Monday, April 20, 2015

Blood Queen (Lharmell Series book 3) by Rhiannon Hart

Rating 4 out of 5
Format: Kindle Edition
Publisher: Curtis Brown Unlimited (21 March 2015) Sold by: Amazon Australia Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B00VEFCWEC
Series: Yes

Release date 21 April 2015 through Amazon Kindle initially and paperback later.

Summary
After losing Rodden at the last Turning, Zeraphina is alone. Or she would be, if her mother and Prince Folsum would leave her in peace. The prince, blind in one eye after an attack by Zeraphina’s brant, has taken up residence in her home and is insisting she marry him. When an accident happens, Zeraphina flees – straight into the arms of a waiting harming. Now a captive, she discovers she’s being taken to Lharmell. But not to be executed. To be crowned queen. The identity of the one who has given the orders is shrouded in mystery, and Zeraphina can’t help but be suspicious. After everything she’s done the Lharmellins should want her dead. Just who is awaiting her in Lharmell?

Fall out from the events in books one (Blood Song) and two (Blood Storm) start to impact the characters in this book which culminates into an action packed show down. This was a book I thoroughly enjoyed. It kept me entertained the whole way through. There is so much that I want to write and discuss about this book, however I wont so this review will not spoil the book for those who will read it. So this review will be quite broad and general.

Zeraphina is broken in this book. She is a pretty self obsessed, miserable, addict. Consumed with grief for the loss of Rodden. But with the help of Raufo she begins to put her life back together even though she is being led to her doom.

There is a whole lot of action going on but there is a slowish start first (you know only one person died and nothing got destroyed), but from the middle of the book things start to really get moving. From there on it is action packed and fast moving the rest of the way. The slow start does make sense and it isn't frustrating.

I found a new respect for Zeraphinas mother and sister who were more then met the eye. In the previous two books her mother seemed shallow, cold, and self serving and her sister shallow and to concerned about what others thought. In this book we get to see more depth to their characters.

This was a satisfying ending to the trilogy and didn't feel rushed, forced or skipped over.  If you are a fan of the series you should like this book and be happy with the ending (though I'm really not happy the trilogy has ended).


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

Rating 4 out of 5
Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Publisher: Delacorte Press (June 9, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0553536516 ISBN-13: 978-0553536515
ASIN: B00QDGVFDG (June 4, 2015)


Summary
A laugh-out-loud romance from the bestselling author of the Shopaholic series. Meet Audrey: an ordinary teenage girl with not so ordinary problems. Aside from her completely crazy and chaotic family, she suffers from an anxiety disorder which makes talking to her brother's hot new best friend a bit of a challenge. But Audrey has a plan to help her face her fears and take on the world again. First stop: Starbucks.

I have to confess I am not a big Kinsella fan. I have read a few of her adult books and found them hit and miss. However I was intrigued to learn she had written a Young Adult novel and that it dealt with mental issues. For me this book was a hit and I think this is one of my favourite Kinsella books.

Personally I think mental issues is a topic that needs to be address more in the media and in publications and not in the "they are mentally disturbed so there for a serial killer" kind of way. Awareness is growing within community but there is still a lot of stigma surrounding people who suffer mental illness. Sophia Kinsella has done a good job of writing about a difficult and poorly understood issue and she made it non-threatening, light hearted and relatable to teens.

Through Audrey's eyes we learn about her life, her struggles to over come her anxiety, and accept who she is. We also learn about the impact her illness has had on her family and how they adjust to her recovery.  It is not a smooth road they are traveling. Kinsella has done a good job of showing how mental illness impacts everyone around the sufferer.

I think this is the major strength of this book. Through Audrey's eyes and her recovery she becomes aware of the impacts on her family. This in turn allows the reader to really understand how mental illness impacts everyone. We also get a good insight into how someone withe anxiety and depression thinks and its not rationally. The reference to 'lizard brain" I thought was prefect as Audrey's way of dealing with her anxiety (it is also a psychological term). I have never suffered from anxiety or depression. However a few of my friends have, and some of the ways they expressed themselves I saw written on the pages as Audrey's thoughts.

