30 Day Book Challenge – Day 6

Favorite young adult book

Dammit, I already used Harry Potter for yesterday’s book challenge theme!

I used to love the His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman.  Oh, then there was the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix. But no, I think I’m going to go with another Australian series; the Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody, which are still being published.  If you haven’t heard of this award winning series, here’s the blurb from the back of the first book:

In my dream I was somewhere cold and darkly quiet.  I could hear water dripping and I was afraid, though I did not know why.  In the distance there was a bright flash of light.  A high-pitched whining noise filled the air like a scream, but no one could scream for so long without stopping to breathe.

In a world struggling back from the brink of the apocalypse, life is harsh.   But for Elspeth Gordie, born with enhanced mental abilities that would see her sterilised or burned if discovered, it is also dangerous.  There is only survival by secrecy, and so she determines never to use her forbidden powers.  But it is as if they have their own imperative, and their use inevitably brings her to the attention of the totalitarian Council that rules the Land.

Sent to the remote mountain institution of Obernewtyn where escape is impossible, she must throw off her safe cloak of concealment and pit herself against those who would resurrect the terrible forces of the apocalypse.

Only then will she learn most truly who and what she is…

I’m not usually a fan of books with a futuristic setting, but these work for me because in the story, the apocolyptic event that caused havoc on the world forces people to turn back to more primitive and medieval ways of living, albeit with certain magical influences.  Isobelle started writing this series when she was in High School and now, as an adult, she continues the story of Elspeth and her destiny to save the world (of course!).

Also, it was only recently that I met Isobelle at a book signing, and she was just lovely.

Your world rocks, Isobelle!

~storytelling nomad~

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Today will henceforth be remembered as the day Robin Hobb sent me an email

Robin Hobb Book Love

See this —> :D Yep, that sideways emoticon, with the beady eyes and unnaturally large mouth indicating extreme happiness.  Well that right there, that is an accurate representation of my face right now.  Why?  Because this morning I had the pleasure of waking to an email from Robin Hobb herself.  Now, I may sound very calm and collected, but inside, not so very far from the surface, I am jumping up and down, kinda like they do in the Toyota ads, shouting out things like “OH EM GEE!” “Life will never be the same again!” “Hallelujah!” “Robin Hobb, you complete me!”.  Or thereabouts.

Now, as much as I’d like to claim that the queen of fantasy herself sourced me out just to say hi because she heard how awesome I am, well, surprising as it may be, this just wasn’t the way of it.  Instead, it transpired as follows.

You might remember a previous post (or two) about my undying love for Robin’s Farseer Trilogy, which I have only recently discovered.  Well, a few days ago I finished the series.  After much consideration, and a few tears, I decided that I didn’t want to monopolise this blog with too much of one thing (no matter how good a thing it is), and so, in the name of keeping things varied, I did not post another blog about how AMAZINGLY AWESOME the trilogy was once I finished it and how DEVASTATED I was when it was over.  You’ll be happy to know two things.  Since then, I have started reading the Tawny Man Trilogy, where the story of the Farseers continues, so no more devastation.  Secondly, by not writing about it then, I feel like fate has allowed me to write about it now, and let’s face it, I’m sure you’d much prefer hearing about my intimate correspondence with Robin Hobb as opposed to simply reading an update of joy every time I finish a page.

In any case, seeing as I felt I could not justifiably express myself on my blog, I instead decided that if possible, I would speak my mind to the source itself, and email Robin Hobb.  Just to be clear, I am not a stalker.  I dabble in a bit of Facestalking every now and then, but stalking of the actual kind, well that’s just rude…and creepy.  So, inexperienced stalker that I am, I had no idea how to go about contacting her majesty, but after a surprisingly short time on Google, I was privy to her email.

I won’t copy and paste the contents of my email, it’s her response that I’m sure you’d rather read, but basically the gist of my correspondence to her was to communicate how brilliant I thought the Farseer Trilogy was.  I told her how I came about reading her books (I was at Supanova, standing in the Isobelle Carmody line waiting to get my Obernewtyn book signed and saw the long, snaking line of Robin Hobb fans and knew that an army of fantasy book lovers never lies!) and told her that I hoped to see her return to Australia soon.  Finally I thanked her for her superb writing and how it had encouraged me to persevere with the writing of my own fantasy novel.  Your average fan email, or so I assume.  And her response?

