Saturday, 10 September 2016

Book Randomness with Audio Books

All of you who know me will know that I have a great love of books. And when I say books I mean actual physical 3 dimensional books, that I can smell and feel and touch; and whose pages I can turn savouring every detail of the story both on and off the page.
Admitting defeat due to the stupid weight restrictions that airlines and holidays now impose on us was barely tolerable, and meant that I had to resort to the newly popular (at the time) kindle. I loathed the small digital book. And still stubbornly brought several of my own books, using it as a last resort in case my own physical friends didn't last me long enough. Given my speed of reading, this was sadly a frequent occurrence.
With time, and by time I mean a good 10 years, I learned to love the little digital replacement and now never leave for any journey (short or long) without it. And if I'm going on a nice looooong holiday I make sure its electronic shelves are stacked with plenty of kindle-books for me to enjoy and I am not bound by the limitation of the laws of gravity, weight and plane fuel!!!

Now, my very good friends and avid readers themselves started to go to yet the newer dark side: the audio book! And encouraged me to try it?!!!! Madness, I told them. I swore up and down that audio was not for me. That I thoroughly enjoyed creating my own character's voices in my head and did not need some randomer doing it for me and potentially with the wrong accent to boot! I mean, what if the poor sod doesn't respect grammar?! Nope absolutely not. My ears are for music only, not audio books. And that was the end of that matter, 4 years ago. My dearest friends have not touched the subject since as they know what's best for them.

In case you hadn't noticed I'm just a little reticent to change and don't easily convert unless I have absolutely no other option, my life is in danger and am bored stiff. You might think that I exaggerate but I assure you that I tell the utter truth!!
At the beginning of 2016 I moved to live near Southampton, but have kept my job up near Guildford. Yeah not a great commute is it?! For those of you who do not know the lay of the land that's an hour commute each way, providing the traffic is in your favour (which isn't often!). My whole family and friends were worried sick about me driving this considerable amount of time both ways after a 13hr shift, especially if said shift is a night shift. I reassured them that with some good music and cold air I would be fine. They didn't believe me, but knowing my stubborness they left me to it. 
7 months later and a fair few "almosts" (where I had sort of glazed over and might have ended up in not quite the right lane) that had my mother giving me an absolute ear full I decided to try something else. I also decided to apply for a job closer to the new home (yes I know it's the most logical thing to do but I encourage you to re-read the "i'm a little reticent to change" paragraph). I'd heard a lot of good things about the Harry Potter audio books read out by Stephen Fry. I'd been meaning to re-read these for ages but time kept getting away from me, so seeing as I had a good 2 hours in a car to fill I figured why not give it a go! It was free on the Audible 30 day trial so what was there to lose.
So, begrudgingly (veeeeery begrudgingly), I tried it out.
All I'll say is that having got to work and not finished the chapter Stephen was kindly reading to me I was sorely tempted to go round the block just so I could hear the end.
So to be honest all it took for me to discover another amazing way of experiencing books was to move a good hour away from work,  a few moments where my life flashed before my eyes and woke me up and one of the worst bollockings a late twenty year old can get. Not too bad really.

If like me you've been told about audio books and told those people to find a cliff, well you might want to think again. They're actually really good!!! I'm loving them and am currently at the end of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and have already downloaded Harry Potter and the Prisoner from Azkaban! Can't wait to start it!!

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Barefoot on the Wind review

Title: Barefoot on the Wind

Author : Zoe Marriott

Series: The Moonlit Lands Book 2

Genre: Paranormal, fantasy, romance, fairy tale, adventure

Length: 312 pages

Publisher: Walker books

Date of publication: 1st of September 2016


There is a monster in the forest...

Everyone in Hana’s remote village on the mountain knows that straying too far into the woods is a death sentence. When Hana’s father goes missing, she is the only one who dares try to save him. Taking up her hunting gear, she goes in search of the beast, determined to kill it – or be killed herself. But the forest contains more secrets, more magic and more darkness than Hana could ever have imagined, and the beast is not at all what she expects...


