Hardcover: 216 pages
Publisher: Walker Books (September 27th 2011)
Written By: Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd (Conception)
Illustrated By: Jim Kay
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness is a story about Connor O'Malley, a thirteen year old boy struggling with his emotions and events that will turn his life upside down. Connor feels invisible, he feels betrayed by his only friend, and hates the looks of pity his teachers give him. Every night at 12:07 am the nightmares begin, replaying the same scenes over and over. Then the monster shows up, but not the one he is used to. This one is ancient and takes the form of a yew tree. The monster tells Connor that he will tell him three stories and then Connor will tell him his story. As the stories unfold Connor fights the connections they bring to his own life.
A Monster Calls was first conceived by Siobhan Dowd, an Irish author of eight books including, Bog Child, The London Eye Mystery, and A Swift Pure Cry. Dowd was diagnosed with breast cancer and died on 21st August 2007, after the three years of treatment. Dowd had been working on a first draft of A Monster Calls, or as it was called at the time Mistress Yew with Denise Johnstone-Burt, publisher and editor at Walker Books. Before Dowd passed away she asked Burt to continue the story with another author.
Enter Patrick Ness. Ness was contacted by Burt about taking on the project. Ness returned, inspired by Dowd, with an outline for A Monster Calls. Jim Kay was then brought onto the project as the illustrator. His work is both haunting and chaotic which enhance the story with a chilling magic. Kay and Ness make a strong team blending Ness' poetic and dark tone with Kay's larger than life drawings.
The story began as Mistress Yew, a tale of healing and yew trees (which are known for there medicinal uses in cancer treatment drugs, particularly breast cancer), then it grew into A Monster Calls.
This story will take you through a full range of emotions. Connor's story echoes the tales of youth who have experience similar situation in social and family circles. I guarantee you will not regret reading Connor's story. Much like The Nest by Kenneth Oppel, which I previously reviewed. Connor and Steve face similar struggles with nightmares, Connor with the Yew Tree and his reoccurring nightmare, and Steve with the wasps. Both are dark but filled with emotion, foreshadowing, and tough decisions. Trust me pick up A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, it is impossible to put down till the last.
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (October 6th, 2015)
Written By: Kenneth Oppel
Illustrated By: Jon Klassen
Literary Awards: Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award Nominee (2017)
The Nest by Kenneth Oppel was a delight to read. It was unexpected and creepy with a feeling of quiet horror. Though listed at Indigo Books and Music as a 9 - 12 reader. This book can and should appeal to a much older audience. The lead is Steve, a young boy with a new born baby brother and a younger sister. Steve is neck deep in fears and phobia's and since his brother was born he has been having nightmares about wasps. His baby brother is very weak and his parents are constantly going to the hospital searching for the cause of their youngest child's illness.
The story is fast paced and easy to read, but the subject matter itself is dark and impactful. The Nest was chilling, while still hypnotizing my into hungrily flipping page after page. Steve is involved in a circle of physiological events which blur on being fantastical.
Oppel is a Canadian children's author from Vancouver Island, British Columbia. He was born in Port Alberni but spent most of his childhood in Victoria BC. His first book Collin's Fantastic Video Adventure (9780525441519) was published in 1985. He is also the Author of the popular Silverwing Trilogy (9780689036132). The illustrations within The Nest where designed by Jon Klassen. Klassen's illustrations are graphic with a sketched and textured appearance. His work within the nest is unnerving. They glow with a unique style and light that enhance the stories haunting qualities.
I throughly enjoyed reading, the Nest. I found Oppel's writing style vivid and compelling. Oppel was able to enter the head of a young boy and made a story which is poetic and beautiful from the perspective of a youthful eye. The Nest was a swift read which definitely earned it's spot on my shelf.
Series: The Legend of Eli Monpress (Omnibus Edition)
Paperback: 1040 pages
Publisher: Orbit; 1 Combined edition (February 24, 2012)
Written By: Rachel Aaron
The Legend of Eli Monpress by Rachel Aaron begins with a most peculiar interaction between a door and one thief by the name of Eli Monpress; he is attempting to convince it to release him from the cell in which he is being held. This series was a joy to read filled with magic, in the form of elemental spirits, humour, and daring adventure. The viewpoint primarily focuses on Eli Monpress, a notorious thief looking to raise the price of his bounty by completing reckless heists; including stealing a king, and Miranda Lyonette, a member of the Spirit Court, sent to retrieve Eli Monpress at all costs.
