All posts by S.W.Lothian | Author

Help Me Choose My Next YA Read

Having read and enjoyed The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner series’ over the past year, I find myself keen to discover a new YA book or series that I can sink my teeth into. There is no doubt that there are a bazillion great reads out there, but I’m hoping visitors to my site can throw some recommendations and ideas my way.

I’ve scoured the net (well, a little bit of it anyway) and listed quite a collection of some contenders below. I would really appreciate it if you could cast a vote (or make a suggestion) at the end of this post to help with this life changing decision. (FYI – if it’s too heavy on romance, then it’s probably not what I’m looking for)

Nil | Lynne Matson

NilOn the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have one year. Exactly 365 days–to escape, or you die.

Seventeen-year-old Charley doesn’t know the rules. She doesn’t even know where she is. The last thing she remembers is blacking out, and when she wakes up, she’s lying naked in an empty rock field.

Lost and alone, Charley finds no sign of other people until she meets Thad, the gorgeous leader of a clan of teenage refugees. Soon Charley learns that leaving the island is harder than she thought . . . and so is falling in love. With Thad’s time running out, Charley realizes that to save their future, Charley must first save him. And on an island rife with dangers, their greatest threat is time. – GOODREADS.

Hungry | H.A. Swain

HungryIn the future, food is no longer necessary—until Thalia begins to feel something unfamiliar and uncomfortable. She’s hungry.

In Thalia’s world, there is no need for food—everyone takes medication (or “inocs”) to ward off hunger. It should mean there is no more famine, no more obesity, no more food-related illnesses, and no more war. At least that’s what her parents, who work for the company that developed the inocs, say. But when Thalia meets a boy who is part of an underground movement to bring food back, she realizes that most people live a life much different from hers. Worse, Thalia is starting to feel hunger, and so is he—the inocs aren’t working. Together they set out to find the only thing that will quell their hunger: real food.

H. A. Swain delivers an adventure that is both epic and fast-paced. Get ready to be Hungry.- GOODREADS

The Doomsday Code | TimeRiders 3 | Alex Scarrow

The Doomsday CodeLiam O’Connor should have died at sea in 1912.
Maddy Carter should have died on a plane in 2010.
Sal Vikram should have died in a fire in 2026.

But all three have been given a second chance—to work for an agency that no one knows exists. Its purpose: to prevent time travel destroying history…

In 1993 British computer hacker Adam Lewis finds his name in a coded manuscript that is almost one thousand years old. How did Adam’s name get in there… and why?

Confronted by Adam in 2001, the TimeRiders travel back to Sherwood Forest in 1193 to discover the origins of the ancient message. But when a strange hooded man appears interested in the same thing, they begin to wonder what terrible threat this cryptic link from the past holds for the future…  – GOODREADS

After the Snow | S.D. Crockett

After the SnowFifteen-year-old Willo was out hunting when the trucks came and took his family away. Left alone in the snow, Willo becomes determined to find and rescue his family, and he knows just who to talk with to learn where they are. He plans to head across the mountains and make Farmer Geraint tell him where his family has gone.

But on the way across the mountain, he finds Mary, a refugee from the city, whose father is lost and who is starving to death. The smart thing to do would be to leave her alone — he doesn’t have enough supplies for two or the time to take care of a girl — but Willo just can’t do it. However, with the world trapped in an ice age, the odds of them surviving on their own are not good. And even if he does manage to keep Mary safe, what about finding his family? – GOODREADS

The 5th Wave : Book 1 | Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave Book 1After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker.

Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up. – GOODREADS

The Compound | S.A. Bodeen

The CompoundEli and his family have lived in the underground Compound for six years. The world they knew is gone, and they’ve become accustomed to their new life. Accustomed, but not happy.

For Eli, no amount of luxury can stifle the dull routine of living in the same place, with only his two sisters, his father and mother, doing the same thing day after day after day.

As problems with their carefully planned existence threaten to destroy their sanctuary—and their sanity—Eli can’t help but wonder if he’d rather take his chances outside.

Eli’s father built the Compound to keep them safe. But are they safe—or sorry?   – GOODREADS

The Eye of Minds | Mortality Doctrine 1 | James Dashner

The Eye of MindsMichael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?

But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.

The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker.  And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team. But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever. – GOODREADS

The Rule of Three | Eric Walters

The Rule of ThreeOne shocking afternoon, computers around the globe shut down in a viral catastrophe. At sixteen-year-old Adam Daley’s high school, the problem first seems to be a typical electrical outage, until students discover that cell phones are down, municipal utilities are failing, and a few computer-free cars like Adam’s are the only vehicles that function.

Driving home, Adam encounters a storm tide of anger and fear as the region becomes paralyzed. Soon—as resources dwindle, crises mount, and chaos descends—he will see his suburban neighborhood band together for protection. And Adam will understand that having a police captain for a mother and a retired government spy living next door are not just the facts of his life but the keys to his survival, in The Rule of Three by Eric Walters.  – GOODREADS

Enclave | Ann Aguirre

EnclaveNew York City residents, decimated by war and plague, live underground in Enclaves, barely past age 20. Deuce 15, trained as Huntress, pairs with odd Fade, who was boy Topside. Elders ignore warning, exile both. Monster Freaks, more organized, killed nearest Enclave. Guided by old memories, in gang-infested ruins, pair face apocalyptic world with new dangers and feelings. – GOODREADS

The Book Thief | Markus Zusak

The Book TheifIt’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.  – GOODREADS


Book Panel 2

MG Book Review | Frankie DuPont and the Lemon Festival Fiasco| Julie Anne Grasso

Frankie DuPont 2

by Julie Anne Grasso
Published April 2015
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Kindle edition
Ages | 8-12

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Hot off cracking his first official case, Frankie Dupont is on the scene when his new teacher takes ill. The pint-sized detective suspects a classic case of sour grapes, but the evidence leads him to the one place he wouldn’t mind avoiding for the rest of his natural life.

Enderby Manor has a few more secrets up her sleeve, and as Frankie begins to unravel them, he uncovers a plot stinkier than a sardine sandwich.

In Book 2 of the Frankie Dupont Mysteries, Frankie will make some new friends, upset some old ones, and of course, there will be lemon meringue pie.

For ages 8-12 – GOODREADS

My Review

Frankie DuPonte returns to our shelves and ereaders in his second juicy case. This trainee private investigator is keen as mustard to earn his stripes and, as with his previous case, some sweet treats have a starring role. In this new story, a simple Lemon Pie is the starting point of a mystery that just keeps growing and growing and growing.

