Review: Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

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Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts was one of my most anticipated reads for 2017 and it absolutely did not disappoint. It’s full to bursting with sassy dialogue, bloody action scenes, and the most complex and amazing characters of ever. There’s so much love-and-hate relationships that just kept me flipping pages as fast as my eyeballs could gobble the words. And when I finished? I sit in anxious anticipation for hopeful future sequels. Please. I beg. I have needs here.

It follows the story of Tilla, who’s a bastard of a great lord who may or may not be brewing a rebellion. Tilla’s more into sneaking about with her half-brother the stableboy, exploring tunnels, and getting into mischief, so war is not her concern. Until she eats dinner with the visiting crown princess and accidentally saves her life from a murder attempt. Then they’re on the run with a group of unlikely local bastards who don’t get along all that well. But they miiiight just need to change that if they want to survive.

Honestly, the sass levels were what won my heart. When a book starts with two siblings bantering amiably about the snobby royalty, I know I’m in for a winning story.

The cast was quite large, but everyone was interesting and complex. They all had personalities and backstories, complexities and fears and venerabilities. And we’re not introduced to them all in a heap, so that was helpful. I can barely even pick a favourite! I adored our narrator, Tilla, who is (quite frankly) badass. She’s equal parts awkward and fierce, and she’ll do anything for her friends. Her half-brother, Jax, is a big dork and I couldn’t help but fall in love with him too! Their sibling relationship is THE BOMB and they’re so there for each other (also there to make fun of each other, but ya know…sibling love). Miles is the nerdy bookworm who gets understimated when he really really shouldn’t be. Zell is a warrior from the clans and totally Closed Off And Emotionless™ but secretly a big squish. And lastly Lyriana is the wizard princess who will nuture plants to grow and also smite her enemies really viciously if they mess with those she loves.

I loved the plot with the threats of wars, the betraying parents, the teens growing into weapons and strengths while they traverse through the forest in order to save the princess. (Although let’s be real here: the princess saves herself in this one.) The book gets gritty, which I wholly appreciated, because what’s an epic fantasy without high stakes and wild action scenes of blood and stabbing?!? I LOVED THIS.

I also really loved the writing style, which was abnormally modern for an epic fantasy. It was consistently modern though (with the characters using phrases like “badass” and “sucks” etc) so it didn’t feel out of place or jarring. And it made me connect to the story far more, because the jokes were ones I’m familiar with.

Overall, it was fun and exciting and kept the sakes high! Do NOT think your favourites will be safe! I think Tilla is one of the best, most winning YA protagonists of 2017, with her badassery and her sassery. It combines stabbing with explosions and powerful magicians, and adds in characters who fairly leap off the page with their shenanigans. I’m such a fan.

Review: Song Of The Current by Sarah Tolcser

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Song Of The Current by Sarah Tolcser absolutely caught my heart with its levels of epic swashbuckling. I’m always on the look out for delicious pirate books, and this doesn’t disappoint! Also add in a dash of love/hate romance, smuggling, dark power that does not sleep, badass female captains, personified water gods, a small mention of a water drakon, and delicious amounts of fried fishfingers — and you have ourself a most spectacular novel. I can’t love this one enough!

The story centres around Caro Oresteia who is-first mate to her father, a wherry captain. They sail the rivers (and have a small side-business of smuggling) and they get called upon to deliver a secret box. When Caro’s dad gets thrown in jail, she has to sail her ship alone and deliver the box. Except a pirate attack drives her to check out this sinister cargo — and the contents change everything.

I will also emphatically rave over the world building. Most of the book takes place on rivers, and I could just feel the murky depths and the jungles and the wherries catching the right tides as they slink up and down jungle infested rivers. I could see it all! It was perfect and brilliant. #aesthetic Plus it actually had a unique and interesting magic system and an intoxicatingly vicious political aspect going on. I didn’t get confused or overwhelmed. Details were sparse but pointed.

Caro was an AMAZING protagonist! She’s stubborn and feisty and loyal and brave. She’s in love with the water and her boat, and when her dad gets thrown into jail for not smuggling something super top secret and suspicious for the royalty? CARO DOES IT. She gets a letter of the marque and becomes a privateer. Also she will stab you in the eye if you insult her ship.

The romance was just the best, with the love-to-hate trope done to perfection. Caro getting entangled with an important and stuffily vain boy who needs her help. Their banter is exceptional. Mostly because they hate each other. I ship these two. Markos is forever my favourite. He dresses nicely, he has no idea what anything does on a ship (#relatable), and he is badass when he’s finished being vain.

The plot was engaging the whole time! Although all the sea/ship explanations lost me. However it did make the book feel real. There as plenty of sailing and gunshots and sneaking around like skulking pirates.

My only dislikes? Not much! I was just disappointed I guessed all the plot twists and the stakes never felt really high enough for me to be worried for the characters.

This is a completely murky and beautiful tale of rivers and pirates, of smugglers and guns, of sea gods and monsters. It was beautifully and engagingly written with characters I fell totally in love with! I adored how much it empowered women and gave us the badass female pirates we’ve all been longing for. There’s explosions and deathly sword fights and stolen ships and an engaging plot. What more could we want?!

Review: Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

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Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare is a stunningly engaging starter for a new Shadowhunter series! It is a follow-up of Clare’s previous The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices series, but good news? You can actually read this without having read a single Clare book before! It’s a great intro into the world of nephilim, werewolves, faeries, vampires, and demons. And it did not disappoint at all!

The story follows Emma Carstairs, a training Shadowhunter who’s parents died in an unsolved murder mystery. While the Clave has ruled their deaths as just part of the war, Emma knows it was murder — and she’s determined to find answers and have revenge. Emma is also struggling with feelings for her best friend, her Parabati, whom she’s forbidden by Shadowhunter law to have a relationship with. And as if life isn’t complex enough, the murder mystery ends up involving faeries and it’s illegal for Emma to investigate with them. She has so many laws to try and sneak around if she’s going to get her revenge.

I absolutely adored how incredibly full and rich the story was. It has everything a book should have: humour, witty quips, a murder mystery case, magic, mayhem, pancakes, diverse characters, and an engaging plot that will leave you breathless by the end.

The writing just hooked me in from the first page. It manages to fill in any newbies to the series on Shadowhunter law and culture without giving tiresome info dumps. Plus it mixes levity with the darker storyline and the banter is just so spot on and perfect I couldn’t help but laugh.

“You’re too skinny,” she said as brightly as she could. “Too much coffee, not enough pancakes.”
“I hope they put that on my tombstone.”

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The characters stole my heart with their complexities and just how relatable they were. Emma and Julian are the stars of the story and their denial of their feelings for each other is so insufferably cute. So much angst. So much heartbreak. Emma is the main narrator, but I loved that we also got peeks into Julian’s conflicted mind. Emma has a “LET’S SMITE THE THING” attitude while Julian is more thoughtful and silently dangerous. And their banter and sass was perfect.

“Why did you pull the arrow out?” she demanded…
Jule’s breath was coming in harsh pants. “Because when someone — shoots you with an arrow –” he gasps, “your immediate response is not — ‘thanks for the arrow, I think I’ll keep it for a while’.”
“Good to know your sense of humour is still intact.”

It also has quite a large cast of characters since there are 5 Blackthorn children. Julian is only 17, but also a parent to his 4 younger siblings. I adored how each of the kids just leapt off the page with personality and I never got them confused. I’m particularly impressed at the inclusion of Ty, who is pretty clearly Autistic, and how the story incorporated themes of disability, accepting differences, and empowerment.

Lady Midnight is quite possibly my new favourite Shadowhunter book! (And that’s saying something, since I’m thoroughly obsessed with everything Cassandra Clare pens.) The plot was engaging and suspenseful, the banter kept me giggling through my pain as the tension and problems piled insurmountably high. I rooted for Emma’s revenge and Julian to keep his family together. And I absolutely hope these two get together, law or not. The book has such strong themes of family, friendship, and the meaning of actual true and real love. It’s stunning and clever and the sequel needs to be in my hands.

 

Review: The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore is a beautiful example of why Magical Realism is the best. It took me a few pages to get into the swing of this magical world where people can grow feathers and curses are very real, but after that? I was hopelessly hooked. The writing was flawlessly gorgeous. It was the kind of writing that absolutely devoured your attention so it was just you + book = everything there is. (Which is a little unfortunate if one has to, like, stop reading and go to work or whatever. Note To Self: read this book when you have a free weekend and can devour it all at once!)9781250058652

This year has only just begun and already I’ve found a few favourite!

The story is basically of two warring performer families: the Spanish Palomas family who wear mermaid tails and put on whimsical shows, and the French Corbeaus family who grow feathers and wear wings and dance in the tree tops. Their rivalry dates back generations and they believe even touching each other will cause death and curses. It has a Romeo & Juliet feel! And of course two teens from each side accidentally end up falling for each other, in a slowburn and entirely magical romance. Lace gets thrown out of the Paloma family and ends up masquerading as a nobody in the Corbeaus family in an effort to get a burned curse lifted off her arm. She doesn’t mean to fall in love with Cluck, the outsider with damaged hands and red feathers in his hair. But bring on performances, burns, terrible storms, and hopeless accidents and here is The Weight of Feathers.

This is magical realism at its finest. It mixes real world settings with dashes of magic and comes across so well written I felt like I got sucked into another land. The story is also mostly set in a small town, and I loved the aching summery vibe of stillness and loneliness. When the setting just leaps off the page, you know you’re in for a good read.

The diversity is also amazing and exceptional. Not only do we have French and Spanish protagonists (dual narrating) who are also people of colour, it also touches on disability representation. Cluck has damaged fingers which complicates his job of making wings for his family’s shows. Lace sustains massive scarring on her face and has to learn to accept herself and not view herself as damaged. It’s really beautiful how all the themes are woven together. I also loved the amount of French and Spanish words! I did have to resort to Google Translate a few times, but mostly you can tell what they’re saying by context. And it gives the cultures a deeper feel to see them using their own tongue.

I absolutely loved the protagonists too. Usually dual point-of-view and I don’t get on well. But both Lace and Cluck’s perspectives were brilliant. Lace is more logical and down-to-earth and will not be pushed around by anyone. Cluck is dreamy and an outsider even with his own family. He’s constantly abused and pushed aside by them and he wears strange clothes and is unknowable — until Lace chooses to know him. The way they ended up relying and being strengthened by each other was so encouraging to read.

I also appreciated that the romance was very slow. No instalove or falling into each other’s arms on page 5 and professing eternal love. It felt realistic! And it was more a journey of trust = friendship = love.

This is definitely a book I’ll come back to for copious re-reads. It was unique and beautifully written, with a storyline that wasn’t particularly new, but was written in such a fresh way that I was addicted to every page. Lace and Cluck are the most adorable and winning couple I’ve read about in a long time. And I rooted for their lives to get better! It features family, magic, and quite a bucketful of suffering. I only wish there were more books.

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Review: Reckless by Cornelia Funke

With the new edition of Reckless by Cornelia Funke just having hit the shelves, I decided I had to try this dark fairy tale retelling! I had no idea what to expect since I read Inkheart when I was only a small bookworm and it’d been so long I’d forgotten most of it anyway. But I was intrigued by the idea of a book being edited and rewritten again before being released with a new cover. And, in the author’s note, Cornelia Funke seemed very pleased that she had the opportunity to make a beloved story even better. So I was excited! I dived right in!9781782691242

Reckless was stuffed with dark, twisted fairy tale-seque stories. We have monsters and mayhem and murder and evil fairies and tricks and prisons and animated dark woods. My kind of story basically!

The story follows Jacob Reckless, who discovered a world behind his mirror. He’s spent most of his life in the Mirrorworld, being a treasure hunter and getting tangled up in monsters and faeries and unicorns. He’s made enemies and friends and it’s more home to him than the human realm. Then his little brother crawls into Mirrorworld, survives a vicious attack by monsters, but ends up with his flesh being petrified to jade. Jacob has to reverse it or lose his brother forever. This will require a quest. Probably a deadly quest. Probably everyone will betray them and the cure will be the least easiest thing to achieve.

