Review: If I had a Gryphon, by Vikki VanSickle and Cale Atkinson

Sam has a hamster – a typical first pet for any child. Unfortunately Sam is a bit disillusioned with this pet and has grand dreams of something… more. Something more exciting. Something like.. a dragon! Except they would be a lot of work, always lighting things on fire, wouldn’t they.

Sam goes through a whole list of mythical creatures that may be perfect for a pet, but finds a fault with them all and in the end decides that the hamster is perfect.

This book is fantastic for parents to read to their children. It teaches them about creatures that they wouldn’t usually hear about, animals that are not your typical pet. The ending resonated particularly well with me, as Sam decides that the hamster is the perfect pet even after going through the list of mythical ones. A good lesson in the grass is always greener on the other side. I think geek parents would be particularly enthralled with this book, and highly recommend it. My version was in black and white on my e-reader, but I enjoyed the images for what they were. They’re not especially high quality, but I feel that the book doesn’t need it, the story really does speak for itself.

5/5 stars

 

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Longbourn – by Jo Baker

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I picked up this book not quite sure what I was expecting. It tells the story of the servant’s point of view of “Pride and Prejudice” and I suppose I was looking for a book that actually emulated Jane Austen’s writing style. On that level, Longbourn failed to deliver. I found the story incredibly dull and boring, the author spends a lot of time going into minute detail about things that just don’t matter (like foliage) and I kept waiting for something to happen or improve or get better – only it never did.

The book is incredibly dark and sad, and the servants assume their lives are an endless misery. To quote someone else’s review, “it starts out bleak, it continues dire, and it crosses the finish line with a vague “so that turned out okay, I guess.“”. The writing itself was well done if you can look past the fact that the narrative is all over the place. It gets confusing but that’s not a deal breaker for me.

It wasn’t the book I was hoping it would be, and that’s a shame. I just didn’t enjoy it.

2/5 stars

 

The Pirate’s Bed – by Nocola Winstanley

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I won a copy of this book from a blog contest that was hosted a few months back, and I’ve been horrible about posting it, I know. After reading the Children’s hockey book I had high hopes that unfortunately fell flat where this story was concerned.

First thing that came to mind is that this book is way too advanced for the age group. I get that it’s important for kids to learn and they should be expanding their vocabulary, but for a picture book bed time story it just went too far over the top. Words like raucous. Unencumbered. Sensible. Words that I don’t even want to read at 34 before I go to bed let alone read to a small child (and then of course have to explain what those words mean to the child). The pictures were alright, and the story was OK but it all felt quite overshadowed by the vocabulary.

The story is about the bed and how it gets separated from the pirate. The bed complains about stinky pirate feet, but by the end all it wants is those smelly feet back. Eventually the bed washes ashore and gets restored and presented to a young pirate loving boy. It is a short sweet tale with a happy ending. The artwork wasn’t really my style but it was bright and colourful which should appeal to a good selection of readers even if it wasn’t for me.

3/5 stars

 

At the Water’s Edge – by Sara Gruen

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The year is 1942, and Maddie and Ellis Hyde are out enjoying themselves at a New Year’s Eve party. Unfortunately neither one conducts themselves very well, and somehow through a weird series of incidents, they end up being financially cut off from their family, and headed to Scotland in the middle of a war to prove that the Loch Ness monster is a thing.

What?

Maddie and Ellis (married) are friends with Hank (who is also very wealthy) and all three head to Scotland on a ship in the middle of a war. Of course that’s not how we’re introduced to the book. First we learn of a mysterious woman who has just found out that her husband was killed, and their child has just died, and she is heartbroken so she kills herself by drowning in the lake that the Loch Ness monster lives in. If you think this book is a story about the Loch Ness monster, you would be incorrect. While this is the main theme played up in the beginning of the book, it becomes the background story and then resurfaces again near the end. Instead this book is about spoiled adults who treat each other poorly, and secret romances where in the end it’s all tied up neatly in a ‘too good to be true’ formula. Ellis is entitled, rude, and just plain mean. He treats Maddie poorly throughout the entire book and there’s never a redeeming quality about him in any chapter. He’s constantly drunk and making snide remarks about social standings. The reader is very obviously supposed to dislike him, but it comes across as being a bit too much. Especially near the end of the book where he completely loses it in a number of ways that I just couldn’t believe. Hank starts off as being exactly like Ellis, but then as we reach the end of the book we feel like we should forgive him because he has seen the error of his ways. I also didn’t quite believe this. Finally there’s Maddie, who is treated poorly but never stands up for herself, even though she talks about doing it often. She follows along to Scotland, begs her Dad for help, has her world fall apart, falls in love with another man while still being married, excuses her unfaithful behaviour by the reasoning that her own husband is horrid (which he is, but is that a reason to cheat?), has her father die, and yet still manages to ‘win it all’ by the end.

