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 http://www.michellemoran.com/rebelqueenbookplate.html

Thank you all again for entering the giveaway!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Giveaway - Win a Signed Copy of Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran

Giveaway is now closed.

Hi Guys its been far to long since I have done a give away and now I get to do another one.

Many of you know that I am a fan of Michelle Moran having loved her books such as "Madame Tussaud:A Novel of The French Revolution", "Nefertiti" and " The Heretic Queen".

Michelle Moran's new book "Rebel Queen" is due for release in March 2014, and she is kindly giving away a signed hard copy with a beautiful bracelet from India to the winner.

"When the British Empire sets its sights on India in the mid-nineteenth century, it expects a quick and easy conquest. India is fractured and divided into kingdoms, each independent and wary of one another, seemingly no match for the might of the English. But when they arrive in the Kingdom of Jhansi, the British army is met with a surprising challenge. Instead of surrendering, Queen Lakshmi raises two armies—one male and one female—and rides into battle, determined to protect her country and her people. Although her soldiers may not appear at first to be formidable against superior British weaponry and training, Lakshmi refuses to back down from the empire determined to take away the land she loves. Told from the unexpected perspective of Sita—Queen Lakshmi’s most favored companion and most trusted soldier in the all-female army—Rebel Queen shines a light on a time and place rarely explored in historical fiction. In the tradition of her bestselling novel, Nefertiti, and through her strong, independent heroines fighting to make their way in a male dominated world, Michelle Moran brings nineteenth-century India to rich, vibrant life"

Admit it, this book sounds pretty awesome, the cover is gorgeous, and you know you want it.

So what do you have to do to be in the running to win this awesome prize?

Simply comment on this post with your name and a contact email address (I would hate to not be able to get hold of you!). Finally let me know who is your favourite woman of history?

Yup thats it as simple as that.

The contest is open from now till the 14 February 2015. I will announce the winner on the 15 February 2015 after using a random selector for the winner.

Good luck everyone!

The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran

Rating 4 out of 5
Publisher: Quercus;
First Edition edition (December 26, 2008)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B0038QN29E
ISBN-10: 0307381765 ISBN-13: 978-0307381767

The winds of change are blowing through Thebes. A devastating palace fire has killed the Eighteenth Dynasty’s royal family–with the exception of Nefertari, the niece of the reviled former queen, Nefertiti. The girl’s deceased family has been branded as heretical, and no one in Egypt will speak their names. Nefertari is pushed aside, an unimportant princess left to run wild in the palace. But this changes when she is taken under the wing of the Pharaoh’s aunt, then brought to the Temple of Hathor, where she is educated in a manner befitting a future queen. Soon Nefertari catches the eye of the Crown Prince, and despite her family’s history, they fall in love and wish to marry. Yet all of Egypt opposes this union between the rising star of a new dynasty and the fading star of an old, heretical one. While political adversity sets the country on edge, Nefertari becomes the wife of Ramesses the Great. Destined to be the most powerful Pharaoh in Egypt, he is also the man who must confront the most famous exodus in history.

This is a tough book for me to review. Let me start with ancient Egypt is one of my favourite topics. It fascinates me. I have read lots of factual information on it and plenty of historical fiction on the period over the years. Rameses and Neferatri being the most famous and well documented Pharaoh and a Queen have naturally featured in a lot of historical fiction.

So this leads me to my only negative point on this book. It was hard for me to seperate the characters in this book from the characters I have read in the past. As well as my own views of this pair from stuff I have read. But by the end of the book I had warmed up to Moran's portrayals and could accept them and the story she told.

This story is told primarily from Nefertari's perspective. So we learn about life at court and the jockeying to be chief Queen, as well as pressure to produce an heir. I haven't read the Ramesses and Nefertari story from only Nefertari's point of view. I liked how Moran tied Nefertari to Nefertiti (while there is no conclusive evidence there is some interesting circumstantial evidence to support this). I think it gave Nefertari an interesting depth trying to rise above her Aunts stigma.

I liked that we don't just see Nefertari as this super strong warrior Queen. It was good to see her as an insecure teenager (that she was) who fought tooth and nail for what she wanted. She was not miss popular from word go and had to win the hearts of court and the people. Previous stuff I have read have always portrayed Nefertari straight up as being super wise, noble warrior Queen which I am sure she would have been from her 20's onwards but as a teenager I am pretty sure in the cut-throat world of Egyptian court she would have had moments of insecurity.

I also thought Moran dealt with Moses really well. This is another area that most historical fictions on the era I have read tend to sort of ignore or gloss over. I felt Moran dealt with it sensitively and avoided turning him into a religious zealot. Made him sensitive and kind, but passionate about his people's future. 

Moran has a beautiful writing style and is able to bring ancient Egypt alive. It is so easy to picture yourself standing in the world with the characters and seeing what they see.

Another wonderful book by Moran that I would recommend to people who enjoy historical fictions.

