coates_axinstoneWar is breaking out in the draconic lands. For the first time in many generations humans have invaded. With their advanced weaponry, the forty-two dragon clans are going to have to put aside their differences and work together to survive. If they can retrieve the stolen Axinstone – a powerful magical talisman – from the humans they may manage it.

Haeraig Anzig is chosen to lead the expedition, and several clans offer dragons to undertake it with him. Though he has been leading his own clan since his father left to battle in the south, he is not confident that he can keep his small group under control. Keeping different clans in line will be difficult enough without expecting them to follow the visions of a seer that no one else trusts.

Dragon books are not something that I’ve read much of. Don’t get me wrong, I love dragons, I just haven’t gotten around to that section of the fantasy genre yet. Despite not knowing much of the genre, it’s easy to deduce that Coates’s dragons are quite different to the norm. They’re small, for one. More the size of a dog than a mini-van. Like most reptiles, they need sunlight to heat up and are lethargic without it. The different dragon clans are also interesting, with some built for fighting, some for magic and others for tough terrain. The thought and effort Coates has put into how the dragons function goes a long way to making the world-building work.

Having the story told from three different first person perspectives is probably the most jarring aspect of the novel. The voices are not distinctive enough to be able to identify the sections by tone alone, so I was regularly flicking back pages to remind myself who I was reading.

Information trickles rather than flows into Axinstone. As the story is told from the perspective of the dragons, it’s hard to tell what stage humans are at technologically. As the novel progresses, it becomes clear that this isn’t the traditional medieval dragon novel that we might have been expecting. Assumptions are often wrong in Axinstone, and it’s a lot of fun to see where Coates turns dragon lore tradition on its head.

Axinstone is a great transitional novel for teens who are moving into high fantasy. It has a lot of those trade-marks; epic quests, political intrigue and magical artefacts, but is accessible and a little simpler.

Axinstone – J.F.R. Coates

Jaffa Books (December 19, 2013)


ISBN: 9781922061133


So we’re on the cusp of Halloween again, the perfect time to curl up in bed with a spooky book. Last year we compiled a list of our favourite scary stories – this year let’s explore some of my favourite ghostly reads.

 Mediator Series – Meg Cabot

When Suze moves to sunny California the last thing she needs is a hot boy ghost haunting her bedroom. Especially one who has no intention of moving on. Now, on top of settling in to a new house, family and school, she has to juggle her duties as a teenage mediator, and not all of the ghosts are friendly. The Mediator series is not really spooky, but it’s sweet, romantic and entertaining.

Doll Bones – Holly Black

Because what list would be complete without a Holly Black novel, right? Doll Bones is a little more middle-school than the rest of the books on this list, but a haunted doll called The Queen is creep-tastic enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine.

A Coming Evil – Vivian Vande Velde

An oldie, but still one I return to regularly. During WWII Lisette is sent to stay in the French countryside with an aunt who is harbouring Jewish children. When their safety is threatened, the only thing that might save them is a ghost that Lisette met on a lonely hillside.

 Glass Houses – Rachel Caine

Technically not a ghost story, this book still manages to fit in a pretty compelling haunting sub-plot. Also the books are being made into a TV series so now is definitely the right time to be picking the Morganville Vampire series up.



Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

This one will always, always be on my scary books list. Best. Vampire. Story. Ever.

Madigan Mine by Kirstyn Mc Dermott

Because wow.

 Pet Sematary by Stephen King

Do I need a because for this one?

 The Tommyknockers by Stephen King

The first book of King’s I ever read (many, many years ago) so I’m not sure if it’s really that terrifying, but I’m happy to let it sit in my memory as just that.

 Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill

There were moments with this book I had to put it down, walk away and catch my breath. Phew. Suspense to err, die for. Joe Hill gives just as good horror as his Daddy (Mr King himself).






hehir_julius and the watchmakerIt’s 1837 in London and Julius Higgins lives a quiet life, trying to fly under the radar of the bigger boys at school and helping in his grandfather’s book store at home. On the day that he fails at the former, unexpected salvation is found at the latter. An unusual customer, who has a preoccupation with finding the diary of a master watchmaker, scares the bullies off.

No one could have predicted the events that unfold from that – least of all Julius. Soon he is a thief, unwelcome in his home with nowhere else to go. In desperation, he turns to the shady stranger from the shop…

Julius and the Watchmaker draws you in from the first page. It shows the seedy underbelly of 19th Century England complete with violent gangs of street urchins, thieves, and kidnappers. The language is kept in the vein of its time as well, without slowing the pace of the novel.

While Julius and the Watchmaker lacks the unhurried pace of 19th Century texts, it captures the essence of the era beautifully. As a bonus, the era doesn’t seem forced. It’s evident that a huge amount of research went into the time period; but that research is used to make the setting authentic, not to bog the novel down.

It’s obvious that Hehir is a huge history buff and there are some nods to major historical figures in Julius and the Watchmaker. For the most part this is a really lovely introduction into literary, philosophical, and scientific individuals of the past. However, the fact that most of these people are lauded as even greater than they were in life while the only female historical figure mentioned, Mary Shelley, is reduced to a plagiarist, is deeply problematic. More so considering a long history of women writers and writing being discredited or accredited to the men around them.

