Wednesday, 7 December 2016

#re3 ReRead 2017 Challenge

Was planning to reveal this before I go on my Christmas break and I have mentioned this a few months back. But after chatting to a few people on Twitter last week, I decided to tell you guys my plan. 

Earlier this year, I has an idea to reread all five of the Garth Nix's The Old Kingdom series. I have reread all seven Harry Potter a few years back and I think it's important to, every now and then, reread a book or a series that you love. So, 2017 was going to be my Old Kingdom reread! 

This is still going to happen. I haven't changed my mind on that. However, there is now going to be a small twist. 

Last week, I was chatting to a few people about rereading a series and few said "What about His Dark Materials?" Now, this is a series I loved and I haven't reread in a VERY VERY long time. And when they mentioned it, I went "Yes! We should reread this. But at a pace we can all do."

Which got me thinking... 

So, throughout the course of 2017, I would like to invite you to reread either The Old Kingdom series or the His Dark Materials. Or, in fact, any book or series that you love and you want to reread. 

And whatever you decide to reread, there is no pressure over how long you take to reread it. As long as you start in 2017, then woo-hoo!!! 

I just want to say what books am reread and hope you join in as well. 

So... see you in 2017 for our rereading! 

Monday, 5 December 2016

Book Review - Inside The Magic

I don't think I make it a secret on this blog that I love Harry Potter. Nor do I hide the fact that I love reading making of movies/TV shows books (a few publishers know of my love and I thank them deeply for allowing me the pleasure of reading these delights. I have three awaiting my attention with one I have bought coming into my possession the next few days...)

So, when I saw this in my local Asda, I couldn't resist. I was curious over the new movie (I own the screenplay but not read it - I plan to read it after seeing the movie. Which, by now, I have seen but need time to process and I will talk about it once I have read the screenplay. I am doing the opposite of what I did with the Cursed Child so shhh...!) and I love behind the scenes information. And... I mean, POTTER!!!

This is a behind-the-scenes book revealing most (not all, but most) of the film-making of Fantastic Beasts, with character profiles (and small interviews with the actors), props and sets, information about New York, MACUSA and The Blind Pig, the characters within Newt's case and other titbits.

I am a little torn on this. Now, I love these types of books so, yes, this book can't go too much into depth because of spoilers. And, because this is an adult companion, it is more aimed for movie-goers and people who like this type of books (aka me). I loved the photos and the details. The amount of text is aimed more for an adult audience but I don't see why teens or children with a higher reading level can't read it.

However, there are problems. This isn't perfect. This does feel a bit like a whistle-stop tour of how the movie was made. Again, this is something I see in most "making of [insert film here]". Actually, compared to most of them, this has more information. So, for that, I will let slide, but it still felt like we were skimming...

But the main issue, the thing that tainted this book for me, was a small line. A sentence of 8 words. I know... I know... this is stupid to say, but I am going to state it. On one of the pages, linked to costume design, we have a small photograph of the actor Gemma Chan (you will know her from the Channel 4 show, Humans). She isn't an important character - her character has one sentence in the movie (and she is one of the few speaking characters in the movie who isn't white unless I am misremembered...), but we see her in character. The line that accompanies this photo is "Gemma Chan plays an exotic witch visiting MACUSA".

Why, OH WHY, is it that when a non-white character/actor (who isn't really important to the story) is in movie/TV show/radio/etc, they are described as "exotic"? It's a lazy writing, a throw-away remark which could and can be seen as a racist term. In this instant, the term devalues her character. She, to my knowledge, is a foreign representative visiting MACUSA to take part in a wizarding equivalent on United Nations. Her character even has a name - I checked! Madam Ya Zhou. So, why isn't her character name or the term "foreign representative" used? Why isn't it "Gemma Chan plays a foreign representative witch visiting MACUSA"? Or "Gemma Chan playing Madam Ya Zhou"? The term "exotic" should never have been used - it's cheap, lazy, sloppy writing.

*deep breath*

So, book overall. While it's one of the better "making of [insert movie name here]" books, it does have some faults.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

British Book Challenge 2017

I did this in 2013 and again in 2015. So, of course, to keep the pattern going, am going to do the British Book Challenge again next year!

Because I like to punish myself, that's why. Plus, with me plotting to do a ton of rereads next year (blogpost explain this plan will be up next week sometime!), I thought this would add something fun to the reading mix.

