Burgis_Cat IncKat, Incorrigible, written by Stephanie Burgis, was originally published as A Most Improper Magick. I read the book to review it, and as is often the case lately, I didn’t even read the synopsis before diving into the story. As a result, I had no expectations at all, and was pleasantly surprised by how charming the book is. I was drawn in immediately by the opening lines:

“I was twelve years of age when I chopped off my hair, dressed as a boy and set off to save my family from impending ruin…”

and from there I was utterly entranced with Kat and her shenanigans.

Set in Yorkshire, in Regency England, Kat, Incorrigible contains all the elements of a Gothic Melodrama: an unpleasant step-mother concerned with gossip and the trappings of Society, crumbling gothic estates, highwaymen, family debt and a sinister older fiancé. These elements, however, are mere scenery in the grand scheme of the story.

Katherine Ann Stephenson (Kat) is the youngest of 4 children: Charles, who we barely see, is facing debtor’s prison; Elissa, the eldest sister, fancies herself to be like one of the heroines in the Gothic Romances that she stays up late to read, and Angeline, no less romantic than Elissa, is determined to save her family by dabbling in magic. Kat’s father is a poor country Vicar, and her mother died when Kat was only ten days old. Kat’s father remarried some time later, and all of the mother’s remaining belongings are locked away. The Stepmama has her hands full with the children, especially with Kat, and finds being a poor Vicar’s wife somewhat tedious.

As indicated by the opening words of the book, Kat’s plan is to run off to save her family from their impending doom. The Stephenson family already has somewhat of a reputation as Kat’s biological mother was a known witch, and carelessly practised magic in the company of others. Kat’s father is not in a position to cover Charles’s debts, nor could the family recover from further social stigma if Charles was to be incarcerated. The Stepmother’s solution is to marry off her eldest step-daughter, to a rich older suitor, Sir Neville.

Sir Neville’s intentions are somewhat dubious, especially considering the large social gap between himself and the Stevenson’s (regardless of Stepmama’s “connections”), and also considering the mysterious death of his first wife. Elissa, being the romantic that she is, willingly martyrs herself to save her family. Angeline, while made of much sterner stuff than Elissa, is no less a romantic. She casts a love spell with comical results, in the hope of attracting a love match that would enable her to save the family from dire straits. A burgeoning witch she may be, but her magic is not yet up to the task.

Kat continues to look for solutions to aid her family, and she too tries the magical route. It is here that things take an interesting turn (the first of many).  Kat never knew her mother, and she has only gleaned little glimpses into the woman that she was. While looking for her own magical solution Kat learns a great deal about her mother.  She was more than a Witch; she belonged to an ancient secret Order, with their own magical abilities.

Kat attracts the attention of the Order and the sinister Sir Neville. Can she use her wits, her new found magical talents and the magic portal that she inherits from her mother, to save herself and her family from disaster before time runs out?

Kat, Incorrigible is a middle grade book that will appeal to an older audience. It is well written, and is an easy read. I did find myself caught up in the story but, at the same time, the book lacked a little depth, especially with some of the secondary characters.  I have found that a first book in a series often lacks depth, as the author tries to introduce the characters and create the world in which they live. That aside, I would highly recommend Kat, Incorrigible and I have plans to read this to my younger children. Kat is a feisty character and, at times, it’s easy to forget that she is 12 years old. She can be somewhat of a brat, but she is strong, determined and, like Jo March of Little Women, she challenges the social constraints for girls of her time. I look forward to reading her other adventures.


Kat, Incorrigible – Stephanie Burgis

Atheneum (2012)
ISBN: 1416994475



bec2012_TNBec Stafford interviews Gold Coast based YA author, Marianne Curley.


Marianne CurleyQ1. Fearless (the third book of your Avena series) will be released later this year and is already available for pre-order. Your star-crossed lovers, Ebony and Nathaneal, are determined to reconnect, though Ebony is trapped in a hellish reality. Will he free his angel?! How does your romance background inform your YA novels? And are you a romantic in real life?

What a loaded first question! In the upcoming finale to the Avena Series, Ebony and Nathaneal are determined to reconnect, but whether they do, and whether or not Nathaneal is able to free his angel, is not something I’m willing to divulge at this time. In other words, you have to wait until Fearless is released on the first of July to find out! But I can tell you that Fearless is packed with action, and whether the star crossed lovers reconnect or not, it won’t be from a lack of trying by the both of them.

I’m assuming by romantic background that you mean the eight manuscripts I wrote and submitted to Mills & Boon twenty odd years ago. They were enormously helpful even though Mills & Boon didn’t publish them. I refer to those manuscripts as my learning phase, my writing apprenticeship. Those were the books that taught me discipline, patience, persistence, and above all, how to write romance. All my young adult novels, from Old Magic to Fearless, have strong romantic elements. Almost all great books have love stories at their core. It’s the love story that drives the characters as they forge ahead to eliminate the obstacles that keep them apart.