The best part of this book is obviously the magical world! I had in the back of my mind it would be a whimsical and gentle middle-grade story. BUT NO. It’s very dark, although not graphically written, so it just leaves the mayhem up to your imagination. I also appreciated all the fairy tale references! I adore fairy tales, especially from a more sinister angle where nothing is as it seems in the originals. I particularly like how the whole of Reckless had a Sleeping Beauty theme happening, but instead it was a sleeping/petrified boy who’d need to be woken by the girl’s magical kiss. Genderbent retellings give me life.

Also sibling stories are easily the best thing. I love it when brothers have to risk everything to save each other! It’s always a refreshing change from books focused solely on romance too. And even though Jacob is a rather severe, closed off, and serious type of fellow, there’s absolutely nothing that’d stop him from rescuing his brother in time. But it also has an amazing secondary cast that includes: a shapeshifting fox girl who may or may not be in love with Jacob and he in love with her though they both won’t admit it; a sassy backstabbing dwarf who would sell you for a tube of toothpaste probably; a sweet and loving girl who will give Jacob’s brother the kiss of life if only she doesn’t die before they get there in time.

Basically Reckless is an amazing story and not to be missed! It left me feeling rather inspired and excited and wanting to read more (thank you dear universe that it’s a trilogy) which is exactly the kind of feelings I want to finish a book with. I’m so glad this series got a revamp and I can’t wait to see how Jacob tackles the next volume. Full of adventure, torture, and monsters, this is a tale the Grimm brothers would be proud of.

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5 Reasons You Should Read Nevernight

9780008179991As a rather rabid fan of epic fantasy, I was very keen to try Nevernight by Jay Kristoff. It’s an adult fantasy that features teen characters and it promised to be dark, gritty, and sassy. It absolutely was. It was brilliant! And not only that, it’s by an Australian author, so obviously it has my pledge of intense fangirling for evermore. (No no, I’m not dramatic at all.)

Today I have a list of 5 reasons why YOU should try Nevernight! It’s a very sensible list and you’re going to want to listen to it. Trust me now.

 

1. IT’S ABOUT A SCHOOL FOR ASSASSINS.

Which I’m sure we’ve all read a lot of, because it’s a very popular trope. But this one just brought a whole new level of DANGER! ALERT! to the page. This school is actually vicious, cutthroat, and unforgiving. The tests the students go through are pretty creative — and also terrifying. There’s also a good helping of magic too. And poisons. And really creepy teachers who might kill you or train you. Either/or.

 

2. IT FEATURES A TOUGH AND SASSY PROTAGONIST.

Mia is 16, which originally made me think the book is YA…but it’s probably a little too dark and graphic with the violence and sex to be strictly considered YA. Still! Mia is a vicious little poppet who wants revenge on her father after he was wrongfully murdered by the most powerful men in the city. She travels across deserts and survives rigoursous initiation tests to get into the Red Church assassin school. And she still manages to find time to throw around some barbed quips that made me snicker.

 

3. SPEAKING OF SASS…THERE IS AN INCREDIBLE NON-CAT.

When I say “non-cat” I mean the cat is made entirely out of shadows. Because…SURPRISE. Mia can also manipulate shadows because she’s a Darkin. Not sure what this means? Be calm, my friend, neither does Mia. She really really wants to learn more about her powers which is another reason she’s at the Red Church. But she has an adorable animal companion, named Mister Kindly, (hey no judgment, she found him when she was only 10) who can talk and they have the most epic banter sessions. Mister Kindly is always there for Mia. Let’s just look past the fact he’s made of shadows. He is too precious, too pure.

9781250073020

4. THE BOOK HAS UNIQUE FORMATTING.

I really love this because it helps keep my attention! It has 2 gorgeously designed maps that made my map-loving heart sing. And it also features footnotes! The book is told by an “unknown narrator” who has a little running commentary on Mia’s life, put on the page via footnotes. Sometimes the footnotes add in extra details to the world building, and sometimes they just snarkily make fun of how terrible Mia’s luck is.

 

5. IT HAS SO MANY PLOT TWISTS!

Obviously I won’t share what, because you want the surprises. TRUST ME. But I was so thrilled with the finale plot twists, where people aren’t who they seem and surprises leap out of every corner to stab the characters, and also stab my feels. But who needs calmness while reading epic fantasy?! Not I. The plot of Nevernight will keep you glued to the page and entirely alert!

 

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The Best YA Fantasy of 2016

If I could only choose one genre to devour forever, it would definitely be fantasy. I adore the possibilities! And the action, adventure, magic, and probability of talking dragons. So today I’m going to list my favourite 2016 fantastical Young Adult releases. Since it’s nearly Christmas time, you can gift one or two or all of them to yourself. Isn’t that a great idea? It’s a great idea.

There were so many amazing sequels and finales come out this year! It’s so hard to only pick a few, but I’ll be brave and do my best. Here are my top 5 favourites!


9781780622309CROOKED KINGDOM

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This is the sequel (and finale) to the Six of Crows duology and … can I just say right now that it was pure perfection?! It’s a story about a heist crew out for revenge on a nobleman who cheated them. (Ah, irony.) And the complexity of the heists they pull and the mind games they weave are just incredible and will keep you glued to the page. But make sure you put aside a free weekend to begin devouring this because you will not want to put it down. Ever.


9781407136646THE RAVEN KING

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Another series finale! This is the 4th and final book to The Raven Cycle collection and it, arguably, has the most beautiful cover of them all. Also the words inside are good. In fact, they’re amazing. This finale will take you on a whirlwind of emotions and make your heart pound as the time towards Gansey’s foretold death draws ever nearer. The demon awoken in the last book is also wreaking havoc and draining the magic of Henrietta and it looks like everyone is going to die. A delightful nail-biter. Also leave the weekend free for this one too? Basically just cancel life and read.


9781481441902THE IMPOSTOR QUEEN

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This is like a very dark version of Disney’s Frozen! Meet Elli who is supposed to be the next queen who will wield fierce and amazing powers to protect her people — except her powers haven’t shown up yet. People are getting worried. And violent. It’s filled with snow and magic and betrayal and harsh terrain and is absolutely magical to read. Also it has a gorgeous map. Which is a priority for all fantasy books honestly.


9780062380852THIS SAVAGE SONG

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This is set in a dark, Gotham-like city where monsters roam the streets and the humans rage a constant turf war with them. People look to mafia lords for safety. And caught up in the middle is the vicious and slightly stabby daughter of a Mafia lord, Kate, and a violin-playing-kind-monster boy, August. They get throw together and end up running for their lives. It’s possible, perhaps, that not all monsters are as bad as they seem.


9780008179991NEVERNIGHT

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And lastly we have a book by Aussie author, Jay Kristoff, who has written an amazingly complex and darkly vicious fantasy starring Mia, a prospective assassin. It’s full of tests and trials and torture and bleeding and you probably won’t be able to look away from the page because you’ll be so worried about who will live and die. The world building is intensely detailed. And it features a talking cat made of shadows. What more convincing do you need?

Review: Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan

9780062324610Being an avid bookworm myself (I know, I know, obvious statement) I’m always attracted to books about words. And Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan hugely features words, scrolls, writing, and libraries! I mean, what is not to love here?! Plus it’s a YA epic fantasy with exquisite world building and a cover that is just edible. You know it is. Just look at that majesty.

The story follows Raisa who is a slave in the palace and in training to become a Tutor. In this world, writing and reading are absolutely sacred. So only the royalty, high class, and priests are really allowed to do it. And the only reason Raisa learns is so one day she’ll become teacher to future kings. But since she currently is learning the thousands and thousands of symbols with the crown princes….well. Things don’t stay platonic between them for long. It’s an adorable and winning “forbidden romance” with tons of risks and sacrifice. Add in some rebels, grim punishments, and stolen kisses in a library and you have this marvellous novel.

It is very heavily centred on romance. Normally I wince at this because I prefer more action to a story. But the romance was not only gorgeously done, but I felt myself rooting for Raisa and Prince Mati the whole time! Every feeling they had for each other was a huge risk. And not only that, Raisa was pressured by the rebels, technically her people, to help them. So betray her people vs betray the boy she loves. It really won me over and made my usually unromantic heart beat a little faster. Bless it

I also loved the world building! It features gods and temples and slaves and masters. The entire world is built around writing being so scared. And the actual aesthetics of the world felt dusty and maybe Roman (or Grecian?) influenced. The king’s people were pretty horrendous masters to their slaves and the book talks very severely about oppression and brutality. Although it doesn’t get graphic. The violence mostly happens off-page. I prefer dark fantasy so this did annoy me a little, but it’d be perfect for people who don’t like violent books.

As for the characters? I thoroughly enjoyed them! I’m just going to pretend Raisa wasn’t an entirely whining, naive popsicle…because that was the only downside of the story for me! I can’t understand how she could be a slave most of her life and yet be so incredibly naive and blind? She’s having a passionate fling with the prince. And yet gets shocked when things go wrong. Come now, woman. But that aside, I entirely loved how Raisa doesn’t fall into any Special Snowflake Tropes and she’s also very kindhearted, which is nice.

I also loved the secondary characters. Including Mati, the future-king, who is really tender hearted and anti-violence but also has little power against his horrible father. And I adored Jonis, who’s one of the rebels, and is a sneering scarred precious little cinnamon roll. And don’t worry: no love triangle here. I’m so happy this book proved that a protagonist can exist and not fall in love with every male in the room. WOOO! I also adored 5-year-old Jera, who’s the next Tutor-in-training and was just so adorable.

The plot doesn’t roar along with tons of excitement, but it is intriguing. I felt totally engaged! Despite it being mostly…kissing. There is also stabbing and explosions and plots and spying. Not to mention libraries where you could be killed for entering. Good times.

I had a lot of fun diving into the world of Sword and Verse! The romance was adorable, the world-building amazing, and it wrapped up quite satisfyingly so that it could almost be a standalone! (Apparently there is a sequel coming in 2018 though.) I’m impressed and my little book loving heart beats very fiercely with affection for this novel.

 

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Middle Eastern Inspired YA Fantasy Books

As a rabid devourer of fantasy, I’m always on the look out for exceptionally brilliant books! And I’ve absolutely fallen in love with epic YA fantasy books set in the Middle East, Persia, and India! I can’t get enough of the gorgeous settings, the complex culture, and the mythology. Plus diversity is always a win and I get very excited when I find diverse fantasy.

Today I’ll be listing some Middle Eastern inspired fantasy books. Beware: they are gorgeous. You’ll want them all. Don’t even deny yourself, my friend, just buy and read them.


9780451477538REBEL OF THE SANDS

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How about some Persian fantasy mixed with the Wild West?! Yes, I thought it was a weird combination too at first, but I have been emphatically converted. This book is full of action, shooting, and sass! They’re shooting bottles off each other’s heads from the first chapter, and it just gets more intense as it goes on. Plus magic. What is life without a bit o’ magic, amirite?

The story follows Amani, who lives with an unloving family who are very keen to marry her off to some smelly old guy. But she’s also an epic sharpshooter and dreams of an adventurous life in the city. She ends up in the company of a dashing foreigner and they get accidentally caught in a whirlwind adventure with bullets flying.


9781250085474THE STAR TOUCHED QUEEN

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This one is set in India and, along with gorgeous Indian culture an mythology, it combines this with a retelling of Persephone and Hades! HOW COOL IS THAT?! I mean, marriage is no picnic, but at least you’re not likely to elope with Death.

Maya has got a terrible horoscope and has been foretold that Death is her bridegroom. When her father tries to set her up for a political marriage (while encouraging her to poison herself to prevent it) Maya ends up marrying Amar and travelling to his magical city. She has about 2% of an idea what’s going on at first, but the mystery unwinds as she explores the palace. Also included in the story: tree spirits, a sassy talking demon horse, delicious Indian food, a magical Night Bazar, and a whole string of terrible mistakes.


9780399171611THE WRATH AND THE DAWN

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This is a retelling of the 1001 Arabian nights, originally told by Shahrazad to the evil Sultan killing all his wives. (Yes, we’re noticing a pattern that marriage is a bit iffy in these stories. #SingleLifeFTW) The Wrath and the Dawn features Shazi, who has set out on a mission to kill the Sultan before he murders every girl in the realm. Except the Sultan is a tortured and handsome boy and things are not as they seem.

The food descriptions in this book are guaranteed to make your mouth water. And the mythology coupled with beautiful storytelling and gorgeous settings just make this book divine. Also there is sass. As all good books should have.