Want to learn more? As always Michelle Moran's blog has a wealth of information regarding her books which includes the historical evidence she bases her conclusions on. Her page also contains and excerpt for you to download.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Loop by Karen Akins

Rating 4 out of 5
Reading Age 15 and above
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (October 21, 2014)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ISBN: 1250030986


At a school where Quantum Paradox 101 is a required course and history field trips are literal, sixteen year-old time traveler Bree Bennis excels…at screwing up. After Bree botches a solo midterm to the 21st century by accidentally taking a boy hostage (a teensy snafu), she stands to lose her scholarship. But when Bree sneaks back to talk the kid into keeping his yap shut, she doesn’t go back far enough. The boy, Finn, now three years older and hot as a solar flare, is convinced he’s in love with Bree, or rather, a future version of her that doesn’t think he’s a complete pain in the arse. To make matters worse, she inadvertently transports him back to the 23rd century with her. Once home, Bree discovers that a recent rash of accidents at her school are anything but accidental. Someone is attacking time travelers. As Bree and her temporal tag along uncover seemingly unconnected clues—a broken bracelet, a missing data file, the art heist of the millennium—that lead to the person responsible, she alone has the knowledge to piece the puzzle together. Knowledge only one other person has. Her future self. But when those closest to her become the next victims, Bree realizes the attacker is willing to do anything to stop her. In the past, present, or future.

This was such a fun book. It was exactly what I needed to kick of the New Year. It had a little bit of everything; sci-fi, time travel, romance, action, and humour. I enjoyed it immensely. This will be a short review as it is hard to say much without giving the plot line away. 

Most of the hilarity comes from Bree and Finn. Her snarky sassyness and his wonder at time travel. There were so many laugh-out-loud moments it is hard to pick just one to show case. I enjoyed Bree always commenting about kicking future Bree's ass. As the story is told from Bree's point of view her internal voice is hilarious. 

It is an intricate storyline and a mystery as well as a sci-fi time travel book (what did you expect with a time travel story), this is also why I am struggling to review this book as everything that happens is linked or interwoven with a bigger picture which all comes together at the end. Unlike some sci-fi stories that seem to beat you down into unconsciousness with big science words and explanations, Akins keeps the science stuff pretty easy to understand and I can only think of one long winded explanation (which kind of had to happen). Also the sciencey stuff was easily understandable especially with Finn "dumbing" it down for the reader. Some parts of the story did seem odd (hair scanners as way of ID verification) but hey what would I know.

My only quibble is the story Bree had been fed about the microchip. It seemed incredibly flimsy yet no one seemed to question it till Finn comes along?

This was a hugely entertaining book for me and I read it virtually in one night (and paid the price the next day with a reading hang over, not so fun when you have to go to work and function) and I would recommend this book to anyone really as there is so much going on in the book. But if you really dislike time travel stories then this is probably not for you.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero

Rating 3.5 out of 5
Publisher: Ebury Digital (August 14, 2014)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0091956463
ISBN-13: 978-0091956462


 What begins as a clever, gothic ghost story soon evolves into a wickedly twisted treasure hunt in The Supernatural Enhancements, Edgar Cantero's wholly original, modern-day adventure. When twentysomething A., the unexpected European relative of the Wells family, and his companion, Niamh, a mute teenage girl with shockingly dyed hair, inherit the beautiful but eerie estate of Axton House, deep in the woods of Point Bless, Virginia, it comes as a surprise to everyone—including A. himself. After all, he never even knew he had a "second cousin, twice removed" in America, much less that the eccentric gentleman had recently committed suicide by jumping out of the third floor bedroom window—at the same age and in the same way as his father had before him . . . Together, A. and Niamh quickly come to feel as if they have inherited much more than just a rambling home and a cushy lifestyle. Axton House is haunted, they know it, but that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the secrets they slowly but surely uncover. Why all the suicides? What became of the Axton House butler who fled shortly after his master died? What lurks in the garden maze and what does the basement vault keep? And what of the rumors in town about a mysterious gathering at Axton House on the night of the winter solstice? Told vividly through a series of journal entries, scrawled notes, recovered security footage, letters to Aunt Liza, audio recordings, complicated ciphers, and even advertisements, Edgar Cantero has written a dazzling and original supernatural adventure featuring classic horror elements with a Neil Gaiman-ish twist.

 I have been trying to finalise this review for awhile and I still don't know what to write. I did enjoy the story and was fascinated by it, but at the same time it irked me. I don't like horror so the only reason I picked this book up is because a few book blogger friends highly recommended it. But the fact that I don't even like the genre yet kept reading and ultimately enjoyed the book should be an indicator of how interesting this book is.

The different points of view really bugged me. This however was slightly different as it is told from various "sources" diary extracts, official records, transcripts of videos and quotes from books. I admit to skimming through the text book quotes. They bored me and I didn't see the point (fickle I know). Sometimes the jumps didn't make sense either. It did frustrate me a little especially at the start. It does all tie together eventually but the sudden change of view/genre just made it hard for me to really get into the flow.

It was also a slow read. Plodding and scattered. The momentum built up towards the end but it is in no way shape or form  an action adventure type book. It also isn't a horror book like you would imagine. It is a lot more complicated then that. I won't say more in case it ruins the story.

Yet despite the annoyances, as I reached the end of the book I was hooked. I didn't even guess the mystery but I did guess the reveal at the very end (but only a page or two before it was revealed). I liked that the story wasn't predictable and was a unique take on the supernatural/ghostie genre. The story was interesting and once I got over my irritation of the different points of view and the pacing I did enjoy it.

I enjoyed reading from A (his name is never fully revealed) and Nimhs points of view which is probably why I disliked it when the view changed. I wanted to read more of their point of view. The setting was mid 90's so I enjoyed the pop culture references through out the book.

Ultimately it was a fascinating story and it kept the reader guessing. It wasn't predictable at all (well for me anyway) and was an interesting way to present a suspenseful horror mystery type book. I gave this book a 3.5 because I didn't love it but would recommend to others to read. I would even read a sequel if there was one.

Recommended for people who like clever quirky mysteries (with a touch of horror).