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 RĂªves 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.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Illuminae by Amie Kauffman and Jay Kristoff

Rating: Awesome!
Series: The Illuminae Files
Hardcover: 608 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; 1St Edition edition (October 20, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0553499114
ISBN-13: 978-0553499117
Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.9 x 9.5 inches

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded. The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than a speck at the edge of the universe. Now with enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to evacuate with a hostile warship in hot pursuit. But their problems are just getting started. A plague has broken out and is mutating with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a web of data to find the truth, it’s clear the only person who can help her is the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again. Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, maps, files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

This book has been receiving a lot of buzz on the blogger verse and when "Ticket to Anywhere" raved about it in her review, I knew I had to give it ago. The raving is well deserved, it is a thrill ride of a book that is action packed and I was hooked the minute I started reading. I am afraid this review might just be full of me raving about how much I enjoyed it and less about the actual book.

This has to be one of the best science-fiction books I have read in a long time. Definitely one of my top reads for the year. I was hooked and invested the whole way through.The pace was fast with the characters bouncing from one disaster to another. t was well crafted to reveal just enough information at the right time building the story till you get to the action packed ending.

Format wise the story is told from data sources rather then a straight single or multiple person point of view. So the reader is reading transcripts, reports and chat log records which tells the story. I find this style of story telling hit or miss but his time it was a big hit. It suited the story perfectly. The book pages are also formatted this way as well. This formatting was a problem a few times when reading it as an ebook on a small screen. The font was super small and as it was an image not font I couldn't enlarge it. So there were a couple of pages where i had to guess what was going on. I don't think I missed anything of significance though.

I really liked Kady as a character who was tough and nerdy. Ezra was the loveable jock. The two made an interesting duo who counterbalanced each others weakness and strengths.

There were some difficult scenes to read and there is quite a death toll (as you would expect when a town is attacked, then refugees flee for their lives with the enemy chasing them and a plague out break happens). While the violence isn't super descriptive or unnecessary there were definitely a few scenes in the book that were on the squimish side.

If you like Sci-Fi and Young adult then this book should definitely be on your to read list.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Rating: Enjoyable
Publisher: Del Rey (May 19, 2015)
Publication Date: May 19, 2015
Sold by: Random House LLC
Language: English

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.” Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life. Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood. The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her. But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose."

I have previously been a fan of Novik's "Temeraire" series which is an alternate history set during the 1700s and had dragons. So when I saw Novik had branched out this I was keen to try.

This book is not an alternate history like her Temaraire series. It is straight up fantasy. But while it is a fantasy, there was a strong link to European (I believe Polish) culture and mythology which is evident through out the book. The names of characters, places and the mythological beings all reflection the Polish back ground. Also while there  is technically a dragon, it is just a wizard who has that name.

The main character Agnieszka was an interesting character to see the world from. She was smart and adventurous. I did have problems with her relationship with the Prince and the Dragon. Her relationship with the Dragon seemed kind of "Stockholm Syndrome"-ish. I really couldn't see how in short space of time they spent time together that she could go from hating and distrusting him to liking him. So I have put it down to her being his captive and kind of imprinting on him. The Prince was a jerk and deserved more then a punch to the face. I can understand why Agnieszka and the Dragon didn't take things further but still that whole relationship felt forced and weird. Also don't get me started on creep leacher wizard, but at least he was never anything more then he was.

Novak is able to balance a fast paced story, with development and world building. The world was interesting and I enjoyed the characters. There were some minor plot holes or things that maybe were not explained fully but overall it was a good story that kept moving easily.

I enjoyed the book, it didn't wow me but it was a good break away book and holds promise of being an interesting series (if it turns into series). If you are a fan of Novik then you should enjoy