Thursday, July 25, 2013

Noah Dreary by Aaron Blabey


Aaron Blabey is one of my favourite picture book authors (you may know him from Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley or The Dreadful Fluff). Noah Dreary is his latest – a story about a boy who complains so much that his head falls off. What a hilarious concept. It's right in line with another of my favourites, When the Wind Changed by Ruth Park. I just love picture books that are cheeky and tongue-in-cheek, and that make a clever and engaging story out of a silly saying or idea.

I love the hilarious illustration style in Noah Dreary and it really compliments the story. The illustrations are at their best in the pages that depict all the things Noah complains about. The story is typical Blabey – quirky, irreverent humour, silly, familiar, and ultimately with a positive message. This is a book kids will love for the silliness, and parents will enjoy on a more adult level. Sublime.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Song for a Scarlet Runner by Julie Hunt


Song for a Scarlet Runner was picked up by me because I saw Julie Hunt was a Tasmanian author, and I am always interested to see what stories my old home state is producing. I was also a fan of Hunt's picture book 'The Coat'. I knew I would like Song for a Scarlet Runner because it fitted so perfectly into my favourite kind of book - middle-grade fantasy adventure, coming of age story, quirky, a quest of sorts. Hunt's book had all these things, plus two very important extras - humour, and a strong, independent, brave lead female character, Peat.

I loved the worlds that Hunt takes us into - from the boggy marshes with the cranky, crazy old Aunties; to the surreal nightmarescape of the Siltman; to the little villages and Town Hubs full of all sorts of oddball hustle and bustle. Peat's story moves along at a rapid pace, although I found I only truly got involved once Peat left the Overhang. I really enjoyed Peat's ambition and her desire to learn about the world beyond what she knows - she is inquisitive without ever being annoying or overbearing.

Hunt has created a charming cast of supporting characters. I loved the Aunties and their meddling, magical ways; I love Siltboy with his butterfly mind and lovable way of speaking (I have since read it is based on Anglo-Saxon poets). But my favourite character was by far the Sleek, who was naughty and infuriating, but one of those animal sidekick characters so completely lovable, I very near cared more about him than about Peat. Trust me, you'll love this guy and his attitude.

I thought Song for a Scarlet Runner was told in a lovely old-fashioned style, and I love the sense of adventure that runs through it. I also love that this is also a book about the magic and power of story-telling, and there is a strong folklore theme. Peat is a wonderful little character, and the story has a lot to say about courage and selflessness. I was thoroughly charmed by this book.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near


Fairytales for Wilde Girls is a book I went from being thoroughly engrossed in, to thinking it was overwritten, to admiring the luscious descriptions, to feeling a little put off by easy sentimentality, to absolutely loving the bubblegum-goth inspired descriptions, to cringing at a little too much heroine idolising. And yet, Fairytales is a glorious mish-mash of old and young, sweet and bitter, light and dark, classic and unique - so I guess my mixed feelings are quite adequate. Ultimately I quite admire it. It's the kind of writing I was doing and wanted to do in all my own creative writing uni classes, but always felt repressed by students and tutors who wanted serious, hip, navel-gazing statements - 'serious' writing that could only be taken 'seriously' if it was socially and culturally 'serious'. Meanwhile I was writing about trees that uprooted themselves and set off on magical adventures to find water. Fairytales for Wilde Girls speaks to the unadulterated, dreamer me who just wanted my writing to be beautiful.

I do admire creative license when it comes to writing, and lush, creative imagery - although a few instances throughout the book I thought, just a little, it was trying too hard. This relentless style of imagery does suck you in, though, added to the delicious contempo-magic world of Isola. Can a book be gothically sweet? Yes, this one is. It is very whimsical. Although I wish the author had pared back a little when it came to the ending, and tying the story together - it was overly-described, and thus I thought some of the beauty of it was lost.

Fairytales for Wilde Girls is set in among all the things I love - magic, gothic, fairytales, folklore, faerie creatures, coming of age, wicca, secrets, escaping to fantasy places. I love the idea of the six princes, and of having faerie confidants that no one else can communicate with. There are so many ideas here, and they are tied together in a very enthralling way.

