Unwritten #2: Rewritten – Tara Gilboy

“Writing has brought me so much trouble.”

In the six months since they returned to the real world, Gracie and some other characters from Bondoff, their storybook world, have been living with Gertrude Winters, the story’s author. They’re all in hiding from the story’s villain, Cassandra. Cassandra still has the Vademecum, a magical book that can generate portals between the real world and the world of the author’s imagination.

Gracie is struggling to distance herself from the character Gertrude created for her. This isn’t easy when everyone remembers what happened while they were in Bondoff.

She wished she didn’t have to keep being reminded of the past.

Gracie meets siblings Mina and Bryant when she travels to Blackwood Hall. Their world is nothing like Gracie’s storybook dimension; they are characters in a “feminist gothic horror novel”.

“Don’t read that one. It’s too scary for children.”

Rewritten tackles fractured mother-daughter relationships, the difficulty of forgiveness and the struggle to rewrite our stories. A number of themes from the first book continue to play out here. Running through both books is the difficulty of breaking out of roles that others place upon you. A couple of characters battle both the urge to run away from the past and the desire to confront it.

The lines between good and evil remain somewhat fuzzy. The villains aren’t always immediately obvious and their actions aren’t always intended to have dastardly consequences. One character who has been written as a villain is desperately trying to prove to themselves and those around them that that’s not who they are. Even those who appear to be heroes can have selfish motivations and make questionable choices.

Gracie, who I loved without reservation in Unwritten, started to annoy me when her recaps and ruminations became repetitive. I didn’t always agree with the decisions she made in this book but I have to give Gracie credit for her imaginative decorating choices. Her bedroom ceiling features quotes from books in glow in the dark paint! Why didn’t I think of that?!

While you could read Unwritten and Rewritten as standalones, I’d recommend reading them in order. Given how this story ends I’m definitely expecting this series to become a trilogy. I haven’t had enough page time with Cassandra yet and am crossing my fingers that she’ll wind up with a happy ending. Yes, I know she’s supposed to be the villain so technically she shouldn’t get one, but I’m still holding out hope. I’m also looking forward to Walter being given the opportunity to shine.

It was Jomike Tejido’s cover illustration that originally drew me to Unwritten and, even though I was unaware a sequel was in the works, as soon as I saw the cover of this book I had no doubt that this was it. Just like last time, I decided I needed to read this book before I knew what it was about.

“You can’t stop reading the stories. It’s your destiny.”

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Jolly Fish Press, an imprint of North Star Editions, for the opportunity to read this book.

Review originally posted on 6 April 2020.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

After learning the truth about her own fairy tale, twelve-year-old Gracie wants nothing more than to move past the terrible things author Gertrude Winters wrote about her and begin a new chapter in the real world. If only things were going as planned. On the run from the evil Queen Cassandra, the characters from Gracie’s story have all been forced to start over, but some of them cannot forget Gracie’s checkered past. 

Even worse, Gracie discovers that as long as Cassandra has her magical book, the Vademecum, Gracie’s story is still being written and none of the characters are safe, including her mum and dad. In a desperate attempt to set things right, Gracie finds herself transported into another one of Gertrude’s stories – but this one is a horror story. Can Gracie face her destiny and the wild beast roaming the night, to rewrite her own story?

Unwritten – Tara Gilboy

“What if every story ever written is a world in another dimension, waiting for us to find it?”

I was enchanted by this book from the very beginning. It explores the complexities of good and evil, and the power we have to write our own story, regardless of the roles and labels others have placed upon us. There’s action, drama and so much heart.

Gracie may look like a normal 12 year old girl but she’s actually the creation of Gertrude Winters, an author whose unpublished story includes Gracie, her mother and Walter, a boy in her class and an aspiring scientist. Gracie gets story glimmers, glimpses of what her life would have been like in the story, but she doesn’t know the whole story and is frustrated that her mother won’t tell her.

When Gracie learns the story’s author will be coming to her town she can’t resist. Here is the opportunity she’s been waiting for! If only she can speak to the author then she may finally find out who she really is and what her story contains. Things don’t go quite as planned and Gracie, her mother and other characters wind up in the world of the story.

I was captivated the entire time I was reading. I loved the greys in this story; the villains weren’t all bad and the heroes didn’t always make the right choices. I was easily able to imagine the story world and wanted to stay longer to meet more of the people who live there.

While this book works well as a standalone I’m greedily hoping for a sequel and/or spin-off. I’m interested in knowing what happens next for Gracie, Walter and Cassandra in particular. I’d also love to see how Gertrude, the author of Gracie’s story, would react if another of her storybook characters walked into her life and wonder what their story would be about.

I would like to know more about Cassandra, particularly her background and more about her motivations. She was an intriguing character who deserves more page time. I’m not sure if this was intentional or not but Cassandra in this story has some similarities to Cassandra from Greek mythology; although different in so many aspects they were both able to foresee the future.

Jomike Tejido’s cover illustration is absolutely gorgeous and captures the essence of this story so well. I’m not sure I would have read this story’s blurb without that cover sucking me in and I would have missed out on a gem.

