Musings of a Bibliophile

Avid reader, writer and music-geek living in Auckland with too many books and not enough shelves. I currently review books for NZ Booklovers, a site dedicated to all things book related - reviews, author interviews, articles, competitions and more.


You can find my writing on the website here.


Why children's books are important at any age

A few months ago, American writer Lynn Shepard caused an online outrage with her absurd Huffington Post article entitled “If JK Rowling Cares About Writing, She Should Stop Doing It“. The article was as petty as the title suggests, the author coming across bitter and green with envy at Rowling’s success. Of the many ridiculous moments of the piece, the part that stood out the most for me was where Shepard stated that, although she hasn’t read the Harry Potter books, she thinks it “a shame that adults [are] reading them (rather than just reading them to their children, which is another thing altogether), mainly because there’s so many other books out there that are surely more stimulating for grown-up minds.”


Remember, Shepard hasn’t read the books – or even seen the films – so all she knows about the Harry Potter series is that it is immensely popular, read by adult and child alike, and written for children. Based on these details, she has assumed that all Harry Potter books are not worth reading seriously by any adult.


In the context of that particular article, it is easy to shrug off such comments as mere ranting by a jealous writer. Unfortunately, this statement seems to exemplify a commonly held belief: that books written for children are not as intelligent – not worth as much – as those written for “grown-ups”. Children’s books are thought too simple, too silly to be taken seriously. There have even been entire articles written about it, not just limited to frustration at J.K Rowling’s success. One article I came across begins: “Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children”.


Full article here

Daughter of Smoke and Bone - cast
Daughter of Smoke and Bone - cast
Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone) - Laini Taylor

It seems I couldn't stay away from a "dream cast" attempt for Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I always found them so depressing because it's almost never right, and even when it's right (Martin Freeman as Bilbo, Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent...) the rest of the movie is just wrong...


But I couldn't resist! Not certain with all the choices, and I couldn't even come close to an idea for Zuzana but I would be so so so happy with Issa, Liraz, Brimstone, Thiago and Mik as the people I chose (based on acting/personality as well as looks). Karou is hard, Lily collins has a delicateness that I think suits but as for acting... not sure. I think Naya would be a great Madrigal but not positive on that and Henry Cavill isn't quite right but I think he could act it well (and he's very, very nice to look at so no complaints). Also he has a widows peak...


To be honest, the only one I'm really set on is Christina Hendricks as Issa...

Enmity Review

Enmity - E.J.  Andrews

Whenever I start yet another YA post-apocalyptic-dystopian-fiction, I am prepared for one of two reactions: delight, or disappointment. Unfortunately, at the moment, disappointment seems to be the most common reaction as each new book feels like a clone of the previous one, with no new ideas and – usually – no good writing to set it apart. Occasionally, however, a book will come along that is completely original and unique, with a clear and distinct voice that sets it apart from the others in the genre. The Hunger Games was one of these anomalies, with Marie Lu’s Legend and (especially) Julianna Baggott’s Pure continuing the trend of being unexpected delights (though in Baggott's case, "delight" may not be the right word - the world of Pure is too dark for that). Reading yet another, new YA post-apocalyptic-dystopian-fiction book by an unknown author is, therefore, a bit of a gamble – will this one be a let down, or a contender for book of the year?

Even a week or so after finishing Enmity, the debut novel by New Zealand/Australian author E.J Andrews, I still have no idea which of those categories it fits into.

...Andrew’s writing is skillful, and she clearly gets across a sense of unease and tension as the teenagers are put through increasingly dangerous, difficult tasks. Where it gets confusing is in the pacing of the story. Half the time I found myself flicking back through chapters to work out what I missed, only to find that I had in fact missed nothing. New information is thrown in all the time with no warning, and there are many parts where it feels as though entire chapters have been skipped as the plot starts to make less and less sense. This, coupled with a few frustrating cases of “insta-love” and some rather bizarre character developments, made the whole reading experience rather jarring.

Full review here

Received from publisher through NZ Booklovers

Blue Bloods review

Blue Bloods  - Melissa  de la Cruz

Blue Bloods is superficial, vapid and substanceless, with an oddly paced plot that I don't think actually went anywhere.  I didn't love this as much as I did when I was 15 but I have to admit it's a pretty decent guilty pleasure - in the same way as reading gossip magazines at the hairdressers is weirdly enjoyable.

