Archive for 'SciFi/Fantasy'

Mountain of Whispers – Book Review


by Keith Robinson

Mountain of Whispers is book 3 from the Island of Fog series.  Book 1 Island of Fog. Book 2 Labyrinth of Fire.

Once again we join Hal and his friends as they are sent on another mission that only they, with their special talents, can complete.  Hal, his friends and their families have had little time to settle into their new home when their new world comes under attack. If the young friends can solve a 15 year old mystery, they may just save everyone in this new world and those few survivors left in the old. 

A terrible secret has been revealed to one of the friends when they looked into a magic glass ball.   The truth of what caused the death of millions in their old world is horrible.  The revelation is so shocking it could cause fragile alliances to crumble.  With their new home under threat of invasion, the alliances are more important now than ever.    Hal and his shapeshifting friends are needed to secure the alliances and bring help to repel the invaders. 

Planning is  interupted when an old soothsayer arrives.  His predictions are generally dismissed but something in what he says makes sense to the friends and lines up with what was revealed in the glass ball.  They convince the leaders to let them investigate the soothsayer’s ravings on their way to gather allies.  So, armed only with their shapeshifting abilities, the friends leave to solve the mystery of The Mountain of Whispers. 

Keith Robinson has wielded his special kind of magic again and this book is just as wonderful as the first two.   The books are packed full of adventure and fun but also deliver some serious messages. For example, they  promote teamwork and respect of others; they explore environmental issues and disasters;  and demonstrate the complex issue of integration, immigration and race relations.  There are so many reasons why these books should be on every school list. So many big messages but you never feel like you’re being preached to.  Keith has a beautiful style of writing that sweeps you along effortlessly.  I hope Keith keeps adding to this series because I for one am not ready to put it down.

Thank you Keith Robinson.

Posted on 19 September '10 by , under Childrens fiction, Reviews, SciFi/Fantasy, Young Adult. 1 Comment.

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter – Book Review


by Seth Grahame-Smith

Abraham Lincoln’s long lost journals have been discovered/acquired by Seth Grahame-Smith – lucky man.  What is revealed in the journals is incredible and offers a chance to understand why the amazing Abraham Lincoln was so truly great. 

The American people are oblivious to what their beloved president really did to secure their freedom.  Abraham Lincoln’s United States was fractured and while north and south fought each other they were ignorant of the real enemy threatening them all… vampires.  Few knew of the existence of vampires walking amongst them but Abraham was one of those few.  He had known from a very young age and had lived his whole life in pursuit of them. 

Abraham’s career in vampire hunting had a shaky start   He had a near fatal encounter with a particularly vicious vampire who prayed on children.   Abraham’s saviour had a wealth of knowledge  and taught him much about vampires and how to hunt them them.  From that moment an alliance was formed and Abraham had help in tracking the most dangerous vampires.  Abraham was fighting a war for the American people long before he entered the white house.

Another fun read by Seth Grahame-Smith.  I find the idea of matching classic literature or iconic characters with gothic or horror themes very entertaining.  I know that it can draw a lot of criticism but quite simply I LIKE IT.   It’s just a bit of fun and does it’s bit for promoting the ‘originals’.  I admit to googling madly after finishing the book because I was hungry for more on the amazing life of the real  Abraham Lincoln.

Posted on 8 July '10 by , under Historical Fiction, Paranormal Fantasy, Reviews, SciFi/Fantasy. 1 Comment.

Legends of Marithia, Book 1 – Book Review


by Peter Koevari

Book 1 – Prophecies Awakening

A tale to prove that children often suffer punishment for the crimes of their parents.  In this case, the punishment reaches across generations.  The disastrous decision of one human king to execute a mother and father in front of their child will set the wheels of prophecy in motion.  Making an enemy of the child of a sorceress and vampire king will reverberate through several lifetimes.

The crime is long forgotten and the kingdom of Marithia lives in relative peace.   However that peace is due to be shattered by betrayal.   The son betrays his father, prince betrays his king.  This ambitious prince is no longer willing to wait for his turn to rule and kills his own parent.    In order to seize the throne he seeks help from the child wronged so long ago.  The revengeful sorceress vampire and her prince commit murder and a bloody war for control of all Marithia begins. 

