Miss Possum

Miss Possum
Pale but dynamic

Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Foretelling

The Foretelling

didn't like it it was ok liked it really liked it it was amazing

I loved this book, loved the writing, the characters and the imagery.

A bit different to my usual fare: although this is a story about Amazon women - and they certainly are immensely strong in physical prowess, will power and determination - it is a story about seeking peace, redemption, love and balance.

This book does have implied and recollected scenes of significant horror - gang rapes and sexual slavery - which were just bearable for this wussy reviewer, but more importantly, may be themes too strong for younger readers.

The writing, the world, the characters and images are so unusual and so beautiful, this book plunges us into an indelible experience. The sense of space, of landscape and long ago, of the importance and intimacy of a few other people, and the struggle to investigate and embrace newness and change, are rendered with truth and insight.


Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The Assassin's Curse

Publisher: Angry Robot, Imprint: Strange Chemistry
Publication Date: October 02, 2012

Thanks to NetGalley and Angry Robot for the ARC.

This is a sparkling, magical book singing with fresh ideas in a saturated paranormal YA universe. A strong young female voice, a belting plot, exotic imagery and strange magic immediately capture the reader and keep the pages flipping.

The story explodes into being when a determined and wilful pirate girl runs away from an arranged piratey wedding into an unknown future. Her problems increase when the scorned clan seek revenge through an unbreakable assassin sent to kill her. In a night-time desert fight, Ananna desperately uses magic given her by an enigmatic woman whom Ananna believes she cannot trust. The unexpected consequences bind the handsome young assassin to Ananna, in an adventure which crosses seas in search of a forbidden island.

Striking features of the book include the sensual and exotic imagery and the unusual, sparkling magic, which is also creepy and scary magic. The binding of the assassin and victim is a terrific device for plot development and the building of romantic tension. The immediacy of the writing style is very effective. Like Ananna, we do not know what kind of magic is happening to us, and who to trust.

Ananna, as the female protagonist, is satisfyingly determined and courageous (most of the time). Ananna is handy with a knife or a lie, and has quick hands for essential thieving. She has great character: as Ananna explains to her prospective husband, ‘Oh just stop!...Why would I want to marry someone who won’t even listen to me?..I want a ship of my own, not yours.’

This wonderful, magical story unfolds in a desert setting. We feel the cold harsh bite of the sand in the wind; the rich smells and colours in the night markets, and the uneasiness inherent in the slipping, sliding shadows which could so easily become something both corporeal and menacing. With Ananna, we feel alone, desperate but determined to find our own way.

This story is filled with vivid, individual characters, immediacy of action and great backstory. Cyberpunk elements add a strange contrast in the desert scenes: ‘The creatures stood there for a long time, creaking and heaving and letting off smoke.’

I particularly love the unusual magic: ‘The thing crawled across the sky, long thin strands like a ghoul’s fingers’, and ‘..he spat out a word in a language like dead flowers, beautiful and terrible all at once.’ This is Ananna discovering a type of magic: ‘As I worked, I sang in a language I didn’t know; the words sounded like the babble of water over stones, like rainfall pattering across the surface of a pond, like rapids rushing through a canyon.’

In the beginning, this story could have been the one I’d wished I’d written; however, the narrative is unable to sustain the fire, pace, imagery and ideas of the first third. Our heroes’ journey, while interesting, could perhaps have been more dramatic – I’m sure the author considered whether to have them cross her pirate father’s path and experience her mother’s magic– perhaps in sequels we will see this, but in some ways the reader is set up for a drama which does not then take place. Ananna is a pirate; the reader wants more pirate action, battles and lore.

Swearing and curses are always difficult to get right in an imagined world. In this case, the author chooses to use conventional swearing, ‘bullshit’, which jars in the exotic setting. The invented prayers and invocations are far more appealing: ‘…still there, thank Kaol and her sacred starfish.’

The last section re-engages with and echoes the earlier creepiness, although again does not quite hit the gripping suspense and sheer wonder of the new magic of the first sections. Our heroes are possibly saved too early in the final settings, which defuses what could have been an explosive climax, given this author’s superlative powers of strong voice, evocative imagery and strange magic.