The summary makes this book sound a lot lighter then it is. However this is not a heavy or depressing book, it is a positive book, and I will confess to giggling a couple of times. The "laugh-out-loud" part comes from her families antics and dealing with the issues that they are presented with.

While there is a romance of sorts it is a very sweet element to the story. It is also not the main theme of the story but is one of Audrey's drivers. Linus is a good fit for Audrey and I liked their relationship.

I would be curious to learn why Sophie Kinsella chose to write this topic for her Young Adult debut.

This is a great book which tackles a difficult subject in a light-hearted,positive and sensitive way. I think this could be a book that all teens should read to give them a better understanding of people who live with mental illness. I do recommend this book for teenagers and anyone who wants understand mental illness a bit better.

If you would like to read an extract then head over to Sophie Kinsella's website for more.

This review book was provided to me by Netgalley.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

Rating 4 out of 5
Publisher: Macmillan Australia (10 November 2014)
Sold by: Macmillan (AU)
Language: English
ASIN: B00LBQWH76

Summary
'Now, I know what you are thinking,' Hu Tang paused. 'You are thinking that there are hundreds of zoos, why does the world need another one? Indeed, what can China do with a zoo that has not already been done before? Ladies and gentleman...this is what we can do.' At that moment, the speeding bullet train burst out into brilliant sunshine and CJ found herself staring at an awesome sight. It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for forty years. They have found a species of animal no one believed even existed. It will amaze the world. Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing discovery within the greatest zoo ever constructed. A small group of VIPs and journalists has been brought to the zoo deep within China to see its fabulous creatures for the first time. Among them is Dr Cassandra Jane 'CJ' Cameron, a writer for National Geographic and an expert on reptiles. The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts, that they are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong... GET READY FOR ACTION ON A GIGANTIC SCALE.

After reading "Sophia's Secret" I needed a break. A light fluffy but mostly fun mental break. I had heard Reilly had released a new book and thought it would be the prefect change of pace. It did not disappoint. I had lots of fun reading this book.

Really is really good at writing fast paced big action adventures. This book does have a slowish start compared to some of his other books, but it doesn't take long for action, mayhem and big explosions to start.

I don't think I can write a review with out touching on the obvious comparisons to the book and movies "Jurassic Park". I can see where the comparisons come from. A top secret park full of giant reptile type creatures and it all goes belly up. Same same right?. But this book is only on the surface similar to Jurassic Park. It would be a mistake to dismiss this book as a Jurassic Park rip off. I also appreciated that the author makes two Jurassic park jokes which to me showed he was more then aware of the potential comparison. I really think the author managed to separate his book in the end from Jurassic Park's shadow. By the end I wasn't even thinking about the comparison at all.

I must give the author credit for writing a strong, smart and capable female lead character. CJ gets stuff done and doesn't stand screaming waiting for her knight in shining armour to save her. Yes she does seem to have the best luck in the world but all action heroes do.

One last point the book has some pretty graphic violence. I mean it's dragons attacking and eating people. Just be prepared if you are perhaps more sensitive to these things. It really is violent when it happens (which is pretty regular).

If you are a fan of Matthew Reilly then you will like this book. If you are not then pass. This book is a fun read and all about the action, certainly goes by the mantra of "go big or go home".

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Rating 5 out of 5
Publisher: Algonquin Books (December 2, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616204516
ISBN-13: 978-1616204518

Summary
On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto "No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World." A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means. A. J. Fikry's life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island-from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who's always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.'s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly. And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It's a small package, but large in weight. It's that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn't take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.'s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn't see coming. 

You have probably heard the buzz around this book and the words "must read, amazing, best book ever" thrown around. People love this book, people were raving about this book. I was suspicious but I am pleased to say that I also enjoyed this book and it deserved most of its praise.

This is a slow paced novel that builds slowly. The writing is beautiful and you are immersed in this mans world so easily and you feel like you are right there with him as we travel through his life in the book.

