Dim’s Christmas Crackers List # 2 – Sports Books

I confess, I am not impressive with a bat or ball. Playing sports has never really been my thing. What I have discovered however, is that reading about sports is far more satisfying for me and if even if you don’t have a footy-mad under nine-year-old or even a book-crazy child, the following sports books may be just the ticket to igniting an appreciation for both, this Christmas.

3 – 7 years

Great Goal! Marvellous Mark! by Katrina Germein and Janine Dawson

This is an alphabet picture book with a lovely difference – it appeals to footy fanatical boys and girls who love AFL but also enjoy the thrill and anticipation of team play. Superb alliteration and spirited illustrations take readers from A to Z, through a wet and wonderful day on the field. I love the exaggerated use of letter repetition used to reinforce and introduce new word sounds. Sensational squelchy fun.

Ford Street Publishing 2017

6 – 9 years Junior novels for younger readers

Ballerina Dreams: A True Story by Michaela & Elaine DePrince and Ella Okstad

This is a gorgeous pretty in pink story about prima ballerina, Michaela DePrince. Abandoned in a Sierra Leone orphanage, then adopted by the DePrinces, it tells of Michaela’s rise from poverty and despair to attaining her dream of dancing on her toes and flying through the air after seeing a picture of a woman with pink shoes on her feet on a magazine cover. Poignant and gently inspirational. Highly recommended for those with a dancing dream of their own.

Random House for Children first published, Faber & Faber UK May 2017

Double Trouble Skateboard Stars by Felicity Carter and Louis Shea

Uncomplicated text and a sizzling storyline make these tales of friendship perfect for early primary readers. There are a few titles in this series about twin brothers, Thomas and Cooper, which will claim the attention of little lads but the premise of these identical troublemakers pulling pranks wherever and whenever they can has universal appeal.

Scholastic Australia February 2014

Continue reading Dim’s Christmas Crackers List # 2 – Sports Books

The Best YA Duologies

When it comes to starting a new book series, sometimes we bookworms scare ourselves with how many we start but don’t finish. There can be a lot of books, okay?! A series that stretches over four books can be quite daunting. Which is why some authors are lovely and kind and have given us the beautiful gift that are: duologies.

Duologies contain two books, which is great because (a) less commitment, (b) less time spent waiting for more sequels, and (c) no middle-book-series-blues! They’re concise and get the entire story told over two volumes, and we love them.

In case you want to try a simple duology but don’t know where to start: HERE! I will help by listing some absolutely amazing ones.


THIS SAVAGE SONG & OUR DARK DUET

BUY HERE
BUY HERE

This duology by VE Schwab must be one of my favourites in all the world. It centres around a Gotham-like world (sans Batman) where monsters and violence reign supreme, and two factions within the city war for rulership and safety. A monster-boy, August Flynn, who plays the violin ends up going to school with the opposition’s sharp and cutting daughter, Kate Harker. They develop and unlikely friendship before they end up on the run for their lives.

The story is all about monsters vs humans, and asks questions like “what truly makes a monster”. It talks about acts of violence and consequences and it’s just altogether fascinating. Definite 5-star reads!

 

SIX OF CROWS & CROOKED KINGDOM

BUY HERE
BUY HERE

This two are a follow up from Leigh Bardugo’s famous Grisha trilogy. You can read this by themselves though! The are set in the lush world of the Grisha and Ravka, where a young mastermind con artist named Kaz Brekker is putting together a crew to take on an enormous heist. They have to break into an high security ice palace and steal back a boy and a magical formula. Kaz is ruthless and clever, and his crew is a knot of complex and terrifying teens.

The beauty in this series is firstly the complexity of the plots (heists!) and then secondly in the gorgeous characters and how dynamic and interesting they are. You can’t help but become invested after just a few pages!

 

THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE & THE SHIP BEYOND TIME

BUY HERE
BUY HERE

This is about a time travelling ex-pirate ship that contains a father and his daughter who can manipulate time. They have to find the perfect map, however, and the father is on the constant look out for one that might take them back to his dead wife. They get caught up in Hawaii in the 19th century in a heist!

