Bookish Things

Nyxia – Reintgen

I recently read a book that made me realise just how much I appreciate a really good SciFi, and very real male protagonist: Nyxia by Scott Reintgen. A colleague who doesn’t usually read SciFi recommended this to me and it did not disappoint – so much so that I even went and bought my own copy.

Synopsis:

34946083Ten teenagers from low socio-economic backgrounds are offered a chance of a lifetime from global corporation, Babel; embark on a journey to a new planet called Eden, learn valuable skills along the way, earn more money than most of the richest on Earth… but only if they can beat the other recruits and secure themselves a spot in the top eight.

Emmett is one of those recruits, and he is determined to make it to Eden to save his mother from cancer. He is regularly forced to decide between what is right, and what is easy, often forgetting that a life without his humanity is not worth living no matter how wealthy it is. Emmett has no idea about the challenges he is going to face, but he knows that he is going to do everything he can to be in the top eight and land on Eden.

Thoughts:

I absolutely adore this book for quite a few reasons. Firstly, Emmett is so very real. Its not often that I identify with an 18 year old male character, for obvious reasons, but the way that Emmett is written is very clever. You feel his pain, his need, and his drive. You understand what makes him tick and the motivation behind his choices. His ability to be acknowledge the darkness within him and yet fight to be the better man because that’s how his parents raised him, makes you appreciate the pressure that his is under and the manipulative nature of Babel. I just love Emmett.

Secondly, this is such a thrilling read. It was one of those can’t-possibly-put-down-until-finished, read-it-in-one-go reads. The twists, turns and shock values were great. I was worried for Emmett’s sanity, but at no point was I unsure of his fate (clever devices that teen readers wouldn’t normally recognise gave away certain clues for certain events, but I still enjoyed it). Just when you think all is finally well, Reintgen rips the rug out from underneath you with another twist and you can’t help hating Babel.

Lastly, I haven’t read a good SciFi thriller like this in ages. Yes, I love These Broken Stars by Kauffman and Spooner, and yes, I am very much looking forward to Obsidio by Kauffman and Kristoff, BUT, this is a different type of SciFi and it’s been a while. It’s made me realise just how much I love a good SciFi thriller, and how the genre seems to be making a come back with new authors, new ideas, and new stories to love.

Overall, I would recommend Nyxia to anyone from 13 years and up. Yeah, there are a couple of violent scenes but on the whole they are not the most violent I have come across, and they are written in a way that adds to the story rather than just being violence for violences sake (similar to the cleverness of the violence in Hunger Games). If you’re looking for your next great SciFi read, or are interested in trying the genre, I would highly recommend giving this one a go.

Bookish Things, Thoughts

The 20th Anniversary of Harry Potter

It’s no secret around school that I adore everything Harry Potter. I…

  • Own multiple copies of all the books and DVDs
  • Own a copy of the audiobooks read by Stephen Fry and listen to them regularly
  • Am a proud Gryffindor, sorted through Pottermore
  • Have a large range of Harry Potter merchandise/clothing, including a cardigan and scarf from Harry Potter World Orlando that I wear to work regularly
  • Can discuss all cannon and fan theories in depth with fellow Potterheads

All of these things might seem crazy to those that live outside the Harry Potter Universe, but for me and, possibly more importantly, my students, it’s a way of connecting. So, how does Harry Potter connect us? Here is my list of 3 ways in which it does!

1. It’s worldwide!

For the 20th anniversary this year, Pottermore has started up a Wizarding World Book Club that fans all over the world can connect through. It’s being hosted on Twitter under the hashtag #WWBookClub and allows fans to respond to questions and replies across the globe. I love that the Harry Potter Universe is so big that they are able to have a worldwide book club! It’s blowing my mind! Some of the responses to the initial questions have really had me thinking deeply and appreciating being able to discuss my thoughts with other Potterheads.

2. It’s for all ages!

As I’ve already alluded to, I am able to have conversations with people of all ages about these characters. Whether they are students discovering the wizarding world for the first time, or adults that have been thumbing these pages for two decades now (how crazy is that?!), everyone is able to have and share their thoughts and opinions.