Overall, this book is highly recommended for anyone who loves YA paranormals – it really shines above the general. Sequels will be anxiously awaited, promising unusual and dramatic adventures with a most engaging protagonist.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Goldrush (Vanguard Prime, #1)

Goldrush by Steven Lochran
4 of 5 stars false
Recommended to Maryanne by: NetGalley
Recommended for: Everyone who enjoys comics and superheroes. Perfect for reluctant readers and middle grade boys.

This review is made possible through NetGalley ARC from Penguin Books Australia, (Imprint: Puffin). Thanks NetGalley!

Publication Date: July 25, 2012

Vanguard Prime is Steven Lochran’s comic book imagination brought to life in novel form. A feast of superheroes with superpowers, powered up villains and high stakes burst from the action-packed pages.

An ordinary teenager turned reluctant superhero is a device which works well in Rick Riordan’s bestselling Percy Jackson series, and is used to good effect again here. In Vanguard Prime, we may be slower to engage with the protagonist. The book starts a little slowly, but it is worth persisting. The explosive action and strongly drawn characters of the final quarter are well worth the purchase price.

This reviewer, at first uncertain, was thoroughly captured by this description on page 16: ‘She looks less like a military officer and more like the person who just took out the military officer with a single punch’.

The few weaknesses occur in the beginning of the novel. The first chapter is filled with American phraseology, a little off-putting for Australian readers: ‘pops the boot’ ‘stooge with a two-dollar haircut’ and a father using phrases such as ‘well, okay, son.’ The present tense voice and short sentences seem intrusive in the initial chapters, as though they are not the author’s natural style, but have been edited to convey immediacy and to suit the perceived market – which of course is a terrific approach when done well. Something is missing in character portrayal, too: the reluctant hero is just a loser with no particular attributes to engage our interest.

However, keep reading! Both the story and the characters dramatically improve after we relive the incident where Sam becomes aware of his superpowers. The action explodes, we are committed to Sam and his journey, and suspense heightens through poor decisions of the ‘good’ team, which compound our hero’s problems.

The story is alive with terrific superheroes: Agent Alpha, Gaia, Knight of Wands and Machina – the tough, sassy, straight talking girl colleague, a staple of YA fiction. The villains are larger than life with their own superpowers: Metatron is a wonderfully extreme bad guy, as is Overman. We are hoping to hear more of the villainous Major Arcana in subsequent books.

The final solution is youth-led, an important idea in YA. Another delight is Lochran’s comic book landscape: ‘The sky is a vivid blue, a superhero comic book blue, with clouds looking like thought bubbles.’

With lines like that, and the author’s flashes of humour: (when fitting Sam’s new suit) - ‘that’s how all the superheroes are wearing them this season’, the series promises to be a winner.

Recommended for everyone who enjoys comics, superheroes and action, and is clearly destined to be a perfect present for reluctant readers and middle grade boys. 

This review is also published on Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/377768454

NOTE: Steven Lochran will be a panelist at the Ballarat Writers and Illustrators Festival, September 1, 2012. Please see http://www.ballaratwriters.com/?page_id=2256 for details.

Skulduggery Pleasant (Skulduggery Pleasant, #1)

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

Read in July, 2012 — I own a copy

4 of 5 stars false
I read this book as it was recommended by my Goodreads friend Sam. I put off reading it for a while, as I wasn't sure the cover looked like my kind of book. I read it because Sam said it was very funny - and yes, it is!! The one-liners and asides are delightful.

The characters are terrific, the action is satisfying and magic-enhanced, the baddies are pretty bad. It would normally be about 3 stars for plot, ideas and content, but it gets an extra star for lovely writing style, genuinely engaging, appealing, clever and competent young female lead characters, and for the tailor, a unique creation. I hope we see more of him, and I wish he could make me a work suit.

Looking forward to reading the next books.

Also posted on Goodreads  http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/377750526

Saturday, 7 July 2012


Matched (Matched, #1)


3.79 of 5 stars

I read Matched primarily because a Goodreads reviewer suggested Glitch referenced it heavily, and I enjoyed Glitch (see review - ARC from NetGalley).

There is lots to like about Matched, in particular, for me, more literary writing dropped into the prose than is common with much YA - some phrases and images are simply beautiful. The book hooked me with this image in the first few pages: 'Compact means small. I am small. I also like the way it sounds when you say it: com-pact...like the one the artifact itself makes when it snaps shut.'
I enjoyed the Dylan Thomas references and explorations of meaning in his words. The very controlled society is portrayed with flair and conveys an enjoyably creeping unease.

