The Wind Singer – William Nicholson

This is a book that I first read around the same time that Harry Potter opened up a world of reading for me. I read before I discovered the Harry Potter series [even, would you believe at the ripe old age of 11 reading things like Stephen King], but it is a series that I can definitely say kick started my reading. Harry Potter that is, I probably didn’t fully understand the Stephen King at that age!

Summery:

In the city of Aramanth, the mantra is, “Better today than yesterday. Better tomorrow than today.” Harder work means the citizens of Aramanth can keep moving forward to improved life stations–from Gray tenements and Orange apartments, upwards to glorious mansions of White. Only some families, like the Haths, believe more in ideas and dreams than in endless toil and ratings. When Kestrel Hath decides she is through with the Aramanth work ethic, she is joined in her small rebellion by her twin brother Bowman and their friend Mumpo. Together, they set the orderly city on its ear by escaping Aramanth’s walls for an adventure that takes them from city sewers to desert sandstorms. Guided by an archaic map, they know that if they can find the voice of the Wind Singer, an ancient and mysterious instrument that stands in the center of Aramanth, they can save their people from their dreamless existence. But the voice is guarded by the dreaded Morah and its legion of perfect killing machines, the Zars. Are three ragtag kids any match for an army of darkness?

As I’ve grown up I’ve often thought about this book. There’s just something about it that has stuck with me. One of the scenes during the climax of the book is one of the main characters staring into the eyes of the big bad, the Morah, and staring into and endless amount of eyes, and the feeling of never being alone. Looking back, and looking at other fandoms, it sort of reminds me of the Borg from Star Trek, with the hive mind controlled by the Borg Queen.

First and foremost, this is a children’s book. The writing and the storyline is fairly simple: the system is oppressive, the system is frustrating, the system needs to be challenged. Said children challenge system and are given a task that would resolve everyone’s problems with a magical talisman.

Even though it’s a fairly simple story, there are a few complex and unanswered questions. The one that baffled me the most was that I couldn’t place a time frame on the story. There was stuff that I thought could be set in an ancient time, but then the Ombaraka and Omchaka and their rolling cities, and some of the tech that we encountered through the main characters suggested otherwise.

The characters of Kestrel and Bowman were okay at best. Kestrel was more annoying that Bo, but also had most of the focus. This was more her fight that Bo’s, he came along to support his sister, because he wasn’t going to let her be in trouble on her own. And he believed in her. Their relationship was a little on the strange side.I couldn’t tell if the author was genuine in their brotherly/sisterly love or if he secretly shipped them, despite his trying to force the love of Mumpo onto Kestrel throughout the whole book.

I think the most fascinating part of the story in that it was also the most terrifying as it plays on the basic fears of most people, even if they don’t know it was that of the old children. These children who had had their lives literally sucked out of them and made them into old people, who would in turn suck the life out of other children. There’s nothing more scary than growing up, especially when it’s forced on you like it is in this book.

I wanted to recapture how I felt when I read this the first time. But I didn’t, and that in all reality is because I’m older now, and read slightly more complex books, even if they are sometimes children’s books! Despite this I am glad that I read this book again as I was able to reconnect to a world that I had largely forgotten about except for that one really outstanding vision that has stayed with me from a young age.

What are you reading at the moment? At this point in time I cannot decide what to pick up next… any ideas? There’s plenty to choose from on my GoodReads shelves but decisions decisions!!

Thanks for reading,

Kialtho

Daughter of the Forest – Juliet Marillier

The first book in a series, this is a fantasy set in old Ireland and steeped in fairytale magic and intrigue, based on one of Hans Christian Andersons’ tales. And not a happy one at that. This isn’t a fairytale for children, that’s for sure!

Synopsis:

Lovely Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Bereft of a mother, she is comforted by her six brothers who love and protect her. Sorcha is the light in their lives, they are determined that she know only contentment.

But Sorcha’s joy is shattered when her father is bewitched by his new wife, an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible spell, a spell which only Sorcha can lift-by staying silent. If she speaks before she completes the quest set to her by the Fair Folk and their queen, the Lady of the Forest, she will lose her brothers forever.

