Category Archives: Reading

The Wrath & the Dawn: a review

A review of The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. I’ve included the back-cover blurb here as the book has not been widely published/publicised here in Australia.

Blurb
Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid, she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shahrzad’s wit and will get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend. Soon, she discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shahrzad is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and break the cycle once and for all.

Review
The love story between Shahrzad and Khalid will stand the test of time. I read this book thrice the first week I bought it; it is one that has left an impression on my soul. The debate inside Shahrzad is one you desperately want her to lose, despite her ongoing (and sometimes overdone, over-emphasised) internal reasoning to why she can not be feeling anything but hate towards Khalid. As she learns the truth — that he really cares for her, despite the consequences — her prison has now become her home. A book that will have you up until 2am wanting more.

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The Raven Cycle: a review

A series full of magic, adventure, dreaming and true love. Meet Ronan (the dream thief), Gansey (the boy-king), Adam (the mechanic), Noah (the unnoticed one) and Blue (the cursed non-psychic) who are searching for a dead Welsh king in the hills of the all-American state of Virginia. The quest will change each and every one of them — and, it is said that those who wake the king will be granted one wish, but the group of five aren’t the only ones searching for the king. A slow-burn read with a heartbreaking climax that you will read over and over again.

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The Raven Cycle: a feeling

The Raven King cover - Book IV of The Raven Cycle, by Maggie StiefvaterIt’s been less than a week since I’ve finished the final book in this series, but the series has stayed with me. As most people found, when Book III came out (Blue Lily, Lily Blue), I read it too quickly, didn’t enjoy it enough. So when The Raven King finally arrived, I knew I had to re-read the series despite how much I wanted to read the Raven King. I wasn’t disappointed. If I hadn’t re-read, I would have missed the masterful technique that went into telling this story. I missed Gansey being the main character — he wasn’t supposed to be, in the end; he was the glue between all the pieces — but I got to appreciate Adam’s development into who he was meant to be. I got to watch Ronan come to terms with who he is and where he came from. I watched Blue accept her fate. I let Noah go. This group, so tightly wound together, unravelled and grew up.

The story follows a dead king sleeping on a magical ley line, and the people trying to find him.

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The Knife of Never Letting Go: a fictional blurb written by Ellen Harvey.

The Knife of Never Letting Go: a remembering knife.

A long time ago, I started a book-blurb series. I have restarted the series this year and I have to say I loved writing and creating The Midnight Zoo post. Unfortunately for the blog, life happened and I haven’t gotten around to writing another book blurb. So I was pretty ecstatic when I found today’s blurb for The Knife of Never Letting Go, already written in my Evernote account. Thank you 2013-me.

The idea: take a book (sometimes I’ll own it, sometimes I won’t) and tell the story of the book based solely on the cover. It was inspired by the Huff Post article where a 6-year-old girl tells the story of classic novels. Of course, after I’ve told you my version of the story, the actual blurb is revealed.

Previous book: The Midnight Zoo, by Sonya Hartnett. Today’s book: The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness.

The fictional blurb.

Tom is an ordinary boy. He has a cat. He has a mum. His dad is a soldier and off fighting the war. But when Tom stumbles into the middle of a street fight on his way home from school, he freezes. He is mesmerised by what is happening in front of his eyes. He can’t move until it is all over.

And then it is. A man is lying on the ground, bleeding out onto the street. The other man, the man who made him bleed, runs past Tom. The street is silence. The dead man doesn’t make a sound. Tom makes his way over to the dead man and stares at him, thinking how peaceful he looks.

The dead man’s knife is lying in his hand. It’s a beautiful knife. Colour swirls around in the blade, the handle is made from onyx. Tom needs to push open the dead man’s fingers to take the knife from him.

In Tom’s hand, it feels warm. And then, as if being downloaded into his brain, Tom sees the dead man’s life in front of his eyes. He sees a young blonde women’s life, an African princess’s, an English explorer’s, a grey-bearded shopkeeper’s, and on and on, until he saw the birth of the knife.

This knife knew and remembered. And it went looking for trouble.

The actual blurb.

Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in a constant, overwhelming, never-ending Noise. There is no privacy. There are no secrets.

Then, just one month away from the birthday that will make Todd Hewitt a man, he unexpectedly stumbles on a spot of complete silence. Which is impossible.

