Review: Chewy Noh and the March of Death by Tim Learn

chewy-non-and-the-march-of-death

Publisher: Self-published
Release date: January 29, 2016
Format: ebook
Source: Author
Pages: 311
Goodreads || Amazon

Chewy Noh should be happy. He has a best friend like no other and by using his secret abilities, has found a way to connect Korea and America forever to keep him.

Unfortunately, none of this matters after Death’s messenger comes to tell him that he has one week left to live!

Knowing his death is coming soon, Chewy scrambles to figure out a way to avoid it, but every direction he turns seems to lead him further and further away from his goal—a dead body, a missing person, and at the heart of it, the secret that started that it all.

In the end, if Chewy doesn’t learn how to change, Death might just come out on top.

MY THOUGHTS

25 stars

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Chewy Noh and the March of Death is the third book in Tim Learn‘s middle grade series. I have reviews for the first two books, Chewy Noh and the Fall of the Mu-Dang and Chewy Noh and the Phantasm of Winter.

While it is possible to read the second book without reading the first, I don’t think it’s possible to read The March of Death without reading book 2, The Phantasm of Winter. It’s been a couple of months since I read the first two books and I couldn’t remember all of the details, which was one reason why I struggled a little with this third book. I’m usually a series marathoner but on occasions when I do read instalments as they come out, I rely on the short recaps and reminders that are weaved into the story, in order to remind myself of things that had happened in previous books. I thought The March of Death was slightly lacking in that aspect and it took me a while to get into the story and remember who some of the characters were, especially because they had foreign names. Of course, this wouldn’t be an issue if you read the books back-to-back, but I think a good sequel should sprinkle in enough information about the previous book (but not too much that it’s repetitive) that readers aren’t lost if they haven’t read it recently.

I really enjoyed the plot of this book and it was a lot of fun to read. I think younger readers would definitely enjoy the adventure and thrill of everything that happened in this book. In The March of Death, we follow Chewy as he tries to escape death, which involves outsmarting Death and his servants. We also get a story arc about Chewy’s grandfather and his time as a soldier in the Korean war. This side story is linked to what is happening to Chewy in the present and I liked how they were connected and how everything was revealed. As with the previous books, this instalment incorporated some Korean mythology. While I cannot attest to the accuracy of what was written, I really enjoyed learning about things like the So-chon garden where flowers that possess different abilities and effects grow.

What I had issues with in terms of the plot was the flow of the book. The first third of the book, for me, seemed to lack clear direction and I just felt a bit lost and had no idea where the story was going. This was definitely the kind of book that presented lots of little puzzle pieces and connected them at the end, but the reading experience wasn’t very enjoyable for me because I felt like I was being pushed and pulled in different directions. I also felt like there was too much happening but not enough description and explanation of each scene to fill the gaps. It just lacked a bit of clarity and there were times when I wasn’t sure what was actually happening. There were some things that weren’t really resolved before we had moved on, and I was left wondering what the point of it actually was. I enjoyed Chewy’s grandfather’s storyline a lot more than what was happening to Chewy in the present because his story flowed well and made more sense to me.

In addition to the issues of flow that I had, I thought there were far too many perspectives, which made the book even more busy and choppy. I’m not sure that all of the perspectives were necessary in this book because some added very little to the story. I also had a minor problem with the narration changing from third person in present chapters to first person in the grandfather’s chapters. I can see why the author decided to do that but it was a little bit jarring for me.

What I probably struggled with the most was how unrealistic some of the events were, which made me think that I was probably a little bit too old for this. I definitely had to suspend my disbelief while reading The March of Death. The casualness of death (a phrase that I picked up from Jeann @ Happy Indulgence’s recent discussion about character deaths) was a bit of a problem for me. There were multiple instances of characters dying out of the blue and being brought back to life, and it was honestly a bit hard for me to digest because it was so unrealistic even for a mythological fantasy read. Maybe I just haven’t read enough of these types of books… Because of this, I had to just go along with what was happening, without being fully immersed in the story. I also wasn’t a fan of the absence of parents and the role that the grandmother played in the book. She’s very much the only adult figure in Chewy’s life throughout the whole book and she came across as very irresponsible and flighty. She did things without any clear explanations, and the characters, as well as myself as the reader, were just left guessing a lot of the time.

