Teaser: Alice in the Country of Hearts #1

Alice in the Country of Hearts #1This week’s teaser is a visual teaser because I’m reading a manga, Alice in the Country of Hearts. It’s a fantastic re-imagining of Alice in Wonderland. Alice is dragged into Wonderland, a strange world where all of the characters are in love with her. But this isn’t a tale of romance. Alice takes no nonsense. It’s a hilarious story, full of adorable characters. I absolutely love it!

The teaser:
Remember, manga is read right-to-left, top-to-bottom.

Alice in the Country of Hearts #1 teaser

Leave me links to your own teasers in the comments!


Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be ReadingIt’s simple: turn to a random page of a book you’re currently reading and post two(ish) ‘teaser’ sentences.

Coming back from the dead

harry-potter-short-story

If you spend any time on the internet, by now you’ve probably heard the breaking Harry Potter news: JK Rowling has written another Harry Potter story.

If you haven’t heard the news yet, don’t get too excited. It’s a short article, written by Rita Skeeter, the much-hated journalist who got a kick out of tarnishing reputations (particuarly Harry’s) by manufacturing stories.

Hey, my eyes aren’t glistening with the ghosts of my past!

I’m a massive Harry Potter fan. They are my favourite books. I call Daughter of Smoke and Bone books my favourites, but that’s because Harry Potter isn’t just a set of books to me. I’ve read them so many times (10+) that they’re a part of me. I grew up with those books, and for several years they were all that I would read. Harry had a piece of Voldermort inside of him, but I have Harry Potter inside of me.

So here’s he kicker: I haven’t read JK’s new story. I’ve seen it, I’ve read about it and I even know what’s in it, but I haven’t read it. Because Harry Potter finished. It finished with tears, anger and a tonne of denial, but it finished. And with it, Harry Potter rolled itself up in a little cocoon and buried itself deep within me. For me it finished with the end of the novels, but for some it finished with the end of the movies.

Much like we’d lost a family member, we waded our way through the five stages of grief and accepted it for the amazing ride it was. Yes, I still revisit the books every 1-2 years, in much the same way as you reminisce with old photographs, draped in a cloak of nostalgia.

So imagine if you got a letter about that family member. Surprise! They hadn’t died. They were living their life somewhere else. How do you find a place for that information? How exactly do I bring Harry Potter back to the surface?

JK Rowling’s new story has brought with it too many questions. The largest, is Harry Potter really finished? This new story, the rumoured TV show, they’re setting Harry Potter up as a franchise I don’t think it should become. Harry Potter, to me, is the holy grail. It can never be beaten. It should be left alone.

So will I read the new story? Probably. I’m weak. Of course I’m going to give in. But I’ll read it like fan fiction. Anything that isn’t, right now, inside my Harry potter cocoon (my head canon, for those in the know) will never penetrate it. Harry Potter doesn’t exist outside of the books. To me, Harry Potter is dead.

What do you think about the new Harry Potter story? Have you ever loved something that turned into a disappointing franchise? Leave me links to your own musings!


Musing Mondays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading, in which we muse about books and reading.  Anyone can join in!

Illuminated Darkness by Joanne Efendi

Title: Illuminated Darkness
Series: none
Author: Joanne Efendi
Published by: Self-published on 1 December 2013
Genre: YA, romance, fantasy
Rating: 1 star (DNF)
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

I really wanted to like this book. Haitian Voodoo is not something you hear about very often. Ashlyn is almost 18 when her boyfriend suddenly breaks up with her. She wallows in self-pity for a few days, but it doesn’t take her long to move on when she meets Wren, a mysterious guy she has every right to consider a stalker. All goes well, until Wren reveals that he’s a vampire charged with protecting Ashlyn, a Haitian voodoo deity under threat from voodoo priests.

It’s a new take on an old cliché, but it had the potential to be such an exciting story.  Unfortunately it never delivered, at least not in the first third, which was all I could stand to read before declaring it a DNF.  The prologue grabbed me right away. It was dark, mysterious and a great introduction to the story.  If the author had stayed with this style, perhaps the novel would have turned out better. As it was, Efendi steered the novel away from this darkness and attempted to create a young adult romance.  However this is one of those books that made me question whether she remembered anything at all about being a teenager.  The characters’ dialogue was stiff and formal, and Ashlyn herself lacked any semblance of a personality. Her life revolved around boys – either her first boyfriend or the new-found Wren.  It reminded me of Twilight.

“Earlier, I was so angry with him for following me [note recurring stalker behaviour], but now here I was sitting and admiring his beauty [because controlling, stalker behaviour is okay if the boy’s pretty]. How very shallow of me.”

The writing style leaned closer to telling than showing. I knew how the scenes looked or how Ashlyn was feeling, but I never got a sense of the details that really capture the imagination – a soft breeze, Ashlyn’s heart racing, or her stomach dropping. It was very stiff.

“I wanted to go with him. I was drawn to him.”