No prophecy worth its salt wouldn’t have an escape clause and in this case, it is a young knight who who has the power to activate a weapon that should banish the evil marauders forever.  However keeping this knight alive long enough to fulfill the prophecy during a time of war will be an formidable task.       

Legends of Marithia has obviously been a labour of love for Peter Koevari.  His passion for the fantasy genre shows through in his storytelling.   Only real fans of the genre can truly write it and convincingly guide the reader through their mind’s creation. 

I found the book easy to read but the easy writing style is not geared for younger readers, 16/17 or over would be my recommendation, as it contains adult themes.  The story powers along and is a fast read.   In fact the speed is such that you hardly know the characters before all the action begins.  A sly trick Mr Koevari… just when I start getting to know everyone better, the book ends and I have to wait for the next installment to renew my acquaintance.  Good luck with writing Book 2 and I look forward to finding out what happens next.

Posted on 25 June '10 by , under Reviews, SciFi/Fantasy. 5 Comments.

Labyrinth of Fire – book review


by Keith Robinson

The second book in the Island of Fog series.  Island of Fog was probably my favourite read for 2009.  I love that it was such a great book and it was Keith Robinson’s debut novel.   So in my world that makes it special.

Labyrinth of Fire continues the story of 12yo Hal and his friends as they settle into their new home and their new ‘world’.  They aren’t given long to adjust when they are sent on their first ‘errand’ on behalf of the people who created them.  All the kids are still stretching their ‘alter-ego’ muscles, getting to know themselves as the magical creatures they can shapeshift into.  Hal especially is feeling ill-prepared and is worried that he may have been brought into the new world too early.  Despite looking, feeling, smelling and breathing fire like a dragon,  he still can’t fly.  

A village in a volcanic area is being attacked by harpies and dragons.  The kids are sent to negotiate with their ‘kind’ to stop the attacks.  They have to discover much more about themselves in order to succeed and secure the protection of the humans.

Keith Robinson has a wonderful easy writing style that never slows you up.  I was shocked how quickly I read the first book and am equally so with this one.  Labyrinth of Fire is well written, exciting and absorbing.  I am thoroughly confused as to who the kids can trust and am very anxious to read the third installment.  It is great entertainment for both children and adults.

Thank you Keith Robinson.

Posted on 4 January '10 by , under Childrens fiction, Reviews, SciFi/Fantasy, Young Adult. 2 Comments.

The Hunger Games – Catching Fire – Book Review


by Suzanne Collins

The 2nd book in the Hunger Games Triology.

Katniss survived the Hunger Games but in a way that did not satisfy the Capital.  Now the Capital wants revenge.  Instead of the blessed life that should be owed to a winner of the games, Katniss is dealt another blow.

Instead of guaranteeing her and her family’s future, winning the games has only guaranteed them misery.  Katniss has another fight on her hands, but is there anyway to win?  One young girl against a corrupt society.  A society happy to sacrafice anyone of lesser birth for their own pleasure.  Not sure who her real friends are Katniss has to fight to survive for the sake of her family.

Another great story by Suzanne Collins and now you are only left to ask… are you team Peeta or team Gale.  Don’t keep us waiting too long for the third book Suzanne Collins.

Posted on 27 December '09 by , under Reviews, SciFi/Fantasy, Young Adult. 3 Comments.

The Hunger Games – Book Review


by Suzanne Collins

Panem is a country ruled by an unsympathetic Capital, motivated only by excess and entertainment.  The surrounding Districts provide the Capital with that excess and once a year they provide the pinnacle of entertainment – The Hunger Games.  In a cruel display of power the Capital conducts the reaping.  From each of the twelve districts, two participants are chosen, a boy and a girl between ages 12-18.  These participants are taken to the Capital where they participate in a televised life and death game of an epic scale. With the reaping weighted toward the poorest residents it also acts to divide the districts into classes.

16yo Katniss Everdeen is the main provider for her little family.  She hunts illegally to bring food and other essentials to her mother and young sister Prim.  She is an efficient hunter and a survivor. This year her name is entered 20 times in the reaping, 5 times due to her age and 15 times due to trading for grain and oil.  Her little sister Prim is entered once, for her first reaping.

