The Best Books I Read in 2014

December 21, 2014 § 1 Comment

2014 has been a busy year for me, and sadly that means I haven’t been able to blog as much as I would like. But in between work and study, I devote almost all of my spare time to reading, and I have encountered some wonderful books this year. Some of them, I can’t wait to write about, and I will have jumped straight online to review them. Others, I hold to myself, and try in vain to put together the words that would accurately portray how much I loved them. So here is a list of the best books I read in 2014 – some that I raved about and some that I quietly loved. All wonderful!

  1. Daughters of the Storm – Kim Wilkins

2014 1I don’t want to be that boring reviewer who just keeps saying how much she loves something, but…I love this book. I have pushed it onto everyone I possibly could, because I believe there’s something for everyone in Daughters of the Storm, which features my favourite character of the entire year – Bluebell. This one of the ones I wanted to rave about immediately after finishing, so you can read my review here. Also, side note – Kim Wilkins is absolutely lovely, so you can add that to the list of reasons to buy this book.

  1. Queen of the Tearling – Erika Johansen

Before I read Daughters of the Storm, I would have said that QoT was my favourite fantasy of the year. Now, I’d have to tie it, but it’s still brilliant. I haven’t had as much success convincing my friends and family to try this book, but it’s just as deserving as Daughters. Kelsea, the hero of this novel, is at once a mash up of Danearys Targaryen, Katniss Everdeen and Hermione Granger, and an entirely fresh character. Emma Watson got on board with Queen of the Tearling, so you know this is gonna be good. I will review this one in the coming months, as I plan a reread!

  1. Winter’s Bone – Daniel Woodrell

Winter’s Bone. It’s so hard to put into words how I felt reading this book. Maybe “emotional” would be a good starting place, but it still doesn’t even tap the surface of how it feels to be a part of the world that Ree and her brothers inhabit, if only for those 193 pages. Winter’s Bone is harsh and stark, in setting and in prose, but it is uplifting and life affirming at its close. Not only one of the best books I read this year, but one of the greatest I’ve ever read.

  1. The Last Policeman – Ben H. Winters 

2014 7I finished The Last Policeman only recently, and am still unsure of whether I want to read its sequel. You see, The Last Policeman was so affecting, so distressing, that I don’t know if I’m ready for another installment. An asteroid is six months away from hitting the Earth and devastating all human life, and recently qualified Detective Palace is called to investigate what appears to be another pre-apocalypse suicide. Existential in philosophy, hard-boiled in nature, The Last Policeman is traumatic and an exceptional work of genre fiction.

  1. Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

I’m not one for chick lit, and I don’t go in for romance – so I was happy to find that Fangirl was neither. I have reviewed Fangirl (you can read it here), and I have rhapsodized about how it elevates fandom as a means of identity, so I won’t bore you with my love for the book all over again. What I will say, though, is that Rainbow Rowell recently announced that she is writing Carry On – the Harry Potter-esque novel upon which Cath’s fanfiction is based. TRUST ME WHEN I SAY THAT I HAVE A GIANT SMILE ON MY FACE AS I TYPE THIS.

  1. The Scorpio Races – Maggie Stiefvater

2014 3Maggie Stiefvater definitely has the capacity to become one of my favourite YA authors. I’ve read Shiver, the first in her werewolf trilogy and loved it, but sort of forgot to read the rest. For some reason, I picked up The Scorpio Races a few weeks ago, and for twenty four hours, nobody could see my face because the novel was stuck in front of it at all times. The Scorpio Races is a standalone novel about water horses, the dangerous animals that emerge from the sea every year on a Gaelic island. With sparse, melodic prose, Stiefvater paints a portrait of an insular community with its own set of values and ideals, and the two people who subvert those for the love of family, and of horses.

After reading The Scorpio Races, I immediately purchased the first in Maggie’s Raven Cycle, which is sitting patiently on my bedside table.

  1. The Girl Who Would Be King – Kelly Thompson

2014This book is brilliant. To call it a ‘feminist superhero story’ would do it no justice, but it’s probably a good start. There are few male characters in the novel, in part because the two protagonists are so very large. Bonnie, innately good and incredibly powerful, was literally born to oppose Lola. Lola really steals the show in The Girl Who Would Be King – she’s inherently evil and she doesn’t really understand why, but because she’s evil, she doesn’t care. Lola sets out to make herself the King of LA, killing anyone who stands in her path – except for Bonnie, who cannot be killed. This book also features a short epilogue with one of the best twists I’ve come across in genre fiction. Watch out for this one, it’s going to be big.

