I'm not a huge fairy tale person, so I'm not the target market for this anthology. Despite this, I thought it was a very solid collection of short sto...moreI'm not a huge fairy tale person, so I'm not the target market for this anthology. Despite this, I thought it was a very solid collection of short stories, so the REAL audience is going to absolutely love it.
My favourite piece was 'Sicky Sweet' by Ephiny Gale - dark, stark and perfectly understated. Others that stayed with me were 'Godmother Death' by Kate O'Connor, which was surprisingly moving, 'Bluebeard's Child' by Alison Littlewood and 'Every Heart is Cold Dark Matter' by Nadia Bulkin.
I think Belladonna Publishing's future anthologies will be books to look out for.
NB: I do not rate books where I know any of the authors involved.(less)
Sometimes it is good to be given books you've not specifically requested. If I'd seen the first The Colours of Madeline book in a shop or a library, I...moreSometimes it is good to be given books you've not specifically requested. If I'd seen the first The Colours of Madeline book in a shop or a library, I would've picked it up due to Jaclyn Moriarty's name, but likely put it back down again when I read the blurb and realised it was fantasy. If I'd done that, I'd have missed out on reading an amazing series.
The first novel, A Corner of White, was a lot of fun. 'Quirky' is the word that seemed the best way to describe it, and the reviews I've read show that I wasn't the only person to feel that way. With The Cracks in the Kingdom, however, I think the series has developed into something much more than quirky. It's moving and exciting and intriguing, and I often found myself torn between wanting to rush through the pages to find out what would happen next – and why – and wanting to take things slowly, so that I could really appreciate the language and Moriarty's great grasp of both character and style.
Although The Cracks in the Kingdom is the second book of a trilogy, it didn't feel incomplete. There are still things left unfinished and questions left unanswered, but I didn't feel cheated, because it still read like a complete novel, with enough resolution to counter the loose threads. That said, I'm still going to be grabbing the next book as soon as I can get my hands on it – not only because I want to find out what happens, but also because I'm pretty certain that I'll be guaranteed a jolly good read.
The Colours of Madeline is an excellent example of just how good YA can be when it breaks away from carbon-copy fads and finds its own voice and concept in the hands of a talented author. It's nice to know that I don't have to say goodbye to Cello just yet.
I received a copy of The Cracks in the Kingdom from Pan MacMillan Australian, with no expectations attached.
This really shouldn't be my kind of book at ALL, but I still enjoyed it enormously. Reviews keep bringing up the word 'quirky' and there's very good c...moreThis really shouldn't be my kind of book at ALL, but I still enjoyed it enormously. Reviews keep bringing up the word 'quirky' and there's very good cause for that. But it's also warm and engaging and has a fun second universe with colours that attack. It's YA fantasy that works for people who don't read a lot of fantasy. (less)
As with all short story collections, I found this one to be a mix of stories I enjoyed, stories I disliked and stories I didn't really care much about...moreAs with all short story collections, I found this one to be a mix of stories I enjoyed, stories I disliked and stories I didn't really care much about in either direction. As indicated by the title, the uniting focus is on darkness, although that is quite a subjective thing.
My favourite piece in here is 'Candy' by Ephiny Gale, and I'm pretty sure that's not just my bias talking. It has the pared-down structure that I enjoy and that I think several other pieces in this collection could have benefited from employing.
I also enjoyed 'Pushers' by Sean Logan and 'A Mother's Love' by Alyssa Cooper. I struggled most with 'The Door in the Wall' by Stephen Owen, as I found the hateful way the protagonist described his wife very unpleasant to read.