Every clue solved by Frankie creates even more questions, and there’s no beating around the bush with his feisty questioning technique. When Frankie is on the case, there’s only way to get to the bottom of things … accuse first, then backtrack if he’s wrong. Perhaps his biggest flaw, as with any rookie, is his tendency to jump to conclusions, and mistakenly think he has solved the case in a flash.

Even being wrong at times is something that doesn’t seem to faze him in his search for the truth. I’m sure that as he further learns his craft he will find that tact and trickery can also be a good approach, but until then, I can see his methods getting him in trouble. Even so, he always seems to walk away with some useful information.

This is a great book for would be sleuths. I can imagine young readers keenly looking for, and picking up the evidence along the way. It has a good pace for the target audience and there are plenty of good clues ready to discover. I thought that the logic behind them, and the paths on which they sent Frankie, were believable and well thought out. The plot also teaches that you shouldn’t jump to conclusions too early and highlights the importance of strong evidence.

I also liked Frankie’s recollections of his father’s advice, even if they weren’t entirely accurate most of the time. As a parent, it was nice to see that he had such belief and admiration in his father.

In the end, all of the clues and trails lead to the Lemon Festival in the grounds of Enderby Manor, which is a fitting location for the story’s climax. Then, just like the mysteries of that other (much older) super sleuth (Agatha Christie), once all the suspects are present and all the clues click into place, Frankie shines in the big reveal. It’s another case solved, and I’m sure there are many more to come.

In a nutshell

This is another fun filled Frankie mystery that will definitely interest young budding detectives.

It’s a great mystery that starts with a humble pie and ends in … I’m not telling.

Recommended for ages 8+.

Note: I don’t claim to be a pro-reviewer, I am a reader. My reviews are based on my personal thoughts around the story that the book is trying to tell. I try to focus on the story (which is the reason I read) rather than dissect the book and pass comment on typos, writing style or structure.

Book Panel 2

MG Book Review | Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes | Eleanor Coerr

Sadako and the Thousand Paper CranesSADAKO AND THE THOUSAND PAPER CRANES
by Eleanor Coerr
Published by Puffin Books
Book Depository purchase |
Paperback edition

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‘Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes is based on the life of a real little girl who lived in Japan from 1943 to 1955.
She was in Hiroshima when the United States Air Force dropped an atom bomb on that city in an attempt to end World War II. Ten years later she died as a result of radiation from the bomb.
Her courage made Sadako a heroine to children in Japan.
This is the story of Sadako.’

Guest Reviewer – My Daughter, Madi.

Given her own recent battle with cancer, this book resonated with my 10-year-old daughter when she read it. So much so that she has set herself a goal of making a thousand paper cranes before the end of this year. I thought it would be fitting for this post to include her review of Sadako.

‘This book is about a Japanese girl called Sadako. On the 6th August 1954, when Sadako was two years old, there was an atom bomb dropped by the U.S.A  near her home in Hiroshima, Japan.

Sadako was very good at running at school, she hoped to get picked for the school running team. When she was 12 she started getting dizzy spells especially when she was running. One day she passed out when she was running and was taken to hospital. That’s when they found out she had Leukaemia from the radiation from the atom bomb. She needed to stay in hospital but her parents weren’t allowed to stay with her over night.

One afternoon her best friend from school, Chizuko, visited Sadako and made her a golden paper crane. She reminded Sadako about the ancient Japanese legend that if a sick person folds 1000 cranes they with become healthy again. Chizuko showed Sadako how to make a paper crane, she didn’t find it very easy at the start but after a while of practice she got the hang of it! When Sadako’s family came to visit she showed them her special golden crane. Her brother promised that he would hang all of the cranes she makes from the roof.

Although she was becoming more weak by the minute, she kept telling herself “I’ve got to keep folding the cranes!” She tried to fold as many cranes as she could before she became too weak to fold anymore. Sadly she only managed to fold 644 cranes before she died. All of her classmates completed the remaining 356 cranes and all 1000 cranes were buried with her. In Japan, there is a statue of Sadako holding a huge crane.

I would strongly recommend this book for good readers that like true stories. It is a short story so it won’t take long to read. It is very sad, although I found it quite interesting. If I would rate this book out of a 10 it would definitely be an 11/10.’

By Madi

In a nutshell

My thoughts on this book. It’s a story that highlights a dark time in history. Sadako was an innocent victim who had to make the best of the cards she had been dealt. Childhood cancer is a tough road, and every child who goes through the journey is a hero. We are so proud of our own daughter and her fight.

Thanks to the author for sharing this story with the world. It’s so great that the battle of a young girl like Sadako continues to inspire so many, years after her tragic passing.
Recommended for readers 8+.

Note: Although the book states that Sadako didn’t finish her 1000 cranes, my further research has found other sources that say she completed even more. Whether she did or didn’t, it’s the underlying message of her story that is important.

Bonus Information

sadako_statueIf you would like to see what sort of impact brave Sadako has had, then jump over to Wikipedia for more information.

A monument was built in her honour at the Hiroshima Peace Park, Japan. It includes glass displays filled with paper cranes folded and donated by well wishers and supporters.

I thought the following video about an art project by Jeff Brown to honour Sadako was evidence of the endurance of her inspiration.

Note: I don’t claim to be a pro-reviewer, I am a reader. My reviews are based on my personal thoughts around the story that the book is trying to tell. I try to focus on the story (which is the reason I read) rather than dissect the book and pass comment on typos, writing style or structure.

Book Panel 2

Children’s Book Week 2015 | Kindle Fire HD Giveaway

It’s a great pleasure to be part of the Children’s Book Week 2015 celebrations. If you would like the chance of winning a Kindle Fire HD Kids Edition then keep on reading… below.

Children's Book Week Kindle Kids Edition Giveaway 2015Mother Daughter Book Reviews, in collaboration with the fabulous sponsors listed below, is pleased to be coordinating a giveaway for a Kindle Fire HD Kids Edition 7″ Tablet (+ $50 gift card/ cash).

This giveaway will take place from May 1 to 31, 2015, overlapping with Children’s Book Week (May 4 to 10,2015).

 About the Kindle Fire HD Kids Edition 7″ Tablet


The Kindle Fire HD Kids Edition Tablet also comes with 1 year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited (which means kids get unlimited access to 5,000 books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games—at no additional cost!). It includes a quad-core processor for great performance, a vivid HD display, front and rear-facing cameras, and Dolby Audio PLUS comes with a Kid-Proof Case, and a 2-year worry-free guarantee – if they break it, return it and Amazon replaces it for free. No questions asked!

PLUS, we will also gift the winner a $50 Amazon gift card to help fill up their new Kindle with books!

Fabulous Sponsors (Bloggers)

MDBR thanks the following bloggers who are sponsoring this giveaway. Please consider visiting at least one or two and thanking them personally.

