8th Blogiversary Celebrations + Int Giveaway!

Eight years today. Eight years! I will continue to be astounded by the passing of time every single year I celebrate my blogiversary because I am still mentally half back in that third year mark or somewhere even around the fifth where that was a mini milestone and seemed like a huge number. Now I’m at eight years and it’s closer to ten than not and that’s a whole thing in itself.

In eight years I know my writing has improved, I know I have read some amazing books, and shared some wonderful adventures but I also know I have been able to share all my thoughts and rambles and opinions with some great people in the book and blogging community. I would like to thank the wonderful people who have been following me from the very beginning, to those who found me along the way, and those who stuck around during those times when everything went a bit haywire over the years. I am incredibly grateful.

Last year was a year nobody was expecting so to come through the other side with people still wanting to read my reviews and my thoughts means the world.

I am excited about what this next year of blogging will bring, I have a few ideas up my sleeve for features which I am excited for and even though in person book events are on hold, there are always virtual events to look forward to.

Today though is all about celebrating and thanking you guys! I’m feeling super generous this year and I am giving THREE lucky people the chance to win ONE of the books from the selection below. Included is my Top Five reads from 2020 as well as a few other favourites I read this past year.

The Selection

I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman

Once & Future (#1) by A. R. Capetta

Heartstopper (#1) by Alice Oseman

The Adventure Zone: Petals the to Metal by Clint McElroy*

What I Like About Me by Jenna Guillaume

Sherwood by Meagan Spooner

The Lightning Thief (#1) by Rick Riordan

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

 

*This item is a sequel that possibly won’t make any sense if you haven’t read the previous ones. 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 Saturday 20th February 2021

2021 Goals

As I poke my toe tentatively into the new year I am reigning in any grand plans for my blog and aiming for something simple this year. I did think I was doing something simple last year, and while I met a couple of my goals in a roundabout, unplanned way, I am not going to put any pressure on myself. This blog is about sharing my love of books and reading and having a pressure to do it in a certain way is not something I want hanging over me right now. Instead, I am going to share my goals that I have some confidence I can achieve.

Get more AWW read

I have been doing the Australian Women Writers Challenge for a few years now and have seen my reading/reviewing numbers grow a lot. This year I aim to increase my numbers from last year and to match that with reviews since that was where I faltered last year. I will start with my initial goal but hopefully through the year I can bump that up and see where I end up come December.

Review more

This is a strange one given I tend to put up three reviews a week (when everything in my life goes to plan) but there were a few bumps last year and even when I was putting out consistent reviews I have a huge backlog from last year that I would love to get written up. 2020 was a huge year of reading for me and even if it means I am posting reviews months after when I read them I will be incredibly happy. For example I read all 30 Agatha Raisin books this past year and have Opinions about them which I would love to write about so hopefully they get up at some point this year, I also read some truly amazing books I need to shout from the rooftops about.

Read more YA

This was on the last year goals but I didn’t read as many as I liked, and it is an always goal because there’re so many out there I have yet to read and that have been on my TBR list for far too long. This is also including #LoveOzYa books, I’m looking at doing their bingo in October if they offer it up again to help me along, or I will redo a previous card in the meantime to help widen my reading.

These are super simple but I think it is a great way to keep doing what I love without becoming too chaotic and stressed with expectations and the inevitable let down come December when I realise I haven’t done anything from my bright eyed optimism in January. I know last year is not the year to hold as the standard or the norm but I have also been a tad notorious of being a bit neglectful in my goals so this might be my best chance at success. It’s also a chance to challenge myself and my reading in different ways. Fingers crossed anyway.

Do you have any reading goals for 2021? Are you doing any challenges to change up your reading or are you taking chances in different ways?

2020: Here’s Your Hat; Glad You’re Going

New Year’s Eve, the day I never thought would arrive. Not that I am trying to wish my time away, nor am I unaware that the world won’t magically reset tomorrow, but there is something about escaping from a year and starting fresh that has been the building block of every idea of New Year’s for the past however long and it’s one I am hoping to take advantage of.

Looking at previous end of year posts it is an interesting comparison: some were optimistic, some were reminders of the horrors the year held and the fear I was trying to contain. They are also full of the goals I aimed for, both succeeded and didn’t. It’s a great trip down the past of my wrap ups and I loved doing it again now but for different reasons. As I wisely said last year, and it weirdly still rings true this year, “While the world has been falling apart around us this year with incompetent governments and a wide variety of imbeciles ruining the planet with their greed, it has been a wonderful escape to lose yourself in books.” This year also included a pandemic and never leaving the house so there has been ample time to lose oneself in a book. Personally I had a pretty terrible year, but book wise I’ve had a brilliant year so don’t let anyone tell you books are not a great escape.