This was by no means a terrible read. I really enjoyed a lot of the plot and how everything came together in the end, as well as all the Korean culture and mythology. I loved the little bit of historical fiction that we got and reading about the Korean War was super interesting to me. However, I thought the book needed a bit more development and better flow. I struggled a little while reading it and thought it needed a bit more polish.

Review: Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan (illustrated by John Rocco)

percy-jacksons-greek-gods

Publisher: Disney Hyperion Books
Release: August 19, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 320
Goodreads || Book Depository

A publisher in New York asked me to write down what I know about the Greek gods, and I was like, Can we do this anonymously? Because I don’t need the Olympians mad at me again. But if it helps you to know your Greek gods, and survive an encounter with them if they ever show up in your face, then I guess writing all this down will be my good deed for the week.

So begins Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods, in which the son of Poseidon adds his own magic–and sarcastic asides–to the classics. He explains how the world was created, then gives readers his personal take on a who’s who of ancients, from Apollo to Zeus. Percy does not hold back. “If you like horror shows, blood baths, lying, stealing, backstabbing, and cannibalism, then read on, because it definitely was a Golden Age for all that.”

Dramatic full-color illustrations throughout by Caldecott Honoree John Rocco make this volume–a must for home, library, and classroom shelves–as stunning as it is entertaining.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

How could I not give this book 5 stars?! This whole book was perfection! It was incredibly funny and entertaining, but also contained a lot of great information for any fan (or beginner) of Greek mythology! Everything was written in a way that was so easy to digest and it just made learning about the Greek Gods really fun! The only downfall, really, is the weight and size of this book. At least, you’ll get a good work out? 😀

This entire book is written from Percy’s voice, which was the highlight of the book. If you loved Percy’s voice in Percy Jackson and the Olympians, you will not be disappointed with Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods. It was hilarious to read about all of the gods from Percy’s point of view because he gives little anecdotes about his experiences with the gods and there are lots of jokes too. Everything is presented in a way that is easy for the audience to understand and there’s so much information in this book that it needed to be easy to understand.

We learn about how the world began, the primordial gods and the Titans at the beginning of the book. We also learn about how the Titans defeated Ouranos, and then later on, how the Gods defeated Kronos. We then get in depth chapters about the twelve major gods, as well Hades and Persephone. While there was a lot of information presented, I never felt overwhelmed or that I was reading a textbook. There are lots of different theories and explanations when it comes to mythology, and Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods only presents one side of the story (Rick Riordan’s side). But what’s great about only getting one side of the story is that it’s usually the best received or most reasonable side. Sure, you can find all of this information on Wikipedia, but here you have all of the information condensed into one book that all makes sense together. It also includes some weird stories about each of the gods that might take you a while to find if you had to dig through the internet.

What I appreciated most about this book was how it was put together and the order that everything was presented in. Obviously it’s difficult to present everything chronologically because lots of things happen simultaneously or have no obvious order to them. But this book read so logically and everything felt like it was in the right place. There were instances where Percy, the narrator, would introduce an event or a character and say “we’ll come back to this later” or “you’ll meet him a little later in the book” but they were few and far between. I didn’t feel like I was being jerked all over the place and everything made sense together.

The illustrations in this book were amazing. There was one full page illustration in every chapter, as well as smaller illustrations throughout. I thought they captured the personality and attributes of each of the gods perfectly and they were beautiful to look at. I mean, just the cover of this book itself reflects how amazing the illustrations inside are.

I highly recommend this book if you love Percy Jackson and want to know more about the Greek Gods. Even if you’re not interested in Percy, I’d still recommend this because it’s a very clear and concise story about the Gods and how they came to be. And the book is truly beautiful and I’m so glad to have it in my possession!