  1. The Fever – Megan Abbott

If you haven’t read a Megan Abbott novel yet, you’re doing yourself a
disservice. Megan writes about women in a way that no other author can. I’m a huge fan of her noir fiction, but The Fever is perhaps more accessible to non-genre fans. Like Dare Me, The Fever explores the horrors of female adolescent relationships. It’s entirely relatable and completely terrifying at the same time. An infectious disease that causes seizures grips the girls of a small high school, and nobody can work out what is causing their illness. Mass hysteria? Something in the water? You won’t be able to tell, because it’s Megan Abbott. 

  1. Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Laini Taylor (and Days of Blood and Starlight. I’m still holding on to Dreams of Gods and Monsters for a rainy day)

2014 8I have this stupid habit of not reading the books I am most excited about. This year, I have been massively excited about and have not read: The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman, Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson and Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor. I harassed my booksellers on the day they were supposed to arrive, so I would know the second they landed, and then rushed into the store to get my hands on them (for WoR, it was a two-handed ordeal!). I then put them on my shelf, and told myself I would wait for the right moment to read them. The right moment still hasn’t come for Magician’s Land and for Dreams of Gods and Monsters. Both are the conclusion to incredible trilogies, and I don’t know why I can’t read them. But I think it’s because I just love them so much, I don’t want them to be over. It’s not even because I think they’ll end badly – I know they’ll end wonderfully. I just…can’t do it. Also haven’t watched the final seasons of my favourite shows, including Gilmore Girls, Frasier, and 30 Rock. I just…can’t.

Suffice it to say, I loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone, to the extent that I cannot yet face its conclusion. Review here.

Also, I am halfway through Words of Radiance and it is so beyond excellent that I can’t yet articulate how much I love it. So maybe it will be Karou’s turn soon.

  1. Shatter Me – Tahereh Mafi

2014 5Last but not least, Tahereh Mafi’s trilogy, beginning with Shatter Me, was my favourite YA of the year. With flowery, musical prose, Mafi tells the story of Juliette, whose burgeoning superpowers are more frightening than they are magical. In The Juliette Chronicles, we go from Juliette’s asylum prison all the way to a military compound for superheroes, all the while watching a damaged protagonist become the physical and mental champion she was destined to be. Another awesome attribute of this series is the relationship side of things; Mafi is one of the few YA authors to really, truly portray the transition from one relationship to another without simplifying or minimizing any of the emotional content involved. Such a fun, addictive trilogy, for fans of dystopian YA looking for their next obsession.


As 2014 comes to a close, I’d like to thank Pulp Fiction Booksellers for giving me the opportunity to work with them at Supanova, and for providing me with ARCs throughout the year (including Daughters of the Storm)!

Happy Christmas to you if that’s your thing, and if not, I hope 2014 ends peacefully and happily for you all.

Look out soon for my picks for books to watch in 2015! x


Jeff VanderMeer’s ANNIHILATION: Addictive New Weird!

February 19, 2014 § 1 Comment

Cover art for ANNIHILATION

Cover art for ANNIHILATION

In Annihilation, we follow journey of the twelfth expedition into the mysterious Area X. All the members of the previous parties have met strange and unexplained fates – some returned home a shell of their former selves; others died of ravaging illnesses and many were never seen again.

The twelfth expedition party consists of a psychologist, a biologist, and anthropologist, a surveryor and a linguist. The biologist, emotionally disconnected and highly analytical, tells us the story from the pages of her observational journal.

Soon after establishing their base camp, the team comes across an enormous tunnel descending into the earth. Inside this tunnel, the biologist finds evidence that a sentient being is scrawling erudite messages over the walls. Upon closer inspection, the biologist finds that the messages are written in living fungi.
As she leans in to take a sample, the fungi release a stream of spores into the air. After she accidentally inhales one, the biologist begins to monitor herself for any signs of illness or behavioural change. The first effect that she notices, however, is a sudden immunity to the hypnotic instruction that the psychologist is still administering to the surveyor, the anthropologist and the linguist.

Alternate cover art for ANNIHILATION

Alternate cover art for ANNIHILATION

Why is the psychologist hypnotising the team? What is her agenda? What is the Southern Reach, and who are they? What do they expect the team to find in Area X that the eleven expeditions before did not? Who, or what, is writing on the walls of the tunnel, and where did it come from? Now that she can see through the psychologist’s façade of natural leadership, the biologist knows that the unknown landscape of Area X is not the only danger she will face on this expedition.

Annihilation is written in epistolary format – that is, as a journal. The biologist, whose name we never learn, consciously refrains from connecting with her fellow explorers in an emotional context in favour of immersing herself in her environment. Much like Dr Caldwell from The Girl with All the Gifts, the biologist is wholly focused on her work. As she recounts events from her life before entering Area X, we begin to see that she has always been this way – almost frightening in her coldness. When her self-preservation instincts kick in, though, she’s downright terrifying.

