7th Blogiversary Celebrations + Int Giveaway!

As slow as 2019 was, the year seems to have come around quickly again as January means I get to celebrate my blogiversary, the day I took the plunge and started my blog all those years ago. There’s no seven year itch in sight as I make this blog into something which has taken up a lot of my life and something I genuinely enjoy doing and sharing with you all. I have found myself thinking about my ten year anniversary already which I really must not do because that is a ridiculous time, not to mention three years away. But while it has been a somewhat chaotic and often rewarding time, the past seven years seems to have gone by in a flash and those early years seem a lifetime ago.

Now that I‘ve become settled in my blogging routine it has become a stable, everyday party of my life that honestly I couldn’t see myself not doing. It’s a great habit to have though, sharing amazing books, sharing my favourite reads and spreading the book love, and maybe even introducing someone to their new favourite read.

Last year was my big reflection year, this year I am only here to be grateful for the amazing opportunities I have had since I started this blog and for the amazing people who read it. Not to mention the books I have had the chance to read, the new authors I’ve discovered which I never would have found if I hadn’t agreed to review their books, and the wonderful community I’ve become a part of.

To celebrate I’m running my giveaway featuring eight of my favourite books. I haven’t actually released my Top 5 of 2019 yet but I’ve added them into my giveaway, I’ll let you guess which ones are which. I’ve also added in a few of my favourites reads which I thoroughly enjoyed and think everyone should read.

The Selection

His Hideous Heart edited by Dahlia Adler

The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman*

The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson*

The Adventure Zone: Murder on the Rockport Limited by The McElroys*

The Wicked Prince by Holly Black*

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

What If? by Randall Munroe

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

 

*These items are sequels to other books that possibly won’t make any sense if you haven’t read the first one. Keep that in mind when picking your book.

 

To enter: For a chance to win one of the pictured books simply enter here and complete the Rafflecopter form.

Please note: This giveaway is international on the basis the Book Depository ships to your country. To see if you are eligible you can check their website.

Thank you for helping me celebrate and if you entered the draw I wish you the best of luck!

Giveaway runs until midnight AEDT on Thursday 20th February 2020

Isaac and His Amazing Asperger Superpowers by Melanie Walsh

Published: 22nd March 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Candlewick Press
Illustrator: Melanie Walsh
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Isaac may look like everyone else, but he actually has superpowers that make him different from his brother and his classmates. Even though he’s not really a superhero — he has Asperger syndrome, which means his brain works a little differently.

Straightforward and engaging, Isaac’s first-person narrative will help kids see the world through the eyes of a child with the high-cognitive type of autism spectrum disorder commonly known as Asperger syndrome.

This is a book that celebrates the great talents and explains the challenges that a child with Asperger’s might face. It turns Isaac’s differences into his own superpowers. His boundless energy lets him play for hours on the trampoline, and he is always thinking of things therefore he might forget to say hello to someone.

The narrative explains some of the downsides too like being sensitive to noises and not wanting to look people in the eye, but Isaac remains positive and includes some handy tips he knows to help. Isaac is very positive about his superpowers, he sees them as an advantage to his day to day life and I think this is a great way to approach it. While there may be difficulties having a child with Asperger’s, or interacting with one, it is good to know that it doesn’t have to be a constantly negative thing or become a huge issue if you understand where the child is coming from.

The illustrations are simple but big and there is a lot of focus on what the text is saying. The colours are bright and bold but they are a good representation of what is being described and add a clear visual of the story.

Walsh has created a great book for helping kids understand someone they may know who has Asperger’s or even help a child understand themselves a bit better. The first person narrative lets reader’s see things through Isaac’s eyes and enables them to relate on a better level. It’s a good beginner’s guide to understanding Asperger’s in an enjoyable story format.

You can purchase Isaac and His Amazing Asperger Superpowers via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Goodwood by Holly Throsby

Published: 1st October 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Allen & Unwin
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

It wasn’t just one person who went missing, it was two people. Two very different people. They were there, and then they were gone, as if through a crack in the sky. After that, in a small town like Goodwood, where we had what Nan called ‘a high density of acquaintanceship’, everything stopped. Or at least it felt that way. The normal feeling of things stopped.

Goodwood is a small town where everyone knows everything about everyone. It’s a place where it’s impossible to keep a secret.

In 1992, when Jean Brown is seventeen, a terrible thing happens. Two terrible things. Rosie White, the coolest girl in town, vanishes overnight. One week later, Goodwood’s most popular resident, Bart McDonald, sets off on a fishing trip and never comes home.

People die in Goodwood, of course, but never like this. They don’t just disappear.

As the intensity of speculation about the fates of Rosie and Bart heightens, Jean, who is keeping secrets of her own, and the rest of Goodwood are left reeling.

Rich in character and complexity, its humour both droll and tender, Goodwood is a compelling ride into a small community, torn apart by dark rumours and mystery.

