The Frankenstein Adventures by Bil Richardson

Published: 3rd October 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Creator Studios
Pages: 136
Format: ebook
Genre: Fantasy/Adventure
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

This is the story of Frankenstein told from the vantage point of Igor, the bumbling, brave boy who will risk everything to save his master’s flawed creation. Hilarious and heart-warming – this is a book that will make you stand up and cheer one minute and fall down laughing the next. Igor’s heart is in the right place even though parts of his body aren’t. He is a loveable, lopsided fellow who has more courage and strength than any of the adults who look down on him. When things go wrong with his boss’s “experiment,” Igor sees it as his duty to save the day – even though most days he is the one who needs saving. Our hilarious hero has to overcome enormous odds on his mission to rescue the most important achievement in human history – the creation of life. Follow Igor on his amazing adventure to prove that he is more than just a not-so-pretty face.

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

The blurb is slightly misleading, and while there is truth that Igor does set out the save his master’s creation, the story is not entirely his as the third person perspective offers insight into many different characters, new and old. While it is a retelling of the traditional Frankenstein story, Richardson takes it further and it becomes a story about family, friendship, and discovering the monsters of the world are not the most obvious.

The writing is straightforward but weave a detailed and in-depth story. The tone is one kids will love; Igor and the other characters are funny, there’s snark and drama and puns, and seeing the domestic side of Frankenstein brings in all the scary, gross, fun kids will love. Where Richardson shines is that while it is light-hearted and silly, there is also heart and warmth.

The first part of the narrative retells the original story with a few extra twists and characters to get to know. We follow Frankenstein’s monster as he flees the castle, we see locals as they hunt after him, and we follow the angst of Igor and his master as they work out what to do. From there we see the story continues through the eyes of various characters as the story moves into one of friendship, jealously, and drama.

The tone is suitable for the intended age group but there is no hiding from the scientific methods or descriptions either. We know Frank is burned, with scars and the traditional story is but a lot of the elements are there about violence too. The characters are sweet and endearing once the story gets going and you see the emotion and their misguided goodness. The violent side is restrained but regular but you see the good versus evil in each altercation and know who the bad guys are.

Richardson demonstrates that Frank (as he’s named himself) is not the real monster, nor is Frankenstein either. There are messages in there about kindness and being a friend and how monsters are made by people and what blind judgement can do. There is also a fantastic message about what makes a family. A great story for kids to enjoy where they can experience the Frankenstein story without delving right into Shelley’s horror masterpiece.

You can purchase The Frankenstein Adventures via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Beginnings: An Australian Speculative Fiction Anthology by Various Authors

Published: 24th November 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Deadset Press
Edited by: Jocelyn Spark, Alanah Andrews, and Austin P. Sheehan
Pages: 147
Format: ebook
Genre: Anthology
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

16 stories. 16 Australian authors. One theme. Beginnings. 

Esmerelda is trapped in a nightmare, unable to wake and escape from the darkness. 

A simple bus trip turns into a fight for survival. 

Alone in a strange place with no memories of who she is or how she got there, Alora’s world changes forever. 

Note: I was asked to review this anthology by one of the editors

From an incredible first story I was excited by this anthology. I was amazed at the variety of styles and stories that each of the writers came up with for the same theme. “Beginnings” means a lot of things and it is evident that each of these writers has chosen their own interpretation of that.

The opening story Edge might be one of my favourites but a few other stand outs include The Inheritance Experiment, Next Journey, and Break the Spell. There is a mixture of settings and writing styles and you can clearly see the speculative nature woven through each tale. I loved discovering how each writer chose to interpret that and how it is explored in the setting of their stories.

With any anthology there will be those stories that appeal more to some people than others. Some of the stories blew me away while some actually managed to creep me out a bit. Within the speculative guidelines there is also some horror and some fantasy in these stories, as well as a range of contemporary settings. One thing I like about speculative stories is they are so broad that they can cover almost anything strange, unknown, magical, and mystical.

There are fantastic short stories that grab you from the start and amaze you as they finish, there are stories that read like a great prologue of a bigger story yet to come, but there are also a few that read like short chapters that didn’t seem to go anywhere. Thankfully those were the minority as many of the stories were truly captivating.

You can purchase Beginnings via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Once by Kate Forsyth

Published: 1st April 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Wombat Books
Illustrator: Krista Brennan
Pages: 32
Format: Paperback
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Once, a long time ago
My grandmother’s grandmother
Travelled far, far across the seas

Kate Forsyth tells tales of her ancestors’ lives in Australia in this beautifully illustrated picture book. From the first perilous journey to a new land, to the great wars and civil rights movements, readers live through key moments in Australia’s fascinating history.

This is a beautiful story about the power of stories and the impact they have on those who listen. Forsyth tells us the story of her family and the stories they passed down as they lived through all the important moments in Australia’s history, not to mention the strength of the women who experienced them. It is a beautifully simple tale about telling your own story, and the power your own story has.

Brennan’s stunning illustrations accompany Forsyth’s words with colour and vibrancy. The full page, complex scenes are beautiful and filled with rich colours, each page telling its own visual story as well.

There are not many words or rhyme, but there is a repetition and a pattern that becomes more powerful the further the story progresses. It makes you realise that in a few generations the world can change, but it also is brought to life through those who remember it.

Forsyth’s words are simple but impactful and evoke a lot of meaning. I loved that we see the generations of now and long ago, cherished and remembered through a connection of stories.

