Enchantment by Brittany Riley + Exclusive Q&A

I had the pleasure of meeting Brittany at the Allen and Unwin YA Fan Fest in 2016. When Brittany told me she published her first book, I was most excited to read it… And did not disappoint!!! Having read this book, I can highly recommend it to fans of mythology, folklore, fae and YA urban fantasy. Brittany gave me a copy of her book and once I read it, I managed to do a quick Q&A with her to share with you all..

Enchantment
The protagonist is Elise Dawson and she has led a pretty sheltered life being home-schooled and protected by her parents from the suspicious eyes of the world. Like thousands of others, the Dawsons are the descendants of the UndeAdlic Acolitus, or Immortal Lightbearers–a subspecies of faerie with only one enemy: the Banshees – an evil version of the Lightbearers however, Elise has no idea who she is, what her power or destiny is as she feels suffocated under the overbearing protection of her parents. Little does she know she is the descendant of the first water elemental, Lennox Henderson, and that she has the ability to control all water sources on Earth. This is a story of a young woman who discovers her true identity and must choose between her destiny as an elemental or someone who should be her enemy.

Again, I recommend this for fans of YA fantasy/urban fantasy fiction who like reading about elementals and fae. The book is very well written and I was gripped from the prologue right to the end – it’s very easy to read and the suspense keeps you hanging, wanting to know what will happen next. The family dynamic and friendship was illustrated very well and I also like how the author illustrated the initial meeting between unlikely allies: Elise and Christian- their initial meeting and continued interaction, I found, set itself apart from other YA characters interaction, it wasn’t so cliché. The characters and the storyline progressed quite well and the structure was very easy to understand and follow. A great debut novel!!!

Special thanks to author, Brittany Riley, for giving me a copy of her debut novel in exchange for my honest review…

Pictured: Brittany Riley

Exclusive Q&A with author Brittany Riley

Your debut novel, “Enchantment” was published in 2016. What was your inspiration to write your first novel?
I actually come up with the idea when I was in high school. I’m not sure of the exact ‘lightbulb’ moment, but I remember sitting in class and getting excited over the opportunity to see this idea through. Mind you, it was a very different version back then, in almost every respect. It was only over the following years that I fully developed the storyline, characters, cliff-hangers and aspirations for worldwide publication.

Is there any particular reason you chose fantasy fiction as the genre for your debut novel?
I’ve always been obsessed with fairy tales and magic. Even as a child, my favourite creatures were fairies. I guess the most amazing thing about writing and even Y.A is that I can explore these concepts while adding my own dark, personal twist.

How did you come up with the characters and their interaction? I liked Elise’s interaction with Christian throughout the story – I guess forbidden fruit is always interesting…
I wanted to be different in how my characters came together and interacted. I didn’t want my book to be your average fairy tale, because too often, even in real life, love stories are messy and beautiful and catastrophic all at once. I’ve always loved the idea of forbidden fruit; it’s far sweeter. I think Christian and Elise’s love story is very different from all the rest.

I found “Enchantment” touches on real life themes such as family relations – when Elise is struggling to understand her parent’s decisions which they believe are in her best interests but with limited to no context of these decisions, Elise felt so suffocated and tempted to rebel, were these sorts of themes inspired by real life stories you may have heard or even experienced yourself?
I personally have never felt Elise’s level of suffocation, but I think the concept of constriction, in whatever context, can relate to many people on many levels. I empathise with both Elise and her parents in a way, because I know if it was my child I would want to protect them, but if I was put in Elise’s positon, I’d be frustrated beyond comprehension too. It’s a fine balancing act between what’s “right and wrong” and how these definitions differ in the eyes of those around you.

It looks like a lot of research went into your novel – I liked how there is a lot of information presented in the book so the reader can read exactly what Elise was reading when she was researching her history – without revealing ‘trade secrets’ how did you go about your research?
I’ve always loved European history, so it was actually fun to write! I had to find a medium between factual and fantastical to suit the story. Obviously Elise was in need of information about her own identity and the audience needed context because it was the first book, so I thought this particular presentation of information was the best option.

