Black by Fleur Ferris

Published: 22nd July 2016  Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Random House Australia
Pages: 276
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Ebony Marshall is in her final year of high school. Five months, two weeks and four days . . . She can’t wait to leave the town where she’s known only as ‘Black’. Because of her name, of course. But for another reason, too.

Everyone says Black Marshall is cursed.

Three of her best friends have died in tragic accidents. After Oscar, the whispers started. Now she’s used to being on her own. It’s easier that way.

But when her date for the formal ends up in intensive care, something in quiet little Dainsfield starts to stir. Old secrets are revealed and terrifying new dangers emerge.

If only Black could put all the pieces together, she could work out who her real enemies are. Should she run for her life, or stay and fight?

I loved this book. I love how Ferris can make the simplest real life things turn into something creepy and unsettling. I love that she highlights these real life disturbing situations and turns them into something worthy of a horror story. My favourite thing is that with all the monsters invented over history, ‘it’s just people’ is often the scariest thing out there and Ferris knows how to bring these hidden real life monsters out from the shadows.

This is of course helped by having a character like Black. Her voice, her manner, her personality is perfect for this story, the right mix of everything. She isn’t a snob or some wild, social outcast who shuns people and they dislike her because she rebels. She has built a wall around herself to protect herself after life continues to torment her. I think Black is to be commended for her strength and the fact that she doesn’t let it change who she is, the fact her defences are there for her own sanity, is something I commend.

Ferris is always wonderful at creating strong family dynamics, and like Risk before, Black has a wonderful mother/daughter relationship. It was one I enjoyed seeing, the realistic love and protection and fierceness in both of them made them come to life. It wasn’t just two characters on a page that happened to be related, Ferris highlights their relationship well making them complex and genuine and they could easily be real people.

I loved the creepy nature of this story, Ferris makes it so vivid; I was there with Black with the uncertainty and the fear. I was drawn into the story by the subtleness and how the evil sneaks up on you, how the peculiarities of people suddenly snap and chaos unfolds. The tension and heightened emotion works well and Ferris paces it perfectly and makes you wait and wonder, and makes you wonder what will happen and marvel at the fact it is happening at all.

You can purchase Black via the following

Amazon AustBook Depository

Booktopia | QBD

Angus and Robinson | Dymocks

 

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.

Hamlet by John Marsden

Published: 8th April 2013Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Bolinda Audio
Length: 5 hours
Format: Audio CD (4 Discs)
Narrator: Humphrey Bower
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Hamlet’s father has just died. By the time they’ve filled in the grave his mother has remarried. Hamlet suspects foul play, and it’s troubling his spirit. Or maybe he was always troubled. Ophelia is in love with him. His best friend Horatio can’t work him out. Then, on a cold, still night, Hamlet meets the ghost of his father…

John Marsden, one of Australia’s most-loved writers, takes Shakespeare’s famous play and turns it into a moving and full-blooded novel.

I have wanted to read this novelisation of Hamlet since it was first published and I am so incredibly happy that I was not disappointed. It exceeded my expectations (whatever they were) and it has made me wish that more of Shakespeare’s plays were given the Marsden novelisation treatment because I think they would be divine.

Whether it’s Marsden magic or just the fact that the novel could include more detail, but I had so much more sympathy for Hamlet listening to this than I ever did with the play. Marsden’s words really brings out Hamlet’s home life and his despair, yes, he is a dramatic idiot and you roll your eyes at him at the start, but through the rest of the story you see what his life is like, what he is like, and you really pity him and for the situation his father put him in and how it affects him.

The plot follows the play in terms of events, I did find myself waiting lines to be included that are so well known from the play, but Marsden doesn’t fall for cheap copying, the same elements are there, the same moments, but Marsden doesn’t reduce this novelisation to simply adding quotes from Shakespeare in it.

The tragedy is there, Horatio is amazing and I love him throughout. He is my absolute favourite character in this whole thing. The extension of the story allows more character depth I found, you really get a sense of not just Hamlet, but also Ophelia, Claudius and the rest. Claudius’ villainy is evident; Marsden shows us his thoughts and feelings, his desires and plans in detail that offers explanation and depth to his character. The same is true of Ophelia as her love for Hamlet is expressed through the thoughts and actions of a young woman discovering who she is and what she wants.

