Friday, May 31, 2013

Book #21: Brazil - The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Round the World Wednesday! Is it still Wednesday anywhere in the world? No? Oh well. Today is Honorary Wednesday.

The Summer Prince is another of those books that evokes a place so viscerally that you think I want to go there, even if the 'there' is a few hundred years in the future, a parallel world or some undefined historical time. So, I'd like to go to Brazil now. I want to see Palmares Três, the jewel on the bay, the pyramid city of lights. Though possibly not with the bloodshed that goes with it.

The book is set in Brazil at least four hundred years in the future, where everything is life and death, love and hate, moving forward and holding back. The main character, June, is a young artist in a city ruled by grande women, where anyone below the age of thirty is not taken seriously. Every five years, the populace elects a king, and after a year of his rule, he chooses the next queen and is sacrificed. The system is quite logical, really - someone who is about to die is less likely to be swayed by politics.

It's an election year, but not just any election year. This year the king will be a waka, under thirty, and his sacrifice will serve only to continue the reign of the incumbent queen. He will have no true power to choose another queen, but for a year he will be the most priveleged of the youth of Palmares Três.

June votes for Enki, and is ecstatic when he wins. She's already half in love with him, but Enki falls in love with her best friend Gil and she's not quite sure where she stands. She throws herself into making Art, recognising that Enki is as much an artist as she with the way he moves and influences the crowds. They become collaborators on sensational projects, and Art is at its best when it creates a sensation. Or a revolution.

Enki is hurtling headlong towards death, but he is the most vital character in all senses of the word. He helps June understand what's important, and the reader along with her.

Palmares Três is most desperately, incredibly alive, with its dancing wakas and ritual sacrifice. I love the way Johnson communicates that, with the blocos and the graffiti and the secret ninja art projects. I also love the way she weaves Portuguese into the text, making it clear that English is a foreign language to her characters.

Any books you know and love that are set in Brazil?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Auckland Writers and Readers Festival

...and on that Friday, the heavens opened and the rain fell in great fat splotches and ran in rivers through the streets, and umbrellas were nothing against the onslaught, and Kathmandu jackets were soaked and clingy and hair plastered wetly against the face...

The rain wasn't quite that bad, but it was definitely a relief to get inside and walk around the Aotea Centre in the dry. My Friend Who Rocks and I decided to go early and see Words Out Loud (mostly because we wanted to be sure of getting a seat for the following YA writers reading event), but really enjoyed the poets performing their visceral, thought-provoking works. There's something incredibly engaging about the spoken word, and ideas coming straight for you from the mouths of passionate speakers (Courtney Meredith, Miles Merrill, Ken Arkind and Carrie Rudzinski).

After we'd been blown away by poetry, we were treated to readings by Paula Morris, Kate de Goldi, Libba Bray and Patrick Ness. Paula Morris read some very creepy scenes from her ghost books Ruined and Dark Souls, set in New Orleans and York. Kate de Goldi read a few passages from her ACB of Honora Lee and had everyone giggling, and then Libba Bray demonstrated her amazing ability at accents and voices with Beauty Queens. Lastly, Patrick Ness read the first chapter or two of a very new book that didn't even have proofs yet, and left everyone hanging, knowing we can't find out what will happen until the book's published.

And then it was back out into the rain, which was more drippy than pouring by then.

Friday, May 10, 2013


Hello everybody! I thought it was probably time to de-hiatus this blog, and update it with all the things I happen to have done in the last few months. Well, not all the things. That might get a bit tedious.

It's funny how being in a place other than 'Home' can change your view of things. So much is new, so much is different, and interesting things pop up every day. The Underground! Coats! Squirrels! When really, if you cast the same gaze over Home, you can come up with just as many interesting things.

Notable things I have done in the past few months:

Swum in one of the northern-most beaches of New Zealand, and walked to see the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea meeting and churning at Cape Reinga.

Well, this isn't the Actual beach. We swum at one a few bays over.

Seen a penguin in the Wellington lagoon. No pic unfortunately, but I did see one!

Walked past Peter Jackson's Embassy Theatre.

Eaten an amazing rainbow wedding cake.

Ridden in a limo.

Attempted Gangnam Style in heels. No, there are no photos.

(Okay, I was a bridesmaid too. Congratulations to the New-Minted Travelicious Lady and the Boy with the Lotus!)

Watched an incredible hour-long fireworks show, with rainbow fireworks and people on fire and light shows against the side of the museum and wire work.

Been to the Pasifika festival, where I watched dance performances and ate icecream in half a melon.

Driven an automatic car for the Very First Time.

Driven very slowly into a wheelie bin (unrelated to the previous item).

Tried to watch Indiana Jones at an outdoor theatre, but ended up cowering under ineffective blankets and running to the car in pouring rain.

Tried my hand at glass blowing.

Bussed past Mt Doom aka Mt Ngauruhoe.

Survived one of the longest warm, dry spells New Zealand has known while it snowed in London (what a hardship).

Gained the trust of two new cats: skittish Prtska (the name is entirely my fault ha) and ninja Poppy, who we're pretty sure has ADHD and has had some vet visits recently from fighting.

Swung on a proper beach rope swing.

Been to Matamata aka Hobbiton (though not the actual set, this time round. This is just the town information centre).

Now the cold is coming in at last, and the washed-out days where the sun spends its time failing to push through the clouds. Good time for catching up on my reading.