9781447290377A THOUSAND NIGHTS

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Another Shahrazad retelling! But this one is told by an unnamed protagonist and focuses on beautiful, ethereal writing that will make you think you’ve fallen right into a fairy tale. Again it has the Sultan who is murdering people, but what’s the reason? Why would he do this?? SO MANY QUESTIONS.

It does take on a slower pace though, with 90% focus on the writing instead of on the characters. But no denying it is gorgeous!

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

If you’re looking for an epically dark fantasy, with a dash of sass and plenty of stabbing — A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab is absolutely entirely for you. I actually procrastinated reading it for ages, despite 90001 people yelling at me to try it (I have really great friends who recommend books so kindly) but the hype was high and I was nervous! I’d previously read and adored Vicious by VE Schwab and, hello look at that: A Darker Shade of Magic was no differe9781783295401nt! It captured my adoration instantly. It’s dark and bloody and has an incredibly marvellous magic system. I could not stop reading!

What’s it About?

Most people only know one London; but what if there were several? Kell is one of the last Travelers – magicians with a rare ability to travel between parallel Londons. There’s Grey London, dirty and crowded and without magic, home to the mad king George III. There’s Red London, where life and magic are revered. Then, White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. But once upon a time, there was Black London…

 

9781494510756What captures me the most is: how very unique it is! It’s basically alternate realities + 20th century + epic magical fantasy + magicians and kings and queens + dark EVIL that does not sleep. I honestly hadn’t read anything like this before and (as an avid bookworm who devours at least 200+ books per year) this was so exciting.

Plus it basically rattled off a checklist of things I absolutely adore reading about. Did it read my mind??? Does this book exist solely for me to adore it??? (Answer: yes basically.)

Check List of Things I Adore Reading About:

  • Magical multi-sided coat ✓
  • Characters who put things in pockets, like millions of things (I have a pocket infatuation) ✓
  • Sassy, snarky witty banter ✓
  • A girl who’s #1 aspiration is to be a pirate (#goals) ✓
  • Evil magic that does not sleep ✓
  • Concise but yet visually astounding writing ✓
  • Lots of stabby stabbing all the time ✓

I absolutely adore Schwab’s writing style. It’s brisk and too the point. It doesn’t fluff around. And she is QUEEN of world-building. The alternate Londons were all so different, yet linked, and it was perfectly easy to get sucked in without confusion. Not many books manage to make a world this complex and dimensional but EASY TO UNDERSTAND.

I also couldn’t get enough of the amazing group of characters! They’re all intensely different and complex (and very good at snarky comebacks):

  • KELL: was perfect. A little bit tragic and bitterness and mysterious backstory that not even he remembers…but he’s also totally sassy and his dialogue is my favourite. The entire book’s plot comes about because he makes a terribly stupid mistake. How wonderful! He’s such a winning protagonist, with definite anti-hero vibes and he’s immensely flawed.
  • LILA: of course, is my hero. She’s nasty. She’s a thief and so snarky she’d bite you. And she’s wondrous. I love how she starts off just wanting an adventure — but then she meets Kell and the “adventure” turns a bit more life-or-death than she anticipated. And while she and Kell are continually saving each other and do have a connection, the romance is not very intense which was refreshing.
  • RHYS: was definitely a potential favourite. I did love him, but there wasn’t enough of him! (Although this changes in the sequel much to my relief.) He was really cocky and dashing and dazzling and spoiled and vibrant and fantastic. Also the future King of Red London, so there’s that.
  • HOLLAND: I feel the need to mention Holland, who is another magician like Kell (they’re the only two of their knd who can jump through worlds), and he was really creepy. But tragic? I felt really bad for him even as he was doing terrible evil things. He was enough of a villain to be hated, and enough of a victim to make me whisper a small “oh dear” and feel sad for him.

I also really appreciate how it didn’t spare the characters. Everyone’s moral compasses were super twisted. And there was much stabbing and blood magic and darkness everywhere.

All in all? This book is a masterpiece and I cannot recommend it enough! I thoroughly enjoyed the plot twists, the complex characters, the ingenious world, and the enthralling plot.

 

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List of YA Peter Pan Retellings

Do you find yourself mildly terrified of being an adult? I think you and I need to have a talk about Peter Pan. YES! The immortal, ageless classic fairy-child created by J.M. Barrie in the 1900s. And considering Peter Pan is still popular even to this day, I think he’s successfully achieved that “ageless” genius.

But if you’ve already read the original Peter Pan and don’t want to re-read it 78 times…NEVER FEAR. I have a list of retellings that might interest you! Now you can read Peter Pan retold in different, delectable styles and satisfy your inner child.

PETER PAN RETELLINGS


9780062003263TIGER LILY

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Tiger Lily is a seriously whimsical retelling of Peter Pan, that focuses on…TIGER LILY HERSELF! (Surprise!) It’s more about her people and their culture, including her mentor, Tik Tok, and the shame and hardship the villagers put him and Tiger Lily through because they’re different and quite odd. Plus it’s narrated by Tinkerbell. Which is quite enlightening because Tink can’t speak.


9781481432047UNHOOKED

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This one features two girls who are kidnapped by rougish pirates and taken to a deathly island of evil creatures and freaktastic beasts. It blurs the line of “good vs evil” in this new, vicious Neverland. If you’re looking for a dark side to Neverland, I think this is it.


9781940716954WENDY DARLING

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Here we have a more classic approach to the tale, where Peter Pan comes for Wendy Darling in nursery one evening. But Neverland has a bloody, dark side here too, and all the frolicking with the Lost Boys isn’t going to cover that up. Did Wendy fall into a wonderland or a nightmare? Let’s ask the tough questions here.


9781634221351NORA & KETTLE

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Despite sounding like a packet of potato chips, this is actually a retelling! It’s set in the 1950s and takes a more historical fiction approach to the old tale. Kettle is an orphaned Japanese-American trying to live on the streets in the aftermath of WWII when the world is basically against him.


9781633920392NEVER NEVER

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Forget Peter Pan, let’s talk about Captain James Hook! This one is from his perspective and rather views Peter as an impish little demon. (Fair enough, I suppose. They did have quite the rivalry there.) At first James wants to be in Neverland, but then he decides growing up doesn’t sound so bad…except Peter won’t take him back home. #awkward Thus ensues the beginning of James Hook being in a world that pretty much hates his guts. Not fun.


9780451475763NEVER EVER

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A slightly more contemporary retelling approach to the classic Peter Pan story! This features Wylie who gets entranced by the mysterious Phinn and ends up following him to an island of fun times and parties and no responsibility. Except things aren’t what they seem. (I mean, are they ever when it comes to the slightly devious, slightly evil Peter Pan?? Hmm?)


9780545836944EVERLAND

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It’s about time things got steampunky! This one is set in London after the WWII blitzes and there’s an evil German scientist snatching children from the streets and experimenting on them. Gwen and a impish hellion named Pete set out to rescue the kids. The story promises sharp-shooting and blood promises and gangs.

Review: The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows

If you’re looking for an incredible YA fantasy that features delicious things like spooky destroyed countries, medieval vigilantes, princesses-in-disguise, and various sharp knives — then The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows is calling to you. Practically screaming your name. You want it, just trust me on this, yes?

 

WHAT’S IT ABOUT:

18081228An epic fantasy filled with adventure, intrigue, and romance from Incarnate series author Jodi Meadows. This duology is perfect for fans of Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, and Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. When Princess Wilhelmina was a child, the Indigo Kingdom invaded her homeland. Ten years later, Wil and the other noble children who escaped are ready to fight back and reclaim Wil’s throne. To do so, Wil and her best friend, Melanie, infiltrate the Indigo Kingdom palace with hopes of gathering information that will help them succeed. But Wil has a secret-one that could change everything. Although magic has been illegal for a century, she knows her ability could help her save her kingdom. But magic creates wraith, and the deadly stuff is moving closer and destroying the land. And if the vigilante Black Knife catches her using magic, she may disappear like all the others…

 

I will warn you that it ends with a dreadfully glorious cliffhanger! So do the smart thing and order both The Orphan Queen and the sequel, The Mirror King, simultaneously. You’ll thank me, I swear. Also it’s simply a duo! So no need to freak out waiting for a third book!

As a huge fan of YA fantasy, I’m really glad this lived up to my expectations! I wouldn’t say it’s the most original book out there, but it was well told and had unique elements. AKA = it basically had a medieval vigilante Batman. I cannot even contain my excitement over that! It felt really new and different to me.

Plus add in destroyed kingdoms, spies expeditions, and the occasional murder…what is not to love here?

The plot chuffs along on a fairly steady pace. Probably more on the slow side. Wil, the lost princess of a destroyed kingdom, is going undercover in the enemy’s castle. So while she spends the evenings jumping around with knives and disguises, the days are filled with polite small talk and pretty ballgowns. At least it’s a nice mix! Wil was seriously badass. It was endlessly amusing reading her acting the part of an air-headed Duchess and then turn around and be plotting cunningly.

Wil was a really awesome protagonist. She didn’t seem particularly different to Every Other Hidden Princess Ever. But the trope is one of my favourites, so I don’t mind! She has a slow-burn romance with the vigilante, Black Knife. Basically that was my favourite thing of ever. Plus Wil has a really epic best-friend and their relationship is goals.

Plus there is magic! Magic is illegal in this world (fun stuff always is, dangit). Wil’s power is to animate things. She says “wake up” to a wall and it’ll eat a person. (Why can’t I have this superpower??? I could make the sink do the dishes for me and life would be perfect.) I thought this was a really clever and unusual twist on magical abilities!

The world building = very very good. It actually felt like a fully complex and rounded world.

And then we have that freakishly awesomely horrible cliffhanger. AH! If you want a book that will literally have you shrieking and clawing for the sequel: this is it. The finale was so exciting and action-packed and emotional.

Obviously, I’m a fan of this story! This is also my first Jodi Meadows books and clearly I need to read her other series. I’m very invested and want to see Wil get her throne back!

 

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Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo promises thieves, assassins, heists, and antiheroes. And I am such a fan! Move over heroes…this story is about the dubiously motivated villains who are on a quest for money. And Six of Crows is actually quite dark! I love it when books promise to be dark and actually follow through.9781780622286

Now this is set in the same universe as Leigh Bardugo’s original Grisha trilogy. Can you read Six of Crows without reading Shadow and Bone? YES YOU CAN. The world will make more sense and be deeper, more rich, if you read the other trilogy first. But it won’t affect your enjoyment of Six of Crows!

Six of Crows puts the EPIC in epic fantasy. It’s about a group of thieves off to get the “Big Impossible Haul of Their Life”. They’re all misfits and tortured souls and they spill blood but also have consciences. They pretend not to care about each other, but they so totally do. There are six of them and we read from at least five point-of-views.

 

“I worry about everything, merchling. That’s why I’m still alive.”

 

A Brief Look At The Characters:

  • Kaz: He’s the cold hearted mastermind genius who has a plan for everything…he also has a tortured past which makes it very easy to feel for him.
  • Inej: She’s the “spider”, acrobat, and hears and sees everything.
  • Nina: She’s a Grisha, which is another word for a magician. She’s also a bit saucy and definitely sassy and EPIC.
  • Matthias: He is like a bulldozer and hates everything.
  • Jesper: He is dorky comic relief and likes to shoot stuff.
  • Waylan: He’s that secondary character you mostly forget is there, but I’m sure there’s a point to him.

I loved how complex and interesting all the characters were. They all had huge backstories and venerabilities and yet they were icy and coldblooded at times. They worked together and betrayed and they were dorky sometimes. I particularly loved Kaz because of his genius tendencies (because who doesn’t like the mastermind?!) Also Kaz walks with a cane! I read  in the author’s note in the back of the book that this is a reflection of her…because Leigh Bardugo has osteonecrosis. So I felt that was really special that she was sharing her experiences with a) we readers, and b) her main character.

The book is very long, and nearly enters into tedious territory. While I thoroughly enjoyed it, I felt if it could’ve been more concise. Particularly with how much information we’re given on all the characters. It made them all super complex and fleshed-out…but also slowed the plot pace.

