Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Switched (Trylle 01) By Amanda Hocking

This edition published in 2012 by Tor, Pan Macmillan

To be honest, I think Amanda Hocking’s author story is great. Good on her. Although I’m not a fan of self-publishing, she obviously took the initiative and it worked for her. Now she’s reaping the benefits.

I can’t say that I have the same admiration for her book. I read it because of the hype – both the self-publishing hype and the hype it’s getting in our bookstore; we sell multiple copies just about every day. I wanted to see what made it rise above all those other books self-published. I’m still not really sure exactly what that quality was.

It’s a cute story. It has all the tropes of paranormal romance – romance and forbidden love and action and the heroine possessing a ‘special’ quality that puts her in danger from the enemy. Perhaps that’s just exactly why it is so successful. I think on the whole it is more light and fluffy than the usual paranormal YA romance, which often takes itself too seriously. Before I read all the same comparisons myself, I was thinking it came across a lot like The Princess Diaries. The writing is not so self-aware, and I think for Switched it works.

Switched has obviously been edited before being put into print, but I still found the language to have a very self-published feel – from the over-use of adjectives to characters never ‘saying’ but always ‘emphasizing’ or ‘ advising’ or ‘commenting’. Also Hocking has a way of phrasing or describing things that just doesn’t sound at times traditional. There are many passages of internal thought, which my editor always insists ‘put it into dialogue! Show it through action!’ But to be honest, I actually didn’t mind. I found it gave the writing quite a distinct personality, if writing can have a personality.

Wendy does at least have a personality, which is more than I can say for a lot of para-romance heroines. I’m not sure if it’s a good personality, or if I like it yet. Where the characters shine is with the periphery characters – Rhys and Tove, and to a lesser extent Willa and Garrett. I find these characters quite intriguing, and hope Hocking incorporates more of their story in her later Trylle books.

Also, good on Hocking for using trolls for her main paranormal creatures, but they could just as well have been faeries or just really beautiful humans. I didn’t really find them to have any distinguishable characteristics, apart from the whole ‘changeling’ thing. The mythical creature hierarchy is quite interesting but perhaps not developed as much as it could be.

And what was with the ending? It really did feel like Hocking just gave up and stopped writing, and deus-ex-machina was practically jumping off the page. It was the only part of Switched that I really didn’t like. The rest was rather harmless and cute.

Monday, March 19, 2012

What the Raven Saw

I've been massively busy lately with my 'day-job' editing work, so hence the lack of regular posts. But the last lot of it (for the time being anyway!) is due this week, and I am so looking forward to posting more and catching up on some of the ARC's for my bookselling job, as well as reviewing some more of my favourite children's classics.

But the other big news is that I am going to have my own book published early next year by Random House. It is a children's novel, aimed at 8-12 year olds (but for everyone, of course!), called What the Raven Saw. I am so delighted and pleased and grateful and of course I can't wait to move further into the process of getting my own book published.

It is about a cranky, snooty (but really just very lonely) old raven and all the wacky characters he meets in 'his' graveyard, and all the adventures they have. Currently he is being represented by both my Aussie publisher and my US agent at the Bologna Book Fair. I really couldn't be happier for his grumpy old self.

Indie Awards 2012

The winners of the 2012 Indies Awards were announced last weekend. Boomerang Books Blog has a good rundown on all the winners here: Indie Winners.

Book of the year winner All That I Am has been selling really well at my bookstore and been really popular with bookclubs, although my personal pick was Past the Shallows. I was a bit disappointed in the Children's Book category. The Coming of the Whirlpool (Ship Kings 01) was a truly innovative, creative and well-written read, and I do feel that The Littlest Refugee, while still wonderful, was bouncing a bit off The Happiest Refugee's previous success. Also I'm a bit iffy about picture books, kids novels, and YA novels all being lumped into the one category.

I was at the Leading Edge Booksellers Conference (held in Melbourne, Vic this year) when these winners were announced. It was an enjoyable weekend, if a little rushed.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Coming of the Whirlpool (Ship Kings 01) by Andrew McGahan

First published by Allen & Unwin, 2011

How to describe this book? It is quite unlike any book I’ve read in a while – not quite fantasy, not quite YA, not quite children’s, not quite a high seas adventure tale. It is a mixture of all these and more.

It is quite literary. You have to be quite dedicated to reading it. At least I did. I have picked it up and put it down since the start of the year. But the last quarter I read in a couple of days. The last quarter is where it all pays off – for me, where the story all comes together. I wasn’t sure about the book or the style or the story until the last quarter, when The Coming of the Whirlpool did indeed sweep me up in the awe and the adventure of the sea and sailing and Dow’s world. Somehow I forgave the slow pacing and ponderous nature of the first half to two thirds, the relatively little action, because the end of the story feels so rewarding, and I get the feeling McGahan knew exactly what he was doing all along.

In an interview with Fancy Goods, McGahan says The Coming of the Whirlpool belonged to the type of fantasy that concerns itself with the wonder and adventure and mood of its own strange world, and less about the complexity of its politics or relationships. The world he has created here feels wonderfully unique, and is focused upon the power and intrigue of the sea. This sense of wonder is palpable. Not only because of Dow, because he is so strongly attracted to the sea himself, but also just because of the way McGahan writes about the ocean. I have my own fascination with the ocean/sea, and McGahan just captures so well the frightening power of it, its terrible beauty, its secrets and mystery. This is the kind of writing where you really can hear the sounds and see what is being described – it is all so vivid and immediate.

I love that there is a map included at the front. I love maps. I love checking places off against a map, of tracing the character’s journey and movements. It is also a beautifully designed book.

Not everyone will enjoy this – the pacing is slow, the mood is reflective, the language can at times be quite archaic. But as you read along the writing and the atmosphere creeps under your skin, and then kind of bursts out at the end. To me, this book went from a two star to a four star book by the end, and I am actually (very rare for me) intrigued enough to read the next in the series – The Voyage of the Unquiet Ice.