BOOK REVIEW: The Obernwytn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody (Review by Sarah McDuling)

xthe-red-queen.jpg.pagespeed.ic.IO8CV4RPXNIt’s (almost) here!

At long last, it has (nearly) arrived!

All hail The Red Queen.

Like so many others, I’ve been a fan of The Obernewtyn Chronicles since I was kid. I have read and re-read these books so many times, my copies have grown battered and torn and the characters have come to feel like old friends.

But alas, all good things must come to an end! With The Red Queen, Isobelle Carmody is finishing a story that has been captivating readers for many years. And I cannot wait to see how she does it. Really, I cannot wait. If I don’t get my hands on a copy soon, there is a very distinct possibility that my head is going to explode …

I’m very much looking forward to reading this book, is what I’m saying.

In case you’re not familiar with this highly acclaimed and much beloved series, allow me to explain. The first book in The Obernewtyn Chronicles was published nearly 30 years ago. (Well … 28 years to be precise.) Since then it has been a consistent bestseller, collecting new generations of fans with each passing year. In fact, the first book has been published as a Popular Penguin title (a true sign of greatness). In editions both pink and orange – how cool is that?!

Way before Dystopian Fiction became a whole big craze, literally decades before anyone had ever heard of The Hunger Games or Divergent, Isobelle Carmody was writing about a distant future in which the world has been ravaged by a nuclear holocaust. In other words, when it comes to Dystopian YA, Isobelle Carmody did it first. And more importantly, she did it better.

This series is a beautifully written and painstakingly imagined, with the kind of detailed world-building and intricate plotting that has ensured each new book is better than the last. It also boasts the most iron-willed, big-hearted and strong-minded heroine I have ever encountered. No kidding. Elspeth Gordie is pretty much my role model in life. In times of hardship, I frequently ask myself, “What would Elspeth do?” and the answer is invariably, “Elspeth would do the most difficult, awe-inspiring and heroic thing imaginable. And she would do it alone. And she would do it without hesitation and without complaining.”

So yeah. I think it’s safe to say that The Red Queen is my favourite YA book of 2015. And I say this with the utmost confidence, despite the fact that I haven’t read it yet. Such is my unwavering faith in Isobelle Carmody.

Long live the Queen!

Grab your copy of The Red Queen here.

xthe-red-queen.jpg.pagespeed.ic.IO8CV4RPXNThe Red Queen

by Isobelle Carmody

The time has come at last for Elspeth Gordie to leave the Land on her quest to find and stop the computermachine Sentinel from unleashing the deadly Balance of Terror arsenal.

But before she can embark on her quest, she must find a lost key; and although she has long prepared for this day, nothing is as she imagined.

This is the final, dramatic volume in series of books that undoubtedly shines as one of the most fantastic, and fantastical, tapestries ever woven.

 Grab your copy of The Red Queen here.

BOOK REVIEW: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (review by Sarah McDuling)

illuminaeWhen I first heard about Illuminae, it was described to me as “Battlestar Galatica meets 10 Things I Hate About You”. This obviously sounded like the best idea ever to me. I figured I was probably going to adore the hell out of it. And I was right!

With a story that has been carefully constructed using a collection of emails, IM chats, descriptions of video footage, classified documents, diary entries, interview transcripts, pictures and poetry – Illuminae is a wildly imaginative, constantly surprisingly and often visually stunning reading experience.

This is creative storytelling at its best. In fact, the book reads almost like watching a movie or playing a video game … except for being way better than either of those things because it’s a BOOK!

From the combined imaginations of Amie Kaufman (The Starbound Trilogy) and Jay Kristoff (The Lotus War Trilogy) – Illuminae is the first book in a new trilogy that is best categorized as a Young-Adult-Space-Opera-slash-Romantic-Comedy-slash-Psychological-Thriller. This book shimmers with playful humour and burns bright with raw emotion. It’s exactly the kind of addictive read that will keep you up all night frantically flipping pages and mentally casting the movie adaptation in the back of your mind. (For the record, I settled on Miles Teller to play Ezra and Zoey Deutch to play Kady.)

Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

A gloriously bold, genre-mashing masterpiece, Illuminae will take you on a madcap joy-ride through space, spinning a story that involves a fleet of refugees on the run from certain death, a highly contagious zombie disease, an evil planet-destroying corporation and a possibly deranged, definitely eccentric super computer called AIDAN, (Artificial Intelligence Defense Analytics Network).

It also features a wonderful cast of endearing characters that will capture your heart (and then crush it into space dust) and an utterly adorable love/hate relationship between a wise-cracking hero and a pink-haired astro-princess with mad computer skills.

In short, Illuminae is a crazy-amazing rollercoaster ride!

Guaranteed to blow your mind, tie your heartstrings up in knots and play a frenzied game of ping-pong with your expectations – Illuminae is a must read for science fiction lovers, romance junkies and comedy fans alike.

Grab your copy of Illuminae here!



Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Kady and Ezra thought their break-up was messy until they witnessed their entire world literally falling apart. Now they’re piecing together what’s left of their lives, and their romance, and trying to survive an intergalactic war. An innovatively designed story that’s best described as Battlestar Galactica meets 10 Things I Hate About You.

The year is 2575, and two rival mega-corporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe … Read more.

Grab your copy of Illuminae here!

BOOK REVIEW: Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix (review by Sarah McDuling

unnamedWhat do you get when you combine Regency Romance with Gaslamp Fantasy and toss in a healthy dose of light-hearted humour and rollicking adventure?

You get Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix, without doubt the most charming book I have read in AGES! Seriously. Why don’t more people write books like this?

An intrepid young lady, a dashing young hero, a stolen emerald with magical powers, kidnappings, French spies, adventures on the high seas and best of all … an enchanted moustache!

What all this adds up to is a shining example of one of my most favourite sub-genres – the ever so elusive ‘Fantasy of Manners’.

Books like this are just so hard to find!

Newt’s Emerald introduces readers to a plucky young heroine named Truthful who has disguised herself a man in order to recover a stolen family heirloom with magical properties. She is aided in her quest by her aged relative  (definitely my favourite character in the book) Lady Badgery – an imperious old woman with a sword hidden in her walking stick. After donning her disguise, Truthful meets a handsome young man calling himself “Major Hartnett” and what ensues is a magical frolic though a reimagined of version of Regency England.

As a devoted Georgette Heyer fan I’m constantly on the look out for books that boast that same brand of lively romance mingled with sparkling humour and old-world charm. The magical twist in Newt’s Emerald is an added bonus and places it amongst my absolute favourite ‘Fantasy of Manners’ reads – alongside Patricia C. Wrede’s A Matter of Magic and Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey and Kiersten White’s Illusions of Fate.

An absolute must read for fans of all the above listed titles, as well as lovers of Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen (and for fans of Garth Nix, of course!) – Newt’s Emerald is a high-spirited and playful romp guaranteed to enchant and delight!

Grab your copy of Newt’s Emerald here

The Fault in Our Stars Movie : A GIF Review by Sarah McDuling

Getting invited to an advanced screening…

On the way to the cinema…

When the movie is starting…

Five minutes after the movie has started…

Every time Augustus Waters appears on screen…

Every time anyone says the word “Okay”…

Isaac’s eulogy…


Augustus’s letter…


The End…


Grab a copy of The Fault in our Stars here

Sarah McDuling is a contributor to the Booktopia Blog and Editor of the Booktopia Young Adult Buzz.  

Her hobbies include (but are not limited to) sword-fighting, ghost hunting and lion taming.

She is also an enthusiaster fibber.

You can read her other posts here or see her tweet about all things Young Adult-ish at @sarahmcduling.

You can also follow her on tumblr at Young Adult @ Booktopia

REVIEW: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira (Review by Sarah McDuling)

love-letters-to-the-deadLove Letters to the Dead is a powerful coming-of-age novel that will grab hold of your heart and soul, drawing you into the narrator’s world so completely that finishing the book is actually quite upsetting – like having a door slammed in your face by your new best friend. As far as I’m concerned it’s one of the top Young Adult novels of the year.

This book first came to my attention when I saw that Emma Watson had tweeted about it. As a general rule, I will do whatever Emma Watson says because she is Hermione and therefore my idol. So when she gave her seal of approval, I obediently googled Ava Dellaira and discovered that she’s friends with Stephen Chbosky and had worked as an associate producer on the movie adaptation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. After that I was naturally desperate to get my hands on a copy. 

