Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Last Queen of India by Michelle Moran

Rating 4 out of 5
File Size: 515 KB
Print Length: 368 pages
Publisher: Quercus (2 April 2015)
Language: English

1857, India. At nineteen years old, Sita is the shining star of Queen Lakshmi of India's imperial guard, having pledged herself to a life of celibacy in the name of protecting the young ruler. When Sita agrees to train Lakshmi in the art of military combat, a close friendship develops between the two women. But trouble soon threatens - Lakshmi's court is dangerously divided and rumours are rife that the country is at risk. Meanwhile, in London, advisors to Queen Victoria are looking to extend the power of the Commonwealth, and India is coveted as the next jewel in the imperial crown. In the ensuing battle, will the bond between Lakshmi and Sita be broken for ever?

Michelle Moran is by far my favourite historical fiction author at the moment. She has a knack for writing about women in history whose stories are not well known to Western cultures. Madame Tussaud and Napoleons second wife Marie-Louise being prime examples. Her books are always very well researched with only slight deviations to the actual time line of events.
This book tells the story of India's Queen Lakshimi of Jhansi from the point of view of her guard Sita. While the focus is on Sita and her life it surrounds the Queen and we get great insight into the Queens life and events during her last year's of reign and the rebellion that she helped lead.

First Sita is a wonderful character. I just adored her and I'm pretty sure it's not just because she is a reader and had some wonderful lines about reading. She is intelligent, caring, practical, athletic and dedicated. It was easy to connect with her and follow her story.

The Queen herself was fascinating and her story sad and inspiring at the same time. Sad knowing that all her efforts to resolve the situation peacefully with England were for nothing. England wanted it's India jewel and it was going to get it. Inspiring because she still tried and tried again, never giving up the hope that she could save her people and Kingdom.

It was really difficult to read the struggles that women faced in India then, and I know in some areas, still do today. Sita's upbringing is particularly horrible, made worse by her awful Grandmother. But I understand better the hurdles the women in India have had to overcome to get the level of freedom many currently have. 

It was also difficult to read about the truly horrific acts of cruelty displayed by both the British army and the rebels. Slaughtering so many innocents because they could, and justifying it by saying "they did it first". Then the cultural insensitivity displayed by the British at the time is also awful (such as opening a butchers next to a Hindu temple).

This was a wonderfully written book with Moran bringing to life on the pages the world Sita lived in, while highlighting Indian culture (both good and bad), and bringing to life an important historical figure.

Hands down this is probably my second all time favourite Moran book and highly recommend it.

Previously reviewed Michelle Moran books

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Very Noisy Bear by Nick Bland

Rating 4 out of 5
ISBN: 9781743627853
ISBN-10: 1743627858
Series: Cranky Bear
Audience: Children For Ages: 3 - 6 years old
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 24
Published: 1st July 2015

Cranky Bear is back for his fifth book in the series. This time Cranky gets his music on and tries to find a musical instrument he can play with rather disastrous results. He is joined by his jungle friends (Lion, Zebra, Moose and Sheep) who try to help him navigate the world of musical instruments.

We are huge fans of the series here and have all the books (The Very Cranky Bear, The Very Itchy Bear, The Very Hungry Bear, and The Very Brave Bear). Saw this on the shelf and didn't even think twice before putting it in the shopping trolley. Glad I did.

This is another lovely story of Bear learning to keep trying and never give up. Bear is really quite terrible at playing all the instruments given to him. Just as he was about to give up he started to sing and what do you know, he totally rocks at singing.

Everything about these books are delightful, the art work, the lyrical story, the message behind the story. You do not have to read them in order either so just pick up a book and away you go.

Another wonderful installment in the series that your kids will love if they are Cranky Bear fans.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Pig The Pug by Aaron Blabey

Rating 5 out of 5
ISBN: 9781743624777
ISBN-10: 1743624778
Audience: Children For Ages: 3 - 5 years old
Format: Hardcover
"Pig was a Pug and I'm sorry to say, he was greedy and selfish in most every way." Pig is the greediest Pug in the world. He is ill-tempered, rude and unreasonable. When Pig the Pug is asked to share his toys, something unexpected happens. Hopefully Pig has learned a lesson!"

This might just be my favourite picture book of the year! Such a fun and interesting story. I would be shocked if you read this book and didn't find yourself laughing along with your child.