I’m in awe of the heist though! I do have a mild weakness for books that involve clever planning and stealing impossible things. There’s a lot of travelling and roadtripping in this book, too, to get to the destination. But plenty of action scenes and gun fire and evil magic. The characters go through a lot and there’s blood and disaster and betrayal. And of course it ends with a cliffhanger. OF COURSE. Authors do like to torture us. We shall wait impatiently for the sequel (also finale) that will be Crooked Kingdom.

All in all, I loved it this epic action adventure! Even though it lacked tightness in the plot (which I crave) I still enjoyed the storyline and the Russian influenced culture. It also had guns and explosions, something that’s not as usual in epic fantasy! I loved the witty banter and the nail biting finale. If you’re a fan of fantasy, this is definitely for you.

 

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Review: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Steelheart (Reckoners #1) by Brandon Sanderson basically flawed me with its intense, indiluted awesome. Until now I hadn’t read a superhero book that lived up to the films. But this?!? This is everything. If you’re a superhero geek, TRUST ME — you need this book in your life. The plot twists! The adorkable narrator! The guns! The action! The car chases! The explosions! It had everything.9780385743563

The story is about David, whose father was killed by the infamous super-villain Steelheart, and David’s life is basically: revenge revenge revenge. He joins up with a small rebel force, called the Reckoners, and they make a plot to take down Steelheart.

It’s about superheroes and villains. In fact, super “hero” doesn’t so much enter the story, because the premise is those with powers are all EVIL.  It’s like “what if Superman appeared and was a jerk and liked to kill people and be terrifying?” But it turns tropes on its head and impressed me a million percent.

I absolutely adored the protagonist: David. He’s such a DORK. And a NERD. He is absolutely the worst at metaphors and he has the BIGGEST dorky crush on one of his team mates. He tries so hard. He’s a shaker and a stirrer — a visionary. And while he’s totally hellbent on revenge on Steelheart, it doesn’t turn him into a bitter mushroom. Which was a pleasant surprise to read!

A quick run down on the Reckoner team?! (They go from city to city in the destroyed American states and kill supervillains).

  • Proff: He’s the “leader” so the gruff, commanding, type who is full of secrets and probably a tragic mysterious backstory. He honestly was not my favourite, but he did lead his team well.
  • Tia: She’s the hacker and the behind-the-scenes intelligence.
  • Abraham: He’s French/Canadian and seriously AWESOME. He’s like soft spoken but carries this HUGE MACHINE GUN and I believes in the Faith.
  • Cody: He’s the comic relief and is like American, but also Scottish. Um, it works. Somehow. He’s always talking about devils and pixies and cracking everyone (aka me) up.
  • Megan: She’s the seriously coldhearted, better-than-thou girl on the team (that of course David crushes on) who is just AMAZING at everything she does but really hard to make friends with.

9780575104044I thought all the characters were really well written and complex. Which is amazing considering it was quite a large cast!

Also the superheroes were admirable because they had unique powers. It wasn’t all just “he can fly and is invisible” blah blah. They had ones who could turn the sky dark, or controlled with shadows, or made illusions, or could predict attacks or could regenerate or etc etc. It was so interesting and I loved that.

Also another thing that stood out to me was that: I appreciated how the adults were running the show. I mean, David might’ve been a bit of a suppressed genius there, with his plans on how to take down Steelheart, but the ADULTS were the ones with the big weapons and getting things done. And it felt super realistic. It’s still YA and David was still doing so much cool stuff. But I appreciated the realism.

Also the whole mystery aspect of “what is Steelheart’s weakness??!” drove me CRAZY wanting answers. And you don’t get to know until the end!

Also I cannot recommend the audiobook enough. (Which you can purchase here!) The narrator captures David’s personality perfectly and is just extremely pleasant to listen to! He also captures the accents of the rest of the team and makes the whole experience like a movie in your head.

If you’re looking for a superhero/villain book that’s unique and exciting and complex — this is for you. It’s realistic and talks science and gun mechanisms and sets up clever masterminded traps. It’ll make you laugh! And then have you clutching the pages hyperventilating over the plot twists. Oh and the cliffhanger? Let’s just say you’ll want Firefight on hand.

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton is a debut YA novel — and wow is it an incredible first book from this author! I anticipated it so very extraordinarily highly that I was slightly nervous going in. Did it live up to my expectations? DEFINITELY YES. It was a glorious conglomeration of Persian fantasy, magic horses, sass, and guns…and I absolutely loved it.9780571325252

The story is about Amani, who is a sharpshooter living with extended family who despise her. She dreams of an adventurous life. So when a strange foreigner comes into town (and they companionably shoot each other and all that) she ends up joining in his adventure. Also there’s magic and guns and a volley of plot twists. Glorious plot twists.

It’s basically set in a dusty fantasy world with Middle Eastern influences. I was actually surprised because I rarely find modern fantasy. (It reminded me a bit of Blood Red Road actually, which I also abso-freaking-lutely love.) There are weapons factories and guns and shoot-outs — but there are also spirits and ghouls and terrible things lurking in the desert that like to rip your face off. Also sand. MUCH SAND. It actually had a cowboy western feel to it!

Amani is downright awesome. She’s the “tough heroine” who is a wicked good shot and dreams of running away from her abusive relatives to FIND HER DESTINY OF AWESOME. She’s really sassy. And she makes mistakes. Oh so. many. mistakes. But she had amazing character development too.

And of course there’s the love interest: Jin. Whom I adored. It could be because of the sass. Or that he slinks into a shooting game in the local tavern and competes against Amani and they’re so stinkin’ cute together. Or, it could be because he gets shot right at the beginning of the story and I do love a good book where everyone is bleeding. Ahem.

 

Jin was at my side…”Did you just shoot someone?”
“I got us hired, if that’s what you’re asking. And I only shot his glass.”
Jin hooked one arm around my shoulder, leaning on me. “I knew I liked you, Bandit.”

Also the actual storyline did not disappoint at all! It’s fast paced, too, and the fact that it fits an entire complex world into 330-pages is immensely pleasing to me. I love small fantasy worlds that pack a punch of awesome and don’t waffle on. This has epic world building. Epic mythology. Epic settings. (Although it did have a tendency to info-dump in the form of folklore tales occasionally.)

The plot twists are intense and exciting! Although I did predict the biggest one. Not sure if I’m a genius or it was too obvious (let’s assume the first one, right?!) And at times I did get a bit lost with all the characters and why they were killing each other. I hope more is explained about the wars in the next book!

All in all: This book was AMAZING and I cannot recommend it enough. I’m really thrilled about the Persian culture influences, too, because there aren’t enough books out like this! Plus magic and shooting cowboy-esque characters and intense action scenes?! What could be better!?

 

“You’re going to get us both killed if you go off looking for this on your own, you know. And if I was going to die on account of you, I’d rather have done it weeks ago before I had to do all this walking.”

 

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Review: The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

I’m following up my recent review of The Winner’s Curse, with a review of the sequel: The Winner’s Crime. And trust me, peoples, you are going to need to devour this WHOLE trilogy. Preferably one book after another. But if you’re still dubious and need convincing: I am here. 9781408858691

Again I re-read this book just recently, and it just gets better the more you read it. The foreshadowing is impeccable! And genius! I just admire this author so much. (When I’m not gnashing my teeth at the torturous cliffhangers that is.)

The Winner’s Crime (book #2) takes off when Kestrel is in her home-country of Valoria, now betrothed to marry the Emperor’s son. She’s being groomed for rule but — she’s unhappy. She’s telling herself she doesn’t love Arin, but…um, #lies. Meanwhile Arin is furious at Kestrel’s continual rejection of him and he doesn’t understand she’s playing a precarious political game of life and death. He seeks dangerous allies. He makes terrible decisions. The romantic angst reaches Level Infinity. And it has a wicked cliffhanger ending. (Ergo, have book 3 on hand!)

Again, I was also super impressed at the amount of deducing going down. I didn’t notice it so much the first time? But Kestrel could look at someone and figure things out. (She is like the fantasy-Roman-Grecian Sherlock.) I loved how much political intrigue and conspiraces were happening. Plots unwound. Nasty backstabbing happened. Spies were bought. Lies everywhere.

I admit to really wishing Kestrel and Arin would work it out. They have problems, oh gosh, do they. But their chemistry is palpable and they spend all their alone time thinking about not thinking about each other. And then when they see each other? Kestrel is trying to make Arin hate her so she doesn’t get murdered for loving him. Her betrothed, the Emperor’s son Verox, is a soft, shy quiet boy and Kestrel definitely doesn’t love him. (I do, though, because he loves puppies!) I felt really bad for Verox, since even his own father doesn’t love him and fully intends for Kestrel to rule.

9781250073563Kestrel is still the intelligent heroine I came to love in the first book. I adore how she’s still firmly feminine, with pretty dresses and delicate piano pieces, but she is plotting the whole time. I also loved seeing some of Kestrel’s military strategies in play. Arin, on the other hand, is quite the knuckle head. Like I literally wanted to brain him with a teapot several times because he gets very blinded by his righteous love for his people and confusion that Kestrel would “betray” him and he doesn’t stop to get the whole picture. He makes stupid decisions, he’s rash, he doesn’t listen. Which honestly just makes me adore him…especially the torture he goes through in this book. Arin and Kestrel seriously need to sit down, with no one listening in, and TALK. But like that’s going to happen. (Ha ha, nope.)

Also the author doesn’t spare her characters. There’s torture and bleeding and stabbing and Arin gets fairly mangled and many of the favoured secondary characters are unfortunately caught up in it. There’s a torture scene at the beginning that had my skin crawling. I do applaud the author for getting all the characters dirty and bloody and being so very realistic.

The cliff hanger is a thing of torture. But also brilliant. I was on the edge of my seat in the last chapters! The build up is so well written and the way the plots came together (and fell apart) had me gasping and desperate for more. (I am mildly emotionally invested in this series…it’s so hard to tell.)

Basically I loved this book. It was everything a sequel should be and leaves me hungry for the next book and desperate to see how this will all end.

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is so good that I’ve read it TWICE. (And I’m notorious for not being a rereader because of all the new books clamouring for my attention.) And my star-rating went up on the second read, because I appreciated the writing style and the psychological angle on battle tactics so very much. It’s an epic fantasy, yes, but it focuses on mind games and cunning plots and ploys.9781408858202

Basically, it is everything. (You’re going to need it, I basically promise.)

Kestrel is the daughter of a Valorian general and she has a choice: get married, or go to war. She doesn’t want either. She wants to play piano. But she’s also insanely smart, quick-witted and often gives amazing battle tactics to her father. Then — enter ARIN. The slave she bought on impulse, but who’s actually a rebel plant, and plans to take down everything Kestrel loves. Cue forbidden, possible romance. It’s dual narrated by them both.

Kestrel is one of my all-time favourite heroines because she is smart and quiet and small and kind of weak on the battle field but oh so intelligent. She blackmails. She deduces. She has a snippy answer for you if you’re stupid. She is kind…but she will stab you if forced. She is a complex creature. I also love how she does anything to keep her piano playing fingers safe. That’s why weapons are her nemesis. What if she breaks her hand and can’t play?! #priorities

Arin is definitely a hothead and rash and quite a few times I wanted to strangle him because he rebuffs all attempts at friendship with Kestrel and he does BAD REBEL THINGS. But he really cares about his people. And the way he grows over the course of the book?! Spectacular. I love Arin.

I also adore how short and concise the story was. It never rambled. The writing is snappy and punchy and it has the most refreshing voice in the unvierse. Plus world building? YOU GOT IT. I adore how the world is based on Grecian-Roman times, with a few twists and how it has so much culture and history. Plus the plot wasn’t super fast, but it was definitely always moving forward and weaving in plots and blackmail. Kestrel is forever scheming. And there’s rebellion from the slave in the wind. Also throw in a bit of torture and bleeding and copious strategy games — which Kestrel always wins, because she’s clever and rather a gambler.

And have you seen that cover?! It’s so gorgeous I mostly want to hug it. The series’ covers just get better as they go on, too.

I am a hugely enthusiastic fan of this series. It has action, but yet it focuses on strategy and the psychology of battle and emotion. It has stabby moments and let’s-wear-pretty-dresses moments and betrayals and alliances and murder. Plus it’s epic and concise. I really cannot ask for more in this incredible fantasy series.

