All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Mini Reviews {10} – What I’ve Been Reading Lately

Thought I’d do another round up of mini-reviews, books that I’ve read lately that haven’t really warranted a longer review or are similar or were read a while ago (and in some cases here, read before). So here are a few books I’ve read lately that I wanted to have some thoughts on.

Obernewtyn & The Farseekers (Chronicles of Obernewyn 1&2)
Isobelle Carmody (narrated by Isobelle Carmody)
Bolinda Audio
2016
Personal purchased copies via Audible

So recently I’ve discovered the success for audiobooks, in terms of me enjoying them and it’s listening to books I’ve already read. I really enjoyed the version of Pride & Prejudice that I read, narrated by Rosamund Pike and when I finished that, I went looking for something else to read and came across the Obernewtyn books.

I have loved this series for forever and also, the audiobooks are narrated by the author, so this is how she intended them to be read. I’ve discovered a bunch of things I’ve been pronouncing wrong in my head for 20+ years (starting with Innle!). I have listened to the first 2, which are relatively slim books – the first was just under 7 hours, the second was over 8. I’m also well into the third book, which is 14+ hours.

I have really enjoyed revisiting the series in a different way and just being able to determine tone and intent behind the words. Isobelle Carmody does have a great speaking voice and she lends a large variety of accents to the characters as well, which also helps connect those from similar areas, who speak in the same ways. The books after 3 are significantly larger and will take a long time to listen to, so I may take a break and listen to something else first, before going back to them. I’ve also only read the last book once so it’ll be an interesting experience to listen to that too. These first 3 books at least, I know inside out as I started reading them in 1996 and read them a lot. I’m sure a lot of info has left me over the years from the later books, which I am not as intimately familiar with.

These were both excellent!

9/10

Books #125 & #128 of 2020

488 Rules For Life 
Kitty Flanagan
Allen & Unwin
2019, 302p
Read via my local library/Borrow Box

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

488 Rules for Life is Kitty Flanagan’s way of making the world a more pleasant place to live. Providing you with the antidote to every annoying little thing, these rules are not made to be broken.

488 Rules for Life is not a self-help book, because it’s not you who needs help, it’s other people. Whether they’re walking and texting, asphyxiating you on public transport with their noxious perfume cloud, or leaving one useless square of toilet paper on the roll, a lot of people just don’t know the rules.

But thanks to Kitty Flanagan’s comprehensive guide to modern behaviour, our world will soon be a much better place. A place where people don’t ruin the fruit salad by putting banana in it … where your co-workers respect your olfactory system and don’t reheat their fish curry in the office microwave … where middle aged men don’t have ponytails …

I love Kitty Flanagan, I think she’s hilarious. I first remember coming across her in Full Frontal, an Australian sketch comedy show that aired in the mid 1990s that I used to watch. She’s very funny, and is a regular on Have You Been Paying Attention which is a show my husband and I both watch together.

This is a funny clever book that is pretty much just as it says – her rules for life, starting with #1 which is if you don’t agree with the rule, forget about it and move on. There are plenty of rules here that you’ll find yourself nodding along to, and it’s broken down into fun sections. At the back there’s a section for you to add your own rules (mine was an electronic copy, so I couldn’t do this).

The sort of book easily read in snatches, perhaps on public transport (whilst people around you break all the rules maybe!)

6/10

Book #113 of 2020

488 Rules For Life was book #39 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2020

Artistic License
Elle Pierson
Self-published
2014 (originally 2013), 178p
Personally purchased copy

Blurb {from Goodreads.com}:

When of the world’s prestigious art collections comes to the resort town of Queenstown, New Zealand, shy art student Sophy James is immediately drawn to the pieces on display – and to the massive, silent, sexy presence keeping watch over them. She’s completely fascinated and attracted by the striking planes and angles of his unusual face, and can’t resist sneaking out her pencil when he’s not looking.

Security consultant Mick Hollister is used to women looking at his ugly mug – but not with the genuine pleasure he sees in the face of the girl with the charcoal-smudged fingers and terrible skills at covert surveillance. A security breach brings the two into fast and furious collision, and an unlikely friendship begins to blossom. And an even more unlikely – and very reluctant – love.

Introvert Sophy is content with her independence and solitude. She’s never looked for a long-term relationship, and isn’t sure she wants one now. Mick, apparently born with a face that not even a mother could love, has given up all hope of having one.

They have nothing in common. They shouldn’t even like each other. And they can’t stay away from one another.

I saw this recommended on the romance reddit when someone wanted a recommendation where the people weren’t perfect looking. Apparently, Mick, the hero in this, is considered ugly by most but Sophy is an artist and she doesn’t perceive him that way. To her, his face is fascinating! She sketches him trying to be subtle at the museum where Mick works security (although Sophy is not exactly inconspicuous, so Mick does notice her).

I loved the setting in this – Queenstown in NZ is high on my visit list, in fact my husband and I had been considering NZ as a trip for my milestone birthday and it was the frontrunner….before all of this *gestures vaguely* So that was a big tick and I liked that Mick, although son of a wealthy family, had gone his own way and worked a job that isn’t often typical in romance books. There’s a bit more to it than just security guard, but it was something different. This was a perfectly fine romance, a bit different although there were a few things that I felt were just there to try and create conflict, like Sophy’s freaking out about being in a relationship meaning she’d lose her sense of self. It wasn’t very well explained.

6/10

Book #132 of 2020

Talking To My Country
Stan Grant
Harper Collins AUS
2017, 240p
Personal purchased copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

In July 2015, as the debate over Adam Goodes being booed at AFL games raged and got ever more heated and ugly, Stan Grant wrote a short but powerful piece for The Guardian that went viral, not only in Australia but right around the world, shared over 100,000 times on social media. His was a personal, passionate and powerful response to racism in Australia and the sorrow, shame, anger and hardship of being an indigenous man. ‘We are the detritus of the brutality of the Australian frontier’, he wrote, ‘We remained a reminder of what was lost, what was taken, what was destroyed to scaffold the building of this nation’s prosperity.’

Stan Grant was lucky enough to find an escape route, making his way through education to become one of our leading journalists. He also spent many years outside Australia, working in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, a time that liberated him and gave him a unique perspective on Australia. This is his very personal meditation on what it means to be Australian, what it means to be indigenous, and what racism really means in this country.

