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  1. First off, I passed the driving test today! Finally! I am a big stress head and when it comes to test conditions I tend to get all a manner of nervous. Today was my third try and I managed to keep my nerves under control enough not to stuff up too much. This is great because I can finally drive my car around without having to drag dad along and I will be able to get to work more easily. No more having to rely on over crowded and always late buses! Oh, happy days!

    From the Back Cover:
    Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy - until he is rescued by an owl, taken to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, learns to play Quidditch and does battle in a deadly duel. The Reason: HARRY POTTER IS A WIZARD!

    My Thoughts:
    It had been some years since I had last revisited the book that started a literary phenomenon. Doing so now it is easy to see how this book so easily enthralled and enchanted me as an eleven year old. Now, as an adult with my decade old copy of Philosopher's Stone (or Sorcerer's Stone if you are in the USA) falling apart in my hands, I find myself falling under Rowling's spell once more.

    Rowling takes classic clichés, such as the orphan child raised by cruel relatives and discovering that he is somehow special, and breathes new life into them. She creates a world that is fantastic and magical and yet at the same time convincing us that it really could all exist just outside the realm of our (Muggle) perception.

    Being more recently familiar with the later books in the series of seven I had forgotten just how delightful the first book really is. While the on going dark themes of the series, particularly death and racial segregation and good versus evil, are present in this first book they are veiled by Rowling's wit and humour and the innocence of the main characters in their youth. Without wanting to get too far ahead here in terms of coming reviews of the rest of the series, I have a great appreciation for the pace at which Rowling matures the series.

    While there are groups out there that want to censor the series for various reasons (and I do so very much dislike people who call for the censorship of something that they have never read or just censorship in general, really), I say that fantastical magic, dark themes, and all, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is a delightful read and safe for even younger readers with progression to the later darker books under parental guidance if necessary.

    I really enjoyed revisiting this book for the Harry Potter reading Challenge and Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon. I am now really looking forward to a long overdue reread of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in the near future.

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  2. Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    Is it just me or is something different here...? Hey! Lookie at that! I got a new layout! Please bare with me while things are rearranged and links are fixed. Also, please let me know what you think about the new layout by answering the poll over in the right column. Comments are also welcome.

    From the Back Cover:
    As a glassmaker and a magician-in-training, Opal Cowen understands trial by fire. Now it's time to test her mettle. Someone has sabotaged the Stormdancer clan's glass orbs, killing their most powerful magicians. The Stormdancers - particularly the mysterious Kade - require Opal's unique talents to prevent it happening again. But when the mission goes awry, Opal must tap into a new kind of magic as stunningly potent as it is frightening. And the further she delves into the intrigue behind the glass and magic, the more distorted things appear. With lives hanging in the balance - including her own - Opal must control powers she hadn't known she possessed... powers that might lead to disaster beyond anything she's ever known...

    My Thoughts:
    It made me so very happy to pick up a Maria V. Snyder book again. I absolutely adored her Study series and I have been eagerly awaiting a chance to pick up he first book in the new Glass series. I had high expectations for Storm Glass and I am pleased to say that it did not disappoint.

    Storm Glass follows Opal Cowen, the young and gifted glass maker who Yelena encountered in the Study series. Opal is studying as a magician at the keep but is finding that, despite her unique magical ability with glass, she is stunted at even the most basic of magical tasks. While this is similar to what happened to Yelena in Magic Study do not make the mistake of thinking that Opal is Yelena 2.0. While both go on to discover more about their unique abilities, the journey undertaken by each is unique. Opal reacts differently to situations and has her own background and history.

    You could enjoy this book without having read the Study books but having read the previous series will most certainly give you a better understanding of the world at hand and overall deepen your enjoyment. Storm Glass will also give spoilers to what happened in the previous series so I do strongly recommend reading the Study series first. Also, those familiar with the original three books will definitely appreciate the cameos of much loved characters throughout.

    Complete with action, romance, and plenty of twists and turns to keep readers on their toes, Snyder fans are bound to be pleased with Storm Glass. I now cannot wait to read the sequel, Sea Glass.

    Also Check Out:
    Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
    Graceling by Kristin Cashore

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  3. Teaser Tuesdays

    Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
    • Grab your current read
    • Open to a random page
    • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
    • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
    • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
    The sound came again. There was a whistle to it, and a moan. It was almost a hiss, and it could've been a strangled gasp. Above all it was quiet and seemed to have no source.
    It whispered.

    From page 138 of Boneshaker by Cherie Priest.

    I cheated and hand picked this teaser as it is from my favourite scene from the book so far. I would've shared more but I have already gone over the designated two sentences so you will just have to read the book yourselves for the rest!