We are introduced to Pig, a very selfish Pug dog who will not share his toys. Goes out of his way to be a meanie and then learns his lesson when he tumbles out of the window (while standing on and lording over his pile of toys).

This story has a great moral to it that kids pick up on instantly. My son straight away said "that's not very nice" when Pig refused to share his toys and ran away with them. The later laughed as Pig tumbled from the window. His expert opinion is that the book was "brilliant" but I suspect it had more to do with the dog falling comically out the window rather than learning about sharing.

I also adore the art work and think it brings out the humour in the story. Even though he is a selfish pug he really is adorable.

The book is a delight to read to kids as a parent I really do pick books on what I want to read out loud. You do not want to read to your child if you are bored by the book (which is why the Spot books sit unread on the shelf *snooze* Spot is rather dull). But when you have a book like this with fun rhyming text and amazing artwork you can have fun yourself reading out loud doing the character voices.

Do yourself a favour and get your hands on this book. I have already purchased it as a present for friends. This book has already cemented itself as one of the favourite reads in our household, and might just knock Nick Bland off his pedestal in our house. We have only had our copy of the book for a week and Bland's reign as top book has been several months. Only time will tell who will win the battle between Cranky Bear and Pig the Pug. So just get yourself a copy, you truly wont regret it.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Tin Men by Christopher Golden

Rating 3 out of 5
Publisher: Ballantine Books (June 23, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 034554885X
ISBN-13: 978-0345548856
After political upheaval, economic collapse, and environmental disaster, the world has become a hotspot, boiling over into chaos of near apocalyptic proportions. In this perpetual state of emergency, all that separates order from anarchy is the military might of a United States determined to keep peace among nations waging a free-for-all battle for survival and supremacy. But a conflict unlike any before demands an equally unprecedented fighting force on its front lines. Enter the Remote Infantry Corps: robot soldiers deployed in war zones around the world, controlled by human operators thousands of miles from the action. PFC Danny Kelso is one of these “Tin Men,” stationed with his fellow platoon members at a subterranean base in Germany, steering their cybernetic avatars through combat in the civil-war-ravaged streets of Syria. Immune to injury and death, this brave new breed of American warrior has a battlefield edge that’s all but unstoppable—until a flesh-and-blood enemy targets the Tin Men’s high-tech advantage in a dangerously game-changing counter strike. When anarchists unleash a massive electromagnetic pulse, short-circuiting the world’s technology, Kelso and his comrades-in-arms find themselves trapped—their minds tethered within their robot bodies and, for the first time, their lives at risk. Now, with rocket-wielding “Bot Killers” gunning for them, and desperate members of the unit threatening to go rogue, it’s the worst possible time for the Tin Men to face their most crucial mission. But an economic summit is under terrorist attack, the U.S. president is running for his life, and the men and women of the 1st Remote Infantry Division must take the fight to the next level—if they want to be the last combatants standing, not the first of their kind to fall forever.

A sci fi action drama set in the distant future when things are not so rosey and a mecha force are enforcing peace.

I could't really connect with the two main characters. I just didn't particularly like them. They felt a little shallow. I don't know how a military trained person would react in a situation where the world effectively ends, but they just seemed a little too calm and accepting of their situation. Strangely I thought the supporting characters had a lot more dimension too them. Particularly the 16 year old girl (whose name escapes me now) who probably experienced the most in the short time frame of the book.

The best part about this book was the story. I think the robot enforcing law aspect aside, the concept of the electronic world we live in being taken offline at once, was a fascinating idea to explore. The characters themselves raise some interesting points that even if they could get the power back on it would be days, weeks even years to recover fully. The author clearly thought out the knock on effects and issues that surround this sort of event happening.It was an intriguing concept of having the worlds technology completely wiped out and our civilisation being sent back to the dark ages.

Following on from the above point the general world building the author did was really good and was felt this future could easily be ours. A lot of research clearly went into this book and it showed through. I didn't feel like I was being bombarded with information yet I got enough information to know about the events prior to the world being taken off line. However some of the information delivery points were a little awkward, but not overly distracting.

The action scenes are really good and are almost non stop as the Tin Men battle there way across the Middle East and Europe to get home. I did think to myself a couple of times how it was they only really ran out of bullets once or twice considering how much shooting was going on.