I won’t give anything away other than – at the end of the book, I felt it was a bit of a cliff hanger… will we see a sequel? When?
I’m working on the sequel as we speak, however, I still have a day job and need to dedicate time to that as well. In terms of release date and publication, I am currently querying agents so I can get the book/TV deal I’ve always dreamed of! I’m hoping doors of opportunity open soon so everyone can immerse themselves in my books on a far larger scale!

There are five books in the series. I know exactly how each goes and how the whole story ends, and believe me when I say there is a whole lot of love, heartbreak, scandal and breathtaking moments to come in the series!

When you’re not writing, what could we find you doing?
I love coffee, so you’ll generally find me at cafes watching the world go by. I’m very close to my family as well, so I love spending time with my mum at the gym or shopping. I love watching TV series too, especially Shadowhunters, Reign, Pretty Little Liars and The Vampire Diaries; anything Y.A based, really. I find it inspiring as I want a TV adaption for my own series one day. Apart from all these activities, I love scrolling through Facebook and Twitter and finding inspiring stories, writing quotes and opportunities for discovery.

Do you enjoy reading yourself? What genre/s do you enjoy?
I do love reading, and I’m not sure whether it’s because I’m a Y.A writer myself or my age, but I rarely read anything that isn’t Y.A. I love Becca Fitzpatrick and Fleur Ferris, and any author that can transport me to another exciting, heart-pounding universe.

How can readers contact you or get hold of a copy of “Enchantment?”
My website contains all the relevant information! It’s: http://www.brittanyrileyauthor.com. I also have a Facebook page (Brittany Riley – YA Author), Twitter page (@brileyauthor) and a few other social media links. My website has specific links to all the online stores where my book is available! I love seeing comments from readers and am aiming to continue building my online presence.

-Review and Interview by Annie

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Finding Nevo by Nevo Zisin

Girl boy he she him her they them daughter son teacher student friend gay bi lesbian trans homo Jew dyke masculine feminine androgynousqueer

Nevo was not born in the wrong body.
Nevo just wants everyone to catch up with all that Nevo is. 

 

Review
This is not your typical coming of age book but the struggles Nevo introduces are very relatable no matter your gender which is exactly what sets it apart from other coming of age books.

First Nevo takes you through the childhood struggles and explains intimately what gender dysphoria is like while also making references to the resources and services that can help pave the way for any teen going through the same experiences.  

Nevo is a very thought provoking read and raises a lot of questions around what it means to be an activist and how important activists have been in shaping some pivotal moments in history.

With this book Nevo shows it’s ok to be raw and open and I thank Nevo for opening my eyes up to how important it is that I you me they them need to keep paving the way so that others can find their own path much more easily.

Recomendation
All teens, parents of teenagers, anyone identifying or wanting to know more about LGBTQIA+ obstacles and lastly anyone who loves activism and feminism with a dash of masculinity 

Many thanks to Walker Books Publishers for supplying this book in exchange for my honest review.

-Crystal

My Name is Victoria by Lucy Worsley

Riveting read for those who like history with a twist!

My Name is Victoria is a sensational read about the young Queen Victoria in a fictional setting. It’s an interesting read that explores the young Queen’s life from when she was a young princess up to adolescence. I enjoyed the themes explored including friendship, loyalty, and selflessness. There are some twists and turns which did surprise me. I recommend this book for young readers who like history and learning about Queen Victoria’s struggles growing up in a royal household and fighting the “system” that she was born into. The chapters are set at different life stages of Queen Victoria as well as well known landmark settings like Kensington Place and Winsor Castle. I particularly liked the illustrations at the beginning of each section which depicts the setting of the story and the black silhouettes at the beginning of each chapter which gives the book a fairy-tale vibe. This book makes you want to learn more about the monarchy and the secrets behind what it is like to be royal. It’s a worthwhile, well researched and entertaining read!