Marsden doesn’t update the play either, the same events are there, but they aren’t modernised or anything. Set in a time with swords and ships the locations are the same, and Marsden’s writing feels write for the era in which it is set. Not overly complex but not basic either, very poetic and melodic at times, very Shakespeare without being Shakespeare.

This was my first time listening to an audio book and it was a wonderfully absurd contrast listening to a novel which is based on a play, meaning that it was like a radio play of sorts, even though it is not written as such. Humphrey Bower as narrator did an excellent job and because you are so engrossed in the story it’s easy to follow as the voices change and you’re hardly aware that is just one person reading. I would easily call this my favourite adaptation of Hamlet and I would readily sit down and read, or listen, to it all over again.

You can purchase Hamlet via the following

Print book

AmazonBook Depository

Booktopia | QBD

Audio

Amazon Aust | Amazon

Booktopia | Book Depository

 

 

 

The Snake Den (#2) by Nikki Rae

Published: 31st May 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Self Published
Pages: 163
Format: ebook
Genre: New Adult/ Paranormal
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

The box has opened a door to the dark place where the voice Corbin hears dwells. Not only that, but she’s brought it forth in human form, into her world, into the light. But others have been alerted to her existence, and Six is only the beginning of the imaginary becoming real. Torn between her love for Six and wanting a normal life, Corbin must decide if she should live in the light or hide in the dark.

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

After the cliff hanger Rae left us with at the end of The Crow Box, and with a title like The Snake Den for the sequel, it was easy to imagine all kinds of things and imagine what Corbin had gotten involved with. But in true Nikki Rae style there are revelations and developments in this book that surprise you, making you realise things aren’t always as they seem.

Corbin’s own misunderstandings and attempt to rationalise things means she draw her own conclusions and in the process influences ours, but as each of these are broken down or altered it changes completely where you thought the story was heading. Rae’s writing is lyrical, beautifully descriptive, and sometimes the perfect word conveys the perfect meaning, one word really can make a lot of difference.

While some answers are given, some are not, and some not right away, the cryptic answers and non-answers from Six means you’re always filled with intrigue about what has or will happen, but it also doesn’t crowd the novel and take focus away from other elements. Rae is always advancing the plot and not stalling for the sake of mystery but she is also very clever at weaving it and connecting it together, adding little bits at a time like adding a new square to a quilt. The pace is wonderful and the exploration and expression of Corbin’s uncertainty, her fear but comfort, and familiar attachment that she’d established in book one remains.

The main focus is on Corbin and Six, exploring their connection, relationship, however you’d describe it. But there are also other bits of life and detail scattered throughout; Corbin’s life without Six remains, her mother, her friends, and her schooling, but there is a strong focus on the two of them. This wasn’t a problem, I liked that we needed to take the time to address their situation, Rae doesn’t try to satisfy us with instant acceptance or understanding, nor does she gloss over it leaving the reader unsatisfied, especially after the intense and slow build up that worked so well in the first book.

Six is less of a mystery this time around but he isn’t entirely laid out with a back story, he has a personality beyond a whisper, more of a character now than a presence in Corbin’s ear and he’s a little cheeky and proud of himself which is fun. At times he is like a kid or a proud parent as Rae describes him and it’s cute watching him interact with Corbin and try to please and impress her, helping her understand. But he also isn’t an entirely lovely and placid figure either, there is always a sense that there is an intense power beneath the surface that could rise at any moment if there ever was a need.

There are surprises when you think it’s just going to be one type of story and Rae in true fashion sneaks a twist or two to throw you and taunt you for book three. She has a devious way of lulling you into a false sense of security and pulling you along with a vague tease that you’re uncertain will ever be addressed, before bringing it to a head in the final pages and you’re left once again, with a to be continued… when all you want to do is keep turning pages. This is an excellent next stage in the series and after the surprises in The Snake Den I cannot wait to find out what Rae has in store for Corbin and for Six.

You can purchase The Snake Den via the following

Amazon

Amazon Aust

 

Wish List (#4) by Belinda Williams

Published: 26th May 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Momentum
Pages: 280
Format: ebook via the publisher and NetGalley
Genre: Contemporary Romance
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Could the wrong man on paper be the perfect man in real life?

Cate Harmon likes lists. While this may serve her well as a financial planner, her girlfriends think that creating a checklist for her ideal man is going a step too far. But she has one, and she’s sticking to it.