Of course like all good books things do not go as planned and mayhem ensues. Miranda is forced to team up with Eli and his group of accomplices including the greatest swordsman in the world, and a demon seed named Nico, in the hopes of taking down a far worse foe. This series is an easy read in a fantasy setting with just the right amount of character growth and intrigue to motivate the reader to devour ravenously each passing chapter as a demon seed devours a young tree spirit.
I look forward to reading her other published works: The Heartstrikers Series. Book one Nice Dragons Finish Last was released in 2014 and the sequel One Good Dragon Deserves Another was released in 2015. As Rachel Bach, she has also written a science fiction trilogy called The Paradox Trilogy.
The Song of the Lioness Quartet written by Tamora Pierce blends humor, fantasy and magic while concurring gender stereotypes and compelling characters. Alanna: The First Adventure was published in 1983 by Simon Pulse. It was soon followed by: In the Hands of the Goddess in 1984. The third book: The Woman Who Rides Like a Man was published in 1986 and Lioness Rampant was released in 1988
Tamora Pierce takes the crown for one of my top five all-time favourite authors. She is exceptionally skilled at blending fantasy with reality. She can cast a spell with the world of Tortall and draw you in with her dashing and sarcastic characters.
These books are fast-paced and easy to read. They focus on the adventure of Alan or Alanna of Trebond. A young girl with the dream of becoming a knight. At the beginning of Alanna: The First Adventure Alanna and her twin brother Thom switch placed. Thom wants to become a Mage, and Alanna wishes to become a knight. Knowing their father won't notice the swap, and with Alanna's forgery skills, the twins plan come to fruition and Alanna is sent to the city and Thom to the Mages University. Alanna faces many complications including bullying, the discovery of womanhood and her status as a short and weak page. She soon learns to over come these barriers with the help of her friends and the gods.
As the stories progress the characters grow with plot and the general maturity and theme, adjust to mirror this creating a well-rounded series. The characters are fleshed out and animated, each with their own personal quirk and realistic motives. It is extremely easy to find yourself immersed in the struggle and tribulations each faces, be it learning to fight or how to
I recommend this series to anyone looking for an enjoyable coming of age fantasy adventure!
Alanna: The First Adventure
In The Hands Of The Goddess
The Woman Who Rides Like A Man
The Night Angel Series by Brent Weeks is both suspenseful, humorous and well written. The characters all have clear, distinct and enjoyable personalities that keep you invested past the end of the series. The story follows Azoth, a young boy living on the streets and Durzo Blint, one of the cities top assassins.
Azoth is faced with choices and risks through out the series in his journey to become a full fledged Assassin under the tutelage of Durzo Blint. This series is classified as a Epic Fantasy . Full of danger, adventure, heartbreak and well developed action scenes this series is within my top ten favourites!
The Night Angel Complete Trilogy
The Way of the Shadow
Beyond the Shadow's
Stardust by Neil Gaiman is a fantastical adventure with depth, unique characters, viewpoints and well written quirky sentences. Tristan Thorn has his heart set on winning the affections of Victoria. In order to earn this he promises to fetch her a fallen star. Tristan has to cross an ancient wall outside their town in order to reach said star. The issue? No one crosses the wall. Once across the wall Tristan finds adventure and awe in the strange oddities that live beyond. Full of Witches, Unicorns and sky pirates, this is an amazing adventure and one that is delicious to fall into. Not everything is as it seems not even the star.
There is also a movie based off of Stardust. It is quite good, funny, well filmed and magical but if you have seen the movie you will become quickly aware of how different the book and movie are. The movie is magical but more realistic as CGI would have been extremely expensive and the book is more unique and creative. I however love both equally. They both have their virtues even with their diversity. I believe that the film makers made a good decision what they removed for the film.
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer is a extremely witty and well written. It is a futuristic, sci-fi, adventure with a unique view on the classic fairy tales. The target audience is young adult and shows a fine tuned balance between humorous encounters and dangerous tension. The story follows a weave of characters. Cinder, Scarlet ,Wolf and Cress, as well as an array of spunky, sassy side characters.