Talking to My Country is that rare and special book that talks to every Australian about their country – what it is, and what it could be. It is not just about race, or about indigenous people but all of us, our shared identity. Direct, honest and forthright, Stan is talking to us all. He might not have all the answers but he wants us to keep on asking the question: how can we be better?

I bought this recently. Stan Grant is an Indigenous Australian journalist. He wrote and is featured in a doco/movie called The Australian Dream which is currently sitting on my satellite tv box until I’m in the mindset to watch it, along with The Final Quarter. Both revolve around the booing of Indigenous AFL footballer Adam Goodes (who is my favourite player of all time and played 17 seasons with my team, the Sydney Swans). This book also touches on that issue, towards the end.

But this book also details a lot of Grant’s life and that of his family, incidents over the years that have reflected the treatment of them as Indigenous people. Grant outlines times like when he was 15 or 16 – the government was paying his family for every term he stayed in school, in an attempt to keep kids of Indigenous heritage enrolled, getting educated. “Bridging the gap” in education between Indigenous kids and others has long been an issue. However, Grant says that the principal of his school pulled him and several other Indigenous kids into his office and basically told them they were done at school, it wasn’t for them obviously, it was time to go and get a job. Which was in direct contrast to the message the government was trying to send, of keeping children in school. And what must that have been like, for teenagers? To be told that. That you weren’t wanted, shouldn’t be there. You can pretty it up any way you like but Grant and others like him were specifically singled out for their heritage and told to leave.

There’s a lot about identity in this, what it was like to grow up Aboriginal in Australia. There’s a lot about family and history, interesting stories about some of Grant’s relatives, like a white grandmother who chose a life with an Indigenous man and was turned away from a hospital when time came to give birth to her child. It seems inconceivable that a place responsible for help and caregiving, would refuse entry to a woman because she carried a child that would be Aboriginal. But it happened. I mean, this is a country that basically stole an entire generation away to “better them” by placing them with white families so it shouldn’t really be that shocking but yet it still is, every time you read one of these stories and connect it to a real person who endured it.

Grant has an appealing way of writing, very conversational but also informative and this does a fantastic job highlighting a lot of the inequality and systemic racism faced by Aboriginal Australians. He talks of places stained with the blood of his ancestors and their fellow tribespeople, places where brutal massacres took place. He also takes his son to some of these places, to share stories and history so that it is not forgotten, that each member of his family is privy to the path that has led them to where they are. He is passionate and informative but also measured and thoughtful. He’s not afraid to lay himself bare either and talks extensively of his struggle with identity and also his depression, later in life.

I feel as though this is an important book, one all Australians should read. And that anything I really have to say on it is inadequate.

Book #131 of 2020

 

Leave a comment »

Review/Random Thoughts On: The Red Queen by Isobelle Carmody

Red QueenThe Red Queen (The Obernewtyn Chronicles #7)
Isobelle Carmody
Penguin Books AUS
2015, 1108p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {courtesy the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

After years spent struggling to balance her desires with her responsibilities, Elspeth Gordie has fully embraced her role as the Seeker. Battle-scarred and lovelorn, haunted by memories of her beloved Rushton, Elspeth is not prepared for what she finds at the end of the black road she travels: the Compound, a lost community with a startling secret. As Elspeth strives against her captors, she learns that Rushton and her friends have fallen into the hands of the deadly slavemasters that rule the Red Land. And worst of all, as Elspeth stumbles, the Destroyer creeps ever closer to his goal: awakening the cataclysmically destructive weaponmachines that Elspeth has been charged with stopping. Has all her sacrifice been in vain?

Full of romance, action, and suspense, The Red Queen is a worthy finale to such a breathtakingly elaborate series.

Please note: This review probably contains a ginormous amount of ***SPOILERS*** for the previous books in The Obernewtyn Chronicles and assumes a pretty deep familiarity with the overall plot. This is also not really a *review* so much as a brain dump upon finishing this series. 

So it is here, it is here, it is finally here. As I’ve mentioned several thousand times, one of my few reading friends recommended this book to me when I was 14 and in year 9 in high school, waaaay way back in 1996. This girl and I had met in primary school and when I moved away, we communicated by writing letters where we talked about books we were reading, high school dramas and whatever else we had going on. At that time, the first three books were published and I never dreamed I’d be waiting 19 years for the conclusion. I think at that stage, there were only meant to be four or five books! That turned into 7, several of which are massive 1000+ page behemoths.

It was released on a Thursday and I trekked to my local shopping centre to track a copy down. I didn’t have much hope – we have one local bookstore that to be honest, is a bit random with what it carries. Lots of “bargain” stuff, a good selection of older fiction but “new releases” can be up to a month or two old. I asked but they told me although it was on order, it hadn’t been sent from their supplier yet and would be at least a week. Did I want to order a copy? No thank you, I was determined to get it before that. There are 3 department stores in the shopping centre so I tried those too although with even less confidence. Then I took to twitter to see who could get back to me the quickest about definitely having it in stock. The winners were the fab people at Dymocks Geelong who put a copy away for me. We’re off to Geelong, I told my husband, who pulled a face at the prospect of this 90min round trip. Luckily he’s a reader too so although he wasn’t entirely thrilled, he got it.

When I had it, I was surprised by my reluctance to actually start it. When you have been waiting for something for so long, it builds up to incredible heights in your mind. I wanted so many things from this book, what if it didn’t give me all of them? Or actually, any of them? What had I been spending the last 20 years waiting for? I was also going away over the weekend and not planning on taking it so on Friday, I settled on the couch with the intention of getting through as much of it as possible.

This book encompasses misfit Elspeth Geordie’s final mission to destroy the weaponmachines and also return the Queen of the Red Land to her people. It’s a long and quite winding story during which we learn a lot about the Beforetime and even more about Cassy and Hannah Seraphim and Jacob Obernewtyn. For someone who loves post-apocalyptic stories as I do, the section on Habitat (which is, no denying, extremely length, it was far longer than I expected it to be) was extremely interesting. I thought it was a very thorough study on what might happen to an isolated society as it evolved over a long period of time. In some ways, it would’ve made an excellent book all on its own but in terms of being shoehorned into this one, it served a purpose in many ways and in others, provided a bit of distraction.