The only sub-plot I didn't really care for was Edgar. So Isola got her happily ever after? But for a book that had a very strong feminine, female-orientated focus, I didn't really think the book needed to end with a love declaration to a male character. That is very paranormal-romance for me, and I believe Fairytales was Isola's personal growth story, not a love story.

I love that Random House (my own publishers) have the guts to publish something so unique, risky, and unusual. I don't know if I love it, but I love what it's all about

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ship Kings 02 Voyage of the Unquiet Ice


I love this series. The Ship Kings is fast becoming one of my favourite modern children's series, along with Michelle Lovric's The Undrowned Child, and Helen Dunmore's Ingo (sensing a sea theme, anyone?) The second installment in the Ship Kings, Voyage of the Unquiet Ice, had me enthralled from the get go. If you seriously want adventure - good, old-fashioned adventure, but at the same time modern and fresh - then Ship Kings are the books for you.

Andrew McGahan is a great writer - he knows how to enthrall, how to invoke emotion, how to write beautiful passages that portray a character's feelings, without being pretentious and flowery. Voyage of the Unquiet Ice also benefited greatly from upping the pace a bit: one of the things I thought the first book had working against it. This book, however, is pretty much a non-stop adventure - it is thrilling and dangerous and pushes the characters to their very limits, and it perfectly captures the wonder Dow feels setting out on his first real adventure at sea.

Once again the descriptions of the ocean, and the connection people have to it, are wonderful. The descriptions in general are wonderful - once we get to the 'unquiet ice', McGahan throws us into the cold, the wet, the eerieness, the stillness, the danger, the terrible beauty of the icebergs. The atmosphere leaks onto the pages. The way Dow's life on the ship is described is very informative, but never dry.

I really enjoyed the characters in Voyage of the Unquiet Ice. They are a terrible, brutal, and fascinating bunch, and Dow is a great character to navigate the waters around them. I also found the political side to the story (something which generally loses me in fantasy) easy to comprehend and extremely interesting. Having ship kings politics play out in the background while Dow embarks on his adventures gives the story urgency and weight.

Read these books. Do it. You may struggle to get into them at first because they are quite dense - but persist, because they are fabulous. I haven't enjoyed such a well-written book since I read Seraphina last year. Can't wait until the third one.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

'How Can We Help' my new play at ETC


If you head on down to the Essendon Theatre Company (Bradshaw Street, Essendon) tonight you will see my short play being presented on stage by some very talented and very funny actors.

'How Can We Help?' is a short play I wrote for Essendon Theatre Company's second season for 2013, Whatever Comes Along. It is set in the waiting room of a doctor's surgery and follows the dramas and quirks of the five patients waiting to see a doctor, and of course the harried receptionist. It was heaps of fun to write and is even funnier to watch (although I did feel like a bit of a loser laughing at my own jokes!) Directors Rosalin Shafik-Eid and Rhiannon Dhummet have done a great job, and it is really fulfilling to see my words (and also some of my own waiting room experiences) turned into a story on stage.

The show season runs from tonight, 13th June, to Saturday 29th June. All details can be found on the ETC website ( There are also two other short plays being presented on the night.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles 01) by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl


I chose Beautiful Creatures as my easy holiday read for a recent trip to Hawaii. 'Yes', I thought at the airport, 'A Ya gothic paranormal-romance read, that does sound like perfect escapism for a twelve hour plane trip, no stops.'


Instead, I wanted to escape the book. I read it through to the end because I do not like letting books defeat me, and I didn't want to miss out on a big reveal or anything that would happen that was so amazing it would make reading this book worth it.

My main problem with Beautiful Creatures is that it kind of sits at one level for it's one trillion pages (exaggeration). Nothing really happens. At least, I can't remember anything happening. The idea is a good one but the execution was kind of boring. The characters didn't grab me, in fact the only one I think who makes any kind of bang is Ridley.

And our two love interests - well, they don't have the smultzy teeney love stuff that I find commonly infuriating in paranormal YA, but they don't really have any sparks either. I honestly just didn't care how their relationship would end up by the end of the book; the stakes weren't high enough, and trying to connect their love story with the historical love story as played out by the ghosts in the locket - well, sorry, but I don't think much depth was added there either.