Annihilation features minimal characterisation, and what we do see is only through the eyes of the nameless biologist. Because she is utterly uninterested in engaging with her fellow explorers, she gives us very little idea of what her companions are actually like. We get the general idea that the psychologist is up to something, that the anthropologist can’t hack it in Area X, and that the surveyor is driven mad, but we spend most of the narrative inside the biologist’s head. As you might be able to guess, this makes for an uncomfortable and somewhat alienating read.
The biologist elaborates on her own past through ruminations on her marriage. A solitary person, the biologist found that she was at constant odds with her outgoing, social husband. As she delves deeper into Area X, she descends into a sort of madness, whereby she ends up pulling her marriage apart.


  Annihilation clearly takes its cues from Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, but there are other influences at work here too. The landscape of Area X is a living thing, and it becomes the biologist’s adversary, partner, lover and self.  And let me just clarify, when I say the landscape is alive, I literally mean that it is made of living, breathing tissue. I found this fascinating and quite disturbing, and the glimpses that I got of it were just not enough. As I’m sure you can predict, Vandermeer has taken a leaf out of the Necronomicon here – Annihilation has a distinctly Lovecraftian vibe. I really wouldn’t be surprised if the mysterious being scrawling strange messages inside the Tunnel is a Great Old One, to be honest.

Cover art for AUTHORITY, to be released in May 2014.

Cover art for AUTHORITY, to be released in May 2014.

I burned through Annihilation in twenty four hours. I was addicted to the suspense, and the ever-present sense of foreboding that was only heightened by the cliff-hanger ending. Thankfully, Annihilation is the first in the Southern Reach Trilogy, to be followed by Authority and Acceptance in May and September respectively (side note – how great is it that they’re all coming out in one year?). If you’re a fan of horror, suspense, dystopian SF, New Weird or anything vaguely Lovecraftian, I highly recommend you grab your copy ASAP!

I received a proof copy of Annihilation in exchange for an honest review. Thanks, Pulp Fiction!

If you’re in Brisbane, buy your copy of Annihilation from Pulp Fiction. Add them on Facebook here, and follow their Twitter here – shoot them a message and they’ll sort you out.

Speaking of which, I have a Twitter also!


The Opposite of Life by Narelle Harris: The Right Book at the Right Time.

January 27, 2014 § 2 Comments

PULP PRESSTwenty-three year old Lissa doesn’t go out much – she prefers to stay at home with a glass of wine and a poetry anthology – but when her boyfriend dumps her, her best friend insists on taking her out to help take her mind off things. Out on the town in Melbourne, Lissa has a great time and even strikes up a potential romance with one of Evie’s friends. And then people start dying.
In the nightclubs in Melbourne, bodies are turning up, drained of their blood and abandoned in bathroom stalls. Every time it happens, Lissa seems to be near, so she decides to find out exactly what’s going one. Surely, it can’t be vampires?

I picked up this book out of general interest, because it was printed by Pulp Fiction Press. Regular readers will know that Pulp Fiction is my favourite bookstore. I trust the staff’s genre-specific knowledge and never hesitate to pick up their recommendations, so I was curious to read a book that they deemed worthy of publishing! Despite trusting Pulp, I was a little bit surprised to find that I genuinely loved this book! I gave up on vampire fiction long ago, but I think Ms Harris has restored my faith in the genre.

THE OPPOSITE OF LIFE gets off to a rocky start. It took me time to warm to the characters and to get a feel for its ‘voice’, but the second half passed by in a blur. I felt as though I was being kept company by Lissa, with whom I felt a certain undeniable sense of kinship (book-obsessed, questionable fashion sense, something of a loner – should I sue the author for copyright of my personality?).
This book is dark in an unexpected way. We’re used to vampire books having dangerous men, seductive women, exposure to erotic pain, etc. But this book was quite different. Through Lissa, Harris uses vampirism as a means to tackle the reality of death and its permanent, cumulative effect.
Lissa has endured significant loss by the tender age of twenty-three. Her parents’ marriage broke down when her younger sister died of a brain tumour. Unable to cope with the stress of a dysfunctional family life, Lissa’s younger brother Paul overdosed and died, leaving Lissa and her older sister Kate to cope with the remnants of their family. Hardened against personal tragedy, Lissa simply shuts down when something stressful appears on the horizon – a trait I found all too relatable.

Very much not your typical vampire novel.

Very much not your typical vampire novel.

When Lissa’s acquaintances start dying, she responds to the murders with an aggressive righteousness befitting one who has lost too much in her life already. Interestingly, the vampires in this book are genuinely quite repulsive – they are murderers, and their ‘life’ holds no seductive intrigue. While they are immortal, the vampires have sacrificed living brain function, meaning that they no longer have the capacity to learn new skills or to respond to stimuli in an emotional context. Upon being introduced to the world of Melbourne’s archaic vampires, Lissa finds herself drawn to a life where she would no longer be able to feel emotional pain.  Harris presents us with an interesting take on the emotional and psychological effects of joining the undead. What kind of effect would a choice like this have on your psyche?
Ultimately, Lissa determines that it’s better to feel pain and loss than to numb it out. This struck quite a personal chord for me, as I’ve been struggling with something similar myself of late.