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima

With Cinda Williams Chima spin-off-series Flamecaster coming out SO SOON, I think it’s a very good time to revisit the original Seven Realms series — which you need to read. Absolutely desperately need. Trust me. It’s YA epic fantasy at it’s finest.9781423121367

(Note: I’m not 100% sure if you need to read The Demon King series before Flamecaster, as I haven’t read Flamecaster yet. BUT! Read it to be sure because it’s good and you need good books in your life.)

So oh wow…oh wow. I will officially confess that The Demon King is one of my most favourite fantasy series in the history of ever. EVER. This is not a drill, peoples! This book has everything I want and love in an epic fantasy. After flipping every page I kept thinking that this book was just made for me. It’s like it went through a checklist of things I adore.

Epic Things In This Book:

  • It has a Matriarchy and a Queendom. YES THAT’S RIGHT FOLKS. WOMEN RULE.
  • There are wizards and magic and it all has rules. I love this. I love when magic has rules because it feels more real. And I love the detail of the magic system! I’ve only read detailed magic systems in Brandon Sanderson‘s books (which are very pleasing, by the way, and you should read them).
  • It has thieves! Grifters! Charmers! Sleight of hand!
  • Two epic dual narrators (Han and Raisa) who are sassy and strong and interesting and stubborn and awesome.
  • The world is large, dimensional and has tons of culture!!

 

The plot is basically about Han discovering an amulet that belonged to an ancient and dead demon king and…he keeps it. Smart (not) boy. Then there are powerful dark wizards after him to get it back. Contrasting to the story of Princess Raisa who is worried her mother, the Queen, is being brain-washed by resident wizards and wants to marry Raisa off to a suitor who will potential destroy the whole realm.

 

So basically The Demon King did no wrong. Plus the characters were my favourite part! It’s dual-narrated by Raisa (heir queen) and Han (retired streetlord and thief). They were both epic I couldn’t even pick a favourite! Hans was all swagger and scruff (and he loved his family really fiercely) and he was always in trouble and had such a smart mouth. And Raisa was epically stubborn and sassy and really cared about her queendom. She didn’t want to be a puppet queen.

9780007321988As for secondary characters? Amon was Raisa’s childhood friend and guard, and he was so loyal and basically a precious little stubborn cinnamon roll. Fire Dancer, Han’s best friend, was epic (although not in the story that much) and a bit of a tortured soul.

I also feel like one of the people groups of the book were influenced by Native American culture. (That’s what I surmise anyway.) I love this! Because I hadn’t read a fantasy book with that kind of influence yet. But they had names like “Fire Dancer” and “Hunts Alone” and they learned tribal things and were warriors and had deerskin leggings…but, like I said, only “influenced”. It all felt different and magical, but I think it was a pleasant nod in that direction. Plus I loved how there were so many cultures and groups of people in this world. The townsfolk were your average medieval scruffbags, and the rich people were nearly Renaissance fantasy. Plus add in all the wizards and the wizard and warrior schools. IT JUST HAD EVERYTHING.

So basically. Go read this. I don’t even know what else to say except: it is glorious and everything a YA fantasy should be.

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

9781447299318Carry On by Rainbow Rowell is definitely one of my new favourite bookish creations. I was mildly nervous because I’d heard it had a very strong Harry Potter influence and I’m loyal to the original Potter stories. But, after an initial Harry Potter-ish bginning…Carry On stood on it’s own so easily as an original and equisitely written magical book!

It’s basically about Simon Snow (the Chosen One) and his “evil” roommate, Baz, and how they put aside their lifelong hatred of each other to defeat evil…and perhaps accidentally fall in love in the process.

It’s also a sort of “companion novel” to Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl. In Fangirl, the protagonist (Cath) writes fanfiction of Simon Snow. And in Carry On, Rowell actually writes the Simon Snow book! So it’s like a book within a book. COOL, RIGHT?! You don’t need to have read Fangirl first, however. Carry On stands fine on its own!

I was also very impressed at how well and easily Rainbow Rowell made this book sound British! I just read another book by an American author trying to incorporate British culture and — ugh. It failed. But Carry On?! It had slang and culture down pat and felt QUITE British please and thank you.

The characters are definitely the heartbeat of the story though. I. have. so. many. feels. They were original and unique and totally dimensional in just a few chapters. I fell entirely in love with Simon’s gaunt stammers and quiet mannerisms — and also Baz’s suave, snappy, fiery temper and hidden feelings about Simon. The characters leapt off the page with their realness and relatabilty.

Plus Baz’s real name is Tyrannus Basilton Grimm-Pitch and that is about the best thing I’ve ever heard.

And I definitely rooted for Simon and Baz to get together! Their relationship is slow and adorable and fiery and complex. They hate each other sure, but that’s just to cover up that they love each other. I didn’t find it too angsty or irritating at all. Bonus!

The writing was really addictive and just gorgeous. The first 30% mark felt a bit thick and had a lot of info-dumps…but after that I did not want to ever stop read it. 

“You have to pretend you get an endgame. You have to carry on like you will; otherwise, you can’t carry on at all.”

After all my initial hesitations and grumpiness, I have to admit I’m surprised at how much I adored it. BUT NO REGRETS. I could hug this book forever, basically. It’s original (!!) and clever and complex and had just the right amount of terror and happiness to make it a satisfying but engaging read. I want to just fall into the pages and become friends with these amazing characters on their magical adventures. Also there were so many food descriptions. The scones and butter and jam and cream were basically leaping off the page. (Warning: prepare snacks before reading this book.)

 

“You were the sun, and I was crashing into you. I’d wake up every morning and think, ‘This will end in flames.”

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

Christmas Books For The YA Reader

I’m utterly horrible at reading books in the right season (how do I manage to read beachy books in winter and frigid books in summer? Who can know. It just happens) but I do make an effort around Christmas to swallow a few festive reads! Although most come with a sprinkling of snow, thanks to the bulk of YA authors coming from America — but you can’t have everything.

If you’re in the mood for some Christmasy stories — LOOK NO FURTHER! I have a list for you.

 

 YA   C H R I S T M A S   B O O K S

9780141349176 9780375859557 9781250059307

  • LET IT SNOW: This naturally rises to the top of YA Christmasy reads because — JOHN GREEN. He’s basically a YA superstar author, and rightly deserved. His quirky characters are always a highlight. In Let it Snow, there are 3 short stories that all tie together. Each is written by a different author. They’re a bit zany and involve a whole heap of snow and copious waffles and — of course — CHRISTMAS.
  • DASH AND LILY’S BOOK OF DARES: This is also co-written! By David Leviathan and Rachel Cohn, no less, and this one definitely fits the “quirky” category too. Lily and Dash haven’t even ever met. They just keep passing back and forth this book of “dares” and writing letters to each other. It’s pretty zany and involves Dash (the grinch) and Lily (the Christmas partier) which makes for a hilarious contrast.
  • MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME: I actually haven’t read this one yet, so I’m mildly cheating on my own list (#rebelbookworm)…but it’s still a Christmas story! By a TON of authors, no less. Including: Stephanie Perkins, Laini Taylor, and Rainbow Rowell. So basically I need this book in my life ASAP. I have on good authority that there’s a crazy mixture of stories, from contemporary squishy adorable ones to dark fantasy.

 

9780141195858 9780064402750 9780007586325

  • A CHRISTMAS CAROL: “Well, duh and obviously,” you say…but have you actually read this book in a while?! Because it’s worth the reread! (Plus this cover is just about my favourite thing ever, despite not having snow at Christmas in Australia…it’s just pretty.) And I always enjoy the opening sentence of “Marley was dead, to begin with.” That has to be one of the best openings in literature. (Yes, I like creepy! Don’t judge!)
  • THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER: This is barely 100-pages, so perfect for a Christmas Eve snack. It’s so incredibly adorable. It’s about the evil Herdman family who plague the lives of the “good” children…particularly when the Herdmans invade the local church’s Christmas play. It’s hilarious! And seriously heartwarming at the end. When I was a small bookworm, I actually read this twice while curled up under the Christmas tree. Yes, TWICE. I finished it and started again directly. It’s just that good!
  • THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE: And of course we can’t forget the classic masterpiece that involves a fantasy world were Christmas is banned. The HORROR. (Some authors are truly cruel.) Granted this book is about more than Christmas, but it does feature a jolly Claus and presents and fighting and talking lions and Turkish Delight. Ergo it makes the perfect Christmas feast. I mean, read. (But feast…read….same thing)

 

What are you reading this Christmas?

Cuckoo Song – best fantasy award

Fly by NightI remember reading Frances Hardinge’s first novel Fly By Night in a Rome apartment in 2006. I was caught up with 12-year-old orphan girl Mosca Mye and the guilds of the Fractured Kingdom in Hardinge’s alternate 18th century England. I remember almost having to force myself to go outside and explore the sights of Rome. My family, which included teenage twin sons and our teenage daughter, were also engrossed in this atmospheric novel. Fly By Night went on to win the Branford Boase Award and was shortlisted for other awards including the Guardian Fiction Prize.

Hardinge’s sixth, and most recent novel for young readers, Cuckoo Song (Pan Macmillan), has just won Best Fantasy Novel in the British Fantasy Awards, the first YA novel to do so. It’s an extraordinary feat.

Cuckoo SongEleven-year-old Triss and (younger sister) Pen’s older brother Sebastian was killed in the War and Triss has taken on the role of being protected by her parents. Sickly Triss wakes up after falling in the Grimmer. She feels different, with a voracious appetite, dead leaves constantly in her hair and a voice in her head counting down days. As her memory falls into place she remembers that she used to love going to school but her parents thought her over-excited and have kept her away.

Her sister, family scapegoat, Pen knows what happened when Triss climbed out of the lake. She still seems to hate her and wants their parents to think Triss is mad but they form an uneasy alliance when Triss rescues Pen at a moment of betrayal.

Dolls speak and seem to be half-alive, letters are delivered to Sebastian’s desk at night, Triss’s diaries are destroyed and scissors act strangely around her. Sebastian’s former fiancée Violet returns to the girls’ lives. Intrigue coats every plot movement.

Australia’s Cassandra Golds‘s books, particularly The Museum of Mary Child, and Karen Foxlee’s Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy may be closest in style to the moody, gothic tone of Cuckoo Song.Museum of Mary child

The writing in first-person creates a distinctive slant to this tale. The imagery is delectable: ‘Day crept in like a disgraced cat, with thin, mewling wind and fine, slanting rain.’ Triss is a unique character who, like the best protagonists, develops and changes as her story unfolds.

Cuckoo Song is an unusual literary gift for girls aged from about eleven to fourteen. Older readers will also enjoy it.

Review: Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

10429092I am absolutely in love with Girl Of Fire And Thorns by Rae Carson. I’ve been gnawing at fantasies like a fiend lately and finally found this one which is a) unique, and b) feministic, and c) incredibly adorable and charming and heart warming. WELL. Apart from the moments when my heart was breaking. This author does NOT spare her characters.

It’s an incredible rich fantasy world, which was gorgeous to experience. My single complaint was that it was a bit hard to keep up with the multitude of countries and who-was-at-war-with-who. Seriously, the world is BIG. And I think it was Italian-inspired?! Whatever it was it wasn’t Britain so that twist was refreshing too.

But we have to talk about characters. Basically the protagonist: Elisa. If nothing else, read this book for the incredibleness that is Elisa. Her character development is marvellous. I’m reeling! I am! She starts as an unconfident child and develops into this clever queen. She also has an eating disorder, which you don’t often come across in epic-fantasy. Her struggles were so relatable and sensitively written. I really admired Elisa. She definitely goes down as one of the BEST characters I’ve ever read.

Other Characters Include:

  • Alejandro: Totally a weak sap head. I mean, who marries a girl and then proceeds to pretend you didn’t?!! WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIM.
  • Xemina: Freaky, but awesome. She killed a dude with a hairpin. Also a bodyguard/nurse.
  • Cosme: She was a pleasant surprise! I thought she was just going to be a snooty maid, but noooo she turned out incredibly multi-layered. I was rooting for Cosme!
  • Rosario: He’s the little 6-year-old prince and an absolute brat but yet adorable.
  • Hector: OH HECTOR. He didn’t have a massive role, but I think he would’ve been a good match with Elisa.
  • Humberto: He was a hesitant love interest, but more importantly part of the rebel army.

Basically I LOVED the incredible writing of these characters. (Although their names? Um, confusing much?!)