Fabulous Sponsors (Authors and Publishers)

Also, a big thank you to all of the participating authors and publishers who are sponsoring this giveaway. Below you will find their fabulous books. Please consider purchasing one, two or more books that interest you as a “Thank You” to these generous sponsors. Some books are free, others only 99 cents!

TIME SQUARE|THE SHIFT by S.W. LothianEbook Lemon Festival Fiasco cover final Low Res 14 March 2015Lobo Goes to the Galapagos by C. L. MurphyABC Adoption and Me by Gayle and Casey SwiftIsabella Babysits BaxterBingo Summer by Dawn MaloneThe Escape of Princess Madeline by Kirstin PulioffDreamscape_FinalThePrincelingsoftheEast__FinalBookElves Anthology Volume 1The IfsThe Boy Who Spoke to God by Randa HandlerCubbie1coverIf I Were King coverConference of the BirdsGood-bye Baby Max by Diane CantrellHansel and GretelRani in Search of RainbowThe Tail of a Boy Named Harvey by Gregory BraySing Along Construction Song by Louise LintveltWind Catcher - CoverWhat if - SidebarBBBGAllGhost Leopard - New Cover - resizedThe Mystic Princesses and the WhirlpoolGuinevere: On the Eve of Legend by Cheryl CarpinelloBetween the Lines by Claudia WhitsittBilly Combo Cover Red brickYoung Knights of the Round Table: The King's Ransom by Cheryl CarpinelloTutankhamen SpeaksMice & Spiders & Webs... Oh My!My Fingerpaint Masterpiece - coverManner-Man by Sherrill CannonGimme JimmyThe Magic WordPeter and the Whimper Whineys -coverSanta's Birthday GiftCaterpillar ShoesRiddle CoverVIN & DORKYDUET-new cover-333x500Dewy and the Seeds of Doom by Maggie LyonsA Pair of Docks by Jennifer EllisThe Lumpy DucklingAstro is Down in the DumpsSophia's Jungle Adventureperf5.0625x7.8125.inddWhen Violet Was Blue by Deb TroehlerThe Aesir Kids by James Goldin & Charlotte GoldinThe Boy Who Flew With Eagles by Ben WoodardFront Cover Final 400x600EoE_CoverPlace to Call HomeLittle Miss History Travels to Intrepid Sea Air & Space MuseumLexi and Marie CurieWaddley Sees the World ChinaJohn Bloom and the Victory Garden by Leigh Shearin

The Giveaway

Prize: One winner will receive either a new Kindle Fire HD Kids Edition 7″ Tablet + a $50 Amazon gift card (US only) OR $200 Amazon gift card (US Only) OR $200 PayPal cash prize (International)

Contest closes: May 31, 11:59 pm, 2015
Open to: Internationally
How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter button below.


ADDING BOOKS TO WISH LIST ON AMAZON: Hint…if you scroll to the bottom of the list on Amazon, you will see a button “Add All Items to Your Wish List”. One click is all it takes!

ADDING BOOKS TO “WANT-TO-READ” SHELF ON GOODREADS: If you do not see the column entitled “my rating”, click on “settings” and make sure that the “shelves” box is checked. This will make it super-easy to add the books to your “to-read” shelf.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner.

Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.

NOTE: When the winner is chosen, ALL of their entries will be verified. If ANY of the winner’s entries is invalid, they will be disqualified and a new winner will be chosen. In our last Kindle giveaway, the first winner chosen was disqualified for this very reason!

MDBR Book Promotion Services

Book Panel 2

YA Book Review | The Death Cure (Maze Runner 3) | James Dashner

(Maze Runner 3)
by James Dashner ★★★★★

The Trials are over. WICKED is planning to restore the survivors’ memories and complete the final cure for the Flare.

But Thomas has already remembered more than they think. And he knows WICKED can’t be trusted…

The time for lies is over. But the truth is more dangerous than Thomas could ever imagine. Will anyone survive the Death Cure?  GOODREADS

My Review

The biggest theme in the third book of this series is trust. Who to trust… Brenda? Theresa? WICKED?

Is anything real? I love how this series gets me questioning every single thing I read. I got to the point where I thought, if it’s written down, it must be a trick. I had to remind myself that not everything could be a trick, and that some things had to be real. But which things? It was perpetual. Something like I imagine was happening in the minds of the characters.

Memories are being returned to the survivors so they can finish the trials and find the cure. Thomas is terrified of what else he might remember. He didn’t want to know what he had done before the start of the trials. He already knew that WICKED shouldn’t be trusted. Finally, he escapes WICKED with a small band of other munies and they flee to the city of Denver, which has resisted the spread of the Flare. They believe that the other survivors, including Theresa, have also escaped and found their way to the city.

In Denver, munies (those immune to the Flare) held jobs that others couldn’t do, but they were deeply resented by most of the population who weren’t immune. After their arrival, Thomas is approached and offered a lifeline by an underground operation called The Right Arm. It’s an operation that includes a blast from his past, Gally from The Glade.

We also learn that Denver is the one place where there is someone who can remove the tracking device that has been implanted into Thomas’s head. Of course, in the meantime, the crazy Ratman can track him, and tries to convince him to return to WICKED and complete the final stage of the trials. Naturally, Thomas resists. As the story unfolds Thomas and his fellow munies join forces with The Right Arm and set plans in place to defeat WICKED once and for all.

Then, on February 13, 2015, I was on about page 200, when a post from James Dashner landed in my Facebook feed. It mentioned something about page 250. The post was littered with comments from readers that spilled forth information that I didn’t need to know. The timing was dreadful, so I replied to Mr Dashner with my feelings. I got no reply, of course, but at least I got to vent my disapproval. What a spoiler at the worst possible time! The Maze Runner Facebook

The Maze Runner Facebook 2

WICKED may have started off with the good of the world in its sights. But over time it morphed into something that was just as damaging as the problem it tried to solve. The lesson here is that good intentions aren’t a license to do whatever you want. WICKED’s driving ambition had been running blind and it failed to stop and take a sanity check. Janson (Ratman) had lost all sense of right and wrong. But luckily there was a light in the darkness that left a thread of hope for a future.

Finally, there was an escape, but not a cure. The world was left to self destruct while the lucky few could start afresh. It was hardly a happy ending, but perhaps the only one that was plausible.

In a nutshellI can see why this series has a huge and faithful fan base, and I’m glad to call myself one of them.
Recommended for readers who enjoy action filled with twists, tricks and lies, and relish the uncertainty of not knowing what to believe as they read.

