The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles

Title: The Edge of Everything

Author: Jeff Gilesedge-of-everything

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 1st February 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 360

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: For the perfect love, what would you be willing to lose?

It’s been a shattering year for seventeen-year-old Zoe, who’s still reeling from her father’s shocking death in a caving accident and her neighbors’ mysterious disappearance from their own home. Then on a terrifying subzero, blizzardy night in Montana, she and her brother are brutally attacked in the woods–only to be rescued by a mysterious bounty hunter they call X.

X is no ordinary bounty hunter. He is from a hell called the Lowlands, sent to claim the soul of Zoe’s evil attacker and others like him. X is forbidden from revealing himself to anyone other than his prey, but he casts aside the Lowlands’ rules for Zoe. As they learn more about their colliding worlds, they begin to question the past, their fate, and their future. But escaping the Lowlands and the ties that bind X might mean the ultimate sacrifice for them both.

Gripping and full of heart, this epic start to a new series will bring readers right to the edge of everything.

~*~

The Edge of Everything opens with an anonymous observation of Zoe, who gives the character she shares the spotlight with his name: X. X is a bounty hunter from the Lowlands, sent to collect souls of those who are deemed to be a threat to innocent people, and who need to be punished, and are made to relive the horrors that have brought this fate upon them. But when X meets Zoe and her younger brother Jonah, and rescues them from freezing to death, he begins to form a bond with both of them – and becomes a part of their lives, and starts to find his feelings for Zoe changing him and what he wants out of life, and forging a desire to leave the Lowlands. X and Zoe forge a relationship, slowly, and perhaps a little awkwardly – it is not the focus of the novel, though. Rather, it is a dual storyline, where each character’s point of view is shown in alternating sections.

Zoe’s close relationship with her younger brother Jonah drives the narrative too. For me, this was the most important relationship – the love of the siblings – and how the sudden death of their father becomes the driving force behind the novel. Zoe is determined to find out what really happened, and with the help of X, a strange bounty hunter from the Lowlands, which is run by lords who punish the innocent for fun, they embark on a journey, along with two souls X knows from the Lowlands, to find out the truth.

There are moments of darkness, and of light, of hope, and devastation, and the final chapters had me holding my breath, hoping everything would be okay. The power within these pages is the characters are all flawed, all hurting in some way, and despite this, they are strong. They are real, or in X and Ripper’s case, as real as they can be in urban fantasy, an intriguing genre that situates fantasy elements within an urban environment to tell a story. Jeff Giles has excelled at this.

I hope that there is more to the story. Upon completion, I felt there could be, and the cliffhanger was neither negative nor tragic – but hovered somewhere between hope and sadness. It is aimed at ages twelve and up, but I feel can be read by anyone who wishes to. It is the kind of novel that creeps under your skin and leaves you wondering – what next?

Looking forward to more about Zoe and X – and Jonah, my favourite character.

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Small Publisher Spotlight: Pantera Press

The second in our series on small publishers focuses on Sydney’s Pantera Press. Pantera Press is a publisher unlike any other: small, close-knit and family run; I did an internship there about two years ago and had an amazing time. The books they publish may have been put on the slush pile with other publishers…

via Small Publisher Spotlight: Pantera Press — Australian Women Writers Challenge Blog

 

My second post for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge

pantera-logoaww2017-badgeRaeliarowly-7

 

Harry Potter – 20th anniversary editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

harry potter 20 hardback.jpgharry-potter-20-paperback

Twenty Years of Harry Potter – 1997 – 2017

raven-hb-20On the 26th of June, 2017, it will have been twenty years since the slyth-hb-20first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published. Like all good ideas, Harry Potter started as a seedling idea on a train journey, and soon became a worldwide sensation and phenomenon – selling 450 million copies worldwide, and being translated into 79 languages.

gryff-20To mark the twentieth anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Bloomsbury is reissuing special twentieth anniversary editions in the house colours in both paperback and hard cover. Levi Pinfold has illustrated the crests for each house, and on the black hardcovers, the crests are in the respective house colours: red for Gryffindor, yellow for Hufflepuff, blue for Ravenclaw and green for Slytherin, with striped page edges. In the paperbacks, the covers and edges of the paper are in the house colours, with the crests in black. gryff-hb-20

