Monthly Archives: March 2016

Book Reviews Reading

Review: A Necklace of Souls by RL Stedman

With the announcement of the Tessa Duder Award fast approaching, I decided to review all the previous winners. This was the second winner, from 2012.

What is it?

A Necklace of Souls by RL Stedman

First published 2013

A young adult fantasy novel.

The Back Cover Blurb

In the hidden Kingdom of the Rose a Guardian protects her people with the help of a magical necklace. But evil forces are also seeking the necklace, and as the Guardian grows weaker these forces threaten to destroy the Kingdom.

Dana, the rightful heir, must claim the necklace and save her people. Her duty is clear: to protect her homeland she must submit to the power of the necklace. But all power comes at a price–a price Dana may not be willing to pay.

Why should I read it?

A Necklace of Souls follows the stories of both Dana and Will.* Dana is the princess who doesn’t really want to be a princess, and Will is the peasant who just wants to get on with life (which pretty much takes one sucky turn after another.)

It’s a fairly solid fantasy novel, with lots of world building and an ominous evil that the characters will eventually have to battle.

In terms of a Chosen One story, Dana really gets a bung deal. The titular necklace might hold super powers, but it’s no free ride.

I was a huge fantasy geek when I was a teenager, but I think I overdosed and I don’t really read any now. But I’d say read this if you’re really into fantasy, if you love stories that cover years and a lot of distance, and if you geek-out on world building.

* Interesting fact. Both winners of the Tessa Duder Award so far featured a character named Will.

Book Reviews Reading

Review: Reach by Hugh Brown

With the announcement of the Tessa Duder Award fast approaching, I decided to review all the previous winners. (LOL, there have only been two.) Starting with the first ever winner, from 2011.

reachWhat is it?

Reach by Hugh Brown

First published 2012

A contemporary, young adult novel.

The Back Cover Blurb

Will Clark thinks he’s a socially inept bookworm who just happens to enjoy cross-country running and taekwondo. But then his mother returns after a five-year absence overseas, and he has his first full-contact taekwondo fight, and the gorgeous comic-reading Conway Jones asks if she can be his maths tutor … Will must reassess himself, and his past, as he reaches towards a new future and lets his dreams take flight.

Why should I read it?

Will lives with his grandparents and has a strained relationship with his Dad, who he blames for his Mum leaving. I loved the awkwardness between them. The feeling of wanting to connect but always missing, and the past tainting the present. Comparing his Dad to a hawk, Will says he “circles around in the hills by himself most of the time, then every now and then he lands nearby, stares at you, silent and fierce, then he’s up and gone again.” (p.144) I’m a sucker for a good father-son relationship story, and though this doesn’t dominate the book, it’s touching and well executed.

Will deals with a lot in his quiet way. Feeling he can’t hold down a conversation like a normal person, he writes stories in which he’s the hero. These glimpses into Will’s story world aren’t overpowering and mirror the main narrative nicely.

The writing is simple but not sparse. His grandmother’s baking (“A quick scan showed three types of biscuits, two cakes, and cheese-corn-and-piccalilli muffins. Will grabbed a couple of afghans and a muffin…” p.39), the farm (“But if he took the right-hand ridge it dropped over into the oblivion of the national park bushland, valleys that ended in the great spine of mountains that travelled east, the Macrae and Kilmore ranges, and more besides.” p.89), and even Will himself (“Will’s legs were beginning to shiver with anger. He did a little boxing shuffle to try to relax.” p. 184) are all described in perfect detail to build up the world.

I’d describe this as a coming-of-age novel because there’s a moment where everything starts to change for Will. It’s obvious, but not in a painful, predictable, slap-you-across-the-face way. And even though it ends on a positive note (no spoilers) not everything is resolved exactly. And I kinda like that. Life isn’t always wrapped up like a half-hour sitcom, but we can still move on.


I went to a conference

Last year, I decided it was time I went on a holiday. My crit partner BFF lives in the US, and I asked how she’d feel about my Kiwi butt coming over for a visit.

We decided a good excuse would be to find a conference to go to while I was there. We decided on the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York because RAINBOW ROWELL!!!!!

The Winter Conference is only one and a half days long (plus 1 more day if you got in to the Friday intensives, but we were too late), and takes place in February (the coldest damn month in NY), and it’s not really a “craft” conference, but it was totally worth it.

scbwi_conferenceSaturday was full on. We heard from some amazing speakers, listened to agents’ and editors’ perspectives on the state of publishing, and got some insight from the workshops. Nothing was revolutionary, but it’s good to know I’m up with the play. And then, of course, RAINBOW ROWELL!!!!!

I’m really glad I went with a friend, because it took away some of the pressure of meeting new people. We could just hang out together. But I was big and brave and took my shy, introverted self to the Gala Dinner and mingled at the International (Canada, Australia, NZ) table. I was the only NZer there, but I met some cool people and had a good time.

By the time we got back to our hotel that night, I couldn’t believe it had only been one day.

On to day two. More listening to interesting people, and the highlight for me was Gary D. Schmidt. Gotta love someone who can make you cry in a room full of people.

All in all, the conference was really well organised. They kept us up-to-date on what was happening, it was easy to figure out where to go and when to be there, and everyone seemed to be happy to be there.

If you’ve thought about going to a conference, I can highly recommend it. There’s nothing like hanging around a bunch of like-minded people to make you realise you aren’t the only weirdo. And there are conferences all over the place. You don’t even have to fly halfway around the world to do it.