Saturday, 26 June 2010

Paul Dowswell - The Cabinet of Curiosities - Book review

The room was like a vast repository of missing treasure troves. It was impossible to take in what he was seeing. Every one of the thousands of things that assaulted his senses would have made a fabulous ornament and endless talking point for anyone who possessed it.

The story begins with a chilling experience, between the two main characters, Lukas Declercq and Etienne Lambert.  Their circumstances have thrown them together and as a result they end up as travelling companions. However they are robbed at knife point, alongside a number of other travellers, some of whom are killed. They flee for their lives as they travel towards the city of Prague, however this leads them into more danger and deceit. 

This colourful story unfolds into a fantastical adventure. I loved the stunning portrayal of Ancient Bohemia, which the author describes in a memorable way. The great detail and historical facts are skillfully interwoven with fictional events - clever storytelling is achieved in this way.

The story is action packed and takes you on a journey, which shows the twisted underworld of life during the reign of Emperor Rudolph II. The insightful window into his life depicts a most interesting view. 

The dark unrest within the book leaves an underlying current. This absorbs the reader; placing them on the very edge of tension until the end. Torture and killing, without any conscious recognition, is compelling to the core.

 Lukas Declercq is orphaned, his uncle summons him to Prague, a refuge for Europe's greatest alchemists and natural philosophers, offering to take him on as an apprentice. Uncle Anselmus is court physician to Rudolph II, the reclusive and unstable Emperor. He is also curator of Rudolph's bizarre Cabinet of Curiosities, a series of vast rooms stuffed with wonders and scientific marvels such as a nail from Noah's Ark, phoenix feathers and monstrous freaks of nature, which fascinate Lukas. As Rudolph retreats further into his fantasy world, the threat of rebellion hangs in the air. Dorantes, a diplomat from Spain, comes with his daughter, Celestina, on a mission from Philip II to persuade Rudolph to give up his heretical ways. But he discovers the court is full of diplomats who have been waiting months or years for an audience with the Emperor. Dorantes notices how some had wormed their way into the Emperor's favour by presenting him with fantastic gifts for his Cabinet, and sets about creating a device that he says will stop time. But it works only in the presence of the Emperor. Lukas knows the terrible truth behind Dorantes' mission. But sinister forces have plans for Lukas too, and before he can thwart the plot against the Emperor, Lukas must gamble on Celestina's loyalty in order to save his own life.

This is a great read; I hope there is a lot more to come. I feel we need more books like this - the characters deserve at least one more outing! However in my opinion, there's a lot of scope for many more books.

Book published by Bloomsbury 5 July 2010

Other books by author:

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

New Children's Book - Picks For The Month Of July 2010 - (Unreviewd Books)

Eoin Colfer - Artemis and the Atlantis Complex - Published by Puffin - 20 July 2010
ARTEMIS FOWL’S CRIMINAL WAYS HAVE FINALLY GOT THE BETTER OF HIM . . . Young Artemis has frequently used high-tech fairy magic to mastermind the most devious criminal activity of the new century. Now, at a conference in Iceland, Artemis has gathered the fairies to present his latest idea to save the world from global warming. But Artemis is behaving strangely – he seems different. Something terrible has happened to him . . . Artemis Fowl has become nice. The fairies diagnose Atlantis Complex – that’s obsessive compulsive disorder to you and me – dabbling in magic has damaged his mind. Fairy ally Captain Holly Short doesn’t know what to do. Because the subterranean volcanoes are under attack from vicious robots and Artemis cannot fight them. Can Holly get the real Artemis back before the robot probes destroy every human and life form.

Sophie Mckenzie - The Rescue ( The Medusa Project) - Published by Simon & Schuster - 8 July 2010
Fourteen years ago, four babies were implanted with the Medusa gene - a gene for psychic abilities. Now teenagers, Nico, Ketty, Ed and Dylan have been brought together by government agents to create a secret crime-fighting force: The Medusa Project. Since their existence became known to members of the criminal underworld, they have been hidden away in a secluded training camp in Spain, where their identities are being kept secret. Life in camp is hard enough, but then things take a turn for the worse. Ed is blackmailed into using his mind-reading powers - and in doing so he threatens to endanger the whole Medusa Project...

F E Higgins - The Lunatic's Curse - Published by Macmillan Children's - 2 July 2010

Deep within the heart of the Moiraean Mountains lies the town of Opum Oppidulum - home to the freezing Lake Beluarum and it's rumoured monster. An inescapable asylum stands in the centre of the lake, enclosed by the sheer cliffs of Drop Rock island. When Ambrose Grammaticus, famous inventor and master engineer, viciously attacks his own son, Rex, he is hauled to the island and imprisoned. Rex knows his evil stepmother, Acantha, is behind his father's 'madness', but how can he prove it? Only the asylum holds the answers . . .
A savage story of treachery, lunacy, greed, revenge and pure unadulterated wickedness.

