Book Review: Pan’s Labyrinth By Guillermo Del Toro & Cornelia Funke

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Rating: ★★★★★
RRP: $29.99 AUD | $32.99 NZ
Publication Date: 2nd July 2019
Find it on Book Depository

A huge thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Oscar winning writer-director Guillermo del Toro and New York Times bestselling author Cornelia Funke come together to transform del Toro’s hit movie Pan’s Labyrinth into an epic and dark fantasy novel for readers of all ages, complete with gorgeous and haunting illustrations.

This book is not for the faint of heart or weak in spirit. It’s not for skeptics who don’t believe in fairy tales and the powerful forces of good. It’s only for brave and intrepid souls like you, who will stare down evil in all its forms.

Inspired by the critically acclaimed film written and directed by Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro and reimagined by New York Times bestselling author Cornelia Funke, this haunting tale takes readers to a darkly magical and war-torn world filled with richly drawn characters like trickster fauns, murderous men, child-eating monsters, courageous rebels, and a long-lost princess hoping to be reunited with her family.

Perfect for fans of the movie and readers who are new to del Toro’s visionary work, this atmospheric and absorbing novel is a portal to another universe where there is no wall between the real and the imagined. A daring, unforgettable collaboration between two brilliant storytellers.

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This was incredible, heartbreaking and thought provoking. I think I may be one of the only people left on the planet that hasn’t watched the Pan’s Labyrinth film, but after reading the book, I’ll definitely be watching the movie. This was a beautifully dark, magical journey from start to finish and I loved every second of it! Written by the film director and Cornelia Funke, this book gives new insight into the 2006 film.

Pan’s Labyrinth (for those few, like me, who haven’t seen the film.) is a dark fantasy tale that follows 11-year-old Ofelia. After picking up her life, along with her pregnant mother, and moving to the secluded home of her new stepfather, the tyrannical and sadistic Captain Vidal, Ofelia finds herself drawn into a world of fairytale fantasy. But, like most fairytales, all is not what it seems.

This book was a-ma-zing! Each scene was written in such a way that you felt as though you were a spectator in these characters lives, like you could be walking in and out of this world watching their every move. The world building was rich and atmospheric and had an incredible knack of making me feeling completely uneasy. From the very beginning I found it hard to discern who to trust and who to fear most. It was done so well, that the feeling of unease seemed to stick with me well after I had put the book down. It even chased me into my dreams on a few occasions!

I would like to mention that this book is not for the faint of heart. Set in 1944, in Nazi-held Europe, there is a lot of brutal content that could make some readers feel uncomfortable. However, it all combines perfectly to create a dark and menacing read. The characters felt completely raw and real, which I think is what this book is all about at the heart of it. Human emotion, good, bad and truly evil.

Honestly, I cannot fault this book. I’d even go as far as to say that it’s probably one of my favourite reads of the year! The beautifully written story, along with some truly gorgeous illustrations combine to create a mesmerising reading experience. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch Pan’s Labyrinth and bawl my eyes out some more.

Book Review: The Order Of The Rose By Alysha King

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Rating: ★★★.5
Find it on Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

“You possess a power as great as that of the false Empress. You do not understand it yet but you will come to learn its true nature. It is the only match to true evil. You doubt it, but you must embrace it or you will fail.”

When Carey Lee discovers that not only is she a witch but also part of a rebel order, she figures it can’t be any worse than the life from which she just escaped. Little is she prepared though for what lies ahead – an all-powerful empire and a murderous Empress, a seemingly impossible quest to rescue her family, and a power so dark that Carey begins to doubt her very existence.

The Order of the Rose is the first in a series of three novels to be known as the Rose Chronicles. 

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This was an interesting read for me. I am definitely no longer the intended audience, and being a fairly well read adult woman, at times it felt a little too young for my tastes. However, I think younger readers would find this action packed adventure/fantasy rather enjoyable.

The Order Of The Rose tells the story of Carey. A young teenage girl suffering from amnesia after a traumatic childhood event. Who, upon escaping from a horrible orphanage, joins forces with Ji and Kat, two of her oldest friends (she just doesn’t remember them!) Together they are the last remaining members of the magical rebel Order Carey’s grandmother founded to fight the evil, Empress Malevolence.

I found this a little hard to get into to begin with, but again, I believe this is because it is intended for younger readers. The pacing felt a bit rushed and was driven mainly by the three protagonists having seemingly random encounters with evil. This was frustrating as it felt like there was constant action and very little quiet moments in between for us to really get to know the characters. Having said that, this was justified further into the novel once more of the plot was divulged, but it meant that the first half of the book felt slow and wasn’t as enjoyable for me.