Against unbelieveable odds 12yo Prim’s name emerges from the reaping, a guaranteed death sentence.  Katniss has only one choice, she exercises her right to enter herself in her sister’s place.  Her entry is likely to kill her but if she can win then their family will never go hungry again.        When Peeta Mallark emerges as the boy entry, Katniss can’t believe her bad luck.  Peeta possesses a power over her although they’ve never spoken, she owes him a debt.  So Katniss and Peeta Mallark leave for the Capital as District 12 contestants.  A contest where 24 enter the arena but only 1 comes out.

The Hunger Games combines a nail-biting fight for life and a heart-wrenching love triangle. Suzanne Collins has written a griping, fast paced book that I couldn’t put down.  I loved The Hunger Games.  The characters are strong and allow you to love and hate them just as you should.  You will find yourself wanting to insight a rebellion on their behalf.  As this is the first in a triology, I’m thrilled to be guaranteed two more to read.

Posted on 14 December '09 by , under Reviews, SciFi/Fantasy, Young Adult. 6 Comments.

Vampire Academy – Book Review


by Richelle Mead

ISBN: 9781595141743

Published: 2007

I knew nothing about this series when I picked up Vampire Academy and admit I only bought it because I’m fascinated with the popularity of these beasties.

What is it about vampires that makes them so irresistible.  I guess it has something to do with the intimacy of the attack.  The victims never seem to be flailing in pain or screaming.  They are seduced by said beastie and willingly present their necks to be drained of their precious liqueur.

Richelle Mead’s vampires possess all the necessary traits to make them irresistible.  She also provides us with two different types of vampire.  The Moroi are peaceful, don’t kill and are, unusually, alive.  The Strigoi are the dark to the Moroi’s light, they take pleasure in killing and are actually dead.   The Strigoi are Moroi gone bad.

A Moroi becomes Strigoi if they drink till they bring on the death of their victim or feeder.  The Strigoi are much stronger than Moroi and are a great threat to them.   Moroi blood sustains the Strigoi better than any other but the Moroi can also be made into Strigoi forcibly.  Given this threat, the Moroi have guardians to help keep them safe.  The guardians are called Dhampir and are offspring of Moroi + Humans or Moroi + Dhampir or Dhampir + Human (confused?).  They are not vampires but possess heightened senses and strength.  Both Moroi and Dhampir are schooled at academies and this is where Richelle Mead bases her story.

Rose Hathaway is Dhampir and guardian to her best friend Lissa Dragomir.  Lissa is a Moroi princess and the last of her family.  2 years ago the girls had to flee St Vladimir’s Academy as it was no longer safe there for Lissa.  It seems Strigoi are not the only danger to Lissa.  Not knowing who to trust, they asked no-one for help, kept moving and evaded capture – until now.  They are returned to the Academy to finish their schooling under strict supervision.  The blame falls on Rose for Lissa’s kidnapping, she is put on probation, given extra training and confined when not training.

Lissa is still in danger and Rose still doesn’t know from where or from whom.  Not being close to Lissa is a problem but her and Rose share an unusual and secret bond that allows Rose to monitor what Lissa is feeling.  There is one danger Rose is certain off  and that is the danger of Lissa to herself.

Rose has to somehow, keep Lissa safe, complete her training so she will be officially given guardianship of Lissa after graduation, repair her reputation and not fall in love with her instructor.

I enjoyed this book despite being very irritated by the main character Rose.  The characters are teenagers but the angst, tantrums and drama was a bit much for me.  I’m aware they have an excuse as their brain lobes are disconnecting from each other at that age but the adult characters were far too forgiving.  Maybe I’m being too harsh – I’m so happy to be a grown up that it’s not easy being back in a teenage world.  Vampire Academy wasn’t as exciting as I hoped for but still entertaining.  I can’t say I loved the book but I must have like it because I picked up the next one straight away and am happy to read the whole series.   If you are into vampire fantasy then I’m sure you will like it too.

Posted on 27 August '09 by , under Paranormal Fantasy, Reviews, SciFi/Fantasy, Young Adult. 3 Comments.

