Saturday, June 30, 2012

Event Announcement: Potterthon

Fifteen years ago, a book about a very special boy who lived in a cupboard under the stairs entered the world. Not many people knew about it back then, but the boy wizard has grown from being a whisper to a cultural phenomenon. Yes, of course, we’re talking Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Try and imagine a world without Harry Potter: A world without young adult literature as we know it, without the film adaptations we adore, but perhaps most significantly, a world missing a very special kind of magic. Not only does 2012 celebrate fifteen years of Hogwarts and its students, but July 31st is Harry Potter’s birthday. To observe this rather momentous occasion, Lauren and I are very excited to bring you Potterthon: A month long celebration of all things Harry Potter. We’ll be bringing you themed posts, character debates, interactive exams and polls, and some very exciting giveaways. Read on to find out what's coming up!

Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone Readalong

Haven’t read Harry Potter, or dying for a re-read? You’re not alone! Over the month of July, join with us as we travel back to where it all began: Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone.

Busy? Don’t worry, we are too. We’ll be spreading the readalong out over the month, discussing on Twitter, and talking about it right here. Want more incentive? Readalong participants automatically go into the draw to win amazing prizes!

Join the Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Readalong

♥ Contribute Your Potterlove ♥

Later in the month, we’ll be bringing you two very special posts: What Harry Potter Means to Me and Our Favourite Harry Potter Quotes. This is about discussing the impact Harry’s had on all of our lives, and it’s about you. We’d love to hear your stories and favorite quotes, what part of Dumbledore’s wisdom you carry with you, or what still makes you laugh ten years on. Care to share? Fill in the form, and we’ll include you in the feature later in the month. You'll also be automatically added to the draw to win some fabulous prizes!

Giveaways (Yep, they're International)!

Like free stuff? Us too! Participate in the event by joining the readathon, contributing a quote or story, posting the event button in your sidebar, tweeting or promoting the event, and you’ll go into the draw to win:

- Pre-Order of The Casual Vacancy by, J.K. Rowling
- Classic Books from the Library Of Hogwarts Boxset
including Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them
- 1 of 2 gorgeous Golden Snitch Necklaces

(may vary slightly from the one shown)

Having trouble with the Rafflecopter form? Sorry guys. If it's not working, use this form instead.
 a Rafflecopter giveaway


Would you like to promote the event? Well, thanks! Please feel free to use the event button, and remember: if you link up, don’t forget to enter the giveaway! (Also, have we mentioned we love you today?)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Changeling (Order of Darkness #1), Philippa Gregory

Title: Changeling
Author: Philippa Gregory (author website)
Release Date: May 4th 2012 by Simon & Schuster Australia
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Historical
My Rating:1 star2 star3 star

Philippa Gregory's first venture into the Young Adult market was sure to garner attention. And surely enough, here we have Changeling, her first fully speculative novel, and her first aimed at Young Adults. Is it everything one would hope for and expect? Well, that depends on your expectations...

From Goodreads:
Dark myths, medieval secrets, intrigue, and romance populate the pages of the first-ever teen series from #1 bestselling author of The Other Boleyn Girl

Italy, 1453. Seventeen-year-old Luca Vero is brilliant, gorgeous—and accused of heresy. Cast out of his religious order for using the new science to question old superstitious beliefs, Luca is recruited into a secret sect: The Order of the Dragon, commissioned by Pope Nicholas V to investigate evil and danger in its many forms, and strange occurrences across Europe, in this year—the end of days.  

Isolde is a seventeen-year-old girl shut up in a nunnery so she can’t inherit any of her father’s estate. As the nuns walk in their sleep and see strange visions, Isolde is accused of witchcraft—and Luca is sent to investigate her, but finds himself plotting her escape.  

Despite their vows, despite themselves, love grows between Luca and Isolde as they travel across Europe with their faithful companions, Freize and Ishraq. The four young people encounter werewolves, alchemists, witches, and death-dancers as they head toward a real-life historical figure who holds the boundaries of Christendom and the secrets of the Order of the Dragon.    

