Dogside Story review - A More Diverse Universe challenge

Monday, September 22, 2014

Dogside Story is set at the end of the last millennium, and there’s unrest in the whanau. Te Rua, a young man with a life that he likes - he’s got his own little house up in the bush, he fishes for what he needs and for what the whanau needs - comes to realise that he needs to do more. He needs to claim his daughter Kid (Kiri) in order to get her away from The Two - sisters Babs and Amaria - who have raised Kiri from a baby.

They are, however, not kind women. They’re not kind to Kiri - leaving her home alone (she’s 10) and forcing her to cook and clean for them.

When Kiri is injured, Rua realises that it’s time for him to step up, and be the parent that Kiri needs, even though it means bringing secrets to light that the whanau have kept for 10 years.

He’s been reluctant before, thinking that it should be up to the kaumatua to deal with the Two, and to get Kiri away from them. However, once Rua acknowledges what happened 10 years ago in a meaningful way, he knows it’s up to him.

But the sisters don’t want to let Kiri go. There’s something else festering in Dogside - but what is it?

I have to confess, I don’t read as much New Zealand fiction as I should. That’s doubly true for Maori literature, so A More Diverse Universe at meant I had no excuse.

I picked up Dogside Story when I was trying to find The Bone People in the library, but I’m honestly not disappointed. Dogside Story was such an interesting story, and along with the drama of Rua and The Two, there’s so much loving description of the landscape itself, of the marae, of the history steeped into this small Maori coastal community, and it all kind of knits together.

As a Kiwi who grew up in the 80s, a time when Maori was just being introduced back into schools (I think, that’s how I remember it anyway), Dogside Story represents a kind of immersion for me into a world that I never ever knew, because you can’t compare token school marae visits to actually living it (ugh, I’ve expressed that badly, I’m sorry), but I still felt at home in Dogside Story somehow.

It’s not my experience at all, but it feels familiar and deeply rooted in a New Zealand - or Aotearoa - landscape, that may not be mine, but I feel like I recognise it.

Rua is an interesting and sympathetic main character, and though it took me a little while to get everyone straight in my head, once I did, I was away laughing. The Two come across a little two-dimensional at first, but when Rua starts digging, and starts demanding answers of their treatment of Kiri, and also demands that the kaumatua stand up and hold them to account - more comes out about their past and I felt a grudging sympathy.

Dogside Story was so interesting, and so very readable. And I’ve rambled and not made a lot of sense, I know, but I definitely recommend it. Also yay, I actually finished the challenge this time!!!

Three short reviews

Wednesday, September 10, 2014
The Giver by Lois Lowry

Jonas is a member of the Community - a safe, enclosed society that dedicates itself to Sameness and a bland, beige kind of world.

When Jonas and the other Twelves of his Community are called to their assigned life-long tasks, which they will be trained and work in,  Jonas is left until the end, when he finds out he is to be the new Receiver of Memories - the receptacle of all human memory. A burden that is only taken on by one person in a generation, so as to preserve the Community’s bland and safe lifestyle.

However, Jonas soon finds out that even in such a safe place, dark secrets are lurking. And he has a choice to make - one that could have far-reaching implications.

I loved The Giver. I keep coming back to bits and pieces of it, like Jonas and the present Receiver, and their relationship, and how Jonas first discovers memories of such simple things as snow.

The relationship between Jonas and the Receiver itself is surprisingly warm and has a lot of depth, which gives Jonas the catalyst to take the action that he does towards the end of the book.

It’s a short book, but it packs the whump of an emotional Whomping Willow Tree.

If I Stay by Gayle Foreman

Mia is hovering on the brink of life and death, after a terrible car accident. Her parents and younger brother die in the crash but Mia is clinging on and the story is narrated from her point of view as she contemplates whether to stay, or whether to move on.

She dives into her memories - not just of the day itself, but of her family, and the very deep and great sense of loss that she has is definitely felt.

If I Stay is another short book, but it has such emotional depth that you kind of forget it’s not 500 pages long.

Moving Pictures by Mr Sir Terry Pratchett

This is, I think, the 10th Discworld novel? I’m slowly picking my way through them in publishing order.

For some reason it took me absolutely ages to read this one.

Something is coming through a small, tiny tear in the fabric of reality. That something will draw peole to Holy Wood - people like Ginger, who wants to be more than a milkmaid, and Victor - can’t sing, can’t dance, can handle a sword a little - and Cut My Own Throat Dibbler, who may not know a lot of things, but he sure knows how to sell dubious sausages.

Moving Pictures is pretty classic Pratchett humour - funny and satiric with a healthy dose of magic and absurdity. Good times.

It's Monday ...

Monday, September 8, 2014
Your meme is hosted here by Sheila:

It’s been a few weeks for me, because I had a bit of a slow-down. I have no idea whether I’m back on track or not, but at least I won’t be repeating myself with what I’m reading.

I finished The Giver by Lois Lowry and If I Stay by Gayle Foreman in reasonably quick succession, and liked both of them a lot, although I liked The Giver more.

