Monday, 20 May 2013

Spellcaster- Claudia Gray

A boy cursed with powerful visions

A girl granted the power to save him

A battle is about to rage and no one will be safe

Witchcraft has always be a sacred gift shared between mother and daughter from one generation to the next. For Nadia, who mother has abandoned the family, the use of magic is unattainable without her mother to guide her. But when she arrives in Captive sound, for a fresh start, she finds herself entrapped in a web of magic, lies, love and deceit. Ignoring her magic is no longer an option especially when it is so intrinsically linked to the boy who saved her life.

Visions have always been a curse of Matteo’s family; terrible visions of the future have driven many in his family to despair including his own mother who took her own life. Now Matteo is having stage dreams and visions of a girl he must save, when what he dreams comes true Matteo knows the family curse has fallen upon him.

When Nadia and Matteo’s path cross dark forces  will rise and family secrets will be revealed. Working together to break the curse and save the town will become a race against time. one which neither of them might survive….

There is no doubt that Claudia Gray can write paranormal fiction, having tackled vampire and werewolves already Gray puts a new twist on the magic story. The characters are charming and it made for refreshing change to be able to watch the relationships between the characters develop as the story goes on. Gray’s take on magic is also quite refreshing, magic is derived from experiences and memories rather than set spells, while the plot is enchanting with Gray leaving just enough breadcrumbs to keep one enticed. Ultimately while some of the plot is predictable, there are some nice unexpected twists and the ending is unexpected, in some regards. Overall Spellcaster is an enjoyable light read. One for fans of Magic and Claudia Gray alike.
Courtney :)

Monday, 13 May 2013

Mistakes were made

If you want some light relief in your life, then 'Mistakes were Made' by Stephen Pastis might well be the book for you.
This is a very, very funny book, full of quirky and humourous illustrations that accompany the text.
The main character is Timmy Failure (the surname Failure being a derivation of Fayleure, but, for reasons unknown, the name was changed).
In nearly every cartoon illustration, Timmy is standing looking directly at the reader whilst wearing his trademark scarf, and a 'stuck in the headlights' expression on his face.
Timmy Failure is the CEO of a detective agency which has its headquarters in his mother's wardrobe. The agency consists of Timmy and his colleague, a make-believe polar bear called Total, which makes the name of his agency, Total Failure Inc.
Timmy and Total blunder from case to case, attempting to solve crimes with hilarious results, always missing the obvious.
Take the case of the dead hamster, for instance. His school mate Max's hamster has died, and has called on Timmy to find out the circumstances. Timmy asks the following questions of the hamster - 'Did he have any enemies?' 'Did he have a lot of money?' 'Was he depressed?' 'Was he involved in criminal activity?'
No case is too small or large for him, from missing socks to the French Revolution.
Timmy lives in his own little world where he reigns supreme and those around him are ignorant. 
Teachers are frustrated with his ability and refusal to follow instructions or adhere to rules. His grades are deplorable.
Cleverly, however, his new teacher develops a plan whereby he enlists Timmy to work on independent research for him, thus Timmy quite unwittingly begins to do the right thing.

Great fun.

Sunday, 5 May 2013


While there are plenty of Medieval fantasy novels, grand and original ideas outside the generic ‘knight in shining armour sets out on quest’ storyline are hard to come by. Kristin Cashore, author of Graceling weaves the story of Lady Katsa the niece of King Randa set in the world of the Seven Kingdoms where quite occasionally a person is born with an extreme skill called a Grace, signified by eyes of different and strange colours. Their skills can take place in almost any form, from being able to bake better than any other or read minds. Katsa is Graced with a skill she finds a curse – the Grace of killing. These Gracelings are feared and exploited in the Seven Kingdoms, but none more so than Katsa, who's expected to do the dirty work of torture and punishment for her uncle. The story follows her voyage of self-discovery and struggle between enslavement and freedom, good and evil and the mystery of the One-Eyed King.

The reason why I loved this book was because of its originality and challenging stance on mainstream views. It is fascinating to see the world through the eyes of a girl who’s been a cold-blooded killer since age eight and yet is willing to go to great lengths to save it, and more importantly, has the heart to try. Katsa makes you feel her own intricate emotions of good, evil and all of the shades of grey in-between as a person who's viewed by others as nothing more than a slave and ‘murderous dog’ – and yet she sums up to so much more.

Graceling is filled to the brim with interesting and intricate characters from the strange and quiet Prince Greening ‘Po’ Grandemalion to the double-crossing spymaster Lord Oll and her cousin Prince Raffin who turned his hair blue! In this story we find characters that challenge the way we think, with no defined set of ‘good’ guys and ‘bad’ guys, but an intriguing mix including Katsa the Lady Killer herself.

What truly made me respect this novel above all else was its romance sub-plotline, yes, I said sub-plotline. Graceling is first and foremost a mystery and adventure of both political intrigue and bare-to-the-bone survival in the harshest physical conditions. When romance is introduced to Katsa’s story, Cashore didn't let it trump the main themes, and it stands as just another angle for the characters to experience and vary their reactions to other events.

The novel (and by extension, its series) tackles several serious issues that exist in our world today in the context of their universe; there’s blatant racism against Gracelings present, alongside homophobia and class division seen in the case of Prince Raffin and Bran, child abuse as shown by the relationship of Bitterblue and her father, and the corruption in law and order led by power shown in both the Kings and certain Gracelings. Not all of these issues are resolved entirely but they do create a sense of sad familiarity in the reader and the ability to connect this imaginary world to their own.

The main and overall theme of the book is judgment, or more, judging a books by its cover. Katsa is feared throughout the Seven Kingdoms because of her Grace and has barely any people close to her. People assume because she is a killer that she is also a monster, but as the reader learns it is much
to the opposite. The story immediately begins with her rescuing the kidnapped father of the Lienid King in the name of the Council without harming anybody, sending us the immediate message that she is a good and true hero, only for that thought to be cut down by Cashore immediately afterwards as we’re shown the perspectives of others. There’s many examples of pre-judgment in the story; Katsa judging Po on his true Grace, Po miss-judging Katsa’s abilities, Katsa’s first impressions of Bitterblue and so on.

Overall Graceling is a fantastic novel and a credit to the Young Adult Fantasy genre. Kristin Cashore captures the intricacy of the world, culture and its inhabitants in a beautifully written way. I would recommend it to anybody willing to have their ideas challenged and wits measured.

- Ella (Teen Reviewer) via Celia

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