Category Archives: Middle Grade

March Wrap-Up 2018

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March was a decent reading month for me with 6 books; 4 audios, a graphic novel and a regular novel. I also DNFed (did not finish) a book.

As I go to the cinemas quite frequently, I decided to add in another section where I talk about the films I saw. I also added a section for book events I’ve attended.

The Books

All titles link to Goodreads

What Happened

By Hillary Rodham Clinton

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4 Stars

Hillary Clinton’s account of the 2016 election shed light on how things ended up as they did, featuring insights into what went down with Bernie Sanders, Russia’s interference, the emails, Trump, and the rampant racism and sexism within America. Hillary lays down the facts in a plain and (for the most part) understandable way, making it accessible to the general public.

That said, it is taken for granted that readers are familiar with the American political system. As an Australian, that was not the case for me – though I have watched West Wing, which helped more than you’d anticipate.

Though I had the option of reading the physical version of What Happened I decided to listen to the audio instead. That it was narrated by Hilary was important to me (plus, the hardback is a brick) and while her voice isn’t necessarily the most engaging, it did grow on me and I would recommend it.

Overall, I found What Happened to be an interesting, important and enlightening read.

Unicorn of Many Hats (Phoebe and Her Unicorn #7)

By Dana Simpson

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5 Stars

This series brings me so much joy. Everything is pure and hilarious and it’s my everything. Family, friendship, awesomeness. The art style is also great. I have no doubt I will be rereading this series soon.

Obsidio (The Illumunae Files #3)

By Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

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5 Stars

Obsidio is a masterpiece; it is all I could have wanted and more. The characters, the plot, the messages… I loved it all.

Obsidio is surprisingly political and has a large focus on the ramifications of war. But more than anything, it showcases the complicated, multifaceted nature of humanity.

Though I could go on forever, I will simply say this: everything ties in together, AIDAN is the best, the girl power is real, many emotions will be felt, perspective is everything & Amie and Jay are evil geniuses.

Read it, listen to it, and force it upon your friends because The Illuminae Files deserves all the hype and more.

The Belles (The Belles #1)

By Dhonielle Clayton

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3.5 Stars

I have several mixed feelings about this book.

I really liked the world and the social commentary that is subtly woven into The Belles. I found Sofia to be complex, dynamic and intriguing. I also enjoyed how dark the story got and the underlying discussion of ethics.

That said, on a more surface level I wasn’t particularly a fan. Though I bought and understood Camellia’s naiveté, she wasn’t a particularly compelling character. I wasn’t a fan of the romance, finding it a bit lacking (and the hint of a love triangle? No that you). I feel like I would have enjoyed it better if there was no romance and instead just focused on Camellia and her sisters.

Overall, while I found The Belles to be an easy read with an interesting social commentary, it wasn’t the book for me.

No Way! Okay, Fine.

By Brodie Lancaster

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3.5 Stars

No Way! Okay, Fine is an interesting look into feminism, pop culture, misogyny and sexual harassment from an Australian plus-sized woman.

A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet #1)

By Madeleine L’Engle

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4.5 Stars

A Wrinkle in Time is a wonderful read starring pure, loveable, cinnamon roll characters. It’s filled with friendship and family. Not to mention, there are actual adults present!

A Wrinkle in Time subverts expectations and stereotypes. It demonstrates that the standard school system doesn’t work for everyone, you don’t have to understand something to accept it, and it’s okay to be vulnerable, emotional, to cry – girl or boy.

Though first published over 4o years ago, A Wrinkle in Time is still relevant and enjoyable today. If you prefer audio books, the narration on this one is excellent.

Note: If you have read and loved A Wrinkle in Time, you’ll likely also love the Fairyland series by Catherynne M. Valente (Goodreads | Review).

Ready Player One

By Ernest Cline

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Did Not Finish

I got 50 pages in and decided that this was not the book for me. From what I could tell, the world seemed fairly interesting but I really didn’t care about Wade or anything else. I’m also not into 80s pop culture so I found the endless trivia incredibly boring. Maybe I’ll pick this up another time but I highly doubt it.

