Sunday, October 27, 2013

MelbNano: 2013

Well, I wasn't going to do NaNoWriMo this month, but now I am. Funny how that happens. I'm still firmly of the opinion of it being @mattlangwrites' fault.

We Melbourne Nano-Goers were out en masse in the Fitzroy Gardens for a picnic and general gathering before the hard work of writing 50,000 in 30 days.* There included piles and piles of food, a relocation due to wedding photos. There even included show bags!

Special thanks go out to @notalwaysweak for her high levels of organation in getting everything prepared for yesterday. I came out of it feeling... inspired, and definitely ready to write in four more days.

* Actually, my projected estimate for this year is 70,000, so it's just organised to start writing 20,000 of it before November begins, right? Right?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

New Book Release: 'The Ocean at the End of the Lane' by Neil Gaiman

Several years ago, I decided I wanted to be one of these people who love being a Neil Gaiman fan. I'd heard stories about the kinds of things he wrote and thought I liked the sound of them. Most of all, I thought I liked the sound of the novel American Gods.

I started American Gods. I haven't finished it yet. Don't get me wrong. This isn't a criticism of the work. This is more a criticism of my ability to take in and understand it at the time. Just like his wife Amanda Palmer has said, this novel flew right past my soul.

It was one of the reasons why I was so excited to see Kevin Hearne's book Hounded earlier on this year being described as the best parts of American Gods and Dresden Files. And, also to my pleasure, it was a significantly easier read.

So now I'm entering into a one-book-per-month read-a-thon of Neil Gaiman's works (retweeted by @neilhimself), starting with The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Early on, before any of us had started this reading, one of the girls in the group linked us all to this blog post written by Amanda Palmer:

"he started working on a short story, something he’d had in the works but wasn’t quite certain of. it wasn’t a memoir, per se, but a purée on a lower blender speed. some part of what pushed him to work on this (instead of the other four projects he had deadlines for) was to give the story to me, like some kind of olive branch, maybe….the story that never got shared that day in surrey hills...

neil started crafting a string of words that was like a long hand reaching out of his heart and across the void that i’d put between us. i didn’t understand that, then. i only see it now."

(read more)

So, I've just finished reading this latest book by Neil Gaiman. The Ocean at the End of the Lane came out three months ago.

It was... It was the kind of book that made me want to bash my head against a wall for taking so many years to actually *get* Neil's writing. The layers that this book took you through were utterly astounding. On the surface, this is a book about a seven year old child who goes through what you think is a memorable experience, only to find that there is so much more than the story of a seven year old to be taken in.

For those who are fans of Gaiman and realise this is his most autobiographical work, you will enjoy stepping into the story and finding out the difference between metaphor and imagination, appreciating the layers as you go deeper and deeper. For those who aren't, this book is easily read on its own without any prior knowledge outside of its pages just for the characters and the wonderfully crafted language.

I rated this highly. I thought it was amazing.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

'The Hobbit' and talks concerning Middle Earth

Very recently, I have been the proud recipient of an iPad to help with work. They say that it's for work. 13G of music and a whole bunch of personal downloads later, and I have started wondering exactly how much for work this really is...

However, on my list of downloads are a large number of free lectures I have been listening to on iTunes U. The most interesting (to me) so far has been a series of lectures by one Corey Olsen.

Setting aside that this man is a brilliant public speaker, his lectures are so fluid that you really feel like he's speaking to you about something he's passionate about, rather than words printed to a sheet. His subjects are largely to do with Tolkien, and the series of lectures I have been listening to lately have more specifically to do with The Hobbit.

This is a very exciting time for us Hobbit fans. (I include myself in this group not so much as a fan of the books, but as a fan of talks surrounding Middle Earth and, of course, the pretty pretty actors that seem to populate its lands. I am firmly of the opinion, however, that I am just not grown-up enough yet to appreciate this literature, and it is something my brain with eventually work itself around to when the requisite amount of time has passed.)

One of the reason why it is an exciting time is that it is only two months now until the inaugural second movie of this new trilogy makes its way to our screens.

Secondly, it is only a little more than a week since the second of The Hobbit trailer videos were released to the masses.

For those who missed it, there was another trailer that was released about four months ago, in June:

It's going to be fun to see the likes of Christopher Lee and Orlando Bloom present in the cast for these stories once again come December.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Poetry Time - John Keats as read by contemporary British male actors.

I post a lot about fiction on this blog. But in my undergratuate days, I was quite the fan of poetry. Shakespeare to Bryon. Keats, Shelly, Blake. Eliot, Hughes, Plath. It didn't matter to me.