This year I participated in the Australian Women Writers Challenge again which was a lot of fun and I also did my bingo card where I discovered some wonderful new books and got to read some books long neglected on my TBR pile.
It’s a strange balance this year, my reading excelled – I read over 200 books this year which is absolutely mind boggling, but I didn’t get a chance to review a lot of them which means I have a handy back catalogue to work from next year.

In this dumpster fire year there are things I am going to cling to though. I am incredibly proud of myself for reading so much, even if my reviews were lacking at times, but at the same time knowing how difficult this year has been for me I am so proud of getting the reviews out that I did. I am proud I read so many new things and took chances on books I may not have, and overall I am proud to have tried my best when the universe decided I needed a challenge or two (or seven).

So as 2020 comes to a close I say to it thanks, goodbye, don’t ever come back.

BLOGMAS Day 20: Favourite Picture Books featuring Amy from Lost In A Good Book

I teamed up with Jess from The Never Ending Book Shelf to talk about our favourite picture books s part of her Blogmas celebrations. Have you read any of these delightful stories? Also you should check out her blog because not only is her entire Blogmas content awesome, the rest of her blog is fantastic.

The Never Ending Bookshelf

Today for Blogmas I’m teaming up with Amyfrom Lost In A Good Book to talk about our top five favourite picture books. Amy runs an awesome book blog (so make sure you check it out) talking about a wide range of books across almost every genre and age group. Amy is also a qualified librarian and has written a really good introduction about the importance of picture books, so read on more to learn about picture books and our all time favourite picture books.

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Murder on the Rockport Limited: From Podcast to Graphic Novel

With the release of the second The Adventure Zone graphic novel, Ally from Ally’s Appraisals and I thought it would be a great idea to look at how we each experienced the novel; myself having listened to the entire TAZ Balance podcast, and her only having read the graphic novels.

Naturally there are a few differences in structure for graphic novel adaptation, but a lot has thankfully stayed the same.

Warning: If you haven’t listened to the podcast for this arc, here there be minor spoilers.

 

How did you enjoy the story knowing/not knowing the podcast?

Amy: I loved the story because I loved reliving the story in visual form. I heard the boy’s voices in my head and I loved being able to read it with their voices.

Ally: Before reading Murder on the Rockport Limited, I had read the first in the series, Here There Be Gerblins and I remember really loving both the story and characters. While I’m not as familiar with the characters as Amy, I very much got a clear grasp of their characters.

Amy: With the hints and clues to future events I knew what was coming and I loved the easter egg hunt to see just what Carey had included in the illustrations. From background detail, characters in crowds or the smallest detail in character stat sheets it was a fun read to see the references I understood, and it often replaces some of the jokes that were excluded by simply making them visual.

Ally: Sometimes I would see little details in the background or read an offhand comment by a character and it would pull me up. Just the knowledge that this story has already been told in a different format really made me aware of little things like this – I couldn’t help thinking, ‘I am sure this means something to someone.’

Amy: It’s hard to say just listen to the arc to match the graphic novel because it draws from multiple episodes. Murder on the Rockport Limited takes storyline from episodes before and after the actual arc and even alludes to things that are far from happening.

Ally: I will admit that after I finished the graphic novel I did flip back to certain pages and ask my partner questions like, ‘will this come back in later books?’ or ‘Is this character important?’ I swear the characters Angus talks to at the end were too fancy and pretty looking to just be throw away characters – I swear they must be coming back or something!

Things Amy noticed that were missing or different from the podcast

While the majority of the storyline was there, naturally not everything could be included. Seeing which scenes and lines were omitted was an interesting game I played while I read and while I know some parts couldn’t possibly be included because the content wasn’t quite story related or only possible in the audio medium, they were missed.

