Garth Nix at Oxford Literary Festival

I was lucky enough to win two tickets to see Garth Nix speak at the Oxford Literary Festival last weekend. Big thanks to Maximum Pop for the tickets!

I’ve loved Garth Nix since I was a young teen, so getting to see him was a bit of a dream. I took one of my friends from uni with me, who is just as much of a fan and I know she really appreciated the chance to go.

Little Moore also came along with us, as Nathan was working at the weekend. I was a bit worried as you don’t want to be the annoying person that’s brought a screaming baby along to a talk. My plan was to give him a bottle and for him to fall asleep while Garth Nix spoke, but of course, that’s not what happened! As soon as the talk started he seemed to perk up (despite having got up at 6am to get to Oxford!). He kept chatting along with Garth Nix as he spoke, which was kind of cute and funny but I was really worried about annoying people and interrupting things! We had front row seats and I eventually decided to pop off towards the back to try and be less disturbing.

Despite all that, everyone afterwards said how good he’d been, including Garth Nix, which was really sweet. He even tried to make Little Moroe laugh, but that’s easier said than done!

The talk itself was brilliant. Garth Nix is charismatic and a born storyteller. He made the audience laugh a lot and kept us all really captivated. The hour went far too fast! The audience got involved too with a fun game with some beautiful Frogkisser! cards. I also got my old, battered copy of Sabriel along for signing. This was the first Garth Nix book I read and it was really special to me to get it signed.

This was a really great day out and it was amazing to meet one of my favourite authors. It’s made me want to get all my old Garth Nix books out and give them a read again.

Book Review: Frogkisser! (Garth Nix)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Scholastic

Pages: 384

Release Date: February 28th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

The last thing she needs is a prince. The first thing she needs is some magic.

Poor Princess Anya. Forced to live with her evil stepmother’s new husband, her evil stepstepfather. Plagued with an unfortunate ability to break curses with a magic-assisted kiss. And forced to go on the run when her stepstepfather decides to make the kingdom entirely his own.

Aided by a loyal talking dog, a boy thief trapped in the body of a newt, and some extraordinarily mischievous wizards, Anya sets off on a Quest that, if she plays it right, will ultimately free her land—and teach her a thing or two about the use of power, the effectiveness of a well-placed pucker, and the finding of friends in places both high and low.

Review:

I loved Garth Nix books when I was a teen so when I saw this on NetGalley I had to request it. I think it’s the first of his I’ve read as an adult, possibly the first I’ve read that isn’t part of a series too.

Princess Anya wants to be a sorcerer, not to go on a quest to defeat her evil stepstepfather and restore law to the land. But when circumstances force her to do just that, she learns a lot more about herself and her land than she ever imagined. Her Quest keeps growing out of her control. At first she only wants to transform the Frog Prince Denholm and find a way to defeat the evil Duke. Along the way she picks up more creatures to transform back and a task to bring justice back to the land.

This was a fun fairytale read with some amazing characters. I liked seeing how Anya grew over the book, from someone who just wanted to stay in her library and read books, to someone who is interested in the larger issues of the land: justice and laws and her obligations as a Princess to her people. She starts off pretty self-centred but learns a lot over her journey.

On her Quest Anya meets a whole host of colourful characters: the Royal Dogs, a thief boy turned into a newt, an otter turned into human-otter and a Good Wizard. The Good Wizard was one of my favourite characters and the best take on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves I’ve read. I loved that normal gender roles weren’t really adhered to like you might expect to find in a fairytale. Wizards can be women, knights can be women, thieves can be women. Okay, so I’m just pleased there were lots of female characters, but it makes such a change from those roles being confined to men. The book plays with some traditional fairytale tropes

The book plays with some traditional fairytale tropes. While we have one princess who is your typical fairytale princess – Anya’s sister Morven is happy waiting for a prince to come to her – Anya herself is more interested in studying and doesn’t have time for princes. I loved that there was no romance storyline for her.

This is really different from anything I’ve read from Garth Nix before but still a fun, fantastical read that I really enjoyed.

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A Christmas Book Haul

I don’t often to book hauls, mostly because I don’t really get a lot of books in one go, but I was lucky enough to get so many wonderful books for/around Christmas that I just wanted to share them.

From Publishers

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Before Christmas I got a few exciting booking parcels in the post. One was this lovely set of It Girl books by Katy Birchall from Egmont. I loved the first two books and am excited to see what happens to Anna next. The new covers are gorgeous and I love this new design.

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I also received a copy of Wing Jones by Katherine Webber, from Walker books, which I’m reading at the moment. So many people have been tweeting amazing things about this book and I feel really lucky to have a copy.

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And finally, I have The Fireman by Joe Hill, from Gollancz. When I was emailed about this I’d just finished reading Horns and the offer of another book by Joe Hill was just too tempting.

From Nathan

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The majority of my presents from Nathan were books, which is alright by me! They were a good mix of things he knew I wanted – Noughts & Crosses which I used to borrow off my sister so never had my own copy, Goldenhand because I love The Old Kingdom series, a beautiful illustrated copy of The Lie Tree – and some new things to try as well. I’ve already read Scarlet Witch and can’t wait to get stuck into the rest of them.

From the In-Laws

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Nathan’s parents really know how to do Christmas well, and I was lucky to get a lot of books from them. The one I’m most excited about is The Call by Peadar O’Guilin, which I’ve heard great things about, and The Creeper Man by Dawn Kurtagich, as I loved The Dead House by her.

