Of Musings and Wonderings

Cover What Happens 1a smallerBefore I begin, I want to point out that this is not my usual cup of tea. But I’ve mentioned before how I’m reading a lot of supernatural stuff (mainly vampires) and have been looking to ‘branch out’ into some new stuff.

What Happens To Us follows the story of Cat, a recovering alcoholic who goes on the run when a strange man breaks into her house. She desperately looks for somewhere safe, and in a bar meets Dante, a magician who takes her in.  The two initially have a non-romantic relationship, where Dante just seems like a guy willing to help someone out and Cat seeming to use him. But when she spills her guts about what happens and they return to find Dante’s home on fire, the two flee together to New York.

The book wasn’t bad. It was gripping enough and it had enough intrigue to keep the plot moving forward. The characters are interesting in their own ways, but the story tends to jump a lot between different ones and at times it’s hard to tell who’s POV we’re in. (The book is third person, by the way, but a lot of the time we’re in the character’s minds, knowing their thoughts and feelings.)

The main problem with the characters is that everyone has issues. And I mean big issues. Not just “Oh, I’ve put on weight,” or “I feel horrible about myself.” Everyone has a deep, dark past (that they all happily reveal to the main character) and massive secrets. None of them are just, well, normal. Not saying the characters have to be happy or have had rosy childhoods, but not everyone is completely messed up in real life. These characters are, and it kind of detracts from the plot a bit as you’re trying to keep track of the horrendous childhoods or awful lives these people have lived.

The plot itself moves quite fast, and it’s hard to follow in places as it seems to randomly jump from one thing to another. There are points where it’s hard to tell who we’re following at particular points, and in some cases it’s difficult to pinpoint what’s exactly going on, or how much time has passed. The events could take place over a few months, but it’s mentioned in some places to be a couple of years and then, later on, the reference to the start of the book is “months before”. It’s a little distracting. Which is a shame, because with the pace was slowed down and the timeline kept consistent, it does have a good, interesting plot.

It works where it works, but unfortunately it doesn’t always work. The novel uses the NSA and what we’ve recently learnt about the true extent of what they do. And it feels like it’s been written since that reveal. It feels rushed. It’s a damn shame because there are some great ideas here; they’re just buried under the surface of not-quite-polished.

Still, if you’re into a little bit of thriller with some magic and a bit of spirituality thrown in, then check it out.

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the girl with no naeThe Girl With No Name tells the story of a young sorceress who, as the title suggests, lacks a name. She is brought up by an old man after the death of her mother, and learns quickly to hide her magical abilities from those around her. The girl embarks on a quest to find her father, taking her to different lands where she meets a variety of different people.

I feel lucky to have read part of this on Fictionpress before it was published on Kindle. As soon as it was taken down, and I found out where I could read the rest, I couldn’t help but buy it. It’s one of those books where you just really, really have to know what happens.

It’s also the second book in a row which can be described as a sort of modern-day fairytale (though lacking the modern setting of Puppet Parade). The ‘modern’ feel comes from the writing itself, while the rest of the book feels rooted in the tales we’ve all grown up with. And it works wonderfully for it.

The story doesn’t linger unnecessarily, and the pacing works well. We follow this character through her journey – if she doesn’t want to stay in one place, if she isn’t interested in a specific building or group of people, it’s bypassed. Some stories are weighed down with lengthy descriptions and too much focus on the surroundings. The Girl With No Name simply shows us the same things the nameless main character would be interested in, and then moves on. We don’t get pages of what people were wearing, we get, simply, exactly what the girl is seeing.

Similarly, the characters that jump out are the ones who have an effect on her. There’s Elder, for starters, the man who brought her up, whose scenes at the beginning when he talks to the town mayor made me laugh out loud, both times I read it. There’s the bookseller who helps the girl find out where to go. There’s Leif, who when we meet him is annoying, rude and bordering on cruel. Yet the longer the girl is with him, the more we get to know of him and the more I, anyway, grew to like him.

There’s a sense of rhythm throughout the piece, and the words themselves have this kind fairytale like feel. It’s a book I imagine would be a delight to read out loud, and if there were any kids around, I’d probably end up reading it to them as a bedtime story. Not to say it’s a kid’s book. It’s more an all ages book, something everyone can get a lot of delight from.

On top of all that, we get to see this girl grow up. We see her coming of age, see as she discovers not just the world around her but herself, too. We witness as the girl grows into her own skin, as her motivations and desires are formed and shaped by what she experiences on her quest.

The Girl With No Name was a pure pleasure to read, a great story with wonderful characters and a great sense of what really makes a fairytale readable again and again and again.