When Sorcha is kidnapped by the enemies of Sevenwaters and taken to a foreign land, she is torn between the desire to save her beloved brothers, and a love that comes only once. Sorcha despairs at ever being able to complete her task, but the magic of the Fair Folk knows no boundaries, and love is the strongest magic of them all…

It took a long time to get into this book. The scene setting seemed to take a really long time, and I was certainly getting to a point where I could easily have put the book down and start something else. Then I went to Ireland for a brief holiday with Alex and it was like we were there at Sevenwaters, and from then on I was hooked to the story.

The story telling is vivid and beautiful. There is so much detail that I feel that it would take more than one reading to take everything in – but as much as I enjoyed reading I won’t be picking up this story again. It’s such a depressing read! So much stuff happens to the main character, Sorcha, so much pain and suffering – which is the point in order to complete her task of spinning and weaving six shirts in order to save her brothers.

I wanted to write a lot about this book, but as I sit here and type I can’t seem to think of what to say. It was a good book, and I did enjoy it despite how depressing it was. One thing I will say is that the love aspect which is mentioned in the synopsis – well I found it a bit lacking. I wasn’t up for a romance, but definitely expected a bit more in this regard.  It was until the last 100-150 pages that we focus on the love aspect, and a typical triangle as well which was equally as irksome for reasons I’m sure you would understand if you’ve read the book. There are two brothers, the eldest the heir to the family fortune, and the younger feeling neglected as pushed aside because he can’t have the love of his life. So why is it, when the elder – Red – decides to protect Sorcha by marrying her, regardless of his feelings, when Simon returns he decides that he is also deeply in love with her as well, despite already having a love of his life that caused him extreme jealousy from his brother in the first place. I guess I didn’t understand this aspect of it.

The part that made this book for me was being in Ireland when I was reading some it – and relating to the magic of Ireland more than the book itself I think. I doubt I’ll continue the series at this point in time, but you never know minds may change.

My next book is “The Wind Singer”, a revisiting of a childhood book that I’m looking forward to re-reading.

What’s on your bookshelves at the moment?

Kialtho

Warriors of Legend – Reflections of Japan in Sailor Moon – Navok/Rudranath

You may remember, dear readers, that about a month or so ago I posted about the Sailor Moon Manga, which has been re-released in English from 2012 in 12 books, with a couple of extra special stories as well. The stories form the basis of the Anime, which played a big part in my life – and recently I cosplayed as Sailor Venus. During this time, I had ordered “Warriors of Legend – Reflections of Japan in Sailor Moon” from Amazon as it sounded like an interesting exploration of things all things Sailor Moon and comparisons in modern life.

Here’s a brief description:

The book Warriors of Legend is one of the first of its kind, using a specific Japanese anime/manga series- the megahit Sailor Moon- to teach about Japan. Neophytes to Japan studies will find Warriors of Legend an accessible way to learn about this fascinating country. Those who know quite a lot about Japan already will find their understanding enhanced by the way the book analyzes the nuances of Tokyo’s history and Japanese society. The book also argues that Sailor Moon is a unique series in that it was both internationally popular and strongly structured by the culture of the city of Tokyo and post-Economic Bubble Japan.

I don’t usually read non-fiction books. They don’t hold my interest in the same way that a fiction book does, so sometimes it makes it hard to get through, but that’s not the case with “Warriors”, partly because the subject matter – Sailor Moon – is a bit like Harry Potter for me – interesting. That’s not to say the books I needed to read for my degree weren’t interesting, but Sailor Moon has been part of my life since about 2002, and again is one of those things that I grew up with.

This book is set out in easy to read sections and it wasn’t hard to keep up interest in small doses. I didn’t read it in one go, but I’m sure it could be done.

It’s a really interesting read. I definitely feel as though I’ve come away from this book having learnt at least something about the complexities of Japanese culture. I didn’t realise just how much of “reality” was in the series, from real shops, albeit with different or altered names, to monuments like a newly opened bridge. I think it was a clever addition by both the animators and the author of the manga, Naoko Takeuchi as it continues to reflect a changing and modern Japan.

As we are taken through various sections, I found that when I was reading there was too greater focus on Sailor Mars/Rei. I know that her character is important considering she is the embodiment of both the new and the old Japanese culture. I didn’t realise just how much her character had changed between the anime and the manga, and to be honest it made me realise just how annoying her anime characterisation was.