The writing? 9780575099159It’s wonderful. Maybe it’s on the wordy side and the beginning isn’t fast  (actually, the whole book isn’t astronomically fast), but Elisa has such a winning voice.

I was a little puzzled about Elisa’s “godstone”, though. It’s this magical stone in her stomach, put there by the gods. And while it made her uber special, it didn’t actually do much (it got hot and cold depending on when trouble was hear, but that’s about it) and I wished more about the godstone had been revealed. Maybe that comes in later books?

And whatever you do, MAKE SURE YOU READ THE AUTHOR’S NOTE! Oh wow. It’s definitely one of the highlights of the novel for me. It was about sexism in the workplace and what inspired the author to delve into eating disorders in her epic fantasy. She talked about her fears that her intentions with Elisa’s weight gain/loss could be misconstrued. It was a really honest and open note and I’m pretty sure this author has a heart of gold. Also, I’m very passionate about feminism and I loved that this book tackled it head on. Elisa learnt about confidence and self-image AND fought a war and got married off against her will and was immersed in a world of magic — the combination was poignant and fresh.

This is a book where I definitely need the sequel. ASAP.

 

PURCHASE THE BOOK HERE

Release of Beauty’s Kingdom by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)

Long before the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, Anne Rice was writing a raunchy series of erotic novels in the 1980s under the pseudonym A.N. Roquelaure. The Sleeping Beauty series contained the following three novels: The Claiming of Sleeping BeautyBeauty’s Punishment and Beauty’s Release. The trilogy has been very successful for Anne Rice, and in the 1990s, she revealed her identity as the author behind the pen name A.N. Roquelaure.Beauty's Kingdom A.N. Roquelaure

The latest and most exciting news is that a new book has just been released, and Beauty’s Kingdom is the fourth in the series and the first in 30 years. Before I tell you about the latest release, let me give you a brief overview (or reminder) of the series in case you haven’t come across it before. And if the erotica genre is not for you, then click here for some art therapy to cleanse your mind, and I’ll bid you farewell.

The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty is certainly not your typical fairytale, nor is it appropriate for children. Beauty is woken from her 100 year sleep, not with a kiss from a handsome prince, but with copulation. The prince takes her to his kingdom and in gratitude for waking her from her spell, Beauty is trained to become a plaything and sex slave. Don’t worry though, Beauty enjoys her encounters and falls passionately in love with a male slave. The sex is submissive and features elements of BDSM and pony play.

In Beauty’s Punishment, Beauty is punished for her affair with a fellow slave and is sold at auction. She is purchased by an innkeeper and captures the attention of the Captain of the Guard, who takes over her ‘education in love, cruelty, dominance, submission and tenderness.’ At the end of the book, Beauty and several other slaves are kidnapped and sent to serve in the palace of the Sultan.

In Beauty’s Release, Beauty finds herself in a new realm and a prisoner within a harem belonging to an Eastern Sultan. As the title suggests, she does escape her predicament and marry, but to tell you any more would be a spoiler. As the blurb says: ‘Anne Rice makes the forbidden side of passion a doorway into the hidden regions of the psyche and the heart in this final volume of the classic Sleeping Beauty trilogy,’ and I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Throughout the Sleeping Beauty series, themes of desire, discipline, pleasure, pain and surrender are all explored, and the writing is evocative and erotic.

Beauty’s Kingdom is the latest release, and is set 20 years after the events at the end of Beauty’s Release. Other than that, I don’t know much more, but I can’t wait to read it.

Review – James Munkers Super Freak

Lindsey LittleAuthor, Lindsey Little likes looking at things from great heights. Me too. It is how I choose my rugs, for one. Allowing yourself a chance to gain a different view of a situation or object can afford you a very different perspective of it. And having a different perspective can be very rewarding indeed. As I discovered when reading Little’s, debut YA novel, James Munkers Super Freak.

The slightly ominous cover, whilst indicative of the story, belies a strong and captivating narrative, which happily, I was reluctant to walk away from.

James MunkersJames Munkers is a weedy, non-descript, slightly whiny teenager tumbling along in a large blended family when suddenly out of the blue, he is forced to adapt to a new town, new school, and disturbingly new powers.

Turns out, James is intrinsically entwined in a plot to destroy the world. Desperate to assimilate as inconspicuously as he can into his new surroundings, he is instead thrust head first into a destiny he’d rather forget.

Disappearing fathers, alarming bright blue, havoc-wreaking critters, and inter-dimensional communication conundrums gives James repeated headaches and plenty of reasons to want to run and hide. Did I mention the local school thug who won’t let up on him and a headmaster who is keen to suck the life power out of him? Instead of cowering, he throws up a lot whilst slowly coming to turns with saving the world. As improbable as all that may sound and in spite of a few convenient plot quick fixes, Little peppers the narrative with plenty of believable sardonic humour and characters as vibrant and varied as those found in a certain school of witchcraft and wizardry.

James’s inherent nerve lies forever just inches beneath a veneer of teen sass and cynicism. Thankfully, Little’s (aka James’s) solid and convincing voice allows us plenty of glimpses at James’s vulnerability so that you really want to rally beside him along with his mate, Jem and an assortment of other all-for-one, one-for-all Guardians.

James Munkers Cover spreadFast-paced and witty, this punchy fantasy winds up well while leaving several big questions unanswered, thus paving the way for further James Munkers adventures.

Young teens (boys in particular) will have little trouble tuning into James Munkers’s ‘human-dimensional power’ trip.

IP Kidz April 2014

Author Interview with Wanda Wiltshire and giveaway of Betrothed and Allegiance

Please welcome Australian author Wanda Wiltshire to Boomerang Books. Thanks so much for joining us Wanda.

Congratulations on the launch of your YA novel Allegiance, the second in the Betrothed series. For those who haven’t read Betrothed, can you tell us a little bit about this fantasy series?
Thanks Tracey, it’s a pretty exciting time! The Betrothed series tells the story of Amy Smith, a 17 year old girl with serious health issues, school bullies and a strong feeling that she doesn’t belong. In the first instalment of the series Amy discovers her suspicions are true when she meets the drop-dead gorgeous Leif in what she believes are dreams. After telling Amy she is betrothed to him, Leif urges her to seek her true identity. Soon Amy learns that not only is her birth name Marla but that she is a faery – exiled from her homeland, Faera. Amy – who begins to think of herself as Marla – is swept up in the thrill of her discovery and comes to believe that the only hurdle to happiness is overcoming Leif’s father, the cold and callous King Telophy. She is soon to learn there is so much more to her new reality.

photoWhat’s your inspiration for the land of Faera?
Betrothed was the answer to a prayer and Faera came to me as part of that. It’s the kind of world I long to live in with aspects of it continually being revealed to me. Faera is not like any particular place I’ve seen, but I do occasionally catches glimpses of it in the real world – a shaft of sunlight falling through a lush forest, a beautiful display of colour as the sun goes down or an exquisite flower growing wild. It is a place of old forests, glittering rivers and majestic mountains. The Fae create their homes amongst this beauty but would no more destroy a tree to do so than tear off one of their own wings. Faera is not a perfect world, as Marla soon discovers, but one where the Fae share the resources, do what they love and work together.

Betrothed has been receiving fantastic reviews both in Australia and overseas, have you been surprised by how well it’s doing?
What truly surprises me is that I wrote Betrothed. In the beginning I never actually believed I could finish it, so writing ‘the end’ on the manuscript was one of the highlights of my life. To celebrate I had a tiny book made for my charm bracelet. Sometimes I twirl that little gold book in my fingers and have to pinch myself! What I’ve found with Betrothed is that the people who love it, really really love it. I can’t say I’m surprised about that because I feel exactly the same way. I’m not very surprised either that lovers of Betrothed are looking forward to finding out what happens next. Betrothed did end at a crucial moment, and I know if I were a reader I’d want to know.

Is Allegiance a stand-alone book or should readers seek to read Betrothed first?
Allegiance is the second in the Betrothed series and while I think it could be enjoyed on its own, readers will get much more out of it if they have read Betrothed first. Not only to be up to date with the story, but – love them or hate them – it’s through Betrothed we come to know the characters. We also see changes in Marla between the two books. In Betrothed she is completely dazzled by both Leif and Faera – to the point where she thinks of little else. In Allegiance the illusion of perfection is shattered. She discovers that all is not as it seems in the magical land of her birth. Nor is being betrothed to the Prince the fairy tale she imagined. Rather, she is faced with a series of challenges and obligations in her new life completely unknown in her former one. It remains to be seen how she will deal with them.

You’ve created a handmade bookmark to give to the winner of the giveaway below, can you tell us how this started? How did you start making bookmarks for fans of your books?
I love interacting with Betrothed’s fans. They give me such wonderful encouragement and feedback on all aspects of my writing – from my style to the characters, to the story itself. Making the bookmarks is a kind of connecting experience and a way I can show my appreciation for the support my readers give me – mostly through my author page on Facebook. And it’s a lot of fun too! I can see myself making bookmarks for each of the books in the series.

Are you still planning to write six books in this series?  What can you tell us about the next one?
Right from the start, I knew the beginning and the end of Betrothed. That hasn’t changed. However, as I’ve written Marla’s story, more and more details have been revealed to me. In that way the series has grown. When I started writing and realized her story wouldn’t fit into one book, I thought her adventures might fill two. Two very quickly became three, then four. Five and six came to me sometime later. Honestly, I can’t see the series growing any bigger than that. The seventh book will be a prequel and occurred to me when I started to get images of how the land of Faera and its first inhabitants came to be. As for the third book, I can tell you the title is Confused. I will also say that as different to Betrothed as Allegiance is, so too will be Confused to each of the books that came before it. Sound confusing? Stay tuned.

Anything else you’d like to share with Boomerang Books readers?
Only thanks for having me, Tracey. I hope readers of Marla’s story fall in love with it. If so, come and join me and other Betrothed lovers on my Facebook page. I think it’s a friendly place to be.


Giveaway Details

Prize: Wanda is giving away a copy of Betrothed, a copy of Allegiance and a handmade bookmark.

Eligibility: you must be an existing Boomerang Books member to be eligible for this giveaway.  (Not a member? Click here to join; it’s free and easy to create an online account).

To enter:  comment below and tell us what cause you would pledge your allegiance to.

Entries close: midnight, Thursday 31 July 2014

Winner announced: Wanda Wiltshire will help me to choose the winner which will be announced here on the blog.

Read a FREE extract of Betrothed, here, and click here to buy the book.

Read a FREE extract of Allegiance here, and click here to buy the book.

Player Profile: Duncan Lay, author of Valley of Shields

 

Duncan LayDuncan Lay, author of Valley of Shields

Tell us about your latest creation:

My latest trilogy is Empire Of Bones, beginning with the bestseller Bridge Of Swords. Valley Of Shields came out in April and went into reprint after 17 days. Wall Of Spears, the third book, is out in February 2014. It’s the story of a warrior on the run. He’s discovered the answer to a 300-year-old mystery. he’s being hunted by his own people, trying desperately to get back to his children and just when he thinks it can’t get any worse, he runs into a young couple who want him to be their hero in their land’s fight for freedom – a bard who has learned a terrible secret about an evil King and a young dancer who has a hidden power that’s about to change everything.

9780732294199Where are you from / where do you call home?:

I live on the sunny Central Coast of NSW, midway between Newcastle and Sydney.

When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

I wanted to write from the moment I saw Star Wars on the big screen, aged six. It sent my imagination soaring and from that day I’ve been writing stories. I’m just lucky enough that HarperCollins wants to publish them!

What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:

That’s a really tough question. Ultimately it’s not up to me to judge a work but my favourite has to be book two of The Dragon Sword Histories, The Risen Queen. It was the first thing I’d written KNOWING it was going to get published and it was an incredible experience.

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:

I write on the train, to and from work in Sydney. I have a laptop balanced on my knees, an iPod to keep the gibberers at bay and like to sit on the aisle side so my left elbow has more room to power through the typing!

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:

Mainly crime nobvels, the grittier the better. The Rebus series by Ian Rankin is great and, for darkness, they don’t get bleaker than Andrew Vachss’ Burke series.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:

Legend, by David Gemmell. I read it as a 15-year-old and it opened my eyes to the fact fantasy doesn’t have to have a full cast of singing elves and dancing dwarves. It can be human and gritty – just the way I like to write it!