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puppet paradeSophie has never seen her face. Her step-mother keeps her locked in her bedroom, telling her it is for her own protection firstly due to the illness she suffered as a child and secondly to keep her from seeing her ugly deformed face. Oliver is a puppeteer obsessed with his own creations, keeping himself willingly isolated from the world. Until the day his puppets come to life and run away, and he goes out to find them, but before he sees any of them, he comes across a mysterious young girl in a mask.

The two embark on a journey to get Oliver’s puppets back, but when they get on a train, they really have no idea what they are heading towards.

The best way I can think to describe this is a modern-day fairytale. And it works brilliantly for it. The story moves along at a nice pace, and the characters themselves draw you into this world. We see everything through the eyes of Oliver and Sophie, and feel their feelings for each other grow at a nice, steady pace. Nothing happens too fast, and we get some great glimpses into the various towns along the route that Sophie and Oliver visit.

Each town is unique in its own way, with its own personality. Certain types of people are attracted to each one, and each town is named for the type of people who live there. Gypsy, Scholar, Aristocrat, Violence and so on. In each one, Sophie and Oliver meet a variety of distinctive and interesting characters, while learning more and more about where they are travelling, and picking up on clues as to where the puppets might be.

It’s not just a happy quest to find the puppets, however, and the two main characters soon find themselves running from danger at every turn. Plus there’s some quite sad moments thrown in there, too, and these moments just seem to cement the relationship between Sophie and Oliver.

Even in third person, the voices of the characters come out quite strongly. You get a sense of them as people, and can see exactly why they act the way they do and the way their lives until the start of the book have shaped them.

There’s not much more I can say without spoiling it. The book overall is a delight to read, and the characters of the puppets are a nice balance to some of the more serious undertones in the book. Especially Andrew. So yeah, if you’re looking for something fun and entertaining, I would strongly recommend. Oh, and visit Zen’s blog because it’s awesome.

Find out more about the book and where you can buy it here.

I’ve been thinking about this for a few days. Not for any particular reason, and there’s nothing that has triggered this thought process off recently, but it has been at the back of my mind for a while. But yeah, for a couple of days now I’ve been going through it in my head and I decided to put it out here, because it is something that really, really bugs me.

I’ll start by clarifying something. I think ‘feminism’ has come to mean different things to different people. And that in itself is okay. To some people, it means trying to ensure women are treated equally in the workplace. To others, it might mean trying to fight for women in other countries who do not have the same liberties that we have in the Western World. And so on and so forth. So that said, I want to make sure before I go into this, I explain what feminism means to me personally, in my own day-to-day life.

I believe in equality, between everyone. Yes, I think there are some major differences between men and women that essentially mean we can’t all be on equal ground when it comes to everything. Even if I trained and worked hard, I doubt I could ever do as many push ups or pull ups as my brother. And that’s okay, because there are some aspects where I am better than him. But I do think people should be judged on their skills and abilities, and not gender or race or anything else. I don’t think quotas work because it means that even if you have a man who is more suited to a job than a woman, the woman may still get it for nothing more than being a woman. And that is sexist. Everyone should be judged equally but it would be naive of me to think that would happen in my life time.

Secondly, I feel that I should be allowed to make my own choices about my own life, whatever they might be. If I had children and was able to, and wanted to stay home to look after them while my partner went to work, then I’m not going to let someone saying “Oh, that’s not feminist” stop me doing that. Because it is feminist, if I made the choice. Similarly, if my partner and I agreed that he would stay at home and I would go to work, then it’s a choice we have made.

What pisses me off is when ‘feminists’ try to speak for all women, or say what they think all women should do. When some women face scorn because oh, they’re not doing feminism right. Or because they shave. Me shaving is having no impact whatsoever on whether we are treated equally or not, and I shave because I prefer it. And if we’re going to insist guys shave beards or cut hair for job interviews or dates, then we sure as hell should do the same courtesy. If you make a decision not to shave, fine. Good for you! I’m glad you are able to make that choice, but you shouldn’t look down on me because I made a different one.

And that’s not even getting started on the attacks on men. I’ve had male friends who have been told that them having sex with a woman makes them a rapist, because apparently every sexual act is rape. No, I don’t get the logic there either.

If a guy wants to buy me a drink, I’m going to be flattered. It’s a gentlemanly thing to do, it shows a level of interest, and I’m not going to sit and complain about being treated as a ‘woman’ because they want to do it or hold a door open for me or whatever. But you know what else? I’ll buy that guy a drink back if I can, and I make a point to hold a door open for someone behind me. It’s not just a man/woman thing, it’s called being a decent human being, and getting into arguments about it is pointless.

You know what. None of those things matter.

I admit I have been privileged. I have not experienced the harshest examples of sexism I have heard other women have, I have been lucky in that the guys I have known – as friends or something else – have treated me as I would want to be treated, have always been decent guys. Yes, I have had moments walking home in the dark where I’ve been scared because some guy starts crossing the road towards me, very drunk and saying things I was unable to hear over my headphones. But I saw his friends – his male friends – grab him and pull him back, and I’ve been walking down that same street and seen guys walk to the other side of the pavement. Why? Because they think they’ll scare me? Because they’re worried about my own reaction to them walking towards me?

