Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Spreading the word: Liar (Justine Larbalestier)

Yesterday was the release date of Liar by Justine Larbalestier, author of How to ditch your fairy.

If you haven't heard about all the controversy — not about the book, but about the US cover — a good summary (with links!) is at YA Highway.

The thing is, the book is about a liar. OK, maybe you got that from the title. But Micah, the main character, lies the whole way through the book — except to the reader. She promises — over and over again — that everything she tells the reader is true.

One thing she says is that she's black.

The US cover showed an Asian/white girl.

Apparently the publisher didn't feel a black girl on the cover would "sell" well. Not only the author, but many of her fans, got justifiably upset about this — after all, if the main character was lying about such a basic thing, it calls into question everything the main character says in the rest of the book (like Atonement, but not in a good way). In the end, such a big stink was raised that the publishers decided to change the cover to the one at the top of this post. (The masses triumph again!) Still not a very black black person, but I think she says she's three-quarters white anyway, so to me that's still believable.

If I decide to buy this book, there's no way I'm getting any cover except the new US one — just to show there's no reason to discriminate like that.

The controversy's got to be good for it, though. There are so many people who never would have heard of Liar without the controversy. And the author won through in the end, so all's well that ends well.

Finally, to help us poor readers to decide whether we'll like it, Ms Larbalestier (I think that is such an awesome surname, by the way. I don't know how you pronounce it, but I like to roll it like "lar-bar-LEHST-ee-yeahh") has put an excerpt of Liar up on her website. So if it sounds good, but you're not too sure, go check it out!

And happy (belated) release date to Ms Larbalestier!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

New focus

I've been noticing lately that a lot of my posts have been really book-related. Then Book Blogger Appreciation Week happened along, and since then I've begun wondering if I should turn this into more of a book blog, too. I still want the freedom of being able to talk about my life, too, though.

So I've decided to officially make this a bit more of a book-focussed blog*. I still might write posts about my cat, or work issues, or writing — or whatever else I feel like blogging about. But I'll try to have regular book reviews; I might do book giveaways, or author interviews. My blog will be more book-focussed than before.

*I can't promise how book-focussed I'll be during November. During November I'm always pretty focussed on NaNoWriMo, especially since this year I'll have to aim for 100,000 words again**.

**I wrote 100,000 words last year. I can't just go back to 50,000 now! Especially considering how much better last year's was.

I'm also going to try to have loose themes for every month. For example, October is New Zealand Book Month, so expect to see some reviews (and possibly a giveaway or two) of books by New Zealand authors coming up!

What do you think? If you're a regular reader, do you skim over the book-related posts? The non-book-related posts? Do you want more reviews? More posts about contests? Ideas for a potential new title for the blog? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Spreading the word: As you wish (Jackson Pearce)

This sounds like a cute book. (Here's a link to author Jackson Pearce's website, where she does her best to sell her book, also in a very cute way.)

As you wish stars Viola, a girl who inadvertantly calls a genie into our world. He promises her three wishes, but she's afraid of wishing for the wrong thing.

While she's trying to decide on the perfect wish, however, what she doesn't realise is that the genie is start to fall for her.

After she's made her first wish, she realises that she's fallen for him, too. But two more wishes and he's gone from her world... forever (da da da dahhh).

OK, I don't know if I'd read it myself. I don't know that much more about it. I always prefer to read a sample of the book or a sample of the author's writing to know if I'd like a book (which is why Amazon's "Look inside" feature is genius).

Update: Author Jackson Pearce has kindly stopped by and let me know that there is actually an excerpt of As you wish available! So go check it out and see if it's your cup of tea.

(Every time an author stops by my blog or sends me a free bookmark or anything I have this uncontrollable urge to buy their book as a thank-you... it's a very expensive habit.)

Friday, 18 September 2009

October: NZ Book Month

So here's the deal.

Next month (October) is New Zealand Book Month, and I want to show my support of Kiwi authors by buying some books. Problem is, I don't really know that many. So:

Whose books should I buy? Any recommendations? The only NZ-authored books I've really read have been Maurice Gee's children's books (many many years ago), some of Katherine Mansfield's short stories, the various Six Packs, The Sound of Butterflies by Rachael King, and nearly everything by the fantastic Juliet Marillier.

But I want to use New Zealand Book Month as an opportunity to discover some new fiction authors.

So what would you recommend? Mary McCallum's The blue? Eleanor Catton's The rehearsal? Emily Perkins' Novel about my wife?

I don't know that many New Zealand authors — or books. But I want to find out! So, please — if you have any recommendations, let me know.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Upcoming books' excerpts

I thought I'd devote this post to highlighting some excerpts of up'n'coming books. If I'm buying a new author's works, I always like to have a sample of their writing to read so I know I'll like what I buy.