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  4. Read-A-Thon Update: Hour 24

    Sunday, April 11, 2010

    So, I only just now got back in from my driving lesson with my wonderful dad who endures teaching me. I am still going to keep on reading for the final thirty minutes but instead of starting something new I am going to continue with Boneshaker by Cherie Priest which I am currently in the middle of.

    Before that, however, I am going to fill out another survery meme for the Read-A-Thon.

    1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
    The second and third hours when I was the most tired (the event having started at 10PM here) and ended up falling asleep while reading then woke up just long enough to turn off the light and to move my book out of the sleep danger zone.

    2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
    Checkers by John Marsden as it is short and yet engrossing.

    3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
    I thought that between the memes, cheerleaders, and twitter chatter is wonderful. There was always someone reading on alongside you. (Not literally, but you know what I mean.) Just keep up that wonderful connected spirit!

    4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
    The website with it's hourly updates with memes and activities, even if I did not always participate.

    5. How many books did you read?
    Four (4)

    6. What were the names of the books you read?
    • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
    • The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
    • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling
    • Quidditch Through the Ages by J.K. Rowling
    7. Which book did you enjoy most?
    Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling

    8. Which did you enjoy least?
    I enjoyed my Harry Potter theme pretty well. While all of the companion books are relatively short, they are each quirky and unique and I was never bored.

    9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
    I wasn't a cheerleader but thanks to everyone who was for all of your great encouragement!

    10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
    I will definitely be back for the next Read-A-Thon. Most likely just as a reader again. If I were a cheerleader I would get so absorbed in my books that I would forget to come back and cheer!

    This will be my last post for the Read-A-Thon. It was a wonderful event and I am so happy that I took part. I would have liked to have squeezed in one more book but I am pleased to have gotten started on one of the challenges that I had signed up for and then neglected. I will start posting the reviews over the next few days. A big thanks also goes to all the wonderful people who make this event happen. You guys rock!

    Happy reading,

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  5. So far I have made my way steadily through three books. I found that I have not grown at all bored with my Harry Potter theme having now completed Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Quidditch Through the Ages, and The Tales of Beedle the Bard. In fact, I am wondering whether or not I should just set aside my non-Rowling books and pick up Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets instead. I doubt, however that I will get it finished before the challenge ends. Dad wants to take me out for a driving lesson in a few hours and while it is much needed and definitely appreciated it does fall in to Read-A-Thon time.

    Right now I am going to take a half hour or so break to rest my eyes and get in some tidying up. Next up is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

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  6. So, I may have, erm, accidentally fallen asleep. For ten whole hours. I was going to stay up until at least 1AM and sleep until 6 or 7AM but I guess my tired brain had other plans. Instead I managed to doze off while reading around eleven o'clock - only one hour in to the Read-A-Thon. I do think that I can still catch up. I am a third of the way through the first Harry Potter book and I don't see why it should take more than two hours to finish the rest. Maybe I can push for one hour?

    Okay, so to get back in to the groove of things, I am going to take part in the mid-event meme - a survey!

    1. What are you reading right now?
    Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

    2. How many books have you read so far?  
    Just this one! T_T

    3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? 
    Getting a start on the Harry Potter Reading Challenge is a pretty good highlight for me.

    4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? 
    Nope. No work for me on Sundays so I was good to go.

    5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?  
    Falling asleep for ten hours. I'm going to read like I have never read before! After I have had some breakfast that is.

    6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? 
    I've slept through any surprises that could have happened!

    7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? 
    None as of yet. Darn sleep. It looks like everything has been handled really well, though.

    8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?
    Have a nap before the event starts.

    9. Are you getting tired yet? 
    Noooo. I feel wonderfully refreshed after that sleep, thanks for asking.

    10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?
    Read somewhere comfortable but no so comfortable that you will doze off! The comments from Cheerleaders have definitely been motivating too!

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  7. 100 Mile Fitness Challenge Round 3

    Saturday, April 10, 2010

    Lately I have been doing a pretty good job at keeping up the exercise, if I do say so myself, but sometimes I still need a bit of motivation to keep me going. Especially at this time of the year as Australia leaves summer behind and the weather starts to turn cool again making it is oh so tempting to ditch the jogging shoes and curl up with a good book and a mug of hot chocolate. The 100 Mile Fitness Challenge is a great and fun way for us bloggers to motivate each other to keep healthy and active.

    I participated in the first round but joined the challenge quite late and didn't manage to achieve the goal of 100 miles of exercise and fitness. This time around I am jumping on the bandwagon nice and early and have plenty of time to hopefully achieve a goal of 200 miles. Only, to not confuse my poor brain, I am setting my goal in kilometres. I think in kilometres and my exercise bike only reads in kilometres so it is a lot easier for me to track. This makes my 200 mile goal approximately a 322km goal. That's the one downfall of kilometres - it suddenly seems like a lot more exercise!