In common with its modern literary fiction cousins, though, Matched suffers from a lack of drive and action in the plot. Me, I like action and frights, danger and gutsiness, and you won't find an over abundance in Matched.

Worth reading for its gradual character and relationship development, its dystopian world and its occasional beautiful imagery.
Also posted on http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11310465-matched

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Black Ice (Young Sherlock Holmes, #3)

Black Ice by Andy Lane
's review 
Jun 26, 12  ·  edit

3 of 5 stars false

Weirdly addictive. Wasn't sure at first - other characters generally save the day rather than Sherlock - he is often saved rather than thinking through a solution himself, which is not a great approach in YA. However, the characters are both appealing and odd, the mystery was not bad and the idea itself is terrific. Will look forward to reading more in the series.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Glitch by  

4 Stars 4 of 5 stars false

NetGalley Book Review

If you love dystopian YA, with a strong female lead, gorgeous love interests and a roller-coaster plot that keeps you glued to the page, then don’t miss Glitch. A kind of Bourne Identity meets Divergent, the book is scary, sensuous, emotional and thought-provoking, and yet the action –packed plot keeps twisting and turning, with enough shocks and surprises to keep the reader wide-eyed and breathless.

The Community is mind-controlling, freeing humankind from pain and war, but also from love, joy and the appreciation of beauty. When Zoe begins to ‘Glitch’ and see things as they really are, her secrets and lies begin to pile up. She cannot reveal her feelings and reactions – to do so would reveal her as ‘anomalous’ and schedule her for deactivation. She must control her emotions, stay blank, walk at a uniform pace, all the while experiencing real terror in case she, or her strange new power, is discovered.

Zoe meets Adrien, and extraordinary love scenes ensue (nothing M or X rated). Adrien slowly teaches Zoe about her own emotions and how to read human reactions, long denied to her before she Glitched and broke free of The Link – the Community’s mind control program. With Zoe, we experience afresh every touch, every hesitant unfurling of feeling, the raw exhilaration of love. But can she trust Adrien? Is he who he says he is, or a Monitor for the Community? If Zoe makes a mistake, it could mean death and deactivation for her, and doom for those she cares about. Is she better with Max, or should she trust her instinctive wariness around him?

Zoe cannot even rely on her memory, as memories can be wiped or altered: she can only rely on her wits and emotions of the moment, although she is only learning what emotions mean. The stakes mount higher as more Glitchers are drawn into desperate escape plans, but almost everyone could be different from what they seem, including the terrifying Chancellor who interrogates Zoe weekly.

Key aspects of Anastasiu’s writing are refreshing and convincing. Science elements such as knowledge of brain structure and emotional pathways, pathogens and allergens, lift the novel above comparable YA romance/adventures for Science fans like this reviewer.  The Worldbuilding is excellent – ‘only officials had real last names instead of just work designations’. The concept that citizens can only Glitch while their brain is developing - until 18  - then they have the permanent ‘V-chip’ installed and are lost to the Community forever adds tension, and places the story squarely with teenagers. 

The novel explores the nature of memory and emotion, and what it means to be human, and the consequences of our choices.  The novel also has a delightful Paranormal edge with The Glitchers’ surprising and extreme anomalous powers, which emerge when they begin to Glitch.

Minor weaknesses include the contrived slang, which is so hard to get right and could annoy some readers. The protagonists fell in love a bit quickly – the dreaded instant-love of many YA novels - but later developments add an interesting spin. A memory wipe, and they are starting again. Would she remember? Will she make the same choice? There are some bumps in the writing: In the beginning, did Adrien save Zoe too quickly, taking over the action lead, before we see her fighting for herself?

Overall, the trilogy promises a gripping, fast-paced read, with wonderful, strong characters that we really care about, and a terrifying dystopian world.

This review is made possible due to NetGalley – Thanks NetGalley, I loved reading and reviewing this exciting debut novel.

This review is also published on Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10535458-glitch and will be published in a shortened form in The Ballarat Courier. http://www.thecourier.com.au/

Friday, 8 June 2012

The Battle of the Labyrinth...

