Book Reviews: Paraphernalia & The Hunt

ParaphernaliaTitle: Paraphernalia: The Curious Lives of Magical Things
Series: none
Author: Steven Connor
Genre: Non-fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Paraphernalia is a fascinating little book of all of the magical everyday items of our lives.  As an English professor, Steven Connor explores not only what makes everyday items special to us, but where the words came from and how the many words are related.  It sometimes felt too detailed, and I tended to skim through certain parts of the chapters, but it was worth reading for little snippets that opened my eyes to the world around me.

Connor is a skilled writer, and I found myself amazed at how he explained the emotional connection we share with objects that I had never paid conscious attention to.  I still find myself thinking about the chapter on batteries, and how he perfectly described the emotional difficulty I have throwing away old, useless batteries, that I could never have put into words.

Reading it as part of the Bout of Book read-a-thon overwhelmed me a little.  It’s not a book that needs to be read beginning to end. It would be the perfect book to have lying around, and to pick up and read a random chapter.


the hunt coverTitle: The Hunt
Series: The Hunt #1
Author: Andrew Fukuda
Genre: YA, science fiction, paranormal, dystopia
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

The Hunt grabbed my attention instantly.  It’s based on an interesting premise: humans, called ‘hepers’, are an almost extinct species, and those remaining hide in plain site of the normal ‘people’ – a vampire-like species (the word vampire is not used once in the novel) who cannot control their bloodlust for heper flesh and would devour any heper they sniffed out within seconds.

What could potentially become a laughable vampires-as-people concept was handled well – it seemed odd at times, but to me was never so unbelievable that it became implausible. What did become implausible was how it was possible for the main character, Gene, to hide among these creatures and suppress his most basic of human instincts like tears, laughter, sweat and shivers.  The world was also a little difficult for me to grasp.  It lacked the overwhelming info-dump of some novels, but could have done with a little more explanation.  Some details could go a few chapters before I really understood what they meant.

Before I had reached the end of the book, I made the decision to not read on in the series.  There was nothing I actively disliked about the book, the writing simply lacked subtle refinement that would have improved the story’s credibility and clarity.  Towards the end the action and pace picked up but then the book just ended.  This book does not have a resolution. Not even a lull in the action. It’s clear the next book will pick up exactly where this one finished.  So I’ll continue reading, but if the second book doesn’t improve I probably won’t read on further.

This book has been included in many underrated book lists, and although I didn’t greatly enjoy the story, it’s definitely still worth a read.  It’s a unique concept, and unlike longer dystopian stories it doesn’t centre around changing the world. It’s a story of survival and instinct and what it really means to be human in a world that isn’t.

An extra note: The Hunt paperback is only $4 at Amazon! Bargain!


I read these books as part of the Bout of Books read-a-thon. Reviews for the two other books I read will be published next Wednesday. 

What books have you read this week? Let me know what you thought in the comments or leave me a link to your own reviews!

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Teaser: It’s Kind of a Funny Story

Teaser Tuesday highlighter

it's kind of a funny story cover
“You never know what truly would have happened if you had done your shoulds and woulds. Your life might have turned out worse, isn’t that possible?”
– It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

I’ve been wanting to read this book for years, and finally picked up a copy. Craig Gilner checks himself into a psychiatric hospital after a suicidal episode, and ends up in the adult ward while the teen ward undergoes renovations.  It’s a light, funny but moving story of Craig finally confronting his anxieties. The almost witty, self-degrading style got a few laughs out of me,

The story was written by Ned Vizzini who himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital and sadly committed suicide after losing his own battle with depression in December 2013.

Leave me links to your own teasers in the comments!


Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be ReadingIt’s simple: turn to a random page of a book you’re currently reading and post two(ish) ‘teaser’ sentences.

Life within the words

Musing Monday highlighter

“Reading is so much more than the act of moving from page to page. It’s the exploration of new worlds; the pursuit of adventure; the forging of friendships; the breaking of hearts; and the chance to begin to live through a new story each time the sentence is devoured.”

It’s an age-old argument.  Books or movies?

I found myself in a tutoring session recently, arguing with a student who had never ever finished a book (I nearly passed out from shock) over whether books or movies were better.

I firmly believe books are better. You will never change my mind.  But when it came to explaining why, I was at a loss.  I could sit and read an entire book in a day, but I lack the attention span to watch a whole movie. What is it about books that captures my attention?