If I actually remember that I'm actually doing this.

So, for those of you not sure what this is, the British Book Challenge has been running for the past few years where people taking part (bloggers, vloggers, podcasters, Goodreads, etc) read/reread at least 12 books from British authors (aka 1 book a month).

And when the term "British authors" is used, it's authors that either born and live in the UK (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), born overseas but currently living in the UK or born in UK and living overseas. All of these must have books either published in the UK or be published in the UK first.

I think I have that right. If not, shout at me!

Now, I am still going to be reading widely across a ton of genres, a ton of age ranges and a ton of formats, so that's not going to change. Actually, I think I will do this without really trying but am going to do this to try and expand my reading. Try new genres, try new authors and reread some books that been meaning to read for a while.

Now, Michelle from Tales of Yesterday (who is running this year's BBC - like the shorthand?) asked to write a tony post, stating some books we want to read next year as part of it. Now, I don't like doing TBR lists as I never stick to them! So, instead, am going to show a tiny handful of books that am thinking of reading... maybe... if I have time... and am in the mood...

And, of course...

eBook Review - You Will Not Have My Hate

This, I am going to admit, is going to be hard to write. I'm not 100% certain where to start, truth be told.

Last year, Paris came under attack by a small group of terrorists. Antoine was at home, looking after his young son when he started getting text messages, asking if he and his wife were ok. He was fine, his baby was fine... but his wife, Hélène was out with friends at a music concert. Hélène was one of the people who died that night.

Three days later, Antoine wrote an open letter to his wife's killers on Facebook. He stated to them that he would not let himself or his 17 month old son cower or be defined by their acts. That his son will insult them by his happiness and freedom. That they will not have either his or his son's hate. The Facebook message went viral and this memoir follows both Antoine and his son, Melvin, in the days that followed.

I am going to admit that this isn't my normal reading. This is so far removed from my normal reading, I can't even really tell you why, when I got the email from NetGalley, I rushed there and requested it. This felt vital to read.

This isn't an easy read. This is a short novel, with short chapters (as Antoine describes it later in the memoir, these chapters are like polaroid shots of those days, touching on some events but not all), but I found reading them difficult. I would only read a few pages - maybe a chapter - before having to put my kindle down. This isn't an easy read - the event is recently, it's fresh in everyone's mind and with events that have recently happened, it feels more closer to the bone than ever.

But, saying that, there is a hopefulness to Antoine and his son's story. Yes, what they went through those days and the days/weeks/months/the year that followed and the future to come is hard and painful, but there is hope. There is hope, joy, love, kindness in the world and, no matter how dark the world is, we still have these elements and we must treasure them with every fibre of our being.

Antoine says he started writing this after Hélène's death to cope, and because of this, you can feel the rawness to it. And the fact this is felt through the translation work of Sam Taylor is beautiful.

Not everyone will like this book, but it is important to take the themes - hope, kindness, love - can carry them with us.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Audiobook Review - Betrayal

Not sure how audiobooks are saving me from my weird reading slump, but I am very grateful! GO AUDIOBOOKS!

Today, am going to review/chat about Betrayal by Martina Cole. Now, I must admit I have read Martina Cole many MANY years ago - around the time The Know was published in hardback. Yes, THAT FAR INTO THE PAST!!! I remember reading it over Christmas (was Xmas present) and loving it because it was so grown up and so very unlike my normal reads. I was meant to go back to reading more Martina but got sidetracked. So, when the lovely people at Midas PR asked if there was any audiobooks coming out in October/November I wanted to review, I jumped on Betrayal. 

Aiden O'Hara has been the head of the family for as long as he can remember. And with him rising quickly in the London underworld, he wants to be on head. Head of the family. Head of the game. And he's going to stay there.

His lover, Jade, has been in the game for longer than Aiden. Mother to his son, calmer of his temper and rage and a force in her own right, Jade knows the truth. She knows that no one is indestructible. Especially in their line of work.

Keep your friends close, your enemies closer and your family close of all, because betrayal comes in all shape and sizes...

I am going to admit this: I am in two minds over Betrayal. I enjoyed the story and kept listening to the audiobook, but at the same time, I kept help but think that I had read this story before...

I enjoy Martina's writing and I like that, while this is very much outside my comfort zone, I sped through and enjoyed the story. This is readable fun and shows Martina is still a force to be reckon with in the crime gangster genre.