Of course, this isn't the case with Juliet Marillier, whose books I whole-heartedly love, but I thought I'd share this recently-released excerpt of her new book, Heart's Blood, anyway. The book looks good; to be honest, if I hadn't read her work before I might be a bit iffy about it; but because I already know I love her books, I can't wait for Heart's Blood (and have already pre-ordered it).

The second excerpt isn't from a debut author either, although it's an author I haven't read before. The excerpt is, however, from another book I've pre-ordered: Ice by Sarah Beth Durst. The book's about a re-telling of the story of the Polar Bear King and the North Wind's daughter — and if you don't immediately recall the fairy-tale, that's OK: Durst obligingly sets out the backstory to the fairytale in the excerpt.

I haven't had a chance to read the third excerpt myself: or, rather, the third lot of excerpts. Publisher Simon & Schuster have released a sampler of excerpts from several new books by Jessica Bendinger, Sarah Beth Durst, Nick Lake, Sarah Mussi, Amy Reed, Lauren Strasnick, Rhonda Stapleton, Jessica Verday and Becca Fitzpatrick (the only one, apart from Durst, that I've even heard of). Lots of new authors to discover!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

YouTube Tuesday: Leviathan (Scott Westerfeld)

I've never read a steampunk novel, but they've never appealed at all. I've heard a bit about Scott Westerfeld lately, too, especially his Uglies trilogy; but his latest book, Leviathan, is steampunk so I've never really paid it much attention.

Then I saw this book trailer for Leviathan:

I'm still not sure I'd read the book. I might buy Uglies, and decide based on that. But I do think that is an extremely cool book trailer.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Countdown challenge

I've found a new challenge to sign up for! The goal is to read one book published in 2001, two books published in 2002... etc, until you read ten books published in 2010. All books must be read between 09/09/09 and 10/10/10.

2001 (1/1)
The ice child by Elizabeth McGregor (my review)

2002 (2/2)
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
Kushiel's chosen by Jacqueline Carey

2003 (3/3)
Can you keep a secret? by Sophie Kinsella
The hollow kingdom by Clare B Dunkle
Kushiel's avatar by Jacqueline Carey

2004 (4/4)
Mira, mirror by Mette Ivie Harrison
Mansfield by C K Stead
Homeland by Clare Francis
The chocolate run by Dorothy Koomson

2005 (5/5)
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Pretties by Scott Westerfeld
The undomestic goddess by Sophie Kinsella
Poison study by Maria V Snyder***
Mystic and rider by Sharon Shinn

2006 (6/6)
Specials by Scott Westerfeld
The final empire by Brandon Sanderson***
Magic study by Maria V Snyder
The tenth circle by Jodi Picoult
Kitty by Deborah Challinor
Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

2007 (7/7)
Cybele's secret by Juliet Marillier
The swan kingdom by Zoe Marriott
The name of the wind by Patrick Rothfuss***
The well of ascension by Brandon Sanderson
Sasha by Joel Shepherd
Making money by Terry Pratchett
The blue by Mary McCallum

2008 (8/8)
Graceling by Kristin Cashore***
Heir to Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier
The hunger games by Suzanne Collins
Fire study by Maria V Snyder
The hero of ages by Brandon Sanderson
Making money by Terry Pratchett
The poison throne by Celine Kiernan (my review)
Girls in trucks by Katie Crouch

2009 (9/9)
The pain merchants by Janice Hardy
Ice by Sarah Beth Durst (my review)
Heart's blood by Juliet Marillier
Fire by Kristin Cashore
Evermore by Alyson Noël
Twenties girl by Sophie Kinsella
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Storm glass by Maria V Snyder***
Sea glass by Maria V Snyder***

2010 (10/10)
Girls like funny boys by Dave Franklin (my review)
The demon's covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan***
Mistwood by Leah Cypess
Rebel by R J Anderson
Crossing over by Anna Kendall
Tsunami blue by Gayle Ann Williams
The maze runner by James Dashner
My way to hell by Dakota Cassidy
Stillwater Creek by Alison Booth
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

***Pick of the year

Friday, 11 September 2009

Cadbury go Fair Trade

I gotta say, if/when Cadbury go Fair Trade, I don't think I'll bother buying Nestle, Whittakers, or other chocolate again.

World Vision Australia chief executive Tim Costello commented: "Fair cocoa pricing is the difference between children wielding a machete in the cocoa field or a pencil in the classroom."

If Cadbury do go Fair Trade, I think I'll have to buy a big lot of chocolate, just to show my support for them.

It's for the kids....

Thursday, 10 September 2009

The Amber Spyglass (Philip Pullman)

The Amber Spyglass Things heat up as angels, witches, armoured bears and cliff-ghasts come together for a final fight — or, in the cliff-ghasts' case, to feast on whatever bodies are left over from the final fight. Will and Lyra star again.