Series Review: Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan

percy-jackson-and-the-olympians

Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Format: Paperback boxset
Goodreads (The Lightning Thief) || Book Depository (boxset)

sYNOPSIS FOR THE LIGHTNING THIEF

Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school… again. And that’s the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy’s Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he’s angered a few of them. Zeus’s master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus’s stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed in his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

MY THOUGHTS ON THE SERIES

45 stars

I still cannot believe that I haven’t read Percy Jackson and the Olympians until now. What was I doing with my life?! Percy Jackson and the Olympians is a middle-grade fantasy series that revolves around Greek mythology. I have a review of the first book, The Lightning Thief, if you’d like to read my in-depth thoughts about that first novel.

The series follows our hero, Percy Jackson, who is a half-blood. He is half-mortal and half-god, the son of Poseidon. He discovers his parentage at the beginning of The Lightning Thief and joins Camp Half-Blood, a summer camp and sanctuary for other demi-gods like Percy who are constantly being hunted by monsters. However, Percy’s life is about to get more and more hectic because big changes are going on in the world. There is a powerful force who is trying to overthrow the gods and take over Mount Olympus and Percy and the other half-bloods must try their hardest to stop them before his world collapses and disappears.

These books were so much fun to read! They were packed full of action and I just flew through each book in about a day. They were extremely well-paced and easy to read and I could have read 10 more of those books (and I probably will since I’ve already ordered The Heroes of Olympus series). I felt like I was a part of Percy’s crew, going along with him on his adventures, and that’s probably why these books were so enjoyable for me. I was completely immersed in the action and was so affected by everything that happened, and Rick Riordan definitely made me feel all the feels. I wasn’t expecting to cry for the enemy but I totally did. What I also really enjoyed and need to mention were the chapter titles! They were super funny to read and I think my looking forward to seeing what the next chapter title was really motivated me to keep reading.

This series also incorporates a lot of Greek mythology (I mean, it is a series about Greek gods and demi-gods). I learnt a lot about mythological creatures and gods in this series and it made me want to go out and discover more about these myths. This series featured not only the major gods, but also a lot of the minor gods, heroes and monsters too. I can definitely see why this series has been a hit not only with pre-teens but also adults too. Everything was accurate (as far as I can tell from my not-very-extensive Google searches) and I really liked the educational aspect of it, but I also appreciated the little twists that Rick Riordan put in as well.

I really, really loved Percy as a protagonist and I enjoyed reading from his point of view. He was such a funny and sassy character and I loved his voice. He never failed to make me laugh and his observations about the world were incredibly funny all the time. I wasn’t expecting to relate to him as much as I did, but Percy is like my best friend right now! I loved being able to see him grow and find different aspects to his abilities. But in addition to Percy, I also loved nearly all of the characters that we got to meet in this series! I really enjoyed Annabeth, Grover and Tyson as Percy’s sidekicks. They were so funny and adorable and I just wanted to hug all of them. I also really liked all of the gods and how Rick Riordan gave them personalities to match the myths surrounding them. But I think my favourite characters were Chiron’s party ponies. They made me laugh out loud so many times!! They were so unexpected and hilarious! I also discovered my new favourite war cry in this series, “PEANUT BUTTER”.

I did have a couple of small issues with the books though. I felt that The Titan’s Curse (Book 3) and The Battle of the Labyrinth (Book 4) took me a little while to get into. It took some time for the book to really get started. I felt like we weren’t really making any progress during the first 100 pages of The Titan’s Curse and it just lagged and made me want to put down the book. However, each book does come home strongly, so it pays off to persevere! Also, each book is so quick and easy to read that it’s worth just sticking with it.

My other small issue with the series was that each book is set during the summer and we don’t really get to see what happens to Percy and friends during the year. It felt kind of strange that this ongoing war ceased to exist during the school year and only recommenced at the beginning of summer. I know there are small developments that we don’t really get to see, but I thought it was a bit strange. It also broke the flow of the series for me a little bit, and because I marathoned these books in a week, it was quite noticeable to me.

Despite some small shortcomings, I thoroughly enjoyed Percy Jackson and the Olympians and I now have a newfound appreciation for Greek mythology. I can’t wait to dive into The Heroes of Olympus series soon! I’ve also ordered Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods and Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes so I’m going to learn a lot about Greek mythology in the next few weeks!

