Fabled Kingdom Volume 1+ Exclusive Q&A with its author/graphic artist Queenie Chan!!

This is a comics-prose story. It contains chapters 1-3 (of 21)*

Fabled Kingdom, Volume 1
What if Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother isn’t her real grandmother? What if her two trueborn grandmothers are both Queens – where one is good, and the other one is evil?

Celsia is a ‘Red Hood,’ a healer-in-training living with her grandmother in a small village deep in the woods. Life was ordinary and uneventful, until the fateful day a shocking truth is uncovered – Celsia’s grandmother isn’t her REAL grandmother. Forced to flee her village, Celsia is soon on a quest to seek her two TRUEBORN grandmothers – both powerful Queens of magical kingdoms.

Accompanied by her childhood friend Quillon and the cheeky faun Pylus, her first destination is the fabled kingdom of Fallinor, which was destroyed over 60 years ago… or was it?

Fabled Kingdom Volume 1 Review
Red Hooded Magic with an Intriguing Plot!!!
Red hooded cloak, a magically inclined basket and a girl on a mission to go to grandma’s house. Sounds like a normal red riding hood story, right? Whelp, stop there because Fabled Kingdom is anything but an ordinary story of red riding hood. Queenie takes the tale of red and weaves in her own twists in the form of werewolves, tricky fawns and magic that entices you to continue reading mixed with wonderful artwork and detail that’s your eyes a glued to the page.The characters are the highlight of the series. Our main character Celsia is a head strong heroine that made for some comedic moments. I enjoyed the secondary characters such as Quillon and the fawn that you meet on Celsia’s journey.I would recommend Fabled Kingdom to anyone who loves fairytale retellings, fantasy and beautifully crafted artwork.If I were to give it a rating, I would go 5/5 stars.
-Maisie

Exclusive Q&A by author/graphic artist: Queenie Chan
1. You have published quite a few graphic novels!! What is the name of your debut graphic novel and what titles have you published?
My first published work was a mystery-horror set in the Australian bush called “The Dreaming”, which was published with LA-based publisher TOKYOPOP in 2005. That got me some illustration work with authors Dean Koontz (Odd Thomas) and Kylie Chan (White Tiger), doing graphic novel prequels to their best-selling series. Apart from those books, I’ve also published my own collections of short ghost stories, webcomics and my fairytale YA fantasy “Fabled Kingdom.” I’m also currently moving into colour comics, so I’ve been doing a lot of short, home-made mini-comics about cute animals. I’m also planning my next graphic novel, which looks to be a standalone YA fantasy in colour.

2. Your publications are not just illustrations – it’s part story part illustrations, what goes into the structure?
Do you illustrate then write or the other way around? I’ve tried it both ways, but I find that starting with a rough outline of a comic book page and then working backwards is a better way of doing “comics-prose” storytelling. Part of the reason is because when you convert comic panels into prose, it becomes embellishment of existing comic panels, and by extension, of the characters and story. The process is like layering a cake, which I find very satisfying. Conversely, when you start with prose and then convert part of it into comics, then the process becomes somewhat reductive. Complexity has to be reduced, and while some may argue that visual presentation brings its own form of complexity (which is true), the fact is that, in some ways, it makes things fuzzy rather than exacting. Editing is also harder when you start with prose, since you need to edit twice—both before AND after you lay down the panels on the page.

3. Do you like reading graphic novels yourself? What would be your favourite?
I consume a lot of media – prose fiction, comics, video games, animation, movies and music. I don’t read as much graphic novels as I used to (mostly because I believe a creater should look for inspiration outside their own industry, lest they start cannabalising what their colleagues are doing), and I mostly read manga these days anyway, due to my love of serialised fiction. I’m currently still reading “One Piece,” which is a manga series that I’ve been reading since my early twenties. I’ve fallen off the bandwagon a bit so I need to catch up, but it still remains an inventive and fun series despite having been running for 20 years. So it’s recommended from me!