You can purchase Once via the following

Dymocks | Amazon Aust

Booktopia | Angus & Robertson

Lightning Tracks (#1) by A. A. Kinsela

Published: 1st November 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Plainspeak Publishing
Pages: 260
Format: ebook
Genre: YA Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Nick isn’t a warrior. He knows some basic karate, but that’s it.

So when an assassin turns up to settle a blood debt, Nick narrowly escapes with his life. In his haste, he unwittingly flees to Korelios, a place he thought existed only in his eccentric aunt’s ancient legends.

All too soon, he finds himself caught in the middle of a war, and he must make an impossible choice: do his duty or follow his heart.

His choice will decide the fate of an entire civilisation.

Note: I was asked for a review by the author. 

I was curious about this story because while there were some elements that I was wary about, I was also intrigued. Fantasy and I have a love/hate relationship so while I was open minded, I was preparing myself. Thankfully my worry was all for nought because this is a wonderful Australian fantasy. It is refined and simple yet has a detailed and engaging story that has all the elements that makes a fantasy a fantasy.

Kinsela keeps the fantasy world elements close to our own, Korelios is another realm overlapping our own world with differences but a familiarity as well. Kinsela herself calls it an alternative history/fantasy novel and I think that is an apt description. The world is vast, made up of different cultures, languages, and has its own important history. The Australian landscape plays backdrop to both realms which was something that I really enjoyed. The characters may speak different languages and not actually be in Australia, but they still have emus, goannas and kangaroos. The world reflects Australia and as an Australian it is wonderful to see the Australian environment be able to be used in this type of storytelling, it is suited for this genre quite well.

Our introduction to the world is told through dialogue, character observation and thoughts, as well as natural story progression. Kinsela cleverly avoids the long paragraphs of description and world building and instead weaves it naturally through the story where the reader can piece together new and old information and construct the world in their mind. The world is rich and complicated but it is easy to understand.

Nick is a character I fell in love with right away. His voice is perfect and his personality is one of a defender more often than a fighter which I loved. Nick is a good kid but has had troubles and his loyalty is a blessing and curse. It’s not just Nick, all of Kinsela’s characters are well developed and from their first introduction she captures their voice and you know who they are. I was already so engrossed in Nick’s story that when it changed points of view I was surprised, certainly intrigued, but it adds a whole extra level of storytelling and suspense.

One thing I was not expecting was to still be so engaged continuously and especially at the end. Kinsela maintains an ideal pace that keeps the story flowing naturally but not fast enough that the reader feels like things are being brushed over. Conflicts are raised and resolved and new ones form in suspenseful and captivating ways while the longer story stretches out. I will admit I had reservations with some elements but Kinsela uses her characters well and in ways that feel true to who they are.

This story was full of delightful surprises and I cannot wait until the second book comes out because I would love to see where Kinsela takes these characters and this wonderful story.

You can purchase Lightning Tracks via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon Aust | Amazon

The ANZAC Day Parade by Glenda Kane

Published: March 29th 2010Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Puffin Books NZ
Illustrator: Lisa Allen
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

On Anzac Day an old man, a former member of the 18th Battalion, and a young boy meet – the young boy wide-eyed and wanting to hear the glories of war and death – the old man quietly sad to remember the reality of what was faced.

“Age won’t weary him, he said, but boy, it’s wearied me”

This is a solemn story that has heart but also packs a punch with importance. The ANZAC Day parade brings out the young and old, to honour those who fought in the war, those who came home, and those who did not.

The perspective is of a young boy who has attended the parade, whose eye catches an elderly man, a straggler after the ceremony. He asks for him to tell of the glory of the war, what it was like to fight. The answer the man gives is not one filled with glory, but it is one filled with truth and heartache.

The innocence of a child is a naïve but ignorant voice against the veteran. This was a story I was not expecting; it shoots down the idolisation of war and what those who have never been expect. I was surprised that there is not much of a narrative, but each page has beautiful words about the pain and suffering, but eloquently expressed.

The education of the boy is the perfect framework for this story, but it isn’t the focus either. As the veteran gets lost in his memories so do we as a reader looking at illustrations of the age, the youth, and the memories.

There is no violence shown, there are beautiful drawings by Allen as she captures the gravity of Kane’s words. I liked the solemnity that the boy depicts, a contrast from the spark before, not to diminish him, but to show that the conversation with the veteran has had an impact. Understanding of the day.

There is as much emotion in the illustrations as there is in Kane’s simple words. I found myself impacted by Kane’s words, as well as Allen’s illustrations. Knowing what ANZAC Day means to Australians and New Zealand and the marches that grow yet diminish each year. The beautiful drawings accompany the powerful words and you can see the tone Allen is conveying. The realistic depictions of the man and boy, as well as the surrounding areas puts you there with them. At the memorial, in front of the list of names. It is a reminder of being at these parades and the meaning they hold.

There is information about a WWII battle in Crete at the back which reminds readers it isn’t just WWI that ANZAC honours. It is every war, every war and battle Australians and New Zealanders fought in. As depressing as it can be to read these stories, I enjoy that there are still so many beautiful ways we can tell the stories of these brave men and women of history. How they are not just names on a wall, not just people who march. They have had a huge impact on our world and to honour them, even in a picture book, is simply wonderful.

You can purchase ANZAC Day Parade via the following

QBD | Booktopia

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