Over the course of a single book Tara Gilboy has cemented her place in my ’Have to Read Everything They Ever Write’ Hall of Fame. I can’t wait to read whatever comes next!

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Jolly Fish Press, an imprint of North Star Editions, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Twelve-year-old Gracie Freeman is living a normal life, but she is haunted by the fact that she is actually a character from a story, an unpublished fairy tale she’s never read. When she was a baby, her parents learned that she was supposed to die in the story, and with the help of a magic book, took her out of the story, and into the outside world, where she could be safe.

But Gracie longs to know what the story says about her. Despite her mother’s warnings, Gracie seeks out the story’s author, setting in motion a chain of events that draws herself, her mother, and other former storybook characters back into the forgotten tale. Inside the story, Gracie struggles to navigate the blurred boundary between who she really is and the surprising things the author wrote about her. As the story moves toward its deadly climax, Gracie realises she’ll have to face a dark truth and figure out her own fairy tale ending.

The Long-Lost Secret Diary of the World’s Worst Dinosaur Hunter – Tim Collins

Illustrations – Sarah Horne

I blame myself for needing wanting to read every book with ‘dinosaur’ in the title. Not being familiar with this series it took me a little while to realise that our main character Ann lived in the 1800’s. It took me until the end of the book to find out that it’s set in 1870. Ann’s story is told in diary form and is inspired by the life of Mary Anning who, along with her brother, found the first complete Ichthyosaur skeleton in 1811.

Ann finds fish lizard bones and her father, who’s essentially a snake oil salesman, sells them to tourists as a “cure” for whatever he deems wrong with them. His scams and tactless sales pitch tends to get him into trouble and Ann appears to take on somewhat of a parental role, trying to keep him out of trouble and entertained.

One day a surgeon who collects fossils encounters her father’s stall, realises the scientific importance of her discovery and after some setbacks Ann and her father wind up visiting the New World (America) on an expedition to hunt dinosaurs. Despite the old men at the Geological Society dismissing her due to her age and gender Ann is determined to become a great scientist.

I never really connected with Ann’s character although the story did grow on me over time. I found the writing to be very matter of fact and mostly a series of “I did this”, “I went there” and “That happened”. Ann’s continual references to believing she was cursed each time something went wrong irritated me after a while. Perhaps it just wasn’t my type of humour but there was only one part that I found smirk worthy and based on the blurb I’d expected ‘hilarity’.

I still don’t know how Ann qualifies as the “World’s Worst Dinosaur Hunter” as she seemed pretty great at it, so much so that even though she is uneducated, unqualified and a girl (shock, horror!) she is the first to discover several dinosaur species.

I did like the ‘Get Real’ facts scattered throughout the book, my favourite of which involved William Buckland who “attempted to eat his way through the entire animal kingdom, and is known to have served his guests mice on toast and roasted hedgehog.” Ew!!

The sections at the end of the book where I learned about Mary Anning’s life and some other notable dinosaur hunters were interesting. Also included are a timeline and glossary.

Thank you to NetGalley and Jolly Fish Press, an imprint of North Star Editions, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Meet Ann – a smart but unlucky teenager keeping a diary of her life as she hunts for dinosaur bones. When she gets an opportunity to search for fossils in the American West, Ann is determined to turn her luck around and show the world her discoveries.

The hilarious Long-Lost Secret Diary series put readers inside the heads of unlucky people in unfortunate situations. The accessible, irreverent stories will keep young readers laughing as they learn the importance of not being afraid to learn from one’s mistakes. Get Real fact boxes featured throughout, as well as a glossary and additional back matter, provide historical context and background.

Time Shift Trilogy #1: The Year of Lightning – Ryan Dalton

I expect this review is going to show you why it is imperative to write your review, or at the very least some notes about how the book makes you feel, within a day of finishing the book. That way you’re not stuck trying to find the words to tell anyone who will listen what an incredible book it was that you finished reading almost seven weeks ago! So here goes …

I found The Year of Lightning sort of by accident. I was so interested in the blurb for Ryan Dalton’s The Genesis Flame that I couldn’t request a copy through NetGalley quickly enough. It was only once I was approved (YIPPEE!) that I realised I’d just been given a review copy of the third book in the series (OOPS!). Once I’d read the blurbs for the first two books I decided that I’d be missing out greatly if I didn’t read these in order, so I bought The Year of Lightning. I mean, we’re talking about a time travelling super villain here! What’s not to love?!

I had this brilliant idea that I’d read the first book and then contact the publisher to beg/plead/grovel for a review copy of the second book. Begging/pleading/grovelling are not beneath me and as I hadn’t had an income for over three months at that time I could make a pretty pathetic poor me case. Why do I tell you that? Because I was so enthralled by this book that before I’d even made it a quarter of the way through it I bought the sequel, ignoring the fact that I didn’t know how many more months I’d have to wait to see another dollar. That’s how much I loved this book!

Even this long after I finished reading, the story and characters have stayed with me. I loved the mystery of the house across the street that has no doors and may have some strange connection to the over abundance of lightning nearby.