Lissa is an excellent protagonist. She’s realistically flawed, but after dealing with vampiric murders AND a stressful family situation, she undergoes a genuine change, and it’s heart-warming for all the right reasons.
The male lead Gary, isn’t all that big of a focal character. Gary’s a vampire with a hilariously mundane name. His social skills leave a lot to be desired, and he generates more awkward silences than he fills. Gary is invested in finding out who’s killing Melbourne clubbers, and he reluctantly allows Lissa to tag along for the ride. Depsite this, Gary’s presence in the narrative doesn’t take over Lissa’s own agenda. He’s a means to an end – an access card to the vampire world. He’s not even really a romantic interest, though there’s potential for him to become one. This is enormously refreshing, particularly in a vampire novel!

Melbourne is an excellent setting!

Melbourne is an excellent setting!

Also? Lissa is a librarian. Her descriptions of working in a library really struck a chord for me, and I began applying for courses to become a qualified librarian myself!

I could make an argument that this book is feminist, but I’d rather not have to defend such a strong statement to those who will inevitably equate vampire fiction with anti-feminism. Rather, let me just say that THE OPPOSITE OF LIFE about a pretty awesome girl who faces some pretty awful situations head-on. THE OPPOSITE OF LIFE doesn’t shy away from the ugliness of stress and anxiety this makes it a highly relatable book. For me, this may have been a matter of the right book at the right time, but I feel entirely confident in telling you all to pay Pulp Fiction a visit to collect your copy. If you’re in Brisbane, or coming anytime soon, you can find Pulp Fiction in Central Station (look for the purple and yellow sign). Alternatively, if you’re an international reader, you can buy THE OPPOSITE OF LIFE for your ereader here at Amazon.

Thank you to Pulp Fiction for providing me with a copy of The Opposite of Life.

M. R. Carey’s THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS: The Next Big Zombie Thing.

January 22, 2014 § 3 Comments

Cover art for The Girl with All the Gifts

Cover art for The Girl with All the Gifts

Ten year-old Melanie wakes fresh every day for her lessons. Sergeant comes to strap her in her wheelchair, making sure to restrain her hands and feet, and she’s taken to the classroom to begin the day’s teachings. Melanie is exceptionally bright, and she adores the days when Miss Justineau takes the class. Because she has never exited the compound in which she lives, Melanie’s exposure to the outside world is limited to the knowledge her teachers can give her. And because she has never known any different, she is unable to recognise that all of the adults around her are deathly afraid of what happens if she ever gets free.

Look, I have to tell you something. A lot of other reviews of this book are withholding this piece of information for fear of posting a dreaded spoiler, but I can tell you with one hundred per cent certainty that knowing this will not change your experience of this book. It’s got too many twists and turns for this small detail to be a spoiler. Right, so: Melanie is a zombie.

Put aside what you think you know about zombie novels. Forget 28 Days Later, and the monkey-borne virus. Put World War Z out of your mind, because it’s too late for the W.H.O to do anything about this outbreak. And don’t even think about assembling your unwanted record collection, a la Shaun of the Dead, because there’s absolutely no point in trying to combat these Walking Dead.

In The Girl with All the Gifts, society as we know it is long dead. What remains is the military run compound in which Melanie and her classmates are housed, and, somewhere out there, the survivalist citadel of Beacon. The rest of the world has been decimated by the “hungries” – the first wave of the zombie epidemic. Like the Boneys of Warm Bodies, the hungries resemble the zombies that we know and fear. So what, then, is Melanie, and why is the military scared of her?

In addition to being an exceptional zombie novel, The Girl with All the Gifts is also a compelling character study. Through the eyes of five very different characters, Carey dissects the new world that has emerged from the husk of humanity’s society, and man, does he do it well.
The five point-of-view characters represent a fascinating cross-section of the post-apocalyptic community: Miss Justineau, kind-hearted and fiercely protective teacher; the adamantly militaristic Sergeant; naïve and innocent Private Gallagher; chilling Dr Caldwell, and of course, Melanie. This eclectic collection of perspectives allows Carey to examine the state of the world from different angles, and in considerable depth.
Carey makes masterful use of the five POV characters to build tension and suspense. I found that he continually tripped up my expectations of a multiple perspective narrative, which made the book all the more surprising. ASOIAF has trained me to expect that when something interesting happens to a character, perspective will smash-cut to one of twenty-something other people. Not so with The Girl with All the Gifts: when something interesting happens, Carey keeps focus on the situation itself, even if he switches character perspective. This makes the book feel quite immediate, and a little bit cinematic.

This is the new zombie.

This is the new zombie. Scared? You should be.