Nix is such a fabulous and winning heroine and you can’t help but root for her and feel her worry and pain as her father tries to change history…because if he does that, will Nix cease to exist?

 

THE CROWN’S GAME & THE CROWN’S FATE

BUY HERE
BUY HERE

This is a fantasy duology set in Russia, in a world were the tsar has magicians who work for him. But there can only be one and two teens, Vika and Nikolai must compete for the place to work for the royalty. It’s a really amazingly beautiful and visual series, with not so much “duels of magic to the death” but inventive magical creations to show who’s the most powerful. The two’s rivalry relationship is compromised by growing affections towards each other and also to their mutual best friend, Pasha. Who also just happens to be the next tsar.

It features high stakes, marvellous writing, and plot twists at the end that will leave you reeling!

YA Serious Finales I’m Looking Forward To In 2016

Apparently 2016 is the year of all the YA finales. It’s so exciting! And terrifying, honestly, because while I adore knowing how my favourite series ends….I also get thumped with nerves that it won’t be a satisfactory ending. Series finales need closure and tragedy and triumph. It’s such a hard blend!

But I shall be brave (huzzah!) and slowly devour these YA series that are finishing up in 2016.

(Also, helpfully, it’s a grand time to start these series if you haven’t already; since you won’t have to wait years for their completion!)


9781408858745The Winner’s Kiss ~ book 3 of the Winner’s Curse trilogy (March)

I’ve read this one already and am enormously pleased at how satisfying the ending was. The first two books were so full of emotional tension and angst as Kestrel and Arin played mind games and war against two countries bent on destroying each other. And ya know, wanting to kiss each other — but absolutely not doing it because forbidden love and all that. Perfect conclusion is PERFECT.

 

9780670017140Half Lost ~ book 3 of the Half Bad trilogy (March)

I full admit this book made me cry, and yet was still absolutely brilliant. The war between Black and White witches absolutely comes to a crashing climax. And it ain’t sweet tea parties and sugar cookies, let me tell you. Which surprises exactly no one after how brutal and violent the first two books were.

 

9781444759051Morning Star ~ book 3 of the Red Rising trilogy

This is technically a YA-Adult cross over series, because while Darrow was 16 in the first boo, he’s now 23 and leading a rebellion against the tyrannical upper-class: the Golds. This book is brilliant. It perfectly blends the high stakes with an enormous amount of humour. And the plot twists will blow your mind. And blow up planets. Basically everything explodes here and it’s glorious.

 

9781250091840Stars Above ~ book 4.5 of the Lunar Chronicles (February)

While the series technically finished with Winter, Marissa Meyer released a collection of novellas to help us say goodbye to this fantastical series. THANK YOU, DEAR AUTHOR. I haven’t read them yet, but it’s high on my to-do list. Apparently some are prequel tales (there’s a Thorn as a child story?!) and others are more epilogue tales. There have been teasers that someone has a wedding. Be still my shipping soul.

 

9780545424981The Raven King ~ book 4 of The Raven Cycle (July)

This is definitely my most highly anticipated book of, um, EVER. I’m so ridiculously excited! It concludes my most favourite series in the world and we get the reveal if the main character truly does die, as has been foretold on the very first page of book 1. Yes. That’s 3 books we’ve read in nervous anticipation. Maggie Stiefvater is a genius of words and reader torture. I cannot WAIT.

 

9780575104839Calamity ~ book 3 of The Reckoners Trilogy (February)

While I’m still only on book 2, I’m still monstrously excited for the finale! Evil superheroes and assassins out to bring them down? How is this all going to end?! I’m kind of hoping for a happy ending, but, ha. I doubt it.

 

9780062458421The Yellow Brick War ~ book 3 of Dorothy Must Die series (April)

This is the last book in the retelling of The Wizard of Oz, which is such a fabulous idea for a retelling by the way. I mean, imagine Oz…and now think of it super creepy. It’s deliciously wonderful! I want to know if sassy Amy takes down the evil Dorothy and whether she gets a happily-ever-after…or NOT. Mwhahaah. (I honestly have no idea how this is going to end. Do I have time for a re-read?!? Time to plot out some theories while I wait for the release!)