An interesting book with a lot of possibilities. While I didn't love this book I would be interested to try this author again.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Drachengott: Wind by KJ Taylor

Rating: 3 out of 5
Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 1088 KB Print
Length: 140 pages
Publisher: AUS Impulse (1 May 2015)
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers (AU)
Language: English
ISBN: 9781460705339
ISBN 10: 1460705335


Rutger has always been a bit different. Wanting more than his current provincial life holds, he practices swordfighting, ensuring he's ready for ... he's not quite sure what. Until he meets Swanhild, an enigmatic young woman who knows exactly what she's training for - war. The two meet every day in the forest to practice magic and Rutger feels like he finally belongs somewhere. But Swanhild is hiding something. Will Rugter find out her secret before it's too late? Or will the battle they've been waiting for render secrets irrelevant?

 A good start to a promising fantasy series.

Proper fantasy is not really my thing especially epic. How ever I have been reading more books in that area lately, especially books about dragons. Not sure what is happening there, maybe it is a phase I am going through?

This story was not a complex story Rugter and Swanhild set out to over throw one of the most powerful baddies in the area. The reader follows the pairs adventures as they work towards this goal. The time line for this does seem to skip along pretty quick but it doesn't feel to rushed. However despite the simple story and motivations the world building was not lacking

There are dragons but they are the bad guys and pretty simple creatures. But there is an interesting part to the dragon story in this world with a head dragon who controls them all. Reminded me of a beehive. I would be interested to see how the dragon's story evolves through the book and we learn more about their story.

Drachengott does have a book one feel about it. The story is just starting and I supect there are going to be at least four books. The pacing of the book fits a story based in a series. It is slow paced for roughly half of the book but it does build up to a fight scene.

I liked Swanhild the most as I felt we got to learn more about her and her motivations the most.  She is the main character the reader will follow through the series. As we learned about her then her character and motivations were pretty clear. Rutger felt a little too simple in his motivations and personality. However I suspect next time we meet him, he will be a far more complex character.

While I wasn't the  blown away by the book, as previously mentioned it was the start of a longer series that was obviously the first stepping stone in a bigger series. The overall series I think has potential to be a good fantasy series over all. I could see this being a series that has the potential to be very addictive. However with the book currently being listed at $2.99 there is no real reason to not give this book a try.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Love in a time of Monsters by Teresa Yea

Rating 3 out of 5
Publisher: Broken E Publishing (March 31, 2015)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

He has a monster problem Scotland, 1867. When Rob Stevenson’s brother is killed—and eaten—in the forest outside their estate, Rob’s sheltered world is shattered by a monster infestation. Determined to keep his village safe, Rob's first duty as laird involves hiring a professional hunter. She kills monsters The sole survivor of a massacre in the Congo, Catriona Mornay is rumored to have lost her mind in the jungle. In Edinburgh’s gas-lit streets, Cat’s skill as a hunter is unmatched. Her reputation as a killer of unnatural creatures, legendary. Two worlds collide Faced with a rising body count, Rob takes a chance on Cat, hoping that somewhere inside this tortured yet charismatic girl is the hero he’s been searching for. But in this shadow realm of secrets, lies, and underworld crime, their lives overlap in more ways than one. And in an age where harpies flock the sky and serpents rule the sea, it’s even possible for a boy and his hunter to fall in love. But can their love survive in a time of monsters? For fans of bestselling authors Libba Bray and Megan Shepherd, take a dark ride into a seductive New Adult fantasy filled with magic, intrigue, adventure, and action packed romance.
Not a bad book but not I had mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand I liked the writing and the clever mix of history, literature and fantasy as well as the story itself. On the other it was a little too gothic for me.

I really liked that the author tied the characters to the real life author Rob Stevenson and his stories. However the story is almost purely fictional with only some things (like his illness and living in Scotland) tying him to his real world counterpart. Though it is fun to think the real Stevenson had done a spot of monster hunting in his youth before writing a best seller book.

 Cat is an interesting and broken character. She is strong willed and independent yet she is a drug addict who has suffered through a major trauma. She makes some pretty stupid decision which have terrible consequences. However sometimes she is very insightful and knows the right thing to do that saves everyone.

As previously mentioned a smidgeon dark and serious for me. There is a bit of gore and violence (hello she is a monster hunter not sure why I expected it to be more like skipping through the tulips and less skipping through the graveyard).

There is also romance element and a love triangle which plats into the story line and creates tension between the main characters.

An interesting book with lots of different elements that would make it enjoyable to lots of different readers.

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
Series: Yes

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

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).