Cinder (#1) by Marissa Meyer

Published: 5th January 2012 (print)/26 September 2017 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Puffin/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 387/10 hrs and 3 mins
Narrator:  Rebecca Soler
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult/Science Fiction
★   ★   ★  ★   ★  – 5 Stars

A forbidden romance.
A deadly plague.
Earth’s fate hinges on one girl . . .

CINDER, a gifted mechanic in New Beijing, is also a cyborg. She’s reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s sudden illness. But when her life becomes entwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she finds herself at the centre of a violent struggle between the desires of an evil queen – and a dangerous temptation.

Cinder is caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal. Now she must uncover secrets about her mysterious past in order to protect Earth’s future.

This is not the fairytale you remember. But it’s one you won’t forget.

I recently reread this book and it reminded me of all the things I loved about it. I loved that the Cinderella elements are there but it doesn’t follow the strict story either. Meyer inputs creativity and uniqueness into this age old tale and it shines because of it. The pumpkin carriage, the stepmother and the shoe are there but this is so much more than a fairytale telling. This is about cyborgs and colonies on the moon threatening war. The world Meyer has created is detailed and complicated but you fall seamlessly into this world and there was never a moment when I didn’t understand what was happening, why it was happening, or lost among the technical talk, the little that there is.

Set in the far future there are wonderful elements of our history present but a lot more new history to discover. Meyer doesn’t lump us with history lessons or attempt to provide long exposition chunks about what has happened in the world, instead she seamlessly weaves in=t through the entire novel, so that even as the final chapters close in we are still learning about this future world and those in it. At the same time though, not everything is explained, Meyer doesn’t need to give us every piece of detail and accepting this future and the developments is no issue at all as the focus remains on the brilliant story unfolding instead.

Cinder is a great character to focus on, her sarcasm, wit, and vulnerabilities make her relatable and ironically human given her cyborg components. There is detailed exploration of other characters such as the prince, Audrey her stepmother and other characters. The only one I felt left out was Pearl, I felt she was pushed aside as the obnoxious step-sister and not explored as well as the others but what is shown provides a component of her character at least.

The cliff-hanger Meyer leaves us with invites you to immediately jump into the next novel. So many revelations and unanswered questions but there is also a satisfaction because Meyer rewards us with an influx of answers and then pushes us on with more temptation and elements that feel finalised at the time but may not be that way.

If you love fairytale retellings, or love futuristic worlds where it’s not a dystopian wasteland then you should 100% read this series.

You can purchase Cinder via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins (#1) by Clint McElroy

Published: 17th July 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 First Second
Illustrator: Carey Pietsch
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Star

Welcome to the Adventure Zone!

SEE! The illustrated exploits of three lovable dummies set loose in a classic fantasy adventure!

READ! Their journey from small-time bodyguards to world-class artifact hunters!

MARVEL! At the sheer metafictional chutzpah of a graphic novel based on a story created in a podcast where three dudes and their dad play a tabletop role playing game in real time!

Join Taako the elf wizard, Merle the dwarf cleric, and Magnus the human warrior for an adventure they are poorly equipped to handle AT BEST, guided (“guided”) by their snarky DM, in a graphic novel that, like the smash-hit podcast it’s based on, will tickle your funny bone, tug your heartstrings, and probably pants you if you give it half a chance.

With endearingly off-kilter storytelling from master goofballs Clint McElroy and the McElroy brothers, and vivid, adorable art by Carey Pietsch, The Adventure Zone: Here There be Gerblins is the comics equivalent of role-playing in your friend’s basement at 2am, eating Cheetos and laughing your ass off as she rolls critical failure after critical failure. 

The Adventure Zone podcast is a love and obsession of mine. For years I have followed the McElroys and their work, inhaling anything they put out with enthusiasm. They satisfied my desire to experience D&D before I was able to get into a game myself. This is the beginning. The start of it all, the three year, emotional journey that I suffered through that was the best and most brilliant piece of creativity and storytelling I have ever had to honour of listening to.

This is not about that. This is about the graphic novel of that podcast and aside from a few legal changes to official D&D names this is still the beginning of the story I love. The podcast was adapted to graphic novel by Clint McElroy and it has all the joy that the podcast brings. It remains true to the story and is a wonderful start to what would be a seven story arc experience. This first installment has the introductions of our characters Taako, Magnus, and Merle and the beginnings of their hilarious antics. Aside from reliving this story again, the bonus of seeing it play out visually was fantastic. Pietsch has done a brilliant job and the designs of these characters feels true to their personalities. The colours are diverse and vibrant and seeing what I had imagined unfold in front of me was delightful. I also love that Dungeon Master Griffin gets to be included in visual form. His little figure hanging over them is amazing and the inclusion of the interactions with the players is part of the brilliant humour.

If you love this, then you should check out the podcast from the very beginning because it will take you on a wild ride and as the boys become more familiar with the game and Griffin develops his story it is such an emotional investment, you genuinely will have emotions as a result of this arc. If podcasts aren’t your thing, there will be a graphic novel of each of the chapters in the Balance Arc so we will be able to relive the mastery through all seven of these story arcs. I cannot wait to have all seven of these graphic novels sitting proudly on my shelf to swoon over.

To adjust a quote from Justin McElroy who commented at the conclusion of this epic adventure: “Thus ends begins the Adventure Zone Balance, the story of four idiots that played D&D so hard that they made themselves cry.” A great teaser about what is to come.

