Category Archives: Book reviews by me

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

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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

YA Book Review | The Hunger Games (HG1) | Suzanne Collins

HG 1 Hunger GamesTHE HUNGER GAMES (HG 1)
by Suzanne Collins ★★★★★

Kindle edition / Amazon purchase

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love. GOODREADS


My Review

It’s official… I’m a Hunger Games fan.

The Hunger Games has been a phenomenal success for Suzanne Collins. I had always avoided this series due to the violence, but suddenly realised that I shouldn’t judge it without checking it out. So I finally gave in to the hype and watched the first movie. I liked it, and decided to read the series before watching the next movies.

This book explores a raft of contradictions (wealth/poverty, truth/lies, story/reality) and a constant blizzard of conflicting emotions and thoughts from, Katniss, the main character. I describe this book as a dystopian society mashed with Big Brother and Survivor, topped off with the good old fashioned family entertainment and finality of a Roman style arena battle to the death. But the arena’s equivalent to an eviction/tribal council is a far worse fate for the losing contestants than having their flame extinguished by, Jeff Probst, and then basking in 15 minutes of fame. If you don’t win, you don’t live. It’s simple.

Overall, it’s a tragic tale of society gone mad that I hope stays as fiction. I found the story very engaging and liked that Katniss was so relatable.  She was just a no fuss, loving, intelligent girl trying to survive the oppressive conditions of District 12, whose noble act threw her into the nightmare of The Hunger Games. I think she kept that grounded vulnerability, and true dedication to her family all the way through the book.

I’m not really a romance junkie, so I don’t usually pick up books that have it, but I do understand that the love triangle in this book between Katniss, Peeta and Gale adds a layer of complexity to what Katniss has to deal with. I have written these comments before moving onto book 2. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out in the next books.

In a nutshell

I must confess… I have become a Hunger Games fan. Recommended for anyone who likes to support the underdog, and who isn’t put off by romance or violence.

It’s a great read.


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 | Daisy Cooper and the Sisters of the Black Night (Daisy Cooper 1) | Robert Dee

Daisy CooperDAISY COOPER AND THE SISTERS OF THE BLACK NIGHT (DAISY COOPER 1)
by Robert Dee ★★★★
Kindle edition purchased from Amazon

When you’re twelve years old and want to travel the world as a reporter for International Schoolgirl magazine you’d better be able to prove you can find a good story at home first.

Budding reporter Daisy Cooper finds the perfect school when she wins a place at the brilliant but eccentric Darlington School for Girls. With maths classes that involve poker games, science lectures where pupils fire rockets and biology lessons that take place in a real zoo it is everything she could have wished for.

The school is also home to International Schoolgirl, a magazine that sends specially chosen pupils – International Schoolgirls – on adventures across the globe in search of ground-breaking stories. To travel the world as a reporter is something Daisy has always wanted and she dreams of being chosen.

Daisy begins an adventure closer to home, however, when she gets lost in the school maze one evening and stumbles across the mysterious Sisters of the Black Night – a hooded secret society that meets under the cover of darkness. Convinced The Sisters are up to no good Daisy enlists the help of her dorm mates – the 88ers – to get to the bottom of the mystery. It’s an adventure that takes her through ancient pirate diaries, shark infested tunnels, perilous sword fights and on motorcycle chases through the stormy English countryside. When Daisy finally discovers The Sisters’ dark secret she has to make the most difficult choice of her life: having the job she always dreamed of, or doing what’s right. (Goodreads)


My Review

I picked this book up as a freebie after seeing it in a blog post or email, I can’t quite remember which. I have to admit that it was the great cover that hooked me (you have to check out the video about the cover. A link is at the end of this review). I don’t even think I read the blurb.

So, when I sat down to read it I had no idea what to expect, except perhaps that it would be a fun middle grade mystery.  Once I got into it, I realised that it was about a young girl from a background of average means, with above average intelligence and a good heart. When it was revealed that her mother had died of cancer I was sold, and felt a bond with Daisy, given my own young daughter’s recent battle with cancer (which she’s winning). Another issue that sits in this story is bullying … something that doubled my empathy and support for Daisy.

The plot cruised along as she settled into her new school, she made friends, and found enemies. I thought to myself that this was just going to be a cute tale of a new girl in a new school with maybe a little mystery thrown in. It’s not really what I’d normally get into, but I was cool with giving it a go.

Then when chapter 16 arrived, it all went into hyper drive. We were suddenly whisked from the pristine private school to a tale of pirates in a blur. One underlying theme that I noted in this one is definitely strong females – both good and bad. In fact, I think all of the main characters were female (I think it’s refreshing to see), which I’m sure would appeal to many readers bored with the usual male heroes.