To start with my one disappointment: there were a few parts which seemed really slow to me: council meetings which didn't illustrate much; political comments from minor figures. I wanted to get to the action!

Both this book and The subtle knife move between characters quite a lot; you see Lyra, and then just when it gets really exciting it changes to see what Will is doing, and then it skips to Dr Mary "Tempter" Malone in a world of diamond-framed animals on seedpod wheels.

OK, I thought the seedpod-wheeled animals were awesome. I want to see them in the movie. But still. Very effective technique on the part of Mr Pullman; but damn, I could not read that book fast enough.

Couple of quibbles again: I found that Dr Malone acted younger than she was: some of her dialogue didn't quite "mesh" for me. But it is a young adult book, so the language probably worked better for the target audience.

Also, a couple of loose ends weren't really explained for me. We're introduced to the soul-eating Spectres in Book Two; but for some reason, two characters in Book Three wander around happily without ever being affected by the Spectres. Why? We're never told.

This trilogy really reminded me of what some people said when I told them my theory about the Christian God. Our theories are virtually identical, which irritates me. I'd started to write a story incorporating my theory (similar to how Pullman did it, only from Lucifer's point of view instead of from humans' point of view) and now it'll all seem like plagiarism. So there goes that brilliant idea!

Maybe it just goes to show that great minds think alike.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Mutes & Earthquakes (& well-timed advice)

Nice timing: After Monday's post about my lecturer's writing advice, I stumbled across this essay about writing by New Zealand writer and tutor Bill Manhire, in the introduction to Mutes & Earthquakes:

Voice shouldn't be confused with originality, another of those big ideas like inspiration and sincerity. We all learn to speak by mimicking the adult figures around us. We hear a noise and copy it....When we grow up we can hear our parents inside the sounds we make, and yet we are still ourselves - distinctive, and distinctively different from the voices which shaped us. The writing voice is like this, too.

This is why imitation can be very useful for a writer. You find your way to your voice by being influenced, by copying. The twelve-year-old Frank Sargeson started copying out Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe into an exercise book, which is going a bit far; but the idea has a strange sort of merit. Poets, especially, can be silly about this. I have met plenty who declare that they never read other poets: their own pure, original voice might somehow be contaminated. People who talk like that aren't writers. They simply like the idea of calling themselves writers....I don't imagine there are many aspiring screen writers who decide not to go to films on the grounds that the experience may destroy their art. The only person who will never become a writer is the one who doesn't read. Concert pianists listen to music. Great chefs like to eat.

So I encourage people to read widely.

I rest my case.

Manhire also quoted an unrelated but equally cool saying from writer Flannery O'Connor:

Discussing story-writing in terms of plot, character, and theme is like trying to describe the expression on a face by saying where the eyes, nose, and mouth are.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Monday, 7 September 2009

Writing advice

A creative writing lecturer gave our class some advice one day on how to make sure we never plagiarise or copy other writer's ideas.

His advice was this:

Don't read new books.

Don't watch movies.

He was quite serious. His theory was that going to movies and reading all the new pulp fiction around is a highway to having no original ideas left, because movies and books will fill your head with their ideas and writing styles and ways of doing things.

I mean no disrespect to him, but I think that theory is absolute bull.

I plan to read as much and as widely as I can. Not only classics (I think he approved of classics. He brought Nietzsche to class and read us chapters out of it. With effort, I stayed awake: not everyone else did), but new books; old books; in-between books. I want to read other authors' debuts, and established authors' series. I want to immerse myself in YA fantasy — no doubt a dangerous choice, since that's what I want to write and the potential for plagiarism is endless — but because that's what I want to write, and I want to see how others do it and the language they speak, the tools they use, the imagery they portray.

I plan to watch every movie that appeals to me; that is based on a book I love or a true story that intrigues; every cute little rom-com that sounds like it might have that extra spice of wit or intelligence — and this despite the probability that opportunity for plagiarism abounds.

Other ideas inspire my own.

My ideas and this lecturer's very seldom meshed. I learned only one thing from him that I did think was good advice, and that was when another girl in the class complained that her characters' actions "never seemed believable". He gazed at her in astonishment.

"What are these characters? They are words. They don't exist except in words. If your characters aren't acting in a way that's believable, that's because you aren't making the words believable."

OK, I can't remember his exact phrasing, but it was something like that.

I've often heard writers complaining that their characters won't behave, and I think that's a good thing: that shows your characters have life. But you need to be able to control your characters' actions — to change the words to make that believable for who they are. You can make anything believable, with the right words.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Bookish notices

Published author appreciation day
Earlier this week was Published author appreciation day. Your challenge is to buy a new book (not second-hand — not borrowed from a friend — not a library book) to support a good author. If you're short on cash and/or want to support a good cause, I can recommend Good Books NZ, who have very reasonable prices on most books and have free delivery — and all proceeds go to support Oxfam. The only disadvantage is that Good Books don't stock newly-released books, so for those you may want to go to Fishpond or Amazon (or, y'know, a bricks-and-mortar store).

