Pssst, you there. Yes, you. Thanks for travelling to my corner of the internet, I hope it's cozy enough and that you enjoy your stay :)
I've got a Graveyard Book review somewhere in my to-do pile for you. Or, well, for me. For whoever might happen to read the ramblings. In the meantime, I'm in the mood for something dark-ish. So I guess The Child Thief artworks it is. Remember that kid Peter Pan ? You might like Brom's yummy illustrations of his own Peter Pan retelling, then.
Don't pinch his cheek. He'll punch you. Peter makes plotting your demise in a tree look totally trendy.
I'm telling you. Yummy.
I had to do this presentation for my english course and we presented it just yesterday. The requirements were to choose a controversial topic, and I guess to get a point across. You could either choose your topic from the list or think of one of your own. Obviously everyone kind of just lunged at the teacher's desk to get to choose first, and I...I knew my assignment partner and I were going to end up with scraps if we tried for one topic of the list.
I suggested something along the lines of "imaginative stories matter in real life".
Awkwardly worded, granted, but I had been reading Diana Wynne Jones Reflections on the Magic of Writing and all this fascinating stuff, these ideas, were lurking in my mind and I grabbed the occasion to speak about it. To think about it more. We ended up using J.K Rowling's commencement speech for Harvard graduates, psychologist Paul Harris' studies results on children's imagination, as well as Neil Gaiman's nice quote paraphrasing G.K Chesterton :
"Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten."
't was all a bit glorious. We had to simplify things a lot, because we only had 5min each to talk, and that's counting the introduction and the conclusion. But even then it was probably the most fun I'll ever have working on an assignment.
I'm utterly terrified by oral evaluation. Let's just say I don't do eye contact on the best of days. I'm a happy introvert, but presentations are just as okay to me as skydiving is to fishes. Not my element.
My mind blanked out again when the teacher called us to the whiteboard. I knew my speech by heart barely two minutes before, so it still irks me a little. All the same, I peeked at my notes, said it all, made a point to speak up, to articulate, and to stare passionately at the wall rather than at my shoes while my confidence was sinking. I was a jittery pile of nerves by the time we reached our chairs, but I did it, and one girl, one, told us she loved our topic. That's more than I was asking for.
Through it all, my assignment partner was some kind of angel. She smiled at me the whole time we worked on the thing, never even a tiny bit forced, she was patient, she never got annoyed with my awkwardness, she praised me and gave me advice and helped me work on my confidence while I was rehearsing my speech. The poor girl caught my nerves in the end, a little bit, I think. She admitted she was more nervous for me than for herself, because she knew going there was painful for me. I owe this girl some serious chocolate.
She said I made progress and that she was proud of me, and that I could be proud of myself too. In the end it really was all her doing, because her trust boosted me.
Our speech was about imagination helping to solve problems in real-life. It had Diana Wynne Jones, and Neil Gaiman, and J.K Rowling, for god's sake. I wouldn't be surprised if we actually worked a spell by accident. What were the chances of this particular assignment helping me make progress with my real-life problems, anyway ?
I'm putting the longer version of this here. Figures it was going to be too much for BookLikes' blog description ! And while I'm at it, thank you, precious handful of people who are following me. I love you guys and ladies a little bit for randomly sticking with me :) Here we go :
Hi everyone, thanks for travelling to my corner of the internet, I hope it's cozy enough and that you enjoy your stay. French is my first language. I've started reading in english recently after feeling confident enough that I understand everything thanks to fanfiction, so that's why I read both in french and in english. And why my grammar is odd.
I like to muse on things and state my mind while I'm at it, and I'm prone to changing my opinion along the way. I choose to keep track of both my first impression and the whole thinking process though, so don't be too surprised if it happens a lot.
And finally one last important detail about me : I try to be objective and to make amends if I make mistakes sometimes (it happens. Too much). I also do an awful lot of mental flailing, so - please feel free to give your opinion, clearly and kindly, and I'll gladly discuss it with you with the same respect, and agree to disagree if we don't come to a satisfying common ground :)
On the other hand, I reserve the right not to engage and just delete aggressive and insulting comments in my space.
Waiting for these three lovelies to turn up in the mail. :)
Okay, so this won't be a review because I have actually reflected very little about this book and just enjoyed it. Past the five first chapters or so, that is.