3. The themes are relatable!

Harry Potter is a boy that did not let his circumstances define who he would become. This in itself is inspiring, never mind the fact that Harry and his friends face issues of:

  • Bullying
  • Family dysfunction
  • Starting a new school
  • Friendship
  • Courage
  • Knowledge
  • Gender stereotypes
  • Standing out for all the wrong reasons and dealing with it
  • Good vs. evil
  • Dark and light
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Loss
  • Love

And so many more… Every one of these themes are themes that people can easily relate to. They occur in almost everyone’s lift experience. Learning about these with Harry and his friends gives readers strength and hope.

What does Harry Potter mean to me?

Well, I was 6 when Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published. I have very clear memories of my father reading it to me before bedtime, including begging him to read it to me during the day, or how he was unsure how to pronounce Hermione’s name!

When Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was published I was 7. I remember being on a family road trip with my mother reading it to me and my brother to pass the time. We arrived home and she wasn’t finished, so I grabbed the book, hid in my room and finished it – it was the very first proper book I’d ever read on my own. From then on, my parents had to buy two copies of the remaining books in the series to avoid arguments between my brother and I.

When I was in year 9, so 14 years old, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came out. I remember lining up for ages to collect my preorder and then powering through the book over the weekend so that I wouldn’t have it spoiled for me when I got to school on Monday! Lucky I did too because just before the bell went for first period, someone shouted out the WORST possible spoiler (I won’t mention it here just in case but if you’ve read it then you just have to know what it was) and my entire year level of roughly 330 students groaned. 330 year 9 students were impacted by Harry Potter! That is insane.

I remember picking up my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and it not feeling real. “This can’t be the end,” I thought. It was surreal. My first read was so quick and such a blur that I had to reread it again straight away for all of it to sink it. It was done, I was lost, there was no more… and it was amazing.

JK Rowling will always be my favourite author. She is a phenomenal human being and such a talent. She inspired a generation through her work and continues to do so every time another reader picks up Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, whether it be for the first time or the millionth time.

I could continue to talk about Harry Potter for hours on end, so I’ll leave it there for now. I hope that if you’re one of those people that thinks Harry Potter is silly, that I may have changed your perspective or at least made you rethink your opinion. To my fellow Potterheads, I look forward to connecting with you through the Wizarding World Book Club on Twitter, and to hearing your own stories and thoughts!

Bookish Things

2016: Favourite Books

Looking back on 2016 I thought it would be well worth the time to list my favourite books. I’d say that I read more in 2016 than I have in the last 5 years at least! Without the pressure of study (and the joy of saying “I’m working” whenever I get questioned over my reading habits) I was able to churn through a total of 110 books this year. Originally I set myself a goal of 52 books through the Goodreads Reading Challenge – thinking that one book a week might be achievable. It’s safe to say that I seriously underestimated my reading ability. I am also living proof that the more you read the faster and better you become. I started off the year thinking that a 300 – 400 page book was quite a task but that’s now the average size book I can read in a day. So, if you want to get better and faster at reading, you really just have to do more of it.

I’ve decided to limit my list to the few books that I would consider reading for a second time, otherwise my list would be at least 50 books long! For each book I’ve included a short statement explaining what has made me fall in love with these books.

1. A Court of Mist and Fury – Sarah J Maas

I have written so much already about why I love and recommend Sarah J Maas’ books so I’ll keep this very brief. It comes down to the fact that I love her characters. Maas’ lead characters are strong, independent females with male characters that are supportive, strong, and view their female counterparts as equals. I particularly love the characters in this book, the second of her A Court of Thorns and Roses series. I won’t say much more as I don’t want to spoil anything, but the development and change in these characters from the first book is really well done.

You’ll find more reasons as to why I love Sarah J Maas’ writing in A New Favourite Author.

2. Illuminae – Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I just love the way this book is written. I call it a cross between a graphic novel and a normal novel. The way that the words on the page are displayed creates a visual representation of the action and events of the story. When the ships are fighting an epic battle, the words are actually traced across the pace in what might be the flight path of the ship. It is VERY cool, but can take some getting used to.

For more of my thoughts on Illuminae, read my review.