The crests have been inspired by traditional heraldry and coats of arms, whilst incorporating images that represent the charactehuff-hb-20ristics of the houses. These designs were created by Levi Pinfold, a Kate Greenaway Medal winner, and will also contain three illustrations within the books, to go with the additional information about the houses. These editions will be published at the beginning of June, and cost $16.99 for the paperback, and $27.99 for the hardcover in Australia.

raven-20Harry Potter is a story that has inspired many children to read since it was released in 1997, and continues tohuff-20 do so, forming a large part of childhood for many. It continues to gather fans and older fans pass their love onto others, sharing the magic of Harry, Ron and Hermione for years to come. These twentieth anniversary editions will be a great addition to any shelf.

slyth-20Alongside these new covers, Bloomsbury will be marking the celebration with various events, and competitions.

Keep a look out for these fabulous editions celebrating twenty years of one of the best-loved series and casts of characters of the past twenty years in literature.

Which house are you in?

 

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Buy Harry Potter Here:

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Wrap up post: The Matilda Saga by Jackie French

a-waltz-for-matildaSince 2010, the world of Matilda O’Halloran, spanning six books, and almost eighty years of characters, conflicts and politics, has charmed many readers, and will hopefully continue to do so.

Beginning in 1894 in the dark alleys of the city, and Grinder’s Alley, the main character of The Matilda Saga and A Waltz for Matilda, twelve-year-old Matilda O’Halloran leaves following the death of her mother, and her friend, Tommy’s tragic accident, to find her father in country New South Wales – a place called Gibber’s Creek, and a farm known as Drinkwater. When she arrives there, her father has moved onto his own farm, Moura, and is striking and bringing the shearer’s union movement together to negotiate fair wages and reasonable hours for the workers. The first book spans the end of the nineteenth century, and into Federation in 1901, women’s suffrage in 1902, the Boer War in South Africa 1899-1902, and World War One, Matilda’s life goes from poor urchin to owning the largest farm in the district. Matilda’s work sows the seeds that begin to give a voice to the silenced.

the-girl-from-snowy-riverMoving into 1919 – The Girl from Snowy River – and the post-war years after World War One – at this stage still referred to as The Great War, we meet Flinty McAlpine, orphaned, and taking care of her younger brother and sister, whilst one brother is off with the cattle far away, and the other older brother killed in the war. Flinty meets a ghost from the future – Nicholas, and later, an accident confines her to a wheelchair and bed. Her encounters with Nicholas give hints to her future, and what she will eventually do to save the valley. Her chance ride gives her confidence, and the seeds planted by Matilda in A Waltz for Matilda begin to grow.

The Road to Gundagai brings Gibber’s Creek into 1932, and The Great Depression, at a time when Matilda is still working towards equality for all, and sustainable and fair working rights for those who work. She is also providing jobs and living quarters for the unemployed across the many properties that make up Drinkwater land, sold because the road-to-gundagaiowners were desperate. The book’s central character, Blue, has escaped her aunts, where she lies injured and ill most days from a fire, convinced they’re trying to kill her. She runs away to a circus, where she hides for a year or two before they arrive in Gibber’s Creek, and are given permission to set up in the paddocks of Drinkwater, now run by Matilda and her husband Tommy, ever since Matilda inherited it from her great-grandfather. Here, in the region, Blue finally finds a home, and the truth will come out – about her past, and the past of those of the Magnifico Family Circus.

to-love-a-sunburnt-countryComing into To Love A Sunburnt Country, Matilda’s family has grown – her sons and an extended family – the Clancys, whose daughter, Nancy, is sixteen in 1941 and has been sent to Malaya (known as Malaysia these days) to escort her sister-in-law and nephew to safety in Australia. Moira’s reluctance to leave what she knows, and take her son Gavin so far from his father, when the impenetrability of Singapore is at the back of her mind, leads to a delayed evacuation, days of travel and a final destination that is nowhere near what they expected. Trapped for the remainder of the war in a prisoner of war camp on an island off Malaya, the tragedy and horror of war affects the women and those waiting for them at home in ways they could never have imagined. This is the first book in the series that has several point of view characters, and it is effective, and works because a letter and a name at the beginning of the chapter indicate each change. It is war, so not everyone returns, and those that do, do not return whole in many ways. It has a bittersweet ending, as many of the books have had up until this point, but the concluding events of Nancy’s story are perhaps the most powerful and moving. Like the other books, the characters often ignored, or left out of history – the ones whose stories may not have been told by official records, or had an impact like others – but are still important stories and lessons about the horror of war.