For me this part was tiresome, half because of the nasty pair of aunts whose only redeeming quality is to make the reader laugh helplessly (and who I'd have no trouble picturing as some sort of inspiration for the Dursleys in Harry Potter) and half because of the lack of dialogue till page 9 : Dialogue and fast-paced action are some of the things I'm looking for in the first pages of a story. No matter, it gets interesting soon enough after that.
On a side-note though, I love the angry rhinoceros. It's so unexpected (and yes, I already knew about it, but it didn't keep me from enjoying this little bit of genius). And another part I loved to bits was the whole debacle with the Cloud-Men. So...yup, chances are I'm going to read more Roald Dalh in the future.
James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
Oh, you. I can tell I'm going to like you already, Centipede.
Please tell me there's a fantasy book on shapeshifting somewhere out here that focuses at least as much on the shapeshifting as on the romance (or without any romance at all, that works too) ? I want some shapeshifting with plot and character development...I don't really mind romance when it's not the whole and only point of the book, but so far the summaries I've browsed have not been very promising...
02/03/2014, part two (page sixty-something to the end) :
Well I'm glad I started with this one and kept The Graveyard Book and James And The Giant Peach for later, because I'm going to need some serious magic to vent all the pent-up feels...!
Rainbow Rowell is a crescendo master. Hands down.
The progression was excruciating. It felt to me that the plot was crawling its way to the end, it was so slow. I got there fuelled only on everyday life details, and budding romance, and all these other things that stand their own in life, or fanfiction, or an autobiography...but a fiction ?
A novel ?
It was torture.
Good torture, and I'm confused over that. What did it ? The tongue in cheek humor ? The spot-on characters ?
She did something, definitely. I didn't get what I was expecting. It looks to me as if the author was making a statement, consciously or not. There are the smart, well-developped, believable, diverse characters. There is Eleanor's wreck of a family. What this story gives you...it's a slice of life, no less, no more. With it I learnt that life can stand on its own as a story with no big literary adornment. Nothing fancy. Instead I think it's the riffraff that stiches it all together, like the stuff in Eleanor's hair and on her clothes, it's pretty in an unassuming way.
It's nothing like the fictions I'm used to reading, romance or not. But to be honest, this little trick worked on me once, but I'm not so sure it'd work a second time. I'd get bored with the repetition. I crave for something more, plot-wise. In a fiction at least.
One thing I have to say about this take on romance though : It's realistic. And I don't mean that in a boring way. I mean it deals with the real thing, the love you may find in life rather than the idealized abomination we get in some fictions, and yet it's still rot-your-teeth cute. Romances like this are important. What I wish more people will notice is, this is true. This is how love is. If you ever fall in love with someone, not in lust, and your relationship gets time to settle a little...this is what it could feel like.
I believe that each love story and each general feeling of love...or bond, is as unique as the persons who form this bond together are. But it's definitely like Eleanor & Park. I think part of the reason readers enjoy romance is because we're looking for a how-to guide to true love, to our happily ever after. I still enjoy romance in fics even though I'm in a relationship and happy. When it's done right, this genre feels as good as fantasy, and it promises you a miracle from real life. I can see the appeal.
But I'm getting sick of the misguided ideas too many romances set in their audience. Some of them are downright dangerous. How is a stalker sexy ? How is abuse, physical or moral, sexy ? It's sickening that I feel the need to be grateful toward a romance novel for being healthy for its readers...Eleanor & Park is a breath of fresh air, because it doesn't lie. I really want more novels like this that manage the balance between respecting the reader and being healthy for her or him; and being cute and smart, funny even.
And I'm disappointed with the cover art for the version I bought, the one you can see with this review. The problem for me here is the complete opposite of the one I pointed out for the illustrations in Roald Dahl's books. This cover is suitable for the readers, but it erases everything that makes this book unique. It even looks to me as if the black figures are a personal jab at Eleanor & Park's identity, and I'm upset that somebody somewhere thought it was necessary to lie about characters I love for who they are. So Eleanor is fat, and not a clean line like the young woman on this cover ? So Park has korean heritage and dresses in black ? As a reader I'm proud that Rainbow Rowell gave us characters who feel like people. Don't take that away from me, I don't want it to be hidden shamefully. I want the cover art to brag about it.
I liked :
The characters / the character development
'Eleanor', Mr Stessman said. 'What a powerful name. It's a queen's name, you know.'