4. Who have you collaborated with on your work and what is it like to collaborate, especially when drawing/writing graphic novels? I’ve worked with Dean Koontz and Kylie Chan on their respective series, and my relationship with Kylie is especially close since I was able to talk with her directly about what she envisions for her characters and world. In terms of Dean, he was easy to work with, but communication was difficult since I was only able to talk with him through his agents and editors. I should also count the comic writers (Fred Van Lente, Landry S. Walker) who adapted his stories into comic script format for me to work on, though unfortunately due to the publishing house production line, I wasn’t able to talk to these writers either. However, I still feel I learned a lot from them, which I’m grateful for. On the other hand, working with writers made me realise how sensitive prose authors are to having their writing altered in any way. I was surprised at first – writers can get very sore at having even a SINGLE word altered – but I understand why they get so worked up. I don’t have that feeling myself though, despite being a writer too, probably because words account for only a fraction of what I do.

5. As an author and graphic novel artist, what was the most exciting experience you have had eg: Supanova or Comic Con?
Meeting Dean Koontz at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2008! I was a fan of Dean when I was growing up – the first book I bought with my own money was a Dean Koontz omnibus featuring his earliest horror works. I fell off the book-reading wagon in my early 20s, but his series “Odd Thomas” got me back into reading, so it was great to meet him in person. He was very polite, funny and gracious, which was wonderful. It’s always exciting to meet famous authors who you’ve grown up reading.

6. For the aspiring graphic novel artists, what would be the best piece of advice you could give them?
The arts is a difficult place to earn a living, but I highly recommend comics as a form of creative expression! I think that no matter what you create or why, the most important thing is to ensure that you’re working on something you love and care about, and to FINISH it. A lot of people start drawing a comic but never finishes it, which results in online comic websites looking like a graveyard of unfinished work. This is not a good thing for any creator, because it makes you look unprofessional – like it or not, even when you do comics as a hobby, it reflects poorly on you when you don’t seem to care for your readers (no matter how many readers you have). Most people also only read a story when it’s finished – if you don’t finish your work, people can’t judge your level of writing, and therefore won’t care, or trust you as a creator. You may think this is unfair, but to be honest, in this day and age, people have too much competition for their attention to care about a creator’s unfinished work. That is my 2 cents 🙂

-Interivew compiled by Annie

Many thanks to Queenie Chan for spending this time with us!! We are big fans of your work and we hope we will see you again soon, keep up the awesomeness!!

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Hope Is A Decision, Selected Essays of Daisaku Ikeda

“Hope is a flame that we nurture within our hearts… and kept burning through our own determination. Most crucial is our determination to continue to believe in the limitless dignity and possibilities of both ourselves and others.” – Daisaku Ikeda

Hopeful and Highly Relevant

Daisaku Ikeda is a Buddhist philosopher, educator, essayist and anti-nuclear activist. This book is a compilation of selected essays he has written during the bleak times when he battled his childhood illness, surviving through WWII in Japan, facing the death of his mother and brother – his essays explore humanism, free-thinking, poetry, cultural exchanges of peace, hope-based dialogue and ultimately the message that we should always be hopeful despite the hard times.

Even though Ikeda’s essays were written so long ago during WWII, a lot of his essays on hope can be applied to today’s society. At first I thought this will be a highly idealistic read but I was surprised on how essential these essays are to today’s world where hope is so fragile. How can we remain hopeful at times like these, and how can life be more meaningful? Ikeda teaches us that “the key to live in a stress-filled society lies in feeling the suffering of others as our own – in unleashing the universal human capacity for empathy.” There are some really great nuggets of wisdom in his essays, if you feel like a thought-provoking and reflective read, I highly recommend this book!

Some other great quotes from this book:

“We can best negotiate the challenges we face when guided by hope, not when motivated by fear.”

“There is no need for anyone to carry the burden of a heavy heart alone.”

“Genuine happiness can be achieved only when we transform our way of life from the unthinking pursuit of pleasure to one committed to enriching our inner lives, to a focus on being more rather than simply having more.”

– Review by NJ

 

Singing My Sister Down and other stories By Margo Lanagan

An intricate, resonant and perceptive set of short stories!