The whole series has been moving towards Elspeth’s final showdown with the Destroyer and much has been made of who the Destroyer is and how Elspeth was going to defeat them. I have to admit, I’ve had lots of theories about the Destroyer over the years but never once did I touch upon who it actually turned out to be. Perhaps because I dismissed that character from my mind almost 20 years ago but since reading The Red Queen I went back and re-read quite a bit of the book that introduces the character who turns out to the Destroyer and it’s actually quite well planned and clever in the way that it plays out through orchestrated manipulation. There’s no denying though that even though I thought that part was well planned I’m not overly sure it was as well executed as it could’ve been. It seemed almost rushed compared to the rest of the book where Elspeth took forever to escape Habitat and forever to get to the Red Land and forever to get to the showdown. I expected that to last much longer, to be a bigger portion of the book considering it was one of the end games, so it was a little surprising that it took the time that it did. It was full of interesting revelations and I wish I’d almost had more time to let them sink in, to stop and examine them instead of rushing.

I can’t talk about this series without talking about Elspeth and Rushton and how I’ve longed for them to finally be happy! The poor things, they’ve had quite the courtship – first poor Rushton had to deal with thinking Elspeth was dead (probably more than once), then she ran away from him every time he tried to talk to her and he thought she disdained him because he can’t access his powers or really use them in any useful way. By the time Elspeth figured she was ready, she thought Rushton had moved on, then he was kidnapped and tortured by Ariel and programmed to kill her. Then when they finally do get a chance to connect properly and physically, he asks her to bond with him officially and she has to leave on her final journey, the one that he knows nothing about because she’s forbidden to tell anyone. I re-read all their interactions as well since finishing this book and they take up a startlingly small amount of page space. In this one they don’t even cross paths until almost the end of the story and it makes me wonder how something has had such a major impact on me. But it has! Somehow Isobelle Carmody can say something in a couple of pages that has the impact of a thousand pages. The two of them are one of my favourite couples in literature and they needed  to be together.

I knew with a book like this, the ending was never going to be neat and tidy. There would be sadness, there would be some regret and some confusion. There are things that are tied up well and you can get a glimpse of how things will be in the future but there are a lot of things I wish I knew, that I wish I had more clarification on. Nevertheless, the ending satisfied me overall, even though I had questions. In finishing such an epic saga there will always be questions I think and those little things that you wonder about. I know one thing – I finished this book and immediately wanted to start it from the beginning again. To read it slower and more thoughtfully because I know I raced through it looking for the end and the answers to the questions I had before starting it. I want to be able to read the whole series as one, to put together all the little hidden clues and keys, the information at hand at one time instead of trying to remember or searching for it. A lot may complain about how long this book took coming but there’s no denying that it’s been an epic journey, one of the more richly detailed stories I’ve ever read. You only begin to realise how much detail there is late in the piece – it seems really quite simple when you first start out. Each volume gets a little more complex, a little more deep until the big picture is quite ginormous.

It’s been a fun ride. It’s taken up a large portion of my life, reading these books and awaiting the next installment and it honestly feels quite weird that it’s over now. I see that there is more than one door left open for Isobelle Carmody to revisit this world in the future, be it the Beforetime, the time of these stories or even the future, should she so choose and I’d be happy to pick up anything relating to this world. I’ve never gotten around to reading her other series, I believe fans of that one have been waiting almost as long as fans of Obernewtyn for its conclusion. Perhaps when it’s done, I will dive into it. There’s no denying that this is my biggest literary commitment – I doubt I will ever wait 20 years in the future to ever finish another series. It’s been many things – frustrating, heartbreaking but above all, pretty damn wonderful. It will always remain one of my favourite ever series of books and I think it says a lot that it’s held my interest for so long, from the time I was a teenager to being a woman in her thirties. I’m glad I got to experience it, the highs and lows.

9/10

Book #171 of 2015

aww-badge-2015

The Red Queen is book #69 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge

6 Comments »

The Stone Key – Isobelle Carmody

The Stone Key
Isobelle Carmody
Penguin AU
2008, 996p
Re-read from my personal collection

Please note: this review will contain general ***SPOILERS*** for the previous Obernewtyn novels and also for THIS novel.

It has been nearly a year since the rebel forces combined overthrew the councilmen. Each area has had a rebel chieftain and Dardelan has served as high chieftain but he’s determined to implement a process of democracy and the first elections will be held soon. Also, formal charges will be brought against the rebel Malik by Obernewtyn for his betrayal of them during the uprising and this leading to the slaughter in the White Valley. Elspeth and several others at Obernewtyn are concerned when letters out of one region in particular seem to be urgently indicating that something is wrong without actually stating it. She and several others decide to travel there and find out what they can.

It doesn’t take her long to discover that Malik is up to his old tricks and intends to betray not only just the Misfits this time but the entire rebel force by allying with the Herders and aiding a Herder invasion which is planned to come at a time when no one is expecting it and the area will be at its most vulnerable. The Herders plan to take the land and it’s no doubt that Misfits would be burned at the stake or slaughtered, their safe haven destroyed. By placing herself in Malik’s hands, Elspeth and her allies seek to overthrow the rebel forces currently ruling this area, capture Malik and try and stop the invasion. She is almost killed several times but help comes from an unlikely source, a local man of Chieftain Vos who believes that Elspeth and her people are not mutants or freaks and that she can help.

In attempting to halt the Herder invasion, which she has realised will occur much sooner than they originally planned, Elspeth ends up on a Norselander ship bound for the Herder Isle. Once there she is tortured for information and discovers that Ariel was behind not only the capture and torture of Rushton in the year previous but also that he has plans to infect the entire West Coast with a deadly plague that will almost wipe it out. With the help of some coercers masquerading as Herders and the servants taken by the Herders and forced into horrific slavery, Elspeth seeks to stop the terrible things done by the Herders in the name of Lud and break apart their stronghold. Then she knows that she needs to go to the west coast and find the null carrying the plague that Ariel intends to unleash because with her body’s amazing ability to heal itself, bestowed upon her by the Agyllian birds, she is the best chance they have of being able to stop it.

Elspeth is still continuing on her journey to find the signs left to her that will enable her to find and attempt to disable the weaponmachines of the Beforetime before the Destroyer can attempt to use them. Elspeth learns that the Destroyer needs her alive because only if she fails will the Destroyer then be able to use the weapons. If the Seeker dies, then the Destroyer will not even get a chance. This aids her several times, and she uses this information to change a scenario and attempt to save the mind of her beloved Rushton, destroyed by the torture he received when he was kidnapped.

