These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things: THE HILLS IS LONELY by Lillian Beckwith

I found a book in an opshop one day. That’s not unusual, of course. I’ve found many books in many opshops around Australia (and a few in America). It was in one of my book-binge shops, where I ended up with a whole plastic bag full of books at 10c each, paperback and hardback alike.

That book was THE HILLS IS LONELY by Lillian Beckwith. I picked it up sheerly because I liked the title, but the blurb on the back really sold it. The blurb read:

The Hills Is LonelyWhen Lillian Beckwith advertised for a secluded place in the country, she received a letter with the following unusual description of an isolated Hebridean croft: ‘Surely it’s that quiet even the sheeps themselves on the hills is lonely and as to the sea it’s that near as I use it myself everyday for the refusals…’

Her curiosity aroused, Beckwith took up the invitation. This is the comic and enchanting story of the strange rest-cure that followed and her efforts to adapt to a completely different way of life.

It sounded wonderful, and I’d been meaning to read more non-fiction anyway. THE HILLS IS LONELY seemed like a good place to start.

It was. I’m not sure exactly how much of it is from Lillian Beckwith’s actual experiences and how much of it is made up (she writes fiction also), but whatever the breakdown is, the whole of it is enchanting. She has such a way with words, and such a fine hand for characters that you can’t help feeling that you’re there, and that you never want to leave.

“I like the way you townfolk seem to be able to dance on your toes,” panted my partner admiringly.

“You’re dancing on them too,” I replied with a ghostly chuckle that was half irony and half agony.

“Me? Dancin’ on me toes?”

“No,” I retorted brutally, “on mine.”

“I thought I must be,” said Lachy simply, and with no trace of remorse; “I could tell by the way your face keeps changin’.”

Hebrides

photo from visitscotland.com

I’ve a link here for the Kindle Version of THE HILLS IS LONELY, though I really recommend getting the paperback. This is one of those books that you’ll want to feel in your hands and smell the scent of as you read it.

But whichever format you prefer to read, just read this one. I promise you, you’ll want to go on to the next, and then the next…

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things: BROOD OF BONES by A.E. Marling

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I was wondering what my next entry in the Favourite Things Series would be when I came across a reminder on my Twitter feed, in the form of a ‘check out my book’ tweet. That tweet was by A.E. Marling, and referenced his book DREAM STORM SEA (which, however much I loved it, is not the book I will be sharing today).

The book I’ll be sharing today is one of A.E. Marling’s books, though. It’s the first of his that I read–and still my favourite so far–BROOD OF BONES. In BROOD OF BONES, the women of Morimound have all suddenly become pregnant, and no one knows why- or how. It’s left to a Somnolant (narcoleptic) enchantress, with the help of her trusted maid and her bodyguard–plus one rather wicked Lord Of The Feast–to find out why, and to what end.

Broof of bones

And isn’t the cover so GORGEOUS?!?

“A man can never tell how much a woman cares about him until she threatens his life”.

BROOD OF BONES features female lead Hiresha, who has the distinction not only of being one of my favourite book heroines, but of being one of the most convincing male-written females I’ve had the privilege to read. Her 27 dresses and her fascination with gems that borders on the obsessive-compulsive is delightful to read. Her interactions with her fellow characters are spiky and sharp, as is her personality. And although she grows and learns, Hiresha remains herself throughout the book, flaws, cracks and all.

As for the main male lead, Tethiel – well, you just have to read him. He’s delightful and hilarious and a perfect match for Hiresha. His flaws aren’t white-washed, but they’re things that make him, him. There’s a tendency in modern fiction to have an anti-hero type male lead, but oh! he loves puppies, and oh! he’d never kill anyone, and oh, I suppose he’s just misunderstood. Tethiel isn’t one of those. He’s a true anti-hero, with his own reasons and motives for doing things. His interactions with Hiresha are gloriously, frivolously fun.

The only slight annoyance I had with the book was the amount of times we were told about the outward signs of pregnancy, and how Hiresha could tell how far along the women were. I think I counted five or six times, and by the sixth time I was saying aloud: “All right, I get it!” But it was a VERY slight annoyance, and if I’d been reading in the way I used to read as a child (ie, speed reading) it’s entirely possible that I’d have missed a few of the references.