Before I begin to tell you my thoughts and feelings about this lovely book I have a big fat and horrible secret to admit to you all.... this is my first Zoe Marriott read

Yes I know shock horror and I should probably be burned at the stake for this treachery and massive YA offence; but before you get your pitchforks let me tell you what I thought, and let me solemnly promise that I will be making amends to right this terrible wrong!

Barefoot on the Wind is a wonderful and clever retelling of one of the best (in my humble opinion) fairy tales: Beauty and the Beast.
As with many retellings Zoe Marriott put her own imprint on this story. The transposition and adaptation of the original story line to a Japanese environment, lay out and way of life was incredibly faithfully done. The village, the villagers, the rules and regulations of that period in time down to the Japanese denominations for each member of society and status were respected, making me feel like I'd actually stepped into a Japanese mountain village that was being plagued by a beast and I was about to witness the unfurling of this story.
I was all geared up with my cup of green tea to sit back and enjoy what I thought was merely a transcribed and slightly altered fairy tale to suit the new set up, when Zoe decided that actually she hadn't quite finished with her adaptation.
It soon became clear that from the original tale, all that was taken were the bare bones, in a manner of speaking.
Now before I go any further I should tell you all that I am a massive fairy tale fan, and will happily read any retelling and any new story that comes my way, but what I came across here was pretty wonderful and a very original take on fairy tales with a pinch of modern thinking.
Although you will catch a glimpse of Belle in Hana-San's kindness and love for her family, and you will perceive some of the Beast's hard earned humility in Itsuki, these two sets of characters are as different as they are alike. Zoe Marriott's Belle is a fighter, a hunter and does not fear the dangerous dark woods that have claimed many a life. She is proud and strong and although her hierarchical society does not approve, she holds her ground steadfast and fights for what she believes is right even if that means going into the beast's lair alone. Zoe's Beast, that Hana dubs Itsuki, is the gentlest creature you will ever meet. He cares for all those that are harmed regardless of by whom and why. He has a big heart and has worked hard to learn what patience, humility, true love and respect mean.
Although initially perplexed I soon came to love these two characters and how their interactions were so similar and yet so different from those that I have loved and grown up with.

As I mentioned before Zoe merely used the bare bones of the classic and then built her own story giving it flesh and thoughts to shape it differently and make us readers reflect.

As per all fairy tales there is a lesson to be learned, and whilst deconstructing and recreating her tale our lovely author did not forget this vital part. Whilst the Disney we all know and love focused on romance and the signature happily ever after, Zoe Marriott decided to centre her story around Hana-San, her journey to self discovery, forgiveness and its ripple effect on the surrounding characters and, indeed, the story. Although romance and love is undoubtedly a main thread to it, Zoe Marriott reminds us that the types of love that can change someone also include the love between a family, siblings and friends. She reminds us that love's close counterpart and partner in crime is hate and the line between these two at times has been known to be thin, thin and full of its own emotions ranging from anger to sorrow.

You might ask be asking yourself what else is different aside from the characters, the set up, the nature of the beast, the strength of the belle and the society whose rules they live by?

Well I will let you figure that one out for yourself, but what I will tell you is that this is a very cleverly constructed Japanese fairy tale retelling, and that like Hana-San you will have to walk into the dark woods and tread lightly on the dark magic that has cursed more than just a man, and you will have to heed the advice of the trees and the wind that blows through them because a monster, a beast roams the woods but the two are not always one and the same and every individual is capable of monstrous things.

Barefoot on the Wind proved to be more than just a simple fairy tale with a different back drop. Zoe Marriott brought with it her own set of characters and morales to teach us. Despite the simplistic story, she managed to build into it new thoughts and feelings giving it a new dimension and complexity that I had not previously appreciated. I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this tale and will happily be getting lost in these dark woods again with Hana-San and Itsuki.

A big thank you to the lovely people at Walker Books for sending me a copy of this wonderful book to read and review.