Then I troughed for a bit before picking up Moving Pictures by Mr Sir Terry Pratchett. I’ve been trying - off and on, and more off than on lately - to read all of the Discworld novels in publishing order. When I started, I hadn’t read any and wondered - upon reading The Colour of Magic - what on earth I had been doing with my life up till that point.

I finished Moving Pictures on Saturday and hopefully will get on to the next one in relatively short order.

I’m also re-reading The Sparrow for Trish’s readalong: I forgot how much I LOVE The Sparrow.

At work, my lunchtime reading at the moment is Sand by Hugh Howey. I acutally liked Wool a lot better, but Sand is still pretty readable.

What are you reading?

RIP IX, Sparrow readalong and a More Diverse Universe .

Friday, September 5, 2014
I’m failing pretty epically at the TBR challenge and the women writer’s challenge, although I haven’t added up the numbers for the latter in a while. For TBR though, I lost track of it in….. May.

However, it’s time for RIP IX and although I also failed out of Once Upon A Time (again), I see no reason to let that stop me. So I’m signing up for RIP IX and have hastily put together a small pile of books for Peril the First.

I’m going to read (re-read in all cases but one, I realise) Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, By The Pricking of my Thumbs by Agatha Christie, My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier and Bag of Bones by Stephen King.

I’m also going to do Peril on the Big Screen and watch the recent remake of Rosemary’s Baby - the miniseries with . Zoe Saldana? That one.

One of my favourite books is The Sparrow, by Maria Doria Russell and I discovered - on instagram actually - that Trish  of is hosting a readalong this month. So, naturally, I barged in. :D I”m hoping to start it tomorrow.

Lastly, Aarti of is holding another A More Diverse Universe reading challenge. It’s a great challenge that I also failed out of last year, but I’m going to give it another go. It’s super simple: read and review a book by a person of colour during the last two weeks of September. That’s it. The sign-up post is here:

I don’t have a book picked out for it yet, but I’m going to do that this week. I’m aiming for something by either a Maori writer, or at least a writer from the South Pacific. I need to do some spelunking. :D

Innocence review

Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Addison Goodheart lives below the city, only coming out at night. Whenever anyone sees his face, they have an immediate and visceral reaction and try to attack him.

Addison lives an ordered, considered life. He explores the city after dark, and he mourns the man he called Father, who had taken care of Addison before his own life was cruelly taken.

Everything changes for Addison one night when he saves a girl from a monster with a human face in the library. In the blink of an eye, both Addison and Gwyneth's lives are changed forever.

Dean Koontz can certainly get to  the dark heart of the human condition, and there's a lot of bleakness in Innocence. I keep meaning to dive into his early works, which I never have, because I understand he took a turn somewhere along the way.

Anyway. Good v evil, true love, and also dogs.

It could be worse.

It's Monday

Monday, August 4, 2014
Your meme is hosted here:

I finished A Storm of Swords: Blood and Gold and goodness me, that was quite a ride between weddings and people dying and dragons and all sorts. I loved it.

I'm halfway through The Long Earth, but I've struck a bit of a dry patch with it, so I've put it on what my workmates and I call the perilous shelf for now.

I also started Innocence by Dean Koontz which isn't bad so far, and I have a non-fiction book on Nefertiti on the to-read pile as well.

What are you reading?

Above by isla Morley review

Thursday, July 31, 2014
Given my blog name, and the fact that it's a books blog of sorts (very general sorts, the kind of sorts that get cast in crowd shots in movies, or as zombies 55-67 in the Walking Dead) I've decided to give this whole reviewing thing another shot.

Anyway. First off the shelf so to speak, is Above, by Isla Morley.

It caught my eye in the bookstore, and given that it was payday and I lack moral fibre, I bought it, despite books costing HELLA MONEY here in New Zealand.

But the back cover promised me much, things like TRUST NO ONE in big shouty letters and something like NOTHING IS AS IT SEEMS which led me to believe there would be an awesome plot twist.


Anyway. At 16, Blythe Hallowell is kidnapped by extreme survivalist Dobbs Hordin, who worked in her school library. He puts her in a silo, and plans for the end of the world.

So far, so interesting. But there were many things about Above that I couldn't get my head around.

Blythe herself, for one. She's a shadowy character, and it makes the book feel a bit slippery, as she's the one narrating the story. Dobbs is a pretty standard villain type, and while there are a few rants here and there about the impending end of the world, his reasoning isn't really fully explored. He does see Blythe as the saviour of the new world and basically as the mother of the new race to come. So, unpack that any way you like, but Above does get pretty dark.

Spoilers ahead I guess?

Above covers many years in the silo with Blythe - and eventually her son, Adam, and Dobbs, and it's all rather .... hopeless.

Until of course, Blythe and Adam escape finally, and head out into the real world.

Where the whole NOTHING IS AS IT SEEMS thing comes in. I had the most trouble with this part of the book - it drags and sags a bit under the weight of the reveal that you know is coming and honestly if I were watching a movie, this is the bit I would fast-forward.

The premise of Above is interesting, and super-promising, but I feel like it falls short of that promise. It's a good idea, it just didn't quite come off for me.

Moral of the story: If a book has BIG SHOUTY WORDS on the back cover, don't believe the hype.