Outside, a dark figure drifted down the street, cloaked in shadow. Approaching the house with no doors, it touched the rain-soaked wall and melted through in a flash of light.

How can you read that quote and not want to read the entire book?!

I loved the relationship between fifteen year old twins, history geek Malcolm and science geek Valentine, and the gentle exploration of their grief, particularly how it’s affecting them personally and in their relationships. I love that when describing herself and her twin Valentine comes up with “Loner, bookworm, geek”. These are my people!

I loved their new friends – conspiracy aficionado Winter, supposedly superficial Fred (the party’s at his house!), bubbly Brynne, holder of the gossip Carly and John, man of mystery. I love that we don’t have to suffer in the presence of the cool kids in this book. In this book we hang out with the newspaper team!

I loved that the kids go to Emmett Brown High School! The Back to the Future obsessive in me adores that cute time travel Easter egg. Maybe I was looking for BTTF references that weren’t intended after learning the name of the school but I also came across references including a clocktower and Copernicus, plus the obvious one – countless bolts of lightning with their glorious 1.21 gigawatts striking all around the town.

My favourite characters were the oldies. Oma Grace is practically your dream grandmother; supportive, adorable and beyond cool. I loved their crotchety neighbour, Walter Crane. Walter became (and remains) my absolute favourite character.

I enjoyed the adventure and mystery, I felt part of the friendships, I laughed and I ugly cried. Glancing through my highlighted passages I’ve gotten hyped up about these characters and their adventure again. I can’t believe I haven’t started the second book yet. I have to know what happens next because … holy cliffhanger, Batman!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When 15-year-old twins Malcolm and Valentine Gilbert moved to a new town, they never imagined that the old house across the street could bring them so much trouble. A secret machine has reawakened inside, with the power to pierce time itself.

Meanwhile, lightning storms are breaking out all over town. They’re getting worse every week, and seem to enjoy striking kids who just want to pass science class and mind their own business. When Malcolm and Valentine discover a connection between the house and the storms, their situation goes from mysterious to crazy stupid dangerous. Someone is controlling the great machine, and their purpose is nearly complete.

In a race against time, the twins must uncover the chilling plan, the mastermind behind it, and the force that’s driving the deadly storms. They’ll hunt a powerful enemy that threatens their town’s existence, and the only clues are written in the sky.

Holo #1: Consider – Kristy Acevedo

I received a copy of Contribute (book 2 in the Holo series) from NetGalley but I was so interested in the story that I went right ahead and bought Consider so I could read them in order. I am not disappointed!

I was hooked from Alex’s first anxiety thought bubble on the first page. I find that anxious people tend to be quite creative and Alex certainly is with her disaster scenario thoughts, like this gem:

“What if it’s an alien-powered vacuum cleaner and we’re the dirt?”

I love the way Kristy Acevedo writes!!!

The characters were developed well and I loved that substantial backstories were provided for the supporting cast as well as our lead, Alex. I particularly loved the crazy lady without a name and looked out for her throughout the book. Always listen to the crazy people! What can sound crazy can become profound once you know the context of their words. I have my own theory about who crazy lady is and hope to find out for sure in Contribute.

The characters were forced to tackle all of the scenarios and more that I would’ve considered (see what I did there?) important during an apocalypse. I loved that Kristy Acevedo wasn’t afraid of arguing from multiple points of view as Consider explored the comet’s impending impact on such topics as politics, religion, freedom of choice, and what happens to society when there’s a visible clock counting down the time left to make the decision of your life … stay and wait for the comet to go boom or walk through a vertex into the unknown. An impossible choice.

On a lighter note, I would definitely grow my nails for the nail polishes mentioned in this book. Their names are so clever and cute that I want to buy them all sight unseen, although I know my favourite would have to be Blue My Mind.

I highlighted and then highlighted some more throughout this book; sometimes a few words, sometimes a few paragraphs at a time. There was so much to love and I’ve already read most of my highlighted passages to passers by, prefaced with, “Hey, listen to this sentence!” or “Don’t you just love the way this author thinks?”

I guessed the ending around the halfway point but I enjoyed the book so much that I didn’t care that the end wasn’t a surprise. Regardless, hello cliffhanger! I’ve read reviews of book 2 that say it’s even better than book 1. I’m not sure that’s possible but can’t wait to be proved wrong.

I just found another favourite author. Awesome job, Kristy! I’m starting Contribute immediately!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

As if Alexandra Lucas’ anxiety disorder isn’t enough, mysterious holograms suddenly appear from the sky, heralding the end of the world. They bring an ultimatum: heed the warning and step through a portal-like vertex to safety, or stay and be destroyed by a comet they say is on a collision course with earth. How’s that for senior year stress?

The holograms, claiming to be humans from the future, bring the promise of safety. But without the ability to verify their story, Alex is forced to consider what is best for her friends, her family, and herself.

To stay or to go. A decision must be made.

With the deadline of the holograms’ prophecy fast approaching, Alex feels as though she is living on a ticking time bomb, until she discovers it is much, much worse.