The writing is decent, the ideas great, the gothic atmosphere has a definite allure - but the story is dull. I understand there is a lot to build on in the future books, but I found Beautiful Creatures to be written a little lazily, and I don't have much inclination to follow the series through.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

New Writing

Author news

I will have some exciting news soon about my next writing project. Stay tuned!

Also here is the link to a really beautiful review by Vicki Stanton, writing for Buzz Words. I love this review because she really seems to understand the raven and what I hoped to convey when I wrote the book. Thank you Vicki for your beautiful words. Link here: Buzz Words Review

Guest Post on 'The Great Raven'

Author interview

Author and blogger extraordinaire Sue Bursztynski interviewed me for her blog 'The Great Raven' (apt name, right!?)

Here is the link:  Author Interview

I really enjoyed doing the interview and it was great to be able to talk a little about myself as well as the book.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Furnace 01 & 02: Lockdown and Solitary, by Alexander Gordon Smith


 Wow. I think this is a great YA series that exists very comfortably being a strange mish-mash of horror, action and dystopian fiction. There are some genuinely frightening ideas and creepy goings on in the Furnace series, but the books are also clever, suspenseful and involving. I found the writing to be perfect for the tone and style of the book. I read the first one rather quickly and then a few weeks later, I picked the second one up to chill out for a few chapters before doing something else, and then I ended up starting and finishing the book in one night. That hasn’t happened in years.

Lockdown is set in gen pop of the Furnace Prison when Alex is wrongly sent there and begins to experience some of the horrors the prison contains. The second book Solitary sees him in solitary trying to navigate the lower levels of the prison – the levels where the horrific laboratory experiments take place, where a battle is playing out gruesomely between the monsters of Furnace, and where every dark rocky corridor holds another grisly secret.

I think the ideas behind Furnace are fascinating. What I like best about these books is that the writing isn’t pulpy – there’s something very intelligent and emotive behind it. The main characters, who we’re meant to care about – I do care about them. I want them all to get out of the prison. And when some of them don’t, well it’s not like I break down in tears – but there is a sense of ‘oh, damn’, there.

Where the Furnace series is particularly successful is in how it creates suspense – there is a sense of constant anticipation and fear that runs throughout the books. How long till the monsters come for Alex in his cell? How long before the rats break into his solitary hole? Will they get caught before they can blow the cave and escape? How long till they get discovered in hiding? And so on and so on. It is quite harrowing. But it never feels like a cheap tactic to get the reader involved.

The Furnace setting is fantastic – all dark shadows and deep rock far into the bowels of the earth; all creepy laboratories and confined spaces and a darkness that you never know is a blessing or a curse. I understand that in future books Alex manages to break out of Furnace so it will be interesting to see how the story survives once it is set free from the prison.
I really enjoyed these books and think they’re great. I originally started reading them when I had to put together a list of horror books for one of our school library clients at the bookstore. The covers (the American ones) hooked me in. This is a series that I will see out to the finish. I highly recommended for mature teen readers and even horror fiction lovers who want an easy but involving read.

First published in 2009

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Wither by Lauren DeStefano


On a surface level I enjoyed Wither but there were parts of me that remained stubbornly incredulous and even a little bit derisive at times. This is a dystopian YA novel so I’m willing to suspend disbelief but I do feel a little bit of extra work on the world could have made Wither a more fulfilling read. Both the dystopian elements of Rhine’s world and also some of the character intentions felt lazy and frustrating. I also felt a bit iffy about it at times because the concept – one young man sharing three teenage ‘wives’, emotionally and sexually – well, I find that a little wrong, especially for a teenage book.

There are moments of beauty in Wither, which was mainly why I kept reading. I also really wanted to find out if Rhine managed to leave, and take Gabriel with her. There are a few passages where the author really captures that desperate, funked out atmosphere and sense of hopelessness – this I enjoyed. But then nobody ever did anything about it.

I enjoyed the three main characters in Wither – the sister-wives Rhine, Jenna and Cecily. The relationship that develops between them is the heart of the book (not the kind-of-forced twin-brother angle). I probably cared for Rhine the least, and found her the most un-multi-faceted, but I still did want her to successfully escape. Actually all the female characters in the book – from Rhine’s hand-maiden to the head cook to first-wife Rose – all exude some kind of personality. They are all likeable. The male characters don’t fare so well. Hopefully Gabriel will come out of his shell a bit more in future books.