Breathtakingly exciting and emotionally charged, The Knife of Never Letting Go, is a compelling original story of fear, flight and terrifying path of self-discovery.

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The Midnight Zoo: styled cover.

The Midnight Zoo: sequel to The Night Circus

A long time ago, I had planned to start a series of blog posts with my friend Andrew of SparklyPrettyBriiiight. As I was not blogging much, nor had any inclination to do so, I only published one post. However, as I’m determined to blog more, it’s time to bring the series back.

The idea: take a book (sometimes I’ll own it, sometimes I won’t) and tell the story of the book based solely on the cover. It was inspired by the Huff Post article where a 6-year-old girl tells the story of classic novels. Of course, after I’ve told you my version of the story, the actual blurb is revealed.

Previous book: An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green. Today’s book: The Midnight Zoo, by Sonya Hartnett.

The fictional blurb

After the acclaimed debut novel The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, her publishers obviously wanted a sequel. In true Night Circus fashion, the sequel had been delivered and published a year earlier: The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett. The zoo comes at midnight — it’s not there, and then suddenly it is. A sea of black and white: all animals are black or white, the food is black and white, the maps and souvenirs are black and white. The visitors are not allowed in the park without wearing black and white clothing, as not to disturb the silent zoo. What the visitors don’t know and only the truly dedicated guess at is that this zoo, accompanied by the old man dressed in white with a matching white beard and the young girl in a black dress, that this is a competition between the oldest magics: and everyone belongs to a side.

The actual blurb

Her muzzle wrinkled, and Andrej saw a glimpse of teeth and pale tongue. ‘They smell the same,’ the lioness murmured. ‘My cubs smelt as she does. Like pollen.’ She breathed deeply again, and Andrej saw the missing cubs returning to her on the wings of the baby’s perfume. ‘All young ones must come from the same place,’ she said; then sat down on her haunches, seemingly satisfied.

Under cover of darkness, two brothers cross a war-ravaged countryside carrying a secret bundle. One night they stumble across a deserted town reduced to smouldering ruins. But at the end of a blackened street they find a small green miracle: a zoo filled with animals in need of hope.

A moving and ageless fable about war and freedom.

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Revived: repeat read?

9781921690631The problem with having a “don’t break the spine” rule? I can’t tell if I’ve read a book before. Revived is an easy read, so by the time the story started to feel particularly familiar, I was 100 pages in.

I couldn’t stop reading the book now though: I pushed through. I knew the twists and turns long before I should have. I knew the ending and the epilogue. I started to get premonitions (or flash backs?) about what was coming.

Considering I read Revived and forgot it, but think I enjoyed it both times, I wouldn’t discourage you reading it.

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On children’s books via devices

I admit it, I got pretty excited when I saw the July Authors’ Earnings report. It mainly focussed on ebooks and those ebooks bought through Amazon; however, it wasn’t the earnings that got me excited. I was excited because as I read, I came to a graph. This graph:

Children’s. (They forgot the apostrophe.) But “Children’s” was on a graph suggesting it was possible to earn some money (not much money) from publishing children’s ebooks.

I went away, emailed the husband, all excited and then it hit me.

What exactly did Children’s mean? The definition of children’s books, at least in the publishing world, tends to include Young Adult novels. So is this graph showing actual children’s books (books for under twelve-year-olds — my own definition) or children and young adult books (books for anyone under 16 years)?

In my experience, I have not seen a strong uptake of children (under twelves) reading on digital devices. They play games, young children like interactive apps, but actual reading? Give a child an e-ink screen, would they know what to do with it?

I don’t think we’ve revolutionised the way children read books — yet. I think adults are very comfortable reading on devices, but do they give their children devices to read on? Probably not.

Which makes you think: if you’re not comfortable with a child reading a device, why are you reading on a device?

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On Everyday by David Levithan

everydayA review in one hundred words.

This book was addictive. Not only is the writing typical Levithan–accessible, fast-paced, emotive–but gets inside your head. Each morning as A is ripped from one body and wakes up in a new one, you feel like you’ve been doing this for a very long time. Just as A has. Then A wakes up as Justin and falls in love with his girlfriend. Everyday explores the idea of gender and sexuality. A does not have a gender. Hen* experiences sexuality as both male and female. A is able to clearly explain that gender and sexuality is fluid, and you believe hen.