The first in a series, this epic and richly detailed drama is grounded in historical communities and their mythic beliefs. It includes a medieval map of Europe that will track their journey; and the interior will include relevant decorative elements as well as an interior line illustration. And look for a QR code that links to a note from the author with additional, detailed information about the setting and the history that informed the writing. With Philippa Gregory’s trademark touch, this novel deftly brings the past—and its salacious scandals—vividly and disturbingly to life.

The Story

Seventeen year old Luca has been cast out of his monastary, accused of heresy. Alone in a cell, he awaits what he believes is his death. Instead, he is offered a second chance: use his brilliant analytical mind to debunk conspiracies, separate folklore and myth from the work of true evil. Become an Inquisitor for the Catholic Church. He takes it.

Meanwhile, beautiful, headstrong and wise seventeen year old Isolde mourns her father. Raised to inherit his lands and castle, she is horrified to learn his will betrays her: she is left with nothing. She may choose to marry a repulsive, abusive prince with little dowry, or take a vow of celibacy as a nun.

Months later, young Inquisitor Luca Vero travels to a nunnery plagued by whispers of stigmata, visions, possession, and its young mistress, a beautiful young girl named Isolde, is a key suspect. Unable to control events in the abbey, the two are thrown together, into a web of mystery, intrigue and mistrust... which may just be the start of something no-one ever expected...

My Thoughts

Changeling is a difficult book to profile. It's neither fast nor slow paced, but instead plods along, hopping from steady and measured to nail biting tension from one page to the next. Its various mysteries are cryptic and engaging, but most importantly, well developed. The most wicked of characters are still nasty and pernicious, but believable, with enough back story to lend their actions authenticity. But despite its well-developed mysteries, Changeling is a short book, weighing in at only two-hundred and fifty pages, and it’s characterisation that seems to suffer the most from its length. With constant mid-scene head hopping between five point of view characters, there simply isn’t enough time develop each beyond the surface, or at the very least, for the reader to connect with them. Interestingly enough, it is not the titular 'changeling', Luca, or heroine, Isolde, that are the best explored, or indeed, likable, of the story at all. Supporting characters such as Frieze—kitchenhand-turned-personal-servant to Luca—and Isolde's constant companion, the beautiful, mysterious and deadly Ishraq, that are the story's most compelling.

Gregory truly deserves praise for her richly developed world which only becomes deeper, more engaging and immersive at the story progresses. From lush woods, to sleepy village idylls hiding a pervasive undercurrent of fear and nunneries with walls whispering ominous secrets, Gregory writes of medieval Europe, its superstitions and fears as if she were there. But it’s this beautiful world that suffers the most from the novel’s faults. While Gregory is certainly a fine storyteller, weaving a compelling tale, rich with an extraordinary wealth of detail and research, Changeling’s prose is at times pedestrian, turgid with description, diluting the impact of a world already beautifully imagined.

Changeling's anachronistic language grated at times, for it is neither fully modern speech, nor a true approximation of Middle English. But this is minor bugbear, and the various characters’ interactions are the book's most engaging moments. Inversely, a novel rife with entirely modern or old English would receive its fair share of criticism, but a simile involving reference to a hand gun on the book’s first page felt out of place, even though such things do in fact fit (narrowly) within the story’s timeline.

The Verdict:

While certainly not a perfect book, Changeling has much to offer. From intriguing mystery, to a gorgeous medieval Europe that charmed and thrilled, Gregory’s young adult debut is unlike any other in the category I’ve read. While not the most satisfying story in and of itself, this middle-ages Scooby Gang tale is a perfect series setup, and one which will leave those readers charmed by its pages hungry for more.

An enormous thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia for providing a review copy of Changeling

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Blogspiration (24)

Blogspiration is a weekly meme hosted by GrowingUp YA & Saz101. The meme was created to help spark inspiration among bloggers, readers & writers alike. An inspirational quote/picture/video is posted weekly, on the day of the author's choosing, so that it may inspire creativity, conversation & just a little SOMETHING.