Love Letters to the Dead is the story of Laurel, a young woman who is quietly drowning in grief and guilt. We are introduced to Laurel as she starts her freshman year of High School. (That means Year 9, for those of you who don’t speak American.)

At a glance, all the usual hallmarks of YA contemporary literature appear to be present and accounted for:

1. The (seemingly) Unattainable Crush:

In this case, his name is Sky. And if Sky was a mathematical equation he would look something like this:

Hot Guy + Mysterious Loner = Swoon10   

(Maths was never my best subject but I’m pretty sure that’s accurate).

2.  The Friend/s with Serious Life Problems:

Ava_Dellaira_author_photo Laurel’s two closest friends, Hannah and Natalie, are in love!  But their relationship is complicated. Neither of them are quite ready to come out of the closet and Hannah is dealing with a pretty stressful home-life situation.  Also she keeps ditching Natalie to date boys.

3. The Parents Who Just Don’t Understand:

Neither of Laurel’s parents have a very clear understanding what she’s going through. Her father is blinded by grief and her mother has skipped town at a time when Laurel needs her most.

4. The Thing That Happened in the Past that Must Remain Secret (until the end):

Laurel’s family was torn apart after the death of her older sister, May. But only Laurel knows the whole story behind what happened the night May died. And she can’t talk about it. She can barely even think about it.

So there you go. The bare bones of the story probably sound familiar to you. Most of us have read books like this before. But while the ingredients that have gone into making Love Letters to the Dead may be standard staples, Ava Dellaira throws a serving of raw emotion into the mix that takes everything to a whole new level. And I think that’s what makes Love Letters to the Dead such a special treat. It’s a genuine heartbreaker.

Another thing I love about this beautiful book is the fact that it’s written as a series of letters addressed to dead celebrities. As a pop culture junkie, I got a real kick out of this. Kurt Cobain, Judy Garland, Janis Joplin, Amelia Earhart and River Phoenix are just a few of the intriguing people Laurel chooses to write to. She writes the first letter for a school assignment, but then cannot bring herself to turn it in. Instead, she keeps writing letters to dead people. And as she writes she slowly reveals the tragic secret behind the death of her older sister, May.

love-letters-to-the-deadDellaira writes with such perfect pitch and subtle skill, Love Letters to the Dead feels like a modern classic. Laurel is a very self-contained and unassuming protagonist, one who spends the majority of the book repressing her feelings and denying the past. The true depth of her suffering is revealed so gradually that  I think I was about a third of the way through the novel before it dawned on me that she wasn’t just wallowing in typical teen angst. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you. I happen to love wallowing in teen angst, and I’m a proper grown up adult (supposedly).

This is one of those books that sort of creeps up on you. You start reading and everything seems pretty cool. You’re like, “Oh hey! I see what’s going on here. High school girl with high school problems. Boy drama! Teen Issues! Burgeoning womanhood! I know the drill.”

But as you keep reading you find yourself starting to think, “Hold up. I’m having some strong feelings about this book. Powerful emotions are happening! This is not a drill!

This beautiful book is the perfect for fans of poignant (i.e. emotionally apocalyptic) Young Adult literature like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Fault in our Stars. And the craziest part? This is the author’s first book! I’m completely blown away by that fact. After such an impressive debut, I can’t wait to see what Ava Dellaira does next because … wow.

Grab a copy of Love Letters to the Dead here


Sarah McDuling is a contributor to the Booktopia Blog and Editor of the Booktopia Young Adult Buzz.  Her hobbies include (but are not limited to) sword-fighting, ghost hunting and lion taming. She is also an enthusiastic fibber.

You can read her other posts here or follow her on Tumblr at Young Adult @ Booktopia

Book Trailer of the Week – Half Bad by Sally Green!

This week’s Book Trailer of the Week goes to Half Bad by Sally Green.

Intense, mysterious, gripping, our own Sarah McDuling reviewed Half Bad recently and absolutely loved it, saying that, despite her “ridiculously high expectations, Half Bad did not disappoint.”

Could Half Bad be the next Harry Potter? The next Hunger Games?

Order your copy today and find out.