Alan Gibbons - Hell's Underground 4:Witch Breed - Published by Orion Children's - 1 July 2010
When Paul arrives in 17th century London, he expects to be thrown into a life or death struggle for the three gates that imprison the ancient King Lud. But the battle doesn't come. Instead, Paul roams alone, learning how to survive in a city where all the talk is of the savage civil war that rages beyond its ramparts. Somewhere underground, Lud is waiting in his crypt, preparing to rise again. War, fear and want are his tools. But Paul too has his own weapons and is gaining strength and losing inhibitions about using it. Meanwhile, beyond the city, innocent women are being killed for it is so easy to claim that they are witches. One woman - whether innocent or guilty - possesses the only power available that can help Paul in his quest.

Catherine Webb - The Dream Thief:V4 (Horatio Lyle) - Published by ATOM - 1 July 2010
London, 1865, and young Theresa Hatch (Tess, to her friends) receives a nast surprise late at night. When Horatio finds a young girl on his doorstep, passed out, dying - apparently poisoned - he's appalled. Investigations lead to Tess's old workhouse, but a surprise visit to that sorry establishment yields more questions than answers. Only one thing is clear: something very, very bad is happening to the children in the East End. There's a mystery to be solved, sending Lyle, Thomas, Tate and - naturally - Tess out into the wilds of east London and a certain former thief's old stamping grounds. What they find is terrifying: Tess's old crowd of artful dodgers and ace pickpockets are now wandering the streets like zombies, drooling in the workhouses or plain mad in the asylum. And it isn't just affecting Tess' old crowd; children all over the area are turning up with their memories in tatters and their minds all but gone. The only clue is a name, half-whispered in fear: Old Greybags.

Garren Ewing - The Rainbow Orchid: Adventures Julius Chancer V.2 - Egmont Books - 5 July 2010
In Volume Two, the heroic Julius Chancer journeys from Europe to the Indian sub-continent as he steps up his quest for the rainbow orchid. He soon discovers that he's not the only one seeking the mystical flower: he has enemies more dangerous than he could ever have imagined. "The Rainbow Orchid" is an ambitious blend of classic storytelling, and cinematic artwork, in which adventure, historical drama and legend are seamlessly intertwined.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Gareth P Jones - Space Crime Conspiracy - Book Review

The first book I read by this author was the twisted dark story of The Thornthwaite Inheritance - a book that featured the murderous twins of Ovid and Lorelli. I had the pleasure of reviewing it some time ago and really enjoyed it. So I was so looking forward to more of the same. However after the first chapter, I was left thinking about the versatility of the author, as the book proved to be really quite different in style, to the previous one that I had read. 

For Stan, a young lad from London, this is one amazing ride into the ether and back. It is a nail biting sci-fi journey to a far, far away galaxy, where Stan is whisked to the Bucket for an intergalactic crime - the killing of President Vorlgenar.

Packed full with an imaginative and inventive plot, this book finds you turning the pages faster then a speeding rocket. The book is full of Gareth's trade mark humour - making you laugh along with all the characters. The many imaginative characters all vie for your attention but my favourite is the talking mushroom, which befriends Stan - making a crazy, but important impact on the mystery that finds Stan on trial for murder.

In prison, accused of murdering President Vorlunar, things are not looking good for Stanley. But when he is released, matters get even worse! He discovers that his assumed crime has given him not only notoriety, but value. How can a boy who lives above a pub in south-east London cope with bounty hunters with beards on their foreheads, lawyers who specialise in Intergalactic Law, Pan-Dimensional Litigation and Criminal Prosecution, and the terrifying bird-headed space pirates, the Marauding Picaroons.
All through this book it left a smile on my face, until it sadly ended. This was the most enjoyable read I have had for quite some time - a bizarre romp of space madness. The runaway action is so much fun that it leaves you wanting another adventure soon, if there is one. I sincerely hope so!
Book Published by Bloomsbury 12 July 2010

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Lauren St John - Laura Marlin Mystery:Dead Man's Cove - Book Review

I have just recently been introduced to the books by Lauren St John. Whilst she has written many earlier acclaimed books, within "The White Giraffe" series which is set in Africa, I have never had the opportunity to read these. However, after recently reading 'Dead Man's Cove', I will definitely be exploring her other books.

Within the first few pages of this book I knew it was going to be a great read. I was soon enjoying it and knew I would continue to do so. The author has a great way of telling and expressing the narrative form, which transports you to the fantasy world that Laura Marlin finds herself adventuring within. I was instantly gripped by the beautifully scripted and crafted detail. The only criticism that I can share is linked to the length of the story - it soon seemed to come to an end. But at times it also appeared to be a little vague. I felt at times some of the ideas could have been elaborated upon, in order to give a fuller ending, with greater impact.

Laura is a great central character, who leaves the children's home and moves to Cornwall - where from hereon mysteries begin to unfold. Laura, who turns detective like one of her writing heroes - Matt Walker, uncovers and solves many of the hidden secrets.

The darker side of the story begins to show itself towards the end, it certainly makes you sit up - grabbing your full attention, as the plot thunders towards the end. The book has the feeling of a 'classic' - I think it will find many more readers in years to come. 