And this, my friends, is all. Sorry for the lack of, well, anything the last week. I've been on holidays with the lovely Kristin, Lauren and, more recently, the amazing Miss Alexandra. I can't even explain how amazing it's been spending time with these girls. I'm taking the liberty of apologising for Kristin's absence from Blogspiration this week, but as of 7:30pm this evening, she's thirty-five thousand feet over the Pacific Ocean (she has a really fancy broom), and the Wifi's a little patchy.

More on Blogspiration and Linky sign-up below the jump!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Blogspiration (23): Lay-Z

Blogspiration is a weekly meme hosted by GrowingUp YA & Saz101. The meme was created to help spark inspiration among bloggers, readers & writers alike. An inspirational quote/picture/video is posted weekly, on the day of the author's choosing, so that it may inspire creativity, conversation & just a little SOMETHING. - I got 99 chores and I ain't did one. - Lay Z

And I gotta tell you... I don't feel even slight bad :D
Because this week, I have something even better to do... something to do with a certain Blogspiration co-host being in a certain country that isn't her own.

So, aside from the funnies, this week's Blogspiration is about friends, and how much I LOVE our community. Book bloggers are the coolest people on earth. I've made s many friends blogging, and they--YOU--are people I consider real friends. Love to you all. Have an amazing week. Say hi to someone new, someone old, or anyone at all. Spread the love! ♥

More on Blogspiration and Linky sign-up below the jump!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Slated, Teri Terry

Slated, by Teri Terry
Title: Slated
Author: Teri Terry (author website)
Release Date: 12 May 2012 by Orchard Books
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Dystopian
My Rating:1 star2 star3 star4 starhalf star

Back when I reviewed Slated, I made what I thought was some clever, pithy remark, questioning the water supply in Britain, and how it keeps coming up with these brilliant British writers. Err, turn's out Teri's not British, really. No, she's just her own brand of obscenely, atypically brilliant. In any case, Is there something in the water in England? Or is it simply the obvious—that English is their language? Well, another Brit’s at it and, ladies and gentlemen, Teri Terry is a terrific writer. Tense, oppressive and—frankly—brilliant, Slated is a shining jewel of an addition to its genre.

From Goodreads:

Kyla’s memory has been erased,
her personality wiped blank,
her memories lost for ever.

She’s been Slated.

The government claims she was a terrorist, and that they are giving her a second chance - as long as she plays by their rules. But echoes of the past whisper in Kyla’s mind. Someone is lying to her, and nothing is as it seems. Who can she trust in her search for the truth

The Story:

Kyla Davis is no-one. She has been Slated. Her memories, her past, her life erased; her synapses rewired, and her mind wiped blank.

Sent to live with a new mum and dad—not that she would know the ‘old’ ones from a bar of soap—Kyla tries to fit in, to make sure the monitor on her wrist shows her emotions stay level, to be balanced, and a functional, integrated member of society. But Kyla is not like other Slated teens… Kyla asks questions she should not, thinks things Slateds should not be able to… but worst of all, Kyla seems to have ghosts of memories, terrifying nightmares that couldn’t actually be real, could they?

Slating is meant to be a second chance—a clean slate for criminal teens. But when you don't even know yourself, who can you trust? As terrifying truths about her world, and about slating become clear, Kyla begins to question everything she’s known in her short second life...

My Thoughts:

Fluidly moving from Kyla’s easy, flowing narrative to fast-paced, frantic stream-of consciousness, Terry delivers a protagonist with a truly unique voice. Kyla is fascinating, clever, she questions everything, and she’s a keen observer. While in many ways she’s adult and intelligent, in others, she is almost childlike, seeing the world for the first time, allowing the reader to learn it along with her. Slateds must re-learn to walk, to talk. They are completely unaware of the dangers in their world, that knives are sharp, fire burns. Having been slated, Kyla is a blank slate. She has no memories of her past, of who she is—or should have no memories—but she does have a distinct personality.

