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.



rutkoski_winnersA general’s daughter and a defiant slave should be worlds apart, but as Kestrel and Arin are discovering, those worlds can touch all too easily.

In Kestrel’s world, war and marriage are the only options open to her. Her father, the revered General Trajan, expects her to follow in his footsteps, conquering territories for the Valorian emperor. She would rather play music and study the people around her.

Finding herself in the slave markets one day, she encounters a Herrani slave who seems as determined to escape his fate as she is to escape hers. One rash decision later, she is reluctant the owner of Arin. She becomes the talk of the town due to the ridiculously high price she paid for him, and this price may grow steeper over time.

This is possibly the hardest review I’ve written this year. I have such conflicting feelings about The Winner’s Curse that I’ve put off writing about it for far too long. The novel is getting amazing reviews online, and they are well-deserved. The world-building is wonderful, the writing superb, and yet…

About halfway through the book there is a massive world-altering event that shifts the entire dynamic. It’s stunningly brave writing to have a shift of this calibre, and there’s no way that the story would have worked without it. The shift isn’t the problem, but it’s the way things change after the shift that kills me.

A change of atmosphere is to be expected. It’s the change in the characters that I can’t come to terms with. Arin’s character development might be a bit heavily influenced by his romantic lead status, but it is otherwise believable. Kestrel, on the other hand, becomes someone that I don’t recognise. She’s initially intelligent and alert. She is a strategist who watches the people around her until she knows their weaknesses. Her strength isn’t in combat but in her mental prowess, and she knows it. Aside from playing the piano, it’s the one area in her life that she actively tries to improve.

Despite this, the moment that her strategic side is desperately needed, she stops using it. For maybe the last quarter of the book she stagnates, becoming the opposite of the dynamic character she was at the beginning. There’s more action here than in the rest of the book, but it just crawled for me. Every page I turned I was waiting for her to do something – anything – and it didn’t happen.

Strangely enough, the thing that I expected to bother me most didn’t bother me at all. I’ve rarely seen slavery written well, unless it has been written by someone who has been a slave rather than for purposes of entertainment. I actually hiked this book right up to the top of my reading list because I was so sure that I would dislike it and wanted to get it out of the way earlier rather than later. I should have had some faith. The slavery aspect is handled with the care it deserves. Kestrel has an interest in the Herrani people and treats them respectfully, so when she meets Arin there’s already a framework for friendship.

There’s a lot happening in The Winner’s Curse, but it is a love story at heart, and this aspect of the novel is handled brilliantly. There’s no insta-love in Kestrel and Arin’s story; they have to work hard to get there. Arin is full of anger at all Valorians; he initially makes no exceptions for Kestrel. It’s only when he realises that she isn’t out to break or conquer him that things start to change. For her, it’s finding someone who can match her mentally and someone who doesn’t expect her to fit the standard Valorian model.

After having finished The Winner’s Curse I’m desperate to get my hands on the second book in the series. Not because of the cliff-hanger ending, but because I need to see if Rutkoski can recreate the magic that I felt at the beginning of the novel without resorting to the unwarranted plot-devices at the end.

Winner’s Curse – Marie Rutkoski

Bloomsbury (March 4, 2014)

ISBN: 9781408858202



Joelene_tnJoelene and Belinda are representing The Escape Club at a Laini Taylor/Hachette event in Sydney.

With Bel doing her part to make our Sydney trip fantastically memorable, I’ve decided to pull my boots up and make sure that I have everything in order too. Not wanting Bel to show me up yet again, I considered making a video of my efforts, but I fear that watching me read is somewhat less fascinating than curling hair. And Bel’s hair-curling video really is fascinating. She’s achieved the classical vintage look with seemingly no effort – bonus for getting to watch her sing in the mirror!

So, my copy of Daughter of Smoke and Bone arrived. I nearly squealed with happiness, which would have likely caused my customers some distress, but managed – just – to hold it in. Obviously, I started reading it in my break because I am dedicated to the YA bloggers’ night! All altruism here; no ulterior motive.

Joelne's dressAnd wow. If you haven’t read Daughter of Smoke and Bone yet, you should. My paltry ten minute break was more than enough time for me to fall into the pages and wish never to emerge. It was also enough to keep me glued to the pages for at least ten minutes too long and receive disapproving stares from my manager when I did emerge.