The Ghost by the Billabong introduces the reader to Jed Kelly and the hippie movement, the the-ghost-by-the-billabongVietnam War and the accompanying protests, and the tragic results of conscription, Jed arrives, escaping from abuse and abandonment, hiding her own secrets, not knowing who to trust with them. She sees ghosts of the past and the future, and arrives at Drinkwater, claiming to be Tommy’s great-granddaughter – and while her claims are investigated by Matilda, now an aged woman, but still an intimidating dragon, who cares deeply about those close to her and the land – becomes close to the only family she knows, and slowly, learns to trust those around her with her darkest secrets – secrets that she feels nobody can understand. Moira returns in this book – twenty-three years after leaving Nancy for England, she is back, and helping at River View, the respite home for those with disabilities, where they can receive treatment. The children and patients here – including Nicholas, who we first met in The Girl from Snowy River – help Jed to heal and trust. This comes from young Scarlett, confined to a wheelchair, reliant on everyone to do things for her but determined to lift her spoon herself, and Nancy, who has her own horrors that still plague her. By this time, most of the people that Matilda has been fighting to help have their rights – however, there are still inequalities: children like Jed can be attacked, and be blamed for ruining adult lives and shipped off somewhere they shouldn’t be, where they are hurt more, racism is still around, and the disabled at River View are there because people don’t want to deal with them. This all will come into play in the next book as well.

if-blood-should-stain-the-wattleIf Blood Should Stain the Wattle begins in 1972, three years after Jed has found her place, and just as Gough Whitlam is set to enter government and revolutionise education affordability, healthcare and radical moves to introduce anti-discrimination legislation amongst many other things that would bring Matilda’s father’s dream full circle as much as possible, where people don’t starve to try and keep a roof over their heads and where families can get the healthcare they need, when they need it. An Australia where it will be illegal to deny someone a job based on race, gender or disability – and only employ people based on whether or not they can do the job. It is this Australia that Jed, Matilda and the families of Rock Farm, Moura, Overflow, Dribble (Jed and Scarlett’s home), and Drinkwater have spent decades working for – ever since 1894, and all the way until November 1975. It is a time for change, of change, when everyone, it is argued, should no longer be denied access to education, to health care, to a fair go. The hippie commune sits somewhere in between – wanting to be self-sufficient but also arguing for equality. It is a story that tries to unite the silenced and ignored voices of the past, the ghosts that fought and the ideals that will live on in those who remain.

The Matilda Saga is a series that utilises the voices of those who at one point in history, whether through legislation or the attitudes of those around them, and sometimes a aww2017-badgecombination of both, to give colour and depth to the history of Australia. This is what makes it so powerful – using the voices that might not always be recorded in the history books, but whose authenticity and clarity is as moving and as important as the official records and facts. Dates never change but the varied accounts, though fictional, of historical events, ensure that in this series, nobody is ignored. Nobody is silenced. Everyone has a cause and though someone may be questioned about their attitudes, they are given a chance to learn, to explain and share. I hope there will be at least one more book in this series to wrap up what happens to Nancy, and Jed and Scarlett.

I found it hard to decide on a favourite character – but I think my top three are Matilda, Flinty and Nancy. These three women unite everyone in a way that ensures family is not just blood. It is whoever you choose to include in your life and share it with.

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If Blood Should Stain the Wattle by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #6)

If Blood should Stain the Wattle.pngTitle: If Blood Should Stain the Wattle

Author: Jackie French

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: 1st December 2016

Format: Paperback

Pages: 544

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: It’s 1972 in Gibber’s Creek, and across the nation, the catchcry is, ‘It’s time’.

In 1972, and the catchcry is ‘It’s time’.

As political ideals drift from disaster to the dismissal, it’s also time for Jed Kelly to choose between past love, Nicholas, the local Labor member, and Sam from the Halfway to Eternity commune. It’s time too for Matilda Thompson to face her ghosts and the life that took a young girl from the slums of Grinder’s Alley to being the formidable matriarch of Gibber’s Creek.