However, Betrayal felt lacking. I know some readers of Martina have voiced their disappointment over this book and I understand and agree with some of their problems. The story felt stale and wasn't anything new - I am sure we have all read/watched this story before. There's ever a scene where characters discuss what film is better: Goodfellas or The Godfather (does every gangster-type story have this conversation in?). The characters didn't feel quite fleshed out. Certain words and phrases were used repetitively over the course of several paragraphs. Certain elements of the story were dragged out while the ending felt rushed.

The best way to describe it is this story felt very cookie-cutted. The story, the characters, the situations, they were all cookie-cutted. All very tried and tested. While I don't think that this is a bad thing in some books and series, it felt out of place here. And for an author like Martina Cole to use this formula is off.

I liked listening to the story, don't get me wrong. But it's was lacking. It felt very flat and very paint-by-numbers. And while this might be ok for some readers, other readers will not be so forgiving...

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Who Owns the Story?

This is something I keep coming back to. It doesn't happen often that an idea keeps coming back to me. I chatted about it a while ago for the Bookish Brits in a roundabout kinda way a few years ago. Since then, I think about it when something happens or a debate flares up. Then I carry on with my day.

But in the past few days/week, events have happened on TV and books that made me go "Ok, I have an hour spare, let's try and write this up".

So, question: when a story is released into the world, who owns it?

Before you all go "That is a stupid question!", hear me out.

In the past few days, the TV show Gilmore Girls has released 4 feature-length episodes and we have been told that the final ever (to my knowledge) episode will end with 4 words. These four words are important as these were the words the creator of the show, Amy Sherman-Palladino, always wanted to end the show on. But, due to events (aka her leaving the show at the end of season six due to network and then the show getting cancelled the following season), fans never got them. Now, fans have seen the show and have heard the words, it's thrown a mix of reactions. Some fans are excited, and others... not so much. 

This is the same with How To Get Away With Murder. In the winter finale of season three, we discover that one of the main character is dead. This is a huge shock for fans as it's such a small cast... and fans reacted with shock and panic and "This is going to ruin EVERYTHING about the show!"

This is the same with books, films and radio. Remember readers react when they were reading Veronica Roth's Allegiant? Or film goers reactions when they were watching the Hans scene in Frozen? Or certain moments in BBC Radio 4's The Archers while it was tackling Helen's domestic abuse storyline? Or fans reactions when JK Rowling shot down a question on whether Sirius Black was gay? 

Yes, these stories belong to the creators. But once it's out of their hands/control, does it still below to them? 

Technically, yes. It does. Open up any book and you will see, on the information page, that story's copyright belongs to the author. With TV shows and films, the ownership belongs to either the broadcaster (BBC, ITV, BSkyB, etc) or the production company (Warner Bros, ABC Studios, Endemol Shine Group, etc). 

But... and here is where things get a little tricky with my thinking. Has anyone heard of the term "The Author is Dead"?

The term means that, once the story is out of the creator's control, they no longer have input. Because all the information should have been told. So, some people would say that, unless certain information/facts are put into the story and the creator states it in an interview or on their website, that information isn't valid. 

So, this would mean things like Pottermore wouldn't count because it's "outside" the story. 

Let's stay with Harry Potter. A good example of this is Sirius and Lupin's relationship. In the books, they are shown as close friends. In some parts of the fandom, fans wonder if they were gay or bi and might have feelings for one another. It's never stated in the books that they are gay or bisexual so fans can say that they are. JK Rowling tweeting that Sirius isn't gay is null and void because of the Author is Dead and this wasn't in the story. 

Let's say one reader who has read the Harry Potter novels has always read Neville as having autism. There's nothing in the book confirming or denying this, but if the reader sees Neville this way, then there's nothing wrong with that. This reader just reads a character different, compared to another reader who might say "I never read Neville as having autism. But I always read Luna as Muslim." Which could be different from a third reader going "Never saw Luna or Neville that way. But I do think Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan are in a same sex relationship". A fourth reader might go "Really? Never saw those characters the way you guys have, although, I've read Professor Flitwick as a baddass transgender..."

And I could go on and on. You see, every reader comes into a story and away from a story differently compared to the next reader. 

These readers might read any book - say, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and all could say "I saw Cath, Wren and their father as black" which goes against what most illustrations show.