A palpable sense of foreboding permeates Slated’s pages, a feeling of menace very much like Orwell’s totalitarian England—and Big Brother is watching. As Kyla navigates her new world, she takes the reader with her, uncertainty painting everything grey and shadowy, and it is never clear who to trust. A teacher? A friend? Perhaps a parent? A wrong word to the right person, or a sign of dissent, and people disappear. Missing adults, friends, children. Slating is meant for criminals, for terrorists… but can a government with this kind of power be trusted? Herein lays the brilliance of Terry’s construct: the cold, terrifying reality is that Slating is a draconian government’s ultimate weapon. Opposition can’t very well speak up when their voices and memories are stolen. Even an imprisoned terrorist has a voice. Slating is something far more sinister.

Slated is not an action-oriented thriller in the ilk of The Hunger Games. It’s not a tale of explosions, or edge-of-seat live-or-die exploits. This is a more underhanded, sly, pervasive threat and menace. Dystopian fiction is at its most effective and frightening when presenting a reality that is conceivable, and believable. This type of novel hinges not only on its audience's ability to believe such a thing could come to pass, but—just as Orwell did in 1984—plays on the innate fear that it is already happening, already here, that this is a future we could very well face if we do not take a good, hard look at ourselves. Terry presents a world terrifyingly close to our own, one that is halfway here, and it seems she is challenging her readers to not only think as they read Slated, to discover it, and Kyla’s, secrets, but to question what they know, contemplate the value of their basic civil liberties, and what ‘self’ truly means.

Political statements and brilliance aside, some of Slated’s most compelling facets are its human ones. From tender to terrifying, sweet to infuriatingly unfair, Kyla’s interactions with the world and people around her are what give it heart. Kyla’s relationship with her ‘Mum’ is touching, and fascinating to watch grow, and those with her Doctor and teachers are worrisome and murky. But it is Kyla’s developing attachment to fellow slated boy, Ben, which has the biggest impact on her, and indeed sets many of Slated’s events in place. Slated is certainly not a romance—though its moments of tenderness are heart-warming—and if anything, Kyla’s most important relationship is the hugely complicated one she has with herself.

The Verdict:

Slated combines the feeling of Orwellian oppression and corruption with something new: the teenage experience. That sense of powerlessness; a sense, not of invincibility, but of hope, not yet tempered or tainted by defeat. There are moments in its pages that are crushingly bleak, and others brimming with hope; but the most ubiquitous feeling of all is that of overwhelming injustice and corruption. Chilling, confronting, and un-put-downably good, Slated will leave you thinking long after its final pages are turned... and howling for more.

Books in This Series:

  1. Slated (2012)
  2. Fractured (Expected Summer 2013)
An enormous thank you to Orchard Books/Hachette Australia for providing a review copy of Slated

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Blogspiration (22):Sublime Fool

Blogspiration is a weekly meme hosted by GrowingUp YA & Saz101. The meme was created to help spark inspiration among bloggers, readers & writers alike. An inspirational quote/picture/video is posted weekly, on the day of the author's choosing, so that it may inspire creativity, conversation & just a little SOMETHING.

"To sum it all up, if you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must write dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfume and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. I wish for you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories--science fiction or otherwise. Which means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world."
Ray Bradbury, Author of Farenheit 451 August 22, 1920 - June 5, 2012

More on Blogspiration and Linky sign-up below the jump!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Selection, Kiera Cass

The Selection by Kiera Cass (Australian Cover)
Title: The Selection
Author: Kiera Cass (author website)
Release Date: June 7th 2012 by Harper Collins Australia
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Dystopian... Kind Of.
My Rating:1 star2 star3 star4 star

Part The Bachelor, part Next Top Model, but mainly Disney princess fairytale, The Selection delivers what it’s gorgeous cover offers: beautiful girls, beautiful dresses, and let’s not forget one very charming Prince Charming.