Love a writer?
Eileen Flanagan gives advice on what to do if you love/want to support/are friends with a writer. The two key points, in my opinion: buy their books; write reviews of/blog about their books.

Free ARC giveaway
Janice Hardy is giving away an advanced reader's copy of her debut novel The Shifter for the best zombie title.

Free Kiwi Writers book available now
The Kiwi Writers short-story collection is now available. You can either download it for free or buy a paperback copy at cost price from There are seven stories in the collection. A bit about the book (more here):

Fly the skies in a dirigible, explore a strange new planet, and feel magic in your veins in this, the first short story collection from the members of Kiwi Writers. Within these pages you will be given a chance to sample life through the eyes of those in love, loss, lust and confusion, spanning the genres of fantasy, science fiction, steam-punk and adult fiction.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

The subtle knife (Philip Pullman)

The Subtle Knife Will, a young boy living in our own world, has just murdered a man, and now he's on the run... into another world, where he meets Lyra, and finds out about his own impossible-sounding destiny.

This is where the story really starts turning the heat up. We're introduced to Will, who hails from our world. But one warning: This is not a standalone book, like Book One is. Don't even start reading Book Two if you don't have Book Three by your side, waiting for you to pick up breathlessly the minute you finish The subtle knife.

Unlike a lot of trilogies, I don't feel the second book here really lets down the first one. The stakes are still high (although not quite as personal, overall); it's still fast-paced and packed with action; and while Will is a great new character, it's good that Lyra's still the other main character.

Again, this is a very good book, and I'd recommend it — after reading Book One. Pullman seems to assume everyone will have already read the previous book; so if you don't read Book One first, you might be pretty lost as there are constant references to it.

OK, I know this isn't exactly a long review, but honestly: this is more Part One of Book Three than a standalone book. Next week: My (much longer) review of Book Three!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Gang patches banned

The Wanganui District Council have recently put through a ban on gang patches (with a $2000 fine if you're caught). While the intent behind this ban is good, I think the idea has bad written all over it.

As Dan was commenting yesterday, if you don't let gangs wear patches, they'll only find some other way of identifying themselves.

The ban came into force yesterday — and a small protest was organised in Wanganui. Civil rights protesters turned up, as well as some gang members. And instead of patches, all the Black Power members were wearing blue hats and t-shirts; all of the Mongrel Mob guys were wearing red hoodies.

Gangs will always find some way to identify themselves. Imagine if this ban continues, and the Wanganui Black Power members all start wearing blue t-shirts as an alternative. Does that mean anyone wearing a blue t-shirt is going to be seen as a Black Power member?

Or is the Council then going to ban blue t-shirts?

As someone who doesn't know any gang members, I think gang patches are a great idea. They tell me who I need to walk carefully around. You can take away the patches, but it won't change anyone's behaviour.

The only benefit I can see is a potential reduction in fights. But if all the gang members just start wearing, for example, a certain colour t-shirt — won't that end up increasing the number of fights? And, probably, reducing the number of colours people feel safe wearing.

Plus, there is the whole freedom of speech thing. I can understand hoodies not being allowed in some places — it's always nice when security cameras can see people's faces — but a gang patch ban just seems ridiculous.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

YouTube Tuesday: The Time Traveler's Wife

For anyone who hasn't heard: The Time Traveler's Wife has been made into a movie, so I thought I'd post the trailer for YouTube Tuesday.

I know it's terrible of me to say this, but I did not like the book.

*waits for outraged screaming to subside*

I thought it was melodramatic, full of gratuitous sex scenes, and slightly disgusting at times. It was, however, written well enough and emotively enough that I cried like a baby several times during the book, and expect to do so several more during the movie. I hated the last scene of the book; I loved the last scene of the book. The book made me intensely sad.

*The 40ish-year-old man having sex with an 18-year-old? Even if she does grow up to become his wife, that's still disgusting to me, especially when he time-travels back to his wife in the present day and notices how she's older/less attractive now — it's basically like cheating on her with an 18-year-old, even if it is her at age 18.

I'm not saying it isn't well-written; I'm not saying it didn't deserve to be made into a movie. I'm saying it made me sad, and I disliked parts of it (e.g. the constant sex and disgusting factor) enough not to want to read it again.

But I think the movie actually looks better than the book, so far. It looks like it deals more with the wife's life without her husband and her anger/issues, which to me would be much more profound issues.

Plus, Eric Bana plays the husband. Mm-mmm.