From my Mom

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And lastly, from my dear old Mom, I got The Muse by Jessie Burton. I read The Miniaturist last year and quite enjoyed it, though I’ll admit I struggled a bit as adult books aren’t really my thing. but it was still an interesting story and I’m looking forward to picking this one up.

This year I’ve decided to prioritise the books I got for Christmas, as last year some of them got lost in all the review books and new books I got throughout the year (I still haven’t read some of them…) So I have my new books in a separate pile and am going to work my way through them, alternating with review books when I have them.

I hope you all had a very bookish Christmas and that the new year holds lots of exciting things for you to read.

Top Five… Books from 2014

Not so long ago I voted in the Bookish Peeps Book of 2014 and as I did so I realised I’d read very few of the books published then. I have since made up for that a little, and have decided to post my personal Top Five here.
5

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Clariel
Garth Nix
This is the only one on the list that I actually read in 2014. It’s not been reviewed yet, as I didn’t have my blog then, but I know at some point I’ll do a reread of all the Old Kingdome series. I loved having another adventure with the Abhorsens and this one really intrigued me. It’s interesting to see the back story of a character who’s a villain in a later book, and I loved it when I realised who Clariel was.
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Lou Morgan
One of the books in the wonderful Red Eye series, Sleepless is a story that blurs the lines between dreams and reality and makes for a confusing and scary read. Some gruesome touches made it a perfect horror story, and I’d recommend this and all the books in the Red Eye series for anyone who loves horror or wants to try something new.
3


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Clare Furniss
This placed high in the Bookish Peeps vote, and it’s easy to see why. Pearl’s grief is really ugly and sometimes hard to understand, and I think that’s the perfect representation of grief. Her story is painful and her actions don’t always make sense, but it’s relatable and gritty and it just makes you feel.


2


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James Dawson
I love horror and this book just totally did it for me. It’s based on an urban legend that I grew up with – I remember standing in front of the mirror in primary school and saying her name – and always wondered what would happen if it were true. Dawson brings that to life and fleshes it out into a creepy little story that I’d recommend to anyone.
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Louise O’Neill
This is by far the best book of 2014 for me. It’s one of those ones I can’t begin to articulate how much I adore. I’ve passed it on to my sister to read because I think she could learn a lot about feminism and attitudes to women in it. I think my favourite thing was the ending as, like the rest of the book, it felt brutal and true to real life – no fairy tale endings here!

Are there any books from 2014 that I should bump up the TBR pile?


Top Five… Couples

In honour of Valentines Day this weekend, my Top Five this week is Favourite Couples. I’m not the overly romantic type so some of these may be bitter sweet relationships! And I’ve added in some fan fiction for good measure 🙂
 
5.
 
Sonea and Akkarin by CartographerCaitlin
Picture by Cartographer Caitlin
Sonea and Akkarin – The Black Magician Trilogy (Trudi Canavan)
I’m going to admit that I can’t say much about this relationship: it’s been a really long time since I read the books and I’ve forgotten a lot of plot details, but I remember loving these two so much. At least this way there’s no spoilers for anyone (including myself – I want to read the books again as if it’s the first time!) I remember it from so long ago so I’m sure it’s worthy of a place here!
 
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Picture by Laurajanetolton

 

Sabriel and Touchstone – Sabriel (Garth Nix)
I’ve always loved the scene where Sabriel and Touchstone meet: there’s such an innocence and curiosity there that seems so genuine. Theirs is a relationship that develops slowly and doesn’t seem contrived: everything that happens occurs naturally and their relationship isn’t even a big focus of the book, which I appreciate. I also love being able to see them grown up in the next book, with an even stronger relationship despite all their trials.
 



3.
 
 
I Wished For Her - the-night-circus Fan Art
Picture by Greeneiris
Celia and Marco – The Night Circus – (Erin Morgenstern)
Celia and Marco are true star-crossed lovers: right from the beginning they are destined to be pitted against each other, and it’s infuriating when Celia doesn’t even know who her opponent is. But I think that the wonders they create for each other in the circus show an incredible love that can outlive their fate.
2.
 
Picture by Nick Morgan

 

 

Alyss and Dodge – The Looking Glass Wars (Frank Beddor)
It’s never an easy ride for Princess Alyss of Wonderland and Dodge Anders, son of the Captain of the Guards. Alyss is destined to wed the spoilt and rotund Jack of Diamonds and even if he were out the picture, Alyss could never marry a servant. When Wonderland is taken over by Alyss’ evil Aunt Redd, the childhood sweethearts are separated for almost 20 years and they both have a lot to work through when she returns. Still, they make an amazing couple and Alyss is very strong, inspiring woman.
And the winner is…
 



 
1.
 





Picture by Gtjiyeon
Will and Lyra – His Dark Materials (Philip Pullman)
I told you there’d be some bitter sweet in here! Lyra and Will’s relationship was one of the first that I really remember touching me from my younger days of reading, and it always stayed with me. There was something so natural and truthful about their relationship and the progression of it, whereas these days it often feels like relationship are just shovelled in for the sake of it (especially the dreaded love triangle!) This relationship was made more memorable by the sacrifice they made together (which I won’t spoil, in case you haven’t read it.
Wishing you all a Happy Valentine’s Day this weekend, whether you’re celebrating with someone special or enjoying a little me time 🙂