Saturday, March 12, 2016

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Rating: Enjoyable

"Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home. Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she's a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden - lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult's true powers are hidden even from herself. In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls' heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch."
This is a pretty hyped up book which I was interested in from the description. I was lucky that my library ebook loan system had it in there. I am not sure it lives up to its hype though, it was an enjoyable read and I will read the next book but I did have problems with the story.

My first issue was that Safiya (Safi) is an idiot. A selfish, deluded brat. Everything that went wrong in this book was because she never stopped to think about anyone other then herself and her needs. She even admitted, several times, she sucks at making plans, and time and time again she would ignore people who had perfectly good and well thought out plans made by people who generally so this sort of thing for a living, and do her own idiotic thing. Usually resulting in the death of others or the near death of her and her friends. I just wanted to yell at her almost the entire way through the book. Also her decisions made no freaking sense and the one time she actually presented a good plan to someone who has lots of experience and should know better, they shot her down and proposed a seriously risky and dumb idea (which resulted in mayhem, death and fighting).

My other peeve was that I also got annoyed with reading "that that" in a sentence or something similar. I can't think of specific examples now but when that double up happened it did bug me as it happened a couple of times. I am not sure what the technical term for it is, but I have seen it creeping into modern books, and it bugs me. But thats one of my peeve's not necessarily a fault of the book.

So you would think  after that complaining I would dislike this book. Well I didn't. I still quite enjoyed it, even though my eyeballs got quite the work out.

For me this was like a guilty pleasure book. Similar to those guilty pleasure tv shows that we all have, that we like despite it being almost everything we normally dislike in a show. Like The Kardashians, or Daytime Soapies (mine being reality shows like Amazing Race and Survivor). The characters are badly acted, the dialogue is predictable and the show is predictable (yes even reality shows!). We like to hate those shows (and we all have one) and we like to complain about the awfulness of the show. I am not saying this book is badly written or predictable but my point is that even though there was a side of it that annoyed me I still continued reading, and still liked it.

This book was a little like that for me. Even though I practically yelled at the character Safi for her stupidity and rolled my eyes at her decisions. I still enjoyed reading this book and will read the second book.

The action was well written and fast paced. The world created is interesting and detailed. I liked the story and I'm curious as to where the story goes.

If you like modern young adult fantasy you will probably like this book.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

If I had a Gryphon by Vikki VanSickle

If I Had a GryphonIf I Had a Gryphon by Vikki VanSickle
My rating: Excellent!

Sam is a little girl who has been given a hamster and wishes it was a magical mythological creature instead. As we read the story and Sam considers each mythological creature and the responsibilites that come with them she realises that maybe her hamster isnt so bad after all.

This book is wonderful for the messages it has 1. a female lead character 2.learning to be happy with what you have 3. learning to apply reasoning to a theory or want 4. seeing the good in things, and 5. everyone (pet) has value.

The illustrations were fun and well suited to the story, and the story flowed well and rhymed! (I am a sucker for rhyming kids picture books).

My kids really enjoyed the story and my son especially loved the kraken (but he is obsessed with sea animals, so not a huge surprise, but I also thought the kraken was super cute). My daughter liked the gryphon announcing loudly "kitty raar".The subtle humour in the words and corresponding graphics made us all have a little laugh.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone with animal loving kiddies, or kids who like fantastical wonderful things. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Alistair Grim's Odd Aquaticum by Gregory Funaro

Alistair Grim's Odd Aquaticum (Odditorium, #2)Alistair Grim's Odd Aquaticum by Gregory Funaro
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

"When Grubb, an orphan and runaway chimney sweep, entered the wondrous world of the Odditorium, his life changed forever. Apprenticed to the mechanical marvel’s strange proprietor, Alistair Grim, Grubb unfortunately must settle into his new position on the lam, as the whole of London is convinced that Alistair Grim is a villain bent on mass destruction. Grim, however, has come up with a plan to expose the real villain: Prince Nightshade, a wicked necromancer who wants the Odditorium’s power source for himself. With the evil prince hot on their trail, Grim, Grubb and the rest of the Odditorium's crew embark on a perilous adventure to find the legendary sword Excalibur: the only weapon capable of penetrating Nightshade's magical suit of armor. As expected, their quest turns out to be anything but ordinary. Not only can the Odditorium fly, but it can also swim! And so the crew battens down the hatches and sets off on an underwater voyage to the otherworldly realm of Avalon, home to Excalibur. Along the way, they must battle a banshee assassin, sea monsters, and a witch who seeks revenge on Alistair Grim for stealing her magical objects. But that’s not all. Unbeknownst to Grubb and the others, their fate has been written in an ancient Avalonian prophecy—a prophecy that holds the key to a destiny not even Alistair Grim could have possibly imagined."