Dr Caldwell, the researcher on base, is a truly chilling character. She is single-mindedly devoted to her life’s research, and genuinely does not seem to care about anything else. She systematically abducted Melanie’s classmates, one by one, so that she may dissect them and glean an understanding of the true nature of the end of the world. She has no issue with restricting life-saving resources from her fellow humans if it means that she can have peace and quiet to conduct her work, and holds onto her life with the sole intent of finding an answer. By the end of the book, it is apparent that her intent is pure selfishness in the guise of utilitarianism – an eerily familiar concept.

The thing is, Caldwell’s efforts amount to nothing anyway. Even after she dedicates her life to finding the answer, the answer has no effect on the outcome of the apocalypse. The fact that she knows this, and continues to single-mindedly seek answers at the expense of her peers, is nothing short of scary.

Where Caldwell is repulsive and alienating, Miss Justineau is wholly relatable. She has honour, and loves hugely, but she also breaks down in the face of overwhelming horror. She rages against the injustice of restraining children, but also recognises the vulnerability of her fellow travellers. At the novel’s conclusion, she accepts the state of the world that has shifted from underneath her. Her comparison to Caldwell makes the latter seem all the more monstrous. The tension between them is palpable!

There are parts of this book that are strikingly gory, but I kind of loved that about it. The violence and gore brings into focus the stark horror of a reality in which unknown monsters rule. That being said, I’m told that my tastes do run toward the bleak…

Too late, Shaun. Your records and cricket bats are no use now.

Too late, Shaun. Your records and cricket bats are no use now.

In an age of interminable trilogies and cliffhanger endings, The Girl with All The Gifts is a true standalone novel. Sure, the frightening world could be explored more in another book, but I was satisfied with the resolved narrative in the end. It does draw the inevitable comparison to Cronin’s The Passage. If I’m being honest, I’ll tell you that I– I never actually finished The Passage. I’ve tried three times, but I always find that it just drags. I lose motivation to complete the book, can’t be bothered investing in new characters and trying to care about their situations. With a stack of unread books nearly as tall as I am, I’m unlikely to go back to The Passage anytime soon. Unlike The Passage, I could not put The Girl with All the Gifts down. In fact, I am sporting a spectacular bruise on my thigh because I was walking around reading, and ran straight into the corner of my bed.

With the possible exception of Will McIntosh’s Soft Apocalypse, Carey’s apocalypse scenario is one of the best I’ve ever read. He takes our traditional understanding of the zombie myth, turns it upside down, cuts it all up and reassembles it. It is stunningly cool, highly original and quite frightening. In The Girl with All the Gifts, Carey shows us that the end of the world as we know it does not mean that it is the end of the world as a whole – and maybe we should just accept it.

THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS will be available at PULP FICTION BOOKSELLERS in Brisbane City this week. Call them on (07) 3236 2750 to reserve a copy, or hit them up on Facebook here. 

Are you a fan of zombie books? Check out these too!

– Mira Grant’s Parasite,
– Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant,
– Mur Lafferty’s The Shambling Guide to New York City
 and J T Clay’s The Single Girl’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

Happy reading!


Top 5 Books We Can’t Wait to Read

August 13, 2013 § 2 Comments

1. Kalystia: The Bone Season – Samantha Shannon

Bone Season Cover

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

I have to admit, I’m a sucker for literary marketing. When it comes to books, my defences are down and I’ll buy anything that publishers tell me to. Because of this unfortunate tendency of mine, I have wasted money on absolute trash, simply because it’s been hyped up online with a powerful marketing campaign (most recently, The Fifth Wave, which I hated). On the flip-side, though, sometimes a viral campaign will grab me, and I’ll pick up a book worth every word of praise. Angelfall, relentlessly pushed by Goodreads, was one such novel. The Bone Season has been doing the rounds in online campaigning, and the series is touted to rival The Hunger Games, Twilight and even Harry Potter.
So, naturally, I want it.

The Bone Season is about clairvoyants practising outside the law. In a contract mirroring that of J. K. Rowling, young author Samantha Shannon has been signed for a seven book deal with Bloomsbury, with the first three to come out fairly soon. And that is pretty much all I know about this book. It’s on its way to me from England now, so more to come soon!

If you’re as intrigued as I am, watch the surprisingly well-done book trailer here!

2. Itsnotnatalie: Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card


Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Oddly, for a committed Whovian, to the best of my knowledge, I have never, EVER, read a sci-fi book. So for me, Ender’s Game represents the opportunity to dip my toe into the endless sea of this new (to me, at least) genre. I am really excited by the two-fold challenge Ender’s Game presents; first, having to step outside my reading comfort zone and second, I am looking forward to facing the questions that the sci-fi genre will invariably pose for me. 