5 stars.
Rick Riordan penned another winner with this one. The labryrinth is a fantastic character in itself - a feat of imaginative genius to have it constantly morphing and challenging its entrants. The labyrinth becomes a metaphor for life and the choices we make - the characters must 'see clearly', and 'hold fast' to their chosen path, or be very flexible and prepared for anything, dealing with surprises, monsters, threats and upheavals along the way. Like life, it is always difficult to go back or retrace steps back to a turning point or crossroads - everything has changed again. The characters lose and find friends along the way, other characters are more fully revealed, and some lose their way, their family and friends, and even their sanity. Love the names, as always - Mrs O'Leary is a delight. 

Also posted on Goodreadshttp://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2120932.The_Battle_of_the_Labyrinth

Friday, 25 May 2012

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

4 of 5 stars false

Love the Ancient Egypt themes and characters even better than the half-blood heroes in the Lightning Thief. Love how humour is used to lift a slightly sagging middle storyline! The animal characters are very appealing and funny - it all makes me feel like a puzzled teenager doing his and her best in a most confusing world. Laugh out loud stuff, here.

Friday, 18 May 2012

The Golden Door by Emily Rodda

The Golden Door by Emily Rodda

4 of 5 stars false
Recommended to Maryanne by: For newspaper review

In the first book of her new trilogy, master storyteller Emily Rodda weaves her magic once again. The Golden Door introduces Rye, youngest of three brothers. His brothers, and others, have vanished one by one while seeking to stop the deathly flying skimmers which attack and kill the citizens of The Weld.
Rodda unfolds a story full of magic, danger, chance encounters and strange characters who offer assistance at critical junctures. Accustomed to thinking less of himself than his heroic sporty eldest brother, and his clever, quick, second brother, Rye must somehow face hazards, battle evil-doers, trust his instincts and new abilities, and find the hero within himself.
Rodda’s language is simple and clear, her writing is assured, the plot is fast paced and yet allows us to get to know Rye and his assorted friends whom he collects along the way. Rye is an immensely appealing character – unassuming, loyal and courageous when it matters.
Emily Rodda has won the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award for a record five times. Many readers will be familiar with Rodda’s best-selling Deltora Quest series, and this trilogy promises to be another extraordinary adventure.
Highly recommended for readers 8+
Also published on Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/336692919 and in the Ballarat Courier 02.02.12 http://www.thecourier.com.au

Thursday, 17 May 2012

The Puzzle Ring by Kate Forsyth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars false

 My introduction to Kate Forsyth's wonderful children's fantasy writing - after which I gulped down 11 more of her books in row.

The Puzzle Ring has elements of history, of magic, of mystery and a quest. The plot is tight and satisfying, and the writing is as magical as any of Kate's own inventive magical creatures or objects. Like most of her stories, the character, Hannah, learns much about her own courage, kindness and persistence, and makes surprising friends and allies in the least expected places. She also discovers where she really belongs.

Kate Forsyth's stories always have the child or children driving the action and solving the mysteries, and The Puzzle Ring is another terrific offering.

Why have I not discovered this author earlier?

Also posted http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6889348-the-puzzle-ring

The Starkin Crown (The Starkin Crown #3) by Kate Forsyth

My Rating:  4 of 5 stars false

Recommends it for: everyone; middle grade children

The gripping final in the Starkin trilogy, with a prince on a quest, his devoted friend and a snooty princess-turned ally. As always, the humbler characters are wonderfully drawn and very appealing. 

The snooty princess gradually becoming a friend device, echoes and reflects each layer in the trilogy.

In this third installment, the lovers didn't ring quite true for me - perhaps they were not tested as much, or they became aware of their mutual attraction too soon; the mutual attraction gradually unfolding by the characters in the Starthorn Tree was beautifully done, by contrast. 

Overall, the writing is as beguiling, the scenes and landscapes as fresh and wonderful and the storytelling as magical as all Kate Forsyth's Children's fantasy.

Also posted on http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12078852-the-starkin-crown

The Wildkin's Curse (The Starkin Crown #2)

4.0 of 5 stars

Gripping continuation from The Starthorn Tree. Engaging characters, thrilling new developments and another quest. The prophecies work well to add mystery, magic and suspense. Imaginative fantasy creatures add richness to the story; Kate Forsyth's compelling narrative style hooks the reader in and keeps us glued to the page.

One star off for quite a graphic evil scene in the middle of the book - too graphic for many children (and for me). There is sufficient light and shade in the characters and in the plot - this was a little too much.

Also posted on http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8045971

Review: Starthorn Tree by Kate Forsyth

5 of 5 stars false

4 1/2 Stars.

