Wednesday, December 22, 2010

quick christmas pics (-:

I haven't managed to get a book for around the world this week because all the books I have read in the past few weeks don't count (4 set in NZ, 1 set on another planet :P). And it's Christmas on Saturday so I thought I'd do a Christmas post... in pictures, because a picture is worth a thousand words and is much faster to look at when you haven't got much time (-:

Sooooo... pictures of my Christmas, or what I hope Christmas will be like. In 7000 words :D

Christmas in the Park/old volcano crater

Pohutukawa - 'NZ Christmas tree'

close up of a pohutukawa flower, with a happy bee

pavlova mmmmm

West coast beach

giant Santa. Can't figure out how to get the orientation right...

sunrise on an east coast beach

And family, of course, but I thought I wouldn't embarrass them with pictures.

Hope you have a great Christmas and happy new year!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Book #11: Poland

Siberia by Ann Halam

I seem to be in a future-dystopia mood these last weeks. I tell myself it’s all research for my WIP.

Siberia, according to the author, is less a place and more a state of mind. The Gulf Stream has stopped bringing warm weather to Europe (see The Day After Tomorrow :P) and decent people live in domed cities to escape the cold. Unfortunately, decent people aren’t as decent as they could be, and have managed to kill off most of the animals and accidentally set loose mutations that make monsters of the rest. If you’ve done something wrong or something the government doesn’t like, you’re sent to the wilderness, to a new Siberia.

You’re supposed to make things difficult for your characters, otherwise there’s no tension and no real story. Halam does this to perfection, and makes things extremely difficult for the main character Sloe. At the age of four she’s sent with her mother to a Settlement in the Polish wilderness where summer lasts a few weeks and is spent desperately trying to grow food for the frozen winter ahead. Her mother spends all her time making nails, and Sloe struggles to fit in with the children of the other convicts. She breaks a leg, which heals badly, gets sent off to a boarding-school prison, and sells out her mother by mistake.

On top of all this, she’s promised her mother she’ll take the last secret stores of mammal DNA to a safe city in the north. The only way to get there is across the snow and ice in winter by foot, because you can’t get travel passes if you’re from a Settlement.

I really enjoyed this book. Despite the multitude of difficulties, it doesn’t get to the point where you think ‘here we go again’. You feel for Sloe, with nothing for company but the mammal DNA. It’s actually quite good company, though, as the DNA has to be turned into tiny animals every so often to keep it fresh, and the tiny animals are SO CUTE.

I can’t imagine being outside in such cold. I thought I was going to die at the beginning of winter this year, and it doesn’t even get to freezing point here. Halam does a great job of describing the beauty and harshness of the landscape, and makes me think I could brave the cold to see such places.

Any more books set in Poland?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: Call Me Chameleon

Since my Tuesday is now free, I’m doing a teaser (-: This is from my Nanowrimo 2009 project, which I wrote completely for fun and breaks lots and lots and lots of rules just for the hell of it. It has not one but two prologues, characters with names beginning with A (I banned myself from A names after using five seven in the same book), starts with long description not action, and the title calls to mind a certain eighties pop song. But still I like it.

Background: For some people, their names make them who they are. If you’re called Wisdom, you’re really wise. If you’re called Dolphin, you can swim like a, um, fishy mammal. The main characters Chameleon and Raven have just started ‘normal’ school.