Source: Pantera

Source: Pantera

Obviously books smell better, but more importantly each book smells unique. I sat next to my bookshelf last week and whiffed the overwhelming odour of Harry Potter (by far the smelliest books on my shelf).  I didn’t have to pick the books up; the smell was enough to remind me not just of the story but the feeling of reading the book.

And that’s what it is.  Books are better because of that feeling of being inside the story – being totally entranced, lost in another world, unable and unwilling to go back to real life.  It’s difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it.  Reading is the ultimate form of escapism.  You don’t just forget your problems, but when you’re reading a good book, you forget who you are. You don’t exist. You’re another entity, floating through the bookish aether, rooting for your favourite character and watching the story unfold.

It’s imagination. Seeing, hearing, feeling things that aren’t there.  Feeling a character’s pain, hearing their laughter.  Imagination is entertainment at its best.

Source:  LitStack

Source: LitStack

For me, watching a movie doesn’t provide that. Because you’re literally hearing the character laugh or watching them fight the baddies. It’s handed to you on a platter. There’s no imagination.  You’re not in the story. You’re an external viewer, unaffected by it and unable to connect.  Movies are a quick fix. Two hours of mindless entertainment instead of six hours of true escapism.  It’s lazy and it’s lifeless and it’s just not fun.

I’ve played Quidditch for Gryffindor, I’ve fought in The Hunger games and I’ve been re-educated by the Ministry of Love.  But if you only saw those movies and not the books, I doubt you can say you did more than watch those things.

That is the biggest difference between books and movies, and to me, it’s the most important distinction in the world.

My student offered some thoughtful insights into the differences between our brains and imaginations and how he will never be able to picture a written story, because he expects his brain to imagine in movie-quality, vivid imagery.  What do you think? Do you prefer one over the other? Do you see the value of both?


Musing Mondays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading, in which we muse about books and reading.  Anyone can join in!

Book Haul: Presents from the mail lady

book haul collage (3)

There’s something electrifying about seeing the mail lady struggling with three cardboard packages in one hand and the electronic signature-taker (what is that thing called?) in the other. I wanted to just grab the packages and run because I knew exactly which three books they were going to be.  Three beautiful books, two with gorgeous art by Jim Di Bartolo.  It’s hard to know which one I was most excited for.

Secret: Anyone paying attention will know I’ve already finished two of these books. It took me a while to remember to post the haul. Shh…

fangirl coverFangirl by Rainbow Rowell – I knew I had to read this book as soon as possible.  As a self-proclaimed fangirl myself, I knew this book would be (should be) relatable like no other.

in the shadows coverIn The Shadows by Kiersten White (text story) and Jim Di Bartolo (art story) – This is a beautiful hardback, with glossy white pages (watch out for the killer papercuts).  It has two parallel stories – one in the text and one in the art.  In the end you realise the connection between the two stories and I promise it will blow your mind. I did not, and (could not possibly) see it coming.

lips touch coverLips Touch Three Times by Laini Taylor (story) and Jim Di Bartolo (art) – Laini Taylor (author of The Smoke and Bone Trilogy) is my favourite author.  She writes in a slow, poetic style that captivates me.  As soon as I saw her blog about this book, with her beautiful prose and her husband’s stunning art I knew I had to get a copy.  The art style is quite different to  In The Shadows – more fairytale and magical. Can’t wait to start reading this one!

I’ve got a couple of others, but I’ve been getting lazy with the photography.  I’ll space out the posts, though. I find large book haul posts can be overwhelming.

What books have you bought recently? Got any recommendations?

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday highlighter

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be ReadingIt’s simple: turn to a random page of a book you’re currently reading and post two(ish) ‘teaser’ sentences.


in the shadows cover

“Charles had discovered, much to his surprise, that dying came with a whole array of benefits.  Certainly there was much to be said for not dying before the age of sixteen, but as that did not appear to be an option, he had reconciled himself to slamming into the end of his like with as much momentum as he could manage.”
– In The Shadows by Kiersten White (Text Story) and Jim Di Bartolo (Art Story)

teaser tues in the shadows

This is a beautiful historical fantasy surrounding five teenagers staying at the same boarding house in a small, mysterious town.  Accompanying the text story is a gorgeous graphic story (see a visual teaser to the right).  Although I have not yet discovered how, they are supposedly linked. It just adds to the mystery surrounding this intriguing story. I guess I will have to wait to the end to find out!