I got the impression that the author is fairly inexperienced in creative writing, and as her debut novel this is no surprise, but it could have done with some professional editing. I did research and the manuscript went to an editor, but it makes me wonder whether it was a superficial edit that didn’t go into the structure of the story deep enough to delete unnecessary scenes or characters.  Illuminated Darkness read like a promising first draft.  Unfortunately it’s already published and for sale.

I generally don’t dislike books. Even if they’re flawed, I always find value in them.  However, I could not find the  value in Illuminated Darkness. Getting through 33% was generous for me. I was doubting it from the first chapter, but I has such hope that it would get better, that the story would begin. I still believe that it does indeed get better, but at 33%, when something finally happened, it felt like such an unrealistic time and place for the event, I gave up.

I don’t discourage you from picking up a copy – opinions differ and maybe you’ll find something in this novel that I didn’t – but approach with caution.  Low expectations encourage pleasant surprises.

Where in the World?

map

This week The Book Depository released a map showing their most-purchased book by country.

I, of course, went straight to Australia: Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals. I wasn’t even surprised.

New Zealand? Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals. Now that’s interesting. Why 15 minutes, New Zealand? Do you really have 15 less minutes then us is your day? Are they busy herding sheep? Chasing feral kiwis? Maybe New Zealanders have adopted the hobbit diet. Six meals is a lot to schedule in one day. Thirty minutes preparation for each meal would mean second breakfast would run into elevensies and all hell would break loose.

Indonesia is particularly keen on the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy boxset. Someone ought to explain there’s better erotic fanfiction to be found free, on the internet. At least France is only ordering Fifty Shades of Grey book #1.

Thailand is ordering 1984. Maybe they’re feeling oppressed by their political unrest. Near neighbour Vietnam is getting into the true spirit of George Orwell and are looking into the future with their Deviant Moon Tarot Decks.

China is stuck with the Moleskin Large Ruled Notebook. Maybe words on the page would encourage thoughts of the world outside of China. No one wants that.  Although the Japanese are also buying blank, but opting for the Moleskin Large Squared Notebook instead. South Korea, clearly worried about North Korea, seems to have decided where they’re moving next and are preparing with Sing and Learn Spanish.

Norway is reading How to Brew. It’s just not fair that Denmark and Germany get the famous reputations. But they’re preoccupied with keeping their beer businesses booming, getting help from Business Generation Model.

Plenty of countries are worried about their test scores. Italy is preparing with The Ultimate EU Test Book 2013 and Jordan with SAT. Meanwhile Saudi Arabia is sharpening their anatomy skills with The Concise Human Body Book and Oman is trying to do some good, studying Statistics for Geography and Environmental Science.  Watch out for those nerds.

The US has even less time than New Zealand (and they don’t even have hobbits!), and they’re struggling to manage it with The One Minute Manager.  Up North, Canada is finally figuring out the difference between their stomach and their brain thanks to Gut and Psychology Syndrome.

Peru has gone Lego-mad and can’t put down LEGO Ninjago Character Encyclopaedia.

It’s so interesting to have a look and see what people around the world are ordering. Even bordering countries have such different top picks. What has your country been ordering? Did it surprise you or did you roll your eyes like me? At least we’re all ahead of Chile. They’re still learning the basics with Let’s Cut Paper!


Musing Mondays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading, in which we muse about books and reading.  Anyone can join in!

Burn Bright by Marianne de Pierres

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Title: Burn Bright
Series: Night Creatures #1
Author: Marianne de Pierres
Published by: Random House Australia on 1 March 2011
Genre: YA, fantasy, dystopia
Length: 316 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Bookworld (ebook) |  Dymocks


Plot Summary:
Retra doesn’t want to go to Ixion, the island of ever-night. Retra is a Seal – sealed minds, sealed community. She doesn’t crave parties and pleasure like all the others. But her brother left for Ixion two years ago, and Retra is determined to find him. Braving the pain of her obedience strip to escape the only home she’s ever known, Retra finds herself drawn deeper into the intoxicating world of Ixion. Come to me, whispers a voice in her head. Who are the Ripers, the mysterious guardians of Ixion? What are the Night Creatures Retra can see in the shadows? And what happens to those who grow too old for Ixion? Retra will find that Ixion has its pleasures – but its secrets are deadly.


“Retra felt the lure of the night rainbows just as surely as she’d felt the hidden beast lurking at the side of the path. She found herself stepping carefully, delicately, between the warring forces of beauty and danger. The rainbows caused a shiver of anticipation to run across her flesh. But at the same time she was drawn to the shadows beyond the path, the sounds of scraping and the scent of perfumed rot.”

Burn Bright was a relatively short novel, especially when compared to other dystopian books. There wasn’t a lot of time to spend world-building, but the author still managed to create a dark, mysterious world. I loved Ixion. It’s not an intricately built world – it can’t be in the short space of the novel – but it’s filled with intrigue and mysteries beyond the superficial ‘pleasure’.  Not a lot happens in the beginning of the story, but it was my favourite part of the book. Retra explores, asks questions and uncovers Ixion’s secrets.  Everything is revealed slowly, and I can’t remember a single instance of info-dumping or out-of-place world-building.