You can purchase The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Long Lost Review: Me Before You (#1) by JoJo Moyes

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: 1st April 2012Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Penguin Books, Limited
Pages: 502
Format: Paperback
Genre: Romance
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

Louisa Clark is an ordinary young woman living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex-Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair-bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

A love story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?

I heard about this book when the movie was to come out and managed to read it before I saw the film. Always a good practice because you pick up a lot more story that way. I remember some parts quite well, and others not so much. I recall loving their relationship. The love/hate thing they had going on: his bitterness, her desire to please. The outsiders play their own roles and stitch everything together but while they are developed characters in themselves there is a lot of focus on Louisa and her own journey and how that journey is reflected on and impacted by Will.

This is a romance, but it also about friendship and compassion; understanding someone else and truly loving who they are. The emotional connection is always more fulfilling than the physical and Moyes mixes both in this together without making it all about the romance. It comes naturally, comes slowly, but it also shares the pages with a wonderful story about people being people and real life unfairness.

This is a really important novel because of the themes it covers: choice, quality of life, the right to die with dignity. Moyes doesn’t throw the issue in our faces, but she does take us through both sides in a way, telling us why each side has a valid point through a natural story progression and character interaction. I am glad she went with the ending she did. I think it was important not only as a message, but to the story and it was respectful to the characters.

Louisa is strong but also lost at times. I like that she got to discover who she was through Will, not that she became someone because of Will. He helped her stand on her feet and she helped him soften around the edges and see the colour of life again. I went from disliking Louisa to enjoying her character and in a small way the same is said for Will. His brashness comes from his circumstance, his first impressions are from a long and weary life and I enjoyed his growth as well as Louisa’s.

Moyes is a vivid writer, I could picture the walk to the castle, Lou’s quaint little life and her family situation. Her own suffering and suffocation is evident and I think Moyes created unique characters that all still mash together as family is want to do. On top of one another but with love as well.

I enjoyed this more than I thought I would and I liked seeing not only the different kind of story than I was used to reading, but that Moyes gives Lou such wonderful uniqueness and quirkiness unabashedly and with pride without making her the butt of jokes or less because of it.

Archie and the Bear by Zanni Louise

Published: 1st May 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher: 
Little Hare, Hardie Grant Egmont
Illustrator: David Mackintosh
Pages: 40
Format: Paperback Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

No one listens to Archie when he says he is a bear so he leaves home and goes into the woods where he makes friends with a bear. A very small boy in a bear suit and a very large bear share the fun of pretending, adventuring in the woods, and a honey sandwich next to a warm fire on a cold day. Which is really the boy, and which is the bear? It doesn’t matter—you are who you say you are. 

I am discovering that books where big things are friends with small things are my jam and I love that so many picture books incorporate this. Louise tells the story of Archie, the bear who people keep mistaking for a boy. When Archie is sick of people calling him a boy, he goes into the woods and finds a real bear, a bear who thinks he’s a boy.

This is a wholesome story that is told beautifully. There is heart and friendship and Mackintosh’s illustrations add gravity and a touch of magic. I felt the story slow down as I looked at these beautiful illustrations and though nothing is said of time or place, it felt like it was in an older time, somewhere in some small eastern European village and while that sounds obscure, it’s where my mind went and I loved it.

Mackintosh’s illustrations offer fantastic scale in regards to Archie’s size in relation to the world and to the bear. He uses a mixture of watercolour and rough pencils and masters capturing scale and magnitude about the expansiveness of a forest as well as the confines of it. I couldn’t help but admire the skill he had in perfectly executing so many different styles and techniques and marrying them to Louise’s words.

The story explores the two new friends as they discover each other’s worlds and teach each other their skills. I wasn’t sure how this would end but Louise finds a sweet ending to a sweet story and one that makes you feel warm and fuzzy on the inside.

You can purchase Archie and the Bear via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository | Dymocks

Angus and Robinson | Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Novascapes: A Speculative Fiction Anthology compiled by C. E. Page

Published: 30th September 2014Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Invisible Elephant Press
Pages: 228
Format: ebook
Genre: Speculative Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Each story in this collection is a brief glimpse into a world both like and unlike anything we could ever imagine. The light and dark aspects of human nature are played out on the canvases of these worlds, though the players are not always human. Minotaurs, mermaids, vampires and dinosaurs compete for space alongside devils, angels, aliens and completely indescribable entities. Novascapes transports you from one side of the multi-verse to the other and leaves you breathless and wide eyed at the possibilities of simple existence.

Novascapes is a collection of short speculative fiction stories by authors either from or originally born (or connected in some major way) to the Newcastle, Hunter and Central Coast regions of NSW, Australia. The stories are as varied and wonderful as the authors who penned them.

There’s nothing quite as good as a great collection of short stories to give you little mini adventures and insights into strange and mystical worlds. What makes these short stories wonderful are the speculative nature and the fact that each of these authors have created stories that covers so many different narratives no two are alike.

The stories vary in length and there is a mixture of light hearted and darker stories. The speculative fiction aspect makes them wild and fanciful but not too outrageous or unbelievable. There is suspense, magic, and adventure and the range of different characters means you aren’t always reading about humans, even if it speculative humans.

There are dark tales about dark creatures and humorous exhilarating tales about magic and creatures from other world. Each author tells an intriguing story and the collection offers an array of different approaches to the speculative genre. If you are interested in short stories this is a wonderful collection, and a great chance to read some stories of authors that you may have never read before.

You can purchase Novascapes via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Angus and Robinson | Wordery

Fishpond | Amazon Aust | Amazon

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