The Stone Key is the fifth book in the Obernewtyn Chronicles and weighs in at almost 1000p. It took me 4-5 days to read this one and I carefully marked out major plot points, discussions and interesting quotes with post-it notes. And then my 1yr found this book (I still don’t know how) and pulled out every single one of the post it notes! I’m not re-reading the 1000p again so I’m just trying to go off my memory. I’m sure to forget stuff so please excuse any errors or glaring omissions! The last two books I have crammed in right at the end of the month so I made sure to start this one early, given its whopping size. The intention was to read a set amount of pages a day throughout the month and take it at a steady pace. Well. That didn’t happen. At all.

I feel that this is the book in which the Misfits and the rebels make the most progress. Their path is littered with successes and failures, in this Misfit camp it’s mostly failures but in this book it seems like they get their win. They uncover the plot of Malik and the Herder invasion and avert it before it can cause too much carnage, they take the Herder Isle, they get the aid of the Norsemen, they avert the plague plot (but as Elspeth later realises, that was just another way in which Ariel chooses to hurt her because he hates her) and they know they need to take Dragon to the Red Land to return her to her throne and start the rebellion to overthrow the slave traders. They gain the aid of ships from the Norselanders and the Sadorians in order to prevent the slave traders coming to their shores. Obernewtyn is being made a village with Rushton as its chieftain and will operate slightly differently in the future. Rather than be a refuge, a way to hide from the world, it will be open and free. They want to establish Misfit communities in other villages and encourage people to come forward and be tested and have their Talents nurtured and trained. The frightening world Elspeth knew at the beginning of the series is changing. There’s still a lot of work, but there’s definite progress.

I feel as though this is a book that for Elspeth, contains a lot of personal growth. Although she had bonded with Rushton, she knows that she never really gave her all with him and she was frightened of a joining that would meld their body and their minds. She always held back and when Rushton withdraws from her, retreating to deal with the torture that Ariel inflicted upon him, often in Elspeth’s image, she realises just how much she longs to be with him completely. Even though Rushton, in this book, behaves as if he loathes her, as if her very presence is abhorrent to him, she works tirelessly to find a way to help him remember what happened to him and deal with it, without killing him or breaking his mind beyond repair. It’s exhausting and devastating for both of them, but Elspeth had to face Rushton’s withdrawal from her in order to realise her true feelings and what she wanted and Rushton had to go through it in order to deal with what happened and be able to move past it when Elspeth makes the ultimate sacrifice to him – her life.

In re-reading these books, I’m noticing just how odd Dameon’s behaviour is and I’m trying to see if it’s just a touch of jealousy or if really, the guy is completely sinister. Mostly no one is that good and if you re-read a lot of scenes with him in there, there’s a bit of menace or weirdness as an undertone to some of the stuff he says. In this book, he urges Elspeth to ‘put herself in Rushton’s presence as often as she can’ so that Rushton will remember that he loves her. I’m not sure if he gives this advice because he genuinely thinks it will help or if indeed he suspects that Elspeth doing this will lead to Rushton actually losing his freaking mind. As Elspeth discovers later, he was programmed to ‘seem fine’ when he was found, but constant exposure to Elspeth would cause his mind to disintegrate until he cannot separate reality from the torture and he attempts to kill her. Ariel doesn’t want Elspeth dead but Rushton dying in his attempts would’ve served him very well – he has always hated Rushton and it would also have destroyed Elspeth who would’ve had to deal with the guilt and grief. In the end Elspeth is able to overcome what was done to Rushton but had she done what Dameon suggested, it’s quite possible he would’ve cracked earlier, in a situation where Elspeth wouldn’t have had time to think. I don’t know about you Dameon, the more I read, the more you seem like I cannot trust you! Of course I’ve also read The Sending already last year and I’m thinking about his weird interactions in that novel too, as I write this, so I’m cheating quite a bit.

The temptation to jump straight into The Sending and read that now is pretty great but I’m trying to hold off until November to stick to Shannon’s schedule. Lucky I have plenty of other books to read to keep me occupied, although I keep looking at my copy of The Sending….

9/10

Book #205 of 2012

**Please note: In the US, this novel is split into 2 volumes, Wavesong (book 5) and The Stone Key (book 6).

The Stone Key is the 67th novel read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, 2012

The Stone Key was also read as part of Shannon at Giraffe Days‘ Obernewtyn Chronicles Reading Marathon and was the designated book for October.

4 Comments »

The Keeping Place – Isobelle Carmody

The Keeping Place
Isobelle Carmody
Penguin AU
1999, 754p
Re-read from my personal collection

Please note: This review will contain ***SPOILERS*** from both the previous 3 Obernewtyn Chronicles novels and also for THIS NOVEL. 

After the Battlegames, the Misfits have retreated back to Obernewtyn. They have learned a valuable lesson there, that they are not fit to fight and that they need not offer themselves as a part of the Rebel’s uprising against the Council. They’re a peaceable people and they have realised that living their lives the way they do, secluded in the mountains, protected by the weather that cuts off the pass and the rumours about Obernewtyn itself, might be for the long term.

The Rebels have other ideas it seems and they request an urgent meeting with Rushton, Master of Obernewtyn to request once again, the Misfit’s assistance, which Rushton gently refuses in accordance with what had been decided at Guildmerge. When Rushton doesn’t return from this meeting in time for the Moon Fair, a celebration that Obernewtyn goes all out for, Elspeth Geordie is disappointed but not overly concerned. After all, any number of things could have delayed him on his way back to Obernewtyn. She is kept busy running Obernewtyn, performing the duties as Master in his absence but when someone discovers one of the messenger birds that Rushton took with him, dead but with a message saying “We have your leader, aid the rebels or else” the peace Obernewtyn has found, is broken.

Elspeth and several others travel to Sutrium to meet with the Rebel leaders and find out what they want. As well as dealing with the loss of her bondmate and the potential scenario that they may never find him, Elspeth has to make decisions regarding the Misfits and their future, something she’s not ready for. She also has her own tasks to undertake that are related to her quest to destroy the weaponmachines from the Beforetime and also her sleep has been disturbed for some time, the culprit being the young girl Dragon, who lies in a coma, a coma that Elspeth had to put her in in order to save her. It seems that trapped deep within Dragon’s disturbed mind are some answers that Elspeth seeks but she must walk the dangerous dreamtrails to find them, where hurts can be inflicted. Here the Destroyer looks for her and she must avoid that danger in order to continue on her quest.