If you were a literary character, who would you be?:

Bit of a stretch to call him literary but I’d be Tony Stark. What’s not to like about a genius playboy smartarse with the Iron Man suit!

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:

Very little spare time, unfortunately, but I used to love touch football, hockey and a bit of amateur dramatics. Only acting, no singing though. I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

I love Thai food and a freshly-made espresso. Just not at the same time.

Who is your hero? Why?:

Tony Stark – for reasons outline above!

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books
and reading?:

Persuading people that a traditional book or professionally-produced eBook is worth paying $10-$30 for, when you can fill an eReader with thousands of free or 99c books.

Blog URL: http://duncanlay.blogspot.com.au/
Facebook Page URL: https://www.facebook.com/#!/duncan.lay
Twitter URL: https://twitter.com/DuncanLay

 

Getting published? Not a fantasy says Harper Voyager

Last week I posted about some good opportunities for aspiring writers who wanted to see their work published and also to achieve the far more elusive goal of actually getting paid for it.

While writing can be its own reward, sometimes it’s nice to see some value placed on your work by others too (and even more so when you could do with the cash to buy yet more books or perhaps a bigger set of bookshelves). When it comes to writing, I’m firmly with Stephen King who once said, “If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.

Want to get your writing talent out there and have a whole manuscript gathering dust? Since posting that blog, I’ve had another excellent opportunity brought to my attention. Anyone who writes fantasy and science-fiction can tell you it’s a particularly difficult area to get any way into. But a door has just opened: for the two weeks between October 1st and October 14th, and for the first time in a decade, Harper Voyager Books will be looking at unsolicited submissions.

Harper Voyager Books is the science fiction and fantasy imprint of publishing behemoth HarperCollins, and if you make it into their ranks, you would be in some exalted company. They currently publish such huge names as George R. R. Martin, Raymond E Feist, Sara Douglass and, my personal favourites, the always excellent Robin Hobb and my best new find of this year, Joe Abercrombie.

They recommend you have a good look at what sort of books they are already publishing to see if your work would be a good fit, but they are casting a deliberately broad net on this one.

“We’re seeking all kinds of adult and young adult speculative fiction for digital publication, but particularly epic fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, horror, dystopia and supernatural. We’ve already been publishing digital originals from our existing Harper Voyager authors, and are thrilled to expand this wider to welcome new authors and voices to Harper Voyager. The growth of eReaders and e-books have created an exciting new opportunity that allows us to begin increasing the number and diversity of our speculative fiction list. And speculative fiction readers are the most savvy early adopters so we’re keen to provide our readers with the best ebooks possible.”

Manuscripts should be between 80,000 to 120,000 words and should be completed. For more information, see  and remember, it’s only open for 2 weeks.

Still on the fantasy/sci-fi/steampunk/YA/I have really got to stop with the genres already theme,  if you’re in Melbourne tonight, Jay Kristoff’s Stormdancer is being launched.  It’s free to attend, but you need to let them know you are coming. Jay has already written an excellent series of posts on how to get from scribbling in your spare time to having three major publishers try to buy your debut offering, so there could be pearls of wisdom to be had if you can get there before one – or five – too many celebratory drinks have been had.

Mid-month round-up – the strange edition

Strange World – John Long’s Hung Like an Argentine Duck

The truth is stranger than fiction and Dr John Long has (literally) dug up some of the weirdest evidence and facts from the evolution of sex for this book; he’s the discoverer of the Gogo Fish, a 380-million-year-old fossilised armoured shark-like fish replete with a perfectly preserved embryo which provides the first evidence we have of sexual behaviour in the prehistoric past. In this book, which he describes as a journey back to the origins of sexual intimacy, he explores the questions of why organisms started using sex to reproduce and how the act – and the equipment – has adapted and evolved over time and across species.

With a cast of homosexual penguins, lesbian ostriches, necrophiliac snakes and fellating fruitbats, this book is hilarious, horrifying and fascinating – often all on the same page. Jared Diamond, (author of another favourite of mine; Guns, Germs, and Steel) described it as “a compromise between a book that you should carry hidden inside an opaque bag, and a sober respectable scientific treatise, a deliciously written account of the evolution of sex, in all of its bizarre manifestations.”

(And, for those of you are wondering where the book’s title comes from, the duck in question is an Argentine lake duck and boasts an organ nearly half a metre in length – fully the same length as its body.

Strange times – Stephen King’s 11.22.63

What if you could go back in time, but only to the same point again and again? Would you choose to just visit, or could you live there? Would you lie low and live simply or use your knowledge of the future for fortune and fame? Or would you want to change the course of history itself?

In 11.22.63 Stephen King weaves nonfiction with fiction when he sends his protagonist, Jake Epping, down a “rabbithole” in time from the twenty-first century to 1958 and to a moment when the whole world changed – JFK’s assassination in Dallas on November 22nd, 1963.  Stephen King is known for his horror but his true strength isn’t in his ability to shock and scare but his ability to crawl inside his characters’ heads and present them, warts and all, to the reader.

11.22.63 isn’t the story of JFK’s death but rather Jake Epping’s chance at a different life and his struggle with reconciling what he knows with what he wants. It’s a gripping read and one long in the making; Stephen King tried to write this book at the beginning of his career but was defeated by the sheer amount of research it required. Having devoured it over Christmas (leading to more than a few entreaties to “put down that book and answer me”), I can tell you that it is well worth the wait.

Strange places – Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London

“My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service (as the Filth to everybody else). One night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from someone who was dead but disturbingly voluable, and that brought me to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England. Now I’m a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated: nests of vampires in Purley, negotiating a truce between the warring god and goddess of the Thames, and digging up graves in Covent Garden . . . and there’s something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair. The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it’s falling to me to bring order out of chaos – or die trying.”

This book was recommended by a friend who (knowing my weaknesses well) described it as a cross between Terry Pratchett and a detective novel. That’s a pretty big billing and one that the book easily lived up to. Aaronovitch blends the real world worries of a young mixed-race working  policeman with a touch of magic to create a fast-paced and funny story that manages to be irreverent and touching.  It’s not just my friends recommending him; he was shortlisted for the Galaxy New Writer of the Year award in 2011 and his books have been favourably compared to the Dresden Files and Jasper Fforde. I have the follow-up, Moon Over Soho, downloaded to my e-reader already and I’m looking forward to making the time to read it.

Mid-month round-up – the larger than life edition

This month I have mainly been reading the biographies of people who have become legends in their own lifetime, through talent, accident or sheer bloody-minded willpower.

Larger than life Shatner Rules by William Shatner

William Shatner is not a man for false – or indeed any – modesty. In fact, William Shatner isn’t a man at all but is, in many ways, the biggest character Bill has ever played. This is not a biography of Bill but the story of how he became William Shatner, a character larger than life and twenty times as confident.

Shatner Rules is his guide to becoming William Shatner, or at least taking on enough of the lessons he has learned to become usefully Shatneresque when you’re in need of a bit of a boost. It’s filled with comedy and glorious hyperbole; its blurb states it will give you “a look at the man, the myth, and the magic that is William Shatner”. It could have been tedious but Shatner carries it off with enough self-depreciation to stay engaging and enjoys poking fun at his over-the-top image (along with his former co-stars, Facebook and most of Canada). The book isn’t a biography but a guide, filled with lessons learned and “rules” to apply to pick up a touch of Shatner’s positivity and magnetism.

It certainly worked in my case. I bought the book as I was heading in for day surgery and needed something entertaining enough to distract from the pain but light enough to be readable when I was off my head on leftover anesthetic. Shatner Rules did the job perfectly and had the bonus effect of making friends with every single person I met that day in the hospital as they all stopped to ask if it was good. Doctors, nurses, co-patients and some bloke on the train – it appears that interest in Shatner is the great uniter.

Look, I’m not saying you could definitely use this book to make friends and attract people while feeling less than stellar but who couldn’t do with a touch of the Shatneresque occasionally?

And twice as loud Life by Keith Richards

The blurb has a scrawl from Keith, written in red: “This is the life. Believe it or not, I haven’t forgotten anything.”

It might seem like an unbelievable boast from a man renowned for embodying all the excesses of the rock and roll lifestyle. Denis Leary once quipped, “Keith Richards says that kids should not do drugs. Keith, we can’t do any more drugs because you already did them all, alright? There’s none left! We have to wait ’til you die and smoke your ashes!”

And while Keith’s biography backs up that point, with plenty of hair-raising drug busts and close shaves, his memory is as clear and complex as one of his solos. It’s not a love of drugs and hazy excess that comes through – it’s the love of music and the freedom to play it as he chooses. Keith chronicles his love affair with music in all the forms it took; from listening obsessively to the radio as a teenager to slumming it in a squat with struggling start-up band to the Stones and his solo work. Keith’s diaries and letters occasionally do the leg-work in remembering, as do numerous asides from partners in crime over the years, but it’s mainly Keith’s unique voice taking you though his life as he experienced it. And what a life it is.

A legend in the making –  The Name of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

‘I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. My name is Kvothe. You may have heard of me.’

This one is a bit of a cheat but Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of The Wind is, while not an actual biography, a fictional take on writing up the biography of a legend, according to the author, Patrick Rothfuss.

“In some ways it’s the simplest story possible: it’s the story of a man’s life. It’s the myth of the Hero seen from backstage. It’s about the exploration and revelation of a world, but it’s also about Kvothe’s desire to uncover the truth hidden underneath the stories in his world. The story is a lot of things, I guess. As you can tell, I’m not very good at describing it. I always tell people, “If I could sum it up in 50 words, I wouldn’t have needed to write a whole novel about it.””

I’m glad he did, and even better that he plans a series of novels as Rothfuss is an excellent story-teller. The Name of The Wind is the first book in a trilogy, the Kingkiller Chronicles, and an excellent coming of age story in the fantasy writers such as Robin Hobb.

Tempus fugit

You know what I like about books? They don’t keep reminding you how old you are.

Lately it seems that every second article I read is about the anniversary of something that I could swear only happened last week. Empire Magazine online, for example, was kind enough to inform me that it has been ten years since Peter Jackson’s take on Lord of the Rings sent the tricksey hobbitses off trekking through dangerous elf-infested lands and made all my mates debate endless on Aragorn/Legolas or Arwen/Éowyn (or, in some cases, both).

The correct answer is, of course, Aragorn. Totally Aragorn. Elves may look pretty, but you’ll never get your hair-straighteners back off them and the fights for the bathroom in the morning will be murder. And both Arwen and Éowyn seem like a good bet for a night out, provided no one surprises them while they are holding cutlery.

And if that didn’t make me feel old enough, Entertainment Weekly was all over ever feed I read as they had put together a (utterly lovely) reunion photo-shoot of the Princess Bride cast to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of year when we all went, “Mmm. As you wish.”

Twenty five years? Inconceivable. It seems like – well, not yesterday, that would be silly – maybe 15 years since it came out? 18 at a push. Has it really been that long? Robin Wright’s luminous portrait photo says no but Cary Elwes’, sadly, says yes indeed it has. Time flies or, more accurately, flees.

I tried to cheer myself up by listening to the radio, only to be reminded that it was 20 years since Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit and grunge crashed its way onto my walkman and that both my teen spirit and my walkman are long in the past.

Books are that bit kinder about letting the years slide by. The Princess Bride was released in 1973 but it’s easy enough to pick up the book and forget that it’s heading for forty years of age. You can read and re-read and not be reminded that when first you read it you had braces on your teeth and now you have a brace on your back.

Lord of the Rings is positively spritely about the fact that it is heading for sixty while still topping the best-seller and best-loved lists and wearing the weight of being definitive while still being widely enjoyed. Harry Potter did grow up a bit but doesn’t keep reminding you that he’s gotten fifteen years older, unlike Daniel Radcliffe who grew up extremely quickly and confrontingly. (Equus, anyone?)

Books are kind when they wrap you in memories. While movies feel dated, and music often reminds you of who you were dating (and what were you thinking?), much-loved books are like a re-union with a friend. Full of happy memories made fresh again and not rubbing in the years that have past because, like you, while their pages have been turned a bit and the cover has been bashed a little, they’re still the same thing you always loved on the inside.

And now, if you’ll forgive me, I’m going to catch up with some old friends on my bookcase.