I’m going to be doing a re-read soon, but I want to make sure I have all of the books in paperback (my favourite format still 🙂 ) first. And I have yet to read the spin-off title, A GOWN OF SHADOW AND FLAME, so yay! goodness to look forward to!

Verdict? Buy it. This is one of the books that I’ve bought both an ebook and physical copy of.

At times gritty, at times endearing, and at all times fabulously entertaining, BROOD OF BONES is a book well worth your time, and a wonderful first book in its series (which is likewise fantastic). Do yourself a favour and check it out. It’s some of the best that self-publishing (or in fact any kind of publishing) has to offer.

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things: Writing Music!

 

Mostly I talk about books and movies, stuff that inspires, delights, and makes me think. But I’ve hitherto neglected to mention in this series the music that inspires and delights me. So today I’m concentrating on my writing music–aka, music I listen to as I write my books–which is why you guys get a video (or three).

I listen to a few different artists as I write, with the most frequently listened-to being Lindsay Stirling, The Piano Guys, and Evanescence. I also like to listen to Nightwish, Within Temptation, and a range of movie soundtracks with wonderful music. Lately, I’ve also purchased a CD of New Orleans music with a dixie/jazz type of sound to it. Listening to music as I write can improve my productivity by up to 100%: I’m far more likely to write 3-6k on a day that I play music as I write, than on a day where I write in silence or with the TV in the back ground. Mind you, The A-Team is great to write to as well, but I do get distracted by the flamin’ awesomeness of Murdock sometimes…

Well, NaNoWriMo is still going, and I still have words to write, so it’s ciao for now! What are you guys listening to as you read/write?

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things #2: THE LOST CONSPIRACY by Frances Hardinge

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Who’s up for round 2 of These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things?

What? You’re gonna have to speak up. I can’t hear you over the sound of all that deafening silence.

I honestly don’t read a huge amount of middle grade fiction. Even as a kid I was more inclined to read teen and adult fiction–or classics–than I was to read middle grade. There were exceptions, but by and large I didn’t read a huge amount of it (Nicholas Fisk, Diana Wynne Jones, and Joan Aiken being three HUGE exceptions, because they’re amazing).

Frances Hardinge is a new, huge exception. THE LOST CONSPIRACY (also known as GULLSTRUCK ISLAND, depending upon which country you live in) was the first book of Frances Hardinge’s that I ever read (I think. Maybe it was TWILIGHT ROBBERY, which I also love).

lost conspiracyHathin belongs to a tribe called The Lace, whose perennially smiling faces and Sweeny-Todd-like legacy of human sacrifice behind those smiling faces have left them to be widely regarded in suspicion and horrified fear by the peoples around them. Hathin’s chief difficulty and chief responsibility are one and the same: her older sister, Arilou. They are described thusly:

“Her name was Hathin. While Arilou’s name was meant to sound like the call of an owl, the fluting of a bird of prophecy, Hathin’s name imitated the whisper of settling dust. Dust-like she was indeed, unremarkable, quiet, all but invisible.”

Arilou is The Lady Lost, considered special; a lady of prophecy, possessed of great gullstruckand awesome powers. Her powers are the reason that Hathin’s village has enough food for the winter and a place to live, not to mention a small income from selling relics and suchlike. Unfortunately, those powers are entirely faked. Hathin and the Lace have been keeping Arilou’s lacking mental capacities a secret, ‘translating’ her drooling and moaning to seem as though they’re prophecies. But now an inspector is arriving to test Arilou’s ‘powers’, and it may not be long before they’re all exposed.

Things happen very quickly after the opening is set up. The inspector is murdered. Then almost the entirety of Hathin’s village is also murdered, leaving her on the run and dragging the mentally lacking Arilou along behind her.