This is a story about a boy whose father is a magician and they live in this flying magical base in the 1800's fighting off evil villains. Anyone who knows my reading tastes knows this is right up my alley so naturally I wanted to give it a read.

I really, really wanted to like this book, but I just couldn't get into it at all. I read about 1/3 of the book before I gave up.

Firstly I struggled with the language being spoken. I know it was supposed to be in period but honestly it was so hard to follow and get into the rhythm of. It really didn't work for me.

Secondly I didn't know this was the second book in the series so there was a lot of stuff being said in reference to the last book. Eventually the story in this book started and it was ok but I spent most of the first chapter not having a clue as to what was going on.

Lastly I just wasn't feeling the characters at all. I am not sure why but I couldn't engage with them or their storylines.

I suspect 10 year old boys who read this will enjoy the story, but for me I just couldn't get into it. Which was a shame as I really had high hopes for this book.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus
My rating: ok not really my thing
ISBN-10: 0099554798
ISBN-13: 978-0099554790

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. The black sign, painted in white letters that hangs upon the gates, reads: Opens at Nightfall Closes at Dawn As the sun disappears beyond the horizon, all over the tents small lights begin to flicker, as though the entirety of the circus is covered in particularly bright fireflies. When the tents are all aglow, sparkling against the night sky, the sign appears. Le Cirque des Rêves The Circus of Dreams. Now the circus is open. Now you may enter.

I am not really sure what happened with this book as for me I just didn't get into it like most other people seemed too. I should have liked this book as it ticks a lot of boxes for me but this just fell flat for me.

While I enjoyed the world it was set in and enjoyed reading about the circus and the intricate duel the game turned into I just felt it was too slow and sometimes too detailed.

It actually became a way for me at night to put myself to sleep. I would literally read 2 pages then get seriously sleepy.

Not an awful book and I am sure people who like reading more epic fantasy type novels or dramas would like this, but for me it just didn't engage me the way I had hoped.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Too Loud Lily by Sofie Laguna

Rating: Delightful
Age Range: 3 - 5 years
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press (March 1, 2004)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0439579139
ISBN-13: 978-0439579131

Too Loud Lily is a story about Lily the Hippo who is just too loud and constantly gets into trouble for it, until one day a new teacher at school gets Lily into the school play and Lily can be herself.

We got given this book for Christmas and I thought on our first read through that this book was written for my Little Miss who likes to be loud and adventurous. My son also enjoys the book and we have no read this many times in our house.

Too Loud Lily really is a delightful read with a good message about staying true to yourself and finding your niche. Lily struggles in every day life being constantly told she is too loud. When she decides to join the school play she is able to be loud and she brings the house down with her performance, finally finding a place she can be herself.

The illustrations showed Lily's sadness at the start of the book when she gets in trouble for reading to loud, laughing too loud, watching TV too loud, and waking the baby. Then when her new flamboyant teacher arrives you see Lily's transformation as the teacher asks her to be louder. This is music to Lily's ears as she gets to finally unleash her suppressed loudness.

The reader see the progression of Lily from a young girl being forced into a box against her nature to a young girl who realises her abilities are not a negative but a positive in the right settings.

A final note that Kerry Argent has done a wonderful job illustrating this book.

This is a lovely little book perfect for helping children to learn to accept themselves for who they are.

