Monday, December 22, 2014

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Rating: 4 out of 5

A series that twists the fairy tales we know so well into an amazing sci-fi young adult novel full of action, suspense and interesting characters.

Cinder
Age Range: 12 - 18 years
Publisher: Puffin (January 5, 2012)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0141340134
ISBN-13: 978-0141340135
ASIN: B0065GC0PG

Summary:
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . . Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future. This is the tale of Cinderella. Only not like you have heard it before. For starters Cinder is a cyborg and it's the future where there are people living on the moon and hover cars.

I had seen this book around for awhile and to be honest I am generally weary of "buzz" books because more often then not I don't like them. I am happy to say this time I was proved wrong, dead wrong. This book was just a wow book for me, I couldn't put i down, thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish. Easily one of my best reads for 2014 (even though it was released a few years back, never mind).

Meyer's has done a wonderful job retelling the Cinderella story but kept it fresh and interesting. I liked the twist of Cinder being a Cyborg and that the Prince was actually more then a bit of beautiful fluff just hanging around waiting for some twit to leave her shoe on his stair case.

Cinder's step (adoptive guardian) and sister are suitable horrible. But I really cant say any more on the characters with out giving the story away.

Don't assume that because you know the Cinderella story that you know what will happen!

There was action, excitement, romance, and witty banter and one liners. While this book is a "light" book it did deal with some heavy topics like discrimination, plague, and moral dilemmas. I found it interesting that Cinder being cyborg showed way more humanity then some of the humans.

Definitely read this if it is on your to be read pile!


Scarlett
Age Range: 14 - 18 years
Publisher: Puffin (January 5, 2012)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1250007216
ISBN-13: 978-1250007216
ASIN: B00ADNPAOK

Summary:

SCARLET BENOIT'S grandmother is missing. The police have closed her case. The only person Scarlet can turn to is Wolf, a street fighter she does not trust, but they are drawn to each other. Meanwhile, in New Beijing, Cinder will become the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive - when she breaks out of prison to stay one step ahead of vicious Queen Levana. As Scarlet and Wolf expose one mystery, they encounter Cinder and a new one unravels. Together they must challenge the evil queen, who will stop at nothing to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, her prisoner . . .

So book one Cinder left me hanging for the next book, I HAD to know what happened next. Book two didn't disappoint.

It introduced three new characters and a new fairy tale. We saw the continuation of Cinder's story and her meeting Captain Thorne; who reminded me of Hans Solo in that he was a loveable rogue with a very lose view on laws, quick wit. We are also introduced to Scarlet and Wolf, who are trying to find Scarlett's kidnapped Grandmother.

This book for me was a little darker then Cinder, in that the author shows and describes a few murders and we meet some pretty nasty characters. The action is pretty good and I would be super surprised if this series hasn't been picked up to be turned into a movie.  But let me be clear it doesn't read like a movie script (and some books do) There is still depth there and character development.

We got to see some of Queen Levana's point of view which to me felt a little odd but I can only assume book three will now show some of her "side of the story". Could it be she isn't quite the evil meglomaniac with super powers she has been made out to be? Would be a smidgeon of a shame as she has made a fantastic super villain so far.

I can't wait to start book three!

Overall Series thoughts to date
I love the clever blend of fairy tale and sci-fi which to me is so interesting. Also I like that the female characters are really strong role models for young girls (ah cliched I know). But they are. They aren't silly screaming girly heroines who do ridiculously stupid things (like follow a criminal down a dark ally all alone without telling anyone and have no self defence skills or a gun), but they are not ridiculously super powerful beyond their means. They are smart and capable girls who get stuff done. Even the evil Queen who has been shown as a power hungry psycho (well what evil leader trying to take over the world wouldn't be?) has been shown to be very calculating, intelligent and even logical. Even when things went a bit topsy turvey she still managed to manoeuvre a bad situation to her own advantage.

Series Overall Recommendation
Read it! if this is your type of thing you wont be disappointed.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

PC Peter Grant Series by Ben Aaronovitch

Rating 3 out of 5

Overall: A fun interesting start to a new series.