* Hen is the Swedish pronoun for a gender neutral person. It felt wrong to call A a s/he because hen isn’t either. A is fluid.

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Recommendations of Note (for the scrappy ladies)

(photo credit: martinak15 via photopin cc)

It has been pointed out to me of the double meaning of crafty—I did not mean anything by it, fabulous ladies. I just think of you of my crafty ladies, and today, you’ll be scrappy. =)

So my last post of recommendations focussed on book series, and today we’ll focus on individual books! (The harder task, since so many books today are part of series.)

The Fault in Our Stars (John Green, Penguin). This one can’t be ignored, especially since the movie is making women and their daughters everywhere sob out loud in cinemas. Two teenagers fall in love and they just happen to have cancer – a lovely, heartbreaking book that shows all the beautiful and ugly emotions associated with grief. Recommended for 14+

Saving Francesca and On the Jellicoe Road (Melina Marchetta, Penguin). Melina is definitely one of my favourite Australian authors; she captures the teenage soul so well. Saving Francesca is about a girl whose mother suddenly won’t get out of bed while trying to navigate her new school as part of the first class of girls in an all-boys school. The pop culture references are to die for (and are particularly relevant to me as this book was published when I was sixteen.) On the Jellicoe Road begins the day Hannah disappears. Taylor was left at the 7Eleven in Jellicoe by her mother when she was 11. Hannah, the woman who picked her up, is the closest thing she has to a mother–and one day she’s just gone. But Taylor doesn’t have time to be mad at Hannah (although she makes time)–the Cadets are arriving in Jellicoe and that means the territory wars are on again. I have so many emotions about these books that I could never do them justice in one or two sentences. Recommended for 13+

Everyday (David Levithan, Random House). I don’t read much David Levithan. I’m not entirely sure why, I should–I really like his work. I also really like that he’s a publisher at Scholastic and STILL has time to write meaningful books. Everyday is a book that should be on every single school’s senior curriculum. It challenges sexuality and gender in a very open, very real way, and that just makes the book all the more endearing. Recommended for 12+

Stardust (Neil Gaiman, Harper). A true modern-day fairytale. Stardust is beautifully written that makes the reader feel like they’re floating and softly landing in a magical land. It is nothing like the movie, so don’t expect the lightning pirates to turn up, sorry. Both movie and book are individually brilliant. I particularly like Stardust because it was written as if it’s meant to be read out loud. Start reading this at bedtime! Recommended for all ages.

Tithe and Doll Bones (Holly Black, Simon & Schuster). Tithe, as I’ve said many many times before, is the book that made me want to become an author–specifically a children’s and young adult author. Tithe follows Kaye as she discovers the fae world through the intriguing and slightly off-putting Roiben–the Unseelie Court’s knight. Doll Bones is Black’s latest children’s book and is seriously creeepy. Three kids on the brink of ‘growing up’ make one last ditch effort at being real kids playing with their dolls–only the queen of their dolls’ world (an antique piece made with real human hair) suddenly starts sending them messages trying to be buried with her bones. Tithe is recommended for 12+, Doll Bones is recommended for 8+

The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern, Random House). Like Stardust, this is a gorgeously written book. It wants to be illustrated! The book follows the Night Circus and the character’s the interact with the moving exhibition. What the patrons and artists don’t know is that the Night Circus is a battle between two apprentices of frenemy magicians, and that their magic is the only thing holding it together. Recommended for 12+

Before I Fall (Lauren Oliver, Hachette). My favourite book in 2012, and probably the last great book I read until I found a bunch of fabulous ones in the last three months. The best way to describe this book is to let another review do it for me! (You can’t blame me, there are SO many books on this list.) Kat says: “This book is about a teenager, Sam, who is a Mean Girl who trips into Groundhog Day world and is set on a path to redemption.” Before I Fall shows just how much of an impact your actions can have on the world around you, and that you never ever want to be like Sam (you don’t even like her at the beginning of the book!). Recommended for 12+