Movies

Red Sparrow

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I was really hoping to like this, but it definitely fell flat for me. While the use of music was good, I was bored and didn’t care about the characters or their situations. I went into the film expecting it to be more political, with less nudity and at least some chemistry between the characters. As it was, I was disappointed. If I had gone alone, I likely would have walked out of the cinema part way through. Would not recommend.

A Wrinkle in Time

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I loved this movie so much. The actors were amazing (and diverse!), the visuals were stunning and the music excellent. Though different to the book, I loved this interpretation. It was contemporary, the messages were great and the story tight. I just wanted to hug everybody… There was also a Hamilton quote. I feel like I connected more with Charles Wallace in the book (that’s not to say the actor was bad) while I prefer the movie version of Meg. Overall, though both are great in different ways, I think I actually prefer the film to the book.

Tomb Raider

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I went into Tomb Raider with incredibly low expectations and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it. While I wouldn’t call it a favourite, I did really enjoyed it – even more so as I think back on it. I really liked Lara as a character; she gets emotional and scared, she has flaws, and she is the embodiment of perseverance and determination. I also really appreciated how there was no romance but instead a focus on family and camaraderie.

Events

  • Tin Heart Book Launch
  • Obsidio Book Launch
  • The YA Room’s Book Talk: The Belles
  • CBCA Middle Grade Panel

Other Notable Points

  • I went ice skating for the first time. I’m not particularly good at it (in any sense) but at least I didn’t fall over or cling to the walls too much.

Blog Posts

Let’s Discuss!

How was your March?

Have you read any of the books I mentioned? If so, what are your thoughts on them?

Have you been to the cinemas lately? If so, what did you see? What did you think?

Did you discover any new favourites? Books, movies, TV shows…?

Please comment below and feel free to link me to your March Wrap-Up or latest post.

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January Wrap-Up 2018

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* Image not mine

This month I managed to read 18 books, which I’m rather proud of. Admittedly, it’s largely because most of them are graphic novels, but still.

The Books

All titles link to Goodreads

Phoebe and Her Unicorn (Phoebe and Her Unicorn #1)

By Dana Simpson

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5 Stars

An absolutely adorable and hilarious read. The illustrations and story alike are beautiful, with the characters so vibrant and full of sass. 100% recommend for all ages.

Note: There are a few continuity errors but that is because it was originally published as a series of daily comics.

Unicorn on a Roll (Phoebe and Her Unicorn #2)

By Dana Simpson

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5 Stars

Another brilliant and hilarious instalment to this series. I loved every minute of it, including times when I literally laughed out loud. Phoebe’s relationship with her parents is also fantastic and very real.

The introduction from Lauren Faust was excellent and hit on some great points.

Phoebe and her Unicorn is definitely a new favourite series of mine.

Unicorn vs. Goblins (Phoebe and Her Unicorn #3)

By Dana Simpson

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5 Stars

Another fun and adorable adventure.

Fence Volume 1

By C. S. Pacat & Johanna the Mad (Artist)

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3.5 Stars

A solid read, I feel like I’ll appreciate this a lot more once I’ve read the next instalments as this one was so short.

Star Wars: Legacy Volume 1

By John Ostrander & Co

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5 Stars

Damn. Though not cannon, this is an epic story arc. Though part of the overall franchise, it definitely stands on it’s own.

A heck of a lot happens within this single compendium and I’m here for it. The characters are compelling, the plot intriguing and twists surprising. It also has some pretty awesome, complicated female characters which is great.

I’m so glad I picked it up and definitely recommend it to any Star Wars fan – even those with perhaps passing interests.

Note: The cover is irritatingly misleading as the characters depicted are very minor and hold little relevance for the story as a whole.

Razzle Dazzle Unicorn (Phoebe and Her Unicorn #4)

By Dana Simpson

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5 Stars

Unicorn Crossing (Phoebe and Her Unicorn #5)

By Dana Simpson

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5 Stars

The Magic Storm (Phoebe and Her Unicorn #6)

By Dana Simpson

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5 Stars

Probably my favourite of the series so far, The Magic Storm is a fun read with great messages about family, friendships, platonic relationships and acceptance. It features real, relatable characters whom you can’t help but love and brings magic into everyday life. Additionally, the artwork is fantastic.