Rivers of London (Book 1)
Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 1345 KB
Publisher: Gollancz (20 January 2011)
Sold by: Hachette Book Group (AU)
Language: English
ASIN: B004K1EC1S
ISBN: 0575097566

Summary

My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service (and as the Filth to everybody else). My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit - we do paperwork so real coppers don't have to - and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Leslie May. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from someone who was dead but disturbingly voluable, and that brought me to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England. Now I'm a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated: nests of vampires in Purley, negotiating a truce between the warring god and goddess of the Thames, and digging up graves in Covent Garden . . . and there's something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair. The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it's falling to me to bring order out of chaos - or die trying.

Well the book didn't blow me away. I didn't have a "can't put this book down even though it's 2am and I have to be up at 6am for work" kind of moment or upon finishing a "let's do that again!" moment. Having said that I did enjoy the book. It was fun reading about PC Grant becoming a trainee wizard in an x-files-esq section of the police department in London.

The story was interesting and the was a good balance of action, story development and witty banter. I loved the pop culture references and the subtle nods (and jokes) to modern fantasy/supernatural books, shows and movies.

The main character Peter Grant was interesting character and even though I shouldn't have to comment on it, he is an ethnic character. The only reason I raise it is because it does get raised in the book several times when characters try to stereotype PC Grant. For instance there is a scene where his boss makes a comment about rap music and Grant replies "I don't like rap music". I also like that the author also knocks over a lot of other stereotypes and brings in lots of different ethnic characters.

My main quibble was what seemed like an unnecessary part of the story at the end. It sort of seemed there as a shock but the point to the story arc just wasn't really obvious to me. The information could have been revealed differently and certainly not needed at the end of this story.

Overall this was a good start to the series but a little clunky for me. Keen to read the second book.

Moon over Soho (Book 2)
Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 1554 KB
Publisher: Gollancz (21 April 2011)
Sold by: Hachette Book Group (AU)
Language: English
ASIN: B004VF624S
ISBN: 0575097604

Summary
I was my dad's vinyl-wallah: I changed his records while he lounged around drinking tea, and that's how I know my Argo from my Tempo. And it's why, when Dr Walid called me to the morgue to listen to a corpse, I recognised the tune it was playing. Something violently supernatural had happened to the victim, strong enough to leave its imprint like a wax cylinder recording. Cyrus Wilkinson, part-time jazz saxophonist and full-time accountant, had apparently dropped dead of a heart attack just after finishing a gig in a Soho jazz club. He wasn't the first. No one was going to let me exhume corpses to see if they were playing my tune, so it was back to old-fashioned legwork, starting in Soho, the heart of the scene. I didn't trust the lovely Simone, Cyrus' ex-lover, professional jazz kitten and as inviting as a Rubens' portrait, but I needed her help: there were monsters stalking Soho, creatures feeding off that special gift that separates the great musician from someone who can raise a decent tune. What they take is beauty. What they leave behind is sickness, failure and broken lives. And as I hunted them, my investigation got tangled up in another story: a brilliant trumpet player, Richard 'Lord' Grant - my father - who managed to destroy his own career, twice. That's the thing about policing: most of the time you're doing it to maintain public order. Occasionally you're doing it for justice.And maybe once in a career, you're doing it for revenge.

This book continues on from the events of 'Rivers of London'. We see PC Grant return and on the case of a supernatural being killing Jazz musicians. We also get to see PC Grant grow in his knowledge and role as a supernatural police officer.

The author continues his trend of introducing interesting ethnic characters who are not stereotypical. I enjoyed the ninja muslim girl. I so hope she comes back in other books.

I preferred this book to the first book actually. The first book seemed a smidgeon clunky at times but mostly the odd story tacked on the end irked me. The odd story was continued into this story so in my mind didn't need to be introduced in the first book at all. Anyway what is done is done. This book had a better flow to it even with the sex scenes which sometimes didn't seem necessary.

Overall I enjoyed this much more then the first book and I will be reading the next book for sure.