Ice Station and Contest (Matthew Reilly, Pan Macmillan). I don’t know if there’s anything I can say about Matthew Reilly’s books that hasn’t already been said. Do you have reluctant readers around you? Start them on Ice Station–lots of action, a bunch of swearing. I read these books because my Dad (he’s a manual arts teacher) told me that the year ten boys at his school were studying Ice Station in English. Most of his books are page turners and I’m partial to the action-orientated ones. Yes, Ice Station is part of a series, but it stands alone. Contest was his first ever book that he self-published before being picked up by Pan Macmillan. Recommended for 14+

Attachments (Rainbow Rowell, Hachette). Better than any rom-com I’ve ever seen! (This is a slight exaggerations as I’ve seen a lot of rom-coms and I love a lot of them.) Lincoln is brought on as a security supervisor–what this really means is that he gets to read the company’s flagged emails and send warnings to their writers. Except, he never sends a warning to Beth and Jennifer, best friends who ignore the company’s email policy, and suddenly becomes utterly involved in their life story to the point of falling in love with one of them. Sounds creepy, but is actually pretty adorable. Recommended for 14+

 

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(photo credit: martinak15 via photopin cc)

via bronzewing on instagram

I am the editor of a scrapbook magazine. This means that all the new friends and creatives I meet are papercrafters, not writers. And often they have kids. Occasionally I’ll see a post like the one on the left on my social media streams and I just have to jump in and recommend books because I love introducing people to my favourites. (And all the writers in my life know this list.)

Note I: This post will deal with series only. They are not in any particular order.

Note II: Harry Potter is not on the list because it’s assumed you’ve already read it.

The Lumatere Chronicles. (Melina Marchetta, Penguin) I had to start with an Aussie series, but this series holds its own against even the best overseas series. A country is in exile and it’s up to the king’s best friend to reunite his people and take them home. Recommended for 14+

The Spiderwick Chronicles. (Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, Simon & Schuster) I am very partial to this series as I have never found anything for middle readers that quite lives up to the imagination that this book has. Jared, his twin brother, older sister and mother move into an old Victorian house in New England after their father leaves them. When Jared comes across an old book that details the mysterious creatures of the forest, Jared has to see them for himself. Recommended for 8+

“The Daughter of Smoke and Bone” trilogy. (Laini Taylor, Hachette) A recent addition to my recommendation list, but I’ve bought it twice now–once in ebook form and once in hard copy. Karou is mysterious to everyone, she has crazy blue hair, open eyed tattoos on her hands, and is whisked away at any moment for no reason. The reason that she can’t share is that she is a tooth collector for her foster monster dad. Recommended for 14+

The Raven Cycle. (Maggie Stiefvater, Scholastic) Warning: do not get too attached to this book. There are only two published out of the four in the series. Whenever I read these books, I feel like I’m coming back to old friends. Set in Henrietta, a town that lies on the magical leyline which is the key to finding the lost king who will grant his saviours one wish. Recommended for 14+

The Sally Lockhart Mysteries. (Philip Pullman, Oxford University Press) No, it’s the normal Philip Pullman recommendation, but it’s just as amazing. Meet Sally, who is essentially an orphan, and is looking for a way to make her life meaningful in Victorian London. She stumbles upon a mystery surrounding her father’s death and a photographer who is willing to help her. Sadly for Sally, the fourth book is my favourite and she’s barely in it! Recommended for 11+

The Tales of the Otori. (Lian Hearn, Hachette) Admittedly, I have not read all five books, and honestly I’d only recommend reading the original trilogy. As a historical fantasy novel, it is greatly influenced by feudal Japan. Another plus point: Australian writer! A riveting story that makes you want to visit Japan. Recommended for 14+

“The Bronze Horseman” trilogy. (Paullina Simons, HarperCollins) This book is not for the faint-hearted. It’s intense. It’s heart-breaking. It’s an epic love story set in World War II Russia. It’s my go-to gift book. (Testament in this picture and this picture) But it’s not for young kids. I read it when I was fifteen, but that’s because I ignored my teacher’s recommendation to get my mother to read it first. And then my mother was a little horrified when she eventually read it. (What I’m trying to say, descriptive sex in this book!) I won’t put an age recommendation on this book because everyone is different. At fifteen, I read it twice in one week.

This list should keep you going for sometime. But I’ll make a non-series list sometime soon too. AND: I would love to hear how the papercrafters go!