You will be taken on an emotional journy without even realising it. You will feel happiness and sadness while reading this book. The ending is just right for this story and leaves you feeling satisfied.

Fikry is a wonderful character to read about and go through the journey with. His view on the world is funny and unusual. But most avid book readers I suspect would have found themselves nodding to a lot of his wisdom.

“You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question, What is your favorite book?” ― Gabrielle Zevin, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry


It really is just a feel good novel.

The author Zevin, has written a beautiful story that is really well worth the read.

If you like feel good books and well books about books then give this one a try.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Little Miss Evil by Bryce Leung & Kristy Shen

Rating 4 out of 5
Publisher: Spencer Hill Middle Grade (March 10, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1939392098
ISBN-13: 978-1939392091
ASIN: B00R3KHCJW
Reading age: 11+

Summary:
When you live in a volcano, ride to school in a helicopter, and regularly see your dad on the news with the caption "EVIL GENIUS" underneath his picture, it takes a lot to rattle you. Until you get a message that says: We have your father. Deliver the NOVA in 24 hours or we will kill him. What's a NOVA, you ask? It's a nuclear bomb capable of turning the city into a radioactive mushroom cloud, and ever since Fiona's dad built it, it's caused nothing but grief. But telling him to stop building weapons is like telling Michelangelo to stop painting. And that's why thirteen-year-old Fiona has a flamethrower strapped to her arm. After all, who'd mess with a girl who can throw fireballs? Apparently, these guys. Big mistake.

This was such a fun book! As Donkey from Shrek would say "let's do that again". I could easily read this book again and I really enjoyed it from start to finish. The book was is just pure fun.

The book is a short read that is easily knocked over by most readers in a day or two. However for such short quick read it is action packed and full of humour.


There was a great mix of plot development, action and humour which was set to a cracking pace. The book was fast paced but never rushed. During the entire book the authors sense of humour was always present making me giggle. Oh and how cute is the cover (I am a sucker for chibi anime style artwork)

The summary is a little vague so to expand upon it a little more, the basic story is Fiona and her dad belong to a group of three super villains and their families. They all live on an island (while it isn't directly mentioned Waikiki is mentioned so I assume Hawaii). The three families fight each other, however they mostly just thwart each other s evil plans and keep their kids (who all attend the same middle school) out of the fights. However something changes and Fiona's father is kidnapped bringing the families into full scale war against each other.

Fiona was such a sassy funny character who did not want to be a super villain. I also enjoyed reading her fathers quirky melodramatic flair for invention and Villainy. All the other super villains are delightfully weird and villainy (each seems to have a particular strength) and their kids are all trying to work out if they want to continue in the family business or get out when older.




I would recommend this book to teen girls or anyone who likes the teen superhero/villain genre. Fingers crossed this book is the start of series because I would dearly love to read more.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Helen of Sparta by Amalia Carosella

Rating 3 out of 5
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (April 1, 2015)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B00NAJZDI2
ISBN-10: 1477821384
ISBN-13: 978-1477821381

Summary:
Long before she ran away with Paris to Troy, Helen of Sparta was haunted by nightmares of a burning city under siege. These dreams foretold impending war—a war that only Helen has the power to avert. To do so, she must defy her family and betray her betrothed by fleeing the palace in the dead of night. In need of protection, she finds shelter and comfort in the arms of Theseus, son of Poseidon. With Theseus at her side, she believes she can escape her destiny. But at every turn, new dangers—violence, betrayal, extortion, threat of war—thwart Helen’s plans and bar her path. Still, she refuses to bend to the will of the gods. A new take on an ancient myth, Helen of Sparta is the story of one woman determined to decide her own fate.

I enjoyed reading the Helen of Troy story from Helen's point of view. Historically it is told from a male point of view and makes Helen out to be a femme fatal or a simpering idiot. This book sets out to make her a more realistic character and more then just an object of men's affections.

Which is hard to do when all the stories regarding Helen tell pretty much that story, that she is beautiful and men went crazy over her to posses her. While she does spend a decent part of the book dealing with male advances and hiding, the author has done a good job at making Helen a real person/demi god.