NB: I have intentionally not rated this book, as my partner is one of the authors, and I don't want to annoy people by contributing to the star average given my connection.(less)
I think very little of Orson Scott Card as a person, but I picked this up for uni essay writing and I have to give him credit for the fact that he's w...moreI think very little of Orson Scott Card as a person, but I picked this up for uni essay writing and I have to give him credit for the fact that he's written a very good guide to specfic writing. Some of the information about publication is dated but, on the whole, this remains a very good look at the genres and at genre-specific technique. A worthwhile read for sci-fi, fantasy and even horror writers. (less)
I'm definitely not the key audience of Adrift, as I tend to dislike both historical fiction and anything about pirates – oh, and I generally steer cle...moreI'm definitely not the key audience of Adrift, as I tend to dislike both historical fiction and anything about pirates – oh, and I generally steer clear of fantasy, too ;) Despite this, however, I found a lot to keep me reading. To my surprise, it was the parts of the book set in the past that I found most appealing. The reader learns of what caused the protagonist, Jaclyn, to take up piracy and follows her personal journey during that era. I liked the fact that Malcolm doesn't let the story get bogged down in too much history. So often, historical fiction becomes an exercise in the author letting you know just how much research they've done, which leads to the story itself being buried underneath unnecessary facts. That doesn't happen here. There are enough signposts to let you know where and when the book is set, without those details overwhelming the plot.
Alternate chapters of Adrift tell of Jaclyn's time in contemporary New York after she is sent hundreds of years forward in time. While I found the events of these chapters a little less engaging, they nonetheless develop the character of the protagonist and make possible the change and growth that leads towards the book's ultimate ending. I think one of the reasons I enjoyed the chapters set in the past more than those set in the present was that I found characters like Turtle/Ejiogu much more likeable than Dick and Max. I quite like the fact that this is the case – after all, there is skill involved in making pirates seem more honourable than toymakers!
While Adrift combines the genres of historical fiction and fantasy, in the end it's a story about the personal experiences, choices and growth of one individual. In that sense, there's something here even for those readers who (like me!) do not usually read a lot in those genres. Malcolm has also published several short stories in this universe, so look them up if you want to read more set in this world :)
Reviewer Disclosure: It is easily discoverable knowledge that the author of Adrift is a good friend of mine. For that reason, I have not added a rating to my review, as I know there has been much (negative!) discussion about friends and families influencing the average star rating on Goodreads. (less)
Although it is part of a horror series for young readers, Fright Night has more of a feel of fantasy to it, with its cast containing both an enchanted...moreAlthough it is part of a horror series for young readers, Fright Night has more of a feel of fantasy to it, with its cast containing both an enchanted knight and a wizard. Magic is very present in this novel and, although the foes that its protagonist, Mike, has to face might seem spooky to its readers, there is more a focus on action than on frights.
Young readers will love the setting for Fright Knight, with Mike and his sister, Carly, living with their father in a museum of spooky objects. They will possibly identify well with the squabbling between the two siblings, but also enjoy them working together against their magical opponents.
The writing here feels a little stilted, with a few too many short sentences and paragraphs for the words to flow smoothly, and it is not one of the more interesting or original tales in the Fear Street stable. It's a quick read, though, and a young audience should enjoy the surprise villain, if not the fairly derivative plot.
This series blew me away when I read it in upper primary school. I would have been inspired to pick it up by the Disney movie, but I found the books s...moreThis series blew me away when I read it in upper primary school. I would have been inspired to pick it up by the Disney movie, but I found the books so much more exciting. I've never re-read the series, as I've never stumbled across the first book in the local library, so I'm not sure whether it would hold up as well as an adult who usually steers clear of fantasy, but my memories of the books are very fond. (less)
The Moon Coin is a fantasy novel for junior to young adult readers. It boasts a richly envisioned and detailed universe and a strong plot that perfect...moreThe Moon Coin is a fantasy novel for junior to young adult readers. It boasts a richly envisioned and detailed universe and a strong plot that perfectly complements the novel's genre and setting. Although Richard Due's Moon Realm debut is long for the middle grade market, the fast moving action found in the latter three quarters of the novel should ensure that younger readers remain engaged despite its length.
In fact, one of the things I particularly enjoyed about The Moon Coin was the way that Due does not talk down to his young readers. The book employs a rich vocabulary, giving its audience opportunities to learn new words in context. Despite this, the language is not pitched too high to be age-appropriate.