Check out my reviews of other James Dashner books:

Note: I don’t claim to be a pro-reviewer, I am a reader. My reviews are based on my personal thoughts around the story that the book is trying to tell. I try to focus on the story (which is the reason I read) rather than dissect the book and pass comment on typos, writing style or structure.

Here is The Maze Runner movie trailer from 2014.
The 2nd movie, The Scorch Trials is due for release
in September 2015.

Book Panel 2

EPCOT | Walt Disney World | Florida | Part 1

Wow! That EPCOT preview video looks very retro now (and cheesy), but it was cutting edge at the time. I can still remember watching the opening of EPCOT on TV in 1982 and dreaming that I would go there one day. For a young kid on the west coast of Australia, a new theme park in Florida seemed like another galaxy. It was about as far away as anything could be and I had visions that it would be a place that was unlike anything else.

My first visit to EPCOT was in 1998, my second in 1999. But it’s taken another 15 years to return, this time with my kids in tow.

Family selfie on arrival.

As soon as we saw the familiar silver globe, it felt like our last visit was only yesterday. The iconic landmark didn’t look like it had changed and it’s familiarity was welcoming. EPCOT is less theme park, more discovery and exhibition, which can result in wide opinions from visitors. They either like it or hate it, depending on what they want to experience in a Disney park.

EPCOT has a larger focus on learning rather than fun, but it provides a nice alternative to the other parks within Walt Disney World. Out of all of the Disney Parks, it would be my least favourite, but one that I am still happy to visit. Although it’s very large, one day was enough to do all of the things that we wanted to do.

Guide Maps

First off, to get your bearings, click on the guide maps below to see what is contained in this park

WDW EP Guidemap - Front WDW EP Guidemap - Back
Ok, now it’s on to some of our favourite attractions, the rides. As mentioned earlier, EPCOT is more learning and less riding, but it does have some cool rides that I think are a must-do for any visitors.

Mission: SPACE ®

MIssion Space 3

I don’t think that Mission: SPACE ® was there when we last visited, so it was on top of our list. It’s an amazing centrifugal-motion-simulator-thrill-ride that launches you from Earth and takes you all the way to Mars. There are two versions available. One is less intense (for chickens) and one that is very intense (for those with bravery beyond question). Of course, we did both versions.

MIssion Space 1

Each capsule has seats for a navigator, pilot, commander and engineer, and each rider must do their bit for the mission when instructed during the ride. The main difference between the two versions is the degree of G-force that riders feel. In the more intense version the G-force is 2.5 – more than double the Earth’s gravity. It effectively multiplies the rider’s weight by 2.5. Let me say that at 2.5Gs my body and head were firmly thrust back into the seat and my face actually spilled backwards like melting wax during take off. Awesome feeling!  (Sick bags are within reach if you can lift your arms to grab one if needed – LOL)

Test Track ®TestTrack Epcot 4

Test Track ® was just opening when we last visited (from memory) but we didn’t get to ride it, so it was one that I had told the kids to look out for. In the first part of this attraction riders use computer consoles to design their own car. Somehow, your design follows you through the actual test ride and interim results are displayed on screens for viewing.

Based on your design’s good or bad points the ‘test track’ plays each rider’s design against other riders in the same car. After the effects of wind, speed etc are factored and ‘tested’ on the ride, a winning design is revealed at the end. It is mostly a dark ride with lots of swerving and speed changes, but the best component by a long shot is the outside portion.

TestTrack Epcot 6

The ride’s climax is a full speed race around a huge elevated oval test track outside the building. It’s brilliant, it’s fast, it’s fun and it’s exciting. Don’t miss this one if you’re at EPCOT. Use your FastPass+ to avoid the lines.

 Random Thoughts and Pics
There are plenty of great shops packed with souvenirs and the usual impeccable Disney theming.
World Showcase – Germany – There will be more about this section of EPCOT in part 2.
World Showcase – United Kingdom – There will be more about this section of EPCOT in part 2.
EPCOT construction
Here’s a retro pic, which obviously I didn’t take. I found it on the Disney Parks Blog that I regularly visit. Click on the image to jump over there to find more information about its inspiration.

In a nutshell

EPCOT does  provide a wonderful experience for visitors, which is different to that of other Disney parks. It’s quite unique.
This post has become bigger than I expected, so I’ve decided to break it into 2 parts. Make sure that you check out part 2 of our EPCOT visit when it’s published.

Here is a cool Disney Parks tilt-shift video of EPCOT to show you the sights and sounds from another perspective.

Be sure to take a look at my other posts about our travels as they go live, or check my previous Travel Adventures posts for the ones already published. If you’re not a current follower, just click the FOLLOW button on the sidebar.

PS: I have no affiliation or relationship with WDW, except that I am a customer and fan.

Book Panel 2

YA Book Review | The Hunger Games – Mockingjay (HG3) | Suzanne Collins

HG 3 MockingjayMOCKINGJAY (HG 3)
by Suzanne Collins ★★★★

Kindle edition / Amazon purchase

My name is Katniss Everdeen.
Why am I not dead?
I should be dead.

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss’s family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans–except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’s willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels’ Mockingjay–no matter what the personal cost. GOODREADS

My Review

This final book in the Hunger Game series was full of lessons. Be careful what you wish for, because what you get isn’t always what you expect. Having fought hard and beaten her enemies twice, Katniss finds herself amongst friends with a common cause.

She has been singled out as the most valuable tool they have against the oppressive government. Even though she’s with friends, she still feels like a puppet. Just a pawn used by others to fight a bigger battle. The plot clearly demonstrates the power of information, and sadly, it’s easily relatable back to our real world. It shows the cunning manipulation of the media by each side to project a story and image to the viewers. Everything is carefully created, carefully staged and carefully packaged. How could viewers ever know the full truth? Unfortunately, this is so synchronous with real life.

Both Peeta and Katniss had a role to play in the war. President Snow seemed to have all of the power. His ultimate plan was to use each one to destroy the other, but the battle wasn’t as easy as he had predicted. Although at times it was extremely difficult for them, Katniss and Peeta’s true character refused to be defeated.

If I swing the focus away from Katniss and Peeta  for a moment, I need to mention that I was heartened when Prim showed amazing wisdom beyond her young age. Like her sister before her, Prim had to grow up fast. She was a product of the tough experiences she had endured in her short life. Her life changing nomination for the games, the distress of her sister’s sacrifice to take her place, her sudden role reversal with her mother – needing to take over whenever Katniss was away. All of her strengths had built quietly in the background of the story, while the world focussed on Katniss. But, in the end, her strength helped inspire Katniss in her fight.

