Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend

Release Date: October 2017
Publisher: The Realm – Hachette Publishers

When I first saw this book, I saw the caption: “A breathtaking, enchanting new series by debut author Jessica Townsend, about a cursed girl who escapes death and finds herself in a magical world–but is then tested beyond her wildest imagination.” And yes.. I agree!!! This book was very enchanting and sends you into a world of Wunder and Magic!!! I loved it so much, I wish I had a magic umbrella now. The book is very well written and the storyline captivated me from page one. Although the characters are young in age, the content is definitely suitable for fans of YA Fantasy Fiction – or fans of Harry Potter!!

An interesting story of a girl, Morrigan, who was born on ‘Eventide’ which is deemed a very unlucky day for a child to be born and all her life she’s believed to be cursed – the cause of all misfortune around her and she her life was to end at midnight on her eleventh birthday however as she waits for this terrible fate to come, Jupiter North appears – whether he’s her saviour or the channel that simply prolongs her fate is yet to be seen – however, Morrigan finds herself swept into this new world, Nevermoor – where she is to engage in several trials to deem her work in the Wundrous Society.I found the trials and magic to be very creative and the world of Nevermoor to be quite unique. A great storyline, interesting and funny characters – witty dialogue and very easy to follow.

There were moments I couldn’t put this book down.. the story is very engaging and OMG.. THAT TWIST!!! (wont say anymore for fear of spoilers).

Due for release this October, I highly recommend this to fans of Harry Potter, Neil Gaiman or fans of general YA Fantasy Fiction.

Special thanks to The Realm: Hachette Publishers for giving me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.

-Annie

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

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

 

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

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

A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

“It’s easy to poke fun at the world and think yourself clever but it’s much harder to stand silent and endure…”

This story is about Henrietta Howel… The first female sorcerer… The prophesied one… Or is she?

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she is brought to London to train with Her Majesty’s sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her and as Henrietta “Nettie” discovers the secrets hiding behind the sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she’s truly the prophesied one.

A magical story of identity and wielding some awesome magic through the elements.

I Loved this read and I recommend this to fans of Harry Potter, magic and fantasy fiction.

Told in first person by the protagonist, “Nettie”, what I liked most about this book was the use of magic to control the elements in a world where magical talent wasn’t just with the wave of a wand (or stave)characters could wield power of the elements through your palms. What I also liked was the journey Nettie has had to take to discover herself and her talent, meanwhile learning of her true heritage and a prophecy that can set her on the trajectory to save the world – or destroy her. I really cannot wait for the sequel now as I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved the character development, world building, style of writing and the storyline with twists and turns!!

-Annie