Island of Fog – Book Review


by Keith Robinson

ISBN: 13 978-1-4421-1441-8

Published: April 2009

I love young adult fiction and make no excuses for it.  I eagerly awaited the arrival of my copy of Island of Fog but when it arrived I was suddenly nervous because I really wanted to like it.  I tentatively stepped into the prologue, let out the breath I was holding and launched into the first chapter.  Now my book has a distinct bend in the middle from being stuck under my arm while I tended to my life of the last 3 days.   What a great adventure Keith Robinson took me on.  In keeping with the tradition of young adult fiction, Island of Fog brings together a group of young people who have to solve a mystery in order to save themselves and those they love.

Twelve year old Hal and Robbie are best friends and live in a small community on a green lush island.  The outside world is not known to them, their parents exiled themselves when the world was ravaged by a deadly virus.  Despite being marooned, their island life, up till now, has been ideal but now in their teens they start to question their surroundings.  They crave things they have only heard about, they crave adventure and something new, they crave the sun and the moon.  The sun and moon are never seen on their island because the island is covered in a thick impenetrable fog.   Hal, Robbie and the other teenagers on the island are getting restless. They are adolescents and like all adolescents are going through physical and mental changes.  They are becoming adults, getting taller, stronger, and forming crushes.  They are growing hair in strange places but is it normal to grow it on your fingers, is it normal to be itching all day, is it normal to have a green scaly rash or sharp fangs.  Should they show their parents?  Can they trust their parents, whose explanations don’t seem convincing anymore?  Can they trust the strange outsider who arrives, unaffected by the virus and conveniently, at the same time as their physical changes?  They know they aren’t being told the truth and set out to find it.

Island of Fog travels along at an enjoyable pace and the suspense has you hungry for each page turn.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book and love that young adult fiction can take you off on a great adventure without you being muddied up by ‘adult themes’.  Island of Fog ends but the story is certainly not wrapped up and I searched the last few blank pages with hope of finding an excerpt of the next book.   So, Keith Robinson, thank you for Island of Fog and as I can feel a series coming on, I sit, eagerly awaiting book two.

Posted on 5 August '09 by , under Childrens fiction, Reviews, SciFi/Fantasy, Young Adult. 3 Comments.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Book Review


by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

ISBN: 9781594743344
No. of Pages: 320
Published Date: 06.01.2009

What word comes to mind after reading Pride an Prejudice and Zombies?

‘Hoot’ will suffice.

What a concept!  Due to my devotion to the classic,  I was a little concerned about reading this but am very glad I did.  More than once, I laughed out loud at the ridiculous notion of the prim and proper Bennett women vanquishing undead beasties.

Life for the Bennett family is plagued by the same challenges as any other family in the Hertfordshire district.  Maintaining a good standing in society, seeking out fair prospects for children of marriageable age and ridding the country of  zombies.  The unmentionable scourge of Satan are running rampant all over England.

Mr Bennett, to keep his family safe, has had his daughters trained in the Orient by a master of the deadly arts.    In the course of their lives, they encounter eligible but not always deserving young men.   Forming attachments, however, is not a simple thing when deceived by meddling family, men with malicious intent and constant attacks from the undead.

Despite their considerable skills in the deadly arts, the Bennett women are just the same as in Austen’s classic. Elizabeth, reasonable, Jane, resigned, Mary, zealotical, Kitty, easily lead, Lydia, unruly.  The characters were so familiar in fact, that I often imagined I was reading the classic only to be shocked when “…Elizabeth lifted her skirt, disregarding modesty, and delivered a swift kick to the creature’s head…” (Austen, Grahame-Smith, 2009, p.28).

I loved this book and I am certain I will be reading it again and again like the true fanatical Austen fan I am.

Here is a link to a great Pride and Prejudice and Zombie Giveaway

Posted on 28 July '09 by , under Historical Fiction, Jane Austen & Austen Inspired, Paranormal Fantasy, Reviews, SciFi/Fantasy. 3 Comments.

Twilight – Book Review


by Stephenie Meyer


No. of pages: 434

Published: 22/3/2007, First Published: 2006

Did I like it?… Yes, loved it.

Do I know why?… Not really sure.  Could be the romantic in me or maybe the cover is laced with something addictive.

The story of Bella Swan, a freakishly rational teenager who moves from hot sunny Phoenix to a little rain soaked town called Forks, to live with her dad.   That, in itself, should be fodder enough for a great teen angst story but throw in some sexy mythical beasties and you’ve got something special.

Bella’s first day at school introduces her to the Cullens.  An unnaturally attractive family with a secret and Bella finds herself fascinated by the youngest Cullen, Edward.  However, her compulsion to be with him puts her in mortal peril.  Edward also is drawn to the new girl in school but for two very different reasons.  One, being an intense curiosity and infatuation; the other would drain her of her blood and expose him as a vampire.  The Cullens battle their true nature and do not hunt humans but Bella’s scent is so delicious to Edward it threatens to unravel the peaceful life they have made for themselves.   How can they love each other and manage to keep Bella alive.  We’ve all dreamt about being in a fairytale but what if  the myths turned out to be true, the good and the evil?

Stephenie Meyer has created a beautiful compelling tale about teenage love and sexual discovery.  Each book isn’t action packed throughout but holds you in suspense for something to come.  The action does pick up dramatically toward the end and leaves you hungry for the next book. After finishing Twilight I madly scrambled to the book store to buy the 2nd book before closing time – made it as the grates were being pulled down and left with New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn. I just had to know more about the strange couple and their families and friends.

Twilight deals with teenage sexual discovery in a lovely simple and moral manner.  It certainly isn’t prudish but it is refreshing to not have too much rubbed in your face.  In fact the series is quite sensual.  Despite her frustrating and I’m sure deliberate technique of leaving all the action till the end, Stephenie Meyer converted me from reader to fan with one book.

I have to admit to struggling with the characters at first.  Being a 40+yo mum makes being in a drama filled teenage mind a hard place to be. So I found Bella and Edward really annoying.  Before all you twilighters crucify me, let me explain further.  They were supposed to be mature for their ages but there was still lots of teenage drama and it was wearing on me.  I had trouble accepting a teenage character who is happy to cook, clean and do the laundry.   Who has one of those teens? The obsessive nature of the relationship also set off alarms for me and Edward watching her at night was so uncomfortable.  So after checking my 40yo response, I decided that a vampire would sneek around stalking beautiful damsels.  I also decided that a book aimed at a young adult audience would contain ‘all consuming’ romance.  That’s when I got past my discomfort and started to enjoy myself.

I now like Bella very much and after reading the part outlining her reading tastes, Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, I realise why I like her.  She very much reminds me of some of Jane Austen’s women but with a little more drama thrown in.  I’m not sure if Stephenie Meyer wrote her with them in mind but I definately see similar qualities.   I’ve always thought that every young woman needs to be introduced to Jane Austen.  She created the most glorious women, smart, strong but not without faults.   They wouldn’t accept that they had to compromise themselves to achieve everything their hearts desired.  These women lived in a time that oppressed them but Austen wrote characters that could achieve free thought, occupation, family and love without needing to think or act like men to achieve it.  This is how I see Bella.  Stephenie Meyer has created a lovely smart young woman, with a strong sense of right and wrong, frightened by her failings but unable to be anything other than who she is.  She finds the strength to withstand the social barriers and dangers presented by her intense relationship with Edward.

Edward, what can I say about Edward.  His strength to resist both her blood and her body just makes him all that more sexy.  I’m sure Stephenie Meyer must have developed a crush on Edward while she was writing him – I’m sure I would have.  What a wonderful character to create.  Sorry to keep harping back to Jane Austen but Edward could easily be a wonderful Austen man.  Mr Darcy with immortal life is almost too delicious to bear.   Despite being a century old, Edward has to confront his 17 year old teen self for the first time.  Delightfully, his journey into love and sexual discovery is just as new as Bella’s.  Twilight is a love story, all be it complicated by marauding mythical creatures .

I discovered Twilight at a time when I was recovering from extended illness and I was quite out of touch with myself.  I couldn’t trust my feelings or instincts and was really quite frightened about how long it was taking to recover.  Twilight did something for me that I can’t quite put my finger on.  This simple, innocent love story  somehow helped me to feel human again.  My copy of the series is now well on it’s way to becoming the most well read on our shelves.

Falling in love ages us all.  You cannot feel intense love without exposing ourselves to intense pain but what a wonderful gift for growing up.

Thank you Stephenie Meyer for giving us…. Twilight.

Posted on 24 July '09 by , under Paranormal Fantasy, Reviews, SciFi/Fantasy, Young Adult. 1 Comment.