“You’re from that weirdo hippy cult commune, aren’t you?”
The question came from behind me. I wondered if I should ignore it, but Raven had already turned around, his arms crossed.
“What weirdo hippy cult commune? I don’t know any weirdo hippy cult communes.”
“You all have names like Flower and Tree.” The boy was shorter than Raven, and a bit chubby. He was squinting at us like we were some strange new species of insect.
Raven’s face was dark and he opened his mouth to say something in return, but I trod on his toe. “Actually, we don’t have anyone called Flower or Tree. Those would be stupid names. I’m Chami.” I stuck out my hand and raised an eyebrow, daring the boy to take it. After staring at my hand for way too long, the boy gave a grin, shrugged and took it.
“I heard your names in class. I’m Charlie. What’s up with Raven, though?”
Raven glared at him. “What’s up with Charlie?”
“Shut up, Raven,” I muttered, stepping forward a bit so I was between the two boys. “Look, we’re new here and we don’t really know our way around. I think I’ve got French next, but I don’t know where it is. Could you show us?” I’d spent ages studying the map of the school yesterday, so I actually knew exactly where it was. What was I doing?
“What about Raven? What does he have?”
“German,” Raven growled. Charlie’s face went back into the pursed-lips mask it had had before, and I thought about kicking Raven.
“Well, I’ve got German now and the French class is just a few doors down. I suppose I could take you.” He looked back to me, and I smiled at him. His lips twitched back, he shrugged, and waved us to follow him.
“Why are you being so prickly?” I whispered to Raven. His eyes were narrowed at Charlie’s back.
“What’s the point of trying to make friends with people who insult you instead of introducing themselves?”
“You can’t dislike someone this quickly. It’s the first day, try to make some friends.”
He didn’t answer. Charlie led us out through the main door of the biggest building and along a path between some spindly trees to the languages block.
“You guys are from that commune, though, right?”
“Well, it’s not a commune,” I told him, trotting a bit so I was beside him. Raven stayed behind us. “It’s just a village. We’ve been there like forty years.” We weren’t allowed to say that much about the village, or why we’d lived there. “It’s great, it has a waterfall and stuff. Where do you live?”
He looked around at me, surprised. Maybe this wasn’t something you asked someone straight off. “I live about five minutes walk away, next to the auto repair shop my dad owns.”
“Oh, so you know about cars?”
He shrugged and grinned. “I know a bit.” He was obviously trying to be modest.
“Yeah, I learned to drive over summer. It was fun. On a nineteen-seventy-three Mini.”
“How old are you?”
“She’s fourteen,” Raven spoke up from behind. “But we’re out in the country, and they mostly let you do what you want. She wanted to learn.”
The reason I’d wanted to learn was so that I could beat Raven home from the far fields, but I didn’t tell Charlie that.
He looked impressed. “I can drive a bit, but only down the driveway. Dad won’t let me do anything else until I’ve got a Learner’s. Nineteen seventy three Mini? Is that a Mark 2 or Mark 3?”
“Mark 2,” I said, wondering how I knew. I didn’t remember being told. “We put gravel tyres on it so it goes well up in the mountains.” And I had no idea where that information had come from.
Thanks for reading ! (-:

Sunday, December 12, 2010

click click click click

Haha! I have won my battle against html, and now have a nice pretty map for your clicking pleasure. I was going to do each individual country as a link, but I think that would have overloaded things and would have meant lots and lots of upkeep and would also have been insanely miniscule. So click on the continent you want (-:

And yes, I know some of those islands don't actually exist and others are missing. It's a representational map. That's why it's in scribbles.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Book #10: USA/Arizona

Arrghh I’ve missed my Tuesday again. Round the World Wednesday sounds better anyway (-:

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

So I’m cheating a bit and counting US states as different countries... And the setting of this book is actually a country called Opium which sits around the border between present-day Mexico and the USA, where Arizona is now. But it’s a good book and States are almost separate countries sometimes, or so I’m told. And I’ve had a week of night shifts and woe-is-me-ing so I’m just going to put it in. But enough of sentences beginning with conjunctions. :-D

The House of the Scorpion charts the life of Matteo Alacràn from conception to age of fourteen. Most conceptions aren’t really first-page material for young adult books, but Matt is a clone, grown inside a cow and brought up to believe he is nothing more than livestock, a creature that ‘civilised’ people refuse to acknowledge. His DNA comes from El Patron, the original Matteo Alacrán, who masterminded the birth of the country Opium and who is effectively its ruler.

Opium produces drugs for foreign markets and ensures that no one can cross illegally from Mexico to the United States or vice-versa. People programmed to do obey slave away in the fields while the 140-year-old El Patron searches for ways to further extend his life. Matt receives the best education and hopes to one day assist in running Opium, but begins to question his status. Why should he be classed an ‘animal’, incapable of reasoning thought and the leadership of the country, when El Patron’s great grandchildren aren’t as smart.

Matt must also decide with who he wants to become. Must he follow in the footsteps of El Patron the drug lord, or can he choose his own path? I thought Matt was very well drawn – you watch him through his life as he makes good and bad choices, and always El Patron is in the background, demonstrating what Matt might become if he makes all the wrong choices. Or the right ones, if your goal is to be an international drug lord.

Oh and by the way don’t get the Amazon e-book until after I’ve complained to Amazon. My copy is missing dozens of apostrophes, has replaced half the double ls with capital Us and had two chapter 8s (the entire chapter, printed out again). Made reading interesting...

Any other books to represent Arizona?