This book was full of action and energy, building towards what I expected would be a major showdown between Katniss and President Snow. I’m sorry to say that I was disappointed with the outcome of her mission. I felt there was no real fitting action-filled-I’ll-show-you-who’s-bad climax before the plot’s big twists were revealed. It’s a shame, because I really love this series and do recommend it as a great read. I felt that Katniss didn’t get the opportunity to deal with what happened to Prim, when it happened. That part of the story seemed a bit rushed to me. It wasn’t until after everything was revealed that she could react. It seemed too late for me. Now I need to watch the movie.

In a nutshell

The Hunger Games is a brilliant series. I’m glad that I finally jumped on the bandwagon and joined its fans.

Even though I was a little disappointed with the outcome of this final book, I recommend it to all dystopian fans.

Check out my other Hunger Games reviews below:

Note: I don’t claim to be a pro-reviewer, I am a reader. My reviews are based on my personal thoughts around the story that the book is trying to tell. I try to focus on the story (which is the reason I read) rather than dissect the book and pass comment on typos, writing style or structure.

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New Trailer | The Quest Series | S.W.Lothian

The Quest Series has been with me for a long time. I started working through the original concept and overall plotline on 14 July 2008. Then, once I had mapped it out and decided how many parts there would be, and of the plots for each book, I started to write The Golden Scarab, then The Cursed Nile, and The Fallen Pharaoh. I’m currently writing book 4, The Missing Link.

When I released book 1, I created a book trailer for The Golden Scarab, which eventually became obsolete in April 2014, when I redesigned my covers for books 1 to 3.

Finally, I have managed to get around to creating a new book trailer, which covers all of the books in the series (including the final book, The Missing Link, which is due for release later this year).

It gives me great pleasure to share the result with you today. I hope you like it.

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The Wizarding World of Harry Potter | Diagon Alley | Universal Orlando Resort


If there was part of our US vacation that was the most anticipated, it had to be The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™. As a huge HP fan and someone who has been totally inspired by, J.K. Rowling, it was a dream come true. To be able to physically step into the world created by J.K. is a mind-blowing experience.

EARLY WARNING: I have so many photos that it is nearly impossible to pick my favourites. There are lots of photos in this post.

Diagon Alley


Diagon Alley opened in August 2014 to surging crowds and excited fans. It’s the second HP themed park to open, the other is Hogsmeade (my post will be online soon). Universal has been very clever.  Diagon Alley is situated within the Universal Studios park, and Hogsmeade is in their neighbouring park, Islands of Adventure. For those of you familiar with Universal Studios, you may remember the area that contained the Jaws attraction and Cabot Cove, well now it’s London, complete with the Knight Bus and Diagon Alley brilliantly nestled behind the Leaky Cauldron.


Once you enter from the London frontage, through the jagged brick wall, you are transported into the alley. It’s packed full of excited muggles gasping and exploring the stores from the books, and plenty of (cast) wizards and witches roam free.






The detail in the buildings is beyond description and I’m sure that the cast who work there everyday really believe they are in the HP books and movies. I heard passing cast members exchanging comments, “Who let all these muggles in?” A small touch that added to the magic and memories.






Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts™

IMG_3593 IMG_3587IMG_3583 IMG_3881

Gringotts Bank takes pride of place and is the focal point as you walk down the alley. Nestled high on its roof is the dragon, which roars loudly and exhales huge flames every so often. The rumble will give you warning of the imminent flames, so there’s time to get your cameras ready.


The bank houses the dark  ride of Diagon Alley, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts™. It’s an incredibly well done and exciting multi-dimensional thrill ride, where you plunge into the depths below the bank and encounter Voldemort and his evil sidekick, Bellatrix Lestrange.


The main hall of Gringotts serves as part of the line and it is filled with extremely life-like animatronic goblins working at their desk as they gaze at the crowds before them. The height of the room is spectacular and it has enormous chandeliers that shine and glisten high above your head.

Below is some footage I took of the Goblins as we passed them.



Then, as you weave your way through the corridors there’s plenty of other amazing sights, like silhouettes of HP and co chatting on the other side of glass doorways, lifts that descend deep into the earth, and spiral staircases that lead you into the main cavern where you board the ride vehicles.

Below is part of the pre-ride instructions riders receive before entering the rickety lifts that descend to the depths below the bank.

IMG_3707Once you’re strapped in and have your 3D glasses on, the ride kicks off. It’s full of surprises, coasting, spins, fog, amazing detail, 3D experiences and dangerous liaisons. This ride immediately jumped to the top of my favourites list. We loved it so much that we rode it half a dozen times during our stay.

One thing to know is that all loose objects (eg. bags, backpacks) must be stored in lockers before you enter Gringotts. The lockers are free for a decent length of time, but take note, they are always extremely crowded with pre-riders lodging items and post-riders collecting items. Just make sure that you remember your locker number.

Knockturn Alley


At the end of a lane to the left of Gringotts Bank, there is a dark unassuming alley that you must look out for. If you’re brave enough to enter the darkness you’ll find yourself in the famous Knockturn Alley, full of darkened shops filled with dark magic and curios. I can well imagine that this area lays unknown to those who don’t know to look for it.



The whole HP Diagon Alley area is a marvellous creation. Its stores are filled with amazing curios, souvenirs and memories. Everything from feather pens, to Hogwarts gowns, to chocolate frogs and every flavour beans. It’s impossible not to feel the extreme need to get yourself something amazing and magical. Interactive wands let young wizards and witches cast spells that cause magical things to really happen. There is so much more that I haven’t even mentioned. Another post in the future is definitely needed. If you’re wondering about the Hogwarts Express, it’s covered in my Hogsmeade post (soon to be online).

In a nutshellI don’t think my words can describe how great Diagon Alley is. The best I can do is ramble a bit and show you some of the thousand or so photos I took. My compulsive picture-taking didn’t go unnoticed by my kids.

A visit to Diagon Alley is absolutely essential for all HP fans.

Here’s a special treat. See some of the HP cast as they experience Diagon Alley for themselves.

Be sure to take a look at my other posts about our travels as they go live, or check my previous Travel Adventures posts for the ones already published. If you’re not a current follower, just click the FOLLOW button on the sidebar.

PS: I have no affiliation or relationship with Universal Studios, except that I am a customer and fan.

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YA Book Review | The Fault In Our Stars | John Green

The Fault in our StarsTHE FAULT IN OUR STARS
by John Green ★★★★

Kindle edition / Amazon purchase

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love. GOODREADS

My Review

I had big hopes for this book, given that the subject matter was so close to home. But as I reached the 5% mark doubts started to creep in as to whether I would get through to the end. My first impressions of, Hazel, the main character, were that she was too sarcastic and dry. These are qualities that I normally find interesting, so I was a bit confused at what it was about her that didn’t gel with me. But I ploughed on anyway and grew to like and understand her. It was her way of coping.