Cate has always dreamed of starting a family and settling down and yet she’s the only one of her close-knit friendship group still unattached. But that doesn’t mean she’s going to lower her standards.

Enter Dave, a reformed bad boy with gorgeous hair and eyes the wrong colour. Dave doesn’t tick any of the boxes on Cate’s list. It’s unthinkable that she would develop feelings for him, and yet … Cate finds herself being drawn to Dave in a way she’s never felt before.

Will Cate confront the reasons behind her list? Or will she risk losing a man who could be better than any list she could ever dream up?

I legit had a massive smile on my while reading this book, even in the rocky parts. I think I said something corny when I started reading it saying it was like coming back home but it was true; I love these women so much and I love Williams’ stories about their lives and as soon as I started reading Cate’s story I was back in their world with Maddy and Scarlett and Christa. It was like I hadn’t left.

It’s not all big smiles and excitement though, Williams did bring a few tears to the surface in some part, but just for a moment. I’m not saying the book is 90% happiness and frivolity, but it was just so wonderful to read that every little thing made me happy, the conflict, drama, Cate’s frustration and denial, the SURPRISES! It was the perfect package and balance.

I’ve realised through this series that there’s a little bit of me in each of these women, possibly all the wrong bits to identify with but all the same there’s something in each of them I adore. I adore because despite them feeling insecure, having a duty of care, a desire to do the right thing, and having hidden secrets, they still get up and have a great life with beautiful friends. They don’t let themselves or their past stop them (well, eventually anyway).

Wish List is the final in the City Love series and after seeing Christa’s, Maddy’s, and Scarlett’s stories we finally get to explore Cate’s. Williams has been great at dropping snippets of information through all her books about each woman, and with Scarlett’s story Cate was given a closer look, just enough to tease you and build anticipation. Justified too because the Cate we discover is totally unexpected from the Cate we’ve gotten to know. Delving into her mind and life is wonderful and finding out more about her secretive past and seeing that she isn’t always the cautious and structured girl she seems to be is fantastic, like all the girls we see her grow.

Williams’ starts off the story slowly, almost as you’d expect, meeting a guy who isn’t the guy you expect to fall for, but even if you think you know what may happen, that it will follow some clear set of events, it won’t. Williams brings a whole new story to the table and brings complexity and depth and drama that doesn’t feel over the top or too messy, it feels real and justified and intense.

That isn’t even the biggest twist as Williams has five or six more up her sleeve that continually surprise you when you least expect it. She lulls you into feeling safe before pouncing and makes you remember all the little details you’d forgotten about because you were caught up and recovering from the last surprise. It’s easy to think this story is one big issue but it’s a bigger, deeper, more complicated situation that twists and turns and shocks and delights you. By the end you can’t believe you ever thought it was just going to be that simple. It’s not even close to being that simple.

For me this is the best and most wonderful ending to a series and a book I’ve read. Williams has always treated these women well and given them stories that suit them and that they deserve, this is no exception, and being the final book it also manages to be a farewell and big finale for the four of them. The continual surprises and little bits of joy and intensity are an emotional ride but I wouldn’t change a thing. As I read my heart was pounding, I had knots in my stomach, a smile on my face, continually holding in gasps and squeals as my eyes fled across the page trying to read faster and possibly physically immerse myself in the story.

One thing I admire about William’s writing is she makes wonderful romantic stories that are heart-warming, heartbreaking, and satisfying without making them overly sweet and mushy, or too innocent or risqué either. Getting inside the heads of these women helps balance that out because you see their reservations, their developing feelings and their reasoning behind what they do. You also fall in love with new characters and reacquaint yourself with the old ones. Dave is my favourite of all the boys in this series, even for his faults. With Cate’s narration we can see how he causes her so must frustration and angst, how his few words annoy her and confuse her. But through Dave’s actions we see a bit more of Cate as well, they balance each other out.

I could go on forever and talk about every little thing in this book but I won’t, I’ve gone on enough already, but I will say that there’s 101 things to adore in this story, it’s got everything, love, drama, friendship, excitement, the works. William’s has done a truly marvellous job and had wrapped up the City Love series spectacularly.

You can pre-order Wish List via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Amazon UK | Barnes and Noble

Google Play | iBooks Store

Kobo

AWW16

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