But these ideas that readers have could go against the creator's own. 

So, who's right? The creator or the audience? 

My theory? Both. Yes, the creator created this story and we, the audience, must respect the work and their own ideas. If the creator says "I wrote a character this way because ...", the audience must respect this is how the author saw them.

However, this is the two-way street. Just because the creator saw this character one way, doesn't mean the audience should either. If they see said character a different way, the author must respect this, not try and shoot it down and go "No, you're wrong!". The creator should go "I thought of them this way, but if you see them different, that's ok." 

It works both way. Stories and information isn't going to be please everyone, but we should respect each person's take on stories, characters and themes within the story. Respect is key. 

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Book Review - An Illustrated History of Notable Shadowhunters & Denizens of Downworld

I am a bit behind on my Shadowhunters reading. I have, on my current TBR; City of Fallen Angels, City of Lost Souls, Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy and Lady Midnight (though, when I do get my rear in gear to read these, I won't be reading these in order. I sense I might read Shadowhunter Academy and Lady Midnight before I read City of Fallen Angels and City of Lost Souls. And let's not get me start of the upcoming Last Hours trilogy coming soon...).

So, imagine my surprise when, out of nowhere, Simon and Schuster sent me a copy of (brace yourselves for long title to say in one breath) An Illustrated History of Notable Shadowhunters and Denizens of Downworld. And with my weird reading slump, I decide to blitz this tiny gift. 

In this anthology, we see characters from all of Cassandra Clare's Shadowhunter world - The Infernal Devices, The Mortal Instruments, Tales from the Shadowhunters Academy, The Dark Artifices and the upcoming The Last Hours - with never before known titbits of information on each character and with illustrations from Cassandra Jean - creator of the Shadowhunter Tarot that we've seen on Clare's website. 

I am a bit torn over this book. On one hand, I think true fans of this series will love this christmas stocking filler. Cassandra Jean's art is beautiful and is the real selling point for this book, in my opinion (and I love reading art books and spent quite a bit of time looking at illustrations in the books I read). 

Like I said, true fans of the series - all of the Shadowhunters series - will love this. But for someone who isn't up to speed (aka myself), the information given is a bit of a problem. While new information (and fans will be reading these and going "oh, that makes sense with so-and-so"), it doesn't feel entirely important to the world. For example, why is it important to tell us that, when younger, this one character had a brief spell at stamp collecting? 

There were times that I looked at this and thought "Is this a cash cow moment?". 

This is a die-hard fan book. But if you are a casual fan, I would say get a copy from your library. But go enjoy the art. 

Monday, 21 November 2016

Audiobook Review - Fun Science

So... my AFN was a bit of a bust, wasn't it? STUPID READING SLUMP!

But, because of this, I treated myself to listening & reading what I wanted for first few weeks in November to get myself out of reading slump and get myself up straight before the blog goes off on it's Christmas holiday. So, let's start the Xmas countdown with Fun Science.

I was given this audiobook via Midas PR and (thanks, you guys!) in exchange for honest review so, like with every book/ebook/audiobook review on this blog, am going to be honest!

Charlie McDonnell (also known as youTuber, CharlieIsSoCoollike) has a thing about science. Not in school, but once he left and started reading up about it. And here is the bases of the book. Where Charlie writes about life, the universe and explaining why science is actually pretty cool.

I am not a fan of non-fiction. It's not my go-to when I read - and this is something I want to change a little in the future. So... for someone who doesn't like non-fiction, what was this audiobook like?

Quite good, actually. I was surprised how much I enjoyed listening to Charlie talking science and not making it sound overwhelming (which, let's face it, it can be!). He tried, as a science fan himself, not to be all technical and simplify it down enough. It was a good mix of humour from Charlie himself and his editor's notes, while breaking down science into bite size chucks.

I do have a few problems with the audiobook. Mainly that I believe this would be better in book form rathe than audiobook form. I say this as there were times, I felt like I was missing something. I was missing an illustration/editor's note or a joke that would work on paper but not in audio. There was one or two things, also, that the I wanted to go back and relisten to a piece of science for one reason or another, but couldn't on an audiobook (whereas a book would be easier).

But this is a good gateway to making science fun and easier for people to read and understand without readers going "Oh no! Science is so dull!!!". I am hopefully that Charlie writes another science book - the solar system would be my hope.