Dear Katy,

What a wonderful letter to receive! Thank you so much.  (And now you can see why I sit next to Isabelle . . . it’s to steal her readers!  Well, no, not really, but it sounded good.)

Good luck with your fantasy novel.  I will tell you the only trick I know.  Persevere.  Push those keys down every day.  The only way that anyone writes anything is one key stroke at a time.  So when it is dark outside and you are alone with your little lamplight shining out the window, think of all the writers all over the world who are doing the same thing, and keep at it.

Best of luck!

Robin

Ah-maa-zing!  The only thing better than a brilliant writer, is one who will take the time to respond to the fans and even give them a little piece of encouragement and advice.  My heart swells with joy!  So, I’m sorry dear bloggers, but I’m afraid this Robin Hobb infatuation won’t be going away any time soon and I can assure you this won’t be the last you hear of it! *cue further Toyota jumps*

~stoytelling nomad~

I talk to animals

Jack not eating my face off

I talk to animals.  Maybe I should be more specific.  You see, I don’t go around to any old worm, ant or cockroach asking them how their day is going.  No, I’m much more selective with my Doctor Dolittle tendencies.  My dog, Jack, for example.  <—-That’s him, over there to the left. The one with the crazyman eyes looking like he’s about to eat my face off (It’s not his best angle).  Yep, he’s worthy of the kind of Homo sapien to beast exchange I might participate in.  And in case you were wondering, yes, he does on occasion talk back.

You see, I’m that person who walks into a pet store and believes that every cute, little non-toilet-trained ball of fur is looking at me, and only me, begging to be taken home.  I’m fairly sure I was the nightmare child that begged and begged for a puppy, a kitten or a hamster.  One time I believe I actually hid my auntie’s new puppy down my jacket and hid in the back seat of the car for a reasonable amount of time thinking my ploy a great success.  Which, of course, it wasn’t.  Ahh, my days as a 7 year old dog snatcher now long passed, and yet I still have not grown out of my animal talking ways.

Jack and I have some good ol’ yarns.  He usually monopolises the conversation, telling me how much he needs a scratch behind the ears, shouting at me for not paying him enough attention for the last hour, telling me how happy he is to see me in the morning after 7 or 8 hours of no play.  Yep, Jack and I, we are quite the intellectual conversationalists.

Anyway, there is a point to this animal talking admission.  I realise that together with my post about talking trees you may be starting to wonder if I’m actually a bit of a loony, escaped from the crazy house, slightly ‘unhinged’. Yes?  Well, rest assured I’m about to defend my stark raving madness.  The fantasy fiction buff that I am, I’ve always noticed how many writers in this genre incorporate some affinity for animals in their stories.  Whether it be an ability to understand and talk to animals, or where the animals are spiritually connected to their human protagonists, or simply conveying a love and caring for animals as pets or companions.

I know that one prevalent convention of the fantasy genre is that the main character is often isolated or cut off from society in some way.  Harry Potter had his friends but they couldn’t always be with him or go through the trials he undertook.  And so there was his owl, Hedwig, to keep him company.  In the Farseer Trilogy series that I’m reading at the moment (see my previous post) some people have the ability to talk and bond to animals.  The main character, Fitz, is one of these people, and again, is in many ways detached from society.  His animal bonds offer him the companionship and friendship that he cannot find in the human company he keeps.  In Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials every human has a daemon, which is essentially a person’s soul in the shape of an animal.  Isobelle Carmody is another animal lover, advocating, in her Obernewtyn Chonicles, for animals in such a way that a horse must agree and be willing to carry a rider.  Where animals are not owned or considered pets, but exist as equals amongst humans.

I’m sure there are many more examples, but I wonder at this manifestation of animal equality and the many stories whereby the humans have the ability to speak to animals.  Does it stem from some guilt at the maltreatment of animals over the centuries? Or is it some inner, subconscious response to a desire to realise such a possibility?  Perhaps I’m just looking to substantiate my predisposition to talking to animals.  Who knows?  What I do hope, is that in the very least it results in an awareness of animals – not so much as to offer them a seat at the dining table perhaps, but as living things just as worthy of the respect and decency that we expect for ourselves.

Jack says it’s time to play.  The beast has spoken.

~storytelling nomad~