Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Top Ten Female Characters Who Are Strong Without Being Kick-Arse

This is something I feel really strongly about - too often, it seems that female characters are dismissed as weak just because they can't use a bow and arrow like Katniss or jump off a building like Tris. Conversely, girls who CAN do these kinds of things are automatically labelled as strong even if they are actually inherently weak characters. Basically, as Melina Marchetta has pointed out several times, strong and kick-arse are not the same things. So here are my fave strong (not kick-arse) female characters.

1. Phaedra from The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta. MM has sooo many amazing strong female characters in all her books, but I'm rereading this series at the moment and I have such a soft spot for Phaedra. She is the antithesis of the "kick-arse" heroine, and seems weak at first, but she turns out to be one of the strongest characters in the series.

2. Sansa from A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. Sansa gets a lot of hate which makes me really mad. I feel like she is disdained for being traditionally feminine, which people interpret as "weak" in contrast to Arya's cross-dressing kick-arsery. Now I love Arya, but Sansa displays a different kind of strength. The fact that she has survived so long shows her emotional and mental power. Indeed, in that respect she is probably stronger than Arya. I just love Sansa and anyone who doesn't is clearly wrong.

3. Judith from All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry. Judith has been through all sorts of trauma but she remains strong and determined to get what she wants. She uses her outsider status to her advantage and gets things done.

4. Anne from Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. Oh, Anne with an E. She is one of my favourite characters of all time. She is fierce, brave, strong-willed, intelligent, imaginative, creative, fun-loving, and more than a little bit ridiculous. Her flaws are what make her so perfect.

5. Jane from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Jane knows her own mind and doesn't let anyone try and convince her otherwise. She never betrays her own sense of self, even when it means giving up the love of her life. She is no bird.

6. June from The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy. June has her heart broken early on, but instead of wallowing she does what she can to heal and then forges on with a rich, full, unconventional and awesome life.

7. Charlotte-Rose from Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth. This character is based on a real person, which just makes her even more brilliant. Charlotte-Rose defies convention to follow her heart and get what she wants, and is punished for it. But she doesn't let that dampen her spirit.

8. Lou from Wildlife by Fiona Wood. Lou is quiet, reserved, grieving, broken but oh, so strong. I just want to hug her.

9. Hermione from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. I debated including Hermione because she actually is quite kick-arse, but I listed her because it's her organisation, studying, and planning that really allow her to win. Her strength in holding the other characters together when they're falling apart, and keeping a level head in the most dire circumstances, are some of my favourite things about her.

10. Amy from Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens. Poor Amy. She is treated like a slave by her whole family, and grows up in a prison because of her father. The man she loves is too blind to see it for a big chunk of the book. She puts up with so much and just gets on with it. She's resilient and smart, and so while she is tiny and perceived as weak, her character is really the strongest in the book.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Recap: Garden of Shadows By Virginia Andrews, Part 6

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

It's been awhile since I've recapped but I'm going full steam ahead now because I hope to get to Petals on the Wind before the movie comes out next month (which I am way too excited about! Petals is so crazy and entertaining).

Anyway, in my last recap I left off with the birth of Corinne. Being a perfect angel, baby Corinne slept through the night, and Olivia finally remembers Christopher, who she left without a second glance to go into fake labour the previous day. But there's no trace of him or Alicia, and Olivia is devastated and swears to never let the same thing happen with Corinne. Aha. Ahahahahaha.

So it's Christmas and Malcolm plans a big extravagant party in honour of Corinne, because he's only stingy with everyone else in his life. Talk quickly turns to Corinne's looks and Olivia's lack thereof, because these characters are nothing if not superficial. Olivia makes a biting remark about how Corinne will take after her by being strong and intelligent (ahahahahahaha) which shuts everyone up for five minutes. She spends the rest of the party making bitchy remarks to everyone and it's kind of awesome. Then of course Malcolm has to be Malcolm and has a go at Olivia for being so nasty, accusing her of being jealous of Corinne. But Olivia is having none of it and is all this is MY game now.

As Malcolm circulates the party with baby Corinne, little Mal comments that their father loves her more than the boys. This gives Olivia hope. HOPE. Because he shows perception, or something. And instead of comforting her son she tells him to suck it up. She tries to make up for their awful father by giving them heaps of attention, but is kind of happy when they go back to school because she can turn her attention back to Corinne. Sigh. Too bad for Olivia that Malcolm has ordered the nanny to not let her near Corinne. She also finds out that he's turning the bedroom adjacent to his into Corinne's nursery and it's all incredibly creepy.