3. Akarnae – Lynette Noni

Part of my love for this book actually comes from the fact that I have met the author and discovered that she is a lovely, approachable, down to earth person. However, that is not the only reason! I love this book because it combines aspects of some of my favourite things from my childhood, and yet still manages to stand on its own two feet as its own work. It combines Harry Potter, Narnia, and The X-men and even though I can see how it does this, when reading the book I forget all these other stories and love it on its own. It’s very clever, with a strong main female character and level of comfort due to the feelings of familiarity with other well-known and well-loved stories.

Stay tuned for a further reflection on the fabulous Lynette Noni and her writing.

4. Counting by 7s – Holly Goldberg Sloan

I am not usually a fan of Young Adult Contemporary, but this one blew me away.  I was given this the school holidays before I started in my current position. It was thrust into my hands along with a few other books that we have class sets of and it has since become one of my all time favourite stories. The sweetness of main character Willow, coupled with her resilience and uniqueness made me fall in love with her. I felt her own pains and triumphs as my own. This is a story that I tell all my readers, particularly year 7s, to read.

 

So there you have it! Four of my favourite books from 2016. As stated before, I absolutely could have listed many, many more but those were the four that were life changing in their own special way. I hope that 2017 is just as good a year for reading as 2016. I have set the goal of 52 books again and we’ll see how far I get. Happy reading everyone!

Bookish Things

A new favourite author – Sarah J Maas

There are some authors that you just want to read everything they’ve ever written because you’ve fallen in love with their writing style, character development, and plot lines. I have not felt this way about an author since I was in year 6 and reading Tamora Pierce‘s series, such as Song of the Lioness, Daughter of the Lioness, Circle of Magic, and The Circle Opens, until recently. For me that author is now Sarah J Maas; author of Throne of Glass series and the A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

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So why do I love Maas’ writing so much?

Maas has this way of allowing you to relate to and understand all of her characters, even the ones you don’t like. In the Throne of Glass series, Maas writes in 3rd person, regularly jumping around to tell the story from different characters’ points of view. She does this seamlessly. You never get lost in the story, it flows really well and is very clear. Due to the switching perspectives, readers are able to gain insights into the thoughts, feelings and experiences of almost all the main and supporting characters. As the series progresses, you find yourself actually wanting to read points of view, not just the main ones, and find yourself wishing for sections from characters that don’t particularly get the limelight. This is masterful writing and demonstrates just how well Maas develops her characters. After reading the 5 books in this series, I am yet to have a concrete favourite character. I could go on and on about why I am thoroughly enjoying this particular series of Maas’, but I do not want to give away any spoilers! All I can say is this, the progression of the story from book to book only draws you into the world Maas has created more and more, and ensures that by the time you’ve read all 5 books, you are aching for the next instalment!

In terms of the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, affectionately known by fans as ACOTAR, Maas writes from a 1st person perspective, specifically that of main character Feyre. Because of this, you see the world completely through Feyre’s eyes and therefore your opinion of other characters if completely influenced by how she is feeling. The advantage of this is that you really begin to understand Feyre’s motives and want her to succeed in her trials. The character development and twists that occur during the series are made even more shocking and amazing to the fact that we experience it all alongside Feyre and never see them coming – this is what has made ACOTAR my favourite of the two series! It will be interesting to see whether this style of writing from only Feyre’s perspective persists for the remaining books of the series as the last 2 chapters of A Court of Mist and Fury suggest otherwise and I simply cannot wait!

The last point I’d like to make is with regard to Maas’ novellas for Throne of Glass. It is my opinion that most novellas are written for the sake of generating more interest in the series and income for the authors. In Maas’ case, I feel this is not true. Her collected novellas, printed as The Assassin’s Blade, is somewhat vital to understanding the background of major characters in Queen of Shadows, and the arrival of new ones in Empire of Storms. Without these novellas, Maas would have had to have spent time developing these stories within the context of these two books – something I am not sure she had the time or word length to do justice to them. Therefore, the addition of these novellas allows readers a chance to explore the world more extensively, fall in love with the characters more deeply, and understand the importance of certain events more fully.

I could spend all day talking at length about the genius of Sarah J Maas and why I think she’s made such a big splash in the YA world at this time, however I will refrain from doing so. I urge those that have not had the opportunity to experience her writing for themselves to give it a go!