The first book Cinder follows Cinder, a cyborg mechanic, on her path from the bottom to the ball, along with one very small cyborg foot and a selection of missing parts. She is on a quest to find a cure for the mysterious plague ravaging New Beijing and Earth. Cinder finds herself trapped in the center of a intergalactic war and in the midst of everything she is forced to dig deeper into her past. The character of Cinder is fleshed out, sympathetic and enjoyable. Marissa Meyer establishes a clear fast pasted plot filled with twists.
In the second, Scarlet. Scarlet's grandmother is missing and in her search to locate her in France Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter with a mysterious background. Though she is unsure about Wolf, Scarlet is forced to join up with him in the search for her grandmother. While on their journey circumstances lead to them joining Cinder and banding together to stop the Lunar Queen. Scarlet has amazing tension and great dialogue. The character interactions are smooth and flow naturally. It is enjoyable but clearly a stepping stone setting up the rest of the series. This book puts the gears in motion for the rest of the plot.
The third book, Cress follows all the characters of the previous two books plus Cress. A Lunar shell forced to live in a satellite for most of her life. She is the informant and programmer for the Lunar Queen and is discontent with her isolation. She reaches out to Cinder in hope of rescue and finds herself in the midst of the action.
The fourth book Winter, Snow White I believe, comes out this November. The protagonist appears to be the niece of the Lunar Queen.
These are vivid enjoyable books which I would recommend to anyone looking for a light well written fantasy, sci-fi novel.
Princess of Light
Absolute Xpress: Hades Publishing
Reviewed by Maya Pozzolo
“Choose, Cassara, but choose wisely. Either path is difficult, and both will bring reward. Think of the legacy you will leave this land.”Chapter 3, Page 49
Princess of Light by Marie Bilodeau is the first book in the Heirs of the Broken Lands trilogy. It is a fantasy adventure set in the country of Graydon. The story follows Cassara Edoline. Cassara inherits an amulet from her mother when she passes away under mysterious circumstances.
At seventeen Cassara begins to develop magical powers and is given the choice between joining the Circle, an organization of sorcerers, or becoming the bride to Prince Dayton of the neighbouring country of Rashim. Chaos ensues as the Wall of Loss has begun to fall separating the light from the darkness. Cassara begins her journey accompanied by an unlikely set of companions Avarielle, a warrior from the west, and a sorceress called Shirina, part of the Circle of Magic.
The structure of the story is formal and falls into the third person point of view. It shifts perspectives between the three female leads, Cassara Edoline, Avarielle, and Shirina.
This unlikely team are forced to work together with a common goal of stopping the wall from falling. As it is part of a trilogy, these threads are left to linger and are drawn into the sequel Warrior of Darkness which follows Avarielle. The point of view does occasionally shifts into the perspective of several side characters including the antagonist of the story and Cassara’s older sister.
The dialogue within the story is dripping with humour and sarcasm and is the primary device used to progress the plot. The motivation of the characters is clear and hidden character motivation is threaded throughout the story creating a delicate balance of doubt. The seeds are sown for the rest of the series, and the reader is left questioning the moral ambiguity of the characters. The plot is filled with political deceit, lies and scandal.
Princess of Light has a beautiful blend of description and dialogue create a smooth easy to read novel. The story concepts need to be fleshed out, as there are several concepts that are hard to picture or are not fully described, this makes the story harder to follow. This is in part due to the formal structure that can sometimes come across as wordy. The theme of Princess of Light is tied together with fate, magic and moral values.
Marie Bilodeau is an Ottawa-based science fiction and fantasy author. In 2011, she was nominated for the Prix Aurora/Boréal Award for her novel Destiny’s Blood series. Marie Bilodeau has a Bachelor’s Degree in Religion and Culture with a minor in Archaeology.
This story is an addictive read with unexpected twists and turns, realistic fleshed out characters with clear easy to follow motivation. Marie Bilodeau does a beautiful job setting up the rest of the series and provides just the right amount of backstory to set the story into motion. Princess of Light is Marie Bilodeau’s first novel a great addition to the Canadian speculative fiction market. Marie Bilodeau is currently working on a Kindle series called Nigh. She has just published the fifth novella in the series as of June 23rd, 2015.
The Nest was a chilling, unsettling book with a foreboding storyline coated in foreshadowing and brilliant writing. I enjoyed Kenneth Oppel's writing style, it was unique and very interesting to follow.
Maya Pozzolo is Graphic Designer and Writer from the Comox Valley in British Columbia, Canada.