A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Published: 5th May 2011Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Walker Books
Pages: 216
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.
But it isn’t the monster Connor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…
This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Connor.
It wants the truth. 

I had an interesting experience reading this, I was told there’d be a dog in it, and aside from thinking about when this non-existent dog was going to show up, it was a sad and beautiful story. This is not a full Ness original, it was written based on ideas conceptualised by Siobhan Dowd. Having read nothing else by either author I had no idea what to expect but I was not disappointed.

There is so much to love about this book; I love Connor’s fierce bravery and protectiveness of his mum, I love the mystery and the suspense of waiting for the monster and the uncertainty about what it means. I even loved Connor’s frustration. Ness depicts perfectly Connor’s conscious and unconscious desire to be seen, to be punished, to be treated normally. You can sense it bubbling under the surface and Ness builds up suspense slowly with excellent pacing that makes you eagerly turn the page. Ness doesn’t state outright what is wrong with her but there are enough clues to figure it out. The bond between them is evident and Connor’s determination to keep things as they were is heartbreaking but admirable.

The edition I read was filled with wonderfully dark black and white sketches by Jim Kay (the same man who is currently illustrating Harry Potter). These illustrations reinforced the eerie, mysterious nature of the book and Connor’s interactions with the monster. They captured the nightmare feel and the mystical and Kay manages to keep it very simple but still show so much.

As a character, the monster is an intriguing one. He doesn’t seem evil, but he does seem formidable and unforgiving. I really enjoyed his interactions with Connor, and Kay brings him to life on the page wonderfully as well.

This may be a tough book for some people due to the depiction and description of experiencing cancer and the impact it has on the family, but it is also a very important story about it as well. I fully recommend this book to people, it’s a very strong story told very simply and very imaginatively.

You can purchase A Monster Calls via the following

Dymocks | Booktopia

Book Depository | BookWorld

Amazon | Amazon Aust

QBD | Fishpond

 

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The Lampo Circus (#2) by Alexandra Adornetto

Published: 1st March 2008 (print)/March 28 2011 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
HarperCollins Australia/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 400 pages/6 discs
Narrator: Alexandra Adornetto
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

The arrival of Federico Lampo and his travelling circus brings a new threat to Drabville when the children are kidnapped and transported to the grim world of the Conjuors’ Realm. Lord Aldor, assisted by Ringmaster Lampo and the vicious Contessa Bombasta, is plotting to conquer the fairy province of Mirth. . 

The children embark on a quest to warn the Queen of Mirth, encountering some fearsome obstacles, not least the ferocious Grin Bandits and their tooth–extracting apparatus.

As the day of battle draws near, Milli and Ernest realise that if Lord Aldor defeats them, theirs won’t be the only lives at stake…

Having had Milly and Ernest grow on me after book one, it was only natural I dove into book two. Also I listened to it on audio book again and it was great to hear Adornetto’s narration again, excellent continuity which is often not the case with audio book series I’ve realised.

After the events of The Shadow Thief, Milly and Ernest’s town of Drabville is settling into their new lives, being lively, and trying to think of a new town name. Their relief at being joyful and carefree means their guards are lowered when villainy threatens the town once more. The arrival of the Lampo Circus seems innocent enough, but there is a sinister nature about it that no one seems to notice.

Initially I didn’t love this story as much as the first one. It was an odd premise; it didn’t grab me as quickly as the other one did. Adornetto retains her wonderful language, her style, her narration and absurdness, so that was a comfort when they story itself was a bit odd and hard to engage with.

When the story eventually gets going, which was quite a bit of a way in I thought, but it gets to settle into the adventurous style Milly and Ernest do best. There were a few great surprises this time which made the adventure more fun. While there was adventure and suspense in the first book, I feel this had more the journey/adventure style where there a greater chance of the unknown.

There is a great moral tone which Adornetto doesn’t wave in your face, but works incredibly well in the context (no spoilers). I loved the surprises and I loved the magical element that is the crux and climax of the story. It balanced out the strangeness from the beginning and worked really well.

I would have loved a better ending. Not the conclusion per se, but the actually ending of the story. I feel like it was a tad unresolved, I still had questions that needed answering, but judging by what Adornetto has done with this second book regarding events in book one, I feel more answers will be provided in book three. As the continuing adventures of Milly and Ernest go, this was a great addition.