  • I missed the references to everyone in the town of Rockport looking like Tom Bodett, and I wished desperately that Carey had made all the background characters look like Tom Bodett as a subtle nod, but I understand why she couldn’t do that.
  • In the podcast, The Director gives the trio tokens and are told to present them to the resident artificer and “he will help [them] out with acquiring a few new tools that [they] can use on [their] adventure”. She also provides directions and instructs them about how to find the chambers. In the graphic novel this is brushed over with the characters getting a guidebook which explains everything they need to know about navigating the moon base, and Taako mentions their first stop is to see Leon the Artificer.
  • Connected to this, Leon mentions it is against the rules of the Bureau of Balance to hand out magical items to people, and that instead they leave it to fate as a work around situation. This is the only explanation given before the tokens are put in and each character gets their new item. Everything else is the same, the items they acquire are the same, and Taako has the first of his many funny and trying interactions with poor Leon about how he uses the machine.
  • Structurally it contains not only the Rockport arc, but the Moonlighting episodes from before and after. These episodes, come to be known as Lunar Interludes, are the events that happen on the Bureau moon base that are separate from the adventure arcs. This is where characters level up, buy items and you get more of the overarching story from the Director. The way they have been split is perfect for the graphic novel as it gives great cliff hangers and it allows the Interludes to be included because they hold vital information as well.
  • There were a couple big scenes not included such as the initiation test the trio were required to do to join the Bureau of Balance as well as a battle in a swamp when they first land near Rockport. These are inconsequential really, though there were some great origins of later events, but this was early on in the podcast when Griffin was trying to have more random mini battles for the players and not simply continual story.
  • Robbie at the moment is only visually referenced which means no Pringles just yet but I have high hopes for his return if the story stays on the same track.
  • Just as in Gerblins the official licenced names of characters and places have to be changed so instead of going to Neverwinter the train is heading to Ever Summer which is just adorable.
  • The other big one is of course the ending. While the podcast arc ends simply enough, the novel adds a little extra that extends the character development and brings a few more details forward so we don’t need to wait for further arcs to learn things. It also gives a greater sense of the Bigger Picture and great foreshadowing.
  • Not quite a difference but additional dialogue is included that doesn’t happen in the original story. This is often still within the established scenes though and is more for space and timing than anything else. There is still word by word dialogue taken from the podcast, even if it is out of order it is included. Clint has tidied up Griffin and the boys’ conversations into something succinct and appear more intentional, the jokes that are spur of the moment on the podcast become clever and funny dialogue in the story.

Looking at the list it goes to show how much actually stays the same. The tiny jokes and the off the cuff remarks are the main things missing but they are also things that are funny in the podcast, not actually connected to the story (see Jenkin’s voice crisis which is a delight).

Ally: Oh wow! This does answer a lot of the questions that arose for me when I was reading. I did think the whole scenes on the moon were over so quickly! It just seems all so easy and glossed over how they joined the Bureau of Balance – I’m glad there is more to that whole part of the story.

Also Tom Bodett? Pringles? I – I honestly have no words…

 

Things that didn’t make sense to Ally as a first time reader of the story

While I extremely happy to pick up the two The Adventure Zone graphic novels and read them with not much prior knowledge, there were a few things that I thought I was missing out on. Nothing too serious just small moments and throwaway comments that let me thinking that there was probably more to it than what I read.

  • No dogs on the moon – I honestly have no idea why this caused such a passionate response. I know Magnus asked for a dog but the passioned panel of NO DOGS ON THE MOON really confused me. I just kept asking myself, why? What did the dogs do? Why aren’t they allowed back 😛
  • Leon and the gashapon machine that the trio used their tokens on really confused me. While it certainly was a visual joke that worked well, I think the conversational tone really threw me as I did not really get what was happening.
  • The part where the trio find out about the organisation and the moon base happened so quickly!

I felt like I had barely been introduced to this before we were speeding onto the next adventure. Like, what is the Bureau of Balance – I have a basic understanding but it did leave me quite unsure and curious.

As you can see, the main points that didn’t completely gel with me were the ones based on the moon. So, while I completely followed the main story, I did feel like the larger story and world building was a bit vague. Due to this, I did feel this part of the story left a lot of gaps for questions for me but because of how awesome the rest of the following story was, I was quick to forgive and move on.

 

Final Thoughts

Ally: Having read Amy’s post about her experiences with the graphic novel, I am shocked at how much content has been left out as well as how much foreshadowing there appears to be. Some of the content left out does appear to relate to moments that confused me, so it is good to know that there is the chance that it will be included and fleshed out more in future releases.

Amy: Overall, I think it certainly acceptable to only experience the story through the graphic novels because I have full trust in Clint and Carey to bring to life Griffin’s story and all the wonderful additions the boys made on their epic journey during production.

Ally: I’m not ready to sit down and listen to the podcast but as a first time reader, I am really enjoying the characters, the story, and the way that the DnD elements have been incorporated into it all.

*          *          *

It was fascinating to see how the graphic novel came across to someone who had never listened to the podcast.

If you’d like to read my review of Murder on the Rockport Limited click here or if you’d like to get started listening to The Adventure Zone: Balance from the very beginning you can find it here. If you enjoy a great story or actual play D&D podcasts it might be just the story for you.

 My review of the first book Here There Be Gerblins can be read here. The third book Petals to the Metal is available now.

 

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