– NJ

Have Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

“Live by the Sword.. Die by the Sword.. No matter how often the Sword yells at you.. “

Release Date: 31 October 2017

Get ready boys and girls.. it’s time for a chivalrous quest!!!

This is an epic story that follows the Odo, Eleanor and Biter – an unlikely knight, a stubborn, head strong girl and.. a talking sword as they embark on a thrilling adventure to save their kingdom from the danger that comes in both human and dragon form. This is one fantastic collaboration between Garth Nix and Sean Williams. A very fun story to read that I was easily engrossed in, I always wanted to know what happened next and I grew fond of the characters very quickly. Yes I even enjoyed a laugh or two. I particularly liked the use of ‘medieval’ font for each time the sword, Biter, would speak – the setting of the scene really puts you there. I also loved the witty dialogue between Odo and Eleanor that presents a strong friendship and importance of team work. I found Eleanor’s character to be an important part of the story – being quite intelligent and head strong, Eleanor demonstrated strength in female characters which I find to be important for middle grade literature – it doesn’t always have to be a heroic prince or a male knight who has ability to embark on a quest and to save their kingdom. Although I can see this story is suitable for a younger audience, it would also be suitable for older readers and fans of adventure reads for young adults. It’s definitely a family friendly adventure that’s well written, easy to read that pulls you in from page one. I certainly enjoyed this one, another favourite for 2017.

Special thanks to author, Garth Nix for giving me this Advanced Review Copy at the Read3r’z Re-Vu session held in May as we hosted the “Author in Focus: Garth Nix” theme.

-Annie

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness + Exclusive Q&A with Patrick Ness

At 12:07am, A monster shows up.. As they do..

A monster that is wild, ancient.. different.. not one you would expect..

Connor O’Mally is the central focus of this monster and he wants the most dangerous thing of all.. Connor’s truth.

Author Patrick Ness has released a few epic novels – titles you may recall: ‘The Knife of Never Letting Go” and “Release” however “A Monster Calls” is the first of his novels to hit the box office!!!

Thoughts on the book:
I flew through this book in a matter of days, it was an amazing story one I believe is suitable for all ages. It has a strong element of truth to the storyline with the added magical twist that makes it work so very well. I found it very fast paced and enjoyable. What was also very notable was the words of wisdom that is intertwined with this fantastical story – the truth will always set you free no matter how bad you believe the truth is. I highly recommend readers of all ages to pick this one up before watching the movie.

Thoughts on the movie:
Patrick Ness not only wrote the book “A Monster Calls” he also wrote the screen play for the movie adaptation. I had the pleasure of attending a private screening courtesy of Walker Books Publishers and I have to say, having often felt the deflation of watching a film adaptation that goes against a favourite book, I found the movie did the book justice. It’s a family movie that has everything – a visual feast, humour.. even a tear jerker – though I must admit, some scenes may be scary for younger viewers. The cast all delivered their parts extremely well – I was engrossed in the film from start to finish.

“A Monster Calls” kicks off in cinemas around Australia on 27 July 2017. For a sneak peek of this awesome movie, here’s the trailer!!

Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a review copy of “A Monster Calls” and for inviting me to a private screening of the movie adaptation.

Exclusive Q&A with Patrick Ness:

How did you feel when you found out that the book was going to be turned into a film?
Well, it was great, but I am always skeptical. I’m skeptical about everything, even my books – I never believe they’re going to exist until they do, with a film even more so. So much had to be in place that was completely out of my hands. I was optimistic: there were really great creative partners, who knew what they were doing and really wanted to make this happen. But I thought, movies don’t happen to people like me! So I didn’t ever count my chickens – I’m still not counting my chickens!

You have written several screenplays. What did you find interesting about adapting your own book into a screenplay? How different a writing experience was it?
I’d been very protective of the material right the way through so I held off from selling it for a very long time. Then I thought I’d actually like to write the screenplay because I thought I knew how the story works and how it could be changed. You don’t always know that something’s going to work; you just hope.