You can purchase The Lampo Circus via the following

Booktopia | Angus and Robinson

Kobo | Amazon

QBD | Audible | HarperCollins

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The Shadow Thief (#1) by Alexandra Adornetto

Published: July 1st 2007 (print)/28 January 2011  (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 HarperCollins Australia/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 288 pages/5 discs
Narrator: Alexandra Adornetto
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Millipop Klompet and Ernest Perriclof live in the uneventful town of Drabville, where the cautious Ernest spends his time enlarging his rock collection and Milli dreams of adventure. When the pair are kidnapped from their homes and brought to live in the gothic mansion known as Hog House, they are adopted by the madcap Mr and Mrs Mayor and a series of bizarre encounters follows. Things do not add up and the children find that sinister plans are beginning to emerge. Why has the notorious Lord Aldor stolen the shadows of all of the town’s residents and where are they being held? Assisted by a band of prisoners, the children must venture into the Taboo Territories, and battle the perils dished out by the Lurid Lagoon, in order to outwit Lord Aldor and prevent him from executing his secret master plan.

From very early on I compared this book to Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. It’s actually a lot better than that in my opinion. Though, not being a huge fan of Snicket’s famed series I’m not sure what that means.

But if you are a fan of Snicket’s work then I suggest you read this series. Adornetto uses the same whimsical tone and storytelling style that addresses the reader, gives us facts about the characters, bemoans when things unfortunate happen to them, and states matter of factly when things aren’t going their way. I listened to this as an audio book and Adornetto was the narrator which worked really well. Adornetto’s storytelling ability is entertaining and while she doesn’t vary voices that noticably, you really don’t need it and her narration is wonderful.

One thing I absolutely ADORED in this book was Adornetto’s language. She uses big, wonderful, words that are so eloquent, and ones that give the story such a wonderful tone. It suits the strange surreal, British nature of this book (despite Adornetto being Australian) that is absurd and outlandish, that of course there will be beautiful and clever words in it as well.

The story is delightful and innocent, but with the cheekiness that kids love. As I said, very much like Lemony Snicket but with a bit less intense unfortunatenesses and more daring adventures with Milly at the helm and Ernest trailing reluctantly behind her.

Milly is a wonderfully brave and rebellious girl who doesn’t let the rules of Drabville hold back her adventures. When she gets caught breaking these town rules she and her best friend Ernest are imprisoned and discover a whole other world they knew nothing about. She is clever, resourceful, filled with gusto and enthusiasm for adventure and doing the right thing. Ernest is less enthusiastic but he does follow Milly into adventure and while he is wary he does embrace what he finds and loves to work with Milly in thinking up solutions to their problems.

The supernatural element of the story is quite creative, the evil Lord Aldor has stolen shadows off the residents of Drabville and is using them for nefarious purposes. The premise is clever and quite interesting, Adornetto keeps it filled with action and suspense, along with daring characters and wily plans of escape and rescue.

This book (as subsequent series) is classed as young adult at times, but I’d put it in the primary school range, maybe the lower teens. With Milly and Ernest being twelve years old it may not appeal that well to older readers. Having said that, I did love it, so there’s that.

You can purchase The Shadow Thief via the following

Booktopia | Angus and Robinson

Kobo | Amazon

QBD | Audible | HarperCollins

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Copper Veins (#3) by Jennifer Allis Provost

Published: 26th July 2016
Goodreads badgePublisher: Spence City
Pages: 264
Format: ebook via Netgalley
Genre: Romance/Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Sara’s pretty sure her life is perfect.

Not only are she and Micah finally married, her father, who’d been missing since the Magic Wars, has been found. Actually, he just strode up to the manor’s front door, but whatever. Sara knows better than to look a gift horse in the mouth.

But Baudoin Corbeau isn’t content to return to family life. He’s decided that he will be the force of change in the Mundane world, and lead the Elemental resistance to victory with his children at his side. What’s worse, Baudoin doesn’t approve of Sara’s marriage, and makes every attempt to separate her from Micah.

After a visit to the Mundane realm leaves Sara, Max and Sadie imprisoned by the Peacekeepers, Sara’s doubts creep to the surface. Is her father right? Does she belong in the Mundane realm, not the Otherworld? Is Micah really the right man—make that elf—for her?
Was marrying him a mistake?

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book for review.

 This is the third book in the Copper Legacy series and it’s still such a delight to read about Sara and Micah and this fascinating world with Elementals and Mundanes.

Though only a few months have passed since the first story, a lot has happened. Micah and Sara’s relationship have gotten more serious and there are consequences and aftermaths of the previous book to deal with. Provost draws on past events and brings together existing ones wonderfully and previous books aren’t treated as separate things entirely. Conversations, situations, and scenes of past novels are still referred to and are important; they are treated like living memories rather than events of a different book. Provost does a wonderful job of filling in the previous book events without making it clunky or tedious, and aside from the Prologue that brings you up to speed, there are still numerous references blended throughout to fill in additional details.

