Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Do you think I've tired of Beauty and the Beast Retellings? Yes? You're wrong.

Hunted, Meagan Spooner
I haven't tired of them.  Nope.
  • And in this one the writing is above average.  
  • It being a retelling, there isn't a lot of room for surprise (so when Beauty isn't seeing things for what they are, and I am, I forgive, because...I know how this ends).  I pretty much saw everything coming. 
  • I like that the sisters in this tale aren't like Beauty, but are still likable.  
  • No sex or swearing, but plenty of romanticised Stockholm Syndrome.  I am convinced she belongs with him.  Go, Spooner!
  • The magical elements are beautiful.
Yes, it's predictable -- it's a retelling -- but I enjoyed it for its crafting and was grateful nothing nasty detracted from it (misogyny, stereotyping, swearing, sex, plot holes etc.).  This was nice to snuggle up with.  For fans of Barefoot on the Wind and Cruel Beauty.

Monday, June 26, 2017

"I wouldn't go out with you if you were the last person left on this planet."

These Broken Stars, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
"I wouldn't go out with you if you were the last person left on this planet."  But another planet?  *eyebrow raise*

That's the premise.  I dove in.

It is overdone and obvious, and yet I stuck with it because it was clear I was in for a 180 in the love department.  And guess what!  The answer to "But another planet?" + *eyebrow raise* is:
"YES, goodness yes, then I will love you forever!"

I was disappointed the narrative voices weren't more different and that the dialogue and relationship always felt a little off.

BUT...this really picked up at the end!  It started to have LOTS in common with Spinning Starlight and a little with Orson Scott Card, in a most delightful way.

NB: Sex is alluded to but not described.  There's lots of sleeping next to each other.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Indian-American Romance

When Dimple Met Rishi, Sandhya Menon
This book starts with a bang -- I was hooked and grinning.  The second half slumps in on itself.  It made me wonder if I'd imagined the first half being so crackin'.
  • I like the way the narrative switches between Dimple and Rishi's perspectives.  I felt giddy spending time with each protag in turn and said aloud to Haki, "This is so fun."
  • The handwritten script headers indicating who you're with are a nice touch.  A lot of layout things are nice -- the sans serif page numbers and chapter headings are too.  The cover image is a great pull, it's a shame it's not a match for what's described in-book. 
  • My initial impressions of the tone; fun and confident.  It took me back to Night of Cake and Puppets for a while there, and I'm not sure I could pay a bigger compliment.  As the pages passed, it felt less polished.  I understand comparisons to Rainbow Rowell and John Green, but the second half wasn't as snappy or funny as either of those...but yeah, there's some similarities.
  • The Indian culture is lathered on so thick in the first chapters it feels forced -- only because Dimple makes such a point of saying she is an American who has Indian heritage.  I love that this book features Indian culture, I just didn't find each Indian inclusion natural (in some places it was like I could see where a simile had been hijacked and re-written with an Indian slant).  It wasn't awful, but it drew attention to itself in places, instead of effortlessly interweaving in things that are Indian.  This was diluted after the exposition.
  • There isn't heavy swearing, but there's a fair amount of blasphemy.  
  • There's some typing of rich and management characters, who although they prove true to assumed natures, are assigned negative traits on sight.
  • The stage set for this relationship to play out upon was one of my hooks!  Sadly, Insomnia Con wasn't this all-night work-fest for high achievers so much as a fun and casual camp.  Not only because so more time was spent dating and kissing than pulling creative all-nighters, but because the comp itself featured a Talent Show that had zero correlation to app design or coding.  I felt robbed of the geeking out. 
  • I was interested in both of the mains, but I struggled with Dimple doing jerkish things.  Even if we can set Dimple's hitting aside (yup, she hits Rishi, and he says it hurts), she changes her mind more than I could forgive.  I get it, those teen years are all about uncertainty, but once these two started making out, OF COURSE feelings are on the line.  Dimple's interest in detaching herself and pretending there isn''t an emotional investment in the bank (or that her withdrawal is reasonable) is inconsistent with her level-headedness and any rationale generally, especially...
  • ...because they have sex.  Although sex isn't described, the characters do have sex.  And Dimple knew what it meant to Rishi, what message it would send, and she still wanted to tap out of the relationship after.  I found that jerky.  Yes, I know not all people who sleep together remain together, but Rishi was not all people and Dimple knew that.  Plus Indian culture and tradition has a significant presence, and the casual sex seems at odds.  I did appreciate references to a condom and consent -- but what about emotional responsibility?  Dimple's infatuation-distance-infatuation-love-distance became painful. 
Thankfully the ending pulls things together in a way I can live with, but I was left half-satisfied, since I'd been fizzing with enthusiasm for these characters, but as I kept reading I grew disappointed in them and their choices.  If this narrative carried on with characters who were incredibly attracted to each other and worked hard through the night on creating an awesome design, making out in bursts, and staying by each other -- finding love and creativity can survive in the same space -- I would've been so much happier. 

