

Immacolata’s sisters from Clive Barker’s Weaveworld
Clive Barker blurs the lines between horror and fantasy in Weaveworld. Not your typical sword-and-sorcery tale, Weaveworld is about a world encapsulated within a woven tapestry, and the forces that are unleashed when it comes to life. Immacolata, the Big Bad of Weaveworld, is an all-powerful witch with some serious skeletons in her closet. Although she strangled her triplet sisters in the womb, they continue to exist as monstrosities in the Weaveworld. The Hag and The Magdalene, as the sisters are known, are co-dependent ectoplasmic entities. The Magdalene frequently accosts unsuspecting men and then gives birth to monstrous children; The Hag then divines the future from their afterbirth. Needless to say, Weaveworld is a dark book…

I think we can all be glad that there are no photos of these things floating around online…

Instead, let's just take a moment to appreciate how true this is.

Instead, let’s just take a moment to appreciate how true this is. Because Twilght comparisons never get old. 

Cthulhu
What would a post about literary monsters be without The Great Old One himself (itself?)? Cthulhu first emerged from the depths in H. P. Lovecraft’s story, “The Call of Cthulhu”, published in 1928. When I first read this shorty story, I was taken aback by its overtly academic tone. Having prepared myself for a primitive creature feature, I was surprised to find that “The Call of Cthulhu” is essentially about one man’s research into a cult that worships The Great Old Ones – beings that slumber in the recesses of the earth, preparing to one day rise again. Our protagonist ends up being driven mad by the very reality of Cthulhu, who is said to resemble a hybrid of octopus, dragon, cuttlefish and humanoid. Oh, and he’s green.

I know too much, and the cult still lives.

I know too much, and the cult still lives.

In the interest of coming clean, I am not a true horror aficionado. I do enjoy the occasional horror novel, but I think the true experts in the field are you, the readers. So tell me – what monsters should be on this list that I’ve missed out?

If you would like to order Stephen King’s It, Joe Hill’s NOS4R2, Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, Weaveworld or any of Lovecraft’s works, head over to Pulp Fiction Booksellers, give them a call on (07) 3236-2750 , or add them as a friend on Faceboook.

What we’re looking forward to in September!

September 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

We’ve decided to put together this series of posts to keep you all updated with what’s going on in our little corner of the blogosphere, any bookish news and life generally. Going up on the first of every month (Australian time), keep your calendars handy, people!

itsnotnatalie:

–          Brisbane Writer’s Festival – The Brisbane Writers Festival runs for four days, and is a collection of lectures, workshops and panels featuring prominent writers who will discuss areas of their particular expertise and I am so unbelievably excited to be attending my first BWF!!! I will be breathing the same air as Garth Nix; excuse me while I quietly fangirl in a corner. I’m also very excited to have a more or less willing Kalystia attend the Jane Austen presentation with me (I shall convert her eventually – resistance is futile).

Brisbane Writers Festival 2013

Some of the 2013 BWF art! (Check the Mockingjay – Kalystia)

–          Australian Federal Election – I know, not book related, but I am also a political science major and elections make me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. I shall celebrate election eve by FINALLY finishing Downfall by Aaron Patrick. See, now its book related! You can buy it here for Kindle  or here in paperback.

–          Start the 30 Day Challenge – I’m hoping that this fantastic challenge might spark a bit of friendly debate among you, lovely readers. It is aptly named as a challenge; I’ve read over the questions and I am really struggling to find answers for some (and to be honest, not answer everything with Stardust!).

–          One of my best friends has promised me a book date at a fantastic second hand bookstore in the city and I can’t wait to take him up on it! It may even result in a post series Kalystia and I have been pondering for a while, so watch this space!

–          Start reading some of the Netgalley books on our shelf.  Short, sweet and NEEEEEEW!

–          Picking and starting the next book for itsnotnatalie does neil. Choices, choices.

–          Getting back on track with my reading list.  Even though there is no accountability whatsoever with my reading list, having put it out into cyberspace, I feel a bit slack for having only read HALF of one of the entries. Having said that, I freely acknowledge I will probably be distracted by the first shiny, new book I see in Dymocks. I have no shame.

Book Hoarder

And this is why neither of us can keep on track with our reading lists.

Kalystia:

In September, I’m looking forward to some exciting new releases. I’ve preordered them, and anxiously await their arrival in the mail!

–          The Returned, Jason Mott: I’ve mentioned this one before, and although it’s been posted, I STILL haven’t received it. Can’t wait to read it, though!

–          Steelheart, Brandon Sanderson:  Any new Brandon Sanderson would be enough for me to be bouncing off the walls in anticipation, but a kind of dystopian venture? CANNOT WAIT. September 24, it’s here.

–          Vicious, Victoria Schwab: Everything I’ve read about this seems to indicate that it will be some kind of hybrid of X-men, Flatliners and Lev Grossman’s The Magicians. Yes, I’m probably going to love it. Coming from Tor on Sep 24th!

