Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers: YA Book Review

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Despite the fact I rarely enjoy historical fiction and hate anything to do with political intrigue, I loved this original and beautifully written book which manages to successfully combine fantasy and medieval French history.

Oozing with passion, suspense, romance and espionage, this book portrays murder in a very different light. Packing a punch as an assassin for the elusive god of Death, the strong female character, Ismae, has to find a way to faithfully serve her god and still be true to heart as she navigates the murky waters of intrigue and treason in the court of Duchess Anne of Brittany.4 Star

Recommended age 14+

Grave Mercy
Series: His Fair Assassin Book 1
Author:  Robin LaFeversGrave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Publication Date: 7 June 2012
Publisher: Anderson Press
Source: Purchased


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Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?     – Extract from Goodreads.com

Sara and the Chimera: A Prison of Light

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I was sceptical when I first heard of this book, it is not my genre of choice (I prefer faerie in my fantasy!), and although my teenage self would have snatched at it, I was not so sure I wanted to drag myself through what looked like an ‘out there’ story. I stalled, querying if this was in fact a young adult book as the protagonists were children, but was assured that they mature with each sequel and the series as a whole would suit a broad audience including YA. To be honest I was a little awed by the fact this was the first book I was asked to review and feeling as though I should at least give it a chance I chose a time when I was going to be stuck for long period of time in waiting rooms where anything is better than the old sporting magazines provided.

The first few chapters were hard to get through, featuring long descriptive passages that didn’t flow easily. I gave up at one stage, putting the book aside, intending to have a break for a day or two. But I was ousted by the characters who had wormed their way into my mind and I found myself repeatedly thinking about them and where the story would take them. I am so glad I persevered; this was an enticing, imaginative, slightly weird story that transported me into another world (or should I say worlds). As I read I began to think how it would translate into film and I think it has the potential to make a brilliant and successful movie.

The beautifully developed characters (FYI – Chimera is pronounced Ky-MARE-uh) were enhanced by Todd Morasch’s detailed illustrations which appear sporadically throughout. I wish that the cover had been better designed; it does not do the story any justice.

While I am not sure that this book will appeal to the majority (unless the movie version comes out), I’d like to thank the authors for taking me outside my comfort zone. A mature child who loves reading would 4 Starenjoy this innovative book.

Recommended age: 10+

Sara and the Chimera: A Prison of Light – Book 1
Series: Sara and the Chimera
Author:  Greg Dent & Todd MoraschSara and the Chimera
Publication Date: 27 July 2010
Publisher: Epidemic Books
Source: Free copy from author in exchange for honest review
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Sara Starbright has the most important gift the universe has ever given, and all manner of creatures from all realms of the imagination want to take it for themselves. What can one small girl do to protect herself from the deadliest and most impressive force creation has ever amassed? Yet in her darkest hour, Sara may have just met the one person in the entire universe capable of being her friend.

Stifled and stunted in the deepest inner chambers of the Fishman’s worldship prison colony, a boy named Jonathan Wheeler lies in a state of suspended animation. Through an unlikely twist of fate, he has found himself in the body of an ever-growing and ever-changing monster, the Chimera. With boundless energy and strength at his command, all he needs is the right bit of knowledge to get himself out of his cell and to freedom.

As they escape from one world to the next, Sara and Jonathan find that together they make a pretty good team. But when you can’t trust anyone, and when the universe turns out to be quite a bit bigger than you could have ever imagined, who can you count on to guide you towards somewhere you actually want to be?    – Extract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received this copy of this book from the author does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

You Don’t Know Me by Sophia Bennett

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A beautifully written story about the bonds of friendship, that also shines a spotlight on the dark world of manipulation which is sometimes the ‘reality’ of Reality Television. Where ‘real’ is edited until it is something else, something that will attract viewers, and where everyone loses something.

You Don’t Know Me exposes the ugly of social media, tabloids and unscrupulous production companies who will do anything to make money. Don’t miss this book.

4 Star

Recommended age 12+

You Don’t Know Me
Author:
 Sophia Bennett
Publication Date: 2 May 2013You Don’t Know Me by Sophia Bennett
Publisher: Chicken House
Source: Purchased
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Sasha, Jodie, Nell and Rose never expected to be famous. They didn’t want to be. In fact, they wanted to keep their band a secret because it’s what they do when they’re being stupid together – dressing up and singing cheesy songs.