I’ll always consider myself a novelist because in a novel, for good or ill, all the choices are yours. You’re in charge of it and it’s one hundred per cent an expression of you. That’s a great freedom and a great responsibility and a great challenge – the tyranny of all that choice! It’s hard, but really rewarding, and I love it.

Screenplays, on the other hand, are kind of like puzzles: a movie at best if a long short story, so how do you take the essence of your story and communicate everything in it in a shorter space? That kind of creative challenge can spur you on. I’ve always found limitations can be a great spurt to creativity.

What needed to change in the story? How did you feel about altering things from the book? Was there a strand from the book that you wanted to be emphasized in the film?
The bullies get emphasized in the film because they’re Conor’s connection to the outside world and, given Conor’s world is so interior (he’s always in his home, or his grandmother’s house, or in the tales), it’s important to have this visual link to the outside world in his film. We need to know what the outside looks like, and how the world regards him, and how small his world has shrunk.

There were some changed Director J.A. Bayona wanted – the director always brings things. He was very interested in the idea of legacy and what a parent leaves behind. So he had the idea that Conor loves drawing because his mother is an artist, and this works perfectly visually because it links right into the tales, which erupt from his drawings. It comes together just gorgeously at the end. Throughout the whole film there’s been a locked room in Conor’s grandmother’s house. At the end we discover that the grandmother has been making it into a room for Conor and it’s full of all his artworks and all his mother’s old drawing pads. The final shot shows him opening one up and finding a drawing of the monster on his mother’s shoulder, so she has clearly seen the monster herself, probably when she lost her father. So the monster had come for her as well and they share that. It’s a beautiful addition.

Were you involved in the casting process for the film? What do the individual actors bring to your characters?
Casting is half desperate desire and half chance. You make lists of actors you want and they’re just ridiculous because, if you were to get them all, the salaries alone would be $300 million. Liam Neeson is so perfect for the role it’s almost slightly obvious, but we thought, let’s try him anyway. And he turned out to love the book, and he’s a truly lovely man so getting him involved felt like a bit of a blessing.

As for Sigourney Weaver, I don’t think we thought she’d be available, but then Bayona called me one day and said, “We’ve got Sigourney Weaver,” and I thought, whoa! And she’s perfect – she is physically perfect and her manner is perfect.

Bayona and the producer Belén Atienza suggested Felicity Jones and got her before The Theory of Everything – before she was too busy! So that was a great bit of timing. I once talked to a director who said casting is important but, in some ways, if you get good people, the film will sort of shape itself to fit them. But still, how amazing to get Liam Neeson, Felicity Jones and Sigourney Weaver for a film that didn’t have a huge budget! And among all the kids who were auditioned, Lewis MacDougall just stood out. He’s auditioned for three things in his life and he’s got all three, so that says it all really.

Did you spend much time on set? What did you enjoy most about the film-making process?
I was involved in the process all the way through. The director, J.A. Bayona, and the producer, Belén Atienza, were very generous and very collaborative. There were lots of script meetings in Barcelona where we’d talk and talk about scripts, scenes and order. We hashed it out until we were all happy. I was on set about ten or twelves times. It was a fairly lengthy shoot because they had a juvenile lead, so could only shoot a certain amount of hours a day. Throughout the whole process they would send me scenes. They would always ask me about additions to the dialogue – every single line of dialogue they were thinking of adding in. Sometimes actors suggest things on set, and some of it’s just fantastic and needs to be woven in.

The first two weeks were spent with Liam Neeson in a suit doing motion capture for the CGI monster. Because the monster is created using CGI, they had a big model of the monster’s head on set to give Lewis something to act to. And the final tale, which is set in a graveyard, was filmed in an abandoned hospital-studio on the outskirts of Barcelona, with a huge construction of a graveyard. It looked half impressive and half not there, but then in the film it looks amazing.