I think I found the section on Sailor Venus more interesting for a couple of reasons: the cosplay [before this cosplay, Sailor Moon was strictly my favourite character, but I do believe that has now shift to Venus]. Her mythology was really interesting, in that being based on both Roman and Babylonian myths [The myth of Ishtar is actually one of my favourites, although it’s not really something that would stand out to a casual reader/watcher of the series like me, despite it being on my favourites]. I really want to know more about Venus for sure.

I like that Ami’s character was based on a singer at the time – I wonder if she feels honoured at that or not?

I think if I had to say anything about that book it’s that it could be set out and flow a bit more cohesively as it seemed to jump around a bit, perhaps this was emphasised in that I took quite a break between starting and finishing.

Well, that’s all for now folks!

Kialtho

Planet of the Apes – Pierre Bouille

After reading this book all I can ask myself is: why didn’t I read this sooner. This is an amazing book, and a quick read to boot. It could probably even be tackled in one sitting if life, the universe and everything else didn’t get in the way.

Synopsis:

In a spaceship that can travel at the speed of light, Ulysse, a journalist, sets off from Earth for the nearest solar system. He finds there a planet which resembles his own, but on Soror humans behave like animals, and are hunted by a civilised race of primates. Captured and sent to a research facility, Ulysse must convince the apes of their mutual origins. But such revelations will have always been greeted by prejudice and fear…

I went into this book not knowing what to expect; I haven’t seen any of the films [although I do recall the ending of the old film with the main character screaming at the site of the befallen statue of Liberty]. I thought that the language would be really clunky and hard to read [similar to when I tried to read Phantom of the Opera]. Instead I was surprised at just how easy it was to get through. Like I mentioned above it could probably be read through in one sitting.

I didn’t understand the beginning, but of course at the end it all makes sense.

There were a few lecture-y parts that I didn’t enjoy so much, and you can feel the utter disdain the author has for animal testing, and that’s totally understandable. I liked the explanation for the rise of the ape planet, although this is probably a biased view – I wasn’t so keen on how the fall of the human race was described, but it’s entirely plausible – that laziness could befall the entire population and lead to the rise of another dominant species.

The relationship between Zira and Ulysses was sweet, and I liked the difference in it compared to the physical relationship between him and Nova. I think the child aspect was a little predictable though. The rest of the characters seemed a bit 1 dimensional, but the aim of the story was the allegory to prevent the fall of the human race – a lesson for all to heed perhaps?

Reading this book has definitely made me want to not only read other works by Bouille – in fact I have “Desperate Games” queued to read already – but also to watch some of the films that this book has inspired; the most recent films look really good.

I’m sorry that there’s not more to this blog, but I am struggling to write down all my feels about this book.

Cinder – The Lunar Chronicles Book1 – Marissa Meyer

6 hours. That’s all it took for me to read this book. Granted, it wasn’t in one sitting, but nonetheless it was a total of six hours. Possibly even less than that. I didn’t think that it was going to be one of those books that was so enticing that it would be over so quickly. I didn’t think it was going to be one of those books where I want to rush out and buy and read the next one right this minute.

It’s been sitting on my bookshelf for a little while, and I’ve been apprehensive about reading it – what if it was one of those books that were hyped up and then failed to deliver?

But it did, and here’s the synopsis:

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

There are plenty of books/TV shows/films that re-work traditional fairy-tales into modern say retellings. The Disney channel seem to play them a lot… but I have to say that I haven’t ever come across an idea like this one. There’s more than one thing going on; a plague, a Lunar threat, an evil Queen that wants all out domination, hints of over population, poor economy and a reluctant prince that has to become the Emperor who just so happens to fall for a mechanic. Whose also a cyborg.

This is one of those books that had every opportunity to fail, but I think it delivered amicably. I liked Cinder’s character, I liked that she only had herself to rely on and didn’t need saving by anyone because she was quite capable of saving herself. She loved one of her step sisters because she didn’t treat her like crap, she loved her robot companion with the fault personality chip, she loved her prince when she knew that if he knew the truth about her he would run away.

Of course, the main plot line/pot twist you could see from a million miles away, but Meyer makes that okay in this book. In others there’s a degree where it would have been the end of the world, but in this case, with everything else that’s going on, it worked well, we just had to wait and see how it played out.