This doesn’t feel like a mystery per se, there is a mystery, two mysteries, but a lot of the surrounding story covers the nature of the small town and the day to day lives of those in it. There are moments where there’re clues and accusations, and you do wonder what happened to the missing people, are they connected, is it innocent or is it foul play? Throsby does a good job having a mystery woven into the day to day lives of this small town community. She manages to depict small town life in a way that feels like a welcoming place, but is also one where everybody knows everyone’s business and there are secrets hidden for a good reason.

This is a slow story that draws you into the characters and the town, establishing the scenes and the players while the mystery happens around it. There are a lot of names and connections to keep track of but while it feels busy, it does give a sense of how involved in everybody’s lives the town is and how everybody is known to one another. The characters help create the setting as much as the descriptions of the surroundings do.

Throsby has spread out the timeline and the mystery is satisfactory without feeling obvious. There are surprises and clues throughout and what seems innocent could become more crucial later on. I enjoyed how Throsby makes the missing people first and foremost, while also making the reader wait and find out what happens. Town life carries on afterwards and it brings a sense of reality to the story. Certain people will be affect more than others, the businesses must keep running, lives go on, even if deep down everyone has been affected in some way by what has happened.

The 90s setting was fun. It isn’t obvious or over the top but it is there enough to know when the events are happening with casual references to Nirvana, overalls and other minor references giving a 90s feel to the story naturally. Overall it was an enjoyable read and one where the few surprises and revelations add to the small town dynamics where things are not always as it seems.

You can purchase Goodwood via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

DymocksFishpond  Amazon | Amazon Aust

Angel Mage by Garth Nix

Published: 30 September 2019 (print)/26 September 2017 (audio)

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Publisher: Allen & Unwin/Bolinda Publishing
Pages: 472/15 hrs and 3 mins
Narrator: Kristin Atherton
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Epic Fantasy
★ ★ ★ – 3 Stars

More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.

A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, summoning angels and forcing them to do her bidding.

Liliath knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighboring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendants. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will turn to ash. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives.

But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her. It is four young Sarancians who hold her interest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic. They are the key to her quest.

The four feel a strange kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfil her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else.

This story is an investment. It is slow and vast and while it takes a little while to wrap your head around it, once you are immersed into this fascinating world Nix has created it is quite interesting, especially when you realise how complex and simple the story itself is. I will admit it took me a couple of goes to start this but I made myself return and I’m glad because it was a different kind of story which made it interesting.

Once the explanation is established about how summoning angels works with icons and icon makers, seeing how society works is fascinating. Whether to sacrifice your own days, months, years for the use of Angel Magic is a great decision and the way Nix has created varying levels and rules and restrictions is a testament to his world building capabilities. The grander explanation is revealed gradually and with a few key scenes that explain how the use of magic works with character dialogue and inner thoughts to help you grasp it fairly quickly. The multiple character points of view allow great insight into this world and the history, as well as the rules and limitations that exist. Nix also skilfully uses these scenes to advance the plot so every part of this lengthy tale is used with purpose.

It is easy to see how this may be seen as slow. Initially I thought so too, especially as an audio, but if you immerse yourself in the world, with these characters and their various lives, overlapping and coming together it wraps itself around you and it plays out reasonably well. The time is justified, it doesn’t drag out, but a lot happens which is used to build up to the climax and the war, not to mention getting all of the many players in place. The inspiration for this story was the Three Musketeers and you can see this in how Nix has reimagined the Cardinal and her guards. I loved all the female representations, even though they are still called sir it was always a surprise to have everyone important and high up be female as well as many other characters. It was another great change on the well-known story and a great improvement.

To be fair there are a lot of characters to keep track of, but only a few end up being ones that keep coming back and you have the time in the narrative to get to know everyone and their roles. I enjoyed the characters of Agnez, Henri, Simeon, and Dorotea a lot. Each of their different lives are another fascinating look at the world, and seeing the events that bring them together is clever and full of creativity on Nix’s part. They are full of personal history and have great character depth and having listened to this as an audio I got a range of wonderful voices as well.

Atherton does a great job as narrator. Her reading is well paced, can be slow at times but it is also an addition to the grandeur of the story. Dealing with angels and magic, even if it is common occurrence, doesn’t stop the story from feeling epic. I really liked this different type of fantasy, it is a love story across time and magic, of musketeers and angels that was exciting as it was profound. I’m glad I persevered because I appreciate the world Nix has built, the drive behind Lilliath, and the diversity in his characters. Plus it was a really satisfying ending which is a great reward.

You can purchase Angel Mage via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Wordery | Angus and Robinson

Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

A Day at the Show by Gwyn Perkins

 

Published: 31st July 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Affirm Press
Illustrator: Gwyn Perkins
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Doreen the hen has laid another perfect egg! Little Iggy and Grandad think she deserves to win a prize.

What follows is a family trip to the colourful chaos of the Show, filled with spinning tea cups, merry-g-rounds, lots of animals and some healthy competition.