As expected, I related to much of her parents’ anxiety and feelings about her health, her future, her wellbeing, and the Cancer Meetings with doctors. Having been through it with my young daughter I felt a link, and there was one quote in particular that struck a chord with me. Every time I read it , it has an almost overwhelming impact.

“…and my father was trying so hard not to sob that when he did, which was regularly, it was an earthquake.”

Childhood/Teen cancer is devastating for the whole family. It’s a journey that is tough and not chosen, but one that must be endured if it is thrust upon you. You simply have no choice but to deal with it.

The underlying story definitely had me, I could relate to it, I could feel it, I could understand it. The only thing that I struggled with was that (in my opinion) the dialogue didn’t match the age group. Would a couple of teens really banter in such an intellectual way? Maybe, maybe not. It was something that I had trouble ignoring.

The grenade. Wow, what a metaphor. It’s brilliant really. Terminal illness is just like a grenade. The illness and the patient are one, and when it goes off, the shrapnel stings everything around it. John Green nailed it.

As I reached the 25% mark I was enjoying the story, but not loving it. Probably because romance isn’t really my favourite thing and there was plenty of it brewing. Even so, there were plenty of other endearing qualities to keep me reading. In all honesty, I was quite surprised when the big twist arrived. I didn’t see it coming.  Throughout the story I had focussed on Hazel and her illness, and not so much on the other characters, so I was definitely surprised at the turn of events. And then when Peter Van Houten turned up out of the blue, I wasn’t sure whether to be pleased or angry. In the end, I look back on this one as a great read.  Now I need to watch the movie.

In a nutshell

This book rekindled things I’ve often felt during my daughter’s Cancer journey. The absolute dread, the sadness, the fear, the helplessness, the waste. And even the guilt that she survived, while others we met along the way weren’t so lucky.

It’s a book with a heavy subject, one that I hope remains just a story to most people, but one that I know is familiar to far too many.

Note: I don’t claim to be a pro-reviewer, I am a reader. My reviews are based on my personal thoughts around the story that the book is trying to tell. I try to focus on the story (which is the reason I read) rather than dissect the book and pass comment on typos, writing style or structure.

Book Panel 2

Kids TV Trailer | Thunderbirds Are Go – TV Series | 2015

Hiya, This is just a quick post to let you know that I’ve added a new kid’s movie TV trailer to my KIDS MOVIE TRAILERS page.



Remake of the hit 1960’s television show. In the 21st century, Jeff Tracy, a former astronaut, amasses a colossal fortune and decides that he must use it to benefit others. His answer to this desire is to create International Rescue, a unique private emergency response service equipped with customized designed vehicles and equipment that enable the organization to react to any crisis whether it be in sea, air, land, or space.

Jeff’s five sons volunteer to operate as the pilots and field agents, as well “Brain” who acts as the teams engineer. In addition, Jeff’s friend, Kyrano and his daughter Tanusha aka Kayo (based on the original series Tin-Tin character) agree to be the support staff. In addition to the field team, IR also maintains an intelligence network with Lady Penelope and her ex-con chauffeur, Parker as the chief agents in this arm. The series depicts this team as they answer various calls for help around and beyond the world while they prevent enemies like the Hood from learning and exploiting their secrets.. (IMDB)

If you liked that, then click the MOVIE TRAILERS link at the top of this page or click on the MOVIES category in the right hand margin to see all of the other new and favourite trailer links I’ve posted.

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Hollywood Studios | Walt Disney World | Florida

As the name suggests, Disney’s Hollywood Studios aims to reproduce the magic and glamour of Hollywood, and take it from me, it does a great job. Crammed with amazingly detailed and authentic looking streetscapes that would be at home in any number of movies, it lets visitors step from one great setting to another.Hollywood StudiosWe knew this park has some great rides that would provide us with some great thrills, so, after a quick coffee and a sugary food hit we headed off to a day of Hollywood magic. This park has far more attractions than I can possibly cover in this post (see maps below), so I’ve decided to just focus on some of our favourite memories from our visits.

Guide Maps

WDW HS Guidemap - Front

WDW HS Guidemap - Back
Click either map for a larger view
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Hollywood Tower of TerrorOne ride that we were all looking forward to was the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. We had all been to its namesake in California, and my wife and I also had great memories of this one in Orlando. If you’re not familiar with this one, think old-time Hollywood Hotel blended with the Twilight Zone.

Hollywood Tower of Terror - Lobby
The lobby of the Hollywood Tower Hotel = creepiness

Check in, get ushered to the service lift, head up to your room but end up in doom. If you like to get your senses tingling in a spooky atmosphere, with creepy hotel staff, and have your stomach flip up to your throat as your haunted elevator drops in darkness from the thirteenth floor, then this one is for you. The screams from some of the riders at that precise moment of the drop are brilliant. Make sure you smile for the photo though, or just show your natural terror face.

Hollywood Tower of Terror - Doorway
Another load of guests just before the elevator door closes

As expected, we totally loved this attraction (no surprises there). We made sure the we went to this ride early, as soon as we arrived at the park. That way we had an early ride with no lines at all. Then we booked a time for later in the day with our FastPass+. Check out the video at the end of this post.

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith

Rockin Roller 3Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is a super fast indoor dark roller coaster. If you don’t like dark, or speed, or twists, or turns, or loops, or loud music, or screaming riders then I suggest you give this one a miss. The premise of the ride is that you’re in a stretch racing through the freeways of LA to get to an Aerosmith gig. You start from a stationary position and are suddenly thrust at high-speed into the darkness. Music blares at top volume from speakers on each side of your head as you race through the darkened freeways with street signs flashing past as you twist and turn.

Rockin Roller 4My kids loved this one (me too – I loved the speed). We rode on it half a dozen times during our visit and used our FastPass+ to skip the lines for a few of those. It’s a very popular ride, so be prepared for the line or plan ahead and book your times with your FastPass+.

Sci-Fi Dine-in Theatre Restaurant

Sci-fi Dine In Theatre Restaurant

Lunchtime arrived and we decided to try our luck at securing a table in the Sci-Fi Dine-in Theatre Restaurant. We had tried to make a booking using the Disney App, but unfortunately it was booked out. A little birdie told us that if we turned up at a particular time (about 10.50am) we may be lucky to get a stand up table. We gave it a go, and were pleasantly surprised to get in -woohoo high five- and even more surprised to score one of the sit-in cars -double woohoo high five-. What a brilliant place! Each car has seating for 6, and faces towards the big drive-in screen at the front, which plays cartoons and B-grade movie highlights from the golden era of drive-in theatres.