I have heard this book referred to as a young ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ and I can see resemblances. The Handmaid’s Tale is one of my favourite books and I think the dystopian elements of it are near perfect. The dystopian elements of Wither are not.  I think it is catering more towards the romance element, and therefore YA fans of that will really enjoy it. Wither is quite moody and atmospheric, and actually quite different from a lot of YA dystopian action-based on-the-run books. I guess its uniqueness is a strong selling point. I enjoyed it, but only just.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Fire in the Sea by Myke Bartlett


Fire in the Sea is an exciting mish-mash of ideas – Greek god mythology, adventure quest, time travel, drowned city dystopia, contemporary coming-of-age story. It is exciting to me that an author can make a story like this and set it in a very recognisable Perth. I really admire the scope and imagination of Fire in the Sea, and I think for the most part it all works together in an intriguing and cohesive way.

This book won the Text Prize in 2012, which is why I’ve had my eye on it for a while. I really enjoyed how it started off with a lazy, long-hot Summer vibe; there was great atmosphere and hints of contemporary romance. Then it very quickly got quite weird and very unique.

Sadie was a solid heroine, although at times I think she was a bit selfish and should have treated Tom better. He was one of my favourite characters, and he had a nice quiet strength. Jake the ‘love interest’ had a fair bit of charm too, though. I like the menace that the author created around the Minotaur figure, although I felt that all the other ‘baddies’ were adequate but so-so.

What kept me reading Fire in the Sea was its uniqueness, the exciting fantasy ideas and the thrill of not quite knowing what was going to happen next. I am very much looking forward to seeing what else Bartlett has up his sleeve.

First published by Text Publishing in 2012

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

WIN What the Raven Saw

There is a competition at the moment over at one of my favourite blogs/websitres, Kids Book Review, to win one of three copies of What the Raven Saw. Details here: WIN. It closes March 10.

There is also a new review of Raven up at KBR. This is what they say:

"This engaging fable-like novel is thoughtful, entertaining and very funny. The debut novel for Australian author Samantha-Ellen Bound,What the Raven Saw is refreshingly different and thoroughly engaging."

 I like!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Younger Sun Bookshop


I will be at the amazing Younger Sun Bookshop tomorrow, to talk with kids about What the Raven Saw. Raven was their February book club pick. Can't wait to hear all their thoughts and answer questions. There will a signing at the store afterwards if you'd like to stop by. Pics to follow.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Month with April-May, by Edyth Bulbring


A terrific little YA book arrived instore yesterday. It is called A Month with April-May, and I first read it as a proof. I believe it will be a series, which is fabulous, because April-May February (real name) is a charming character with just the right amount of attitude and heart.

A Month with April-May would be perfect for readers of Jacqueline Wilson or Louise Rennison. Both the style of the writing and the characters/situations reminded me of their books. April-May is the new kid at Trinity College, admitted on a bursary and seemingly doing her best to mess it all up.

April-May is a bit offbeat, always honest and altogether quite charming. I love the snappy way this book is written and the wry observations. It is probably nothing we haven't all read before, but there was just a bit of extra dazzle about it, and the cast of secondary characters was really  enjoyable.

Recommended for early High School librarys, and teen comedy fans.

First published in Australia in 2013, by Hot Key

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Thirteen Treasures, The by Michelle Harrison


The Thirteen Treasures is a charming, fast-paced adventure story concerning one of my favourite fictional subjects: faeries. It won the Waterstone’s Childen’s Book Prize a few years back but has been off my radar until now – I don’t think it really took off in Australia as it did elsewhere. But it is a great read. It is interesting and intriguing, and the faerie lore, although a big part of the plot, never overwhelms the book. There are many adventures to have in the big old mansion with secret passageways, and the quaint village nearby, and the creepy, faerie-infested woods, and the faeryielore is wound into it all seamlessly.

I love the setting and the atmosphere Harris creates, and how little sub-plots or the next few clues are revealed every few chapters or so. This is what keeps the pages turning, and I thought the pacing was quite terrific and the writing very easy to read and escape into. I think it is written with a great knowledge of what holds children’s attention.