The Keeping Place is the fourth novel in the Obernewtyn Chronicles and perhaps the one that I’m the least familiar with. It’s size is daunting, I’d forgotten just how big a book it is and how much story it contains. It’s never been my favourite volume, perhaps because of all of the dreamtrails stuff but I have to say that I really enjoyed this re-reading and re-familiarising myself with key parts of the story that I had forgotten because I do tend to ignore this book whenever I do re-read bits and pieces of the series. Now that I’m reading them all and in order, I see just how much information this book gives in terms of Elspeth’s task as the Seeker. Here she must find the signs left to her by a Beforetimer who foresaw her and Elspeth is again guided by the Agyllian birds who speak to her through Maruman or through her dreams.

I know Elspeth is preoccupied with both who has Rushton and also her task as the Seeker but I was surprised just how much it seemed to surprise the Misfits that Malik and his band of rebels betrayed them. It isn’t that long since the Battlegames and his hatred isn’t hard to recall. Even though some of the other Rebel leaders accept the Misfits and even welcome the assistance they can give them (for example the Rebels know there is a traitor somewhere, feeding information to the Herders and they want the Misfits to attempt to find these traitors using their abilities) but Malik has never harboured anything other than outright loathing and disdain for any of them. And the fact that he suddenly had a plan that included the Misfits didn’t really seem to ring enough warning bells for me at all and I think that had Elspeth not been so distracted by thoughts of who had Rushton and where he was and what was happening to him and also the thoughts about finding the signs left for her, she might’ve better seen through Malik to the treachery that lay underneath. I don’t really think that Elspeth is equipped to rule (and she seems to accept this, she knows she’s prickly and hard to approach and she’s not good at speaking in public, etc). She seems to be selected as Master of Obernewtyn in Rushton’s absence because of her phenomenal abilities and also perhaps because she and Rushton are now finally bonded, it does seem natural that she would rule when he is not there. But I’m not sure that this role shows her strengths.

It’s interesting how my feelings towards characters are changing as I re-read these. I always liked Dameon but now I’m seeing bits and pieces of his character, sharp words, double meanings, a sullenness I haven’t noticed before that I admit, could perhaps be influenced by my reading of The Sending. I never much liked Matthew after Obernewtyn, especially for his cruelty to Dragon but in re-reading I find that his story interests me greatly and I really want to be reunited with him in the final novel, The Red Queen and see what lies in store for him and Dragon when they return her to the land of her people. I always spend a lot of time thinking about things after I finish these books, little bits and pieces and clues that the book has divulged. Although this book leads us to believe that Ariel is the Destroyer,  I don’t believe this is true, I don’t think I’ve ever believed that and I’m pretty sure that I’ve read Carmody has said in interviews that he isn’t the Destroyer. Elspeth thinks he is. I have a couple of guesses for who I think the Destroyer might be and I tend to go back and forth between them.

I’m doing myself a favour and starting The Stone Key early in October – it’s a whopper at close to 1000p and the last 2 months I’ve had to rush through the books, getting them read on the last couple of days of the month. The Stone Key is also a book I’ve only read probably twice since it’s publication so there’s bound to be a lot of things I’ve forgotten in there.

8/10

Book #196 of 2012

The Keeping Place counts towards my participation in the Australian Women Writers Challenge, 2012. It’s the 63rd novel read and reviewed for the challenge so far.

The Keeping Place was re-read as part of my participation in the Obernewtyn Chronicles read-a-long hosted by Shannon at Giraffe Days.

 

1 Comment »

Ashling – Isobelle Carmody

Ashling
Isobelle Carmody
Penguin AU
1997, 540p
Re-read from my personal collection

About a year has passed since the events of The Farseekers and Rushton is putting his plans into play to further attempt to cement an alliance between the rebels and the Misfits. Before this can take place though, Elspeth draws attention to herself by rescuing a gypsy woman from being burned at the stake. Posing as a gypsy herself, she secrets the woman back to Obernewtyn for healing where the gypsy falls into a deep coma. There is a mental block she’s placing on the healing process and in order to try and help her, Elspeth must enter her mind. There she discovers the gypsy’s story and upon severing her mind connection, Elspeth learns that the Obernewtyn Futureteller Maryon has claimed that for the future of Obernewtyn, Elspeth must return the gypsy to her people within a sevenday. She must also learn the meaning of “swallow” or she will die. And if she dies, then her Quest dies with her – she will no longer be the Seeker, she will no longer be Innle, the one who leads the beasts to freedom. Elspeth and several others journey to Sutrium to stay at the safehouse with Kella and Domick. Domick was Rushton’s choice as a spy, infiltrating the Council and Elspeth is shocked at the change in him.

In Sutrium Elspeth also meets up with Brydda, leader of the Rebels and finds herself helping him in his quest to learn exactly who Salamander is. The Misfits are also challenged by the Rebels to take part in a sort of battlegames, in order to prove their worthiness of an alliance, with the events skewed heavily in the stronger, faster, trained Misfits favour. The Obernewtyn futureteller Maryon has foreseen which of the Misfits must compete and Elspeth is horrified when she realises exactly who has been sent. One of the competitors is Rushton and he’s a latent Misfit – another is Dameon who is blind.

Elspeth has also shunned Rushton’s feelings for her since he first began to display them, believing that her life would be much easier if she were to live it alone. She has her Quest, which she cannot confide in to anyone and even though she’s finally forced to admit her feelings for the Master of Obernewtyn to herself, it seems as though it may all be too late.

Ashling has always been my favourite Obernewtyn book. For a long time when I only had 3 to read, I read this one over and over almost obsessively and even after The Keeping Place was released, it was still my favourite. I now think it might tie with the most recent release, book six, The Sending. I know this one probably the best, I couldn’t even say how many times I’ve read it since I was 14. 100 maybe? Could even be more.