But someone has stolen a video they made. It’s online, and it’s been entered into a talent competition. And what’s more … it’s got 24 votes. In only a few hours it’s got 24 votes.

The girls are about to be faced with a big decision that could make them seriously famous.

Just not necessarily the way they hoped …

– Extract from Goodreads.com

The Future of Us by Jay Asher

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I have read several mediocre books just recently and this is one of them. I was expecting more from Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler whose previous books I have enjoyed.

While I think the idea to use Facebook was quite clever, the whole seeing into the future has been done so many times before and this story did not contain enough originality to give it an edge.

Disappointing character development, where are the characters that we can engage with? I know I was supposed to be rooting for Emma and Jay to get together, but in all honestly I couldn’t care either way.3 Star

Recommended age 12+

The Future of Us
Author:  Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler
Publication Date: 5 January 2012The Future of Us by Jay Asher
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Source: Purchased


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It’s 1996 and very few high school students have ever used the internet. Facebook will not be invented until several years in the future. Emma just got a computer and an America Online CD. She and her best friend Josh power it up and log on – and discover themselves on Facebook in 2011. Everybody wonders what they’ll be like fifteen years in the future. Josh and Emma are about to find out.  Extract from Goodreads.com

Breathe by Sarah Crossan

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A mediocre read, especially disappointing because dystopian fiction has been one of my favourite genres (and I fell in love with this beautiful cover) – Does this mean that I am over dystopia? I hope not.

I did like the use of the future oxygen deprived world, a world with enough realism to be believable. It was the characters that were poorly developed. I need to emotionally connect with characters to care about them, one way or another, and I didn’t feel much for them at all. Right now I have no plans to read the sequel.3 Star

Recommended age 12+

Breathe
Author: Sarah Crossan
Publication Date: 11 October 2012Breathe by Sarah Crossan
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Source: Purchased


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The world is dead.
The survivors live under the protection of Breathe, the corporation that found a way to manufacture oxygen-rich air.

Alina has been stealing for a long time.  If she’s careful, it’ll be easy. 

Quinn should be worried about Alina and a bit afraid for himself, too, but even though this is dangerous, it’s also the most interesting thing to happen to him in ages. 

Bea wants to tell him that none of this is fair; they’d planned a trip together, the two of them, and she’d hoped he’d discover her out here, not another girl.

As they walk into the Outlands with two days’ worth of oxygen in their tanks, everything they believe will be shattered. Will they be able to make it back? Will they want to?  Extract from Goodreads.com

Resistance by Craig Simpson

Resistance by Craig Simpson

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Tyranny, courage, betrayal and espionage feature heavily in this action-packed adventure set in Occupied Norway during the Second World War. Fourteen-year-old Marek and his brother join forces with the Resistance and stage acts of sabotage and rescue while battling the harsh sub-arctic conditions. Great read for boys – but also popular with girls in our school library.4 Star

Recommended age 12+

Resistance
Author: Craig Simpson
Publication Date: 1 February 2007Resistance by Craig Simpson
Publisher: Transworld Publishers
Source: Purchased


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Norway, September 1943. For brothers Marek and Olaf, a hunting trip offers a brief chance to get away from the German occupying forces. But returning home they witness the horror of their father’s arrest by the Gestapo and the start of a brutal regime under the evil Lieutenant Wold. — Extract from Goodreads.com

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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Every once in a while, if you are lucky, you come across a book that changes your life. This book is one of them. Alternating between laughter and tears I read devoured this book. There is no way I can give it the review it deserves, so I am going to rely on my experiences with terminal illness – I trained as a nurse and midwife and have spent many years in hospitals and other such institutions where dying is exposed in all its undignified ugliness.

Dealing with teenagers dying is a tough subject to write about, not only is it a subject most of us either can’t or won’t face but it is difficult to keep the characters real and natural – our true fallible human personalities are only amplified by difficult times. John Green has not only created strong, believable characters whose circumstances ring true, but has interwoven the story with humour, hope and emotion. A must read.

My only concern is that the uninspiring cover will put off many potential readers.5 Star

Recommended age 13+

The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
Publication Date: 10 January 2012The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Publisher: Dutton Books
Source: Purchased
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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. – Extract from Goodreads.com

The movie version of this book is due for release on 6 June 2014.

The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony

The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony

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The Elephant Whisperer is a book close to my heart. Although I did not have the privilege of meeting Lawrence Anthony, whose courage and respect for nature is legendary, his game reserve is just a couple of hours drive away from my home.