Your question whether I consider myself a romantic intrigued me, and I had to check what being a romantic actually means. There are quite a lot of ideas and interpretations on the Internet, but it seems the general consensus is that a romantic is someone with a sensitive nature and who has an awareness of people’s feelings. They can tell when someone is sad, for instance, and they give love out as much as they receive, and probably more. Their view of love is idealistic, believing in the happily ever after scenario, and their actions and gestures come from their hearts. In other words, they’re sincere. And finally, they look for beautiful things and beautiful ways to express themselves. Is this me? Other than being slightly jaded from life’s occasional bitter experiences, I would say, yes, at heart I am a romantic.

Curley_HiddenQ2. I read the amazing story of how one of your avid Guardians of Time trilogy fans actually wrote a sequel to your story. How does it make you feel to know that you’ve made such an impression on your audience, and if you could continue, or extend, a favourite storyline, which would you choose and why?

I am consistently floored and humbled by my readers. Whether my writing has inspired someone to create a drawing of my characters, a poster or book cover for a school project, or write a 500 page sequel, or go on to become a published writer, every time I’m made aware of their achievements, I feel privileged and inspired to write more and more.

The storyline I would continue is The Guardians of Time, a fourth novel to pick up after the final battle in The Key. I’ve thought about doing this many times, even to the point where I created a plan for a new series based on the same characters but one year later. The reason I would like to do this is simple, this series doesn’t feel finished.

Q3. Where to after the Avena series, Marianne?

It’s going to be something different for me next. I’ve written a young adult contemporary manuscript, title not yet confirmed, that I have just sent to my agent to read. My fingers and toes are crossed as I wait a verdict. After that I will be writing another YA contemporary novel. And following that book, I will likely return to writing paranormal fiction.

Q4. Which of your characters burns brightest?

Without hesitation the character who burns brightest in my family of characters is my most recent member – Ebony Hawkins. I’ve watched her evolve from being a confused girl who knows she is different to something unique and special. From the start Ebony knows she does not fit in the normal world. Questioning her parents, she learns of her unusual adoption. Then a remarkably-beautiful stranger enters her life. He tells Ebony that she’s an angel. And while trust doesn’t come easy to Ebony, nothing will now stop her from searching for the truth. Ebony goes on a roller coaster ride, breaking free of restraints that were forced on her at birth, learning more about herself with each chapter, each volume, until she evolves into her true self.


Marianne never thought she would be a writer. It was not until her mid-thirties, while teaching office studies and computers to adults at the Coffs Harbour Education Campus that she began to write, taking courses and experimenting with various styles and genres.

Marianne’s first four novels, Old Magic, The Named, The Dark and The Key, were published by Bloomsbury Publishing in Australia, the UK, and the USA, with translations into more than a dozen foreign languages. They have won numerous awards, and sold in numbers well in excess of half a million books worldwide.

In 2004, just as The Key was being prepared for printing, Marianne was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bone marrow cancer called Myelofibrosis. With only a short time to live, she was given a stem-cell bone marrow transplant using her sister’s cells, which saved her life. Marianne has now been cancer free for ten years and has written a new trilogy called the Avena Series. The first two books, Hidden and Broken were published in 2013 and 2014, with the third, Fearless, is to be released on the first of July, 2015.



gallagher_my not soMy Not-So-Still Life revolves around an average teenager who is ready to grow up, move out, and do important things. Vanessa always wants to be different and stick out from the crowd. She wants to explore the person she really is, and she does this by dying her hair crazy colors, wearing bold makeup and dressing up like no one else.

Vanessa is at the point of her life where she feels that high school is completely useless. She doesn’t like going and doesn’t see the point of it. She knows she wants to work with art, so she doesn’t understand why she needs all these other things if she never plans on using them in the future.  When she applies to her favorite art store, and gets the job, Vanessa feels like it’s her dream come true, and just one step further into her future.

What could be better than working at your favorite store with cool people? And getting out of the house more often? Nothing!

As Vanessa is working one day, she spots a really cute older guy roaming the aisles and chatting with one of her co-workers. She can’t help but notice just how handsome he really is, even though he is much too old for her. But things quickly turn sour when Vanessa gets herself in a tough situation him, when she realizes she can’t handle a “relationship” with such an older partner. Vanessa finds herself taking half naked photos for his calendar, and completely regretting it by the next day.

As things start to get too hot and heavy for Vanessa, she tries to escape the entire situation. Her mom forces her to quit the job, and instead focus on school. Vanessa quickly learns that being yourself and sticking out, doesn’t mean dying your hair crazy colors, and wearing extremely bold makeup. But being unique can be done in subtle ways too.

My Not-So-Still Life is a short and light read that could be perfect for a sunny day off in the back yard or on the beach. Overall I thought the story was alright. I couldn’t really connect with the character besides her drive to want to do something important; but other than that she and I are completely different. I enjoy going to school and learning things, even if they might have nothing to do with what I’m “planning” for the future.