Here is a story about family adventures, the magic of the show, and the joy of running one tiny car into another.

From Perkins’ first book A Walk in the Bush I’ve slowly grown quite attached to these stories. I love Grandad and Iggy and I love the little conversations he has with the cat and how he helps him have adventures and appreciate the world around him.

This time round Iggy and Grandad go to the show because of how proud Grandad is of Doreen and her egg laying ability. He wants to show off her skills and while they’re there have a great day at the show.

The simple conversations are quite profound and somehow Perkin’s makes a regular thing like going to the show seem even more fabulous and adventurous. The illustrations are bright and colourful and a little more cartoony considering many livestock are riding the merry-go-round and buying show bags. But the enthusiasm from grandad and Iggy’s silence is adorable and endearing and I love their little adventures.

I love how the animals are not only being judged but also are the ones enjoying the show. Grandad and Iggy explore everything that makes these shows fun – the woodchop, the show bags, the animal judging. It reminds me of the many times I’ve been to the Royal Easter Show and it’s something many people can relate to even if it is only a local fete or carnival.

I look forward to the many other adventures I hope this pair will have. It is a great exploration of Australian culture and yet is timeless and could be anywhere at all. It’s a simple story but it is filled with heart too.

You can purchase A Day at the Show via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 FishpondAmazon Aust

Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

Published: 2nd January 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Love is more than meets the eye.

On his first day at a new school, blind sixteen-year-old Will Porter accidentally groped a girl on the stairs, sat on another student in the cafeteria, and somehow drove a classmate to tears. High school can only go up from here, right?

As Will starts to find his footing, he develops a crush on a sweet but shy girl named Cecily. And despite his fear that having a girlfriend will make him inherently dependent on someone sighted, the two of them grow closer and closer. Then an unprecedented opportunity arises: an experimental surgery that could give Will eyesight for the first time in his life. But learning to see is more difficult than Will ever imagined, and he soon discovers that the sighted world has been keeping secrets. It turns out Cecily doesn’t meet traditional definitions of beauty—in fact, everything he’d heard about her appearance was a lie engineered by their so-called friends to get the two of them together. Does it matter what Cecily looks like? No, not really. But then why does Will feel so betrayed?

This is an interesting book because it makes you think about whether given the option, would vision impaired people chose to gain their sight? Like most groups there are arguments for and against, there are people who have no desire while others would give it a go. Will is someone in the camp of wanting his sight but Sundquist makes it a gradual decision, something which has developed as he experiences more things with sighted people. Personally I was surprised Will chose to do this. I understand completely that being blind in a world so reliant on sight would be incredibly hard, but Will never seemed to worry about it, his change of heart comes from his time with Cecily and it makes him reconsider.

Sundquist does put forward both sides of the debate, Will’s dad makes a good argument for why Will doesn’t need to have sight for his life to be fulfilled, and showcases the amazing skills he had gained from living his life without sight. Even for a fiction book it was incredibly hard for me to wish Will didn’t get the surgery. It isn’t for a sighted person to tell someone they shouldn’t get a chance to see, but I will admit I agreed with Will’s dad at the start, he had developed a range of skills that he would lose when sighted. Where Will’s dad was against the surgery I thought his mum was pushing for it. I felt like her desire in life was to “fix” Will, while nothing is stated outright I felt like his inability to see had been a burden on her life and she never trusted him to navigate the world on his own, giving him sight would free her from this.

One interesting component was the way we are brought into Will’s sightless world. There is great imagery and explanations about how he goes about his day to day life and I will admit it was quite fascinating seeing him learn and understand about the sighted world. Things sighted people learn naturally are completely incomprehensible to him and I liked the gentle and vivid way those around him explained things. On the flip side, I loved how Cecily explains images and experiences to Will. They capture a moment in vivid detail that even if you can’t picture it, you grasp the concept. It was a clever approach and something her character would be capable of doing.

I liked Cecily, she was friendly and helpful and her friendship with Will develops and grows in a believable way. I initially was annoyed that Will would find Cecily unattractive because of something simple, but Sundquist actually explains it quite well about how it is much deeper than looks, it is about trust and betrayal. I was prepared to argue when I picked what her secret was, but to his credit Will handles it well and adds a few reflections and arguments of his own about the nature of beauty and societal expectations.

I was curious why Sundquist chose this topic, as an amputee he understands what it can be like missing something, but it was an interesting experience to chose to write from, especially one where it essentially gets “fixed”. Sundquist adds suspense and uncertainty whether Will’s operation will succeed which gives some extra tension, especially since we’ve follow Will’s fears and wishes about wanting to experience the sighted world. Whatever you think about his decision it is a sweet story and one that demonstrates the differences between the sighted and non-sighted world. The focus of the book is about Will and his sight, but there are heartfelt moments about friendship and living a full life around that as well which gives it a bit more narrative variation.

You can purchase Love and First Sights via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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