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

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
Reading age: 11+

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
ISBN-10: 1477821384
ISBN-13: 978-1477821381

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
Formerly known as : The Winter Sea

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.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Magisterium: The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Rating 4 out of 5
Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Grade Level: 3 - 7
Series: Magisterium (Book 1)
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press; 1St Edition edition (September 9, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0545522250
ISBN-13: 978-0545522250

Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial. Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail. All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him. So he tries his best to do his worst - and fails at failing. Now the Magisterium awaits him. It's a place that's both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future. The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come . . .

I had so much fun reading this book.

For me it was fun and fresh, setting the reader to go in one direction then changing direction on you as you continue through the story. It was fascinating and I see so many possibilities with the direction the author took 

I really enjoyed Call. He is angry and sarcastic and his mouth just works of its own accord. He is fun to read and had me chuckling a few times with his antics. The other characters Tamara and Aaron are also good value and compliment his character well.

The action and pacing was well balanced to keep the story bubbling along. The action scenes were fantastical and edge of the seat stuff.

The world built by Black and Clare is an interesting one and I am curious to learn more about it. I liked that the magic was elemental based and the little elemental animals were pretty cool (Chaos ridden puppy anyone?). We got enough information and back story that we know the basics of this world but I will be curious to see how the authors develop the world over the next books. I can easily see there being way more then meets the eye with this world.

I will briefly touch on the comparisons people are drawing to Harry Potter. If you go looking for the comparisons I am sure you will find them. I didn't compare it and I enjoyed the book on its own for its own merits.

If you like YA modern fantasy (don't think this can be classed as urban as they are in a cave in the middle of no where) then this will be a fun read.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Please Mr Panda by Steve Antony

Rating 2.5 out of 5
Age Range: 3 - 5 years
Grade Level: Preschool - Kindergarten
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press; 1 edition (December 30, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0545788927
ISBN-13: 978-0545788922

In case you haven't guessed I have a thing for panda's. So when I saw this book I was very keen to give it a go.

This book was cute but for me didn't really hit the nail on the head for the message it is advertised to promote of politeness. The Panda was a bit of a jerk asking his friends if they wanted a donut then saying they can't have any when they don't say please. Mr Panda never explains it's because they didn't say please, just saying "no you can't have it I changed my mind". I just felt as Mr Panda initially approached the friend and asked if they wanted a donut then, while a little rude the friends saying for example "yes a yellow one" was not totally out of bounds.  Personally I would have preferred Mr Panda to have explained this as he walked off "no you can't have one because you didn't say please" or something similar. Just saying "nope change my mind you cant have one" to me is just as rude as not saying please. Maybe I am being too harsh?

At the end of the story a kind little lemur says please and gets the reward. 

I think the author is pointing out that most toddlers are very quick to point out faults in others while perhaps doing the wrong thing themselves. However I felt this book could have easily made a more powerful moral statement by the panda simply saying "no you can't have a donut because you didn't say please".

The art work is cute and simple, and possibly the biggest saving grace of the book. It is not a bad if you don't look to closely. As a parent you could easily say "oh that animal didn't say please so they didn't get a donut".

I really wanted to like this book but for me it fell short even though it had lovely art work and a cute story line. If you get the book with out being fussed about the moral to the story part it probably will be more enjoyable.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Winners of Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran Giveaway

Thank you everyone for your comments and entries. I was delighted to read some of the inspirational women of history you all nominated. I hope to do a post using all these ladies later on down the track.

So on to the important bit; I am pleased to announce the winners of my Michelle Moran "Rebel Queen" Giveaway.

Without further a-do the winners are:

Breanda Kapsley and Melissa Wilkes

The winning ladies nominated Helen Keller and Germaine Greer as their inspirational ladies.

Congratulations ladies!

I have sent you both an email from The Narrative Causality email address. Please check your junk mail box as well as your inbox and let me know if you have not received the email by tomorrow.

For those who didn't win you can still get a signed book plate by heading over to Michelle Moran's website and requesting one

Thank you all again for entering the giveaway!