I admit to not being a huge fan of Helen's story nor do I really know much about it beyond the whole "Helen was kidnapped and an epic war was fought- oh there was a wooden pony too" thing. So I was surprised to learn Helen was from Sparta. Which makes me frustrated with her story because at that time in history women of Sparta were pretty bad ass with many freedoms we take for granted in the Western world today.

The book covers Helen's life with Theseus the first kind rumoured to have either kidnapped Helen or Had a genuine romance with Helen. The author went with the true love and Theseus saving the damsel Helen. Theseus was a very likeable character as the older, wiser hero and man. 

The story itself was more focused on the romance side of their life together and took on a Romeo and Juliet doomness feel. Indeed even though Helen was  Queen she pretty much never left the palace and we hardly ever saw her being well Queeny. This could be in part due to the Athenian court but it seemed that no one at court or in Athens seemed concerned the Queen was practically a hermit which was odd.

I enjoyed the history and mythology that went into the story. The author has clearly done a fair bit of research and knew the era and characters quite well. The thin line between mythology and history was well walked. You also didn't need to know much about mythology to read this book as the author does well at explaining the difference between Gods,mortals, and demi gods along with who is who, and you never feel like you have been given a lot of information at once.

The book  did end suddenly. So I can only assume more books are planned as the ending seemed an odd way to end a stand alone book. The whole book did have a "beginning" of the story sort of feel. This probably led to the book being slower paced and more focused on drama and romance then action. I would be interested to read the next books to see how Helen acts when the fur is flying after she is kidnapped by Paris.

Finally it should be noted that the book deals with the issue/topic of rape and infanticide which could be upsetting to some.

This book didn't quite win me over however I would read a second book and I would recomend it to anyone interested in Helen's story or Greek Mythology. Also I think this is a very promising start to a new historical writers career and hopefully she will continue to write more on this period.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Sophia's Secret by Susanna Kearsley

Rating 4 out of 5
Format: Kindle Edition
Series: Slains Book 1
File Size: 731 KB
Print Length: 520 pages
Publisher: Allison & Busby (15 April 2011)
Sold by: Amazon Australia Services, Inc.
Language: English
ISBN: 1402241372
ASIN: B006WB7IW4
Formerly known as : The Winter Sea

Summary:
When bestselling author Carrie McClelland visits the windswept ruins of Slains Castle, she is enchanted by the stark and beautiful Scottish landscape. The area is strangely familiar to her but she puts aside her faint sense of unease to begin her new novel, using the castle as her setting, and one of her own ancestors, Sophia, as her heroine. Then Carrie realises her writing is taking on a life of its own and the lines between fact and fiction become increasingly blurred. As Sophia's memories draw Carrie more deeply into the intrigue of 1708, she discovers a captivating love story lost in time. After three hundred years, Sophia's Secret must be told.

I am rapidly becoming a big fan of Kearsley's. Her writing is so beautiful and magical, it just sucks me in. This book was no exception.

This is a complex book to review without giving much away. We follow Cassie and Sophia who are two women linked through time. Cassie lives in modern times and is writing a book on the aborted Jacobite aborted and Sophia lives during the 1700s, in particular the time of the almost revolution. 

Different points of view can really make or break a book for me especially when done badly. Fortunately for me this was done very well. The change was almost seamless so you hardly noticed the change at all. The characters were given very distinct voices which I enjoyed.

Kearsley books are a blend of historical fiction, romance and supernatural. She has a knack for picking subjects that are set in little known areas of history. While I knew that Scotland had tried to place King James back on the throne I didn't know much about it.

I found the ending to be very sad so have tissues handy! While my logical mind could understand their thinking for the decision they made, I don't know if I could have made that decision. To be honest I did struggle with their decision as it didn't make a lot of sense, especially after a few other events would have made their argument null and void. 

But overall this book was a fantastic read that sucked me in and I could not put down.

If you haven't tried a Kearsley book yet I strongly suggest you do.