Category Archives: Book reviews by me

Book Review | The Great Zoo of China| Matthew Reilly

The Great Zoo of China

THE GREAT ZOO OF CHINA
by Matthew Reilly
529 pages
Gift – Hardcover edition

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It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for forty years. They have found a species of animal no one believed even existed. It will amaze the world. Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing discovery within the greatest zoo ever constructed.

A small group of VIPs and journalists has been brought to the zoo deep within China to see its fabulous creatures for the first time. Among them is Dr Cassandra Jane ‘CJ’ Cameron, a writer for National Geographic and an expert on reptiles.

The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts, that they are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong…

GET READY FOR ACTION ON A GIGANTIC SCALE. – GOODREADS


My Review

There is no doubt that The Great Zoo of China is Jurassic World with dragons. Even Matthew Reilly notes the similarities at the end of the book, but also points out the differences. Similar, or not, I thought this was an exciting and entertaining read.

China has been quietly working for many years creating the most amazing zoo ever. It’s a place that they believe is destined to show the world that they can do anything. Given their ingenuity, I have no doubt they are really capable if creating something of such a scale.

The time to reveal the zoo to the world has come, and a group of influential VIP guests arrive for a sneak peek. These include U.S. Government officials, respected media representatives, and highly regarded animal (crocodile) experts. This is where our main characters, CJ, and her brother, Hamish, come into the story. China’s aim is to totally amaze their guests and let them tell the world about the zoo.

There is a little back story that crops up (something messy had already happened), but it has been swept under the covers. There is no way that China want the reputation of the new zoo tarnished.

It’s during the VIP visit that drama and action take front and centre stage when things start to go wrong and all hell breaks loose. We learn that dragons are actually very intelligent creatures and have their own goals. I don’t want to give too much away, but I’m sure it’s obvious that there are some hard fought battles between humans and beast. In addition to dealing with cranky dragons, there’s even more danger for the VIPs. The zoo officials  are adamant that no word of the problems get out to the world.

Along the way, our heroine, CJ, befriends a yellow dragon and they work together to beat the enemy. This is the point where I had to suspend belief. A herpetologist veterinarian becoming a kick-ass action hero! Hmmmm. Talking to a dragon! Hmmmm. But, other than that it was the classic MR mix that I love, with lots of action, detailed maps, and impossible situations being overcome by sheer ingenuity.


In a nutshell

One thing to note is that it’s the first MR book with a female as the main character. Whether the main protagonist is male or female doesn’t come into my radar, but for those readers who are swayed by the gender of the book’s hero, it’s good to see :)

The Great Zoo of China is a cool book with a wild plot, plenty of action and an impressive setting on a grand scale. I enjoyed the read, but not as much as MR’s other 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.


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

Matthew Reilly site


| THE QUEST SERIES | OMNIBUS EDITION |
| Books 1-3 |
| CLICK THE BOX TO GET YOUR COPY |

The Quest Series Omnibox 1-3The Quest Series is a time travel adventure that is packed full of exciting action, adventure and mystery. Since its release, it has delighted readers of all ages and received high praise along the way. The first book, The Golden Scarab, was a finalist in the 2013 Readers’ Favorite Awards.

Book 4, The Missing Link, is on the way, so this Omnibus Edition lets you catch up and get ready for the series finale.

PS. If you have already read the series, it would be great if you could take a couple of minutes to share your thoughts with a quick review at Amazon on the Omnibus Edition :)


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

Frankie DuPont 2

FRANKIE DUPONT AND THE LEMON FESTIVAL FIASCO (FD2)
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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PROLOGUE
‘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.


Omni Box Panel v1.0.PS. If you have already read the series, it would be great if you could take a couple of minutes to share your thoughts with a quick review at Amazon on the Omnibus Edition :)

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

The Death CureTHE DEATH CURE
(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

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.



Book Panel 2

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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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!

Book Review | Contest | Matthew Reilly

ContestCONTEST
by Matthew Reilly ★★★★★
Kindle edition purchased from Amazon

The New York State Library. A brooding labyrinth of towering bookcases, narrow aisles and spiralling staircases. For Doctor Stephen Swain and his daughter, Holly, it is the site of a nightmare. For one night, this historic building is to be the venue for a contest. A contest in which Swain is to compete – whether he likes it or not.

The rules are simple. Seven contestants will enter. Only one will leave. With his daughter in his arms, Swain is plunged into a terrifying fight for survival. He can choose to run, to hide or to fight – but if he wants to live, he has to win. For in this contest, unless you leave as the victor, you do not leave at all. (Goodreads)


My Review

I’ve been a fan of Matthew Reilly for years. I love the high-speed action in his books and the heroes that we follow. I have no idea why this one (which was his first) has never crossed by reading list. I thought it was about time to get down and read it.

Wow. Given that it was his first book (which he released independently before scoring a publisher), it provides a glimpse of where he started. It’s full of the action he’s famous for, the creatures that give another level of terror to the hero, and the exciting climaxes he does so well. His action has definitely influenced my books, which I tend to think of as Matthew Reilly for kids.

In Contest, an unassuming doctor is suddenly whisked away from his normal life into the New York Library (along with his young daughter), and finds himself smack bang in the middle of a deadly contest. A once in a millennium event that is orchestrated by beings from the far reaches of space. There are seven competitors, each from different planets, who must fight to be the sole survivor. The contestants not only have to deal with their competitors, they have some nasty beasts thrown in the mix, as well as an electrified building.

As with all of MR’s books, the hero finds a way out of situations that seem absolutely impossible. Even though it’s often implausible, it’s what I love about MR’s books. I can suspend my belief and just go along for a ride that tackles the extremes of survival. Of course, there is plenty of violence, so it’s not really suited to younger readers, but the fact that it’s aimed mostly at mythical space beasts makes it a little easier to digest.

In a nutshell

Another great white-knuckle-action-packed-adventure from MR. Let’s hope that he releases some more action novels in the future. I seem to have exhausted his supply of action books now. Maybe a re-read of some of them is in order :)


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 Matthew Reilly’s website.

Matthew Reilly site


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

4 books