Faeries (the Celtic folklore-ish kind) are one of my fictional favourites when it comes to kid’s books. I have my own folders and books all about the  numerous beasties and faeries from British, Irish and Scottish folklore, and so I love it when I recognize the source material authors are working from. I really enjoyed Harris’ collection of household boggarts and the lore associated with them. She also manages to create some genuinely creepy, scary moments, which is offset throughout the book with lovely, subtle humour.

A big part of the book’s intrigue comes from most of the main human characters having hidden secrets, and the way these are teased out.  My only niggle was that I felt a few things came together all too easily near the end.

The Thirteen Treasures series (will read the next two soon) would be a great addition to a school library. They are perfect for a late primary audience.

First published in 2009 by Little, Brown

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Raven Launch tomorrow

What the Raven Saw is being launched at my bookstore, Book Bonding in Niddrie, 6pm tomorrow. All welcome. Above is the front window dedicated to ... me. And the raven, of course.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Raven Links

Latest Raven links full of awesome Raveny goodness:

Lovely review at Readings: What the Raven Saw

An article and pic on me that I did with the local Moonee Valley paper: here. The books as a background look superb; can't say it's the most flattering pic of me though. Ah well, what can you do. Wouldn't want to show the raven up, after all.

Some fascinating posts by the designer of Raven's cover, Astrid Hicks, on the full process of designing the book as you see it today: here.

Enjoy XX

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Various (Touchstone Trilogy 01) by Steve Augarde


Steve Augarde’s Touchstone Trilogy was recommended to me by a customer at the bookstore who knew I really enjoyed Colin Meloy’s recent Wildwood series. I looked them up; the cover art was gorgeous and they sounded like just the kind of kid’s fantasy I love. I have just finished the first book in the trilogy, The Various, and although I will most likely read the other two, I think I will have long breaks between readings.

The Various was written in the mid 2000’s, but the style, pacing, and themes feel like they belong to the 50s/60s era of children’s writing. This is not necessarily bad, as pretty much all my fav books come from this era. But The Various is perhaps lacking the charm and whimsy of the writing at this time – it feels a bit plain old-fashioned, but not in a hip modern way. I think kids, attuned to a snappy, action-filled and contemporary narrative, would struggle to get through it. It certainly took me a long time, and I persisted, because I hate to let a book defeat me. And though I feel like my efforts were rewarded, I can see how it would deter others.

I appreciate a lot of description, because I know, as a writer, how much you want the reader to see and understand your world as much as you do. But there is too much in The Various. Many passages get too long-winded and over-thought. It seems like we are not spared one thought from Midge’s head, about everything she encounters. This can get a bit tedious and make Midge seem precocious, while also putting the pacing off. The book is as long and languid as one of Midge’s lazy afternoons on the farm. Also, I felt at times it was maybe just a little indulgent, and came off as a little forced – I felt like, let the idea speak for itself, rather than trying to force feelings on the reader.

That being said, there is still lots to enjoy. The second half (or third?) of the book is where the pacing really steps up and the adventure starts to happen, and it is very enjoyable. I love the idea of a ‘faery’ tribe living in the overgrown woods, and thought learning about their world was interesting. And many of the secondary characters, and even the animals, were great fun. Augarde also does atmosphere well.

I hear the other two books, Celandine and Winter Wood, are the better books in the trilogy. So in a few months I shall pick those up and get reacquainted.

Book first published in 2003

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

'What the Raven Saw' launch

What the Raven Saw will be in bookstores, Australia-wide (and also Target, Big W, etc) TOMORROW. That is awesome. There will be a launch Friday 8th February. Pretty casual affair but will be heaps of fun, everyone is welcome. I will be happy to have a chat and sign books.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Literary Birds

What the Raven Saw's official release date is just over a week away and the book will most likely be going into bookstores this week. It will be so wonderful to see my cranky Raven out there, and to celebrate I thought I would shine a light on some of my favourite avian characters from literature. The raven likes to know he is in good company, after all.