Side note from Kalystia: I love Ender’s Game, and have high hopes for the upcoming film adaptation! I think Asa will do an excellent job of portraying Ender.

3. Kalystia: The Returned – Jason Mott

This cover reminds me of The Lovely Bones. Hm...

This cover reminds me of The Lovely Bones. Hm…

The Returned opens with the premise that those who have definitely, permanently died have one day simply returned to their families. The Returned show up on their loved ones’ doorsteps, the same age that they were when they died. When I first read about this, I did not hesitate to pre-order. I’ve tried to stop myself from reading anything about it…but I ended up having a few sneaky peeks at some reviews. The Returned is being praised for its moving story, its haunting subject matter and its stark language. This tends to put me in mind of The Road, but I believe The Returned has a more familiar setting than that.
And that’s about all I know about The Returned. It already has me hooked, and I haven’t read a word of it.

4. Itsnotnatalie: The Other Typist – Suzanne Rindell

After the intellectual workout I’m expecting Ender’s to put me through, I think I’ll need a change of pace! I stumbled across The Other Typist in our favourite bookstore, and ever since I have been itching to read it.  Somehow or another, though, other books just keep getting in the way. So this is it, no ifs or buts, it is being read! I have also heard that Keira Knightley has signed on for a film adaptation, my interest is even more piqued.

Kiera Knightley rocking those cheekbones!

Kiera Knightley rocking those cheekbones!

5. The Novelettes want to read The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak

: I don’t actually know too much about this book. My main attraction to it has been off the back of the movie stills I saw; the casting of Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson (two of my favourite actors) had me bouncing in my chair! Plus, there is the added bonus that The Book Thief is set during World War 2 – and as anyone who knows me can attest, I cannot resist any movie, TV show, book, ANYTHING set in this time. I am particularly excited about the special plan Kalystia and I have planned for this book, so watch this space!

Kalystia: I’ve always felt a bit bad for not having read The Book Thief. I often see this book picked as one of the best books written in recent times, and I know I should have read it long before now. There’s a lot about it that means I will very likely fall in love with it – a snowy, war-time setting, a highly interesting narrator (Death) and a girl who adores reading. It’s a recipe for a book bound for my favourites shelf. With a film adaptation set to hit the screens later this year, I think it’s time I read The Book Thief.

Itsnotnatalie has also had this book on her to-read list for quite some time. So, we’ve decided to do something a little bit special to celebrate the fact that we’ve finally decided to read this book. Stay tuned to see what have in store.

One of the few still released from the upcoming film adaptation of The Book Thief

One of the few still released from the upcoming film adaptation of The Book Thief

Top Five Book-to-Film Adaptations We Hope They Get Right

August 10, 2013 § 14 Comments

1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

If you haven’t heard of The Fault in Our Stars (shortened to TFIOS by fans), you really must be living under a rock. John Green has blown away adult and teen readers alike with the equally heart-warming and heart-breaking tale of two teenagers who meet and fall in love at a support group for young cancer-sufferers. TFIOS, like Green’s other novels, is an empowering depiction of teenagers, with intelligent, often hilarious and realistically flawed characters who make adult decisions in the in-between world that is adolescence. Itsnotnatalie and I can’t really speak about TFIOS without at least having a tissue box on hand, but there’s one thing we know for certain – this movie could be bad. We’re dreading the rise of “Team Augustus” supporters that are likely to emerge once TFIOS comes to the silver screen, but most importantly, we want this very special book to be represented well on film.

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green

You haven’t read this book? Buy it immediately. Also get tissues.

2. Divergent

Although I often recommend Divergent to those who enjoyed The Hunger Games, they are two very different series. In The Hunger Games, Katniss unknowingly incites an active revolution that has been gestating for quite some time. Meanwhile, in Divergent, things are trucking along pretty well until Tris comes along. It’s a small distinction, but Divergent is more about the slow unravelling of a dystopian society than it is about a persistent revolution gaining traction. Because Divergent and The Hunger Games are so often compared, I hope that the film-makers make an effort to establish Divergent’s identity apart from The Hunger Games. Side note: the girl who has been cast as Tris, Shailene Woodley, has also been cast as Hazel in TFIOS. She must have something going for her!

Divergent, in cinemas soon

Tris takes the plunge for Dauntless.

3. Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game is often ranked as one of the best sci-fi books of all time, so it’s odd that it has never been made into a movie before now. I actually hated it the first time I read it, but persisted through a second time. The second time round, I recognised the true depth and power of the story of Ender Wiggin and his peers. Ender is a complex character, but I think they’ve chosen well in casting Asa Butterfield. Ben Kingsley and Harrison Ford have been cast in the adult roles, with Abigail Breslin and Hailee Stienfeld in supporting ones. My hope is that with such an accomplished cast, the film will live up to the reputation of the book. The trailer certainly seems to indicate that it will! The enemy’s gate is down…

Ender's Game Hailee and Asa

Battle school – it looks pretty accurate so far!