RATINGS FOR EACH BOOK

The Lightning Thief                  45 stars

The Sea of Monsters                 5 stars

The Titan’s Curse                       4 stars

The Battle of the Labyrinth    4 stars

The Last Olympian                    5 stars

Review: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

the-lightning-thief

Publisher: Disney Hyperion Books
Release date: March 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
Pages: 377
Goodreads || Book Depository

Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school… again. And that’s the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy’s Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he’s angered a few of them. Zeus’s master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus’s stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed in his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

I’m probably the last person on earth to have read Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and I’m so mad at myself that I didn’t read this sooner! My only excuse is that I grew up with Harry Potter and when PJO came out, I was a little bit past reading middle-grade… and didn’t hear about the series until last year. Yes, I am pathetic, I know.

For those of you who are also a bit late to the party, The Lightning Thief is about Percy Jackson, a 12 year old boy living in New York City. He’s dyslexic and has ADHD and can’t seem to stop getting himself expelled from school. But he soon finds out that he’s not the regular kid he thought he was. He’s actually a half-blood, the son of a mortal and Poseidon, the God of the Sea. He’s dyslexic because he can only read properly in Ancient Greek and his ADHD allows him to be vigilant when he’s fighting the monsters that keep coming after him. And there are lots of monsters coming after him! For his safety, he is sent to Camp Half-Blood, a sanctuary for other half-bloods like Percy but his adventures only begin there.

I thought The Lightning Thief was so much fun! It was action-packed and adventurous and reminded me of why I loved reading as a pre-teen so much! This first instalment was filled with action in every chapter and was incredibly well-paced. There wasn’t a page that wasn’t exciting to read and I constantly just wanted to know what happened next. The book is composed of many little adventures that Percy and his friends have as they journey towards a bigger evil force. I almost felt like I was in a computer game where the hero was battling monsters along the way before confronting the boss at the end. It was a lot of fun to read and I enjoyed following Percy on his adventures. I do have to say though that I caught on to who the villain/friend-who-would-betray-him was quite early on in book, possibly because I’m an adult reading a middle-grade book. It wasn’t that surprising to me when it was revealed, but it was still fun to read.

The aspect that I enjoyed most was the Greek mythology. I’ve always had a fascination with mythology (and pretty much anything historical). However, even though I love trivia, Greek mythology isn’t something that I’ve extensively looked into. Sure, I know enough about the Greek gods and heroes to get by, but I’d love to know more about the myths and The Lightning Thief gave me the perfect opportunity to find out more. I really appreciated the amount of information we were given in this novel. It never felt info-dumpy but there was still enough in there for me to understand the myths and legends. It also inspired me to go out and do my own research to extend my knowledge, and I think the best books should do that. I didn’t mind that there were so many mythological creatures and gods mentioned in this book because ti gave me the opportunity to learn more about all of them and how they’re related.

I also really enjoyed how Rick Riordan really brought these mythological creatures to life and gave them their own personality! Ares, the God of War is portrayed as a tough biker in a leather jacket, who goes to abandoned theme parks with his lover, Aphrodite. He was probably the character who cracked me up the most. I also really liked how Poseidon was portrayed and what a chill guy he comes across as. Another aspect that I found hilarious but interesting was the fact that the offspring of each god are housed in cabins together at Camp Half-Blood, and that they’re all half-siblings?! It was super interesting that they all had similar appearances and personalities, and that the rivalry that existed between the cabins mimicked the rivalry between their parents.

I loved Percy’s character so much in this novel! He was so sassy and his voice was so funny to read from. I can see him being relatable to so many kids. His relationship with Grover had me from the very beginning and I just loved reading about the two of them  together. Grover was another character that absolutely cracked me up! I love that he’s obsessed with food and eats even the packaging. He comes across as a little bit useless, but he definitely provides a lot of comic relief.

Overall, I thought this was a fantastic start to the series and I can’t wait to dive into the rest of the series. I can’t wait to learn more about the different gods and mythological monsters.

