Book Review · Reading Challenges

48HBC: Summertime of the Dead by Gregory Hughes and Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver.

Books 3 and 4 are both read, my totals now stand at 5 hours 10 minutes reading, and 1,213 pages read.

Summertime of the Dead by Gregory Hughes. Quercus.
SummertimeYukio’s two best friends are dead. Tormented and blackmailed by the Yakuza – the Japanese mafia – they have taken their own lives. Yukio is a kendo champion and he knows all the stories of the samurai. Heartbroken and furious, he is determined to avenge the deaths of his beloved Hiroshi and Miko.

And so begins a deadly struggle between Yukio and the Yakuza, and between Yukio’s capacity for love, and his thirst for revenge. Shot through with the beauty of Tokyo in spring, this is an unforgettable and uncompromising read.

Wow, this was such a contrast to the first two books I read this morning. A tale of grief and vengeance, this is a dark and at times disturbing read. It’s utterly captivating, I put off stopping to have lunch because I was so desperate to find out what was going to happen.

It feels quite claustrophobic at times, the way it is written really evokes the sense of the hot, bustling city – I felt that this worked so well to mirror how everything is weighing down on Yukio. This was paired with the lighter, almost redemptive sub plot focusing on Yukio’s visiting niece – a really welcome addition to the story.

One thing I did find was that I had to remind myself at times that Yukio is only 14 years old. I found that the decisions he makes and actions he takes often made it feel like he is much older than he is. I think this book’s probably better suited to slightly older teens than Yukio, I think it could make an excellent book group title – there’s certainly lots of scope for discussion.

Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver. Hodder & Stoughton.
LieslAndPoLiesl lives in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice,until one night a ghost appears from the darkness. It is Po, who comes from the Other Side. Both Liesl and Po are lonely, but together they are less alone.

That same night, an alchemist’s apprentice, Will, bungles an important delivery. He accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable.

Will’s mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey.

How I loved this book! It’s an absolute gem of a read, a lovely fairytale-esque story complete with the most beautiful illustrations courtesy of Kei Acedera. I fell in love with the book within the first few pages, it was a reading experience I didn’t really want to see end.

The story is relatively simple, a number of mix ups send the various characters on paths that cross each others’ throughout, but it is the deeper themes that really make this book sing. Liesl’s quest to take her father’s ashes and bury them under the willow tree where they buried her mother years before really tugs at the heartstrings, even though I could see the problems with this plan I was still willing her to achieve her aim.

This book feels like the childrens’ books I read and loved as a child. There is a timeless quality to it that I think would make it as enjoyable for the parent reading aloud as for the child listening to it. It’s a real departure from the author’s YA books, but I think it’s going to be the one I will return to time and time again.

Book Review

Picture Book Mini Reviews [3].

One of my 2013 reading resolutions was to read more picture books. I’m going to share my thoughts on these books in mini reviews throughout the year.

I Do Not Eat the Colour Green by Lynne Rickards and Margaret Chamberlain. Hodder & Stoughton.
I really loved this book. It’s a fun story about a girl who refuses to eat anything green – even green sweets! I felt able to identify to a certain extent with this, though green sweets are generally my favourite, and I know other people who refuse to eat a certain colour – I’m sure parents of fussy eaters will definitely enjoy the humour (and message) in this book. The book is written in rhyme which gives it a really nice rhythm – definitely a great book for reading aloud.

Again! by Emily Gravett. MacMillan Children’s Books.
This is another funny book, it made me giggle all the way through. Again I think a lot of parents will identify with the parent dragon having to read and re-read the book to their demanding child. The book has an interesting structure, the story isn’t obvious which I liked. I loved the illustrations, the dragons are really very nice.

Lulu and the Best Cake Ever! by Emma Chichester Clark. Harper Collins Children’s Books.
This is a tale from Wagtail Town, an ongoing series, there is quick introduction to characters at the beginning which makes it easy for new readers or for existing readers to refamiliarise themselves with the characters. It is a nice story about it being okay not being the best / winner and highlights that everyone has their own things that they’re good at. The illustrations are lovely, there’s lots to explore – speech bubbles, labels etc which make it ideal for re-reading.

Book Review

Book Review : Tiger’s Voyage by Colleen Houck.