Honestly the best part of this book was the story of the widower, and we weren’t given enough information at all about his circumstances or enough details about the Lock Ness. Instead it just seemed like a cheap attempt at pulling at heartstrings (which worked) until everything all worked out at the last possible second. It’s too easy to feel happy about this outcome when the main character experiences nothing but hardship throughout the entire book (whether it is because of her own doing or otherwise).

An easy read and probably a good one for a lazy Sunday afternoon, but not highly recommended.

3 / 5 stars.

 

A Blight of Mages – by Karen Miller

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Wow. It had been so long since I had a good fantasy book pull me in the way A Blight of Mages did.  I wasn’t even expecting it, which was the best part. I had the book in my to-read pile for quite some time, having read other books by Karen Miller (the Innocent Mage, the Awakened Mage, etc) and had just sort of forgotten about it. I’m incredibly glad that I finally got around to reading this one. Things started out a little slow for my liking. You’re introduced to Barl, who is an opinionated woman working at a job she doesn’t want to be in. She wants more out of life, as do we all. You learn about the relationship with her brother and the problems she has gotten into in the past. She is a low-born mage, and she isn’t allowed to progress the way she’d like, the way she knows she deserves. She wants to attend the mage college in Elvado, the capital city of Dorana, but she is denied. She is frustrated by this, and acts out a bit like a spoiled brat.

Things drag on for a bit until through a series of events, Barl meets Morgan. Morgan is broken, and Barl is his redemption. His first love is dead, his father is dying and begging for an heir. From here things get incredibly intense, and they move fast. Barl and Morgan fall in love. They start working together, creating together. It’s fast paced, and it’s passionate. The outside world becomes a blur as they wrap themselves up within each other and their project.

As a reader it was easy for me to become wrapped up in their affections as well. It was easy to miss the signs that not all was right. Suddenly faced with the realization that things are very wrong, it was like a splash of cold water to the face. I couldn’t believe it, I had been that wrapped up in the story. The book can get quite violent, but I felt that within the story it worked and it wasn’t out of place.

The book does a fantastic job at pulling at your emotions. Starting with indifference towards the characters, becoming wrapped up in their romance and happiness and then sudden horror and shock and sadness when the pieces finally slide together by the end.

Highly recommended.

5 / 5 stars

Review: The Harem Midwife

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I enjoyed reading the first book by Roberta Rich, The Midwife of Venice, but I ended up having much of the same issues. Unlike many series, the reader will want to read the first book before reading this one. The story will make much more sense that way. My problem of course is the ending. Again.

We meet up with Hannah and her husband Isaac, this time they’re living in Constantinople, with the baby that Hannah stole and brought with her. She starts up her midwife business again, and do to her amazing skills, she falls into good graces with the Sultan’s Harem. Aside from the story of Hannah and Isaac, there are two new characters brought into the fold. The stories of these two new characters blend with Hannah and Isaac, and much drama ensues. About half way into the book the reader is almost overwhelmed with all of the drama and negativity that is going on. It looks like there is absolutely no way that the families involved can get away unscathed – and yet – in true Roberta Rich fashion, in the last 15% of the book, everything magically comes together and works out.

This. Frustrates. Me.

It frustrated me in the previous book, and it frustrates me again now. The books themselves are incredibly detailed, beautiful, well written works that I enjoy on such an enormous level – but the endings constantly leave me shaking my head sadly and wondering “Wow. Did I really just read the entire thing to have it end like THAT?”.

It is so incredibly disheartening.

3/5 stars

Review: Forest of Secrets (Warriors #3) by Erin Hunter

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We join up once more with Fireheart as he tries to get to the bottom of some clan drama, in specific the death of Redtail. He has risen in power within the clan, but there is still a lot of uncertainty as the Queen uses up almost all of her 9 lives, and Fireheart has to decide who he can trust.

While romance had never played much of a part in previous books, this time it was almost at the forefront. Not a bad thing, but I wasn’t expecting it. Not only is it romance, but it’s forbidden romance. It brings about some very important lessons but also made the book feel a bit more ‘adult’ in nature. Combine that with the violence between clans, murder, betrayal, and treachery, and I wonder what this book would be rated had it been written about humans instead of cats.

Even though the book is aimed at a younger audience, I enjoyed reading it this far. Some of the story resonated with me, especially the parts where no one believes Fireheart and his assumptions about the dangers that are going to befall the clan. It is difficult to know you are speaking the absolute truth, and yet not have people listen.

I did enjoy this book more than the previous one. It moved along at a steady pace and it was an enjoyable read. I haven’t decided if I’m going to continue on with the series or not, but that has more to do with the fact that I need a break from reading the same series.

3/5 stars