Winnie the Pooh (Winnie the Pooh #1)

By A. A. Milne & E. H. Shepard (Illustrator)

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3 Stars

Very cute but a bit of a disappointment. This is likely because I grew up with the animated version which is slightly different (and better). Also, there’s no Tigger! Furthermore, I found some elements to be slightly problematic (see Rabbit, chapter seven).

Akarnae (The Medoran Chronicles #1)

By Lynette Noni

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5 Stars

This was a re-read for me.

Marketed as Harry Potter cross Narnia, Akarnae is the first in an easy to read fantasy series by an Australian author.

Featuring a strong focus on friendship, great characters, a sentient library, a boarding school for the gifted in a parallel world, adventure and magic, Akarnae is a definite favourite of mine.

Raelia (The Medoran Chronicles #2)

By Lynette Noni

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5 Stars

This was another re-read for me.

So many feelings… Raelia is even better than Akarnae, stepping things up to the next level on many accounts.

Everything was amazing, and I especially loved getting to know the new characters – particularly Kaiden and Declan – in addition to our favourites.

Suffice to say, I’m beyond glad that I am able to immediately pick up Draekora.

Draekora (The Medoran Chronicles #3)

By Lynette Noni

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5 Stars

I am not okay. This book… this book. Draekora is everything I hoped for and far, far more. Everything is completely turned on it’s head and it is glorious. There’s one character who ripped my heart out (okay, three, but one’s a dragon so what can you expect?) and it was glorious. Also, did I mention dragons? Well, draekons. Lynette’s books just keep getting better, and I can’t wait for the next one to completely destroy me…

Yellow

By Megan Jacobson

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4 Stars

Though it took me a while to get into this book, Yellow was a very interesting read with flawed characters, real issues, overarching themes and an ability to draw tears from my eyes. At its heart, Yellow is about growing up, dealing with strife, friendship, identity and the unreliable nature of truth. There is also a lot of character development in multiple fronts, which is great.

I found it a really interesting look at small town life in Australia. It also does a really great job at paying homage to teachers and libraries.

I’d recommend going in knowing as little as you can and letting the story pan out with no particular expectations.

I will also note that the ending was excellent and really worked for the book – it’s definitely one of the best that I’ve read.

Trigger warnings for and mentions of alcoholism, bullying, parental separation, cheating, drug use, depression and suicide.

Graevale (The Medoran Chronicles #4)

By Lynette Noni

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5 Stars

Another great instalment for The Medoran Chronicles, Graevale features great character development, swift plot movement and unexpected twists. It was engaging and I read it in a single sitting. These characters are amazing and I can’t wait for the rest of the series.

Batgirl: Beyond Burnside (Batgirl: Rebirth #1)

By Hope Larson & Co

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5 Stars

A fun read and a great introduction to Batgirl. I especially loved the last part with Poison Ivy and Frankie seems pretty awesome. I also loved how female-centric it was. I can’t wait to read the rest of these.

Ms Marvel: Damage Per Second (Ms Marvel #7)

By G. Willow Wilson & Co

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5 Stars

After the events of Civil War II, I wasn’t sure how I was going to like this instalment but it was absolutely fantastic.

Probably my favourite Ms. Marvel comic, Damage per Second is a celebration of friendship, humanity and nerdiness, while also acknowledging and dealing with feelings of loss, loneliness and bullying.

Ms Marvel: Mecca (Ms Marvel #8)

By G. Willow Wilson & Co

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5 Stars

Another great read. I really enjoyed the positive religious overtones, the messages about family, the return of an old friend and the recognition of the need for self-care.

Evermore

By Isabelle Carmody & Daniel Reed (Illustrator)

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2 Stars

I was not a fan of this book; it just didn’t do it for me. The story and art was fine but I just didn’t care. Also, I felt the ending was unlikely and the romance lacking. It wasn’t great but I hope other people can enjoy it.

Other Notable Points

  • I was able to attend Penguin Teen Australia’s Showcase which was great, the highlight being an early screening of Love, Simon (adapted from Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda) which was beyond amazing and ridiculously adorable. Love, Simon comes out in cinemas on March 29.
  • I was lucky enough to be invited to speak on a panel at The YA Room’s YA Day which was amazing and rather surreal. The entire day was a blast and I can’t wait for next year. #YADay was at the #1 trending spot on Twitter which was great, so feel free to check out the tag for live tweets.