I probably won’t be re-reading this book, simply because I don’t feel the drive to. But I’m glad I got the opportunity to read it the first time. Have you read My Not-So-Still Life? Let me know what you think!

hodge_cruel beautyGraceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl’s journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

Hardcover, 342 pages Published January 28th 2014 by Balzer + Bray  0062224735 (ISBN13: 9780062224736)

I was surprised by how dark this story turned out to be. I knew to expect some similarities to the Beauty and the Beast fairytale, but found this book to be so different that it really stood out on its own. Rosamund Hodge brings out the darker side of an already dark story; Nyx is trapped in a never-ending mansion with a demon for a husband. Either one could lose their life at any time, yet they bide their time together, sizing each other up, as well as the situation they are in.

The story focuses on Nyx and Ignifex and their relationship. There are few side characters as the majority of the story takes place in the mansion. Nyx is mostly left alone, especially at night, and wanders through the locked-up house. The doors are locked for good reason, as she finds throughout the story, but with nothing else to spend her time on, that is what becomes her focus when she is alone—discovering the demon’s secrets.

There is, surprisingly, plenty of world building and back story to this book, even though the actual setting is inside one house. There are many twists, and storylines unravel to reveal more depth than what is originally presented. I did not come to love any of the characters as they all had their faults, and this particular story does focus on the darker aspects of their lives. Nyx spends a lot of her time feeling put upon, jealous, and angry, and has a hard time focusing on where to put that anger. So instead of lashing out, she bides her time, finding out more about her peculiar situation, trying to stay alive, and making plans to free her father from his bargain.

As this is the first book in a series, we do not get to see all the characters and plot fully fleshed out yet. What we do get to see is this weird kind of understanding and connection between the two personalities of Ignifex and Nyx. Many secrets are revealed and there is some adventure as we find out what is behind the locked doors.

As the story developed, I started to really enjoy where it was going—the idea of learning about yourself and finding connections to others even in the darkest of circumstances, and a feeling of constantly being on guard, yet developing a sense of comfort and expectations from your surroundings. I am excited to see where the story continues to go and it’s a book I recommend. Those who enjoy reading darker fairy tales that don’t end up with happily ever after should pick this one up!

shaneyah-tnShaneyah Galley reviews iZombie, the new offering from Rob Thomas, the creator of Veronica Mars.



izombieiZombie: crime and YA with braaaaaaaaaains

As a comics fan, I feel like I should be tired of all the TV and movie adaptations from the last few years. But watching iZombie, I kind of want more.

iZombie is about a woman named Olivia who has the incredible misfortune of having been at a boat party that turned into a zombie attack. She survived – kind of. Unlike most zombie movies, her ‘turning’ was an isolated incident, and life seems to have continued as normal for the rest of the world. Olivia quit her job, broke up with her fiance, and is now dealing with her new un-life as best she can. The only person who knows she’s a zombie is her boss, medical examiner Ravi. He is utterly fascinated by her and shows interest in finding a cure for her “condition.”

So far, the character diversity is a little disappointing – there is one female character besides the protagonist, and only two of the characters are non-white. There’s a major romance subplot, but there’s more than enough wit and murder to balance it.

izombie-promoiZombie is incredibly thematic. Liv, the main character, changes personality and acquires new skills as a result of the brains she eats. It’s a little like Psych, where she pretends to be a psychic to explain her extra-ordinary knowledge about crimes. Unlike Psych she does have vision;, she just doesn’t get them from spirits.

Liv and her zombie issues are an almost perfect analogy for post-adolesent struggles. Liv has her life all figured out before she gets turned, but after it happens, she removes and isolates herself from her old life in an effort to protect her loved ones. This has her understandably spiralling into depression. She is afraid of infecting her fiance, but can’t turn to her family, as they’re confused by her leaving her blossoming career at the hospital for a dead-end (hurr!) job as a medical examiner at the police morgue. It’s a smart move, since Liv can now eat brains in safety and in secrecy, without killing – but of course, she’s not going to tell her mum that.

If you like wit and mystery with a dash of introspective angst thrown in, you’ll enjoy iZombie.

HOWEVER, if you’re already a fan of the comics, you may want to skip this one. Adapting to screen is always dicey; I accept that. But the adaptation of iZombie has broken several of my cardinal rules:


  1. Never change character names. In the comics, the protagonist is named Gwen. In the TV show, she’s Olivia.
  2. Don’t remove main characters. iZombie is an ensemble piece, set in a far more paranormal type of universe. Gwen has two besties, one of whom is a werewolf, the other a ghost. So far in the series, Liv has only hung out with her boss and a detective named Clive.
  3. Book-Gwen cuts her family out of her life entirely. TV-Liv is still very much enmeshed with hers.
  4. Book-Gwen is a grave digger by trade, an excellent option for a zombie. TV-Liv is a morgue attendant.
  5. Book-Gwen slowly loses her memories as she consumes more brains – so there are definite costs and balances to her zombie appetite. They may integrate this into the TV show, but they haven’t yet.

Alright, those are almost all of my cardinal adaptation rules, which makes me kind of unhappy.

So in summary: if you’re a comics fan, steer clear of this one and grab the trade. If you’re a fan of fun, crime-y shows and don’t care much for comics, you can enjoy this pretty much guilt-free. Personally, I’m going to have to have a serious think before I sit down for the next episode.


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