Olivia confronts Malcolm when he gets home from work, and he tells her he doesn't want her near Corinne because she fucked up the two boys so badly. Olivia, trying to gain the upper hand, insists Mal and Joel get new rooms as well as Corinne, complete with pianos, and Malcolm is like, do what you want, I don't even care about them anymore. Poor Mal and Joel.

Of course, Olivia is almost as obsessed with Corinne as Malcolm is, because she's just so PRETTY. Corinne gets an English governess to teach her how to be a LADY, and Olivia tries to learn too which is hilarious. Olivia and Malcolm argue constantly about Corinne's upbringing, blah blah blah, then Corinne gets sent to boarding school at age 10 and Malcolm and Olivia are lonely and depressed and Malcolm starts sleeping around (well, even more than before), and Olivia turns to her cousin John Amos and religion.

When all three kids come home for the holidays, Olivia tells Mal and Joel to stop spoiling Corinne, because she uses and abuses them like everyone else in her life. She also warns them against letting Malcolm take control of their trust funds when they turn 18, coz he'll totally give all the money to Corinne.

So yeah, Corinne is really spoilt. One day Olivia is spying on her and Malcolm like the creeper she is, and Malcolm is just staring at Corinne like the creeper HE is, and he suddenly asks Corinne to stay with him FOREVER, and she'll inherit everything. She promises she will as long as she can have the SWAN ROOM. He refuses coz the room is TAINTED, so Olivia lets Corinne go in there when Malcolm isn't around. And spies on her through Malcolm's peephole. This is a functional household, clearly.

By this stage Corinne is 14 and she's soon telling Olivia she's a woman coz she got her period. She's excited and is all YAAAY ROMANCE LOVE KISSES, and Olivia is all BUT CRAMPS AND PAIN, but Corinne is all HAHA I'M PRETTY MY LIFE IS GOING TO BE PERFECT.

Then Mal comes along on a motorbike he's bought with his trust fund in direct defiance of his father. Olivia is horrified by the bike but proud he's disobeyed Malcolm. Corinne begs to go for a ride with him and Olivia thinks it's not how a LADY behaves, but agrees to let them do a lap around the driveway. As they ride off Malcolm comes out and he and Olivia start arguing as per usual, when Corinne comes racing back totally distressed. Turns out after Mal dropped her off at the end of the driveway, he lost control of the bike and died. Olivia is distraught, and Malcolm hints at blaming her. So business as usual at the Foxworth's.

Next time: John Amos' shadow looms large over Foxworth Hall.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

GIF Review: Zombies Vs. Unicorns, Edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

This book is a short story battle. Like a dance battle but with WORDS. So basically AWESOME. On one side, led by Holly Black, is Team Unicorn, featuring the skills of Meg Cabot, Margo Lanagan and Garth Nix to name a few.


On the other side, led by Justine Larbalestier, is Team Zombie, with the talents of Libba Bray, Carrie Ryan and Maureen Johnson, amongst others.

The book alternates between zombie stories and unicorn stories, each trying to answer the question: which creature makes for a better tale? Now, when I began the book I declared myself Team Unicorn because, well, unicorns combine basically all of my favourite things: mythology, romance, pretty things, sparkles, rainbows, pretty smells, magic, and all that is good in the world. Zombies on the other hand are stinky and ugly and evil and GROSS. Ugh. Don't get me wrong, I love a zombie story as much as the next person. But give me a unicorn over a zombie ANY DAY.

After the first few stories I became a bit worried that I would turn Team Zombie. Because while I liked the unicorn stories, it was the zombie stories I was really blown away by. But, thankfully, by the end of the book I found myself still firmly on Team Unicorn - but also, strangely, ALSO on Team Zombie. Basically I can't declare a winner because both Teams were brilliant and both creatures are fascinating and compelling, for completely different reasons. In the end EVERYONE wins because what we got from this battle was a remarkable, entertaining and moving collection of short stories. Here are my brief thoughts on each one. With GIFS! Because that's a thing that I do these days apparently.