1. The Raven, narrator of Marcus Sedgwick's The Raven Mysteries series. I read a couple of these after I had written What the Raven Saw, because I was interested to see another fictitious raven in action. I guess ravens are rather cranky by nature, because this one, too, is a ball of sly, sarcastic and outraged fun. Maybe they are cousins?

2. Tawny Owl in The Animals of Farthing Wood. Pompous and snobby, but also fiercely loyal. I enjoyed the characterisation in the television series, too (the show was pretty much the highlight of my television week, when I was a kid).

3. Kehaar in Watership Down. Great character, who is memorable far beyond just being the only bird in a tribe full of rabbits. I love his loyalty to Bigwig, his crankiness, his scorn, his idiosyncratic and funny way of speaking, but also his courage and loyalty to the rabbits.

4. The Raven in Peter S. Beagle's A Fine and Private Place. There must be something in the air in raven land, because this one too is a bundle of one-liners and sarcasm. He is a bit of a fan favourite, and adds some much-needed humour to this lovely, wistful and sad book. I remember laughing out loud reading some of his lines.

5. The White Pigeon in upcoming The Last Wild by Piers Torday. This book isn't out yet (I have a proof), but the silly white pigeon is a delight, and was quick to become my favourite.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Lost Voices by Sarah Porter


Mermaid fiction is one of my guilty pleasures when it comes to reading, and Lost Voices has been high on my list of ‘to-reads’ for aggggeeeees. I finally found it available in Australia through one of our smaller publishers, when I was uploading the new release files at my bookstore. Yet another reason why working at a bookstore is totally amaze!

Lost Voices is a unique mermaid story, quite different to the usual fare you get with YA paranormal fiction. There is no big love story, or triangle (although I believe that will be developed in future books), the premise of ‘becoming’ a mermaid is unique, and the story is pretty much entirely set in the ocean – i.e., the mermaids are not half-human, and don’t get around on land, and can’t go to school and all that YA-ish stuff. I really, really, loved the choices Sarah Porter made when constructing her story. The mermaids also do mermaid-ish stuff – sink ships, covet and steal human treasures, drown seamen by singing to them, live in caves. I think Porter obviously really loves mer-mythology, and that was what primarily kept me reading.

I would like to see, in future books, the mer-world expanded on though – I would like to be taken deep within that oceanic world, as Porter’s descriptions of sea-life are interesting, but mostly pretty and harmless. I would like to meet some more mer ‘tribes’, and I am interested to see how pear-shaped things get when humans begin to learn of the mer existence.

My big gripe with Lost Voices is that I really disliked, or didn’t enjoy, most of the characters. They are all mostly vain and shallow and silly, as I guess teenage mermaids should be, but I think there is room to go deeper, as is hinted at with the mermaid Kat. I REALLY couldn’t stand the ‘so hip’ way a lot of the mermaids talked, and personally I was glad at the end of the book when Luce decides that maybe that tribe isn’t for her. The best parts of the book are when the mermaids are in action, doing their mer-thing, instead of talking like Mean Girls rejects and squabbling over designer clothes.

Lost Voices certainly piqued my interest to read the rest of the series – if only it would build on the darkness, the haunting loveliness that appears in flashes, then I would be completely sold.

First published in July 2011
In Australia, November 2012

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Twitter @SamEllenB

My new Twitter account is @SamEllenB, which will cover all things bookish as well as all the silly, amusing, ridiculous and awesome things that occupy my time.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Feathered Man, by Jeremy de Quidt

First published in Australia in February 2013

Jeremy de Quidt's first children's novel, The Toymaker, blew me away when I first read it and quickly became one of my favourite children's books ever. The Feathered Man is much of the same - beautiful writing, mature ideas, grim and gritty action, memorable characters and an adventure story that rarely takes a breath for the whole length of the book.

I really enjoyed it; the only thing is the book is in that in-between stage of 'is it for teens or kids'? As an adventure story it's perfect, because I think it would completely suck kids in. The two lead characters, Klaus and Liesel, are compelling and easy to cheer on. De Quidt's pacing, his plot twists, the thrills and chills, and all his strange and wonderful characters are enthralling. But it is dark. A lot of the characters meet grizzly and often unfair deaths, and the writing is genuinely scary. I think many of the concepts about the after-life and the quasi-reality world Klaus slips into will also go over kid's heads.