What are your teasers this week?

Multitasking at its bookish best

Musing Monday highlighterMusing Mondays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading, in which we muse about books and reading.  Anyone can join in!


“Multitasking? I can’t even do two things at once. I can’t even do one thing at once.”
― Helena Bonham Carter

I just finished the Bout of Books read-a-thon!  The aim of the read-a-thon was to simply read more than you usually would.  But this got me thinking, how can I bring reading into more aspects of my life? What other task can I pair with reading?

I tried multitasking reading with several different activities. Some succeeded but some did not at all.

Water the garden

Watering the garden doesn’t take any concentration.  You can hold your book in one hand, hose in the other and with some rhythmic arm movement you’re on your way to multi-taking!

Nurse baby chickens

I’ve been raising baby chickens and they’re almost fully grown, but they are incredible wimps.  Magpies are the boogey man and my lap is their cocoon of safety.  So I often found myself sitting outside, reading, with two chicks sitting on my legs. While they’re sitting, it’s fine. But there was an incident, when one chicken was clawing at my hair, holding on for dear life and another was standing on top of my book, looking down and trying to determine which part of it was edible, that I just gave up. It was just too chaotic.

chicken collage

Work out

Pilates and reading. It just doesn’t work.  Think about it: you’re trying to do a plank, and your whole body is shaking.  You’re barely paying attention to the words in front of you, because all you can think about is how your muscles are about to give up. And then you reach the end of the page. You could wait but you really want to know what happens next. You lift one arm and… CRASH! This one I don’t recommend.

Eat

You’d think it was easy, but I found it incredibly difficult.  My eyes were focused on the page, so I constantly found myself lifting an empty fork to my mouth, or missing my mouth entirely.  Food got dangerously close to falling on the book. So I moved on to finger food, but this time actually ended up getting roast capsicum dip on my book! For the safety of your beloved books, do not try this at home!

Cook

Reading while you’re trying to chop vegetables or fry a steak wasn’t easy, but cooking is full of waiting.  Whether I’m waiting for water to boil or waiting for the pasta to cook, these were ideal times to get through a couple of pages.   As long as you don’t mind picking up and putting down the book several times in a short period, reading fills in some of the boring time in cooking.

Shower

I briefly considered taping my book to the outside of the shower, and setting up some sort of towel-glove to turn pages without getting the book wet.  Maybe photocopy the book and tape the pages up? Eventually I spent longer thinking about it than the actual shower took. Someone could invent a useful device for this purpose though…

What activities or chores do you pair with reading? Have you ever had a multitasking disaster? Do you wonder why I haven’t considered the possibly of audiobooks (because that was an epiphany I just had)? Remember to leave me links to your own Musing Monday posts!

Read-a-thon Wrap-Up

Bout of Books

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is finished! Here’s my wrap-up of the week:

Books finished:
1. Paraphernalia: The Curious Lives of Magical Things by Steven Connor
2. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
3. The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda

Paraphernalia the hunt cover in the shadows cover

Total pages read: 1120

My goals (some I added later throughout the week):
1. Read 3 books (done!)
2. Read at least 100 pages per day (done!)
3. Keep up with housework (mostly done)
4. Work out daily (incomplete)

I reached all of my reading goals! The other goals slid a little, but more because I got cold than because I was reading the whole time (working out with a cold is just not fun). I’m so glad I got that much reading done! This week reminded me how much I enjoy reading. I tend to find reading is one of those things I put off for no reason. I enjoy it! Why would I procrastinate doing it? It’s an odd thing to do, but I know I’m not alone. Over 15000 people on tumblr liked/reblogged this post:

procrastinating reading tumblr

Challenges

I completed the first day’s challenge but no others. I wanted to, but because I’m in Australia, by the time they’re posted I was already onto the next day and it became to difficult to figure out which day is which. For the same reason, my daily updates usually didn’t make it to the link-up.

But next time I’ll approach it differently. Maybe I’ll post my updates a day late. If anyone else had the same problem, let me know how you coped!

Leave me links to your recap posts! Did you reach your goals this read-a-thon? Are you also a reading procrastinator? Let me know your favourite book that you read this week!