Final Recommendation: If you like urban fantasy and detective novels then this might be worth a try.


Friday, December 19, 2014

The Australian Twelve Days of Christmas by Heath McKenzie

Rating 3.5 out of 5
Reading Age: 0 up
Publisher: BLACK DOG BOOKS
Release Date: September 1, 2008
ISBN:9781742031118

This is the song Twelve Days of Christmas that we know and love except with an Australian twist. However what starts of as a simple count down of gifts given turns into a wild hullabaloo with emus kicking, crocodiles weeping, and Tassie Devils fighting. There really isn't much more to say about this book other then the illustrations are cute, quirky and brightly coloured.

My kids really enjoy this book, particularly the end where all the animals are on the one page running riot.

This book really is a no brainer, it is fun and easy to read aloud or sing if you wish. A good book to read around this time of year for something a bit different.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillian by Richard Roberts

Rating 3.5 out 5 stars
Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 1586 KB
Print Length: 374 pages
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press (14 February 2014)
Sold by: Amazon Australia Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B00IH0KG1S

Summary:
Penelope Akk wants to be a superhero. She's got superhero parents. She's got the ultimate mad science power, filling her life with crazy gadgets even she doesn't understand. She has two super powered best friends. In middle school, the line between good and evil looks clear.
In real life, nothing is that clear. All it takes is one hero's sidekick picking a fight, and Penny and her friends are labeled supervillains. In the process, Penny learns a hard lesson about villainy: She's good at it. 
Criminal masterminds, heroes in power armor, bottles of dragon blood, alien war drones, shape shifters and ghosts, no matter what the super powered world throws at her, Penny and her friends come out on top. They have to. If she can keep winning, maybe she can clear her name before her mom and dad find out.

Initial Thoughts: What a fun little book.

I really did enjoy this young adult book about a tween discovering she has super powers and super villain ones at that. It was a fast paced, with lots of humour moments that made me smile. 

The character Penny was likable and so were her two best buddies and fellow super villains. I tell you what they made being a super villain cool. Also don't get me started on her awesome science lab/lair, every teen should have one.

My ONLY gripe is I find it extremely difficult to swallow that her parents especially her mother, who is a super villain hunter who can detect lies, and is highly respected and feared because she is just that good; Had no idea her daughter was a super villain or in anyway involved. I mean the fact her daughter created a pretty awesome robot and then these super villain kids turn up with mechanical gadgets doesn't even make her go hmmm. Also maybe I am old fashion but who leaves their 13 year old kid alone at home for a week?

But I still really liked this book and especially enjoyed that for once it was told from a super villains point of view. The tween angst of Penny dealing with the fact she clearly wasn't going to be a super hero like her parents was an interesting touch. But the humour involved in the story made it fun. 

I would recommend this book for a read especially for tween girls and I will be more then happy to read the sequel. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Reindeer's Christmas Surprise by Ursula Dubosarsky

Rating 3.5 out of 5 stars

This is a cute little book that is a limited edition book brought out by the shopping store David Jones for the 2014 Christmas season.

On a recent trip to Sydney we stumbled across the David Jones Christmas Window Display. It was so lovely and my kids were entranced, I dare say they would have stood there all day watching the windows. I have to admit I fell in love with the art work used in the book and knew straight away I wanted it.

For decades now the two major shopping department stores in Australia; David Jones and Myers dress up their street front window displays in a Christmas theme (not always a book). Families go to the stores and walk along the windows following the story being played out in the windows. Neither shop exists in my home town so this was not a traditions my family ever had. However as an adult  I have seen a few of the Myer Christmas windows while travelling and they are always amazing. This year I finally got to see the David Jones Christmas window.

The author like many Australian's grew up visiting the windows every year and continued the tradition with her own. So she was naturally thrilled and honoured to be asked to write this year's story.

Unfortunately I did not know at the time time it was limited edition and sold only in David Jones. So when I later jumped online to order it and get it sent home I was disappointed to find I couldn't. Thankfully family who live nearby were happy to go in and pick up a copy of the book for us and send it up.