    Head on over to the 100 Mile Fitness Challenge blog to learn more about the challenge and to set your exercise goal!

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  8. I've just made the crazy spur of the minute decision to sign up to participate in the 24 Hour Read-A-Thon! It's not too late for YOU to sign up too!

    I am hoping that this event will help me knock a few books off of my massive TBR pile. I don't have much of a plan as of yet but I'm thinking it is a good opportunity to start on the Harry Potter Reading Challeng which I signed up for forever ago and still have not started. So my vague sort-of plan looks a bit like this:
    • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
    • The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
    • Winter by John Marsden
    • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling
    • The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks
    • Quidditch Through the Ages by J.K. Rowling
    The Harry Potter companion books are not technically a part of the challenge but I had planned to read and review them anyway. Also, they are short so finishing them in between the longer books will hopefully keep me motivated. The The Zombie Survival Guide is a reread but I want to refresh my memory for review.

    I have no idea if I will even be able to finish one book or all of the books. I really just plan to go with the flow. The challenge starts late in the evening here for me and I am rather fond of sleep so I'll stay up for so of it but I don't plan to remain conscious for entire event. As for snacks, I am armed with plenty of chocolate left over from Easter. I'll post some updates throughout the event but have not set myself a schedule.

    Mosey on over to the 24 Hour Read-A-Thon website to learn more about the event and to sign up!

    Good luck to everyone who is going to participate!

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  9. Teaser Tuesdays

    Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    I haven't done one of these for a few weeks now so I thought that it is about time to share a teaser again. Never mind the fact that I am posting a Teaser Tuesdays on a Wednesday.

    Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
    • Grab your current read
    • Open to a random page
    • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
    • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
    • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
    A wind blew from nowhere, sweeping the sand off the floor. The granules piled together forming the shape of a woman. I gaped at the perfect construction, unable to believe what I saw.

    From page 138 of Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder.

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  10. What's on the Bookshelf

    Monday, April 5, 2010

    In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. Go here to find out more.

    This week I have two books that I am so happy to finally be reading. I've been wanting these two for quite awhile now.

    Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
    I am always happy to have more Scott Westerfeld on my reading pile. When I saw that his latest book, Leviathan, had finally made it into the library collection I did my little happy dance and snatched it straight away. In Leviathan Westerfeld delves into the wonderful thing that is steampunk, which I have so much love for right now.

    Storm Glass by Maria V Snyder
    I am finally getting to read Storm Glass. I am so happy to be reading Snyder's work again. I absolutely loved her Study series. The Glass series is set in the same world as in the Study series, now following Opal Cowen.

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  11. From the Back Cover:
    You are holding an urgent and vital narrative that reveals the forbidden truth about these perilous times...

    This is the astonishing testimonial of Whit and Wisty Allgood, a brother and sister who were torn from their family in the middle of the night, slammed into prison, and accused of being a witch and wizard.

    They are not alone in their terrifying predicament. Thousands of young people have been kidnapped; some have been accused; many others remain missing. Their fate is unknown, and the worse is feared - for the ruling regime will stop at nothing to suppress life and liberty, music and books, art and magic.

    Most copies of this story have already been seized, shredded, or burned. Read this rare surviving edition and pass it along with care - before it's too late.

    My Thoughts:
    Please be aware that this review contains spoilers.

    Witch & Wizard looked to me like it was being marketed to both the adult and teenage markets. As a result, and from reading the back blurb, I assumed that what I would be reading was a dystopian, supernatural adventure that would probably be comfortably labelled as Young Adult. Instead what I got was a novel that was simplistic and in many ways childish and riddled with clichés. The simplicity of both the language level and the plot is underlined by the fact that I finished all 305 pages in scarcely four hours despite the fact that I was grudgingly forcing myself to continue.

    Now, I had forgotten that I had once loved Gabrielle Charbonnet's Princess series, which was her take on the classic A Little Princess, but I was only around six or seven years old at the time. However, Kathleen Duey (author of Skin Hunger) is a prime example of how an author established in writing children's books can successfully produce dark and gritty works for a young adult audience, so why not Charbonnet? Admittedly, I had never before read anything by James Patterson, but working in a library I am quite aware of the popularity of his books and just how many he has under his belt. As a result I had high expectations for Witch & Wizard but was severely disappointed,

    The chapters in Witch & Wizard are very short and unnecessarily so. A scene might be spread over three chapters when it would have read fine as one and as a result the chapter breaks only disrupt the flow of reading. The perspective alternates back and forth between Whit and Wisty, which fails to achieve a whole lot as they are side by side for most of the book and there is little differentiation between their voices. Supposedly, Wisty is fifteen and Whit on the verge of turning eighteen but their attitude and language is so childish you would peg them to be younger. The dialogue is just so forced and cliché. The stereotypes when it comes to the bad guys are just awful, including ugly=evil.