4. Carrie

I’ve mentioned before on The Novelettes that Carrie is one of the books that changed me as a reader and as a person. When I saw that it was being remade, I was really excited. That is, until I saw that Chloe Grace Moretz had been cast as Carrie. In the novel, Carrie is unattractive, often described as bovine, and has enormous difficulty connecting or fitting in with her peers. I find it hard to believe that a girl who looks like Chloe could ever endure the same difficulty that Carrie did. That said, Chloe Grace Moretz is well on the way to establishing herself as a truly talented actress, so I’ll suspend my judgement until I see the film.

See? She looks beautiful even covered in blood. Lauren Linney stars as her mother!

See? She looks beautiful even covered in blood. Julianne Moore stars as her mother!

5. Mockingjay

Although it was met with mixed critical responses, The Hunger Games lived up to my every expectation. I saw it three times in the cinemas and have watched it countless times since. Jennifer Lawrence is the perfect Katniss, and I have faith that she will carry her aptitude for the role for the rest of the Hunger Games journey. That said, Mockingjay has been split into two films, parts one and two. My hope is that it’s not being drawn out simply for extra revenue (I’m looking at YOU, Peter Jackson), and that it’s being divided into two parts to do the final book justice. In Mockingjay, we see Katniss (not to mention Peeta!) suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, and the culmination of the revolution in the districts. Please, filmmakers, don’t screw this up! On the plus side, how great does the Catching Fire trailer look?

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

Capturing Katniss’ determination. We love JLaw!

Our very extensive TO-READ lists.

August 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

Itsnotnatalie and I have been compiling something a little bit different for you all. We’ve been putting together our (very extensive) to-read lists. Each of us has different favourite genres and authors, and different areas we would like to pursue. That said, we both want to challenge ourselves by incorporating different genres as much as we can! While I has a strong foundation in the basic and contemporary classics (a side-effect of an English lit degree!), I would like to read more contemporary fiction., while at the same time pursuing my favourite genres of dystopia, young adult fiction and fantasy.
Itsnotnatalie, who prefers contemporary fiction and is the living embodiment of Pride and Prejudice, is particularly interested in expanding her catalogue of the classics. She also wants to establish a solid foundation in her beloved fantasy genre, and is planning to start by delving into the works of Neil Gaiman.
We’ve swapped favourites, and are trying the books close to each other’s hearts. Itsnotnatalie is surely a rarity – a law student who has never read John Grisham! I’ve given her a copy of A Time to Kill, a book I hold in very high esteem, and which I hope she loves. I also thought I’d throw her in the deep end with the post-apocalyptic fiction, and have recommended Julianna Baggot’s Pure. I’m interested to see what she thinks of it! For Itsnotnatalie, I will delve into that which I despise – Jane Austen. Having completed a lit degree, I have come to hate Mr Darcy obsessees as much as the general public despises Twi-hards, but I’m prepared to have my mind changed (I think…).
Lastly, we want your input! What’s missing from our lists? What needs to go to the top of the to-read pile? Leave us a comment with your thoughts!

I love vintage books!

I love vintage books!

Kalystia’s TO READ list:


Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo
Every Day – David Leviathan
Skullduggery Pleasant Series – Derek Landy
The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chobsky
An Abundance of Katherines – John Green
Sunshine – Robin McKinley
The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater
The Diviners – Libba Bray
Gameboard of the Gods – Richelle Mead
Name of the Stars – Maureen Johnson
Delerium – Lauren Oliver
Fly By Night – Frances Hardinge
Starglass – Phoebe North

Peter Heller – The Dog Stars
Lucifer’s Hammer – Larry Niven
Unwind – Neil Shusterman
The Stand – Stephen King
Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson
Brave New World – Alduous Huxley
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
Boneshaker – Cherie Priest
Blood Red Road – Moira Young
Chaos Walking series – Patrick Ness
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
Alas, Bablyon – Pat Frank

Heart-shaped Box – Joe Hill
The Historian – Elizabeth Kostova

Watership Down – Richard Adams
Compete works – Kurt Vonnegut
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Complete Works – Oscar Wilde
The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexander Dumas
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
1984 – George Orwell
I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith
Tess of the d’Urbevilles – Thomas Hardy
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
The Turn of the Screw – Henry James
The Scarlett Letter – Nathanial Hawthorne
The Time Machine – H. G. Wells
Selected works – Jane Austen

Among Others – Jo Walton
Battle Royale – Koushun Takami
Complete works – Christopher Moore
All that Is – James Salter
The Pillars of the Earth – Ken Follett
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
John Dies at the End – David Wong
The Little Friend – Donna Tartt
Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace
Room – Emma Donohue
Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy
The Angel’s Game – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Tampa – Alissa Nutting
The Book Theif – Markus Zusak
Codex – Lev Grossman
No Country for Old Men – Cormac McCarthy
11/22/63 – Stephen King