Summary:
'It’s Christmas time in Australia, and Reindeer has great fun delivering presents to his friend’s Cat, Dog and Guinea Pig. But even when it's warm and sunny outside, it's hard to be far from home and family on Christmas Eve.'

This is a simple tale about a reindeer missing his family and going around giving out presents to his friends. Only to get his own surprise at the end.

The text is simple and clear with rhyming and repetitive verse. My son certainly likes to say the verse "what's inside - what can it be? Open it and you will see!" when we get to that part of the story. On each page Reindeer gives his friend a present and the reader gets to see the joy that is brought from giving a thoughtful gift.


I do have one quibble that the reindeer does not hang around when his friends have opened their present, and not because he has more presents to deliver. He seems to have an excuse every time not to stay and play. Seems weird considering he is lonely and wants to spread Christmas spirit. Maybe I am reading to much into that. Certainly my son hasn't noticed or cared. This is a minor quibble as the story really is quite lovely otherwise.

While the story is lovely I have to say the illustrations sold this book to me. They are beautiful and suit the story perfectly. Sue deGennaro has done a fantastic job. Her art work is whimsical and simple with a good dash of colour.

You will not be disappointed to add this book to your Christmas book collection. However I am not sure if it will be available past Christmas 2014 so if you want it I recommend getting it quick.







Thursday, December 11, 2014

Lynley Dodd a Retrospective

Recently we were on holidays and we stumbled across a Lynley Dodd exhibit at the NSW State Library in Sydney. So hauled the family in to have a look and I am so glad I did. In a word the exhibit was wonderful and I had the satisfaction of my partner saying "actually that was pretty good" after we left and my son didn't want to leave in the first place!

If you don't immediately recognise the artists name then you will no doubt recognise the names of Hairy Maclary, Slinky Malinki and Schnitzel Von Krumm to name a few who are the beloved characters in Dodd's illustrated children's books. If you don't know these names you probably don't have children in your life or been under a rock for the last 30 odd years.

This exhibition (which is touring from  Tauranga Art Gallery in New Zealand) showcases a collection of 59 original drawings from Lynley Dodd's popular children's books. The exhibition also includes drawings from her first work dating back to school days, through to the most recent publication, Shoo.

Dame Lynley, to date, has sold over five million copies of Hairy Maclary internationally, and translated into several languages. So her art work is pretty well loved by kids and adults alike.



For the kids there is an interactive section with movies of the books playing, ebooks to look at, drawing stations, and a simple reading corner. My little guy watched the movies then wondered through the art work and happily sat down to read a Hairy Maclary book. I also had to explained we couldn't take the paintings with us (which he was most disappointed by). I couldn't pick a favourite piece of artwork on display as they were all wonderful.



The exhibit is well worth a visit if you have children (or grandchildren). All the families we saw there were having so much fun.

The exhibit runs till March 2015.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

I wish I had a dinosaur by Ian Anggabrata and Mingga Anggawan

Rating 4 out of 5

Cute is the best way to describe this book which is about a little girl wishing she had a dinosaur and everything she could and couldn't do while owning said dinosaur.

She could ride the dinosaur to school and get their faster then the bus, she wouldn't have to use the stairs when she could slide down the dinosaur, and yucky food you want disappeared from your plate? Slip to your dinosaur of course. But you can't take a dinosaur to the beach which is one down side.

The art work is vibrant and fun with a big red dinosaur as the central figure in each page. Each page illustrates the words on the page perfectly and convey the emotion being expressed, the joy of swimming to the sadness of being unable to go to the beach.

The story is simple and easy to follow. It will appeal to children as it expresses desires kids would have, like getting to school quickly, swimming, doing chores, etc

My dinosaur loving son enjoyed this book as we read it in the library during a visit. This is a great read for any child but especially a Dino loving child.

About the authors: both authors are a mother and son team originally from Indonesia. They moved to Australia in 1999. The story originally grew from when Ian son did not want to eat his steak and wished he had a dinosaur to eat it for him.