I look forward to getting the next book and seeing what is going to happen, and whether our characters will get their happily ever after [not likely, this is a series of books…!]

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Kialtho

A Dance With Dragons: Dreams and Dust – George RR Martin

I have finally managed to get around to reading the first part of book five in the A Song of Ice and Fire series! It seems like it’s taken a long time for me to get to this point, and with just part two to go before I’m fully up to date with the series [so far!] it’s nice to know that I am on the home stretch.  I’ve put off watching series five of the TV show because I want to finish reading the books first, so once the next book is done I foresee a big marathon ahead!

In the aftermath of a colossal battle, new threats are emerging from every direction.

Tyrion Lannister, having killed his father, and wrongfully accused of killing his nephew, King Joffrey, has escaped from King’s Landing with a price on his head.

To the north lies the great Wall of ice and stone – a structure only as strong as those guarding it. Eddard Stark’s bastard son Jon Snow has been elected 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. But Jon has enemies both inside and beyond the Wall.

And in the east Daenerys Targaryen struggles to hold a city built on dreams and dust…

This story isn’t exactly a direct continuation of “A Feast for Crows” but rather a parallel story that will eventually merge with the “Feast” storyline and *then* continue onward. Because of this we are covering some of the ground that may have been mentioned or skipped over in “Feast” and are re-introduced to characters like Jon, Daenerys, Bran and Tyrion. For me personally, I loved being back with Dany, even though certain parts of her storyline are a little frustrating. She remains to be one of my favourite characters, and I have high hopes for her to not be dead by the end of the 5th book! We didn’t get any Arya this time [well, we did but not in the right fashion!], but I guess that is because we had a fair amount of her in “Feast” but again she’s one of my top characters so am looking forward to spending some time with her in the next book.

I found this book quite hard to maintain my focus when I first started reading. I had a lot of other things going on at the same time – cosplay, knitting, work – that I found it hard to be in this world. I found that I was skipping chunks of text and would have to go back and re-read chapters to make sure I was on the right footing which made me realise just how many cliff hanger endings to chapters there were and that annoyed me a little bit – I noticed this with Tyrion and Davos particularly, although it did also happen with Dany and Jon.

“Reek” as a character annoys me, both who he is “now” and who he “was”. He was never a favourite, so it’s great to see his fall from grace, but at the same time his chapters are hard reading because of how dark they are and what’s been done to him… I didn’t need to know his torture, how many fingers had been taken or what… else… had been done to him.

I look forward to the next book for sure, but I will certainly need to break and read a few other books between now and then. I find that Martin’s world is so involved, so vivid, that I can’t sit and read them in one go. Anyone else have this problem?

What are you reading at the moment? My next book is to be “Cinder” – Marissa Meyer, wish me luck!

Kialtho

A Floral Affair

Between working on my Sailor Venus cosplay for the May 2015 London Expo I was also working on a pattern from “Knit Now” called “A Floral Affair”. This is a vest top with a pretty flower motive in the central panel that runs all the way until the ribbing; such a simple and easy knit. I’ve loved working on the pattern, and always find it a bit daunting when no one else has made the pattern, like in this case, because I don’t always trust myself in finding/seeing mistakes before I’ve knit them… like in this case as well.

I used my favourite acrylic yarn – the Women’s Institute’s “Soft and Silky” 4 ply [it’s actually thicker than that, it’s a “sport” weight yarn, which is another reason why I like it – affordable and able to be used in more American-esque patterns]. They have a great range of colours as well! I made sure to match the lot numbers on this project as well as there was a distinct difference in the colours on the shelf.

It’s taken so long to come together as I’ve been dedicating time to the sewing [oh, look at my new patterns! I hope that I can make these!].
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I would love how this particular knit turned out if the central motif was actually in the centre. I’m not sure if it’s something that I did wrong, or whether there was an instruction in the pattern missing [like knit five stitches THEN work the arm shaping]. The number of stitches left was correct, so I don’t know. Anything’s possible.

That being said, I love this magazine, and it produces some stella patterns so won’t let that put me off at all.

Here are a few photo’s of the finished item:
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Keep on crafting!

Kialtho