The second half of this book however, was where it started to really shine. Carey had some really nice character growth and became a far stronger, more likeable character and the action seemed to become more intentional when it came to driving the plot forward. I really enjoyed learning about the world and setting, however it was a little confusing at first as I wasn’t sure where or when the story was set until about half way into the book.

The characters all had some great growth! I adored Kat! She was extremely fierce, capable and just an all round badass. Carey could be a little unsure and frustrating at times, but I think this was justified considering she was thrown into the middle of an epic battle between good and evil, having absolutely no idea what she was or who she was up against. The trio’s dynamic was also really fun and not unlike the Harry Potter series in some ways, which I really enjoyed.

Overall I liked this book! I think I would have liked it more if I had read it when I was younger. I may even go as far as to say it could be classed as more of a Middle Grade read. But taking that into account, it was enjoyable and was a fantastic starting off point for the rest of the series.

Book Review: An Enchantment Of Ravens By Margaret Rogerson

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Rating: ★★.5
Find it on Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

Isobel is an artistic prodigy with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious, Rook spirits her away to his kingdom to stand trial for her crime. But something is seriously wrong in his world, and they are attacked from every side. With Isobel and Rook depending on each other for survival, their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

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I really wanted to love this book! The cover art is perfection and it’s easily one of the most beautiful books on my shelves. But unfortunately the story felt unoriginal and had very little direction.

An Enchantment of Ravens tells the story of Isobel, a young prodigy portrait artist who is commissioned by the Faerie Prince of the Autumn Court, Rook, to paint his portrait. Having painted real human sorrow in his eyes the Prince is humiliated and ridiculed by his fellow Fair Ones for showing weakness. To save face, the Prince comes to whisk Isobel away to stand trial in the Autumn Court, but they get more than they bargained for as their feelings for each other start to grow, something that could end up getting them both killed.

This was alright. I am a huge fan of faerie stories and magic so it was definitely the right genre for me, but unfortunately the whole thing felt rushed and a little messy. I feel like this book told us how much time had passed, rather than showing us. Which made the whole plot really disjointed. I have never liked “instalove”, and due to the fact the plot felt rushed, so did the romance. I think because this is a 300 page stand alone book, the author pushed through all the plot points fairly quickly, which made nearly all the action scenes fall flat. It was as if a threat would come and go within a few pages, so even though we are told the characters are going through this terrible ordeal, it didn’t feel all that bad considering they got through it and move on from it so swiftly.

I think the book could have been great if it was given the right amount of time to really delve into the story and expand upon the world and the culture of the faeries! There were some really fantastic elements within the world that I would have loved to learn more about, but again, due to the book being such a short stand alone, these felt fairly glossed over. Nearly the whole plot is Isobel and Rook travelling too, which isn’t terrible when it’s done right, but it just felt as though we went from one part of the spooky forest to a slightly different part of the spooky forest over and over and over.

The romance felt extremely unbelievable. From the moment the characters meet, they have some sort of strange connection. Then Isobel is essentially stolen from her home by Rook and they fall in love in what feels like a matter of days. There was also very little to no other relationships built upon besides the central romance. I felt absolutely no connection to any of the other characters within the story which is a real shame considering sassy side characters are my usual jam.

Overall I feel like this could have been an amazing book if it was given more time to flesh out the story and it’s characters. It had incredible potential, but unfortunately it was underwhelming for me. I have read a lot of books about Fae that I absolutely adored, so I think if you don’t have anything else to compare this to, you may love it! But sadly, it didn’t quite hit the mark for me.

Book Review: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before By Jenny Han

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Rating: ★★★★
Find it on Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?

Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

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This was a really sweet contemporary! I have been finding it a little hard to review due to the fact I watched the Netflix movie adaption about  thousand time before reading it. But to be fair, it’s a pretty accurate representation of the book. I’d even go as far as to say the movie made some of the characters more likeable. This may have more to do with the fact that the book had far more time to give me insight into the characters and their personalities, something that would be harder to fit into an hour and a half worth of film.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before tells the story of starry eyed Lara Jean. Lara Jean has been in love exactly five times in her life and she has written exactly five love letters, which she keeps in an old hat box her mother gave her. She can be as whimsical and bold as she likes, because she’s never going to send them out… Until one day, they do mysteriously get sent and her life comes tumbling down. Lara-Jean once wrote a letter  to her best friend, Josh, who happens to also be her older sisters, now ex, boyfriend! To save face, she decides to start a mutually beneficial fake relationship with non other than Peter Kavinsky, the most handsome boy at school.