It’s my favourite book for many reasons, the first is its length. Both Obernewtyn and The Farkseekers are relatively slim books but this one clocks in at over 500p so from the beginning, I was always getting so much more story with this one. And it is packed with events, from the moment it opens with Elspeth seeing the gypsy woman being tortured before she is to be burned at the stake. Even though she risks much by drawing attention to herself in order to save the gypsy (and also to others, and possibly to Obernewtyn itself) Elspeth still does so. And not only does she risk her life to save her, she also risks her life and others, to return her to her people (okay, knowing that she would die is pretty strong motivation, but you know that Elspeth would do it anyway, even without that prediction).

Isobelle Carmody has this awesome knack of separating my two favourite characters in basically every book after the first one. Either Elspeth has some quest she must go on and only returns in the final pages, or they are in separate places almost the entire book, or Rushton is gone almost the entire book. This one is also my favourite in the series because it puts them in the same place for perhaps half of the book, from the time where the battlegames is proposed and Rushton travels to where it will take place with the group of Misfits that Maryon has foreseen must compete. It’s also the book in which Elspeth must finally face her feelings for Rushton, which she has pushed aside previously. There are a few people out there that seem to “ship” Elspeth and Dameon but… no. Sorry, but no. There’s only ever Elspeth and Rushton in my mind and just as Elspeth seems to finally come to terms with the fact that she has feelings for him, she’s confronted with the fact that Rushton may have stopped waiting around. I liked this little storyline because it did seem like before now Elspeth basically (not deliberately) tortured the poor guy by running away from him whenever he wanted to talk to her, deliberately ignoring his clues, mistaking his meaning, ignoring his concern when she was all like “yeah, I’m leaving Obernewtyn to do X dangerous things, I may see you again if I return, maybe not”. In part of this novel it is her that feels insecure, that feels left behind, that feels like maybe her feelings are  not returned.

The battlegames are always a hard part for me to re-read (in fact I often skip a lot of them when I re-read this book). I’m not going to spoil the result but there was probably only ever going to be one result and the Misfits learn several valuable lessons about battles, about war and also about themselves through what happens here. They deal with it in different ways and it is the aftermath of this that brings about the moment in which two people finally connect in the way that has been hinted at for some time.

This book is such a sentimental favourite. It was one of only a handful of books I took with me to my dorm room when I went to Uni and it’s moved around me with me a lot! I really need to update my copies – some of the older covers for the Obernewtyn books are quite dated and there’s been some re-issues in the style of The Stone Key and The Sending that are quite pretty so I really need to get myself a matching set. This book has so much in it that really cements it as one of the best YA post-apocalyptic fantasy series’ out there, the characters are just so well fleshed out, no matter how minor they are (or how minor they appear at any given time). The scenery is so real, the world so well constructed, the struggle of the Misfits to be accepted such a basic human right that it isn’t hard to relate to. And always, always when I read this I want to know so much more about what it is that Elspeth must do.

The next book is The Keeping Place. I’ve only read this one twice in 12 years, so to be honest, re-reading it for this read-a-long is going to be like reading it for the first time.

9/10

Book #173 of 2012

Ashling was read as part of my participation in the Obernewtyn Chronicles Reading Challenge, hosted by Shannon over at Giraffe Days. Ashling was book 3, August.

Ashling also qualifies for the Australian Woman Writers Challenge, 2012. It’s the 55th novel read and reviewed for this challenge so far.

3 Comments »

The Farseekers – Isobelle Carmody

The Farseekers
Isobelle Carmody
Penguin AU
2010 (originally 1990), 312p
Re-read from my personal collection

Please note that this post will contain **SPOILERS** for the first book in this series, Obernewtyn

It’s been two years since Elspeth and Rushton successfully ousted Alexi and Madam Varga from Obernewtyn and Rushton took his rightful place as the Master. Since then it’s been a peaceful place to live, with the ‘Misfits’ embracing their differences, even establishing ‘guilds’ where they can join and better hone their particular talents. It has become a refuge for others just like them and due to their location they’ve been relatively unbothered by the Council. Elspeth uses her position as mistress of the Farseeker guild to propose a joint expedition with the Technoguild – the Technoguild has picked up on a powerful talent and the Technoguild believe they have discovered a location with Beforetime artifacts and possibly books they could learn from. The mission will be dangerous, as it means leaving the safety of Obernewtyn and Rushton is reluctant to let Elspeth go.

He is outvoted though and the expedition is approved and plans made and set in place. Rushton has his own mission, intending to use someone to infiltrate the Council and establish a base nearby so that they may gather their own intelligence which will come in handy if they are to protect themselves. The unlikely band of information gatherers set off but their expedition is derailed almost immediately. They hear of plans of the Council to visit Obernewtyn early and split up to send people back to Obernewtyn to warn Rushton while the rest continue on in a detoured fashion to find and rescue the powerful Talent and attempt to discover what they can about the Beforetime.

Elspeth has always wondered why animals often call her “Innle” or “the Seeker”, thinking it was some harmless nickname regarding a mythical creature. Alone and almost at the point of death after a firestorm, she will learn that the weaponmachines from the Beforetime have not been destroyed and it will be her role to find them and destroy them before her opposite can and use them in order to create something even more devastating than the Great White.

I have to apologise, because that might be the most inadequate summary of a book in history. In re-reading these books for Giraffe Days Obernewtyn Read-a-long, I am discovering so many new things about a series I’ve already been reading for fifteen plus years! However I’ve never read The Farseekers with the benefit of having read so many later books in the series before and I was immediately awed by just how many things are set in motion in this book that don’t come to fruition for several books. So much is happening here it’s almost impossible to talk about it all – and all of this is happening in a book that is just 312 pages!

In the beginning we learn that it’s been some time since the end of the previous novel and that things at Obernewtyn are now very different to how they were in the first novel. Rushton’s idea of a refuge for Misfits is coming to fruition and even though he’s staked his claim with the Council, they assume that after the spring thaw, people will make their way out to investigate what is going on and make sure nothing untoward is taking place. Elspeth is content for now, she’s Mistress of the farseeker guild (although really she could’ve led just about any of the guilds, given her broad range of talent) and when the Technoguild inform her that they’ve registered a powerful talent at the furthest range they can seek, she proposes a joint expedition to rescue this Talent and also to grant the Technoguild access to the beforetime relics they believe are in the same area. Rushton is reluctant, for reasons fairly obvious to the reader (even reading it first time around) but Elspeth is quite willfully ignorant, believing it’s because he doesn’t wish to lose a guild mistress and therefore upset the balance at Obernewtyn.