From Goodreads: 
Thirty-five beautiful girls. Thirty-five beautiful rivals…

It’s the chance of a lifetime and 17-year-old America Singer should feel lucky. She has been chosen for The Selection, a reality TV lottery in which the special few compete for gorgeous Prince Maxon's love.

Swept up in a world of elaborate gowns, glittering jewels and decadent feasts, America is living a new and glamorous life. And the prince takes a special interest in her, much to the outrage of the others.

Rivalry within The Selection is fierce and not all of the girls are prepared to play by the rules. But what they don’t know is that America has a secret — one which could throw the whole competition… and change her life forever.

The Verdict:

Poor, but very pretty, seventeen year old America Singer is chosen by 'lottery' to be one of thirty-five 'lucky' contestants to compete for Crown Prince Maxon's heart. Problem number one: America heart already belongs to her forbidden love—the gorgeous, penniless Aspen Leger. Problem number two: America is not the least bit interested in a stuffy, boring prince. But it was Aspen himself who forced her to enter the lottery, for the chance of a better life, and Aspen who broke her heart and his promises. She soon discovers stuffy and boring are what the prince is not. Swept up in a world of gorgeous dresses, fierce competition and a side of her world America never knew existed, she begins to realise this may just be a life worth fighting for...

My Thoughts

Say what you will about The Selection, it’s nothing if not compulsively readable. While Cass doesn’t boast the most elegant of prose, her bubbly, light tone, and America’s easy manners are instant draw cards. Silly names aside, America is likeable and sweet, if not a little naive at times. In a world where strict social classes dictate what and who you can be the rest of your life—right down to your career path—America, born into a lower middle-class family of struggling artists, has known hunger and want and need, yet she's an essentially optimistic person, and rather than aggravating, it’s contagious. It’s hard not to root for this girl.
But it’s this rigid caste system that may be one of The Selection’s biggest stumbling points with readers. Sound dystopian, right? Here’s the thing: It’s not. As other reviewers have commented, it would best be described as 'light dystopian', if at all.

Set in a post World War IV North America, the United States of the past has crumbled. But the current government is not unfair, or oppressive. In fact, the royal family are fair and friendly, if not a little aloof. Readers expecting an exciting dystopian thriller will be disappointed; abandoning expectations is key. The world of The Selection is still compelling and richly imagined, but far closer to a pre-democratic monarchy England than The Hunger Games. Think peasants, commoners, gentry, and ruling class, transported into a (marginally) fairer modern world. Action packed The Selection is not, but there is intrigue hidden just beneath its pretty, polished surface. While it is only hinted at, it is clear this will be explored in future installments.

OK, that’s the serious out of the way. Let’s move on to the meat of the story: the romance. The Selection presents us with two suitors... and thirty-five competitors. Leaving her home with a broken heart, America meets Prince Maxon, the man for whose affections she’s meant to compete; the man she’s already determined to dislike. Imagine that, when she discovers he’s a halfway decent bloke. Surprisingly kind, fair, and thoughtful, a friendship develops between America and Prince Maxon, and slowly, a tentative romance blossoms. The Selection not only presents a love triangle, and encourages team debate, it revels in it. But it’s doubtful many readers will fall for America’s first love, the selfless, intense and gorgeous Aspen, and it’s not merely because his competition is a Prince. As America’s finds room in her heart for Maxon, it’s difficult not to fall prey to his charms. Never smarmy, or ‘charming’, Maxon is unequivocally, well, good.

The Verdict:

Precisely like the serial television of which it is born, The Selection is easily digestible; the kind of book that’s easy to pick up and devour in a single, breathless sitting. Don't let the reality TV show comparisons put you off, though: The Selection, while light, has heart—not to mention a lack of bitchiness—these insipid shows lack. But it’s also a book which will delight or disappoint depending on expectations. Is it truly dystopian? Not really. Is it as intense as the cover suggests? No. What it is, is simple: light, fun, compelling and compulsively readable.

An enormous thank you to Harper Collins Australia for providing a review copy of The Selection


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