During this period of extraordinary social change and idealism, modern Australia would be born. And although the nation would dream of a better world, it would continue to struggle with opposing ideas of exactly what that better world might be.

Jackie French, author of the bestselling To Love a Sunburnt Country, has woven her own experience of that time into an unforgettable story of a small rural community and a nation swept into the social and political tumult of the early 1970s. A time that would bear witness to some of the most controversial events in Australian history; and for Matilda, a time that would see her vision made real, without blood spilled upon the wattle.

~*~

aww2017-badgeBook six in The Matilda Saga picks up three years after the end of The Ghost by the Billabong. Jed Kelly has been accepted into the Thompson and McAlpine families, has been at university, and is living in Dribble at Gibber’s Creek with Scarlett, the young girl who chose Jed as her sister when they met. Matilda is still going – at age ninety-three, she is still as formidable as in the previous books, still caring, and still determined to see her father’s dream of fair work, fair wages and the dream of equality for all, regardless of skin colour, gender and ability become a reality under a Whitlam government, promising fair work hours, and an act that ends discrimination on the basis of race, gender, or ability – it is a dream that began in 1894 in a Grinder’s Alley jam factory, a dream that took a young girl from the slums of the city to owning one of the largest farms in the Gibber’s Creek district. By this time, Matilda’s voice – and the voices of her family – are heard loud and clear. This time, it is Scarlett who is finding her independence, and the mute girl, Leafsong, from the hippie commune Halfway to Eternity, who is invisible to begin with, but through Scarlett’s friendship, is shown how to become part of society – noticed, but accepted by those who matter the most – her friends and Jed, and Matilda.

Politics has always played a role in the Matilda saga – union rights, suffragettes, war, Depression, Indigenous rights, and many more. Where each previous book has dealt with a separate issue affecting society at the time, and the voices at the time, this one ties them all together and unites almost a century of working towards equal rights.

Jackie French’s story has incorporated many silenced voices throughout the six books, all of whom have proven to be interesting and strong characters in their own right. She has told the history of a young nation from 1894 to 1975, incorporating the history of the unions, suffrage, Federation, racism, Depression and issues of class, gender, disability and race – and constantly questions the status quo through her characters and why things were the way they were, why a character link Old Mr Drinkwater in A Waltz for Matilda was the way he was with Matilda and her father, or what it mean to have Indigenous heritage, what it meant for may during times of war, during the Great Depression.

Most of the history is easily read about in history books – what Jackie French does is give the women of Gibber’s Creek a voice – sometimes arguing with the male characters, sometimes standing with them united in a common cause – but ultimately, it is characters like Matilda, Flinty, Blue, Nancy and Jed who drive the story lines and the outcomes, at least for their families.

Like the rest of this series, If Blood Should Stain the Wattle tugs at the heartstrings. It has a bittersweet ending that many of Jackie’s books have, and whilst it is aimed at teenagers, adults can read it too. I would recommend reading the first five books first, as by the time I came to this book, the characters were formed and all their relationships made sense. A wonderful book to read, it wraps up most of what has happened in the previous books nicely.

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Norse Mythology Neil Gaiman

norse-mythologyTitle: Norse Mythology

Author: Neil Gaiman

Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 1 February 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

Price: $27.99

Synopsis: The great Norse myths are woven into the fabric of our storytelling – from Tolkien, Alan Garner and Rosemary Sutcliff to Game of Thrones and Marvel Comics. They are also an inspiration for Neil Gaiman’s own award-bedecked, bestselling fiction. Now he reaches back through time to the original source stories in a thrilling and vivid rendition of the great Norse tales. Gaiman’s gods are thoroughly alive on the page – irascible, visceral, playful, passionate – and the tales carry us from the beginning of everything to Ragnarok and the twilight of the gods. Galvanised by Gaiman’s prose, Thor, Loki, Odin and Freya are irresistible forces for modern readers and the crackling, brilliant writing demands to be read aloud around an open fire on a freezing, starlit night.

~*~

Neil Gaiman has turned his terrific and inspiring talent with words to the realms of Norse Mythology –Odin, Loki, Thor, Freya, and all the others. He retells the major myth cycle of the Norse myths and pantheon for a modern audience, giving each god a voice, starting from their births, and the mischief they get up to, tricking humans and fellow gods alike – a characteristic that Loki, the trickster god, embodies without shame. Together with Thor and Freya, and Freya’s brother Frey, the story evolves naturally. Though written for a modern audience, the lyrical and oral nature of these original tales shines through.

Beginning with the creation story sparked by the death of Ymir, and concluding with the battle of Ragnorak, Norse Mythology takes myths that are not always as widely used or known as Greek and Roman myths, and repackages them for a modern audience, while still keeping the cadence and lyrical nature of the old stories, giving an image of ancient Norse people sitting around, telling stories of the Gods and myths, lessons learned through the oral tradition of their world.

Like many myth cycles throughout the world, it begins with creation, has the gods and goddesses and other beings causing mischief with each other and humans, causing havoc upon Earth through boredom or the need to do something, lives lived, anger, and finally, destruction and the end of the world.

Many of Neil Gaiman’s other works incorporate aspects of Norse Mythology. American Gods features Odin and Loki in a modern setting, so Norse Mythology is a natural progression, incorporating Gods, Goddesses, Dwarves and Frost Giants into the narrative that has existed for centuries. Norse Mythology reveals the romance and adventure of these tales, fairy tales retold for an audience who may have outgrown fairy tales. Like all his stories, Neil Gaiman’s lyrical style reminds adults of what reading a fairy tale is like – full of magic and whimsy, where bad things do happen but everything will be all right in the end – mostly.

A fine book that explores a lesser known myth cycle, wonderful for fans of mythology and Neil’s previous works.

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King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

Title: King’s Cage  kings-cage

Author: Victoria Aveyard

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Publisher: Orion Children’s Books

Published: 7th February 2017

Format: paperback

Pages: 512

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: The highly anticipated new novel from New York Times Number One bestselling author of Red Queen.

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal.

Now a king, Maven continues weaving his web in an attempt to maintain control over his country – and his prisoner.

As Mare remains trapped in the palace, the remnants of the Red Rebellion continue organising and expanding. As they prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows, Cal – the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart – will stop at nothing to bring her back.

In this breathless new novel from the bestselling author of the Red Queen series, blood will turn on blood and allegiances will be tested on every side. If the Lightning Girl’s spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?

~*~

King’s Cage starts with Mare Barrow in the prison of Maven, and at the mercy of the Silvers. The third in the Red Queen series, it continues the story that began in Red Queen, of the battle between Reds and Silvers, and how the Newbloods – those with special abilities – fit into the war. The ongoing war, and forced conscription ahs led to rebellion and infiltration, with Mare’s undercover position in the castle where Maven lives now undone, with her in prison, and under the influence of Silent Stone to suppress her lightning powers, but also Maven, and his obsession with her, and with using her. Set in a dystopian world where magic and technology work together, and where royalty has replaced politicians, this series is gaining fire as it moves towards the war that is coming, and threatening their world.

Starting a series mid-way through is not something I ordinarily do, however, I am tempted to go and read the first two books now – to get the full story, even though I could understand what was going on and work out the characters. I did enjoy it – it was a different take on the fantasy/science fiction/dystopian stories and tropes that abound in Young Adult literature. As the rebellion works away, Mare must suffer the indignity of being paraded around as Maven’s pet to his court, and journey to collect his bride, and unite two Houses against the rebels. It is on this journey that everything Mare has feared comes to a head, and the world she knows, and the people she knows – her family, her friends, and Cal, Maven’s exiled brother – will never be the same again.

Being introduced to a series in the middle can be confusing – at first it was, which is why I hope to read the first two, and it is not something I recommend, however, I was sent a review copy, and at first, did not realise it was part of a series. That said, I did enjoy this – any romantic relationships were there but weren’t as important as the rebellion storyline, and uniting everyone against a common enemy. As a reader, I enjoyed this because they had just enough focus to be enjoyable and gain insight into the characters and motivations, and at the same time, didn’t take over what I saw as the more interesting aspects to the novel – the rebellion and coming together from various places to take on the other side.

Even though Mare is the main character, a few other characters get to tell their story – each chapter is told in first person, with the name at the top, making it easy to identify who is telling the story. Each voice is different too – with varying emotions and views that ensure each character’s chapter is identified easily from the others.

A great read for fans of the series, and Young Adult fans. I am looking forward to trying to get the first two as well.

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