Maybe it’s just me, but something about a novel set in Prague featuring an art student with peacock-blue hair demands to be read. I put the book down just to come and write this, by the way. I am obviously so dedicated, and sort of hate my computer a little bit right now because it’s keeping me from my book. I was up to a really good part too. I tried to get to a part that wasn’t good, but it was an exercise in futility. They’re all good parts. Seriously, get this book!

Now, I’m sure that some very unkind Burn Bright readers will think that reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone is just another way of procrastinating, so I made alternative attempts to organise. And also, no. Reading great books is in no way a pleasure to me. It’s all for the cause!

I went dress shopping! I bought dresses, and skirts. Now I have too many options rather than too few so I’ll have to try everything on multiple times and demand second opinions.

I have also figured out cost-cutting measures for accessories. It’s a slightly dangerous venture but again, dedication, I have it. If I wait until late enough at night, I can raid my sister’s stash of necklaces, bangles and earrings. It will require bypassing her bad-tempered cat, but I think it can be done.

Now all that I have to do is hope that Days of Blood and Starlight arrives in store soon, so that I’m not stranded without the second book when I finish the first. Also figure out make-up. This may just require another shopping trip…



Joelene_tnJoelene Pynnonen love a good kids movie.

 

 

the-lego-movie-posterEmmet Brickowski is an ordinary construction worker, living life by the manual, when he finds a woman called Wyldstyle illegally searching his construction site. She’s mesmerising, and for once Emmet goes against the manual, following her rather than reporting her. Stumbling into a chasm, he finds the Piece of Resistance, the only object that might stop the evil Lord Business’s super-weapon, the Kragle.

Years earlier, it was prophesied that a person called “The Special” would be the one to locate the Piece of Resistance, which makes Emmet, Lord Business’s number one target. When he is captured by Lord Business’s lieutenant, Bad Cop, Wyldstyle steps in to save him. Now it’s up to him to find the powerful master-builders and convince them to launch an attack on Lord Business’s empire before he uses the Kragle to destroy them all.

I love kids’ movies, especially the ones that have been released in the last few years and are targeted at a wider audience. Even so, Lego Movie was not something that I was interested in when the trailer came out. Now, I’ve played several of the Lego games and am well aware of how fun they are. I just didn’t think that it would translate well to the big screen. Fortunately, my brother twisted my arm until I agreed to see it.

From the out-set Lego Movie is a fast-paced and laugh-out-loud funny film. There’s plenty of slapstick comedy for kids, but this is interwoven with subtler social-commentary humour and pop-culture jokes. The combination works so well that you’ll have to watch the movie more than once to appreciate all of the jokes.

This is one of those movies that combines its elements perfectly to create a fun and exciting film. The animation is wonderful, not quite losing the authentic feel of a stop motion film even though it is CGI. Voice acting is equally flawless. There are too many amazing performances to list, but Liam Neeson’s role as Good Cop/Bad Cop is superb.

While Lego Movie is a fantastic film, it is let down by the ending, which introduces a theme that has been done before – and better – by Pixar. The movie is entertaining enough to carry itself without needing a deeper meaning, and would have been stronger for it.

Lego Movie is another animated film that is transcending age. The plot is simple, but the execution is clever. 



Joelene_tnAs I’ll assume everyone knows, Bel and I are off to Sydney in September for an amazing night of Hachette-induced fun. We have been promised YA, Laini Taylor, and fellow bloggers, so obviously we are nearly delirious with happiness.

Bel is already wonderfully organised and prepared and she will do the Burn Bright team proud. Me – not so much!

Taylor_Smoke and BoneMy preparations thus far have extended to taking Bel’s travel itinerary for my own. Time-management, people, I have it! I’m frantically ordering Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series because I may be late on the band-wagon, but I’m not going to miss it completely; and checking Hachette’s latest YA offerings–you may call it procrastination, but I call it research.

A YA event with Hachette is probably about the most exciting thing in the world right now, and not only because it gives me a chance to gush about books without people backing away slowly, it’s also because one of Hachette’s imprints, Little, Brown, will be releasing books from some of my favourite authors in the next few months.

Lair of Dreams, the second book in Libba Bray’s Diviners series will be out mid-next year. The third book in Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series will be released in November. And Holly Black’s Darkest Part of the Forest has an early January release date.

With these amazing titles set to be released so soon I can’t wait to find out what else Hachette has coming out for Christmas. Hopefully we’ll be able to get all the goss early September, so we can pass it on! Until then I’ll be reading Laini Taylor.

 



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