Due to the vastness of the universe depicted in The Moon Coin, it is not surprising that the reader is introduced to a good number of characters within the pages of the novel. As a protagonist, Lily is certainly easy to identify with, as an outsider thrust into a fantastic realm. My difficulty lay in the fact that she seemed a little too ordinary, once shown against the more-interesting inhabitants of the Moon Realm, and I tended to be more interested by their stories than her own. I imagine, however, that she (and Jasper) will become more rounded as the series unfolds.
There is certainly no shortage of intriguing characters in the novel, from Ebb himself through to the mysterious Ember. I personally loved the Rinn; they fit right into one of my favourite fictional archetypes. In particular, I greatly enjoyed the noble Nimlinn and the dedicated Roan, and hope that they will both feature more in later Moon Ream books. For those who aren't quite as interested in giant cats, the moon of Dain provides such intriguing characters as master swordsman Dubb and the cursed Tavin.
It would not be right to review The Moon Coin without at least a brief mention of Carolyn Arcabascio's lovely illustrations. As well as illustrating the cover of the novel, she has provided images at the beginning of every chapter. They are rather wasted on my Kindle but, luckily, I was able to view them on my computer as well, and they add a great deal to Due's work. I particularly appreciated having a visual reference for the appearance of the Rinn. (That's one on the cover, for those who aren't in the know.)
While I enjoyed The Moon Coin once Lily was in the Moon Realm and I had grown accustomed to the universe, I did struggle a little to get into the novel at first. The chapters leading to the discovery of Ebb's pendant felt a little drawn out to me, and I had a little difficulty understanding all of the unusual creations within Ebb's house. It is once the setting changes, however, that Due's true abilities as a storyteller become evident, and the intricately described universe of the Moon Realm is the highlight of the book.
Young fantasy lovers should greatly enjoy The Moon Coin - and adult fans of the genre might be well-served by picking it up as well. The next book in the series, The Dragondain, is due out in 2012.(less)
The Solstice Conspiracy is a fantasy novel for young readers that breathes new life into the old idea of fairies living at the bottom of the garden. A...moreThe Solstice Conspiracy is a fantasy novel for young readers that breathes new life into the old idea of fairies living at the bottom of the garden. Although it draws a lot from the tradition, it is firmly placed in the present, meaning that readers will be better able to identify with the challenges faced by the protagonist, Beth, and her brother, Chris. Beth, in particular, finds it difficult to make friends at her new school, and also struggles with a family who still views her as a child, despite her feeling as though she is becoming quite grown up.
Beth herself is a very likeable protagonist. Caught between life stages, she occasionally experiences frustration, but never comes across as being whiny or petulant. She is generally kind and empathetic, but will stand up for herself when necessary, meaning that she never becomes annoyingly 'good'. Chris, as seen through his sisters eyes, can occasionally be a little less sympathetic, but he experiences growth as the book progresses and his character is elevated through the changes in his and Beth's relationship.
The fairies, imps and other magical beings within the novel will be familiar to readers of Enid Blyton and other masters of the genre. Of the individual characters, Maeve is the most memorable, and her personal story provides a strong dramatic counter to the good deeds being carried out by the children.
While The Solstice Conspiracy is a fun story that should prove engaging to young readers, I would have liked to see the situations that Rawn introduces being expanded upon a little more, to truly carve a niche within the genre. Several times, the reader is presented with the possibility of danger, only for it to prove easily overcome. In particular, I felt that the climax of the book moved a little too swiftly – so much so that I became confused due to the suddenness of certain events. Of course, brevity is the key when it comes to junior fiction, so there is an understandable struggle to balance content and length.
The Solstice Conspiracy was introduced to me as a novel for young adults, but I would personally recommend it for a younger audience. The plot and issues faced, along with the age of the protagonist, will possibly lack appeal for teenage readers – especially those who like their fantasy in the form of paranormal romance! As a junior fiction offering, however, I think it hits its mark perfectly, and primary school-aged children should find a lot to like in Rawn's novel.