Sunday, 16 November 2014


Image sourced from here
I'm sorry I am about to review (briefly) a book that isn't the first in a series on here. I started this series before I started blogging, and long before I started Goodreads. It happens, and it will happen again.

This book is the second in the Alexia Tarabotti series. Although she is now married to Lord Maccon, so really is Alexia Maccon now. The book picks up in the same whimsical, Victorian, steampunk, supernatural, romance thread as the first. Although, now we are all married, there is less heavy breathing and a lot more bottom descriptions. This is not a complaint, just an observation.

Besides bottoms, the book has us with the Maccons in wedded, sexy bliss, however Lord Maccon buggers off North on werewolf business without telling the newly acquired wife. The Wife, being Alexia, promptly snoops around (or is duly told about in her position on Queen Victoria's Shadow Council) and then follows husband dear to Scotland to solve the mystery and to save Britain.

Now. I was all on board. I was even lording this one as better than the first. And I still think it is, except for the last chapter. It all left a nasty taste in my mouth. I hope it gets sorted sooner rather than later, as I am happy to give it up if it continues along these lines. I love this series as a fantastical diversion, but this screams too much real life for me, even though the problem is reasonably explained in the magical world the book exists in (although no one is listening). I will give Gail Carriger the benefit of the doubt as she has surprised me in every book. But I am both interested and hesitant at what will be in store for Alexia in the future.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Picnic at Hanging Rock

Image sourced from here 
When I was a kid, the movie of this book was standard midday movie material for so many years. I had absolutely no interest in this book at all. All I remember about the movie was my parents sometimes switching to it, sometimes me as there was nothing else on besides cricket, and me sticking out about 30 mins and getting thoroughly bored.

Girls in ridiculous dresses prancing around the bush complaining that it was hot and there were flies. Of course there was. It was the end of our ridiculously hot, dry summers and you lot are prancing around in gloves. And dresses. I mean at 8 years old I'm watching them all trying to walk up bush tracks in dresses and I was thinking they were morons. After 30 mins of this, I usually gave up and went and played in the dirt. Or with a kangaroo or something.

So I never even thought of the book. Until the ABC's First Tuesday Book Club did a poll/show on 10 Aussie Books You Must Read Before You Die and it came number 10 as voted by the public. If you can get around geoblocks and can watch it I recommend it. As it made me think, what did I miss? I also realised, that maybe not seeing the movie was a perfect set of circumstances to read the book.

So I have read it. And what I missed, and was probably too young to get, was the ominous sense of place and the atmosphere. From the outset, you have the oppressive Australian heat beating down on you. You have that feeling of dryness, where you can feel the moisture being sucked out of your body on southern Australian days. If they are not described (I cannot remember as they are so vivid either way) you have that insanely loud sound of cicadas, their constant, shrill trilling/shrieking that screams you are in a hot, dry, remote, people-less place known as the Australian bush. That sound makes the feeling of remoteness resonate through your bones. Already you feel isolated. Then you add in the girls going missing and the element of mystery.

It's a short book, but I had no idea what was happening until it finished. And then I breathed. I mean that in the sense that I felt so tense, and oppressed, by the environment and then the mystery and it's surroundings, I finished the book and could breathe. Maybe I was holding my breath a little. But still those big, deep breaths. Then it hit me. I had no idea what had happened.

I think that is a strength to the book, and really maybe I should mark this as a spoiler, but I had no more of idea what had happened than I did when it occurred. Apparently there is an another chapter that explains all, but I don't think we need it. I am happy leaving it to a mystery of the bush. We have thousands of years of mysteries tied to our bush, and I am fine to give it another. It really is an ominous place. Also, it is a novelty to have a mystery in lit that isn't solved. So yay for an actual mystery.


Image sourced from here
I remember this book from my primary school library. I remember it turning up in year 4 or 5 in the new release section. But I never picked it up. I remember reading some vaguely fantasy/sci fi book around that age that put me off the genres, that took me many many years to break. And my take away from this book is that I wish I had read it earlier and younger. But as I have friends 20 years later still waiting for the conclusion to the series, maybe not

Here is an Aussie fantasy, conceived by a 16 year old, that is Harry Potter esq before Harry Potter existed. We have a girl who has lost her family due to external forces (in this plot the government) and then is shipped off to an institution where children with special abilities go. And hilarity ensues! No, not really at all. But the story does get started with Elspeth and her misfit friends and their plans and scheming. And then them being sucked into a bigger plot that is going on around them.

I really did enjoy this one. It deserves a place in the mainstream, not just the Australian, YA cannon. It is clever and original, but fits the tropes we expect, even though it was written before they existed. Impressive.

Only real criticism is that even though she edited the story for years, she really does need a thesaurus at times. While the story is great, when you see the same adjective a couple of sentences in a row, it does jar you back to reality. But then again, could I have written such a wonderful story at 16, let alone now? Hells no. So I am cutting her slack where it is due. Will I read the rest? Maybe. But it still doesn't look like a conclusion is coming anytime soon. Luckily this first book is almost a stand alone.