"The Highest Justice" By Garth Nix
In a sentence: A more traditional unicorn tale, in the sense it involves kings and queens, wishes and magic, but also MURDER and REVENGE, this was fun but the characters were quite flat and it was rather predictable, so it wasn't amazing.
In a GIF:

"Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Alaya Dawn Johnson
In a sentence: Ah, the old zombie hunter falls in love with the zombie story - brilliantly told here with compelling characters and raw, powerful emotions.
In a GIF:

"Purity Test" by Naomi Novik
In a sentence: Unicorns meet urban fantasy when they take over New York City in a quest to defeat an evil wizard - a very funny take on the genre.
In a GIF:

"Bougainvillea" by Carrie Ryan
In a sentence: A dystopian zombie world in which a young woman dreams of romance and a normal life - until everything changes. I can't say any more except WOW this was awesome - gripping and beautiful.
In a GIF:

"A Thousand Flowers" by Margo Lanagan
In a sentence: Beautiful, poignant and more than a little bit twisted, this deals with the fallout of one magical evening in the forest.
In a GIF:

"The Children of the Revolution" by Maureen Johnson
In a sentence: This is basically what would happen if Angelina Jolie adopted zombie kids - a darkly hilarious send up of celebrity culture.
In a GIF:

"The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn" by Diana Peterfreund
In a sentence: Unicorns have come back from extinction, but they're not the nice healing creatures we think - they're man-eating monsters! Creepy and entertaining but the ending felt a little abrupt.
In a GIF: 

"Inoculata" by Scott Westerfeld
In a sentence: How do you rebel in a post-apocalyptic world? By becoming the thing your parents hate... I loved this take on growing up and being a teenager surrounded by zombies.
In a GIF:

"Princess Prettypants" by Meg Cabot
In a sentence: In which a unicorn is used to help with typical 17-year-old problems - like dealing with bullies and douchnozzle boys, and getting nice boys to kiss you. LOVE.
In a GIF:

"Cold Hands" by Cassandra Clare
In a sentence: In Zombietown, your boyfriend's death doesn't mean the end of your relationship... Gotta admit, this one made me a little uncomfortable.
In a GIF: 

"The Third Virgin" by Kathleen Duey
In a sentence: The first story I've read with an evil, suicidal unicorn as the protagonist - creepy and amazing.
In a GIF:

"Prom Night" by Libba Bray
In a sentence: All the adults have turned into zombies, leaving the teens to fend for themselves and do whatever the hell they want. So fun and yet surprisingly bleak - but, not surprisingly, fantastic.
In a GIF:

Overall this was an awesome read. What really struck me was just how unique and creative each story was, and how deep and varied the worlds of these two creatures can be. Team Zombicorn for lyf!

Rating: 4/5

Fine Print
Published: 2010, Allen & Unwin
Get It: Bookworld

Monday, 31 March 2014

Review: Winning Over Skylar by Julianna Morris

This was a quick, easy read, but it left me with an overwhelming feeling of "meh". It wasn't terrible, but it certainly wasn't great. It focuses on Skylar, a recently widowed young mum whose ex-fling - and the biological father of her kid - suddenly comes back into town. He doesn't know that he's a father and Skylar wants to keep it that way. But things get awkward when his little sister, who he is looking after, starts buddying up with Skylar's daughter. You can see where this is going...

Yes, it was predictable. There were some nice moments but not enough to pull it above ordinary. It didn't help that I felt absolutely no connection to any of these characters. They were all two-dimensional and unrealistic. Their reactions to each other were particularly unbelievable - especially the way Aaron acts as though Skylar must be some kind of horrible influence on his sister just because she was a "wild teenager". Like, do people actually think like that, as though people can't change, and that being a rebellious teenager makes you a horrible adult? Ugh.

The teenagers were also really poorly written. They talked in the "by golly" manner of six-year-olds in the 1950s. No teenager talks like this in the world, I guarantee you. I didn't think there was enough exploration of their emotions - of anyone's emotions, for that matter. There's a lot happening that could have a profound emotional impact but the story never really does more than skim the surface.

To be honest, writing this review, I can't really think of anything I particularly liked about this book. Yes, some scenes were sweet but the rest of the book was OK at best. Frankly I'd rather have read something else.

Rating: 3/5

Fine Print
Published: April 2014, Harlequin
Source: Netgalley

Sunday, 30 March 2014

GIF Reviews: Quick Catch Up On Some Terrible Books And Some Good Books I've Read Lately

Every time I get caught up on reviews, I feel all smug and then get distracted/busy for a few weeks and find myself more behind than ever. Like now. When I am 15 reviews behind. Which I'm pretty sure is the most behind I've ever been. I blame it on all the novellas I've been reading lately. Same amount of pages, but more actual books. So to smash a bunch out right now so it's not weighing so heavily on my mind, and get back to regular reviewing (I know I've said it before, but I can only keep trying), I'm going where I've never gone before: GIF reviews! One-GIF reviews, to be specific. My feelings about a book, summed up in a GIF. Because mini reviews are just too long. Here we go...