Navigating the next book maze (sci-fi and fantasy edition)

Regular readers will know about my slightly unnerving love of a good spreadsheet about books but even more thrilling than seeing all that data is seeing that vast amounts of information presented really well. And when that data is a fantastic compilation of recommendations on what to read based on complex choices that you can actually make, well… I’m not going to stop frothing in glee anytime soon.

You had me at "Don't Panic".

It all started when NPR decided to make a list 100 science fiction and fantasy books of all time, as compiled by its listeners and readers. NPR (National Public Radio) is a US news organisation that also collates independent radio stations. Its plentiful selection of thoroughly diverting best-seller and reading lists are a collaboration by listeners and the American Booksellers Association, who compile their lists from 500 independent bookstores in the USA.

They asked their audience to nominate titles for a top-100 list of the best science fiction and fantasy ever written. The response was good — almost 5,000 people posted to the site with thousands more offering suggestions on Facebook. NPR put together an expert panel to narrow the list to a manageable field of a few hundred titles and then threw this list open to the polls again. What they ended up with was a Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy reads.

All very well, but science fiction fans at SFsignal thought they could go one better. Taking the massive list and analysing it, they designed a flowchart guide that enables you to browse through the recommended books by making choices – are you in the mood for fantasy or sci-fi (or both!), would you like to read books from the past or the future, are you in the mood for politics or philosophy etc, and you navigate your way to your next great read.

It’s pretty immense (have a look at the full-size version here). According to the designer it is the largest flowchart they have ever seen attempted.

“There are (obviously) 100 end points and over 325 decision points. For people with lower resolution monitors, netbooks, or tablets, this 3800 x 2300 image is going to a scroll-fest. But it’s totally worth it.”

After spending about 20 happy minutes scrolling and exploring, I agree, both with the comments on sheer size and it being worth it. They’ve since released an easy-to-navigate interactive version which has both eaten up the tiny amount of spare time not taken by the Rugby World Cup and ensured that Boomerang Books are going to enjoying most of my pay-cheque for the foreseeable future. Read, navigate and enjoy – just don’t blame me if your book collection is exponentially bigger by the end of the day.

No Fantasy please – we’re women.

Winter is coming, and Ginia Bellafante thinks that the ladies won‘t like it.

The Winter in question is HBO’s adaptation of George R. R. Martins political fantasy epic, Game of Thrones and Ginia, the New York Times reviewer who saw the screening in advance, is less than impressed. She feels that the TV show is an overblown over-sexed extravaganza whose budget could have been better devoted to keeping Mad Men on air. In this land of “dwarves and loincloths” there are too many characters, she thinks, perhaps the show should warn people who can’t count cards to go back to watching Sex and the City re-runs?

The show does have a lot of characters but then, so do the books. I like to read a bit of fantasy, and I am a fan of Game of Thrones and the series it is part of. And I know plenty of other people – male and female – who‘d agree with me. When I worked as manager of a games and bookstore in Ireland for two years, one of the most common questions was, “Do you know when the next George R R Martin  is coming out?” That question came up so many times, from all genders, that we joked that we should just stick a sign up behind the till saying, “No, Book Four is not out yet. Direct complaints to Mr Martin, please.”

While there are many criticisms you can throw around about the books – including an impassioned plea to Martin to just release book five already – there is no denying that they have many fans of both genders. Bellafante is clearly not a fan, which is fair enough, but she assumed that what held true for her applies to everyone with a uterus. Women, she stated, simply weren‘t going to like it – not because it was badly-cast, or poorly scripted, or just plain boring – but because it is fantasy.

“While I do not doubt that there are women in the world who read books like Mr. Martin’s, I can honestly say that I have never met a single woman who has stood up in indignation at her book club and refused to read the latest from Lorrie Moore unless everyone agreed to “The Hobbit” first. “Game of Thrones” is boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half.”

Now, I’m not a Hobbit fan nor in a book club, but I am better placed than Ms Bellafante to judge Martin’s writing, and fantasy generally, by the simple virtue of actually having read some. I wasn‘t aware that having boy parts was a prerequisite to enjoying the genre and I didn’t find the books particularly patronising, but Ginia’s belief that women don’t enjoy epics is getting right up my nose.

Bellafante’s dismissal of fantasy as “boy fiction“ led to lots of heated responses, some vitriolic and other more thoughtful, so much so that she weighed back in a few days later, trying to pour oil on troubled waters with a piece entitled, “Pull Up and Throne and Let’s Talk”. This probably didn’t come out as well as she hoped. Ginia started by explaining, “I write from a perspective that is my own, not one that seeks to represent a big tent of varying opinion.” Which is fair enough, even her previous piece included an offhand blanket statement about half the darn planet.

And then she continued, “As I wrote in the review, I realize that there are women who love fantasy, but I don’t know any and that is the truth: I don’t know any. At the same time, I am sure that there are fantasy fans out there who may not know a single person who worships at the altar of quietly hewn domestic novels or celebrates the films of Nicole Holofcener or is engrossed by reruns of “House.””

So, not only does Ginia believe that she doesn’t know a single woman out there who likes to read fantasy, but also that these exotic female fantasy fans (who she has never met) may well conglomerate in groups, trading sorcery and sword novels and refusing to read or watch outside their tiny circle of knowledge. Roaming their homes in chain-mail bikinis, purchasing “Hot Dwarves Monthly” and throwing axes at the TV to activate the extended and expanded Directors edition of Lord of the Rings.

Not just, you know, reading good books and enjoying them, regardless of their reproductive organs.

To which all I can say is, Ginia, the problem here is clearly not Game of Thrones or the fantasy genre. It’s that you need to meet more women.

Interview with Charlotte McConaghy (Part 2)

One thing I love about Charlotte, writer of the Strangers of Paragor series, is that she doesn’t shy away from being totally girly and romantic. Book 2 of the series was released just last month, I was fortunate enough to read it, and I came away dreaming about faraway lands and dashing princes. But for the boys (and the more violent-natured femmes among us) there’s a stack of adventure and some rather bloodlusty scenes as well…

Charlotte, in Descent, the six Strangers are reunited. Why did you decide to reunite them in Book 2 of the Strangers of Paragor, halfway through, rather than at the end (Book 3) or at the very beginning (Book 1)?

For starters, I didn’t want too many characters in the first book, otherwise it becomes hard for the reader to keep track of them – there’s already quite a few! And by bringing Jack and Mia into the second book, it still gives us characters we can relate to without feeling like everyone has just settled in and knows what’s going on. They couldn’t come in too late though, because then they wouldn’t be properly involved in the bigger story-line that runs through books 2, 3 and 4.

What can readers expect from the all-important book 3? Any spoilers you can give us?

Think: Angels!! Books 3 and 4 are going to have a much bigger focus on the archangels, and the Strangers’ connection to them. A big spoiler…. One of the main characters is actually going to become an angel! The books are also very relationship-py, because by that stage everyone has become totally embroiled in each other’s dramas – lots of ‘will they get together or won’t they?’ ‘who will end up with who?’ and ‘who is going to get married?’

Hooray for angels! *clearly loves angels* Do you believe angels are the new vampires? Why/why not?

Yeah, I think we can move into the angel phase – it’s the same concept – an immortal/inhuman creature with human-like features and emotions is hot. Simple as that. Creatures that can do cool stuff (like flying or being super strong) are just more fun to read about. And people are going to get sick of vampires eventually. Pretty soon there will be something else altogether – after angels my prediction is faeries. I’m loving the Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr about dark and violent faeries who feed off dark emotion – very creepy, very cool.

I seriously need to read some Melissa Marr. If she’s anything like Holly Black, I am so in. What books are on your bedside table?

I just finished Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead which was cool. I love heroines who can kick butt. I reread all of Guy Gavriel Kay’s stuff whenever I can’t find anything else to read (he’s an adult fantasy writer). I looooove The Time Traveler’s Wife – most romantic book in the world.

Oh I know. I don’t think the movie did it justice, even though Eric Bana was pretty attractive as Henry! What about your favourite fantasy movie, and why:

I love ‘Hero’, ‘House of Flying Daggers’ and all those gorgeous Asian cinema films because they’re so beautiful and romantic and full of courage and passion and betrayal. I love Tristan and Isolde for its romance. Lord of the Rings, of course. More recently: Avatar, no matter what people say about it. And I love 300 because I’m really into Greek history and mythology.

Like I said last piece, it’s like you stole my movie brain. THIS IS SPARTA!!….
Funny you didn’t talk about the Twilight movies based on the books by Stephenie Meyer, especially with Eclipse blowing the box office to bits lately. A little birdy told me you’re addicted to the Twilight series …what do you think makes them so popular? Should they be elevated to ‘classic’ status?

Actually I’m not that fussed about them – I enjoyed them when I read them, but wouldn’t say I’m addicted. She’s done awesomely for herself though – good on her! However I definitely don’t think they should be classics – there’s heaps of other teen lit that’s just as good, if not better.

***

Again, Charlotte, agreed. Stay tuned for the final interview post with Miss McConaghy – apparently she’s sick of working retail!

Once Upon a Time, There Lived a Book Blogger…

Well, this is exciting.  My very first post in this wonderfully cozy corner of the blogosphere, talking about one of my favourite pastimes in the whole, wide world – books.

About the Blog

‘Poisoned Apples and Smoking Caterpillars’ is geared towards all things fantastical, so this blog’ll include high fantasy; science fiction; gothic Victorian fiction; paranormal fiction; historical and historical fantasy fiction; urban fantasy fiction; fairytales, myths, legends and their retellings… anything magical or removed from our current reality, basically. Fairy godmothers optional, orcs preferred.

The Philosophy Behind the Name

The blog title ‘Poisoned Apples and Smoking Caterpillars’ marries two famous motifs from my all-time favourite tales: no prizes for guessing that ‘Poisoned Apples’ belongs to the Grimm Brothers’ fairytale Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; the ‘Smoking Caterpillars’ part hails from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll (now more commonly known as Alice in Wonderland).

Make no mistake, however – this isn’t a blog specifically about children’s books. Nor is it specifically a young adult focus. This is a blog that will feature the prim, the pretty, the ugly and the bloody, the innocent and the experienced, in equal measure. Apples and caterpillars are fine by themselves, but if they’re poisoned or smoking…well, it’s a whole different matter, isn’t it?

The Authors  I Tend to Gush About

Philip Pullman’s one of them. C.S. Lewis is another. In terms of Australian authors, I pretty much worship Markus Zusak and Margo Lanagan…and if Tim Winton ever decides to write a fantasy, I’ll gush about him on here too.

The Ideal Blogger-Reader Relationship

If I have any choice about it, I don’t want to be the lone voice echoing inside some endless cavern. I’d love to hear your opinions on what I write; criticism (provided it’s constructive); suggestions for future books; book news and gossip; random stories, and anything else you feel like typing in the comments section. Consider this blog a modern, almost entirely democratic version of the Roman Senate – without that whole ‘betrayal of Caesar’ thing…

A Final Confession

To tell you the truth I was a little nervous, writing this first post. It’s a lot of pressure, particularly as I want to be the best blog hostess I can be. I needn’t have worried – if you’ve ventured here in the first place, it’s likely that you love books just as much as I do.

I think we’re going to get along just fine.

Upcoming Author Interviews

Just a quick heads-up to say our first two exclusive Boomerang Books author interviews have been scheduled.

Later this week, I’ll be sitting down with Australia’s undisputed Queen of Fantasy, Kate Forsyth, to discuss her latest children’s release, The Puzzle Ring (which is part of our May Giveaway, so don’t forget to enter it HERE).

And this one’s for you, JayTay, a Twittexperiment of sorts. On Tuesday, May 12th, at 5p.m., I’ll be hopping onto Twitter and Twinterviewing (yes, I’m going to do that with all my Twitter-related words, the sooner you come to terms with that, the better) Simmone Howell, who, two books-deep, has proven herself to be a formidable force on the YA market. Her debut, Notes From the Teenage Underground won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Young Adult Literature 2007, and was brill, and her latest, Everything Beautiful, was my favourite book of last year. How does a Twinterview work? Well, you log onto Twitter at 5p.m., make sure you’re following both Simmone (postteen) and I (boomerangbooks), and you can watch our interview as it happens… You can even hurl her a few questions yourself.

Any authors you want me to hunt down for an interview? Leave a comment, or email me: [email protected].