Sci-fi Dine In Theatre RestaurantWe binged on sodas, burgers, fries and shakes, all while sitting in our sporty little red car. The service was great and the setting was really well done. Give it a go if you visit this park, but I suggest booking ahead to avoid disappointment (or try your luck like we did).

ABC Commissary

IMG_3395 cropDuring our visit we also ate a couple of times at the ABC Commissary. Although it was crowded and a little hard to find a free table during peak times, the burgers and cakes were tasty. One thing that my wife and I always  do when travelling in the US is to share main meals. The servings are usually huge, so one meal is enough for both of us.

Keep in mind that when you’re at Disney the food is Disney, so the available choices are consistent wherever you are (except for their ‘higher-end’ specialty restaurants). Not all places offer cakes (as seen above) but keep an eye out for them to up the calories and sugar levels. The theming is the main difference between Disney restaurants. I suggest that you leave your dreams of healthy eating at home and just go with the flow of calories. You can always eat healthier when you get home.

Wandering Oaken’s Frozen Snowground

Frozen snowland

Another great attraction, which I think was a holiday season special, was the Wandering Oaken’s Frozen Snowground. It was an unexpected find that gave our kids (from the land of no snow) an opportunity to see and touch snow inside a themed building. Decked out with snow-covered fir trees, lumber fencing, and snowy ground (although quite compacted and not naturally produced by Mother Nature) it was way different to anything our family had ever experienced. The kids had a great time digging and building their first mini snowmen. The hue of blue lighting, mixed with the icy chilled air created a truly great atmosphere. Two thumbs up to this awesome attraction.

 Thoughts and pics
A great view up the main street as we entered the park. Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat can be seen in the distance. In recent weeks it has been removed, which gives visitors a clearer (and better) view of the Chinese Theatre attraction that has been hidden behind the hat for many years.
Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat was a landmark in the centre of the park for many years. This shot is now just a memory of what once was.
Mr Potato Head keeps you entertained as you move through the line system of Toy Story Midway Mania at Pixar Place.
I loved how the stroller rental was styled like a gas station. Very clever.
This in one of those quiet side areas that you can find throughout Disney parks. They’re a great place for a quick recharge away from the main crowds. Keep an eye out for them.
IMG_2963 crop
It’s hard to believe that this scene is painted on a wall. It’s a great place to take a selfie or family shot.
Star Tours 4
Star Tours has been around forever. We enjoyed the ride, but I think it needs a rehash to keep up with the thrills that visitors expect from rides these days. We didn’t feel the need for multiple rides.


In a nutshellOur days at Hollywood Studios were great. With some planning we were able to get plenty of rides on the most popular  attractions and there were some great dining choices.

Recommended for everyone

Check out this cool video of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You might spot a familiar face. It’s included if you purchase a Disney PhotoPass package.

Be sure to take a look at my other posts about our travels as they go live, or check my previous Travel Adventures posts for the ones already published. If you’re not a current follower, just click the FOLLOW button on the sidebar.

PS: I have no affiliation or relationship with WDW, except that I am a customer and fan.

Book Panel 2

MG Book Review | Anni Moon and the Elemental Artifact | Melanie Abed

Anni Moon and the Elemental ArtifactANNI MOON AND THE ELEMENTAL ARTIFACT (AM1)
by Melanie Abed
Published September 30th 2014
by Oculus Print
Amazon purchase |
Kindle edition

Anni doesn’t know about Elementals, Funk, Zephyrs, excited talking Bat-Rat creatures, and, least of all, Dragons. All that changes when her best friend, Lexi, is kidnapped and forces beyond Anni’s control trap her on a hidden, floating island in the Elemental world.

In a race against time, Anni sets out to save her friend. Along the way she finds allies among the Elementals, but she is also presented with a choice, one that might help save Lexi. If Anni agrees to an ancient, open-ended contract, will her sacrifice cost her more than she’s bargained for? Or will it land her in the middle of an age-old war between the humans, the Elementals, and the dreaded Fectus?  – GOODREADS

My Review

Anni Moon is the story of two orphan girls. They’re the best of friends, Anni and Lexi, who live together at a private girl’s school, Waterstone Academy, which has been owned and run by a family for many years. In fact, it’s the very same family who are their guardians.

Their whole life is turned upside down within a short period of time when both of their guardians mysteriously disappear and the girls learn that the school is to be sold to the mean old Mr Orge Murdrock. With no guardians around to look out for them, they are told that they can no longer live at the school. They have nowhere else to go, and the girls hope that things couldn’t get any worse. That’s where the plot thickens and their hopes are dashed.

Lexi suddenly disappears, and without hesitation Anni begins to search for her. That’s where readers are led on two separate journeys that are intricately weaved together. One follows Lexi and the other follows Anni. As the plots unfold, Melanie Abed gradually reveals details of another world that lays hidden behind the everyday. And it seems that one of the girls knows more about such a place than she had ever revealed. This secret life of Lexi is an underlying mystery that Anni learns of and tries to solve, while desperately trying to track her down.

As Anni’s search begins, she unwittingly enters into a contract with a mysterious hidden force that both guides and confuses her along the way. She moves from one challenge to the next and proves that she is a very strong willed girl. She never waivers in her determination to find her missing friend and I feel that Anni is a great role model in perseverance for young readers.

Being the first book of the series there was a lot of building in the first half, and I found that the storyline noticeably ramped up in the second. Once Anni had found her feet, made new friends and had set her goal, I found the journey was easier to follow. I think that came with becoming familiar with the characters and being able to focus more on the story rather than learning what’s what and who’s who in the zoo.

Some parts of this book reminded me of an Alice in Wonderland type adventure. It was full of unexpected transitions and journeys from one odd setting to another, and there was a host of weird and wonderful characters to get to know.  One thing I found was that I had absolutely no idea who to trust. The writing was easy to follow and plenty of clever twists kept me guessing and changing my mind from page to page. I was definitely hooked to find the answers about Lexi’s disappearance and of the magical hidden world in which Anni found herself.

I loved the cover of this one too, it grabbed me as soon as I saw it. The cover and other great illustrations inside were expertly crafted by Melanie’s husband, Hisham Abed.

In a nutshellAn enchanting tale, Anni Moon’s adventures should appeal to young girls that dream of magical places. Her strength of character should also teach some valuable lessons.

Recommended for readers 8+.

Note: I don’t claim to be a pro-reviewer, I am a reader. My reviews are based on my personal thoughts around the story that the book is trying to tell. I try to focus on the story (which is the reason I read) rather than dissect the book and pass comment on typos, writing style or structure.

