Sunday, February 23, 2014

Into That Forest

Into That Forest
(Image from its goodreads page)
Louis Nowra

Becky and Hannah are on a family trip (Hannah’s family, anyhow) when a flood catches them off guard. Though Hannah’s parents are killed, the two girls survive and are found by Tasmanian Tigers. The tigers, having lost their pups, take Becky and Hannah in as their own. Soon the girls forget their language and assume the life of a tiger.

Wow. Horrid description I just wrote, but there it is.

Before we start, for the poor, uneducated not Australian readers, I’ll clear up a few things. First of all, the narrator (Hannah) almost always refers to Tasmanian Tigers as just “tigers”. No, this is not the big stripey cat that goes on adventures with Calvin and somesuch. It means Thylacine, which went extinct in 1936. Google Thylacine, it’ll make this book make much more sense. The tigers aren’t described much.

May I also clear up that the main part of this book is set sometime in the early twentieth century. In case that concerns you. It concerns me. I’m very concerned. Extraordinarily so. I was duped into thinking this wasn’t a historical. I am horribly wounded.

Finally, I want you all to know that this kind of pushes the limits of a YA book. The main character at her oldest in the book is 10, but it is... themey. I wouldn't recommend this for anyone
under sixteen.

A couple trigger warnings for the book: Mentions of almost-rape and suicide.

From the warnings onto the review.

Despite being an extremely short book for the number of plot points in it, the timing and execution were wonderful. The plot, even if it seemed kind of run-of-the-mill (child[ren] gets lost in wilderness, they're raised by animals), had an air of originality to it. I'm not exactly an expert on the trope, though, so I actually have no idea how original it really was.

The format was a little odd, since it's being told by Hannah when she's 76. Her grammar is also a bit weird (read: horrible) because she had to relearn her English later on. It can catch you up if you don't learn to ignore it, which usually starts on the third page after picking up the book.

I'm going to have to repeat what I said in an earlier review about a different book. It didn't scream at me that if I put the book down I would die a horrible death at a random time. However, I definitely didn't regret picking it up. There weren't any chapter breaks, which was kind of irritating at first, but I think it actually made it a bit better. If the scenes were actually separated, I'd probably put it down and forget about it, whispering to myself it's okay, you'll remember where you were- really. This is the fate of uncountable books of mine.

So, checking in on what the goodreaders think (I do that occasionally, it's like being transported into a mystical world where everyone is right and wrong at the same time), I'm surprised about what people thought about the emotions in the book. Personally, I'm thinking I'm either really, really, not emotional, or everyone else is wrong. I lean towards the latter. I didn't find the book particularly heartrending. I found the parts where it was supposed to be, and even cried at some of them, but overall? Not really. It was like there was a veil of apathy from the narration, a quick assuring of "But I guess that's just how it happened, its okay."

No matter how unemotional it was, I did feel a connection with the characters. Becky and Hannah were polar opposites at the beginning of the book (Becky was a little lady and Hannah was a little monster), but grow into more interesting, well-developed characters as the story progresses.

I don't usually delve into my social justice warrior side during reviews, but I'm going to bring it up now because I can and no one is going to stop me. I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on Australia and what goes on in it (other than killer trees, octopi that can and will kill you, and something called the frickn' sea wasp), but from any viewpoint the book was less than politically correct. First off, the main character (SPOILERS) almost gets raped, and its treated like, yeah, that happened or whatever. What the heck. Nah, just near sexual assault, nothing wrong here. It's never even mentioned after it happened.

Along with that, the Aboriginal people of Australia are always referred to as "the black fellas". Okay, I get it's the 1930s and whatnot, but really? I don't want to speak for others, but the light they're painted in isn't the greatest, either. And do not say, "It's the 1930s! It was just being realistic for the time period!" You can write historicals without being 100000000% accurate on everything that's being said. Especially when sounding like a semi-decent person is at stake. Unless it's Regency era England. People will find the slightest details ("THE WORD 'SLEAZE' WASN'T IN USE AT THAT TIME OMG DO YOUR RESEARCH") and run with it for those.


Uh. Ignore that, if you wish. Occasionally I just need to rant.

Ignoring those two issues, the writing style was actually really interesting. It was descriptive enough to know what was going, but not excessive. It was largely simple speak, almost bordering on beige prose. It pulled it off, though. It sounded more genuine than boring.

The ending was bittersweet. It was interesting and a good way to end, saying what happened after the book instead of making the rest of us yell at inanimate objects in hopes they'll tell us their secrets. At the same time, though, I kind of wish there was a little bit more after (SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER) Becky died.

Overall, decent book, would read again if I had to.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Tallstar's Revenge

Tallstar's Revenge
Erin Hunter
(Image from the Warriors wiki page)
WindClan is divided- tunnelers, who, as the name suggests, dig tunnels for escape routes, shortcuts, and ease of catching prey; and moor runners, who catch prey on the open moor. Tallkit is born into this broken society with his destiny practically sealed. His parents were both tunnelers, and most likely he will be, too. He hates this fate, but when his father is killed, he is determined to take up the duty. But he's denied, and the cat Tallpaw believes killed his father is let off the hook. Tunneling is stopped entirely.

When he gains his warrior name, he notices how little importance he seems to be. Talltail decides to leave the clan, planning to avenge his father. But can his plans ever come to fruition?
Since I enjoy lengthy anecdotes that you guys don't care about, I'm going to tell you why I picked up this book.