As the pirate story progressed, there were some violent facets of the plot, which, based on the beginning of the book were totally unexpected. The change in pace hooked me and I became keen to finish the book and see how it all panned out. The plot was full of surprises and filled  with plenty of action that I didn’t see coming.

Daisy has a big heart and she’s faced with some very troublesome and aggressive opponents. Each page brings more events for her to prove, to make things right and end the reign of the baddies. I won’t go into detail, but I will say that this book had way more action in it than I’d expected. It had a cool back story that linked well into the current day.  Daisy’s story looks set to continue with future books.

In a nutshell

This was a real surprise package for me, given that I grabbed a copy based on the cool cover. Recommended for readers who love female heroes and action rolled into the one story.


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.



If you’re keen to know more, then click below to head on over to
Daisy Cooper’s International Schoolgirl website.
 Daidy Cooper site


While you’re here, please check out my edge-of-your-seat time-travel adventure books by clicking the pic below.

4 books

YA Book Review | Sons of the Sphinx | Cheryl Carpinello

Sons of the SphinxSONS OF THE SPHINX
by Cheryl Carpinello  ★★★★★
Kindle edition supplied by author

The Prophecy: Behold, when the last boy pharaoh is awakened, he will have one chance to right the wrong. United with a spirit vessel from the future, he must seek to find the one robbed of his reign, who will lead the way to the tomb of the boy pharaoh’s lost queen.

There must the confrontation with the usurper be held and the presentation of his confession to the old priests be given. If the usurper holds his tenth Jubilee and is allowed to acknowledge his son as his successor, the wrong will not be righted, and the queen will remain lost to her pharaoh forever.

Armed with what she considers her grandmother’s curse, 15-year-old Rosa agrees to help the ghost of King Tut find his lost queen Hesena. Thrust back into Ancient Egypt with Tut, Rosa discovers that finding Hesena is not all she must do. She must keep out of the reach of the living Horemheb – who crosses mortal boundaries using Seth’s evil magic – if she is to stay alive to make it back home. (Goodreads)

2014 Literary Classics Seal of Approval
2014 Finalist in Literary Classics Book Award


My Review

I have read and reviewed the prequel to this one, Tutankhamen Speaks, and was pleased to nab a copy from the author to continue the story.  This is an original time travel adventure that gives a fresh new perspective from the view of Tut himself. The main character, Rosa, is a modern-day girl who has a gift that allows her to speak with the dead (a gift that she’s not really too thrilled about). Tut contacts her and convinces her that she has a role to play in reuniting his spirit with that of his great love, Hesena.

After a little convincing and debating within her own mind, Rosa agrees to help him. As they embark through time to find the clues she finds that Tut is at times rather cool towards her, and he never gives her much information. Just enough, but never too much.  As she finds herself falling for him, she fights the feelings as she knows that there is no future for them to be together. The thing is, that she has part of Tut’s great love’s spirit within her, so it’s a battle in her mind to know which feelings are her and which are not. Tut is very guarded and he continually switches between his ruler persona and a more personal one. This becomes quite frustrating for Rosa.

The book effectively compares old to new life, revealing that the underlying needs of the characters are the same, whether ancient or modern. They all want to be with the ones they care for. Tut with Hesena, and Rosa to return home to her family. Rosa has always been a fan of ancient Egypt and had long built up the romance of Tut’s story within her own mind. It was a dream come true for her to actually become part of his story, and to help him reunite with his wife in the afterlife, but in reality it is home she craves for.

It’s obvious that Cheryl Carpinello has great interest in ancient Egypt and a great deal of research is evident. The book contained a lot of information and I probably only picked up half of the details, but enough to follow the story. I enjoyed the plot and the original time-travel angle. The book also gave me a different perspective of a curse, by showing it from the view of the curser (Tut’s spirit in his tomb) and it’s impact on the grave robber victims. Karma comes to mind. It also provoked thoughts as to whether archaeologists are any different to ancient grave robbers. They both disturb sacred sites to fulfil their own goals. The main difference (I hope) is the archaeologist’s ultimate goal is preservation rather than instant wealth.

In a nutshell

This was an entertaining time-travel adventure with a twist. It succeeds with a nice blend of fact and fiction. Recommended for fans of ancient Egypt who like a little magic mixed in. A good story for teens and adults who are young at heart.


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.


If you’re keen to know more, then click below to head on over to Cheryl’s website. Carpinello blog

While you’re here, please check out my edge-of-your-seat time-travel adventure books by clicking the pic below.

4 books

MG Book Review | The Camelot Kids (Part 2) | Ben Zackheim

Camelot Kids 2THE CAMELOT KIDS (PART 2)
by Ben Zackheim  ★★★★★
Kindle edition purchased from Amazon

Simon Sharp just got kidnapped by a troll on the shore of Scotland’s Loch Duich. But before he can get his head around that incredible fact, he’s saved by a 7-foot tall elderly man who calls himself Merlin. It’s hard to deny that something odd is going on.