–          More than This, Patrick Ness: Although I’ve been meaning to, I’ve never got around to the Chaos Walking Trilogy. But I picked up the most beautiful hardback edition of this book the day it was released, and I’m itching to start it. It looks like philosophical post-apoc. Yes, please!

More Than This, Patrick Ness

I’m excited about my introduction to Patrick Ness!

–          The Rook, Daniel O’Malley: An unexpected find from Pulp Fiction. I actually don’t really know what to expect of this, but the recommendations in the front few pages are astronomical. It’s shot to the top of my to-read pile.

 I also have the capacity to get excited about things that are not books. It’s a small capacity, but exists nonetheless. Here are a few other things I’m looking forward to in September:

–          The dystopia lecture at BWF, featuring Scott Westerfield as a panellist

–          Planning a trip to Melbourne in October with my boyfriend. I’m somewhat of a shopaholic, and I’ve never been before, so this is very exciting! Any Melbournites with tips on the best book stores, leave me a comment below!

–          On the topic of the Melbourne trip, I’m already excited to visit the Melbourne zoo and see the gorillas there. I’ve never seen one in real life, and it’s something I’ve always wanted. I’ll probably cry. I can’t wait.

–          I’m also looking forward to reviewing some of the books I’ve read lately, particularly The Bone Season. So many mixed emotions, readers, and I’m looking forward to getting them out of my head and onto the page.

–          Seeing Elysium! I still haven’t seen it, and I’ve been looking forward to it since its teaser trailer.

–          Oh, and I’ve finished The Book Thief. I’ll be needing to discuss this soon. Need to share the feels.

Top 5 Book to Film Adaptations

August 29, 2013 § 1 Comment

I don’t know about you guys, but when I find out that one of my favourite books is being adapted to film, I immediately start micro-stressing. Will they cast the characters the way I see them in my head? Will they change important plot points? Will this book, that I have privately enjoyed for so long, now be the domain of a vapid fan-base, like Twilight was?

Film is a completely different medium to the novel, and it communicates with viewers in a wholly different way. Because of this, there is no way that a film can exactly replicate the experience of reading a beloved novel. We all know this. Sometimes, though, an astute filmmaker will somehow manage to capture the essence of the original book. That special, intangible element, unique to each and every novel, has survived the gruelling transition from page to screen, and the film becomes a special one because of it. These are five adaptations that we think did their base novels justice.

Ever felt like this?

Ever felt like this?

The Lovely Bones (Kalystia)

There is something very special about this novel. In reading The Lovely Bones, the reader is transported from the hellish nightmare of Susie Salmon’s rape and murder, to heaven, where Susie watches over her grieving family. I have cherished The Lovely Bones since I first read it in high school. I know the novel inside out (some sections word for word, even), so I was sceptical about a film adaptation.

But it was perfect.

Saorise Ronan embodied Susie’s frozen innocence and indescribable grief at being abducted from life. The colour palette of the film was stunning. The plot was faithful to the novel, even to the smallest details. The atmosphere of the novel was translated perfectly into the film, which was at once surreal and gritty. It was a wonderful adaptation.

Saorise Ronan as Susie Salmon - like the fish.

Saorise Ronan as Susie Salmon – like the fish.

The Mortal Instruments (Kalystia)

I admit I’m not the biggest fan of The Mortal Instruments series. I enjoyed them, but lost interest by the fourth one. The continuation of the series screams “money-making” to me… That said, I saw the film last Friday, and I think that the realm of Downworlders and Shadowhunters has been brought to life on the big screen. The Institute is lavish and exquisitely rendered, and the opening scene in Pandemonium was exactly as I’d pictured it. I thought Lilly Collins was well-cast as Clary, and Lena Headey was great as Jocelyn. Yeah, okay, Magnus Bane was a little wooden in his delivery, and Jace was very different to the way I’d pictured him in the novel, but Isabelle’s whip made up for it all. I recommend seeing this if you like urban fantasy.

City of Bones

The Mortal Instruments – City of Bones

The Prestige (Kalystia)

I can’t really explain why The Prestige was such a brilliant adaptation without giving away a major spoiler. What I can say, though, is that Christopher Nolan took the (somewhat boring) base text and reworked part of its narrative structure. The end result is a magnificent thriller which builds to a tense finale, and one of the best twist-endings you’ll ever see. The Prestige is a testament to Nolan’s storytelling prowess. The fact that he could tell the same story as the novel and achieve such a phenomenally different end result just goes to show that he is deserving of all the praise that is heaped upon him! Incidentally, The Prestige is one of the very few movies which is undeniably better than its printed counterpart.

Robert Angier

Hugh Jackman in a top hat? It’s bound to be one of my favourites.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (The Swedish original – itsnotnatalie)

What can I say other than I loved, loved, LOVED this movie?! I immensely enjoyed the book (and its sequels) and this fantastic adaptation expertly transfers all the grittiness, frustration and energy of Larsson’s work from page to screen. Usually, I am firmly in the book is better camp, but I think here the movie has a slight edge – Noomi Rapace IS Lisbeth and is utter perfection in the role.

