Book Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

R2281efed71369a01d8885ddff2281ebcFirst published on 28 October, 2012 in The Star

Author: Rachel Hartman
Random House Books for Young Readers, 480 pages

THE world is the kingdom of Goredd where, 40 years earlier, a treaty had been signed between man and dragonkind. Since then the communities have coexisted in relative harmony. The dragons are obliged to take human form within the city walls and are forbidden to hoard gold. For younger dragons, knowledge is stored instead, literally, in the form of stacks of books.

Orma is one such dragon. He is a scholar and Seraphina’s music teacher. There is a more complex relationship between the dragon and the book’s main character, but I am going to try to keep this review spoiler-free. I fear this means not saying much about Seraphina herself. She is, naturally, at the centre of much of the action and to reveal too much about her would practically give the plot away. Suffice to say she is the only daughter of a widowed lawyer, the assistant to the court composer, and tutor to the Crown Princess Glisselda.Read More »

Book Review: Four Seasons by Jane Breskin Zalben

FOUR SEASONSFirst published on 17th April, 2011 in StarMag

Author: Janet Breskin Zalben
Publisher: Knopf, 336 pages

ALLEGRA (Ally to her friends and family) Katz has been playing the piano since she was four. She’s now 13 and belongs to a pre-college music programme at the Juilliard Music School. Her dad is a violinist with a famous quartet, and her mother trained in opera and now sings the blues in jazz bars in Manhattan’s Alphabet City.

Ally’s life revolves around music. She has to practice six hours a day and spends practically the whole of every Saturday at Juilliard, attending various music workshops and classes – theory, chamber, composition, solfege, master class, and her piano lesson proper with the relentlessly demanding and unsympathetic Miss Pringle.

“It felt like the world was passing me by,” says Ally when she can’t make it to her best friend, Opal’s art exhibition. Slumber parties, just hanging out eating hotdogs or watching movies, dating, all the things that most teenagers take for granted have to take a back seat to her music career, or rather making sure that she has music career to look forward to – “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice.”

Read More »

Interview: Randa Abdel-Fattah

RandaFirst published on 8th April 2007, in StarMag.


IN Does My Head Look Big in This?, Randa Abdel-Fattah describes the experiences of a young Muslim Palestinian-Australian after she decides to wear the hijab (veil).

Randa, a Palestinian-Egyptian who was born in Australia, was in Kuala Lumpur recently for the Kuala Lumpur International Literary Festival (Klif07, March 28-30). In an interview squeezed into a busy day meeting the press, visiting schools and making author appearances at bookshops, she said that she started writing the book when she was a teenager and can’t bear to look at her first draft.

“Reading it makes me cringe,” she laughed.Read More »

Book Review: Does My Head Look Big in This by Randa Abdel-Fattah

does my head look big.jpgFirst published on 4th February, 2007 in StarMag

Author: Randa Abdel-Fattah
Publisher: Marion Lloyd Books, 368 pages

Isn’t that title a gas? I love it! It’s witty and a little smart-alecky, like the heroine of the book, 16-year-old Amal Mohamed Nasrullah Abdel-Hakim, a Muslim Palestinian-Australian who decides that she’s ready to wear the hijab (veil) fulltime.

Read More »