Other stuff:
This book has been nominated for awards such as:

  • Children’s Book Council of Australia Award for Book of the Year for Early Readers Honour Book 2003 
  •  Oppenheim Best Book Award USA for 2005 
  • Shortlisted for the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards 2003 
  • Shortlisted for the Children’s Choice Picture Book of the Year 2003

Here is a video of the book Too Loud Lily being read so you can get an idea of the book

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Aeronauts Windlass by Jim Butcher

Rating: Loved it!
Series: The Cinder Spires (Book 1)
Hardcover: 640 pages
Publisher: Roc; 1st edition (September 29, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0451466802
ISBN-13: 978-0451466808

Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace. Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory. And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake…

It is no secret I am a big Jim Butcher fan and haven't disliked anything he has written to date, and he has written a new series which is set in a steam punk universe. Which will have you immersed in a rollicking fun adventure story. This series is firmly steam punk and interestingly this is a genre that in theory I like but in reality have rarely found a book that I can truly enjoy. This book (and hopefully series) reminded me why I like the steam punk genre.

This story had an old style rollicking adventure sea faring adventure feel to it. Think Disney's "Treasure Planet" movie and you get an idea of the feel of this book. The story has a lot of action on both land and in the sky but the most impressive battle scenes were between the vessels in the sky. They had the feel of old sailing ship battles, with the excitement and tactics they would use, except set in the sky. One of Butcher's strengths is writing excellent battle scenes and the air ship battles will not disappoint.

This has a different feel to Butcher's Harry Dresden series. Firstly this story is told from several different characters points of view. Secondly there are no supernatural beings like vampires and such (a talking cat or two and a weird spider like creature that is pretty deadly but that's about it). I actually enjoyed all the main characters and what they brought to the story. The cats were the stars though, just the best. Butcher captured a cat's thinking and behaviour pretty accurately.

The world building is done very well with the right balance of action, pacing and development. You don't feel like you have had a heap of information dumped on you or that the story has slowed down due to explanation's. The world is interesting and fascinating with people living in "Spires" which seem to be massive cone shaped cities built on top of each other, with the world outside being dangerous and inhospitable to humans (but not weird vicious creatures), there are also airships which seem to be the main mode of travel, and magic well a bit of magic (talking cats and crystals not wizards dueling).

I just enjoyed everything about this book from the action, to the humour, to the fight scenes, and the talking cats. This series could easily become another firm favourite of mine and I am excited to see where this series goes.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix

Rating: Cute and Fun
Age: 12 and up
Print Length: 304 pages
Publisher: Allen & Unwin (October 1, 2015)
Publication Date: September 23, 2015
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

I have not previously read a Garth Nix book, even though I am aware of his books. So I went into this book with no set expectations about how Nix wrote.

This book was cute, fun and light hearted. I enjoyed being immersed in the alternate history which had a dash of romance. Everything about this is fluffy and predictable but it is fun. If you don't read this book expecting hard core fantasy and character development you should have fun.

The story is set in the Regency period so you have lots of the social stigmas for a woman as well as carriages and ball gowns. I like the Truthful dressed as a man to investigate her families missing jewel even if it was predictable. Most of the book's humor came from the scenes where she had to pretend to be a man. I really enjoyed her Great-Aunt the most, and would love to read a book about her life prior to this book. I actually thought she sort of stole the book from its main characters to be honest.

If I think about the story had a feel of lady detective then hard core Regency Gaslight genre. I found Truthful had more in common With Miss Phryne Fisher (Phyrne Fisher series) then Alexia Tarbotti (Parasol Protectorate series). While it is set in the Regency period with magic involved, I would (now I am thinking about it) definitely put this in more of the lady detective genre.

Also I didn't get the point to Truthful's three male cousins. They seems a bit of a waste of space in terms of story telling. They didn't add a single thing to the story other then to show that Truthful's family are kinda useless. I also wished we had learned more about the fairy and her motivations she almost seemed written in as a fairy purely to add an extra magical element. Her character could have served its role as a normal human. As a fairy she certainly didn't do anything well fairy like.

The romance is very tame and sweet, and very appropriate for the age group (Middle school) it is aimed at. For an adult reader it felt a little forced however at the same time I didn't sit there rolling my eyes at it.

The action when it happens is fast paced and well written. The final scene on the ship was particularly good. I have seen reviews that said Nix's
It was a fun cute read.The book didn't really wow me or leave a lasting impression but it was fun and I would read another book in the series I think (at least one more). It is a perfect starting book for young teens who are interested in this genre. I can see young girls in particular liking this story.