Zombies vs. Unicorns edited by Holly Black and Julie Larbalestier

Published: 21st September 2010 (print)/21st September 2010 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Margaret K. McElderry Books /Brilliance Audio
Pages: 415/11 hrs and 45 mins
Narrator: Ellen Grafton, Nick Podehl, and Kate Rudd
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Anthology
★   ★   ★  ★ – 4 Stars

It’s a question as old as time itself: which is better, the zombie or the unicorn? In this anthology, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier (unicorn and zombie, respectively), strong arguments are made for both sides in the form of short stories. Half of the stories portray the strengths–for good and evil–of unicorns and half show the good (and really, really bad-ass) side of zombies. Contributors include many bestselling teen authors, including Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfeld, and Margo Lanagan. This anthology will have everyone asking: Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?

What started as a discussion on a blog between Black and Larbalestier turned into an anthology where the merits or zombies and unicorns are discussed and explored. Both sides are given weight as the authors explain the good of their own choice and the bad of the other.

I listened to this as an audio and it was an amazing experience. The introduction alone was a delight as a serious, dramatic voice over explains how this anthology came into existence. Before the stories begin each author of the anthology is introduced with their side of the debate and I have no doubt wrote their own introductions because they sound exactly on point for each person. I loved the serious tone the introduction took because while the content was less serious the discussion was Very Important. The author introductions also add why each author likes their chosen subject: Scott Westfield invented the Zombie proof cravat, Kathleen Dewey brought up on a unicorn farm and learnt you can’t trust them, while whose unprecedented career as a land pirate could not have been achieved without her unicorn drawn pirate ship. The sound effects are fantastic and the fact that between each story Black and Larbalestier offer their opinions on the upcoming stories and the previous information provided add some great banter. There was even a sound effect to warn listeners that a story was coming so no unwary zombie fan will start listening to a unicorn story, or vice versa.

Even though Zombies vs Unicorns doesn’t seem like a theme, these authors have interpreted these subjects in incredibly creative ways. What is actually a zombie? What is a unicorn, really? Are they both as innocent or a menacing as we’ve led to believe? There’s stories that take a scientific approach to what constitutes a zombie, as well as the effects of having a unicorn in the modern day. I loved the modern zombie tales and I loved how there were dystopian stories that weren’t horror, but were still wonderfully creepy and zombie suited. The same can be said for the unicorn stories; they are often in the magical realm, though a few are in the real world and seeing the two collide was intriguing.

My favourites had to be Princess Prettypants by Meg Cabot, Purity Test by Naomi Novik, and Children of Revolution is such a Maureen Johnson story it’s hard not to delight in reading it. From the start I assumed I would be Team Unicorn because I have never quite enjoyed zombie stories but after seeing the unique ways that these authors have interpreted the concept, I am coming around. Looking from a stats perspective based on the stories I enjoyed and ones I didn’t, I am in a stalemate. I enjoyed four unicorn stories, four zombie stories, didn’t enjoy three and one I was undecided about. Where does that leave me? The ones I didn’t like were two zombie stories and one unicorn story. Does that make anything more solid? I really don’t know.

You can purchase Zombies vs. Unicorns via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

 

Long Lost Review: Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology edited by Danielle Binks

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 24th April 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
HarperCollins Australia
Pages: 322
Format: Paperback
Genre: Anthology/ Young Adult
★   ★  ★  ★  ★ – 5 Stars

With Anthology August underway I was fortunate to even have an anthology in my “read but not reviewed” pile. Begin, End, Begin is a fantastic example of Australia’s talent and YA capabilities. I loved all of these stories which is so rare with anthologies and I found some great new authors that I may never have discovered.

With a theme “Begin, End, Begin” there are so many ways it can be interpreted and I was astounded by the creativity of these authors. I think I loved almost every single one of these stories which is so rare with an anthology but with this calibre of talent who can really be surprised. I knew of, but had not read, a lot of these authors when this was first released and it was a great chance to see their writing style in small snippets, with a fabulous and engaging story. I still think about a lot of these stories two years later and is a testament to the quality and imagination of these writers. I’ve definitely read a lot more of their works since and it was a real benefit getting a chance to see their styles and fall in love with them first.

Some of my favourites would have to be ‘One Small Step’ by Amie Kaufman and ‘I Can See the Ending’ by Will Kostakis; both are amazing and certainly ones I have thought about often since. They aren’t the only great ones as there are some beautiful stories in here filled with heart and imagination.

There’s only ten contributors so there is a chance at a longer story from them all, but even so with a few short pages you are brought into these worlds or science fiction, contemporary, romance and diversity. If you are new to the #LoveOzYA phenomenon this is a fantastic way to get introduced to some great authors and see their talent in small, entertaining snippets.