I really did enjoy reading this. It was a quick, easy read and was fairly light hearted and fun. In terms of the characters, I found some of them could be a little frustating at times, but this didn’t take away from the over all story for me. As with a lot of YA contemporary, I found myself thinking “this would be a lot easier if you just spoke to each other” but I think this has more to do with the fact I’m not necessarily a “young” adult, just a regular adult (I’m a cool Mum, not a regular Mum. Points if you have any idea what I’m talking about!) But still, I enjoyed getting to know the characters more and delving deeper into their personalities and emotions.

The plot and pacing was awesome. Everything seemed to flow really nicely and it was really easy to read. There were a few scenes that I grew a little bored with, but luckily none of them really lasted very long before the story progressed. Overall, this was an enjoyable read and I’ll definitely be reading the next couple of books before the movies come out. Because of this I am giving To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before 4 stars.

Book Review: I Am Change By Suzy Zail

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Rating: ★★★★★
RRP: $19.99 AUD
Publication Date: August 2019
Find it on Book Depository

A huge thank you to Walker Books for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Synopsis:

They told her that her body belonged to men and her mind didn’t matter. They were wrong.

“What if I don’t want to marry?” Lillian held her breath. She had never said the words out loud. “Not want to marry?” Her aunt frowned. “What else would you do?” 

Set in a Ugandan village, Lilian has learned to shrink herself to fit other people’s ideas of what a girl is. In her village a girl is not meant to be smarter than her brother. A girl is not meant to go to school or enjoy her body or decide who to marry. Especially if she is poor.

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“Men don’t marry smart women” her mother said, snuffing out the fire. “Especially woman who are smarter than them.” She stared at the damp page on Lilians lap. “Just because you can draw those lines and dots, doesn’t mean your dreams will come true.”

If you do one thing today, make it buying this book and then devouring it whole.

I Am Change was inspired by and written in consultation with young Ugandan women. It tells the story of the fierce Lilian! An incredibly strong, intelligent young girl, navigating her way into womanhood and through the harsh reality of what life is like for young girls in Uganda. Lilian does not want to be forced to marry someone she does not love and bear him children, she wants to finish school and become a writer. She want to go to university and forge her own path! She wants girls to have a voice and for them to be treated as equals in a world so overpowered by men.

At times, this was a hard story to read. Not because the words didn’t flow or the pacing was off. The writing was, in fact, rather wonderful. It was a hard story to read, because it’s a true story for so many young girls in Uganda. But as hard as it was to read, I feel like it’s a story that needed telling.

Lilian’s story was inspired by 30 different Ugandan women, which made the characters in this book feel very real. It was both incredible, and at times, disheartening getting to know the culture that shaped these women. I do have to say that this book could be slightly distressing for some readers as it covers some very intense topics such as rape, female genital mutilation, child marriage and extreme poverty.

The juxtaposition between the extremely wealthy and the extremely poor was very jarring to read, but one thing that stood out to me, was the fact that it didn’t matter whether these girls/women were rich or poor, they were consider secondary to the men. They were no good for anything but making babies and keeping their mouths shut. I really enjoyed reading Lilian’s journey into feminism and watching her character growth as she learned her worth.

I Am Change was a highly emotional read that had me in tears at times. It made me look at my own daughter, and think of all the things that she is capable of and all the things she has the opportunity to do that we, a lot of the time, take for granted. This was a powerful, feminist read and I highly recommend everybody buy a copy and delve into Lilian’s story. It’s an important one.

Once again, thank you so much to Walker Books for sending me a copy of I Am Change in exchange for an honest review.

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, My Initial Thoughts!

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It’s here! It’s in beta, but it’s here! (in AUS and NZ anyway.) I have been waiting for this game for forever! I enjoyed Pokemon Go for a while, but my enjoyment of the game slowly fizzled out as I haven’t been a huge fan of Pokemon since I was about 9 years old, playing Pokemon Red on my brothers old clunky Nintendo Gameboy! But as anyone who has been reading my blog or following my Instagram for any length of time will know, my love for Harry Potter knows no bounds!

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is something else all together! Game play is fairly consistent with what it was like in Pokemon Go, only it’s so much more MAGICAL! Once you’ve created an account on HPWU, you’re quickly thrown into the Wizarding World, which is under threat of being exposed due to a strange event called the “Calamity” causing magical creatures, items and locations to pop up all over the Muggle world!

Now, I’m sure you’ve guessed it! It’s your job to stop the Calamity from exposing the Wizarding World through using magic spells and completing quests. There is also a brilliant overarching storyline that reveals itself the more you play and the more mysterious items you encounter. But lets not get too deep into that, I’m sure more than anything you’re probably interested in what this game looks like and how it feels to play, so here’s the low down from one book nerd to another!