Grab a copy a Sally Green’s Half Bad here

Grab a copy a Sally Green’s Half Bad here


REVIEW: Half Bad by Sally Green (review by Sarah McDuling)

half-badEvery so often you hear about a book that’s being touted as a “global sensation”. Usually in such cases the film rights have been bought, the author is being labelled “the next J.K Rowling” and the general consensus seems to be OMG this is it! The New Craze! The Next Big Thing! And so on, and so forth. We’ve heard it all before, right?

And yet it doesn’t seem to matter how many times I hear it, whenever a book like this comes along I get caught up in the hype. My expectations soar to dizzying heights. I find myself thinking, “This book is going to change my life! It will blow my mind and rock my world. It will save the rainforests and end world poverty! God bless this miraculous book!”

Of course, I’m nearly always disappointed.

It’s not the book’s fault. It’s just that sometimes hype can be dangerous. Too much hype can kill a good book, purely because it can’t possibly measure up to the high expectations of the reader. However, Half Bad by Sally Green might just be the exception to this rule

(NB: Half Bad by Sally Green is probably not going save any rainforests or end world poverty.  I mean it might. But probably not. I just want to be upfront about that, before we go any further.)

Sally Green, author of the upcoming Half Life trilogy, really doesn’t have all that much in common with J. K. Rowling. Well … except that they are both British. And female. Also, both are blonde and have children. Does this qualify Sally Green as the next J.K Rowling?  I’m not sure about that. What I am sure of are the following facts:

1). Sally Green is a first time author.Sally Green

2). Her Half Life trilogy has been sold into 42 countries.

3) There was a massive bidding war between major studios in order to secure the film rights.

4) All of this happened before the first book in the trilogy had even been published.

Now that’s a lot of hype to live up to.

In terms of what the book is about, I’m almost reluctant to say. Any kind of synopsis I give is probably going to make it sound like a Harry Potter rip-off. The truth is, comparisons to Harry Potter are unavoidable here. Both books are about teenaged boys with magical powers –  boys who must navigate their way through an intricate world of witches/wizards, burdened by tragic pasts and unwanted notoriety.

Still, despite these superficial similarities, Half Bad is actually a very fresh and imaginative take on a well known theme. At no point does it come off feeling clichéd or unoriginal which (let’s be honest) is an impressive feat for a Young Adult novel about witches. This is not new territory, after all. And yet, somehow Sally Green has managed to put a whole new spin on a familiar tune. Whereas Harry Potter is very much a fanstasy, Half Bad is more of a gritty, comptemporary coming-of-age story … that just happens to include witches. More importantly, it’s an enthralling page turner starring a complex and compelling protagonist. All up, a riveting first act in what promises to be an impressive show.

So. Will Half Bad live up to the hype and become the next big publishing phenomenon? I certainly hope so, but I can’t say for sure. These things can be hard to predict.  All I can say is that I completely understand why people are so excited about this new trilogy. Even handicapped by my ridiculously high expectations, Half Bad did not disappoint.

This is a series I’ll be very glad to see capture the hearts and minds of a new generation of teens.

Spoiler Alert: Despite what you may have heard, Half Bad  does not contain a map to the lost city of Atlantis or the secret to eternal youth. It is, however, a very good book that you will  have difficulty putting down.


Sarah McDuling is a contributor to the Booktopia Blog and Editor of the Booktopia Young Adult Buzz.  Her hobbies include (but are not limited to) sword-fighting, ghost hunting and lion taming. She is also an enthusiaster fibber. You can read her other posts here or follow her on Tumblr at Young Adult @ Booktopia

Grab a copy of Half Bad here

half-badIn modern-day England, witches live alongside humans: White witches, who are good; Black witches, who are evil; and fifteen-year-old Nathan, who is both.

Nathan’s father is the world’s most powerful and cruel Black witch, and his mother is dead. He is hunted from all sides. Trapped in a cage, beaten and handcuffed, Nathan must escape before his sixteenth birthday, at which point he will receive three gifts from his father and come into his own as a witch—or else he will die. But how can Nathan find his father when his every action is tracked, when there is no one safe to trust—not even family, not even the girl he loves?

In the tradition of Patrick Ness and Markus Zusak, is a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive, a story that will grab hold of you and not let go until the very last page.


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