I was hoping the slow beginning would lead to a big climax, but I found the ending to be fairly anti-climactic. The story certainly didn’t fizzle, but I felt that it didn’t quite reach the level of tension I was expecting and it was all over too quickly. It did, however, leave an opening that made me desperate to get my hands on the next book.

Retra is a conservative girl having grown up in a sealed community.  I wouldn’t describe Retra as a likeble person, her conservativeness is occasionally frustrating she’s astoundingly naïve, but she’s the perfect character to tell the story. She’s not distracted by the party life and despite her shy demeanour, she’s not afraid to ask questions or to stand up for her convictions. She was conservative but not shy, and strong but not brash or kick-ass. It’s great to read a character who didn’t fit into a stereotypical box because her actions surprised both myself and other characters. About two-thirds through the book, Reatr goes through a dramatic personality change, which seems a bit sudden at first, but I really enjoyed how the author handled it, exploring how pain and fear shaped Retra’s life.

The other characters all had unique, interesting personalities. I honestly cared about what happened to them, whether it was outgoing Rollo who wasn’t in Ixion for the parties either (although they were a nice benefit), kickass Suki, meangirl Cal or the mysterious Lenoir. They all had interesting stories, but unfortunately they weren’t able to be deeply explored. I hope we learn more in future novels.

I loved Burn Bright. It’s not a unique story, but I would never categorise it as “yet another YA dystopia”. Its sense of mystery and a main character that doesn’t kick ass and has no special abilities let it stand out from the crowd.

Teaser & Giveaway: The Waiting Room

“Sometimes, I would lie. I told some people they were in Heaven and that after they walked through the door, they’d receive their first wings. I told others they were in Hell and I was Satan.
“I’m really not such a bad guy,” I’d say. “People make me out to have a pitchfork and little horns…I don’t know where they get these ideas. Do you see any fire?” ”
– The Waiting Room by Alysha Kaye

Buy it on Amazon

This is Alysha’s self-published debut novel. I absolutely loved it! You can read the review I posted yesterday if you want to know more. If you want to win a copy, enter the competition below!

To enter the giveaway, follow Alysha and I on WordPress or our different social networking sites. We don’t expect you to follow all of them. We’re just providing an opportunity for our non-Wordpress followers to enter. We will contact the winner and let them know they’ve won. If the winner doesn’t reply within 48 hours, we’ll keep moving down the list until we find someone who does. You must be willing to give us your address so we know where to send the book. Don’t worry, we won’t share it and we’ll delete all traces of the address once the item has been sent 🙂

Enter on Rafflecopter!

Leave me links to your own teasers in the comments!


Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be ReadingIt’s simple: turn to a random page of a book you’re currently reading and post two(ish) ‘teaser’ sentences.

Review & Giveaway: The Waiting Room by Alysha Kaye

the waiting room cover

Title: The Waiting Room
Series: none
Author: Alysha Kaye
Genre: Romance, Philosophy, Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
GoodreadsBuy it on Amazon

First of all I want to congratulate Alysha on the release of her fantastic self-published novel. I’m so happy for her! To celebrate her achievement, we’re doing a giveaway! Scroll down the bottom to enter to win a signed copy of her novel!

 Synopsis:
Jude and Nina are the epitome of that whole raw, unflinching love thing that most people are jealous of. That is, until Jude dies and wakes up in The Waiting Room, surrounded by other souls who are all waiting to pass over into their next life. But unlike those souls, Jude’s name is never called by the mysterious “receptionist”. He waits, watching Nina out of giant windows. He’s waiting for her. What is this place? How long will he wait? And what will happen when and if Nina does join him? The Waiting Room is a story of not just love, but of faith, predestination, and philosophy, friendship and self-actualization, of waiting.

The Waiting Room had the most unique, believable and fun approach to the afterlife I have ever read. I find myself hoping that’s it’s true – hoping that I, too, get to visit the waiting room and remember all of my past lives.

The stories of Jude and Nina’s lives outside of the waiting room were compelling, and the whole novel is neatly written, but it’s the relationships that Jude forms within the waiting room that captivated me. Friendships blossomed as he watched the reception staff grow and age.

I couldn’t put it down. In the end, I only had one complaint: there wasn’t enough. Decades passed, and I would love to have read everything that happened in their lives, or in the waiting room. It could have been a 700 page novel and I would have devoured it (and probably still asked for more).

It’s part romance, part philosophy. What is the waiting room? Who controls it? Who decides what happens in the next life? Whether you’re interested in the romance that transcends mortality or the mysteries of the waiting room, Alysha Kaye’s terrific debut has something to interest everyone and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Giveaway!

To enter the giveaway, follow Alysha and I on WordPress or our different social networking sites. We don’t expect you to follow all of them. We’re just providing an opportunity for our non-Wordpress followers to enter. We will contact the winner and let them know they’ve won. If the winner doesn’t reply within 48 hours, we’ll keep moving down the list until we find someone who does. You must be willing to give us your address so we know where to send the book. Don’t worry, we won’t share it and we’ll delete all traces of the address once the item has been sent 🙂

Enter the giveaway on Rafflecopter!