In a nutshell, The Feathered Man is about a tooth-puller's boy called Klaus who lives in a German town. When his master goes to pull the teeth from a dead man at Frau Drecht's lodging house, he discovers a diamond, and steals it. But Frau Drecht and her beastly son want it for themselves. And a Jesuit priest and his Aztec companion want it for their own reasons. But so does the Professor of Anatomy and his protoge. Then there's the young girl, Liesel, who needs it to stay out of trouble. And then, of course, there's the Feathered Man who the whole mess revolves around. So who will get the diamond first?

As you can probably tell, De Quidt has a big cast of memorable, dastardly, unique characters. As in his first book, they are all gothic-inspired, and they all play a part in the chase for the diamond. De Quidt sure knows how to wring out menace and atmosphere. He is also an old hand (or maybe that's his editors!) at perfectly-placed chapter endings and openers - you will want to read on and on. The pacing is quite relentless, and this, combined with De Quidt's descriptions of the cold, inhospitable city, creates just the right amount of sinister atmosphere.

I thought The Feathered Man did not quite have the same emotional resonance as The Toymaker - some moments in that were so beautifully cold they were exquisite. But it is, even just on execution of such an imaginative concept, equally as stunning. I really don't know who to compare De Quidt's work with - he reminds me somewhat of the darker Grimm or H.C.Anderson fairytales. Darkly beautiful, and highly recommended.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

My Favourite Books of 2012

 Well I’m back from the New Year break and ready to enjoy 2013, the release of my debut children’s novel, and lots of awesome literary goodness. Below are my favourite reads of 2012; a selection of both new releases and backlist, because, let’s face it, who doesn’t have a backlist pile a mile high that they delve into all the time! It’s not really a ‘best of’ as such, just the reads that I loved and highly recommend. It was also fabulous last year to re-discover a lot of classic children’s books that I hadn’t read in a really long time. Never forget these and how important they are! They are still, and always will be, the inspiration for my own books.

Talina in the Tower, by Michelle Lovric & The Last Unicorn, by Peter S Beagle

The Last Unicorn becomes my favourite all over again every time I read it. Beagle’s skill with words is beyond brilliant and his imagination an absolute delight. We also had it in my bookstore a few times last year and it was a pleasure to hand-sell and introduce it to a new generation. Talina in the Tower was another ‘can’t put it down’ read by Lovric, who creates the kind of books that are beyond doubt new classics. For a mature children’s read, try her books.

Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman & Ship Kings 01 The Coming of the Whirlpool, by Andrew McGahan

Both Australia authors, fantastic! The fascinating complexities and bright, intelligent lead character in Seraphina thrilled me when reading. Can be enjoyed by both YA and fantasy readers. The Coming of the Whirlpool was a complex, difficult read, but I found myself completely won over by the time I’d finished reading. McGahan’s writing really creeps up on you and sucks you in.

Hooey Higgins, by Steve Voake

Hooey Higgins is a chapter-book series for kids, which follows the madcap adventures of Hooey and his crazy, creative schemes. Great illustrations, funny, and fun. 

Ship Kings 01 The Coming of the Whirlpool, by Andrew McGahan & Pure by Andrew Miller

It was McGahan’s writing that sucked me into this series – the worlds, atmosphere and interest he creates with his writing is spot on. Pure is an adult literary read, but oh my god,  I found the story and the writing breathtaking.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
I can’t remember now why I picked up this book, but it enchanted me start to finish. Hartman is a talent to watch.

Ghost Knight, by Cornelia Funke
I admit, I haven’t read any of Funke’s books until this one. Ghost Knight was a perfect spooky, funny adventure story for both boys and girls.

A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness
I saw it all coming, but I still cried along with Connor. The power here is in the simple, accessible way Ness shares Connor’s grief with his readers.

 The Scarecrows, by Robert Westall

Talina in the Tower by Michelle Lovric

The Monster in A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.  A lovely, but badass, metaphor.

Ship Kings o1 The Coming of the Whirlpool (hardback), by Andrew McGahan & Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. For internal illustrations, Ghost Knight & A Monster Calls

Wildwood 02 Under Wildwood, by Colin Meloy & The Feathered Man by Jeremy de Quidt