The very small seeds of a future relationship were sowed between them in Obernewtyn but the book ended without any development. Elspeth’s solitary lifestyle and also her increasing knowledge of her Quest and the role she must play makes her further reluctant to really establish too many ties with people – especially a romantic bonding. Isobelle Carmody has a rather awesome ability to create ways in which they exchange a couple of moments and then don’t see each other for at least half of the book. This is frustrating, but necessary to keeping both the story lines intact and also their relationship on the back burner. It is important but it is by far not the most important thing happening here – that is always the Quest and the various paths in which Elspeth must take in order to successfully undertake it.

Re-reading this I was just amazed at how many things made more sense from later books now that I’d refreshed my memory with this one. Although I’ve waited lengthy times for books to be released, I’ve never actually undertaken a total re-reading from start to finish which I probably should have done before The Stone Key (book 5) and probably also before The Sending (book 6). There is so much going on that it’s easy to forget who one person was that Elspeth met three books ago and what they said to her, but suddenly it crops up again. There are people introduced here that seem inconsequential, there are things that happen that seem relatively unimportant at a first read. But I’ve realised that they are so important, everything here is written with such care to detail. There is nothing superfluous in these books at all. I’m even more impressed now – this book was written over twenty years ago and little seeds laid here are now being fully realised, all this time later.

When I first read this, I’d have rated it an 8. But I’ve honestly had to change it to a 9 on this re-read simply because I had such an amazing experience re-immersing myself in it and realising just how much this book contains that is important in later books in regards to people, events and information.

9/10

Book #133 of 2012

Book #2 of the Obernewtyn Reading Marathon – July was the month to read the second novel, The Farseekers

The Farseekers is the 47th novel read and reviewed by an Australian woman writer for the challenge in 2012

5 Comments »

Obernewtyn – Isobelle Carmody

Obernewtyn
Isobelle Carmody
Penguin AU
2000 (originally 1987), 245p
Re-read from my personal collection

Elspeth Geordie lives in a world that was nearly destroyed. Some time ago, in what is referred to as the Beforetime, a weapon caused a catastrophic nuclear-type event and most of the population was killed by the radiation, save very remote citizens. Those citizens banded together to keep their area safe and formed a Council. Over the years, that Council changed and shifted until it resembled little what it had in the beginning.

There was another fallout from what the citizens now call the Great White. Some people are born altered, not perfect. Known as Misfits, they are treated as the very lowest forms of society, often burned alive to prevent the traits from breeding on. Misfits have to hide what they are, which is difficult. Elspeth Geordie is such a Misfit – and an orphan to boot. Shifted from one orphanage to another, she is dismayed when she learns she is to be sent to Obernewtyn, a remote supposed sanctuary for Misfits. No one ever leaves Obernewtyn – the only way out is death. Separated from her brother Jes and taken to Obernewtyn, Elspeth isn’t sure what to expect.

Once there she is mostly left alone, put to work in the kitchen and the vast farms. But slowly Elspeth realises that something very wrong is going on at Obernewtyn, and it isn’t the work being done by the apparent Master, to “heal” Misfits. Something infinitely more sinister is taking place, with the perpetrators searching for the powerful Misfit who will give them their answers. Never before has hiding what she truly is been more important.

It’s kind of hard to talk about Obernewtyn as a single book because I have read many of the titles in this series so many times, but I’ll do my best! The Introduction paints the picture of the world within, almost obliterated with tainted areas left behind and a surviving population that shunned technology after the event. Elspeth’s parents were killed as Seditioners and she and her brother Jes have been shifted from one orphanage to another ever since. Her very existence revolves around no one discovering what she really is and the abilities she keeps hidden. Despite her best efforts though she is ultimately sent to Obernewtyn and unbeknownst to her, it will be the beginning of her destiny.

Elspeth is used to being alone, used to keeping her distance from other people, lest they discover her abilities. She is remote, deliberately uninterested in people but you can still tell that underneath she cares what is going on around her. She has sympathy for the Misfits being mistreated at Obernewtyn, even as she doesn’t want to get involved to draw unwanted attention to herself, which could come from anywhere. There’s Madam Vega, the woman who ‘recruited’ Elspeth to Obernewtyn, the mysterious, rarely seen Doctor who is the supposed Master, and conductor of the ‘experiments’ to heal the Misfits, Ariel the young nasty boy who enjoys more privileges than the rest of them, and the farm overseer Rushton, who has taken a special interest in her that Elspeth isn’t sure is negative or positive. She also finds herself sought out by two of the fellow teens at Obernewtyn for friendship and although at first she tries to discourage Matthew and Dameon, her efforts soon dwindle as she begins to rediscover what spending time with people her own age and having them to talk to is really like. Together they discover the sinister plans taking place at Obernewtyn and Elspeth realises that she has to leave as soon as possible. The trouble is, even if they managed to escape the various security measures, the surrounding territory means death. Elspeth isn’t sure who to trust, if she can trust anyone at all.

Re-reading it, I feel Obernewtyn is very much a ‘set-up’ book, outlining the world and Elspeth’s place in it and introducing us to Obernewtyn and all it could be. Elspeth has always been such an interesting character to me and I have to admit, it was strange to go back and reacquaint myself with her as she is in this first novel. I have re-read most of them many times, but it’s been some time since I read the first one and I tried to wipe my mind of her when I began. She’s utterly alone in the world when she arrives at Obernewtyn, her only confidant had previously been a mysterious black cat known as Maruman. She’s so remote that at times it’s hard to relate to her, even as I’m admiring her inner strength and resolve, her way of dealing with the cards life has dealt her. She’s brave and loyal, choosing to help people that she barely knows because it’s the right thing to do. There’s something about her, something that tells you she’s important. And I didn’t realise how utterly refreshing it was to read the first book of a series that did not end on a cliffhanger! It didn’t need some heart-stopping moment to hook people in and have them need to read the next book to find out what happens. This as a book, works for itself – it’s a complete story with a beginning, middle and end. There just happens to be more things that happen after the close of this book and we’re lucky enough to be along for the ride.

I first read Obernewtyn as a 14yr old and quickly became obsessed with this world. Only 3 novels were published then (there are 6 now, with the 7th and final due out next year) and I re-read them continuously and I find myself tempted to do the same now. I re-read this as part of Shannon from Giraffe Days Obernewtyn Challenge, which is 1 book each month over 6 months. I’m tempted to immediately pick up The Farseekers and just keep reading….but I’m going to be good and wait another week until July starts.

