I write small book reviews for the Newcastle Herald. The following reviews were all written for the “On The Shelf” section of the Saturday Herald, edited by Elvira Sprogis. The genres I’ve been given to review are young adult/vampire/monster/fantasy. Each review has to fit into around 100 words. If you need reviews for your paper, magazine or website feel free to email me.
Omnibus Books (Scholastic Australia)
This young-adult fantasy novel leads the reader into a world where mages coax stone giants out of cliff faces and use plants as deadly weapons. Battle Magic follows the journey of two young magic wielders, Briar and Evvy, and their adoptive mother and mentor, Rosethorn. The trio travel from the land of the god-king Gyongxe toYanjing the home of the power hungry Emperor. Along the way they get caught up in a civil war that threatens to destroy everything they hold dear. A riveting read with deeply written characters and gritty battle scenes.
(Published in Newcastle Herald 16/11/2013)
Puffin Books, $14.99
Award winning author-illustrator Wang takes the reader on a journey of mythical proportions from the Eden-like paradise of the Forest of Birds to the troubled streets of the City of Soulless. This is a modern fantasy fable of two children looking to find their place in the world and combat a great darkness that has corrupted the once happy City of Solace. This is a short novel with manageable language for younger readers. Although suitable for readers as young as 10, this much older reviewer found himself engrossed until the last page.
(Published in Newcastle Herald 02/11/2013)
Allen & Unwin, $24.99
Jez, 17, likes body piercings, comics and getting high. She hates school, her dead-end suburb and the fact her mother is always drunk. Snake Bite is a brutally honest coming of age story, following Jez as she navigates imminent adulthood over the course of a sweltering Canberra summer. While Thompson has skilfully captured a sense of claustrophobic suburban despair there is a real warmth that leaves the reader feeling, ultimately, uplifted.
(Published in Newcastle Herald 14/09/2013)
FREAKS LIKE US
The issues facing teens with psychiatric disorders are explored through the lives of Freak, the protagonist, and his best friends Drip and Sunshine. Freak, who gave himself his nickname, suffers from schizophrenia, Drip from ADHD and Sunshine from selective mutism. The trio’s already stressful world is thrown into chaos when Sunshine goes missing and the FBI is called in. Vaught successfully illustrates the turmoil of schizophrenia with the distressing voices in Freak’s head repeatedly interrupting the first-person narrative.
(Published in Newcastle Herald 10/08/2013)
THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE
The dark fantasy world crafted by Gaiman in his first adult novel since bestseller Anansi Boys is beautifully realised and feels terrifyingly real. The story is told through the eyes of a seven-year-old loner and is rich with the dreamlike landscape of a fairytale. Themes of memory, loss and the nature of reality sneak up on you. Gaiman is at his most dark and disarmingly imaginative. Be prepared to have the emotional impact stay with you.
(Published in Newcastle Herald 27/07/2013)
ANGEL OF FIRE
PawPrint Publishing, $14.95
The protagonist in this young adult novel is comatose in hospital for most of the story, with the reader following the journey of the boy’s disembodied spirit. His ghost-self meets a quirky collection of otherworldly misfits who help him solve a mystery, appreciate his family and ultimately become a better person. Two instances that grated: first, where the content seemed strangely inappropriate for the target audience; and second, a tasteless description of a minor character. Otherwise, quite a page-turner.
(Published in Newcastle Herald 29/06/2013)