Let’s Discuss

How has your January been? Did you read much? Were you at either event that I mentioned? Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?

Please leave a comment down below and feel free to link me your January Wrap-Up or your latest post.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland #1)

Finished on 10th April, 2017 (Re-Read)

Author: Catherynne M. Valente

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5 Stars

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Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

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Anyone who knows me well will likely be aware that Fairyland is my favourite series of all time; period. Which is saying something because I’ve read and loved a heck of a lot of books. Those who know me well will also likely have had me shove this book in their face – multiple times.

Fairyland is the childhood series I wish I had. I pitch it as Fairy Realm (by Emily Rodda) cross Narnia – the issue is, not many people have read the Fairy Realm series.

The story is universal; it is something that most people can enjoy, even if they don’t usually read middle grade.

Fairyland features fantastic friendships, complex characters, a morally ambiguous villain (who owns a very fine hat), adventure, adroableness, a Wyverary – that is, a wyvern (essentially a dragon) cross Library – and many other whimsical, magical, amazing things and people. (Look out for the key and the green smoking jacket; though inanimate, they are characters in their own right).

The story is so imaginative and vibrant, the writing is beautiful (not at all juvenile) and the characters are well-developed and loveable. The author takes a lot of stereotypes and spins them on their head. There is also a lot of book lover appreciation.

Even though it’s the first of a five book series, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making has a complete arc in itself and could be read as a standalone (but please don’t as the rest of the series is just as wonderful, if not more).

If you like audio books or are thinking of getting into audio books, I 100% recommend Fairyland as I actually prefer the audio format. Not only are the audios themselves amazing but the style of the books are such that there is a narrator telling you the story, which makes for a perfect audiobook. Additionally, the author narrates 3/5 of the series, which is amazing.

Overall, Fairyland is a fun read, though it does get slightly dark. For me, it was even more fantastic the second time round.

If you need further persuasion, it is blurbed by both Neil Gaiman and Holly Black.

 

Let’s Discuss!

Have you read any of the Fairyland series?

Are you planning to? Have I convinced you?

If so, please let me know! Thoughts, feelings, rants, raves…

I would love to discuss with you 😉

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter #5)

Read from 3-14th January, 2017

Author: J. K. Rowling

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5 Stars

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Harry Potter is due to start his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His best friends Ron and Hermione have been very secretive all summer and he is desperate to get back to school and find out what has been going on. However, what Harry discovers is far more devastating than he could ever have expected…

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I’ve been rereading the Harry Potter books for some time now, but this is the first instalment where my thoughts are extensive enough to warrant a review. That said, please forgive the fact that there are no prior reviews on these books and that I am instead jumping in at number five.

Many people say that this instalment is their least favourite of the series, but I didn’t find that at all – perhaps because I listened to the audiobook rather than reading a physical copy. At any rate, I loved this book.

Professor McGonagall and Ginny Weasley completely stole the show with their vibrant personalities and high levels of sass. Luna, Hermione, Neville, the twins and Tonks were also fantastic.

Umbridge has always been a fantastic love-to-hate villain and she certainly did not disappoint. There was also an interesting detail about her that I had forgotten until rereading which I quite liked. She was completely horrible and cruel, and it was a delight seeing her in disarray when the Weasley twins were up to mischief.

Harry really frustrated me, but I actually think that this was a good thing. Harry’s temper was quick and destructive (his friends were even scared of him at times), he didn’t appreciate the people around him, he was selfish, and he was rash. However, some of those qualities (such as the temper) I believe may have been (at least to some degree) appropriated from Voldemort. It also made him flawed and somewhat more relatable. It will be interesting to see his character development through the next few novels – you can already start to see it at the end of Order of the Pheonix in his interaction with Luna.

I really didn’t like Cho but I understand that she was needed to help Harry grow as a character. Personally, I found her to be selfish, extremely shallow and rather superficial.

Dumbledore was interesting. For the majority of the novel, I, like Harry, was frustrated at and disappointed in Dumbledore, who had been like a father figure to Harry in his time at Hogwarts to date. It had been such a long time since I’d read “Order of the Phoenix” that I’d entirely forgotten his motivations – but Rowling did a fantastic job at portraying them in the reveal at the end, painting Dumbledore as flawed, vulnerable and… old. That conversation was perhaps one of my favourite scenes in the novel.

