The Good Egg (#2) by Jory John

Published: 12th February 2019
Illustrator: Pete Oswald
Pages: 36
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

In this follow-up to Jory John and Pete Oswald’s popular picture book The Bad Seed, meet the next best thing: a very good egg, indeed!

The good egg has been good for as long as he can remember. While the other eggs in his carton are kind of rotten, he always does the right, kind, and courteous thing. He is a verrrrrrry good egg indeed! Until one day he decides that enough is enough! He begins to crack (quite literally) from the pressure of always having to be grade-A perfect.

John’s books have fast become some of my favourites. This is another one I thoroughly enjoyed, there is such a wonderful humour that comes from the combination of illustrations and the words; the play off one another and there’s often so much to enjoy in the illustrations even when the words are self-explanatory.

The story is told through Egg’s eyes and he addresses the reader from the very start and continues to tell us his tale as the story goes on. The Good Egg tries his best to be good but he is surrounded by others in his group who misbehave and it stresses him out.

The “badness” of the other eggs are things kids can relate to like ignoring bedtimes, eating sugary cereal, and breaking things or throwing tantrums. Compared to the “good” behaviour like rescuing cats, and helping other people John contrasts how the Good Egg sees himself compared to the others in his carton.

I love Oswald’s design on the egg. The large egg and small face, with the oversized glasses is incredibly adorable. I also love how he shows his progression as he becomes more stressed at he behaviour of the others – the literally cracking of his shell is clever and his dishevelled appearance, while tragic, is incredibly humorous.

I am fascinated by the sentient foods because there is a clear and present danger of being eaten in these stories and yet the personified foods go about their lives normally. This works fine if you want to have a society of sentient food, but John has twice shown us there are humans in their world who will eat them which raises a few questions.

This is a great story about being your best self, but also about not letting the actions of other people get to you. There’s a wonderful message of self care, but also about trying to be perfect can be hard and there can be some balance in life that is still satisfying.

You can purchase The Good Egg via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Sword in the Stars (#2) by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy

Published: 7th April 2020 (print)/ 7th Apr 2020 (audio) Goodreads badge
Rock the Boat/Bolinda audio
Pages: 355/10 Hours 48 min
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

In this epic sequel to Once & Future, to save the future, Ari and her Rainbow knights pull off a heist…thousands of years in the past.

Ari Helix may have won her battle against the tyrannical Mercer corporation, but the larger war has just begun. Ari and her cursed wizard Merlin must travel back in time to the unenlightened Middle Ages and steal the King Arthur’s Grail—the very definition of impossible.

It’s imperative that the time travellers not skew the timeline and alter the course of history. Coming face-to-face with the original Arthurian legend could produce a ripple effect that changes everything. Somehow Merlin forgot that the past can be even more dangerous than the future…

After the first book I was expecting a lot from this sequel and a lot of answers and it certainly delivers. The old problems and new problems, as well as the world threatening and personal issues all coincide as each character makes their move through history and plays their roles.

Once again the creativity these authors show with creating a whole new, fantastically complex and stunning story but entwined seamlessly into the established Arthurian myth is something to marvel. These rich, flawed characters are in depth and unique and their complicated relationships with one another are never trivialised.

The diversity of the characters are highlighted further as they step into the past and I loved how the characters manage and reflect on their surroundings as a result. There’s conversations, so casual and important at the same time about identity. Coming from the future, even our future, it shows how far their society has come that this is such an everyday thing it isn’t even a big deal. Discussions about pronouns and having to be misgendered in the middle ages with the danger of hiding gender for protection – female and nonbinary knights are a hurdle but one that isn’t brushed over as a minor inconvenience. The characters talk openly about how it feels awful to be misgendered all day and how it wears them down. Capetta and McCarthy use the characters to remind us how whitewashed and male dominated this story has become over the centuries and how the middle ages were a lot more diverse than what has been told, even with the constraints of misogyny and sexism.

One of the things I loved, and it’s something that didn’t need to be included but I am so glad it did, was how the story breaks the fourth wall in a way with wonderful references to how the Arthurian legend has survived. Completely in narrative but the references are real with in jokes about the various versions of the legend told and retold throughout history in TV shows, movies, and other various books and retellings.

There’s so much contained within this story and it all works so well. There’s heart-warming romance, suspense and tension, action and drama all within a story of magic, time travel, space, and capitalism. I would love nothing more than to read more about this world and these characters but I also love that it’s confined to two books because those two books pack a punch I don’t know if I could handle another.

The conclusion is positively amazing. The way it fills in details and gaps, answers questions you didn’t even know were being asked and becomes a fabulous rich and complicated set of circumstances makes it the perfect story. This is the Arthurian retelling I didn’t know I needed but it one I will absolutely cherish.

You can purchase Sword in the Stars via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Once & Future (#1) by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy

Published: 26th March 2019 (print)/29th August 2019 (audio) Goodreads badge
Little, Brown and Company/Bolinda Publishing
Pages: 336/10 hrs and 54 mins
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

I’ve been chased my whole life. As a fugitive refugee in the territory controlled by the tyrannical Mercer corporation, I’ve always had to hide who I am. Until I found Excalibur.

Now I’m done hiding.

My name is Ari Helix. I have a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start.

When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind.

No pressure.

First and foremost this story is phenomenal! It’s the King Arthur legend, set in the future, set in space, with a female Arthur and a fabulous, beautifully constructed time loop of curses and legends and a beautiful cast of diverse characters that you will fall in love with.