Review: Chewy Noh and the Phantasm of Winter by Tim Learn

chewy-noh-and-the-fantasm-of-winter

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Release date: July 15, 2015
Format: eBook
ISBN: 1505851459
Pages: 312 (eBook pages)
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Chewy Noh has many problems. Besides his mom becoming a mu-dang—a Korean fortune-teller possessed by his dead grandmother who can read minds—the school bully, Kent, is still on the warpath to get Chewy kicked out of school. With his secret ability to win at everything, none of this bothers him until he starts disappearing for no reason while a mysterious force attacks his fellow students, and he must scramble to figure out what’s going on before he becomes its next and final victim.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

I received an electronic copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Chewy Noh and the Phantasm of Winter is the second book in a middle-grade series by Tim Learn. I have written a review of the first book: Chewy Noh and the Fall of the Mu-Dang. You don’t need to read the first book in order to enjoy this second one, but it would give you a better background on the characters and the family history of Chewy.

Chewy is an 11 year old Korean boy who has a strange superpower. He has the ability to perform perfectly on all tests, in any format. This includes games like basketball and chess. But behind his superpower are some family secrets that are starting to cause some chaos in his life. He begins to disappear and reappear with no conscious memory of what happened. His classmates and friends become unconscious and are trapped in a coma. Chewy suspects that there are magical beings or spirits involved and he must get to the bottom of the situation before anybody else is harmed.

This second book in the series has a great plot! It was action-packed and extremely unique. It weaves together Korean mythology with everyday troubles that Chewy faces at school. As Chewy fends off attacks from his bully (who we met in Book 1) and his new teacher who is suspicious of his perfect test scores, he is also burdened by the fact that his family history might have something to do with the spirit that seems to be out to get him.

I thought the Korean mythology in this book was the most interesting aspect. I’m familiar with a little bit of Chinese and Japanese mythology, which shares similar aspects with Korean mythology, but it was fascinating to learn more about it and the names of different mythological creatures. I also really liked that it wasn’t an info-dump and that we learnt about the mythology through an original story arc that was incorporated into the book. The Phantasm of Winter definitely includes a lot of Korean culture and I really enjoyed it.

I really liked how well the different story arcs were integrated. The events of the past and the Korean mythology really come into play throughout the whole book. It was a well-developed story and everything made sense together. There were a couple of awkward chapter transitions between the chapters of the past and the chapters of the present, which made me feel like I was jumping around all over the place. But ultimately, everything that happened made sense together. There were a couple of things that were left unresolved but I expect that they’ll be resolved in the next book.

I liked the characters in this book a lot more than I did when I read The Fall of the Mu-Dang. I still thought that their dialogue was too mature for their age but they didn’t do anything that I wouldn’t expect a fifth-grader to do. The bullies were also mostly absent in this book, which made it a much more pleasant reading experience for me, because those kids are nasty. We also have the addition of Chewy’s cousin, Su-Bin, in this book and she very much acts like an ally to Chewy. I really liked that we had our very own awesome threesome, just like Harry, Ron and Hermione, and I wish we had seen more of this threesome.

I thought that the book was the perfect length. I finished it in about 2-3 hours and the ending left me wanting to know more about Korean mythology, as well as where Chewy’s story is heading. Chewy Noh is a really fun middle-grade series and I recommend it if you’re looking for a fast-paced middle-grade book that you can finish in one afternoon.

Review: Chewy Noh and the Fall of the Mu-Dang by Tim Learn

chewy-noh-and-the-fall-of-the-mu-dang

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Release date: September 8, 2014
Format: eBook
ISBN: 1505814804
Pages: 386 (eBook pages)
Goodreads || Book Depository || Amazon

Chewy Noh has problems. He was born with them. Two weeks after his birth, the family fortune-teller saw bad things in his future…and she was right. The school bully hates him and will stop at nothing to get rid of him. His mother suddenly can’t get out of bed, complaining of horrible headaches. And worst of all, the secret his grandmother is hiding may be at the root of it all. But why should he worry? He’s a superhero with a power no one’s ever seen before!

MY THOUGHTS

35 stars

I received an electronic copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are mine.

Chewy Noh and the Fall of the Mu-Dang is the first book in a middle-grade series by Tim Learn. This will be a five-book series, with two books released so far (A review for Book 2 will be up in a couple of days).