My male friends have actually experienced more sexism than I have. They have been told they couldn’t possibly be a feminist because they don’t know what it’s like. They’ve been criticised and shot down for simply being men. They have, essentially, been made to feel that having a dick makes them inferior.

And as long as we keep arguing about the insignificant, as long as we keep making men feel devalued for just being men, made to feel horrible for no reason at all, then feminism, as much as it is still needed, might as well be dead, because it sure as hell won’t achieve anything.

{July 13, 2013}   Wool by Hugh Howey

WoolBecause it would be hard to sum up this book in my own words, I’m going to let Goodreads do it for me.

“In a ruined and toxic landscape, a community exists in a giant silo underground, hundreds of stories deep. There, men and women live in a society full of regulations they believe are meant to protect them. Sheriff Holston, who has unwaveringly upheld the silo’s rules for years, unexpectedly breaks the greatest taboo of all: He asks to go outside.

His fateful decision unleashes a drastic series of events. An unlikely candidate is appointed to replace him: Juliette, a mechanic with no training in law, whose special knack is fixing machines. Now Juliette is about to be entrusted with fixing her silo, and she will soon learn just how badly her world is broken. The silo is about to confront what its history has only hinted about and its inhabitants have never dared to whisper. Uprising.”

I love dystopian novels, stories of what may happen to the human race after zombies or some sort of mass event. So Wool was right up my street. My mum mentioned it in passing ages ago, hearing about it on the radio, and it sat on my to-read list for way too long. But finally I got it, read it and finished it yesterday.

To me, there seem to currently be two ‘postapocalyptic’ type of stories that are popular right now. The wasteland where people survive on their own or in pockets (think Revolution or The Walking Dead) or the 1984 dystopian society novels, where there is government in charge and either keep everyone depressed and oppressed, or where the people are blissfully ignorant of what is really happening and just go about their day to day business.

The last one essentially sums up ‘Wool’. The silo in which these people live operates pretty much peacefully, and everyone has their place. The up top, the mids, the down deep. People mine or farm or work the IT servers, work in the nurseries and hospitals, schools or as mechanics. They work together and take on ‘shadows’, apprentices who will learn and continue to work.

The inhabitants seem quite content, happy with their lot and with how things are going. They just go about their daily lives, doing what people do, without questioning any of it. They celebrate when someone is sent outside for ‘cleaning’, as they are given a clearer view of the world outside. They, simply, do what they are told. Until events are set in motion and the upper levels of the silo are thrown into turmoil.

I love reading different viewpoints; it works especially well in a book like this, where there is quite a lot going on and it impacts the characters in different ways. But it can be tricky. Howey, however, does a great job of giving these different characters distinctive voices, of really making them stand out from one another even in third person. He enables you to get into the heads of these people, and you get a really clear picture of what life in the silo is like for the characters we meet without the boring, day-in day-out stuff. It feels like a lot of main turning points take place in relatively boring places; a bunker or the stairwell. But Howey really makes these places come alive, and the Silo almost becomes a character in its own right.

That said, I do think there were some aspects of the characters that just didn’t come out. We don’t see enough to Jules’ and Lukas’ relationship to really get a solid idea of it, and we don’t see enough of Peter Billings to know why he does what he does towards the end. There are some characters who deserve a little more light on them so their arc makes sense. Still, it’s still a good novel and an enjoyable read.

Howey has a tendency to reveal certain secrets to the reader before the characters figure them out, and it works. It keeps you reading just so you can see what their reactions will be when they find out, and it makes you wonder what they will do when the penny drops. It also has you questioning what certain things would mean for the Silo as a whole – like I said above, the characters who aren’t impacted by the main story seem to live their lives quite blissfully, so really, what would revealing the truth do for them? Yes, it’s all very noble wanting to educate them to what’s really going on, but after all ignorance is bliss and who knows what the majority of the Silo will do when they are told the truth. Will they just carry on in their jobs as normal? Practically every job is crucial to the running of the Silo and the lives of everyone in it. What if just a few of them turned around and went “Nope. Not doing it anymore.”?

But maybe that’s in one of the other books in the trilogy. Maybe it’s not.

But yeah, Wool is an interesting read, with characters and events that will stick with you and leaves you with an urge to know what happens to them next. Luckily, there’s two more books for that. So if you like postapocalyptic/dystopian novels then I would strongly suggest this book.

I still don’t get why it’s called Wool though.

If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your comments. And if you have any other postapocalyptic novels you think I should read, please let me know. I am constantly on the look out for more.

et cetera