'It's the name of the fat Chipette,' somebody behind Park whispered. Somebody else laughed.
The realistic take on love
The mix-tapes. So cute
I didn't like :
That looser Richie
Hmm...not so much I didn't like, but I was confused by the lack of more action for a good part of the book.
The cover art
25/02/2014, first part of the review (page one to sixty-something) :
I wasn't planning to buy this book. Thanks to Tumblr and Goodreads I was perfectly aware it exists and that it is popular. I had already let curiosity coax me once into buying a book recommended by many readers and reviewers last Christmas, which is unlike me, and I ended up very disappointed with that one, like I feared I'd be.
So I saw Eleanor & Park in my small local anglophone bookshop and bought it out of surprise and curiosity - the sellers don't usually go for internet favorites, there must be another YA reader out here in Bordeaux who maybe requested this one, I'm glad - but, deep down, fully expecting it to be another disappointment.
This is a book that could have gone wrong any time : There's no actual action, the narration is mostly centered around reflections and everyday life details. Rainbow Rowell succeeds in bringing out the best of her topic, but most surprising is that she manages it while keeping her story natural. Other authors tackle the same topic and achieve to make it enjoyable by giving their protagonists a life more active and outlandish than the life of a teenager really is.
For the first sixty pages or so, the author sticks to her point. She gives the reader something not only interesting, but also exciting, thanks to trivia and details...and by building a careful gradation. The tension adds up little by little with each of Eleanor and Park's (non-)interactions, and I wanted to know what happens next. And still, I'm grateful that there is no rush. YA romances these days almost hand you the happily ever after before the characters properly say hello to each other for the first time. I'm glad someone had the sense to make it rational, and make it good. Finally.
I'm reading James And The Giant Peach right now. I'm at page 37 and it just reached the part where things get really interesting in the book. I'm French, so I might have read fewer Roald Dahl's stories for school that I would if I had lived, dunno, in the United Kingdom, let's say. I remember reading The BFG and The Twits in primary school, but it's a bit fuzzy.
On the illustrations, though. I wanted to write a separate piece for them, because there's room for thought, in my opinion. To be quite honest, I feel like they're more of an acquired taste. When I was ten and my teacher made us read The BFG, I thought they were ugly.
I'm half-pleased to notice I'm still the same person : Thirteen years later, my first thought upon picking up the book and leafing through the first chapters was that the illustrations are ugly. I'd like to point out that I don't say that with satisfaction : I'm an art history student. I enjoy being happy looking at stuff more than I do poking fun at it (most of the time).
I'm still convinced they're not the best pictures to introduce a kid to the books. He's going to remember the story and associate it with the pictures, because that's what a kid's brain does. It's easier for memorization. I might not have felt so ambiguous toward The BFG now if I hadn't stared at the weird smiling giant of the illustrations back then. He creeps me out.
I wouldn't pay so much attention to it, but they're everywhere. Either you get used to them or you're in for an uncomfortable read. Yet again, maybe it's just me. I wouldn't say they don't fit the story, nevertheless. I think they do. I'm just not convinced they're the best storytelling material for children.
Then, there's also the fact that the illustrations don't fit with the way I picture the characters, which by the way is a vague version of their design in the animated movie : I liked it a lot when I was a child and I guess it just stuck with me.
I didn't associate this movie with the two stories I wasn't quite sure how I liked in primary school, even though there couldn't be a very wide time span between the moments I was introduced to both books and movie. It just couldn't be the same thing for me, one was awesome and good-weird, the others made me feel...conflicted, and bad-weird.
I'm guessing maybe it's part of the reason the role of the illustrations in a book is a side I want to point out : it's going to make a lasting impression. I can't help but think this kind of stuff influences what sort of stories one is going to like as an adult. It's going to stick with your personality and imprint here. I'm not saying I can like Roald Dahl's stories only because of the memory I keep of the movie, for example. What I mean is, I'm not sure I would have felt the urge to pick up James And The Giant Peach the other day if I hadn't remembered how I used to love the movie as a child, if Quentin Blake's were the only visual references I had of Roald Dahl's work, the only shortcuts, if you like. I don't think so.
If you have some thoughts on visuals of any story that stuck with you for a reason and you want to talk about it in a comment, I'd like reading about them. Are they good, bad memories for you ? Is there one in particular ? Do you think they're important ?