This book is full of wonderful and surprising characters, intriguingly named fantasy creatures, and Kate Forsyth's familiar themes of finding friends in least-expected places and revealing undiscovered strengths and talents through dangers and challenges faced. 

The story races along with suspense, action, emotion, danger and cliff-hanging excitement. 

The baddies are satisfyingly bad, a prince needs rescuing by a princess, in a more modern twist on the fable and sacrifices must be made to gain the reward. 

I love the names of the creatures - hobhenky, boo-bogey, wildkin, grogoyle, as well as more familiar creatures, such as wood-sprites and river-roans. 

Also posted  http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/331857879 

****WARNING a bit of a SPOILER****

I've taken off half a star for the fate of one of the characters, which I thought was unnecessarily harsh for a children's book.

Review: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan


The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
5 of 5 stars false
5 Stars
recommended forEveryone
reviewRead this book! It is funny, has an ordinary hero on an epic quest, with endearing friends, exciting challenges and terrible monsters to overcome. The story is a very modernised version of Greek myths, with Gods, heroes, a little magic, gifts to help on the quest, obstacles, betrayals and terrible decisions.
The story is narrated through Perseus, or Percy, a twelve year old with ADHD, a very wry sense of humour and a big heart. Some of his teachers turn out to be guardians and monsters in disguise, still containing recognisable traits they had as teachers. Other monsters respond well to a very human approach. The battles and disasters accidentally caused or faced by Percy, are satisfyingly large-scale, destructive and cataclysmic; his pitfalls are exaggerated modern dilemmas and his friends and helpers come in a variety of forms, as is appropriate for a hero's journey.
The writing is direct and the narrator's voice is a slightly confused and funny teenager's. The descriptions and modern take on the mythic Gods is really wonderful. I am just happy I only discovered the series now, so that I get to read all the books as fast as I can digest them.

Also Reviewed in goodreads 

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Torture scenes in novels - should be warnings on the cover!

I am so sick of vividly described torture in fantasy novels. Many such scenes are merely gratuitous. Unfortunately, when the story is one we wish to read, as in 'Inheritance', we are forced to endure through the detail as we want to enjoy the rest of the story. I understand its use as a device - the character must suffer to build empathy, to develop as a character, to explore their own capacities and flaws, and most importantly, to suffer in order to earn their reward at the climax of the novel. 
Surely there are many other ways to achieve this? Torture, if absolutely necessary, can be off-scene. The character can experience challenge and suffering in many other ways; or evil characters can be portrayed as evil without the torture:  See my review:
Finally, I think books which include scenes of torture should have warnings on the cover. Remember readers and writers, books are fiction. There is far too much real torture and suffering out there for us to have to live through fictional experiences as well. Does portraying evils such as torture 'normalise' treating other people and creatures in this way, or does it help to raise the issue of the horror of torture? My view is that I already know about and abhor this type of behaviour. I don't want to experience it vicariously as well in fiction, the place I go to rest and escape.

Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper

Fallen Grace

Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper
Publisher: Bloomsbury 2010
's review 
Mar 15, 12  ·  edit

3 of 5 stars
Recommended for: YA historical lovers

Strongly portrayed female characters experience poverty and the struggle to survive in Victorian London. Interesting twist where the younger sister must look after the older. Historical facts and the reality faced by young women alone and unprotected in Victorian London are brought vividly to life.

The Healer's Keep (Healer and Seer, #2) by Victoria Hanley

 The Healer's Keep

The Healer's Keep by Victoria Hanley
Publisher: Corgi (Random House) 2004
's review 
Mar 15, 12  ·  edit

4 of 5 stars
Recommended for: readers who enjoy YA fantasy and adventure

Strong lead characters, including strong female leads, contribute to driving a great adventure, replete with interesting and unusual magic. The evil-doing villain in this book is so scary, I felt sick. Fantastic to see a genuinely scary, evil villain, that does not rely on twisted torture scenes or graphic violence to show his evilness (I am so sick of vividly described torture in fantasy novels - there should be a warning on the cover)- just portrayed through his steely gaze and powerful magic abilities. 
Really like that characters are shown as caring for friends and accepting kindness from strangers, and that good actions, while increasing the danger and tension in the moment, are ultimately rewarded. 
One of those stay up all night until you have finished books.
Also posted on Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/294974839