The elephants, the heroes of this story, show remarkable intelligence, resilience and loyalty. They prove, yet again, that man is arrogant to believe he is superior to animals. Respect.

The Elephant Whisperer is one of those books that will remain in your heart forever.5 Star

The Elephant Whisperer
Author:
Lawrence Anthony
Co-Author: Graham Spence
Publication Date: 7 May 2010The Elephant Whisperer
First Published:  1 January 2009
Publisher: Pan Publishing
Source: Purchased


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When South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony was asked to accept a herd of ‘rogue’ elephants on his reserve at Thula Thula, his commonsense told him to refuse. But he was the herd’s last chance of survival – notorious escape artists, they would all be killed if Lawrence wouldn’t take them. He agreed, but before arrangements for the move could be completed the animals broke out again and the matriarch and her baby were shot. The remaining elephants were traumatised and very angry. As soon as they arrived at Thula Thula they started planning their escape…

As Lawrence battled to create a bond with the elephants and save them from execution, he came to realise that they had a lot to teach him about love, loyalty and freedom.
— Extract from Goodreads.com

 

This article (link below), published this week in our local paper, tells of the elephants annual pilgrimage to Lawrence Anthony’s home to pay their respects on the anniversary of his untimely death two years ago.

Read article here:  Elephants commemorate late conservation hero

 

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Dragon’s Curse by H.L. Burke: YA Book Review

For some reason I want to describe this book as charming, which it is, but this is not a word I normally use as it conjures up an image of an old lady commenting on the child, hasty scrubbed up and ushered forward to meet Great Aunt Maud! That aside, the book tells an underlying story of longing and hope in between the more dominant emotions of revenge, loyalty, betrayal and love.

Although the story line was, at times, predictable and parts felt a little too rough, as though written in haste, I found myself drawn into the story and wanting to know the outcome. The dragon’s character was my favourite and the most believable, while the other characters felt underdeveloped which contributed to the roughness of the story.

I have mixed feelings about this book, despite the shortfalls I felt emotionally connected to the characters which made it difficult to review and rate. I look forward to finding out what happens in the next book. 3 Star

Recommended age: 12+

Dragon’s Curse 
Series: The Dragon and the Scholar # 1
by  H. L. Burke
Publication Date: 2 January 2014Dragon curse
Publisher: H. L. Burke
Source: Free copy from author in exchange for honest review


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On her first assignment out of the Academy, young healer and scholar, Shannon Macaulay is summoned to the struggling kingdom of Regone to see to the wounds of a young but crippled king. When the unwanted attentions of an aggressive knight and the sudden appearance of a hated dragon turn her world upside down, she decides to take matters into her own hands even if doing so proves dangerous.

Finding herself strangely drawn to the company of the dragon, Gnaw, Shannon must force herself out of her safe world of books and botany to come to the aid of her unexpected ally in a strange kingdom, cursed by a fateful encounter with a dragon and the loss of a beloved prince. Can she learn to put aside her fears, and perhaps sacrifice her deepest desires, to help a friend and restore a family? –Extract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received this copy of this book from the author does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

Splat the Cat by Rob Scotton: Children’s Picture Book Review

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A cute, funny picture book that children everywhere will love.

Rob Scotton is extremely talented. The story will make you laugh out loud, but it is his bright illustrations that will captivate you. I particularly love how he has portrayed Splat and the other cat’s fur – I can imagine my fingers sinking into the soft fluff!

Splat starts off nervous about starting school for the first time but along the way he  finds out how much fun school can be and learns that he is Amazing!

A very good story to read to children starting school for the first time.5 Star

Recommended age – 3-6 years

Series: Splat the Cat
Author: Rob Scotton
Illustrator: Rob ScottonSplat the Cat by Rob Scotton
Publication Date:  1 July 2008
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Purchased
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It’s Splat’s first day of school and he’s worried. What if he doesn’t make any new friends?Just in case, Splat decides to bring along his pet mouse, Seymour, and hides him in his lunchbox.

The teacher, Mrs. Wimpydimple, introduces Splat to the class and he soon starts learning all his important cat lessons. But when Seymour escapes and the cats do what cats do (they chase mice!), Splat’s worried again. Maybe now he’ll lose all his friends, old and new!

Just in time, wise Mrs. Wimpydimple takes charge and teaches everyone an important new lesson. Maybe Cat School is going to be okay after all! – Extract from Goodreads.com

 

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