The Queen of the Tearling

The Queen of the Tearling - Erika Johansen

One star for the actual book, and one for the potential in it (I'm being generous here).

The signs are all in place for The Queen of the Tearling to be one of the
best books of the year, if not this century. An epic fantasy emphasising realistic female characters; a huge film adaptation with a huge star in the lead role; one of the highest sums ever paid to a debut author; two more books to follow in an “astonishingly imagined trilogy” – you can imagine my excitement at the chance to review this phenomenon.

Unfortunately, high expectations can lead to even greater disappointments. Johansen’s writing is humourless, mired in dense verbosity. There are large periods of time where nothing at all happens, yet this nothing is described in excruciating detail – it’s as though anything interesting is only mentioned in subtle hints, with the rest of the space filled with as many words as possible so that there’s enough story left to cover in book two. Frankly, I’m tired of reading books that appear to be little more than a set up for a future series. Trilogies and book series can be fantastic but what makes them fantastic is when each book is as strong as the others; when it feels, while reading, as though each could have been a standalone book – if it weren’t for the fact that there is still so much story left to tell that one book simply isn’t enough! Regrettably, that is not the case here. The potential in Johansen’s future-medieval world is endless, and yet the history and implications of such a post-apocalyptic world are only alluded to in the small spaces between dull court dramas and clumsy assassination attempts.

These are superficial flaws. For me, personally, a more worrying problem is the characterisation of Queen Kelsea...

Full review here.

Recieved from the publisher through NZ Booklovers.

The Oversight

The Oversight - Charlie Fletcher

There are times as a book lover - hopefully few and far between - where you find yourself stuck. Every book you pick up is disappointing, every page becomes a struggle to turn, every word dull to read. You may have even had such a run of average or bland or outright horrendous books that it feels as though you may never come across an amazing new story again.

Then finally, finally, a book comes along that is so fantastic you can’t put it down, you lose sleep trying to finish it, and all the magic of reading returns. Recently, for me, that book was The Oversight. It's the kind of book that makes me want to squeal very loudly with excitement, and then run around forcing everyone I know to read as soon as is humanly possible.

Full review here.

Received from the publisher through NZ Booklovers

Midnight Crossroad

Midnight Crossroad  - Charlaine Harris Midnight Crossroad‘s blurb urges readers to “stay a while, and learn the truth”, so it's rather frustrating to discover that the whole “truth” about the town of Midnight and its residents will have to wait until book two. The truth about this first book, however, is plain: despite an interesting premise, great characters and a lot of potential, it never goes anywhere.

Full review here.

Recieved from the publisher through NZ Booklovers

Gathering Blue

Gathering Blue - Lois Lowry

I very clearly remember not enjoying this when I was much younger, so finding that - to my slightly more grown-up self - it is, in fact, fantastic came as a little bit of a shock. I only re-read this because I had just read The Giver for the first time, and was desperate for some kind of answers in this sequel (there are no answers, really, but somehow this isn't disappointing). I suppose I was unaware how much my tastes really have changed since I was 13, especically as many of my favourites then are still favourites now (Inkheart, Harry Potter, Momo, Terry Pratchett etc).

Then again, I thought Twilight was the epitome of good writing at the time so I suppose things really have changed a lot.

Anyway, I digress. My point is, Gathering Blue is a fantastic book, especially if read (like The Giver) as a parable or fable. Simple but powerful story, and writing that doesn't get in the way of its purpose.

Vampire Academy

Vampire Academy - Richelle Mead

No, it's not Great Literature. But, Vampire Academy has a genuinely kick-ass heroine, with geniune reasons for being kick-ass. She is talented but still has to work hard, she is flawed but likeable, and most of all, get this - she's attractive and she knows it! None of this "but why does anyone like me I'm so plain and boring" bullshit (Bella Swan, I'm looking at you and your YA clones here...) Refreshing. Rose knows she's awesome, she also knows she isn't perfect, but is willing to put the effort in to be the best guardian she can be. There is also a decently interesting premise, and I feel about this book how I feel about food - sometimes you just want a really good burger and fries after eating a lot of pretty but un-filling fancy gourmet meals. (Not that I've been having a lot of those in the food sense, but, you know, in the literary sense I've been reading a lot of serious, critically acclaimed prize winning books, so this makes a nice change).