Just as enjoyable this time around.

8/10

Book #118 of 2012

Obernewtyn was the June book for the read-a-long.

Isobelle Carmody is Australian so this re-read counts towards my Australian Women Writers Challenge! It’s the 43rd book completed.

13 Comments »

The Sending – Isobelle Carmody

This review will probably contain general ***SPOILERS*** for the previous Obernewtyn novels: Obernewtyn, The Farseekers, Ashling, The Keeping Place and The Stone Key. 

Elspeth is back at Obernewtyn after the dramatic events at the conclusion of The Stone Key where she freed Rushton from the mind control by Ariel, serving as the Master of Obernewtyn while Rushton is still away. As the whole of Obernewtyn is preparing for the Moon Festival, which will celebrate the turning of Obernewtyn into a broader community, encouraging for the first time, people to move outside its walls and live as they choose, and merchants and newcomers to come and live there also, Elspeth awaits the return of Rushton, safe in the knowledge that they will travel to the Land of the Red Queen together. After all they went through in The Stone Key she is well aware that they will need that time together before she is to undertake her final quest and face off against The Destroyer in order to finally disable the weaponmachines for good.

Before Elspeth can be ready, Darga comes for her: the signal that she is to leave Obernewtyn and never return. With only Gahltha, Marumann and Darga for her company, Elspeth must leave Obernewtyn and everyone in it behind without any warning or goodbye, and that includes the recently returned Rushton who has left a token for her to bond with him in a handfasting ceremony at the Festival of the Moon. Creating a coercive net to hide her emotions and pain at the leaving, Elspeth follows Darga and her two watchers, the Day Watcher Gahltha and her Night Watcher Marumann deep into the mountains where they must seek the assistance of the wolves who will lead her where she needs to go – if she can first convince them to. A deep and abiding hatred of humans means that the leader of the pack has no desire to help her, he equates all humans with the cruelty of Ariel, who wreaked his own sort of havoc on the pack some years ago. Elspeth knows her name of Innle means little to nothing here but she must convince them to show her the way.

Elspeth has always thought that she would undertake this final quest alone but to her surprise when she reaches a certain part of the journey, she finds some assorted companions waiting for her. They have all been sought out by the Agyllis bird, appearing to them as a voice in their mind, giving them instructions. Overjoyed at having some people that she knows, and some that she cares for accompany her, Elspeth is soothed by their presence although she doesn’t know what role each will play. She knows they would all be there for a very specific reason: time has proven that things are not left to chance for her quest.

There’s been a lot of confusion surrounding what will be the last novel in this series: It was supposed to be The Sending and when I borrowed it I still half thought that it was, even though I’d heard rumours that this book had once again gotten so large that Carmody was forced to (again) split it in two and another volume was forthcoming. This was confirmed by the advertisement in the back cover of the book for The Red Queen, coming 2012. That is apparently, the absolutely last volume of the Obernewtyn series. Unless, you know, it gets too big. And has to be split in two. Again.

In The Sending the moment that Elspeth has been waiting for, that she was born for, happens. Jik’s dog Darga comes to Obernewtyn, her signal that she must leave the place that has become her home behind, and all the people in it and leave to go on her quest at what could be the worst time for her. Elspeth has always held herself somewhat apart from other people, always knowing deep down that she would be leaving one day and it would be far easier for her if she had developed no attachment to place or person. But just as she comes to realise that Obernewtyn is home for her and her relationship with Rushton is at last secure and she is deeply happy, she has to leave. Along the way she learns that their guide can no longer help them, forcing them to ‘wing it’ while they wait to see if they are to gain a new guide. This causes Elspeth stress, which is exacerbated by Marumann’s flippant responses to her questions.

To be completely honest, not a lot happens in The Sending. The book basically is one long set up for the dramatic twin conclusions that will surely come in The Red Queen – returning Dragon to her homeland and Elspeth’s quest to disable the weaponmachines and defeat The Destroyer. But in being 750 pages of information and Elspeth slowly finding her way towards her destiny, it’s still a great read. I love the characterisation in this series, it’s deep and multi-layered and no one, be they man or beast, is left out. The wolves in this novel are amazing, their way of speech and pack form set them apart from any animals we’ve met before and characters that you thought were just brief nothing characters reappear with deeper and more complicated roles.

If you’re a Rushton fan (and I am!) then this is the book for you, at least in the first 200 pages. From the time they first laid eyes on each other in Obernewtyn, there have been glances, heated lines of dialogue, misunderstandings, declarations and rejections and then finally after their understanding was reached, Carmody saw fit to split them up for the next book and then make Rushton tortured by Ariel and attempt to kill Elspeth because her image was used as a device in the torture and mind control. Almost destroyed by it, only the faith and power of Elspeth’s love was able to bring him back from that psychotic brink and barely after that Elspeth had to leave for Obernewtyn. When Rushton finally returns there also in The Sending we are finally treated to what most fans of the pairing have longed for. I may have read those parts of the book more than once…

Be warned – the ending of this one was a real cliffhanger, which hasn’t happened before in this series!

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I’ve spent 15 years of my life reading these books ever since a friend of mine recommended them when I was 14 years old. At that time only the first 3 were published – it was 6 years before The Keeping Place was published, a further 8 years after that before The Stone Key finally appeared and then 3 years until this novel. It is all set to end next May with the release of The Red Queen and I must admit, as desperate as I am for this series to conclude so I can know what happens and the fates of many are finally decided, I will be very sad when it does. It says volumes that I’ve stuck with this series and never forgotten it, despite the huge gaps between publications of several of the installments.

Reading The Sending was re-familiarizing myself with favourite characters and story lines and remembering why they are so. It was a great way to develop tension and set up for the final book, which promises to be epic.

8/10

Book #167 of 2011

*** Please note: the titles for this series differ, depending on where you live. The titles given here are the Australian versions. In the US and Canadian versions, The Stone Key was split into two volumes by the publisher, entitled The Stone Key and Wavesong. Likewise The Sending has been split into two volumes in these countries also: The Sending and The Red Queen. I’m not sure what the US publisher is doing with the final novel, information has been very confusing and hard to find. ***

2 Comments »