Category Archives: Book reviews by me

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

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 *

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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