The world building is definitely something to love – the world that’s been created is incredibly clever and diverse, not only in the planets and their various structures but in the community and the characters as well. Honestly the detail throughout is a constant delight every time something else pops up and the way the original characters and established mythology is woven into this entirely new story is brilliant. It is the myth we all know but it also has a new story unfolding too which was amazing to read about.

The reimagining of Arthur and his legend is incredible; the fact that it feels like a completely new story but also a well told one at the same time is a credit to the imagination and writing skill of these authors. There’s intricate, complicated magic and age old magic being used alongside new players and it’s in these overlaps that you see the remnants of the old stories come through and the mythology stand out in this new construction.

The characters are such a huge part of the magic of this story as well. Ari and her brother, their sibling dynamics as well as their bond over being fugitives is a solid connection. I loved the other bonds between characters and how even with Merlin as the newcomer he fits into this established group really well. There’s a beautifully fluid introduction of the characters and their relationships to Ari are well understood, often with their own backstories seamlessly included. The dialogue and casual conversations never felt clunky or forced, this is a huge benefit of setting the story in the future, it normalises conversations and makes debatable things in the present day feel like outdated issues. There was no need for explanations, things just were and it is well understood.

There is so much I could gush about in regards to this story. Truly from start to finish I was captivated; I was in awe, and I was blown away by how beautiful and smart and funny this entire book was. Even the conclusion was perfect. This is only book one in a duology but the way details and gaps in the story are filled and how answers are given for questions you didn’t even know were being asked is astounding, and the absolute majesty of how it becomes a fabulously rich and complicated set of circumstances makes it a perfect story and one I could reread until the end of time.

You can purchase Once & Future via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Published: 1st April 1998 (print)/2nd June 2011 (audio) Goodreads badge
Anchor Books/Random House
Pages: 314/10 hours 23 minutes
Narrator: Joanna David
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Classic
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…

I’m glad I finally read this and it’s clear this is a classic for a reason and stands the test of time because the issues it touches on are ongoing and remain as important as they did in the 80s. I was drawn in by this story and I’m glad it lives up to its reputation, I was equally fascinated and mortified by so much throughout this book I have no doubt that was Atwood’s intention.

It is a powerful move to make Offred remember her life before. It would have been easier to have this society be this way for so long no one really remembers the before times, but having it in living memory of someone relatively young is a beautifully horrifying choice and makes this so much more powerful. This is always seen as a dystopian story but the events fall so close to being possible it’s unsettling. It’s not quite in the dystopian world of nuclear fallout or environmental collapse, it is a construction of society and men and at times relatively close to reality it’s not too far to imagine it actually happening.

Atwood doesn’t need to infodump on us about what happen in full chronological details. She weaves information and history through Offred’s flashback’s and natural story. It never felt like we were being explained things, but at the same time what we don’t get told is also part of the fun. You can see it unfolding and the clues coming together, while still remaining in the dark about so much. I loved the inclusion of the Japanese tourists. It reminded me of a post I had seen on Tumblr about what the rest of the world is doing while the United States is having its dystopian dramas in all these books and movies. It’s little details like this that help shape the world Offred is living and the society that has been formed.

The audiobook was an amazing experience, especially given the ending and Moss did such a great job in telling this story. She was very good at putting contempt and distain into her voice, she was also skilled at incorporating a natural voice for Offred: fluid, casual offhanded remarks if they had just come to her, uncertainty and worry. I felt like I was listening to this woman’s story.

Atwood lets you create your own conclusions, better or worse about what happened. There is hope but there is also a sense of acceptance and leaving it to the reader is a powerful move. I actually loved not having answers. I won’t spoil what is and what isn’t told, but it was a great way to stay within the narrator’s world, and not to provide easy answers for the readers. It played into the emotional mindset of Offred, and to have it make sense as the story she was telling, not an outside view for us to know everything. Her story no doubt is for those who already know a lot, this is her own experience, retelling her story through what has happened, the reader picks up snippets here and there but the broader tale is known and meant to be understood by the fictional players which is a brilliant move.

You can purchase The Handmaid’s Tale via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Don’t Feed the Coos! by Jonathan Stutzman

Published: 25th February 2020Goodreads badge
Henry Holt & Company
Illustrator: Heather Fox
Pages: 48
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

When you see a coo, you will be tempted to give it a treat.
Coos are adorable, peaceful, kind of silly.
If you feed one, they will ALL come…

So begins Don’t Feed the Coos, a cautionary tale that details the fallout when a little girl decides to share some bread with a coo (aka pigeon). From the park to home to the arcade to karate practice, the coos follow the generous-but-foolish girl who didn’t heed the warning. Because when you give a coo a crumb…the entire population of coos will come! But fret not: our spunky little heroine will discover that even the biggest of problems can be solved with a little determination.

After falling in love with Llama Destroys the World I was excited to pick up another Stutzman book and it did not disappoint. I loved the concept that once you feed a coo you are stuck with them for all time and once you feed one, others will come. The ingenuity and determination of these coos is delightful and Stutzman’s writing style elevates simple words and phrases and highlights the humour.

Fox’s illustrations are a pure delight and I thoroughly enjoyed every page. The scenarios she has included are very funny and incredibly cute and they add so much to the story. I got a lot of enjoyment from studying them and laughing at the coo’s expressions and antics, not to mention the fear then angst, then resignation on the little girl’s face as she accepts them into her family.

Stutzman’s story is quirky and fun and it would a great story to read aloud. It is a fabulous story that works in sync with the illustrations as they play off one another. With few words but stunning, detailed pictures there is a great balance that creates a well-rounded story with multiple levels of enjoyment.

You can purchase Don’t Feed to Coos! via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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