Not all the story is tied up with past books, with the return of Sara’s father there is a new direction taken and a whole new set of things to explore. There is a different kind of drama this time. Not that there isn’t excitement or suspense, but it has a family focus that ties in with bigger things. Provost threads these all together naturally and the seamless transition of events really feels like real life, interruptions and best laid plans falling to the wayside, family drama and serious problems colliding and tangled together.

I have to admit it was slightly predictable at times, but also with a few surprises. We learn even more about the Elementals and their abilities and seeing Sara and Micah settle into their new life was great. Their relationship isn’t overdone, nor is it bland. Provost balances their affection and love for one another without making it cheesy or unbelievable. Both Sara and Micah have responsibilities and the contrast and conflict between their love and their duty makes for great reading.

Whether this is your first read of the Legacy series or you’ve been in it from the start, this is still a good read. From the beginning I was engaged and knowing the stories already I was instantly back in the world of Elementals and Mundanes with the magic, politics, and war. If I didn’t know the story I think Provost does an excellent job of introducing it while still moving the story forward. You could easily pick up this book and start reading without having read the previous two. The writing is descriptive and draws you in, and though the story isn’t action filled or intense all the time, you still find yourself eager to see what happens. Provost brings drama without making it seem dramatic.

With another book yet to come, Provost directs us towards the next one well, without making it too obvious in the lead up. The story is allowed to conclude naturally while still feeling like there is somewhere to go. I think book four is going to bring even more excitement and surprises and I can’t wait to read it. I’ve enjoyed this series and loved these characters from the start and I’m eager to see where it goes.

You can purchase Copper Veins via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Angus and Robertson | Booktopia

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (spoiler free) by Jack Thorne & John Tiffany, J.K. Rowling

Published: 31st July 2016 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Little Brown UK
Pages: 343
Format: Hardcover book of the script
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes darkness comes from unexpected places.

I had mixed feelings about reading this script. I was excited for a new Harry Potter story, but I was also unsure how it would be treated. After years of Rowling feeding us new information and revealing more of the story I was eager to see how the kids of the famous trio were getting on. How the original gang were all enjoying their adult lives and new jobs. I was, however, also worried that it would ruin the magic and the near perfection of the original series. I was worried that it would be a half hearted extension that didn’t have the same depth and feel and immense pleasure of reading. How wrong I was. Don’t get me wrong, there are things about this that make it not perfect, but I stayed with the five stars because while the faults are there, I did so incredibly enjoy it.

From the first page I was back in the Harry Potter world, I could picture it, feel it, it was like we’d never left. I fell hopelessly into the story and fell in love with characters new and old. My heart was overjoyed and breaking for so many reasons and I was barely ten pages in. For a script it felt so much like a story, I have no doubt the one actually used was a bit different again, and no doubt will be changed as the performances go on, but for now I like to imagine this is the one that will be seen on the stage.

A few stage directions are included, as a script would have, and it was fascinating to try and picture how this would be performed on stage, but when I wasn’t doing that I was picturing it in my mind as a novel, the back and forward of my imagination wasn’t an issue, and it was remarkable how a play script could be as evocative as a fully fledged novel that has scenery and more detail given to surroundings and character thoughts.

There are old names I would have loved to have seen included, but understandable this is the next generation’s story and you can’t include the old guard just for nostalgia purposes and to satisfy the long time fans. But those that are included are a joy to read about.

There are surprises, wonderful surprises, and less wonderful surprises, and I can already see opinions divided about the story, but as I say, I loved it, I devoured it. I loved every character for so many reasons, they have come across complex and full as any novel could make them, and it’s wonderful in a way to see the idiolised characters with faults and human mistakes of their own, even in the wonderful wizarding world.

Overall I think the writers did a wonderful job capturing the original Rowling style, and Thorne’s play reflects the amazing world Rowling spent so long creating. I was surprised, delighted, shocked, and concerned about so much in the story and it has certainly provided enough new material and controversial topics for lengthy debating to occur. Whether that is a good thing overall I’m not sure.

I hope your own Harry Potter experience has been spoiler free, and that you derived some enjoyment from the story if you were one of those who were not thrilled at the plot, or the fact it exists at all. Personally, I’m glad it is a play and not a new book, and I’m glad, that while I won’t get to see the play, I could experience it all the same. I could easily and happily see this as a fitting end to Harry’s life and story, but whether that is to be the case, we’ll have to wait and see.

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