    Wisty, especially, is well and truly on a fast track to becoming quite the Mary Sue. Not only is she the one that pulls out all of the big magic tricks but her hair even magically changes into a colour and style that she likes much better than her previously frizzy red. Her eyes even temporarily change colour at one point. The authors were so busy super-charging Wisty that they forgot for awhile that Whit was supposed to have powers to so it was rather strange for him to be talking about his powers and himself being a wizard for ages before he ever even demonstrated any special ability.

    Speaking of their powers and Mary Sue and Gary Stu like tendencies, it was really annoying how their magical abilities just suddenly switched on the night that they are taken from their homes. They have never once in their lives done anything to make them think that they could do magic and suddenly, without cause or explanation except that it is convenient to the plot, their powers just activate and they are instantly incredibly powerful and dangerous, even without being able to control their magic. It was also very annoying how Patterson and Charbonnet are among those authors who did not do the research about the religion and seem to think that "Wiccan" is just a New Age-y term for witch and then decided to give that label at least to Whit and Wisty's parents if not indicating that it is a term they may apply to all witches and wizards. I would have to read the (unfortunately) upcoming sequel to find out just how far they are going to run with the term.

    Adults (even eighteen-year-old Whit uses the more childish phrase of "grown-ups") are suddenly all bad guys without any real explanation as to why but apparently it is decided that kids (because all the main characters are teens with the supposed maturity to possess strong survival and leadership skills but prefer to be referred to as "kids") should rise up against the new totalitarian regime and become the new rulers of the world because apparently they could do a better job. At this point the novel has officially crossed into the territory of cheaply produced mid-afternoon children shows about the "if their were no adults and children were in charge" scenario. No adult faction of the rebellion is even mentioned let alone stands up to take care of the rogue children. The evil New Order seized power through political means so I guess we are supposed to believe that adults were dumb enough to vote for policies that involved the oppression of everyone, the destruction of their homes, and the torture and execution of even children through cruel and old fashioned means. As most of the book is about the siblings being stuck in a cell and then escaping, we never get to see enough of the rest of society to understand why this would be accepted by everyone and what frightening catalyst would trigger people to allow such a government to come into power.

    This book tries far too hard to be Harry Potter. One antagonist is clearly their version of Draco Malfoy and is even described as being "ferret faced" at one point but in the end they settle for calling him a weasel... and then proceed to turn him into one. Meanwhile, the big bad guy, "The One Who Is The One", seems like a poor attempt at coming up with a title for their looming and nameless evil to rival "He Who Must Not Be Named" and also pales as a villain in contrast. Furthermore, the "Speak love, you may enter" riddle just seems ripped straight out of Lord of the Rings. "Speak friend and enter," anyone?

    This book may have been better if it had been targeted at a younger audience. As it currently stands it was pretty poor and I strongly recommend that you give it a skip.

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  12. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

    Friday, April 2, 2010

    From the Back Cover:
    A father and his young son walk alone through burned America, heading slowly for the coast. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save ash on the wind. They have nothing but a pistol to defend themselves against the men who stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food - and each other.

    My Thoughts:
    The Road just blew me away with its stark realism. McCarthy presents a post-apocalyptic America that is stark and desolate. The world as we know it is gone. Both the natural world and the man-made world are completely in tatters.

    There are no names in The Road, driving home just how much has been stripped away. The Man and the Boy scrounge for food among abandoned houses and shops as they head for the coast. They seek to avoid other humans at all costs for many have turned to cannibalism as food is scarce. Violence in The Road is not "in your face" but what is implied and what aftermath you do see is most certainly made very graphic and haunting when combined with McCarthy's writing style.

    "The world shrinking down to a raw core of parsible entities. The names of things slowly following those things into oblivion. Colours. The names of birds. Things to eat. Finally the names of things one believed to be true."

    McCarthy's writing style is sparse yet somehow lyrical. It did bother me a bit trying to figure out McCarthy's ruling on punctuation, though. I could not understand why "don't" became "dont" but "it's" could remain "it's" and why sometimes he would correctly place a comma and why sometimes there would be none at all. It certainly takes some getting used to.

    Punctuation aside, I found The Road to be truly moving and must confess that at the end it even got some tears out of me. Without even knowing their names I truly felt sorrow for the struggle of the Man and the Boy and horror for the things that they had encountered.

    The Road is a compelling and powerful book. I can see readers either loving it for it's moving and haunting nature or in contrast growing bored with the slight repetitive aspects of the Man and Boy's journey. More than likely, however, you will be completely drawn in by McCarthy's writing style, his desolate portrayal of a post-apocalyptic America, and the heart aching plight of a father who cannot bear the thought of holding his son dead in his arms.

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