 

Anne Rice and The Vampire Chronicles

I’m a huge fan of Anne Rice, and her novel Interview With The Vampire is one of my favourite books of all time. Published in 1976, Interview With The Vampire stands the test of time, even surviving a film adaptation in 1994 starring Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst, Christian Slater and Antonio Banderas. The book was the first in what would become The Vampire Chronicles, a series of now 12 books, with the latest, Prince Lestat just released.

With this new release, the first in more than 10 years, I thought it was a good time to take a retrospective look at the series and hopefully inspire a few of you to pick up a book by Anne Rice, if you haven’t done so before.Interview With The Vampire book cover Anne Rice

The Vampire Chronicles series of books in order of year published:

Book 1. Interview With The Vampire (1976)
Interview With The Vampire is where it all started, so, what’s it about? The vampire of the title is Louis, and he tells his life story (all 200 immortal years worth) to a young reporter. Made into a vampire by Lestat de Lioncourt for a companion in 1791, Louis’ life takes on many unexpected twists and turns across the decades and themes of love, companionship, loneliness, betrayal, suffering, revenge, horror, value of human life and immortality are all present.

Louis finds that he is tired of being immortal but at the end of the interview, the reporter asks to be made into a vampire, obviously having learned nothing from Louis’ personal story and infuriating Louis beyond belief.

Book 2. The Vampire Lestat (1985)
As the title suggests, the second novel in the series is the story of Lestat de Lioncourt, as he narrates his own life story. He was given the Dark Gift by Magnus. He later meets Armand (see Book 6) who tells Lestat he was made into a vampire by a very old vampire called Marius. Lestat becomes fixated on finding Marius to ask him questions about the history and origins of their kind. He does get answers (no spoilers here) and by the 1980s (time of publishing) Lestat is living life as a rockstar vampire.

Book 3. The Queen of the Damned (1988)
Following on from The Vampire Lestat is The Queen of the Damned, the third in the series (also made into a film). Akasha is the mother of all vampires and the Queen of the Damned and has been ‘woken up’ by Lestat after sleeping for 6,000 years. The reporter, Louis and Lestat are back and find that Akasha has her own agenda. We learn how the mother and father of vampires were created, and Akasha threatens to destroy all vampires.

Book 4. The Tale of the Body Thief (1992)
Lestat is depressed and lonely and takes great risks which almost cost him his immortal life. The body thief of the title is Raglan James who offers to switch bodies with Lestat. Lestat’s relationship with David Talbot (Head of the Talamasca Caste) is explored and he eventually reunites with Louis.

Book 5. Memnoch the Devil (1995)
In one of my favourite novels in the series, Memnoch the Devil, Lestat is approached by the Devil (calling himself Memnoch) and is offered a job of sorts.

Memnoch ‘takes Lestat on a whirlwind tour of Heaven and Hell and retells of the entirety of history from his own point of view in an effort to convince Lestat to join him as God’s adversary. In his journey, Memnoch claims he is not evil, but merely working for God by ushering lost souls into Heaven.’ (Source: WikipediaMemnoch the Devil ‘reinterprets biblical stories to create a complete history of Earth, Heaven and Hell that fit neatly with the history of vampires given in The Queen of the Damned.’ (Source: Wikipedia)

This is a book to make you re-think everything you know, consider life after death and our purpose on the planet and is one of my favourite books by Anne Rice.

Book 6. The Vampire Armand (1998)
In Book 6, we learn more about Armand’s back story, first featured in Interview With The Vampire. Telling his life story to vampire David Talbot, we learn Armand was born 500 years ago and was living and painting in a monastery before being kidnapped by slave traders and later purchased by the vampire Marius. There’s a lot of sex and sexual references in this novel, and when Armand is given the Dark Gift there is a repeat of the theme only to feed on evildoers and the struggle between good and evil.