A Monster Calls is a very emotional novel. How difficult was it to translate into motion onto the screen?
I think we’re a good match, me and Bayona (Director J.A. Bayona). He’s very outwardly emotional and passionate, like a lot of directors are, and I’m very reserved (which doesn’t mean unemotional, just privately emotional). So I thought between us we could probably get to a really good central point which neither of us could get to on our own. I would always want to make sure the emotion is really true. I want ugly crying, not pretty crying. I don’t want any easy outs (not that Bayona would have gone for easy outs), and he probably instinctively distrusts lack of expression in emotion. So, together, we find the right path that most people are going to fall into.

In a movie it’s the performances that are going to do it, and all the actors understood that it’s not a movie about grief, but about sadness and anger. 

Both film and illustration are activities that transform a writer’s words into images. What do you feel about that visual process?
I’m not an artist, and I’m not a film director, so I felt a huge curiosity about how Jim Kay, the book’s illustrator, and Bayona would respond to my work. Jim is so talented! Some of the stuff he drew I could never have thought of and some of the stuff Bayona shot I could ever have thought of. That’s what you wish for – somebody who knows different things than you know and brings those to the work. The important thing for me always is to keep learning. I never want to be complacent – that’s why I wanted to do the screenplay myself. Even if I failed I wanted at least to try.

-Annie

Secrets Between Friends by Fiona Palmer

“What is really important in this life?”

A wonderful page turner… A story of hope among family, friendship with a hint of romance…
You will laugh, sigh and shed a
tear.. or two..

A story of three best friends who embark on a luxury cruise and long-held secrets that spill in the confines of a cruise ship

 

Release Date: September 2017

Before I read this novel, I read that this is the first time the author had written something that was not a rural romance as it is set in the city and on the coast so I was interested in giving this a go as I’m sure writing this story would have taken the author out of her comfort zone. I also don’t normally read adult contemporary fiction so this book really was a nice change of pace for me.. and I was not disappointed.

This story follows besties Abbie, Jess and Ricki who are about to set sail on a cruise ship as they did when they were still in school and without meaning to, their secrets are exposed while they’re on their voyage. As the story flows, it explores such deep issues that I didn’t expect to see in a story – issues that are common among adults that everyone seems to take for granted – things like domestic violence, terminal illness or on a smaller scale, how adults feel when they are stuck in ruts whether in their jobs or social spheres.

Set in Australia, the story was so beautifully written and for someone who doesn’t normally cry whilst reading fiction, this story felt real – it felt like I was listening to a conversation among my girlfriends. I would recommend this to readers of adult contemporary fiction and if you are a Fiona Palmer fan and are used to her normal style of writing, I am sure you would enjoy this one too.

Special thanks to Hachette Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy + the cute novelty beach chair in exchange for my honest review!

-Annie

 

The Crown’s Fate by Evelyn Skye

fantastic sequel that was just as epic as its debut!!!

“When two imperfect people come together, they make a perfect whole…”

“Nothing is more remote than yesterday, nothing is closer than tomorrow..”

In a nut shell.. I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!

This story continues from where we left off in the The Crown’s Game and we return to the characters I love so much.. Vika, Nikola and Pasha.. For those who read the first book, you remember what happened to these guys? (Really don’t want to give any spoilers here) Like book 1, book 2 kept me on the edge of my seat however I found this story to have even more mystery, intrigue and action!! The Crown’s Game focused on the building of alternate Russia and gave us insight into how The Crown’s Game worked – where enchanters entered into a competitive battle to win the position of Imperial Enchanter. However, now.. we look at the burning question – what happens when it’s not about fighting for the position of Imperial Enchanter anymore? It’s a fight for the throne…

Written so incredibly well, the story flowed amazingly even with various storylines. I absolutely loved the accurate referencing to Russian history within a fantasy story of magic set in alternate Russia. It’s definitely one of those books you can tell the author put a lot of thought, plan and research into it. I can officially say this book is another 2017 favourite!!

Special thanks to Harper Collins Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie