Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

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Title: Letters to the Lost

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Genre: YA

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 6th April 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 400

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they’re not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

~*~

When Declan Murphy finds a letter on a grave during community service in the graveyard, he is compelled by an invisible force to read it, and respond to the person who wrote the letter.

When Juliet Young finds Delcan’s response to the letter she placed on her mother’s grave, she s incensed that someone has dared to read the words and respond to them as if they know her, as though they had the right to intrude. To Juliet, her privacy has been violated.

And yet, Juliet and Declan find a connection through this anonymous communication. They tell each other things they’ve never told anyone else, and reveal their true selves and feelings throughout the letters and later anonymous emails and messages that they move to. As they grow fond of each other through this method of communication, real life begins to throw them together: at school, at Homecoming, one the dark road with a broken down car, and they begin to form a friendship separate from the letters, not knowing that they are corresponding anonymously online when they face off in person.

Soon, they are thrown together more and more as real life and the letters start to blur together, and a fateful discussion threatens to throw them apart, and secrets are uncovered that Juliet is fearful to share with anyone – except those who helped her find the courage to look at her mother’s cameras, and find out what really happened the day she died.

Letters to the Lost is more than a love story. It is a story of loss, and how everyone deals with it differently, and a story of how the most unlikely friendships can develop in unusual places and come from a similar place and understanding, and slowly, develops into something more. Declan and Juliet have people they can talk to, teachers, friends, but not parents, and those who do try are not always able to understand them the way they understand each other.

I enjoyed Declan and Juliet’s story. It was heartbreaking in many ways, and illustrated the frustrations people feel that come with grief and change, and the shock of truths that lead to what happened, and the burdens that children shouldn’t have to shoulder. They are two people from different walks of life who find a way to understand the world, and the letters and emails interspersed with the prose and the dual perspective – where Declan’s chapters are indicated by him reading Juliet’s letters, and vice versa for Juliet – works well and establishes the characters for the reader, giving them both sides to the story, not just one.

Another interesting read from Bloomsbury for the Young Adult audience.

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Royce Rolls by Margaret Stohl

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Title: Royce Rolls
Author: Margaret Stohl
Genre: YA
Publisher: Bloomsbury Australia
Published: 1st May 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 400
Price: $15.99
Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Bentley Royce is the wild-child of a super-glam reality TV dynasty. She has it all – designer clothes, a fancy school and an actual Bentley to drive around in. Her ambitious mom Mercedes has dragged the family from trailer park to Hollywood stardom. But Bentley wants out – she wants to go to college, escape her own storyline, be NORMAL – but Royces don’t do normal (or college).

Rolling with the Royces is running out of ways to keep viewers hooked and suddenly the show is threatened with cancellation. Bentley faces an impossible choice. Without the show, she could live the college dream – but her family will crumble (and is $20million in debt). Bentley Royce has a mission. She must use her brains to save the show; if she saves the show, she can save her family – and she’ll do whatever it takes …

Royce Rolls is a laugh-out-loud funny romp with a twist of mystery – a behind-the-scenes comedy with a brilliant voice, a hilarious and subversive antidote to the Kardashians and TOWIE (which will still work for fans of both!).

~*~

In Royce Rolls, the main character, Bentley Royce, is tired of playing the role of wild child in the reality television show, Rolling with the Royces. She’s tired of having her every waking minute filmed, and tired of being told how to act, and what to wear and humiliated by her sister, Porsche and her mother, Mercedes. After six seasons of the humiliation, Bentley’s only hope for a normal life and college – something that goes against everything Mercedes has instilled in her children and everything the show runners have encouraged for the Bentley character – is for the show to be cancelled. But when the threat of cancellation, her family will be faced with a large debt they’d have no chance of paying off. And so, Bentley must make a choice between family and a life that she has yearned for over many years.

Starting with an incident that shocks the reader, and inevitably, the characters, the novel switches back to the events that led to the tragedy. Each chapter ends or begins with relevant articles that would probably be found on a celebrity gossip site that blow things out of proportion with sensationalist headlines and stories, these do little to reflect the reality Bentley and her family manage to live when the cameras aren’t rolling during hiatus, or those rare hours when they’re studying their characters and Mercedes is probing them to be a person that they aren’t.

Bentley’s only solace is a local library, where she meets fellow library patron, Venice, and for the first time, experiences a real friendship, outside of a scripted “reality” that has been coerced to bring in ratings. She manages to get away at a certain time of day for this time out, and realises through these meetings that there is more than life on the show, and she wants more. Venice is the only person she can be the real Bentley with, not the scripted wild child “Bad Bentley” that everyone expects on the show.

Royce Rolls takes the reality television format and makes a mockery of it, revealing that what viewers see in the shows that populate television screens claiming to be reality television, television of real life, is really scripted and carefully produced and created using real people – acting as characters who are projected as the true selves of those on the screen, as opposed to fictional characters played by actors in television shows that often have much more interesting story lines.

As a rather anti-reality television fan, or at least, a viewer of shows like Masterchef who looks at the way things are edited for story telling purposes, this was an amusing read, and I was pleasantly surprised that I liked it. It shed light on the fallacy of reality television and indicates the power of reality comes from who a person really is, not what the world sees. It establishes the flaws of celebrity as well, and shows that that world is not as perfect as it may seem.

An interesting read for the YA audience, fans of reality television and those who don’t enjoy it. It is an antidote to the saturation of this genre and it uses humour and satire to show what this world is really like in an accessible and fun way.

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Carnivalesque by Neil Jordan

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Title: Carnivalesque

Author: Neil Jordan

Genre: Magical Realism, Fiction, Fantasy

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 1st April 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 288

Price: $24.99

Synopsis: It looked like any other carnival, but of course it wasn’t…

 

It had its own little backstreets, its alleyways of hanging bulbs and ghost trains and Punch and Judy stands …

And at the end of one he saw the Hall of Mirrors. There were looping strings of carnival lights leading towards it, and a large sign in mirrored glass reading ‘Burleigh’s Amazing Hall of Mirrors’ and the sign reflected the lights in all sorts of magically distorted ways.

To Andy and his parents, it looks like any other carnival: creaking ghost train, rusty rollercoaster and circus performers. But of course it isn’t.

Drawn to the hall of mirrors, Andy enters and is hypnotised by the many selves staring back at him. Sometime later, one of those selves walks out rejoins his parents – leaving Andy trapped inside the glass, snatched from the tensions of his suburban home and transported to a world where the laws of gravity are meaningless and time performs acrobatic tricks.

And now an identical stranger inhabits Andy’s life, unsettling his mother with a curious blankness, as mysterious events start unfolding in their Irish coastal town…

~*~

Andy’s story begins quite innocuously, with a detour to a carnival that catches his eye on the way to a shopping centre with his parents. They enter, and soon, Andy’s world is turned upside down in the Hall or Mirrors, where he is left behind at the carnival, and someone who looks like him, but is not quite him, leaves with his parents. Andy, now Dany in the carnie world, must come to terms with the life of travelling around and setting up the carnival, discovering it’s secrets with Mona and the others, adjusting to a new life, whilst the Andy impersonator resides with his parents, calls them mother and father, and casts shadows into the family that worry his mother, Eileen, and do not bode well for their futures.

The story is told in alternating chapters, through the eyes of Eileen and Andy/Dany, and sometimes with a couple dedicated to one character. As Dany adjusts to his new life, the new Andy and his unusual ways of speaking, and acting worry Eileen. The dual storyline shows the complexity of the story, and allows the reader to follow the intriguing mystery of how the real Andy’s (Dany) disappearance affects his family, and hints that tragedy may soon befall them.

As Dany journeys with the carnival, he becomes a part of it, though he still remembers his home and longs to return, the carnival offers him a different life, one that he could never have imagined.

Written by Oscar-winning film director (The Crying Game, The Company of Wolves) and novelist, Carnivalesque is his latest creation, and I quite enjoyed it. It has a feel of intrigue and mystery about it, with questions that won’t necessarily be answered, nor some things resolved properly. It fits in nicely with Neil Gaiman’s works in the magical realism and fantasy worlds. A great read for fans of Jordan’s previous work, Gaiman fans or anyone who enjoys fantasy and magical realism.

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We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Bran Conaghan

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Title: We Come Apart

Authors: Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan

Genre: YA, Children’s literature, poetry

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 1st March, 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 336

Price: $17.99

Synopsis: YA rising stars Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan join forces to break readers’ hearts in this contemporary story of star-cross’d lovers.