Book 7. Merrick (2000)
Merrick Mayfair (of the title) is a witch, and features in the Mayfair Witches series also by Anne Rice. Louis, Lestat and David Talbot are back in Book 7 and the novel contains the backstory of Merrick’s relationship with David as well as her yearning for the Dark Gift.

Book 8. Blood and Gold (2001)
Another of my favourite novels of all time by Anne Rice, is Book 8 in The Vampire Chronicles, Blood and Gold. The reason I love it so much is the amount of art and history that is featured. Essentially, it’s the story of Marius.

Book 9. Blackwood Farm (2002)
Book 9 is unusual in that it introduces an entirely new character in Quinn Blackwood, a young boy haunted by a nasty spirit he calls Goblin. Quinn seeks help from Lestat who then contacts Merrick when he can’t rid the boy of the spirit.

Book 10. Blood Canticle (2003)
Quinn is back in Book 10, Blood Canticle, a story narrated by Lestat. Quinn is in love with Mona, a Mayfair Witch and Lestat has a love interest of his own. Mona is dying and Lestat turns her into a vampire to save her.Prince Lestat book cover Anne Rice

Book 11. Prince Lestat (2014)
Fans have been waiting more than a decade, but all the key characters are back in the newly released Prince Lestat, the latest book in The Vampire Chronicles. Apparently the vampire world is in crisis and their only hope of survival is our beloved Prince Lestat. (I can’t wait to read it).

Book 12. Blood Paradise (expected in 2015)
Said to be a sequel to Prince Lestat.

I hope this summary has given you a reading pathway into this series, and I’d love to hear from readers already in love with Anne Rice’s Lestat and other characters. It’s not hard to believe that in November 2008, The Vampire Chronicles had sold more than 80 million copies worldwide, and I’m sure that number will continue to increase with new books 11 and 12.

Enjoy!

Doing My Dash With Crime Thrillers

Patricia CornwellI thought I’d done my dash with crime thrillers for a few reasons. First, I had absolutely inhaled all of the Patricia Cornwell books (even the rubbish Southern Cross, before she found her protagonist and winning-formula writing form).

Second, I didn’t think I would find a series, characters, or plots I liked as much—a doctor who’s a lawyer who has an ass-kicking computer-hacker niece and a profiler boyfriend pretty much covers all my reading-requirement bases.

And third (and relating back to my last blog about being, like, totally time poor), I don’t have the time to retreat from work, sleep, and the world in general to devour such page-turners.

But I heard Val McDermid interviewed a few times recently—including in an hour-long session at the 2010 Brisbane Writers Festival—and was utterly sold on her hilarity. I know, right? A crime writer with a wicked sense of humour doesn’t compute. But having not read a single one of her words, I figured someone who is so clearly intelligent, and so compelling, engaging and funny warranted further investigation.

Given that I’ve got almost buckley’s chance of meeting her unless I turn stalker, find out where she lives, and lob up there—the likes of which are less like to see us become friends than me end up in prison and perhaps recognise myself as a bit-part crazy stalker in her next bestseller—the closest I can get to her is via her books.

Wire in the BloodSo I did no research other than to learn how to spell her surname and then picked up the first book of hers I saw. And I’m so glad I did. I’m exhausted because I’ve barely slept in recent days because I’ve sacrificed sleep to ingest large chunks of the book in a short space of time.

I even battled my usual motion sickness to read her book on public transport. The result is that I’ve completed Wire in the Blood and it’s taking every ounce of willpower not to go out and find more.

I’m not sure where Wire in the Blood comes in her series (I know this much from the references to previous adventures: it’s not the first), or even how many books McDermid has written. Nor do I wish to know, because I’d be unplugging the internet, switching off my phone, and shunning every social engagement until I’d made it to the end.

I will inhale these books about a profiler called Tony Hill at some stage. I just need to develop either a time machine that enables me to stop things while I read or some willpower to eke the books out at a reasonable pace. Maybe both.