The world-building of Julius and the Watchmaker is vividly entertaining. It’s massive on action and adventure, but maintains a grip on the technicalities so that the storyline always makes sense. And there’s a lot to make sense of. Julius and the Watchmaker spans various time periods, countries, and even parallel worlds. It takes a talented writer to work this degree of detail into a novel without the prose descending into info-dump territory; but Hehir manages, seemingly, with ease.

Julius and the Watchmaker is an imaginative adventure that drags you away from real life completely. It’s aimed at a slightly younger age-group: more middle-grade than YA, but is interesting enough that it shouldn’t deter anyone who likes a good adventure story. It’s a lot of fun to lose yourself in for a few hours.


Julius and the Watchmaker – Tim Hehir

Text Publishing (May 22, 2013)

ISBN: 9781922079732

Joelene_tnJoelene Pynnonen says: While reading is generally a solitary event, love of books has always been something that people have fiercely bonded over. The emotionally intense journeys inherent to reading demand to be shared, recommended, and dissected with friends, family, or anyone else who will listen.


Rest is still inwrittenThis is what made the Hachette Bloggers’ night such a pleasure to attend. Aside from having a wonderful welcome from the evidently passionate and book-mad staff, and the chance to meet the equally enthusiastic Laini Taylor, it was a chance for everyone to finally talk in person to each other about a deep mutual interest.

The bloggers that I met at the event were wonderful – I’m sure the ones that I didn’t meet are just as lovely, but alas, I’ll never know. In fact, the only downfall of the night was that I didn’t have the time to meet everyone, which considering the turn-out would have been quite a lofty achievement.

The people that I did meet, however, have already given me a wealth of information. Rachel from The Rest is Still Unwritten is amazing for finding free YA books on Amazon and sharing her finds on Facebook. On her blog she writes long, passionate reviews of all of the many books she’s read and, considering that her favourite books list shares some hefty similarities to my own, my want list has grown because of her blog. On top of this, it turns out that she was one of the stops in the Shine Light Blog Tour, proving yet again that in YA it’s a small world.

YA book addict.jpgTracey at YA Book Addict is another book blogger who has a wealth of information at her disposal. She’s a bit of a Renaissance woman when it comes to the online community. Her wonderful blog has a wealth of information about YA, and she’s firmly embraced the New Adult genre too. As well as the blog, she has a strong presence on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads, which makes following her easy, no matter your preferred platform.

cuddlebuggeryKat Kennedy of Cuddlebuggery fame was also at the Hachette Bloggers’ Night, which was a huge and lovely surprise – and not only for myself. I think that Kat was almost as in demand as Laini on the night, and didn’t see her alone once. If you haven’t stumbled upon Cuddlebuggery in your online wanderings, I suggest you drop everything and go there now. Anything that Kat Kennedy and Steph Sinclair don’t know about YA books, authors and gossip is not worth knowing, and they tend to share their knowledge with everyone else. They’re also intelligent reader/reviewers, analysing books through a feminist and multi-cultural lens.

The Hachette event was a fantastic way to connect with other readers and reviewers. In a world where so much discussion of books is conducted online, it was a nice change to be able to sit down and talk to people about what they read, what they’d recommend and everything else book related.

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Joelene_tnJoelene Pynnonen says: Money drips through your fingers like water in Sydney. After shopping in Brisbane, Sydney feels like a surfeit. The stores are bigger, there are more of them and there are sales everywhere.



hachettesydney2014 015Bel and I were lucky enough to meet up with Jorge from Spotlight Report during our visit. Because of his local expertise, I discovered two stores that were probably my favourite part of the trip. Utopia is the self-proclaimed Home of Metal, and lives up to its name. The staff are friendly and almost scarily knowledgeable about the local and International Heavy Metal scene. Within twenty seconds of me asking, they had found a reasonably priced album for my incredibly hard to buy for baby brother.

The other store Jorge told me about is one that I will be visiting every time that I go to Sydney in the future. Basement Books is buried in a passageway out behind Central Train Station. At first glance it looks like a little hole-in-the-wall bookstore. As you get closer, however, it expands into a verifiable Aladdin’s cave of wondrous things. The store stocks a wide range of art supplies and canvasses as well as books of every major genre. All at unbelievable discounts. Obviously I spent my time there combing through the fantasy and YA sections. Had my luggage allowance been more extravagant, I dread to think of how badly my credit card would be suffering right now.

hachettesydney2014 034After a five-hour day at Paddy’s Markets, my cards were depleted enough. For anyone who hasn’t had the chance to visit Paddy’s Markets, it is one of the places to go in Sydney. A labyrinth of stalls selling all sorts of things, everyone is bound to find a bargain here. From costumes to unusual pieces of jewellery, fresh fruit to ornamental swords, handbags to Australian memorabilia; Paddy’s has it all. Located in the heart of China Town, it is a short distance from the beautiful Chinese Gardens and is surrounded by some wonderful Asian restaurants. Bubble tea is also abundant, so there are many and varied reasons to visit.

There are a lot of great things to buy in Sydney, but it is also a beautiful city. I’d recommend walking rather than catching a bus or taxi. There are some truly amazing churches and old buildings that you may miss out on if you’re in a rush.

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