The next installment, entitled 'Kidnap in the Caribbean', is due to be published next year. That gives me just enough time to read all of Lauren's other books that I've missed out on. I hope they too continue to give me a reading thirst for more . . . 

Published by Orion Children's 5 August 2010 - Thanks for sending this review copy out.

Book Synopsis
When orphaned Laura Marlin moves from a children's home to live with her uncle in Cornwall, she longs for a life of excitement just like the characters in her favourite detective novels. A real life adventure is on hand as she is deposited at her uncle's spooky house . . . Why does her uncle, Calvin Redfern, forbid her to go to Dead Man's Cove? What's the truth about Tariq, the silent Indian boy who lives with the flamboyant Mukthars? Who is J? Who has left the message in a bottle for Laura to discover? Mysteries abound and who better to solve them than Laura Marlin, ace detective? Accompanied by her trusty companion, Skye, a three-legged husky, the dog she's always wanted, Laura's adventures begin.

Monday, 7 June 2010

John Flanagan - Ranger's Apprentice - The Ruins Of Gorlan - Bk 1

After the book review I wrote for Isobelle Carmody's book 'Obernewtyn', I realised it was time to catch up with other books that had recently passed me by. Keeping with the same theme, I found by chance, a U.S first edition of the very first book in the Ranger's Apprentice series. This is by the well-known John Flanagan, another legend from Australia.

The book lived up to the expectation of its many reviews. John has developed a captivating fantasy world for both the young and old, although from an adult perspective, it may be a little short in length. However this is made up for by the fantastically imaginative and well-structured plot. This book is a fast page turner, with great character development, and lots of timely action segments. Its dark and broody atmosphere develops throughout the story, giving it an edge to most other conventional reads within this genre. The writing has a special quality about it - in the way that it  leaves you thinking about the outcome of events, a long time even after the event has happened.

The books were actually written for John's son, who was a reluctant reader, but he's gone onto entice many other reluctant readers into his fantasy worlds too. The fascinating way he has actually done this, for me, is through the detail he weaves into the story. The historical events that have been spun into the writing, blend through the story, giving it greater depth. Every feature such as weapons, training, knowledge is departed down to the reader with ease.

Another great aspect of this book involves the characters through the way they bond with each other. They are warm and engaging, but moral aspects are also touched upon such as bullying - these particularly stand out as reality and fantasy merge together. There are also some humorous elements to be found within the story too.

I now have to get through the other books in the series, seven in total, as book nine will be out in October. This is being released in the U.S and will be entitled 'Halt's Peril'. There are also a number of films to track down and watch - so much more for me to enjoy. . . . . !

About the book
Will is small for his age, but fast and quick-witted. All his life, he has dreamed of becoming a great knight like the father he never knew, so he is devastated when he is rejected by Castle Redmont's Battleschool. Instead he is apprenticed to Halt, the mysterious Ranger whose uncanny ability to move unseen is thought to be the result of black magic. Reluctantly, Will learns to use a Ranger's secret weapons: a bow and arrow, a mottled cloak and a stubborn little pony. It may not be the sword and battlehorse he longs for, but when Will and Halt set out on a desperate mission to prevent the assassination of the King, Will finds that a Ranger's weapons are not so useless after all ..

Sunday, 6 June 2010

+++++The Next Three Books On The Reading Pile +++++

Sam Wilding - Return to Denthan - Published by Olida publishing 2 April 2010
Another year on, the missing Harrison children return with Mendel, the wizard goldfish. James Peck is yet again at the helm when the people of Drumfintley are thrown into their most dangerous adventure yet. Mendel’s plan is to rescue Cathy Peck, but much more besides… His aim is to bring back a world already destroyed by an exploding sun. They are pitched against Dendralon and a host of new creatures in an amazing array of battles that test the resolve and ingenuity of the Scottish villagers and Mendel alike.

Will James reunite his family at last? Will Mendel manage to save the planet, destroyed two years before? Will they all return to Denthan, Drumfintley and normality? What sacrifices must be made?  - (Children's Fiction / Fantasy / Young Adult)

 P J Davidson - Professor P and the Jurassic Island -  Published by positive books - 1 May 2010
Peter and Tara are in for a surprise when an unexpected egg mysteriously arrives. Only Professor P can solve the mystery of the strange egg and save the day!

Professor P and the Jurassic Island is a fantastic adventure to the Jurassic world of the dinosaurs.

Includes a fun filled guide to the top ten Jurassic dinosaurs.

Caroline Stevermer - Magic Below Stairs - Published by Dial books - 10 June 2010 - U.S  - book release
Young Frederick is plucked from an orphanage to be a footboy for a wizard named Lord Schofield in Victorian England. Is his uncanny ability to tie perfect knots and render boots spotless a sign of his own magical talent, or the work of Billy Bly, the brownie who has been secretly watching over him since he was little? No matter, for the wizard has banished all magical creatures from his holdings. But Billy Bly isn’t going anywhere, and when he discovers a curse upon the manor house, it’s up to Frederick and Billy Bly to keep the lord’s new baby safe and rid the Schofield family of the curse forever.