Noomey Rapace

Noomey Rapace as the iconic Lisbeth Salander

I Capture The Castle (itsnotnatalie)

I think with such a book there was always the possibility the adaptation would veer too far into the twee. Thankfully, it does not. The fantastic cast manage to convey the humour, sweetness and quaintness of the book set in the 30s without skimping on the realness and touch of darkness. Bill Nighy and Romola Garai are simply superb. A movie (and a book) I come back to time and again.

I'm ashamed I used a rage comic.

…I think this is a pretty accurate description of my lfie.

Top 5 Books We Can’t Wait to Read

August 13, 2013 § 2 Comments

1. Kalystia: The Bone Season – Samantha Shannon

Bone Season Cover

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

I have to admit, I’m a sucker for literary marketing. When it comes to books, my defences are down and I’ll buy anything that publishers tell me to. Because of this unfortunate tendency of mine, I have wasted money on absolute trash, simply because it’s been hyped up online with a powerful marketing campaign (most recently, The Fifth Wave, which I hated). On the flip-side, though, sometimes a viral campaign will grab me, and I’ll pick up a book worth every word of praise. Angelfall, relentlessly pushed by Goodreads, was one such novel. The Bone Season has been doing the rounds in online campaigning, and the series is touted to rival The Hunger Games, Twilight and even Harry Potter.
So, naturally, I want it.

The Bone Season is about clairvoyants practising outside the law. In a contract mirroring that of J. K. Rowling, young author Samantha Shannon has been signed for a seven book deal with Bloomsbury, with the first three to come out fairly soon. And that is pretty much all I know about this book. It’s on its way to me from England now, so more to come soon!

If you’re as intrigued as I am, watch the surprisingly well-done book trailer here!

2. Itsnotnatalie: Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card

enders-game

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Oddly, for a committed Whovian, to the best of my knowledge, I have never, EVER, read a sci-fi book. So for me, Ender’s Game represents the opportunity to dip my toe into the endless sea of this new (to me, at least) genre. I am really excited by the two-fold challenge Ender’s Game presents; first, having to step outside my reading comfort zone and second, I am looking forward to facing the questions that the sci-fi genre will invariably pose for me. 

Side note from Kalystia: I love Ender’s Game, and have high hopes for the upcoming film adaptation! I think Asa will do an excellent job of portraying Ender.

3. Kalystia: The Returned – Jason Mott

This cover reminds me of The Lovely Bones. Hm...

This cover reminds me of The Lovely Bones. Hm…

The Returned opens with the premise that those who have definitely, permanently died have one day simply returned to their families. The Returned show up on their loved ones’ doorsteps, the same age that they were when they died. When I first read about this, I did not hesitate to pre-order. I’ve tried to stop myself from reading anything about it…but I ended up having a few sneaky peeks at some reviews. The Returned is being praised for its moving story, its haunting subject matter and its stark language. This tends to put me in mind of The Road, but I believe The Returned has a more familiar setting than that.
And that’s about all I know about The Returned. It already has me hooked, and I haven’t read a word of it.

4. Itsnotnatalie: The Other Typist – Suzanne Rindell

After the intellectual workout I’m expecting Ender’s to put me through, I think I’ll need a change of pace! I stumbled across The Other Typist in our favourite bookstore, and ever since I have been itching to read it.  Somehow or another, though, other books just keep getting in the way. So this is it, no ifs or buts, it is being read! I have also heard that Keira Knightley has signed on for a film adaptation, my interest is even more piqued.

Kiera Knightley rocking those cheekbones!

Kiera Knightley rocking those cheekbones!

5. The Novelettes want to read The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak

Itsnotnatalie
: I don’t actually know too much about this book. My main attraction to it has been off the back of the movie stills I saw; the casting of Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson (two of my favourite actors) had me bouncing in my chair! Plus, there is the added bonus that The Book Thief is set during World War 2 – and as anyone who knows me can attest, I cannot resist any movie, TV show, book, ANYTHING set in this time. I am particularly excited about the special plan Kalystia and I have planned for this book, so watch this space!

Kalystia: I’ve always felt a bit bad for not having read The Book Thief. I often see this book picked as one of the best books written in recent times, and I know I should have read it long before now. There’s a lot about it that means I will very likely fall in love with it – a snowy, war-time setting, a highly interesting narrator (Death) and a girl who adores reading. It’s a recipe for a book bound for my favourites shelf. With a film adaptation set to hit the screens later this year, I think it’s time I read The Book Thief.

Itsnotnatalie has also had this book on her to-read list for quite some time. So, we’ve decided to do something a little bit special to celebrate the fact that we’ve finally decided to read this book. Stay tuned to see what have in store.

One of the few still released from the upcoming film adaptation of The Book Thief

One of the few still released from the upcoming film adaptation of The Book Thief

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