Profile Customisation 

I know this will be important to any Potterhead! When you start the game, you’re able to fill in your Ministry ID, which consists of your name, Hogwarts house, your wand preference and, once you hit level 6, your choice of profession! There are a few other fun customisation options on your ID such as adding achievement stickers and changing your title. These are presets that will unlock the more you play. You don’t need to antagonise over what you choose for any of your ID customisation though, as it appears you can change these at any time, including your house and wand preference.img_2814

One thing I’ve been a little disappointed with so far is the lack of customisation when it comes to your avatar! I want my character to look like me, all decked out in robes and maybe a fun hat! However, I presume this will change. Pokemon Go has extensive options when it comes to customising your avatar, some that you can even pay real world money for to apply to your character, so it would be silly of Niantic to not include these options in the game at a later date. Until then, it appears your avatar is just a nondescript wizard that changes colour based on which Hogwarts house you assign yourself.
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Professions

I was very excited to get to level 6, only because I really wanted to choose a profession for my Witch. It looks like there are three professions to choose from so far which are: Auror, Magizoologist and Professor. Each profession has it’s own unique set of abilities and attributes that you are able to build upon as you progress through the game and gain experience!

Aurors are best at spell casting and defeating dark wizards, Magizoologists are best at tackling magical beasts and acting as a support character in team play and Professors are all rounders with a deep magical knowledge.

Each profession brings something different to the party when taking on a Fortress. These are much like raids in Pokemon Go, where you work together as a unit to defeat the Fortress level by level and gain experience and cool magical items!

Overall Gameplay & Fun

The game so far is incredibly fun and interactive. Casting spells, brewing potions, using Portkeys and completing quests will have any Harry Potter fan jumping for joy. I’m sure the more I play there will be things that will need improvements, just as there was with Pokemon Go. But the game has already got a really incredible, immersive base that will likely only get better with each update!

So those are my initial thoughts after one day of playing. So far so good! Will you be playing when it makes it to your country? Or maybe you’re in AUS or NZ and are already playing! Let me know in the comments or find me on Instagram @readingsumpton and let me know how you’re finding it! Until then, I’ll leave you with this cute picture of a Mooncalf I encountered and saved by casting Alohomora!

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April Reading Wrap-Up

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April was definitely my worst reading month so far this year! I only managed to get through three books! It wasn’t for lack of trying though, I just never seemed to have much time on my hands. I have a few review books to get through over the next month so here’s hoping I get more time to read in May!

The books I did read this month were all really great, so I had a fantastic reading month when it came to the amount of enjoyment I got from these stories! If you’re interested to see what I read, check out the list below!

My Rating System

5 Stars: This. Book. Blew. My. Mind. I’d read it again and again and would highly recommend it.
4 Stars: The book was great! I enjoyed it and I may read it again.
3 Stars: I could take or leave this book. It had some interesting moments, but nothing too captivating.
2 Stars: Not a very good book, I’ll more than likely forget about its existence once it’s lost in the expanse of my book shelves.
1 Star: A book I wish I didn’t waste my time on. I did not enjoy it at all and would definitely not recommend it.

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04b334ef-e08d-49f3-9adb-7ca92c0525caFind it on Book Depository

Title: The Quiet At The End Of The World (★★★★.5)
Author: Lauren James
Genre: YA Dystopian/Science Fiction

You can read my in-depth review here.

My Recommendation: This book started out a little slow for me, but as the story progressed I realised that it was actually a really fantastic beginning to the story. It has some amazing LGBTQ+ representation and one of the main protagonists is Asian, which I loved! I had absolutely no idea where this story was going until we got there and it was absolutely incredible! Highly recommend reading it.

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Title: A Curse So Dark And Lonely (★★★★)
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Genre: YA Fantasy

You can read my in-depth review here.

My Recommendation: A really fun, fresh take on the story of Beauty and the Beast. I would recommend this to fans of Sarah J Maas, however, it does feel as though it is aimed at a slightly younger audience. Be warned that there are quite a few times where a love triangle is hinted at, so this may be a predominant feature in any future sequels, although I am hoping the author chooses to go another route. Overall, this was a really great fantasy and I really enjoyed the romantic plot line.

c41fa662-a3e3-46ec-98cb-32f54de05ef4Find it on Book Depository

Title: The Rift (★★★★★)
Author: Rachael Craw
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

You can read my in-depth review here.

My Recommendation: This was absolutely brilliant! It gave me all sorts of Maggie Stiefvater vibes that took me back to when I read The Raven Cycle for the first time! We got a really perfect romance and incredibly descriptive and magical world building! Unfortunately there is no sequel in the works as of yet, but it was definitely left open enough that one could be written if the author so chooses (FINGERS CROSSED BECAUSE THIS WAS PERFECTION!) I highly recommend giving The Rift a read, it’s easily my favourite read of the year so far.