Jess would never have looked twice at Nicu if her friends hadn’t left her in the lurch. Nicu is all big eyes and ill-fitting clothes, eager as a puppy, even when they’re picking up litter in the park for community service. He’s so not her type. Appearances matter to Jess. She’s got a lot to hide.

Nicu thinks Jess is beautiful. His dad brought Nicu and his mum here for a better life, but now all they talk about is going back home to find Nicu a wife. The last thing Nicu wants is to get married. He wants to get educated, do better, stay here in England. But his dad’s fists are the most powerful force in Nicu’s life, and in the end, he’ll have to do what his dad wants.

As Nicu and Jess get closer, their secrets come to the surface like bruises. The only safe place they have is with each other. But they can’t be together, forever, and stay safe – can they?

An extraordinary, high-impact, high-emotion collaboration between two Carnegie honoured rising stars of YA.

~*~

We Come Apart is the story of two troubled teens, who find themselves in the same repatriation programme, and are drawn to each other, and way from the bullies that plague Nicu because of who they think he is, and the friends that Jess realises she can’t really trust, and whose troubled home life has left her slipping through the cracks. At first they just watch each other, unsure of how to approach each other. But when they do, a friendship begins to blossom, and they are drawn to each other’s company, sharing how they feel, their fears, and what they wish for. Jess wants to escape her stepfather, Terry, Nicu doesn’t want to go back to Romania and marry the girl his parents have chosen for him. He wants to stay and save Jess. Together, they plan a way to leave their lives for a new life. But tragic events may mean that they are ripped apart forever.

Jess and Nicu’s stories are at first isolated and individual, and they slowly begin to intertwine, and bring the two together. I enjoyed reading their story in verse form, it was not only interesting but a fairly quick read and an absorbing one with an ending I didn’t see coming. Seeing two teenagers who had found themselves in trouble with the police and from vastly different families – who each expectations and in a way, didn’t respect Nicu and Jess for who they were, and their different attitudes and personalities that came through in the poetry were ignored or not respected by those around them other than each other.

This novel shows how well a story can be told through verse, in a dual perspective and shows that the bonds of friendship and those we choose to be around can sometimes be the strongest.

Told in verse, alternating between Nicu and Jess, at first individual poems about what leads them to where they meet, moving into poems of observation, and into poems that mirror each other as they interact. Telling a story in verse is an interesting method. It gets the story across just as effectively, and tells the story through emotions. It allowed for the characters to show the kind of people \ they were and what they came from. It was as much a story of friendship as it was love, and is a great book for the young adult audience.

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Announcement: Cover Reveal for Illustrated Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

hp20_230.jpgSince 2015, one of my favourite series has had illustrated editions released for each book, and this year not only marks the twentieth anniversary, already discussed in a previous post, but aphilosophers illustrated.jpeg new addition to the already released illustrated editions:

To coincide with the twentieth anniversary of Harry Potter, the third title in the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, will be released in an illustrated edition on the third of October 2017. Like the previous two chamber illustratedillustrated editions, Jim Kay has illustrated the story, and brought iconic aspects of the novel, such as the Knight Bus, seen here on the cover, to life. This hardback edition will have a ribbon marker, head and tail bands, illustrated end papers, and has over 115 colour images. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is my favourite of the series, and I can’t wait to see the illustrations to accompany the Dementors and the Boggart scenes.Azkaban cover

Like the rest of the illustrated series, it will be published in 21 languages. The illustrated editions began coming out in October 2015, when the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone came out, with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in 2016. Jim Kay’s reimagining of JK Rowling’s work has sold over one million copies worldwide of the first book.

The entire series has now sold over 450 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 79 languages. It was voted as the nation’s (United Kingdom) favourite book in 2013 in a Booktrust poll.

Jim Kay is a Kate Greenaway Medal winner. The front cover depicted here shows the Knight Bus as it picks up Harry when he runs away from Privet Drive at the beginning of book three.

Expect a darker tone and mood to the images as they reflect the change in tone of the writing and story as the series begins to enter darker territory and the threat of Voldemort begins to rise.

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Illustrated edition by J.K. Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay

Published in hardback on 3rd October 2017

AU$59.99

336pp

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

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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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