It wasn't that poetry readings were stereotypically shorter than novel readings in courses that often had less time than desired for reading the course content. It was that... I could read something by any of these writers and be transported. I could put it down, only to pick it up and read it again, gaining some other insight to what the poet might have been trying to say.

From there, it was a short step to biographies, trying to find out exactly what they had been trying to say with these words, what were the influences that were pressing in on them in the times of their writing and, in Byron and Shelley's cases particularly, the connections that these poets made in each others lives.

I'm not so much a fan of contemporary poetry, but I am a fan of contemporary actors reading out Keats in their beautiful English voices. There's just something about having poetry read out to you to make you hear it completely differently.

A few years ago, a movie called Bright Star came out, starring Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish. I was, of course, one of the first people in line to watch this movie as soon as I found out it was based on the story between John Keats and Fanny Brawne, the love of Keats' life. It was there that I first saw understood the meaning written into the above poem.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine posted another Keats reading on Twitter and drew my attention to 'Ode to a Nightingale' being read by none other than Benedict Cumberbatch.

This poem is one of my absolute favourites, filled as it is with Dryads and Bacchus and "starry Fays" and Darklings. The wonder of this poem is only increased with Benedict's deep and moving reading of it.

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
         I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call'd him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
         To take into the air my quiet breath;
                Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
         To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
                While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
                        In such an ecstasy!

Edit: I mentioned Ben Whishaw in his role as John Keats in Bright Star, and lo, here is another reading: 'La Bell Dame Sans Merci' ('The Beautiful Lady Without Mercy').

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

October 2013 reading list

I intend to read a lot of books this month.

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Actually, there's one more book that should be here but which needed to be returned to the library when I went down yesterday. Insurgent was read really quickly this month. It was just that good. 

I know this post is just a little bit later than I usually post these, but there were some books that I didn't have in my possession until the library brought them in for me. What's truly funny about the above photo, though, is knowing how many books I have in this house, and seeing that I have pulled all but one of them out of a combination of local libraries. 


5/5 - Much better than expected!
After reading the first one in this series, I was a bit wary about picking this one up, but it was one hell of a book! Much much better than the first. Enjoyable, easy to read, believable. Makes me want to dive immediately for the last one.


4/5 - Really enjoyable. Can't wait to see what comes next.
Another sequel. Another young adult novel. After reading the first book in this series, I knew the second one was going to be a winner, and from what I've read so far, it is. Where Cinder was about the story of Cinderella in a future version of this world, Scarlet is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a retold story about Little Red Riding Hood. Usually, I'm sick of Little Red Riding Hood stories, having studied them to death in university, but this one definitely brings something new to the tale while keeping true to a lot of the old tropes.

Discovery of Witches.

DNF - There's at least one in every month.
Many people have suggested I read this one. Thankfully for me, I have a complete and utter weakness for books that people take the time to consider might be for me. So it's on the list.

The Book Thief

5/5 - Stunning. A book that stays with you.
Another book that too many people around me were talking about, so I just had to have a look. All I knew going in was that it was narrated by Death (look at the cover again :D). **Spoiler** It is about World War II in Germany. Just something I think people should get a heads up on.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

5/5 - Evocative, thoughtful and somehow honest. 
I have only ever tried to read one other of Neil Gaiman's books, and it was American Gods. This book is much shorter and has a quasi-memoir nature to it that we don't usually find in Gaiman's books. I absolutely cant wait to crack this one open.

The Realms of the Gods

4/5 - Lots of fun to reread.
This is the last in a series of buddy reads I have been doing with friends online over the last several months. Usually, I try not to reread things because 1) there are just too many books and I feel behind as it is, but 2) especially for books I read so long ago, it is hard to review them like I try to do on my Goodreads account with every book read. Still, its been enjoyable to come back to this old favourite, and I'm probably going to be hard pressed not to return to other Tortall books after this month.

Magic Burns

3/5 - Pretty good, still don't feel like I've gotten into the series yet. 
Another book series I started last month and am continuing through on this month. Apparently, though, this series has six books in it so far. So it'll keep me busy for another couple of months yet. Just your run of the mill paranormal fantasy series so far. Not as good as Patricia Briggs, but it has the element of post apocalyptic world setting going for it.

The Secret of Ella and Misha

DNF - There's at least one in every month.
Jessica Sorensen is a name that just keeps popping up around everywhere lately, so when I had this chance to pick up her book this month, I made sure to do it. Also, it's a fairly short novel. How hard would it be to add an eighth  book to my month, right? (Especially when I'm more used to reading six books per month, no trouble at all!)


Oh loyal readers of this blog, you should know how to get to my Goodreads account by now. However, if you don't, it's here: