Mary Poppins (Mary Poppins #1) by PL Travers

 

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From the moment Mary Poppins arrives at Number Seventeen Cherry-Tree Lane, everyday life at the Banks house is forever changed. This classic series tells the story of the world’s most beloved nanny, who brings enchantment and excitement with her everywhere she goes. Featuring the charming original cover art by Mary Shepard, these new editions are sure to delight readers of all ages.

It all starts when Mary Poppins is blown by the east wind onto the doorstep of the Banks house. She becomes a most unusual nanny to Jane, Michael, and the twins. Who else but Mary Poppins can slide up banisters, pull an entire armchair out of an empty carpetbag, and make a dose of medicine taste like delicious lime-juice cordial? A day with Mary Poppins is a day of magic and make-believe come to life!

(via Goodreads)

If all you know of Mary Poppins is the movie, you may be surprised. Mary is not the adorable and loving character we are used to seeing. She is gruff, curt, and goads the children. Jane and Michael Banks are joined by twins John and Barbara, so there are four children instead of two. Each chapter is a scene/event, and some aligned with the film. But I felt the chapters were just short stories about the children’s time with Mary.

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Mary keeps her magical abilities, and I really enjoyed the concept of the ‘Around the World’ compass. In the book, Mary talks to animals. They all seem to know exactly who she is. There is no origin story to Mary (except for the East Wind) though the Sparrow in the nursery does say she was a special person, who did not lose her ability to talk to animals and hear the wind. But that’s where it is left. I would have been very interested in knowing more. Maybe in the next books.

A series of eight books, the first closely resembles the film we are fond of. I wished there was more of Bert, the poor man only gets one chapter and Michael and Jane are absent from the trip into the painting. But it was still an interesting middle-grade read – and very quick! I will be checking out the others in the series.

4/5

 

 

Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee Ahdieh

23308087The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

(via Goodreads)

Despite its size, Flame in the Mist was a quick read. Mariko was an interesting character, but I found her to be quite naïve – to the point of distraction on some occasions. She is described in the book as being a careful study and knowledgeable, but I didn’t really see this play out in the novel. I felt Mariko to be a slightly ‘feminazi’ character in places, especially when she’s punching the soldier. It was just a little too much rage against men in general, rather than directing it to where it’s called for.

It was never really clear why they wanted her dead (to me). No spoilers, but there is an attack on her convoy and she is forced to go into hiding, to hunt for those that tried to kill her. But even when the perpetrators are revealed, there is no clear reason why. I wonder if book two will be a little clearer. There was some great supporting characters that live in the background, Prince Wu and the consort were a couple that I wanted to know more about. I hope they expand these characters in the next book.

SPOILERS BELOW

I had two problems with the book. The first, when Okami realises Mariko is a girl, why did he not wonder where she came from and put two and two together, and realise she was the princess that was attacked? It takes him ages! Also, when she falls out with the Black Clan and returns to the forest to find them, they just accept her without question. There was no bridge. She wasn’t there, and then she was. And it was just accepted.

END SPOILERS

Mariko’s brother was a little misguided. I felt like his chapters slowed the book down. He seemed to intend to find her, go out, not find her and then come home. I would have believed it more if he had gone on without the soldiers to find her. That would be a more believable character action of a brother. And as an aside, funny that Prince Raiden was this strong cute guy until the very end and then all of a sudden he’s a jerk?

Overall, it was a good read, and I am hopeful that book two will answer questions and bring these smaller characters into play.

3/5

Seeker (Seeker #1) by Arwen Elys Dayton

20911450The night Quin Kincaid takes her Oath, she will become what she has trained to be her entire life. She will become a Seeker. This is her legacy, and it is an honor.

As a Seeker, Quin will fight beside her two closest companions, Shinobu and John, to protect the weak and the wronged. Together they will stand for light in a shadowy world.

And she’ll be with the boy she loves–who’s also her best friend. But the night Quin takes her Oath, everything changes.

Being a Seeker is not what she thought. Her family is not what she thought. Even the boy she loves is not who she thought. And now it’s too late to walk away.

 

(via Goodreads)

This was such an interesting concept that was poorly executed. World building was minimal and the story line confusing. Throw in a predictable love triangle and you have ‘Seeker’.

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I couldn’t finish this book. I couldn’t even resort to skim reading to finish this before book club. And I’ve decided to no longer force a read if I am not liking something. Life is too short and there are so many books I want to read.

1/5

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Image result for the young elites book coverI am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

(via Goodreads)

I enjoyed this story. The world building reminded me of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy and Sarah J Maas’ A Court of Thorn and Roses. Adelina is a survivor of the blood fever that gave her powers yet disfigured her beyond repair. Since she was a small child, her father treated her with cruelty to try and bring forth her powers.

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Adelina is found by a group of powered people named ‘The Young Elites’ who are vying to overthrown the throne and liberate the survivors of the blood fever from being treated as second class citizens. But Adelina feels a darkness inside of her, she feels it growing daily, and wonders if she indeed is the monster they believe her to be.

Adelina’s arc reminds me of the Anakin Skywalker character arc (pre Darth Vader, obviously). It made me wonder if book two will see her becoming really dark. I was so keen to know more at the end of this book, I put a hold on the sequel at my library. I am looking forward to reading it.

If you like Leigh Bardugo or Sarah J Maas, you will like this story. I also recommend it to anyone who likes YA novels.

4/5

The Girl From The Well by Rin Chupeco

18509623You may think me biased, being murdered myself. But my state of being has nothing to do with the curiosity toward my own species, if we can be called such. We do not go gentle, as your poet encourages, into that good night.

A dead girl walks the streets.

She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.

And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.

Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just kill to get out.

The Girl from the Well is A YA Horror novel pitched as “Dexter” meets “The Grudge”, based on a well-loved Japanese ghost story.

(via Goodreads)

Rin Chupeco’s Girl From The Well is a much better read than I expected. Based on the original myth that inspired The Ring, GFTW meshes well with the contemporary story line, without becoming another sequel.

Having said that, it wasn’t as scary as I wanted it to be. I wanted to be completely creeped out at the very least, but it didn’t happen. I ended up being more interested in the old Japanese legend the Bancho Sarayashiki.

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One thing that really bugged me about this book was the lack of proofreading – the author said Narrabeen was in Sydney, and Sydney was in Queensland. We’re talking 850km from Queensland to Narrabeen and another 50km-ish from Narrabeen to Sydney. How is that not picked up by the editor? Really frustrating for us down under!

I really enjoyed the way the narrative dropped in and out of lines on the page when Okiku was speaking. And the recollection of falling down the well found the words dropping. That was very cool.

3.5/5

Nightfall by Jake Halpern & Peter Kujawinski

28504425On Marin’s island, sunrise doesn’t come every twenty-four hours—it comes every twenty-eight years. Now the sun is just a sliver of light on the horizon. The weather is turning cold and the shadows are growing long. Because sunset triggers the tide to roll out hundreds of miles, the islanders are frantically preparing to sail south, where they will wait out fourteen years of Night.

Marin and her twin brother, Kana, help their anxious parents ready the house for departure. Locks must be taken off doors. Furniture must be arranged. Tables must be set. The rituals are puzzling—bizarre, even—but none of the adults in town will discuss why it has to be done this way.

Just as the ships are about to sail, a teenage boy goes missing—the twins’ friend Line. Marin and  Kana are the only ones who know the truth about where Line has gone, and the only way to rescue him is by doing it themselves. But Night is falling. Their island is changing.

And it may already be too late.

(via Goodreads)

I purchased this book from Booktopia for my Young Adult book club.

An island exists where there is 14 years of sunlight and 14 years of darkness. During the daylight cycle, a civilisation of islanders prosper in their ‘heaven’. As nightfall hits, they arrange their homes to specific instructions and evacuate the island for the Desert Lands.

At the beginning of the book, twins Marin and Kana, and their best friend Line (yes, that’s his name) become stranded on the island and are forced to flee through the darkness in the hopes of reaching the open ocean and the Desert Lands. However, with the darkness brings fear and death, and one of our characters is slowly beginning to change.

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What I liked about this book: an interesting (though unoriginal) story. The character of Kana was interesting, and I really wanted to know more about it him. Why did he react the way he did when darkness began to fall? Why did some of his vision return? Why was he becoming stronger? What connection did he have to the island? And why does he look completely different to his twin, Marin?

I liked that the strengths of the characters are found in the natural world, in this instance rock climbing. I liked that they were unsure with weapons, they were forced to be more resourceful. I liked the added mystery of what happened with the other islanders. Why did they leave all their belongings behind? Why did the farriers leave so quickly? Could this also have some connection to the island?

The book was set up to be an enjoyable mystery.

What I didn’t like about this book: Marin. Marin. Marin. And Marin. I was so disappointed she was the main character. You had this multi-layered character of Kana and the book follows Marin and her puppy dog love for Line. WHY? She is so cliched and two dimensional. Her character went nowhere.

The plot felt superficial. There was this secondary plot about missing villagImage result for nightfall jake halperners, the origin of the island, the Cloister. Why would you not explore these devices?

You can show and not tell, but there is a line. Half of the monsters felt unrealised. I couldn’t picture some. I didn’t feel like they belonged to the world or the island. They appeared to be as ‘visitors’ to the island, just like the islanders themselves. And the explanation we got fell short of what I would have loved to see.

The verdict: This book was disappointing overall. It left me with more questions. If it is a ploy to get us to read the second book, fine, but it was frustrating. I felt a bit cheated. I probably wouldn’t recommend it, but I wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading it for themselves.

2.5/5

 

The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín

What if you 31567282only had 3 minutes to save your own life and the clock is already counting down…

Three minutes.
Nessa, Megan and Anto know that any day now they wake up alone in a horrible land and realise they’ve been Called.

Two minutes.
Like all teenagers they know that they’ll be hunted down and despite all their training only 1 in 10 will survive.

One minute.
And Nessa can’t run, her polio twisted legs mean she’ll never survive her Call will she?

Time’s up.

(via Goodreads)

I purchased this book for my YA Book Club Halloween meeting.

This book’s blurb is intriguing and I was a keen to see what this was all about. So, imagine my disappointment when I began reading and there were smatterings of ‘No one knew this event would haunt them for the rest of their lives’ telling. For the first 50 pages I found the story laborious, two-dimensional and, in parts, predictable.

After about 50 pages I warmed to Nessa a little, and continued on with the story. I found some of the supporting characters fun (Meaghan!) and our villainesque Connor was nasty enough for the reader to champion any pain or death that may come to him. 30292413

I wish Nessa had been more of a leading character in this book. I found her lacking at times. Yes, I know she is differently abled and I know everyone discounts her, and that infuriates her. But what else, Nessa? People are more than the limitations of their body or station/place of birth. And if Nessa were real, I think she’d say that too.

With that said, what’s good about this book is that it’s an easy read and an interesting take on the dystopian genre. The Call left me wanting more. I understand at this time it is a standalone, but I wanted to know more about this world. I wanted to understand more of the conflict and how the world became what it is.

Not terrifying, slightly unsettling (for me). I’d recommend it for those who like YA.

3/5