George by Alex Gino

Published: 25th August 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Scholastic Press
Pages: 208
Format: Paperback
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

BE WHO YOU ARE. When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.

George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part… because she’s a boy.

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte—but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

I loved George from the get go. At ten years old, George knows who she is and she is tired of living as a boy like others see her. While she doesn’t feel she can do much about it just yet, she can dream. She is honest to herself and she keeps a very big secret but tries to not let it get her down. Gino gets us into George’s mind early on and we see how she sees herself and how she wants to express her true self to the world. She came across as every bit a ten year old, Gino doesn’t try to age her, but they do explore these feelings and thoughts George is having and how she struggles to be the person other people want her to be.

Gino pushes how gendered George’s life is and how she is always forced into situations that make her uncomfortable. The other explanation is that US school are so gender separated which is weird in itself. Either way, it helps to express how George is feeling and the decisions she has to make every day. The focal point of Charlotte’s Web and the play was divine and seeing George draw courage and comfort from Charlotte sometimes breaks your heart.

One of the important truths that Gino explores is that even the nicest parents may not be understanding. While George’s mother doesn’t reject her, she isn’t entirely accepting either. On the other hand I absolutely adored George’s older brother Scott. There is something great about older brother/younger sibling relationships which are so heartfelt, even if those moments are few. Kelly is also an incredible friend and accepting and supportive but not in an over the top or token way. She demonstrates how easily kids accept things, it is the adults who often need more convincing.

It was beautiful to see George and her relationship with Kelly develop even further during the lead up to the play and I loved George for her devotion and her bravery. This is a great message for everyone but especially for kids that anything is possible and while there may be some barriers, all you can do is try. I was expecting the play to be the final moment of George’s story but Gino takes it a bit further and doing so adds an extra element which in some ways may even more important.

This is such an significant book and Gino has done a fantastic job at showing the innocence and the maturity of young transgender kids and there is so much to learn from this story. Overall this is an uplifting story and seeing George’s personal development through the story makes your heart soar.

You can purchase George via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

How Rocket Learnt To Read by Tad Hills

Published: 27th July 2010Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Schwartz & Wade
Illustrator: Tad Hills
Pages: 40
Format: Paperback Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Star

This sweet picture book starring an irresistible dog named Rocket and his teacher, a little yellow bird, is perfect for back-to-school! Follow along as Rocket masters the alphabet, sounds out words, and finally . . . learns to read all on his own.

This is the CUTEST book. This is the story of how the little dog Rocket learns to read with the help of a little yellow bird. I can see this being a great book for teaching kids how to spell, though it’s not the sole purpose of the story. It is contained within an adorable story and coupled with the CUTEST illustrations. Hills makes Rocket so expressive and it really conveys when he is excited or annoyed or intimidated.

Hill’s narrative is adorable as well, this little bird starts reading a book and at first annoys Rocket but he soon becomes engaged and intrigued by the story and wants to know how it finishes. The little bird helps Rocket to read and teaches him how to spell all the wonderful things around him.

I love this book, it’s simple and easy to understand and a great tool in how to get kids engaged with learning to spell and how to practice in every day situations. Even away from that it’s a sweet story about Rocket and his love of learning to read and the steps he takes to read, all so he can read a story himself.

I loved seeing how proud Rocket was of his progress, the illustrations marry with the narrative incredible well, and the cute factor definitely played into my enjoyment. I found myself being proud of Rocket and his achievement and I was excited for him to read a story for himself.

You can purchase How Rocket Learnt to Read via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository | Dymocks

Angus and Robinson | Wordery

Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Goodbye Mr Chips by James Hilton

Published: 1st December 1982Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Laurel Leaf
Pages: 115
Format: Paperback
Genre: Classic
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

Full of enthusiasm, young English schoolmaster Mr. Chipping came to teach at Brookfield in 1870. It was a time when dignity and a generosity of spirit still existed, and the dedicated new schoolmaster expressed these beliefs to his rowdy students. Nicknamed Mr. Chips, this gentle and caring man helped shape the lives of generation after generation of boys. He became a legend at Brookfield, as enduring as the institution itself. And sad but grateful faces told the story when the time came for the students at Brookfield to bid their final goodbye to Mr. Chips.

 

I can see why this is a much loved and adored book. It took me no more than an hour to read but it is so heartfelt and beautifully written that I could have flipped back to page one and spent another hour in the life of Mr Chipping. This book follows the story of a teacher at an English school through the changes and historical events of the late 19th to the early decades of the 20th century. Mr Chips is wonderfully depicted and his love of his job and commitment is amazing. As the book ended I was so involved that while it was emotional, it was also comforting and almost reassuring I guess. I don’t really know how else to put it. I highly recommend this to anybody and everybody.

You can purchase Goodbye, Mr Chips via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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