I started reading the Warriors book when I was really young- way too young to understand what was going on and also too young to understand why a book wouldn't have pictures. I kept reading the series for years. This past year, however, I called it quits. Doveykins and co. were rampant Sues (actually, maybe they weren't, I haven't reread them yet to check) and things were getting predictable.

So when I found this at the library, I figured it would be a decent reminder of why I might have read the series in the first place, and if it wasn't, hey, I could still read it for the laughs. 
I was pleasantly surprised by the reason I actually kept reading.

Talltail (Okay, Tallstar, but Talltail is what he's called for most of the book, so why change that?) was by no stretch a Stu, however angsty he may have been. For a large part of the book he's described as having a "burning rage" and that gets in the way of true development, but it gets better as the story progresses. He ends as a loveable, well-developed character.

I was amazed how well things in this book were tied in with other Warriors books. The main plot, maybe not so, but there were a lot of fun details to catch. There were also a myriad of technical errors (Appledawn changed gender within a page of the last use of pronouns), though that's become pretty much the norm in the books.

The plot was... unpredictable, almost? I don't know. In hindsight, I feel like I should have expected the find-yourself journey, because those seem pretty popular in Super Editions (Firestar's Quest, briefly in Crookedstar's Promise, I think). However, I was actually fairly surprised when Talltail decided to hunt down Sparrow. In fact, I didn't expect a number of things. It was a good change from my usual.
Got to say, this book wasn't emotional (for the reader, not the cats) for such a long time, it was almost disappointing. It almost got me thinking that despite the cast of snowflakes, it wasn't going to have power. Then at the end... oh, just you wait. 
 The execution and timing were great. Of course, the book was also extremely long, but why else would they call it a super edition?

Oh my deities, if I was still in the Warriors fandom, I'd so be squealing over how cute the friendship between Jake and Talltail was. However, as a reviewer, I must keep calm and collected. Though if I wasn't a reviewer, I feel you should know that I'd being cooing how beautiful they are together. And if I was in the fandom again, which I'm not, I would be squeeing about how, though it wasn't quite realistic that they became besties in a matter of days, they made perfect friends. You should also know that, say I was still a fan, I would be sad that they didn't meet up again later on. But I'm not a fan, even a little, so I'll say it in reviewing terms- it was okay.

Because there was no romance in this book, I'm allowed to mention it before the end. In most of the other books, there was unnecessary romance. (SPOILER: What's with Dovewing and Bumblestripe?) However, this book didn't have any. I took a moment to be surprised, then realized that, well, Tallstar didn't have any kits in the books, did he? So a thanks to Ms. Hunter for not throwing in lovely-dovely love as a trim.

Actually, I'm glad there weren't too many subplots. I hate it when books get a bunch of subplots that get in the way of the main plot. This was a perfect balance, not too simple, not to complicated. The Goldilocks zone of plots.

Ooh, two posts in two days. Lucky, lucky.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Whatever that means

Some dumb descriptions I've seen and want to compile into a sort-of complaint. Not going to say what book they're from because I'm a good person. But I'll still put a little blurb about it afterwards.

"... he had abs of chiseled smoke." What? No, seriously, what? Not that it was a good story anyway (focused on a daughter of Artemis, who I'd like to point out is an eternal virgin), but that really takes the cake. And how do you chisel smoke, anyway? Isn't it a gas? Unless, of course, you managed to freeze it and then chisel it, but that's complicated and weird. And that would mean his abs were gray, wouldn't it? Creeeeeppyyyyy.

"... Percy mumbled boldly." How? This makes as much sense as My Immortal and "he mumbled loudly".

"His brows knitted into a question mark." Ow?

"... and his cheekbones were dangerously sharp." Okay, I get I shouldn't expect much from free kindle books, but really. Does he use them as weapons or something? I can picture it now- cheekbone fencing, the great sport of 2014.

"His husky voice was silky." Contradictions are not your friend, my friend. Also, remind me that I'm not actually supposed to read recommendations from people I only talk to about once a week. Glad it was free, but I so could have just found the Wikipedia article or something if I wanted to keep a decent conversation about the story.

"But where Rio stands at 6'0..." Whoa, we're measuring, now. You just met them, MC, do you whip out that tape measure on everyone you meet? You must be the life of the party.

"He stands at 6'1." Apparently she does.

"There was a very pregnant pause." I see this a lot, but mostly in the Harry Potter books. When the pause due? Oh, dear, I hope I can find something good for the baby shower.

"... his shoulders and arms seemed to be crafted by angels..." This isn't so odd on its own, but it was part of a description that also including calling his body mouthwatering and saying his collarbone protruded out of tan skin. The MC later deemed these thoughts 'impure'. I'm assuming she's a nun or something.

"He blushed a deep sanguine." That cannot be healthy. (For those who don't know, sanguine is roughly this color.)

One I see too much: "A single tear etched its way down [their] face." Ow. That tear must be really sharp, engraving on your face like that. Interestingly, the resulting scars are never mentioned. 

"The cold chilly air..." I'm not sure if the author just forgot that there was already an adjective in there or what. Perhaps "cold" was too cold and "chilly" wasn't cold enough. I'm not about to ask.

"... her hair, a silver-white blonde." It has it's own word, you know. Try sounding it out- plat-in-um bul-ond. Wow! Congrats! You win!

Anything along the lines of "sleep consumed me". You know, some people just go to sleep. No need to make it sound like sleep is some kind of bogeyman that eats you when you're tired.

Aaaaaand, as a parting treasure, I found this tagline and want to ask about it: "I'm hidden like a rainbow, yet you still can't find me..." I was given the suggestion it was sarcasm because rainbows are really big and flashy, but it seemed extremely serious. I just don't know.