With the head-to-head battle against the villainous Lokesh behind her, Kelsey confronts a new heartbreak: in the wake of his traumatic experience, her beloved Ren no longer remembers who she is. As the trio continues their quest by challenging five cunning and duplicitous dragons, Ren and Kishan once more vie for her affections – leaving Kelsey more confused than ever.

Fraught with danger, filled with magic, and packed with romance, Tiger’s Voyage brings Kelsey and her two tiger princes one step closer to breaking the curse.

I, like many other book bloggers, have made no secret of my love for Colleen Houck’s Tiger books. After getting to read the first two books in pretty quick succession it was hard waiting to read this third book, but it was completely worth it.

The book really has two key plot threads that wind around each other. First up is of course the quest to break the next part of the curse, as the title suggests this time the quest involves a voyage and what a voyage it is. I loved the way the mythology was woven into the plot again, the five dragons were all so interesting and well created – I found myself feeling a little sad when it was time to leave one behind and move onto the next. The quests are always exciting and this was no exception, I was completely gripped by it.

The second key plot thread is the relationship between Kelsey, Ren and Kishan. The second book had ended with Ren unable to remember Kelsey or their relationship, a state of affairs that had left me quite upset. I spent so much of this book willing Ren to remember again, all the while noticing how Kishan wasn’t really putting a foot wrong. I liked the addition of Wes, the Texan diving instructor, whilst he was never really going to get in the way of the love triangle I liked the way he shook things up a little with his easy charm.

These books are just so readable, I felt by the end of this book that I’d fallen in love with the characters all over again. The plot was involved and interesting, as well as the wonderful quest there were so many interesting scenes as we see Kelsey experience life with the boys and the ever brilliant Mr Kadam.

The next book in the series, Tiger’s Destiny is due to be published in September which feels like a long long way away at the moment. I’m already really looking forward to it so much!

Tiger’s Voyage is published in paperback by Hodder & Stoughton in the UK. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : Tiger’s Quest by Colleen Houck.

Back in Oregon, Kelsey tries to pick up the pieces of her life and push aside her feelings for Ren. But danger lurks around the corner, forcing her to return to India where she embarks on a second quest-this time with Ren’s dark, bad-boy brother Kishan, who has also fallen prey to the Tiger’s Curse.

Fraught with danger, spellbinding dreams, and choices of the heart, TIGER’S QUEST brings the trio one step closer to breaking the spell that binds them.

After loving Tiger’s Curse so much I was torn when I received my copy of Tiger’s Quest. Part of me couldn’t wait to jump head first back into the fictional world I’d loved so much but part of me was a little scared in case it didn’t live up to my expectations. I was therefore pretty nervous when I started to read.

I’m so pleased that my fears were unfounded, within a couple of pages I’d fallen firmly back into Kelsey’s world. The book picks up from where Tiger’s Curse ends, with Kelsey on her way back to America. The first few chapters focus on her settling back into her old life and beginning to attend college, Mr Kadam has organised everything for her including a house, car and enrolling her in suitable classes to both interest her and build her knowledge for continuing to work on breaking the curse. Whilst she’s getting settled she continues to yearn for Ren, even her attempts at dating are marred by the knowledge that he is out there. Finally he follows her to America, unable to be apart from her any longer. It doesn’t take much time then for the dangers of the curse to return, and for Kelsey, Ren and Kishan to all get caught up in the adventure again.

I continue to really like Kelsey as a character, I think she’s a great leading lady. This book sees Ren play a much smaller role in the adventure instead allowing Kishan to come to the fore. I really enjoyed getting to know him better, whilst he is definitely cast in the bad boy role he is a fully three dimensional and sympathetic character. I had thought at the end of Tiger’s Curse that Ren was the tiger for me, however now I am completely torn and think that for now at least I’m going to put off choosing a tiger!

There are some wonderfully humorous scenes in the book, Kelsey’s attempts at dating and Ren’s attempt to assert his position in her life both entertained me fully. My favourite section was when Kelsey and Kishan are beyond the spirit gate, the world described there is wonderful and very lovely. The action sequence towards the end of the book had me on the edge of my seat, I’m sure at times I was holding my breath as I read!

This book completely lived up to the promise of the first, I loved that Kelsey got a bit of time back in the real world – I really enjoyed reading about it and I liked that it meant we got to see more of Ren outside of the adventuring. I loved that the adventure continued but with the added benefit of allowing the reader to get to know Kishan better. The movement of the action into Tibet meant Houck could explore new mythology, she continues to weave this seamlessly into the plot.

I loved this book and am eagerly awaiting the third book in the series – Tiger’s Voyage. My only slight gripe is that after getting the first two books so close together we have to wait for the subsequent titles, I’m feeling a bit impatient about wanting to get on with this story!

Tiger’s Quest is published in paperback by Hodder in the UK priced £6.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck.

Passion. Fate. Loyalty.

Would you risk it all to change your destiny?

The last thing Kelsey Hayes thought she’d be doing this summer was trying to break a 300-year-old Indian curse. With a mysterious white tiger named Ren. Halfway around the world.

But that’s exactly what happened. Face-to-face with dark forces, spellbinding magic, and mystical worlds where nothing is what it seems, Kelsey risks everything to piece together an ancient prophecy that could break the curse forever.

I’m a pretty fast reader but every now and again there comes a book that makes me wish I could read things more slowly so that I could savour every page. This is one of those books, within a couple of chapters I felt like I had fallen inside the book, I was so swept up in the story. The plot offers a bit of everything, there’s plenty of action, thrills and romance. On top of that Houck weaves mythology into the plot seamlessly. I wasn’t sure whether the myths were all real or if they’d been made up for the book but this didn’t matter, I found them really interesting and they added to the book – they never felt like they’d been shoehorned in for the sake of it.

The book centres around Kelsey, I really liked her as a character. She’s independent and capable but without being some sort of supergirl. I loved the way that she tried to be rational and practical in her approach to the situations she gets thrown into but that her emotions still play a huge part in how she deals with things, for me this made her a really believable character. Ren the tiger is her main companion, I found myself being amazed that within the first 50 pages or so I was falling in love with a tiger! I loved the interactions between Kelsey and Ren, they worked really well for me. I also loved the character of Mr Kadam, I found him really interesting and enjoyed reading about him.

The plot itself does have some moments that you could question, there are some decisions made by the adults in Kelsey’s life that could be seen as a little odd. However this is a book about a girl and a tiger trying to break a 300 year old curse – it requires some suspension of belief! I personally didn’t have any issues with these aspects of the book, for me it was a wonderfully escapist story and I was more than happy to just jump into the world of it head first. The action sequences felt like something out of Indiana Jones, I loved the fact that Kelsey makes this comparison herself within the book.

I really loved this book and am so happy that it is the first in a series of five books. I can’t wait to read the next instalment.

Tiger’s Curse is published in paperback by Hodder in the UK from 26th May 2011 priced £6.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : Delirium by Lauren Oliver.

There was a time when love was the most important thing in the world. People would go to the end of the earth to find it. They would tell lies for it. Even kill for it.

Then, at last, they found the cure.

Now, everything is different. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Haloway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But then, with only ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: she falls in love.

I loved Lauren Oliver’s debut novel Before I Fall so I was really interested to see what she would write next. When I heard it was a dystopian tale I was even more interested so when I got a chance to read it I couldn’t wait to get stuck in. I certainly wasn’t disappointed, within the first few chapters I became caught up in Lena’s world and found it hard to put the book down.

The plot starts off fairly slowly, as Oliver builds Lena’s world. That’s not to say it comes without incident, Lena is preparing for her assessment – it is this combined with her school results that will determine the husband she is matched with. I felt myself getting anxious along with Lena as this important meeting loomed, I really felt a sense of involvement with the character. The plot definitely picks up pace as the book progresses, I found that the more I read the more I wanted to read.

I enjoyed the characters that Oliver created, as I’ve already said I found myself getting totally wrapped up in what was happening with Lena. I also enjoyed Alex, the boy she meets and falls for. I liked their interactions, and how their story developed.

I thought the concept that love instead of being a good thing was actually an illness to be really interesting. I liked the way the concept was described, it didn’t feel like too big a jump to understand how people had begun to believe it.

I shall certainly be looking forward to the further two books in this trilogy.

“Delirium” is published in hardback by Hodder & Stoughton books in the UK priced £12.99 from 3rd February 2011. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book via all of the opinions expressed are my own.