Fury of Fire (Dragonfury book 1) by Coreene Callahan, audio read by Benjamin L. Darcie
In a sentence: Dragon shifter leader meets special snowflake nurse, falls in love instantly which leads to kidnapping, sexy sexy sex times, a surprise pregnancy which said dragon dude knew would happen but didn't bother to warn special snowflake nurse about, fights, battle, HEA.
In a GIF:
Rating: 2/5

Fury of Ice (Dragonfury book 2) by Coreene Callahan, audio read by Benjamin L. Darcie
In a sentence: Dragon shifter second-in-command meets special snowflake police detective, falls in love instantly, stuff happens, sexy sexy sex times, more stuff happens, meh I can't even really remember the rest.
In a GIF:
Rating: 2/5

Too Busy for Love by Tamsin Baker, via Netgalley
In a sentence: Busy hot businessman has fling with younger hot virgin gardener, falls in love, HEA, way too predictable and rushed.
In a GIF:
Rating: 2/5

Impossible Desires by Tamsin Baker, via Netgalley
In a sentence: Historical romance that is completely historically inaccurate - widow who is at last free from an abusive marriage wants to remarry, as long as she can be in control of ALL aspects of the relationship. Good thing she meets a kinky nobleman who has no personality but wants to fulfill her every desire.
In a GIF:
Rating: 1/5

Crazy, Stupid Sex by Maisey Yates, via Netgalley
In a sentence: After breaking up with her bland boyfriend, a smart but clueless-in-a-cute-way redhead meets smoking hot, rich player she wants to bang. They bang and fall in love yada yada yada. Basically Crazy, Stupid, Love fanfiction.
In a GIF:
Rating: 2/5

Indecent... Exposure (Indecent book 1) by Jane O'Reilly
In a sentence: Quiet, conservative photographer has a sexy photo business on the side, and things get personal and complicated (not to mention fun) when her quiet, conservative accountant/crush comes in for a photo shoot.
In a GIF:
Rating: 3.5/5

Crashing Into You by B.D. Rowe, via Netgalley
In a sentence: Idiotic girl moons over roommate's boyfriend, roommate dies, idiotic girl hooks up with roommate's boyfriend, roommate's little sister shows up, idiotic girl gets jealous, does something really horrible, gets HEA anyway.
In a GIF:
Rating: 1/5

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, audio read by Emilia Fox
In a sentence: You know the drill. Great reading by Emilia Fox (though Juliet Stevenson is still my fave Austen narrator).
In a GIF:
Rating: 5/5

Indecent... Proposal (Indecent book 2) by Jane O'Reilly
In a sentence: Adventurous woman realises her best friend's hot brother is not as conservative as he seems... and apparently he wants her - cue tension, sexy sexy sex times, drama, HEA.
In a GIF:
Rating: 3/5

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
In a sentence: Girl with cancer meets boy in remission, they fall in love, everyone's hearts get broken.
In a GIF:
Rating: 3/5

Colters' Woman (Colters' Legacy book 1) by Maya Banks, audio read by Freddie Bates
In a sentence: Three brothers live together, work together, and want to be in a relationship together - but not with each other, coz that would be GROSS, ew, no they want to be in a relationship with a WOMAN, just all at once which is not gross AT ALL, ahem - luckily for them they find a special snowflake damsel in distress, cue sexy sexy sex times, drama, yada yada yada.
In a GIF:
Rating: 2/5

In a sentence: Basically an extended epilogue to Colters' Woman, about the birth of the brothers' first child with their collective wife.
In a GIF:
Rating: 2/5

Colters' Lady (Colters' Legacy book 2) by Maya Banks, audio read by Freddie Bates
In a sentence: The three sons of the characters in book 1 don't want an unconventional relationship like their parents, until they all fall in insta-love with the same special snowflake damsel in distress and decide sexy sexy sex times all together isn't so weird after all.
In a GIF:
Rating: 2/5

Indecent... Desires (Indecent book 3) by Jane O'Reilly
In a sentence: Meredith is in her 30s and recently divorced, trying to get her bossy side under control and find someone she can settle down with, but everything changes when she meets a hot 20-something who likes to be told what to do.
In a GIF:
Rating: 4/5

Jane Austen Miscellany by Lesley Bolton
In a sentence: Bits and pieces from Austen's letters and biographies, quotes from her books, adaptations to check out and further reading to try, all wrapped up in a really pretty book.
In a GIF:
Rating: 3/5