Overall, it was a fantastic read with brilliant characters, mixing entertaining times with frustrating ones.

If you are struggling to get through, I do thoroughly recommend listening to the audiobook as I feel it would help out significantly. However, that is coming from someone who loves audiobooks and what works for me may not work for you.

Let’s Discuss!

Have you read Harry Potter? Are you one of the few who haven’t?

What’s your favourite instalment? Least favourite?

Favourite character?

Any unpopular opinions?

Come chat with me! I love to discussions.

Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods

Finished on 8th November, 2014

Author: Rick Riordan

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5 Stars

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If you like horror shows, blood baths, lying, stealing, backstabbing, and cannibalism, then read on…

Who could tell the origin stories of the gods of Olympus better than a modern-day demigod? In this whirlwind tour of Greek mythology, Percy Jackson gives his personal take on the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece – and reveals the truth about how they came to rule the world.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

Pre-reading, I was expecting this book to be interesting, but sorely dry – like  a textbook. Thankfully, “Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods” surpassed my expectations by miles – the Greek myths and legends were totally Percyfied. (Which is totally epic!)

Reading this was like sinking into the embrace of an old friend. The writing was familiar, the backgrounds for so many characters were finally explained (there were a lot of “OH” moments when reading this) and, since this is Percy narrating, there was quite a lot of laughter in inappropriate moments.

Honestly, I’m not sure if I would recommend reading this before or after you’ve read the Percy Jackson books (or maybe in-between?) but either way, it is a great look into the history and make-up of the Percy Jackson universe. A well deserved five stars, “Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods” is a great, easy read that you can pick up at any time.

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Before I go, I have to make a quick note on the cover – is it just me or is this the worst Pj/HOO cover yet? Because as much as I love Logan Lerman, the cover is absolutely hideous! The other version is slightly better, but unfortunately that only comes in hardcover… *sigh*.

What are your thoughts? Am I the only one who dislikes the cover? Be sure to let me know, I’d love to discuss it with you!

The Giver (The Giver #1)

Read from 20-21st September, 2014

Author: Lois Lowry

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4.5 Stars

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Jonas’s world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

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A hauntingly enchanting read that makes you think about the deeper issues in life. The Giver – “the book that made dystopia” – is a classic read for all ages.

This novel is beautifully written. The language is eloquent and intelligent, delivering an intriguing story based in a fascinating world so unlike our own, yet believable all the same.

I found this utopian society fascinating. At first, I actually felt like I wanted to be part of The Community – it sounded pretty cool. Everyone seemed intelligent, you pretty much got your idea job, and marriages seemed to work out pretty well. But then we started to see the flaws. There was no books to read for fun, there was no love, I’m not even going to go near the releasing process (how can anyone be okay with that? And if they truly feel that it is the right thing to do, why do they lie about it?) – oh, and there’s no colour. Literally. Everything’s in black and white – the “Sameness” is what the Giver called it.

The concepts and importance of identity, memory, emotions and choice were addressed. Lois writes, “It was a community without danger or pain. But it was also a community without music, colour or art. And it was a community without books.”

The ending, however, let me down. While there are three other books in the quartet, they are seemingly unrelated to The Giver – so we don’t find out what happens to the characters we have grown to love. I understand the idea of “open-ended” book, but I felt that the ending was rushed and that the novel didn’t really have a conclusion.

Despite this, I did love the story. The Giver is a book that can be read on a philosophical level or just for fun. Either way, I believe that this well-rounded book can be read by all ages (starting with children around eleven).

I look forward to seeing the movie – the characters have been ages about four years and a romance has been added in, but I’m interested in how true the movie is to the book.

The Thirteenth Princess

Read in January, 2013

Author: Diane Zahler

The Thirteenth Princess

3.75 Stars

An interesting twist on the fairytale “the Twelve Dancing Princesses”. Recommended for but is not limited to people aged 8-12.

This book was not one of my favorites, but was written quite well.

Personally, I read this one to see what “a normal 12/13 year old” would read. – People always tend to say that I read things that are a few years “too old” for me. I call it “expanding my horizons”. – Go figure.