The Last Unicorn – Peter S. eagle
Darktower Series – Stephen King
The Scar – China Mieville
The Tawny Man Trilogy – Robin Hobb
The Rain Wild Chronicles – Robin Hobb
Soldier Son Trilogy – Robin Hobb
Tigana – Guy Gavriel Kay
The Black Prism – Brent Weeks
Blood Song – Anthony Ryan
The Magician Series – Trudi Canavan
Little, Big – John Crowley
Mists of Avalon – Marion Zimmer Bradley
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell – Suzanna Clarke
Sharps – K J Parker
Good Omens – Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
The Wheel of Time series – Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson)
The Shambling Guide to New York City – Mur Lafferty
A Wizard of Earthsea – Ursula K. Le Guin
Dark Side of the Moon – Candace Farrugia
The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch

Speaker for the Dead – Orson Scott Card
Dune – Frank Herbert

The Bone Season – Samantha Shannon
The Returned – Jason Mott
Allegiant – Veronica Roth
Warm Bodies 2 – Isaac Marion
Words of Radiance (Stormlight Archive Book 2) – Brandon Sanderson
Sequel to Pure and Fuse – Julianna Baggott
The Magician’s Land – Lev Grossman
Marisha Pessl – New Novel
The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
World After (Penryn and the End of Days 2) – Susan Ee

Books, cupcakes and tea. Perfect!

Books, cupcakes and tea. Perfect!

Itsnotnatalie’s TO READ list:

IQ84 – Haruki Murakami
John Dies in the End – David Wong
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
The Road – Cormac McCarthy
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
The Book Thief –  Markus Zuzak
The Other Typist – Suzanne Rindell
The Kite Runner – Khaleed Hosseni
Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenidies
Brokeback Mountain – Annie Prolux
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal – Christopher Moore
The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera
She’s Come Undone – Wally Lamb
The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje
Possession – AS Byatt
If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller – Italo Calvino
Parade’s End – Ford Maddox Ford
Naked Lunch – William S Burroughs
Suite Francaise – Irene Nemirovsky
Fanny Hill – John Cleland
Austerlitz – WG Sebald
Fingersmith – Sarah Waters
Where Angels Fear to Tread – E.M. Foster
The Birds Fall Down – Rebecca West
The Graduate – Charles Webb
The Casual Vacancy – JK Rowling
Special Topics in Calamity Physics – Marisha Pessl


The Family Law – Benjamin Law
He Died With a Felafel in His Hand – John Birmingham
Picnic at Hanging Rock – Joan Lindsay
The Happiest Refugee – Anh Do
Schindler’s List – Thomas Keneally
Cloudstreet – Tim Winton
Jasper Jones – Craig Silvey
The Year of Living Dangerously – Christopher J Koch
Cocaine Blues – Kerry Greenwood


Carrie – Stephen Kin
A Time to Kill – John Grisham
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – Agatha Christie
ABC Murders – Agatha Christie
Death on the Nile – Agatha Christie
The Postman Always Rings Twice/Mildred Pierce – James M Cain
Fire in the Hole – Elmore Leonard
Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy – John le Carre
Casino Royale – Ian Fleming


The Forsyte Saga – John Galsworthy
Bleak House – Charles Dickens
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
The Trial – Franz Kafka
Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe
In Search of Lost Time – Marcel Proust
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell
Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen
Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
Cold Comfort Farm –  Stella Gibbons
On the Road –  Jack Kerouac
Middlemarch –  George Eliot
Far From the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
Vanity Fair –  William Makepeace Thackeray
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
Tenant of Wildfell Hall – Anne Bronte
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
The Sorrows of Young Werther – Johann Wolfgang van Goethe
The Mysteries of Udolpho – Ann Radcliffe
The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
Ulysses – James Joyce
The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner
Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
Les Liasons Dangereuse – Pierre Choderlos des Laclos
The Rainbow – DH Lawrence
Bel Ami – Guy de Maupassant
Gigi – Colette
Camilla – Fanny Burney
A Streetcar Named Desire – Tennessee Williams
Animal Farm – George Orwell


LOTR Two Towers and Return of the King – JRR Tolkien
Outlander Series – Diana Gabaldon
Gormenghast Series – Mervyn Peake
Complete Works of Terry Pratchett
Complete Works of Neil Gaiman
Assassin’s Apprentice – Robin Hobb
Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
Dune – Frank Herbert
Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham
Watership Down – Richard Adams
The Magician King – Lev Grossman
Mistborn Trilogy – Brandon Sanderson
The end of A Song of Fire and Ice – George RR Martin
Wheel of Time Series- Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Way of Kings – Brandon Sanderson


Pure – Julianna Baggot
Red Moon – Benjam

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