But what?

Join Simon as he takes his first steps into New Camelot, a castle city of unparalleled beauty. But his stay won’t always be a pleasant one as he trains to become a warrior side-by-side with 149 other kids… all descendants of the original Knights of the Round Table.

The Camelot Kids: Part Two answers many questions from Part One, and adds a few more that will keep you guessing until the end! (Goodreads)


My Review

Part 2 of this series picks up at the same point part one finished. Simon, Merlin and Maille (carrying an ugly troll on her back) are on their journey to New Camelot, a place where Simon soon learns that has a huge relevance. Apparently, he has some very important and famous family links. This means that it’s impossible for his arrival to go unnoticed and he is completely taken by surprise at the reactions towards him. Think Rock star/Hero/Amazing Person just arrived.

Ben Zackheim has created a wonderful setting known as New Camelot, which I’m sure will build and grow as the story progresses. It’s a setting that’s full of magic, amazing creatures and interesting characters, where Simon learns that he is a descendant of someone very very famous (I won’t let on who), and his arrival at New Camelot is seen as a very significant event.

Enter a rival, who happens to be a long-forgotten apprentice of Merlin. This rivalry will no doubt feature more later in the story.
Simon is guided by Merlin, who is mysterious and moody, and Maille (who is Merlin’s new apprentice). This part of the story is where we follow Simon as he learns his way around his new surroundings, discovering it’s secrets and traditions. Destined to lead, Simon embarks on a training regime with a bunch of descendants of the Knights of the Round Table. I get the feeling that he’s not too thrilled about it either.

The frequently grumpy Merlin seems to be in control and we are teased with glimpses that he has a bigger agenda on the go. It will be interesting to see what eventuates. I really enjoy Ben’s writing. It is clear and easy to follow. He has created a character in Simon that I’m sure readers can relate to and barrack for.

In a nutshell

This is another great instalment in the series. Part 2 is an entertaining read, which has left me eagerly awaiting Part 3. Be warned, there is an unexpected twist at the end of this one.


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.


If you’re keen to know more, then click below to head on over to Ben’s website.

Ben Zackheim Blog


Book Panel 2

 

MG Double Vision Series | F.T. Bradley

The Double Vision series grabbed my attention the first time I saw the  cover, then when I read the blurb it had me, so I added it to my ever  growing TBR list. Finally, after lingering at the edge of my mind I looked  into grabbing a copy. Unfortunately, the ebook wasn’t available to me in Australia via Amazon, but I wasn’t going to let go. So I tracked down a  paperback version at The Book Depository in the UK and ordered myself a  copy.

The verdict – I loved it (see my review here). Not only is Double Vision a great series full of cool action and characters, but book 1 is set in one of my all time favourite cities, Paris. My plan was to order a copy of book 2 and continue the series, but over time my TBR got the better of me … yes, I have to admit that I lost control. Fast forward to October 2014 and you can imagine how I felt when I heard that book 3 was released. “Doh!” to quote a famous American. Now I not only have to read book 2, but also book 3. Both are still blipping away on my radar, and I know that the next couple of months are already packed full. DING! I’ve just had a great idea! I think I’ll look for them in bookstores during my US travels in November/December, I think they’d be a great souvenir.

Anyway, back on subject … I decided that I wanted to share the series with visitors to my site even before I’ve read them, as I feel they’d be a great idea for Xmas gifts. Given that I won’t post my own reviews for books 2 & 3 for a couple of months, I thought it may be a good idea to create a post with links to some Amazon and Goodreads reviews.


Double Vision 1Buy at AmazonI didn’t read this book, my son did. And he loved it, his nose was glued to it … It really has been, as far as I can tell, the best book he’s read. … Highly recommend, and we’re definitely getting the second as soon as it comes out.”
(See the full GOODREADS review here)

“The other day I came home from work to have my 8-year-old son at the door with this giant smile on his face. He’s reading Double Vision by F.T. Bradley, and he couldn’t wait to tell me about the mess of trouble the main character, Linc, has gotten himself into.”
(See the full GOODREADS review here)


Double Vision 2Buy at Amazon“Bradley weaves history, D.C. landmarks, the Culper Spy ring, puzzles, danger and laughs into another fun and fast thrill ride of a book.”
(See the full GOODREADS review here)

“I think what I like best about F. T. Bradley’s Double Vision series is Linc Baker, the protagonist. He’s just an average 12-year-old with an above average ability to get into trouble.”
(See the full AMAZON review here)


Double Vision 3Buy at Amazon“Double Vision: The Alias Men by F.T. Bradley is probably one of the best spy novels I’ve read, and easily one of my favorite books this year.”
(See the full GOODREADS review here)


Are you keen to see more from Double Vision star, Linc?Click here for a surprise!