Review copy received from Hachette.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Five medicinal-ish things at 5:00

  1. I think probiotics are worth spending money on.  I'm a serious advocate...and not just because I think we all need to get the candida epidemic under control (because we do...the chances are good it's inside you, right now, thriving).  I think you can stop a sore tummy from turning into a full-blown spew-bug with a well-timed probiotic.  I think you can restore some of the good stuff we no longer get from avoiding fermented foods by taking or adding probiotic foods to our diet.  I think you can fight illness better if your body is churning with good bacteria.  Churning, yes -- like helpful little pacman, eating all the bad stuff.
  2. Recently we all got strep throat.  It didn't last as long as the textbooks said it should (because of the probiotics, is why), but it was inconvenient, for sure.  You know what made it more inconvenient?  Learning that the pharmacy closest to my home was going to surprise-charge me to receive each faxed prescription from our doctors' office.  Uh-uh.  We now go to antidote, where there is no such charge.  If you, too, have discovered this dirty add-on and would rather not pay it, you can boycott and go elsewhere...the pharmacies are not "all doing it."  (At least not yet.  And I intend to support the ones that don't.)
  3. I can testify that chamomile tea is a great eye bath for conjunctivitis.  Yes, we have had some of the best guests this winter.
  4. After reading that sweet (and so beautiful!) Emma uses World Organics, I was keen to know more.  I've been trying to remove as many chemicals from our home as I can.  I know, lots of people are doing that.  Good -- lots of people should.  Anyway, of the products I've sampled (thanks to Emma!) so far, I feel like calendula cream is this hidden secret someone should have told me about long ago!  I love that it's natural and smells good and does the job...I use it on a lot of things I use Bepanthen for, but it isn't as greasy and...chemical-seeming.
  5. I've made the switch from an aluminium-deodorant to a crystal-based one, Haki to tea tree.  We're both pretty happy so far.  My mum swears coconut oil does the job.  I'm keen to do anything that isn't putting a heavy metal in through my pores whilst simultaneously blocking said pores from getting rid of that and other toxins.  If you've had success with an alternative to mainstream anti-perspirants, please, email me! 

Monday, June 19, 2017

We're Going on a Bear Hunt Books (from Walker Entertainment)

Aesthetically this series is so appealing; the small-format, glossy stiff covers -- the journal secured with an elastic band -- have the heft of a treasured diary.  The soft palette inside the pages and full-colour everywhere has a gentle, classic tone.  And of course the illustrations are lovely.
The content includes some winning science building blocks -- including the "Whys" of sky and atmosphere colour, the water cycle, cloud shapes and constellations -- all great stuff.  Sadly some of the references to flora and fauna from elsewhere don't readily apply in a New Zealand setting (the sound you hear in the bushes will not be a fox)...but if a loving peer or elder isn't far away, this  simply invites some engagement (and these are "bear hunt" books -- of which we have none here, so it's fair for the rest to be in the bear's habitat!).  I really love the way the information is organised (see image, below for half of Contents).  A lot of non-fiction texts have lots of boxes in primary colours filled with facts framing photographs as dominant images, but this has soft and lyrical illustrations running alongside the transmission of science!  What a delicious way to broaden the scope of seeing if younger humans might be into sciencey things!

One thing I think only time will tell, is how well the target audience will respond to linking to the original Bear Hunt book.  In my house at least, We're Going on a Bear Hunt was a true favourite from 18 months to 3 years.  It was read so much within that period (despite an extensive selection of other titles) that it became something they tired of.  That said, with sufficient gap since the last reading, all of our girls are happy to revisit it and join in the verse.  These books, branded with imagery from a book for very young listeners, are for children around 8-11 years of age (Walker's site says 6 years+ -- I think there'd be some 6-year-olds out there ready for these, but I'd venture more from around 8).  Regardless of the specifics, these are for independent readers with the branding of a book that was read to them.  It makes for interesting marketing!  My hope is that most 8-11 years recall Rosen's touchstone work with fondness and are happy to dive into these books to be in the story instead of captivated by it.  I know Esky (8) was drawn to them and thinks they hold a lot of appeal, and I would think there's a strong correlation between those who loved to sit to be read to and those who love reading and filling pages with their own words.

If you know a young adventurer, or perhaps someone who loves learning by doing and seeing, these are definitely worth checking out. 

Review copies received from Walker.
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