What I love about Frances Hardinge is the fact that she’s not afraid to have ugly characters. I don’t mean physically ugly, though she’s not afraid of that as well. I mean the whole setup of a young girl from a people with human sacrifice in their (not too distant) past. There are a lot of stories about the Nazis, and fighting the Nazis, but what would it be like to grow up in the next generation, knowing your people were responsible for such atrocities? There are a lot of countries in real life that have done similar things: my own country of Australia, and the hunting and murder of Aboriginals; the ‘settlement’ of America, where Native Indians were murdered and pushed out of their own land; the Nazis, as previously mentioned; and so on. THE LOST CONSPIRACY was the first time I’d seen anything like this in fiction.

Added to the interest of the subject matter (and the fact that Frances Hardinge is one of the few authors who can still surprise me with the direction a book takes), is the fact that the writing is so absolutely beautiful. For style as well as substance, Frances Hardinge’s books are some of the best out there.

There’s so much more I could say about this book, but the most important thing I have to say is: BUY IT. READ IT. This is one of my favourite books. It’s also eminently re-readable, which is one of the biggest tests of the worth of a book.

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things #1: Black Butler

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I promise I won’t sing about it, though…

This is the first in a new series of blog posts on a few of my favourite things, suggested by Kate Stradling. (Actually, she suggested a W.R.’s Reading Recommendations list but I decided to get clever with it). Also, I decided to recommend a movie first ‘cos I’m annoying like that and I’ve been wanting to watch this particular movie again for the last week.

I’m not blog-savvy enough to give it its own page with a scrolling feed of posts, so if you’re looking for the series from this point on, simply search for or click on the category These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things. Maybe one day I’ll have a proper website… 

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Kuroshitsuji or Black Butler (Live Action Movie)

I’m pretty sure I’ve already raved a bit about Black Butler on this blog, and those of you who’ve watched movies with me are in no doubt about my attitude toward this movie. Which is actually a bit ironic, because when I watched it for the first time, even wasn’t certain of my attitude toward it. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, in the best possible way, so it took me a while to sort out my feelings for it.

Black Butler is a live action movie (real actors) that is based upon an anime series of the same title. In the series is a demonic butler, Sebastian, who has made a bargain with his master: namely, that in recompense for assisting his master to exact revenge upon his enemies, Sebastian will at that time consume his master’s blackened soul. The movie has the same premise and the same butler, but there (as far as I know, having only researched and never watched the series) the similarities end. A few of the same characters recur–but only a few–and the series’ young male protagonist, Ceil Phantomhive, is replaced by young girl-pretending-to-be-boy, Shiori Genpo. The storyline, moreover, while having the same basic premise as the series, has it’s own distinct plot.

Black butler

The first thing I’ll say in regards to this movie is that I don’t like anime. I’ve tried to, because there are some cool storylines and intriguing setups in anime, not to mention fantastic characters. I tried SO HARD. But I really, really don’t like anime (excepting only Appleseed, which is 20 kinds of brilliant). I hate the tiny outfits and the tinier voices. I hate having to squint at the screen until I figure out whether this particular androgynous character is male or female. I SO MUCH HATE the protracted gurgles and delayed gasps. I hate the fact that the female characters almost always have girlish faces and womanly, buxom bodies. Having said all that, I’m really not sure why I decided to download Black Butler from iTunes.

I think it’s because despite all the things anime does wrong, it does some things really well. Black Butler took all the things anime does well and did them far better. Then it took the irritating things that anime does and did them very well. The over-exaggerated characters and closeup shots that irritate me in anime and manga worked so very well in Black Butler. The absurd, dramatic situations were served up with eclat and verve, and managed to totally work. When I watched Black Butler, it seemed like all the expectations I’d ever had of anime and manga had been thoroughly satisfied–and then some. I found myself thinking: ‘This. This is what anime was meant to be.’ It was like seeing the beautiful big sister of the awkward little kid next door.

Added to all this is the fact that Black Butler has ALL THE FEELSBuy it. Buy it now. Watch it again and again, the way I do.

Shelved beside: The Fall, Alice (2009 miniseries), City Of Lost Children, and The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-sec.

(You thought this was going to be a real, detailed review, didn’t you? Sorry. Nope.)