Drop over to Melanie’s website for extra info about Anni Moon and her adventures by clicking the banner below.Melanie Abed Banner


Book Panel 2

Book Blitz Giveaway | Stellarcadia (Adventures of Caramel Cardamom #3)| Julie Anne Grasso


I’m thrilled to throw my support behind Mother Daughter Book Reviews as they host a Book Blast for the third and final book in the Adventures of Caramel Cardamom middle grade science fiction trilogy by Julie Anne Grasso: Stellarcadia.

About the Book

Stellarcadia by Julie Anne GrassoSTELLARCADIA
(Adventures of Caramel Cardamom 3)

by  Julie Anne Grasso 
Published December 24, 2014
Publisher: Independent

Pages: 128
Recommended Ages: 8 to 12

Caramel Cinnamon is one lucky elf. She can hardly believe she’s invited to attend the first Intergalactic Youth Summit, on-board the Stellarcadia.

Her friends can’t wait to go “hyper,” but even the thought of it chills Caramel to the bone. However, nothing could compare to the icy reception she receives upon her arrival. Keen to get to the bottom of it, Caramel stumbles on a dangerous conspiracy, but no one will believe her.

In the exciting conclusion to The Adventures of Caramel Cardamom Trilogy, Caramel will have to do more than outwit her enemies, she will have to convince her friends to take her seriously. For ages 8-12.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

The Early Buzz

“The book is also a perfect mix of magic, science, and technology. Don’t be surprised if readers get to use their imaginations and learn something. Julie Anne Grasso has proven herself to be an original and versatile author…”
~ 5 Stars, Ilana W., Amazon

“Couldn’t put it down.” ~ Jemima P., Goodreads

My Review

This third instalment in the Caramel Cardamom series adds another mystery solving adventure to Caramel’s belt. The main plot centres around our favourite elven hero being part of the inaugural flight of the shiny new Stellarcadia space ship. Along with a group of high achieving teens, she embarks on the journey of a lifetime and takes part in an on-board conference that showcases their talents, set to culminate in the longest hyperspace jump ever undertaken. But, as usual, our Caramel just seems to look for trouble. She’s never one to shy away from her instincts, especially when they tell her that something is wrong.

As the journey unfolds Caramel spends much of her time trying to convince her friends to help her get to the bottom of her suspicions. I like her never-give-up attitude, and that she sticks to her guns, even when the odds are stacked against her. I do wish that her friends would take her word more easily though, given her record for sniffing out trouble. I suspect that the main character’s qualities would have great appeal for young girls who love a hero that portrays confidence, while having an underlying vulnerability that they can relate to.

Although we meet a few new acquaintances in this book, the core cast remains the same as the previous books. At 128 pages it’s not a long read, but I imagine it’s perfect for the target readers. A not too long, not too short read with mystery and excitement rolled into a neat package. It has a great looking cover too that just pops.

In a nutshell
This is a fun adventure that Caramel Cardamom fans will lap up like a trough of cupcakes.

Recommended for 8+ readers who like a good mystery.

About the Author: Julie Anne Grasso

Julie Anne GrassoWith a background in paediatric nursing, Julie Anne Grasso spent many years literally wrapping children in cotton wool. Every day she witnessed great courage and resilience from the tiny people she cared for, which inspired her to write stories to encourage and entertain them.
She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband Danny and their little girl, Giselle.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter |  Goodreads

* $25 Book Blast Giveaway *

Amazon 25 gift card

Prize: $25 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice)

Contest ends: March 25, 11:59 pm, 2015

Open: Internationally


Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Julie Anne Grasso and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.

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YA Book Review | The Hunger Games – Catching Fire (HG2) | Suzanne Collins

HG 2 Catching FireCATCHING FIRE (HG 2)
by Suzanne Collins ★★★★★

Kindle edition / Amazon purchase

Against all odds Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and its harsh rules.

Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have secured, for themselves and their families, a life of safety and plenty. They will live in fancy houses in Victory Village, their families will never be hungry again, and the cruel games are behind them. But there are rumours of rebellion among the other districts, and to Katniss’s horror, Katniss and Peeta are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. The Capitol will not be fooled again.

Suzanne Collins continues the amazing story of Katniss Everdeen in this second novel of the phenomenal Hunger Games trilogy. GOODREADS

My Review

Catching Fire is another great instalment in the Hunger Games Trilogy. It picks up not long after the surprise result of the 74th Hunger Games, with Katniss and Peeta settled into their new lives at the Victor’s Village in District 12. They are soon to embark on a victory tour of the districts to reinforce the strength and domination of the Capitol, and remind the people of their place in the pecking order.

With her success in the Hunger Games, Katniss has unwittingly created more of an impact than she realises and the rumblings of a rebellion are coming to the boil. As the name of this book suggests, the spark of defiance that she showed during the games is slowly but surely catching fire across the districts. Katniss has become the symbol of defiance and hope.

President Snow (what a shifty guy) is keen to keep his hold on power and makes thinly veiled threats towards Katniss to ensure that she doesn’t promote any thoughts of uprising  during the tour. She needs to tow the line to keep her family and friends safe, and continue the on-camera romance with Peeta. It’s a tough gig, but she has no choice.

Suzanne Collins really captures the extremes in Katniss’s thoughts, and does a great job of enabling the reader to relate to her constant struggles with her conscience. It seems that the more Katniss tries to remain cool and calm, the more her charisma gives courage and hope to the downtrodden.  The fate of the old man who saluted her from the crowd gave warning of worse things to come.

Once the big twist is revealed and the victors find themselves heading off to the arena again, the pace and drama picks up. I had hoped that there would be some sort of united stand and refusal to play the game by the contestants. Without giving anything away to those who haven’t read the book I can at least say that I was satisfied with how things panned out in the end. This series is full of surprises and Johanna’s final act teaches that things aren’t always as they seem.

I watched the movie after reading this book, and easily spotted the sections that had been dropped (eg. Katniss meeting some runaway girls in the cabin who were searching for the fabled District 13). So, which one did I like the best? Well, I try not to compare books to movies, and to just accept them as different ways of telling a story. Yes, books give more details of thoughts and settings and decisions than a movie, but a movie can show so much in an instant that would have taken a lot of explanation in a book. The main thing for me is enjoying the story. Each medium gives a slightly different perspective of the story, which I like. They both have strengths, they both have weaknesses. So, my favourite out of book and movie is… a tie.

In a nutshell

A great second instalment in the Hunger Games Trilogy. I loved this one as much as book 1. It held me captive from start to finish.

Recommended for anyone with a love of characters who overcome hopeless situations and exciting plot twists.

Note: I don’t claim to be a pro-reviewer, I am a reader. My reviews are based on my personal thoughts around the story that the book is trying to tell. I try to focus on the story (which is the reason I read) rather than dissect the book and pass comment on typos, writing style or structure.

Book Panel 2