I have just finished reading all the short stories in this book and the first words that came to mind when describing what I’ve read are – poetic, resonant, peculiar (in a good way) and well written. The stories have a classic/gothic fairytale feel to it and it’s hard to put down. Each story was unexpected, surprising and intricately written. It feels like reading a treasure trove of delightful and vibrant stories that explores themes of family, love, choices, courage, reflection, and gratitude. The stories have emotional impact and at times very raw, heart breaking and confronting; it’s what makes this book a stand-out in my opinion. From the books I have read by Margo Lanagan, she has never disppointed because her writing style has this unique artistry and elegance which shines through. I think “Singing My Sister Down and other stories” is one of those books where Lanagan’s words will carry you to a different place through different characters (sniper, father, brother, granddaughter, spirits, ogre) but somehow you can still relate to everything she has written. I recommend savouring it slowly, with a cup of tea and let yourself be immersed into the stories.

Click here for the book blurb on Goodreads

– Review by NJ

Kidz Korner Round Up – School Holidays Special

The kids are on holidays in Sydney, NSW.. here is a round up of recommended books the kids can immerse themselves in these school holidays!!!


Cinnamon by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by Divya Srinivasan

An exquisite hardcover picture book that would now be considered a collector’s item that tells a beautiful tale about a princess called Cinnamon whose eyes are made of pearls – in other words, she is blind.. and for reasons unknown to her parents, she refuses to speak. After futile attempts to find someone to make Cinnamon talk, suddenly a mighty tiger appears at their palace to teach Cinnamon to talk.. the illustrations and art in this book are so beautiful and bode so well with this mighty tale.. Suitable for family reading time to children from 5 years Many thanks to Bloomsbury Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

Hotaka (Through my eyes, Natural Disaster Zones) by John Heffernan
This was an interesting book that’s told in the perspective of a 10 year old child whose life is turned upside down in light of a natural disaster. The way the story starts is so real, this child is simply enjoying his friend’s pantomime like it’s just “a normal day” and suddenly the town is on alert and from a hill top, he sees the water drawing out in prep of a tsunami that is about to hit, something he has learnt from class and his own family. My family are originally from Aceh and endured the effects of the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004 so this story was real for me. It kept me on the edge of my seat and I feel this is a good learning experience for children. I say this suitable and recommended to junior non fiction readers aged from 9 years and above.. Many thanks to Allen & Unwin Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Jamal

Rock pool secrets by Narelle Oliver
At first glance there’s nothing much to see. But the rock pools are full of secrets. Nestling in crevices … hiding in the seaweed … camouflaged against the rocks … What creatures will you find? An interesting and fun read. This book shows you what you can find in rock pools during low tide at beaches. As you read this picture book there are flip sections on a few of the pictures where you can get a better look at the creatures that live in the rock pools. The pictures are beautifully done. Suitable to a younger audience from pre-school to primary school. Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Meredith

Where’s Wally? 30th Anniversary Edition by Martin Handford
As a kid, I always loved the Where’s Wally? books and the various editions that were published. I bet kids today could still appreciate the hours of fun they can have with this one! This book celebrates 30 years of searching for Wally, a one off special edition of the original eye boggling classic. It’s an awesome special edition with bonus scenes and characters – it makes you determined to find him each time you find a false lead. In this edition you can hike around the world, on the beach, at the train station and you can even find Wally on a new wander in town again. Intricately detailed scenes and artistry here, I highly recommend it as a fun activity – you could even play teams – these school holidays!
-Annie

Poor Louie by Tony Fucille
Louie’s life is great! A walk on the leash every morning, ice cream on Sundays, snuggling in bed at night with Mom and Dad. Even the playdates with Mom’s friends despite their little crawling creatures who pull Louie’s ears aren’t all that bad. But then things get weird… This story had me smiling from the beginning. Because Louie doesn’t know how to handle the new member of the family, that’s coming in nine months… I’ll be re-reading this one for long while. I now want a dog like Louie!! Highly recommended children’s picture book. Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Meredith

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell, Illustrated by Patrick Benson
A beautiful story that is artistically illustrated of three baby owls who wake up one night in their tree to find that their mother has gone, so they sit on the branch and wait, wondering when she will return. It’s such a cute and lovely story – heart warming and very suitable to read to kids aged 3+. Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

Exchange of Heart by Darren Groth

“Sometimes, Life takes on a life of its own…”

How does someone in their late teens deal with the sudden death of his younger sister?