Craft Activism: People, Ideas, and Projects from the New Community of Handmade and How You Can Join In

Craft Activism: People, Ideas, and Projects from the New Community of Handmade and How You Can Join In - Joan Tapper;Gale Zucker As is the case with many craft books, the actual given patterns were almost universally ugly. However the crafters and ideas in the book are pretty cool, and there's a lot of inspiring works with no pattern given that beg to be recreated.


Seraphina - Rachel Hartman I have no idea if this was a 4 star read or not, really struggling to work out my feelings towards this book... (it doesn't help that I thought I'd reviewed it months ago, but hadn't, so collecting my thoughts around it is even more difficult now)

World After

World After - Susan Ee

I really don't know why I don't love this series. There's plenty of decent creepiness and a great heroine, I just... don't love it. Maybe Julianna Baggott has simply ruined eerie post-apocalyptic worlds for me by making hers too amazingly deliciously fantastic (if you haven't read Pure yet, I suggest you drop everything, track it down and read it. Now), so I expect too much from other books now. Kept finding myself skipping parts and having to re-read again. Those covers are gorgeous though! (maybe that's part of the disappointment?

Dreams of Gods & Monsters

Dreams of Gods & Monsters - Laini Taylor All too often, a trilogy will succumb to that dreaded literary curse: Disappointing Final Book. We’ve all seen it: the first book is amazing, the second incredible, but the story is left at an unbearable cliffhanger. We loyal fans wait (and wait) impatiently for the conclusion, wishing, hoping, believing that this book will answer everything, and be perfect in every way. Instead… the letdown as our beloved series ends not with a bang but a whimper. This makes the reading of The Final Book an anxious task. Will it live up to those high, high expectations? Surpass them, even?

Dreams of Gods and Monsters is one of those rare, perfect finales.

Full review here

Also - I got to interview Laini Taylor! (screeches of excitement all round, I have the best job in the world and her answers are fantastic, an interviewer's dream... yeah yeah I'll stop raving)

Anyway, here's the interview.

A HUGE thank you to Hachette for the advanced review copy!


Allegiant  - Veronica Roth

What's with the end of trilogies being so disappointing lately? Even though I honestly wasn't expecting much, having been unimpressed by the second book and only ever thought the first was fun in a not-very-good-but-still-enjoyable way, Allegiant was still a disappointment. Maybe it's because I just read Burn (the conclusion to Julianna Baggott's Pure trilogy) which is pretty much everything this book wished to be, right down to the dramatic loss of a main character in the finale (yeah yeah that's not really a spoiler is it, I didn't say who).

It could have been worse. I guess. The whole thing just felt confused and pointless.

Fables Vol. 13: The Great Fables Crossover

Fables Vol. 13: The Great Fables Crossover - 'Bill Willingham',  'Matthew Sturges'

I think it's probably the fact that I haven't read any Jack comics, but this Fable lost me a little. The idea of the literals is interesting but I felt that suddenly huge chunks of story around Kevin Thorn were skipped (again, probably in the Jack stories) meaning I spend half of my time reading this in a state of confusion. Not fun. There were good bits to it, I just can't think of them now.


I just...


Maybe I'll come back to this another time, when I've read the other series... I hate being less-than-pleased with Fables!

A Fatal Likeness

A Fatal Likeness - Lynn Shepherd I have never attempted to read this book, so I can't comment on whether it's good or bad, but I do think it's a shame that people are reading this, instead of something much more stimulating for grown-up minds. I really shouldn't be able to make comments like this without even attempting to know what I am talking about but it's not petty at all, because I say it isn't.

Of course the lack-of-hype for A Fatal Likeness, and the fact that I'd never heard of it, means it must be good, as over-hyped books are dreadfully wearying and bound to be bad. Fortunately, because this book has not been over-hyped, it means that the life will not be sucked from every other book ever, so other ordinary authors don't have to worry about being overshadowed. Any writer that does start to write decent books should stop before they become excessively popular and ruin it for everyone else.

If this does happen to an author, the best move for them would be to write only for children, as children do not deserve or need mentally-stimulating or well written stories (and therefore, of course, no children's books are either well written or mentally-stimulating).

Don't worry - I'm sure this won't happen to Lynn Shepard anyway, as she is far to busy complaining about other authors ruining everything for everyone (but not in a jealous way, mind) to actually be writing anything decent.

This could actually be a good book. She could actually be a lovely person. I guess I'll never know.

Currently reading

Terry Pratchett
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Philip K. Dick, Robert Zelazny
Frank Herbert