This book follows the story of Munro, a boy living in Canada who is struggling with an inner battle to come to terms with the untimely loss of his sister Evie who had down syndrome. He is suffering flashbacks, depression – even anger and he’s dealing with a voice inside his head which is known as “The Coyote”. Upon losing interest in school and life itself, one way Munro finds to deal with this is embarking on a student exchange program to Australia. Once in the land down under, Munro starts a new life, makes new friends and even takes part in a volunteer program, Fair Go which is to help him move past this rough patch in his life and may even help silence “The Coyote”.

A story of tragedy, friendship, dealing with real youth issues. I found the flow of this story quite interesting even if the voice of the coyote creeped me out a little. The dialogue was quite whitty and what I enjoyed most was even though Munro was dealing with a lot in his life, his character did not come across as “whiny” like a lot of YA characters do. Munro was in the dumps but took it upon himself to do something about it – albeit a trip to the other side of the world. I found this story was real – honestly, how does a teenage boy deal with something like this? Especially when there’s a voice in his head that springs to life upon his sister’s death and in taking the steps to deal with this – does he succeed?

Special thanks to Penguin Random House Publishers for providing me with an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
This book is due to hit the shelves by the end of July 2017.

-Annie

The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom

The first book from a groundbreaking new YA voice: An Utterly Compelling Thriller.

When Gwendolyn Bloom realizes that her father has been kidnapped, she has to take matters into her own hands. She traces him from New York City across the dark underbelly of Europe, taking on a new identity to survive in a world of brutal criminal masterminds. As she slowly leaves behind her schoolgirl self, she realizes that she must learn the terrifying truth about herself. To overcome the cruelty she encounters, she must also embrace it.
(Synopsis from Goodreads)

The Cruelty hooked me from the first chapter. This spy based crime/thriller novel will have you needing to know what happens next. I am not a big fan of crime and/or thriller stories, but The Cruelty proved that a good book can transcend reader preferences. The character development in this novel is what makes it stand apart from other stories in its genre. Watching Gwen learn about the harsh realities of her world was turbulent and sad The Cruelty has moments that are horrifying because they hold a mirror to our world despite its spy action-packed premise.

The question is, do you standby and let the horrors unfold…or fight for what you think is right?

Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.

-Amanda

All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis

Welcome to a world where every word and gesture is copyrighted, patented or trademarked

Imagine a world where EVERYTHING you said was subject to Copyright or Trademark.

Where even your own name is subject to a price and for parents who can’t afford to pay for a decent name for their child are obligated to settle for a “half name”

A world where generations later, families are penalised for an illegal download or words their great grandparents committed sending current generations into crippling debt..

The moment one turns fifteen and enters into adulthood, they must pay for every word they speak (“Sorry” is a flat ten dollars and a legal admission of guilt), every nod ($0.99/sec), every scream ($0.99/sec) and even every gesture of affection has a price.

The protagonist is “Speth” who was due to give a speech on her Last Day prior to her transition into adulthood yet she decided to take a stand and zip her lips – symbolising her vow of silence for the rest of her life. An act of defiance and a vow that costs the copyrighters – her silence isn’t paying for words that could be said and paid for. Speth does this on the day she was due to give her speech which was the same day her friend commits suicide rather than work off his family’s crippling debt. Speth’s unexpected act of silent defiance sparks a media frenzy which inspired many others to follow in her footsteps.. the start of a revolution.

This was such what a unique concept and I really liked how the author told this story from Speth’s perspective. How does a protagonist who vows a life of silence interact with those around her when an ounce of communication will break her vow and cost her? How does Speth get her life on track when Copyrighters are out to get her for her act of defiance? How can one tell a story without words? How does one face questions without being able to answer? The author did very well in flowing a story that was told by a silent protagonist. It was very easy to follow, a real page turner and I found I was able to really get into the head of the character.

Special thanks to Harlequin Teen Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.

This book is due for release by the end of August 2017.
-Annie