When the author asked me if I would like to read and review Book 2: Chewy Noh and the Phantasm of Winter, I was a little bit hesitant to accept because I had a whole pile of ARCs from big publishers that I was trying to get through, and reading two more books seemed like a massive task I did not want anything to do with. But after reading the description for the book, I knew I had to read this series! It’s full of fun and adventure, and I would have loved this book as a pre-teen reader!

Chewy Noh is a Korean boy who recently moved from South Korea to the US with his mother. He’s incredibly smart and gets perfect scores on all his tests. But what you don’t know is that his ability to perform perfectly on tests is a superpower that he has been granted by a mu-dang (a Korean shaman/fortune-teller). His power starts to make him some enemies at school and these bullies will do anything to get Chewy kicked out of school. On top of that, there are some family secrets that are causing strange changes to his mother and his life.

I thought this book had a really fun and exciting plot. I loved how adventurous it was and I really enjoyed being along for the ride. The book was so packed full of action and had me wondering what would happen next. There were times when I thought the transitions between events could have been smoother – I felt like sometimes I was being jerked from one event to the next. This was probably a result of there being too many plot lines. It was a little bit hard for me to follow all of them and integrate them. I was just a bit confused at times about what was happening and why it was happening. There was also a little bit of unnecessary information at times, or descriptions of mundane events, which made the book feel very long. I think it could have been a whole 100 pages shorter.

The book had some chapters set in the past, describing the family’s history and secrets, and I thought these were some of the most interesting chapters because we got to see a lot of Korean culture. The book also transitioned very seamlessly from ‘past’ chapters to ‘present’ chapters. But there were also some chapters (mostly in Part 2) that all ended on cliffhangers, which I didn’t really like. It made the book feel overly dramatic and I didn’t think it needed to be that way.

The writing in this book was very easy to read, and I flew through this in about 3 hours. This book suffers a little from lack of editing, probably due to it being a self-published work. The writing isn’t as smooth and polished as I’m used to but I didn’t have too much of an issue with it since it’s a middle-grade book that’s supposed to be about the characters and their adventures. As long as there isn’t a huge number of typos, I’m fine with a little bit of weird grammar and awkward sentences.

I loved our main character, Chewy, and his best friend, Clint. They have such a great, supportive friendship and I really enjoyed the scenes where they were together. But other than those two characters, I didn’t really like anybody else in the book. Our bullies are terrible people and behave in ways that I could’ve never imagined. I’m glad I’ve never met anybody like them. They were really hateful and manipulative and I just found them to be despicable and their behaviour was honestly disgusting. The problem that I had with all of the characters was that they seemed to be a lot older than they actually were. They’re supposed to be fifth-graders but they say and do things that I would expect from much older kids. It just wasn’t believable and I almost had to imagine that they were high schoolers instead (I also hope that no 11 year old is capable of doing the things that these kids do in the book).

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It had a lot of things that would appeal to a middle-grade audience, as well as an older audience too. It was action-packed and has some diverse characters that you don’t see in very many books. If you enjoy reading about superheroes and their adventures, I think you would really like this story.

Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls. Patrick Ness.

Publisher: Walker Books
Release date: May 5, 2011
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 1406339342
Pages: 215
Goodreads || Book Depository

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

For a really long time, I was reluctant to pick up this book because I’d heard that it was a heart-wrenching story and that’s exactly what it was. It was a sad but absolutely beautiful story with some equally beautiful illustrations by Jim Kay. I’ll keep this review short and sweet because the book is a short one, and it’s probably also best that you go into it without knowing too much so that you can take from it your own messages.

13-year-old Conor is having a rough time. He’s being bullied at school. His mother is battling cancer and is incredibly sick from the chemotherapy. His father has a new family over in America and his new wife pretty much wants him to cut off ties with Conor and his mother. Conor is being forced to live with his grandmother, who’s not like the other smiley grandmothers in the world. And on top of all of that, there’s a monster who visits him in the middle of the night and leaves a terrible mess in his room the next morning.

I really felt for Conor and connected with him on an emotional level in this book. I felt all of his struggles and pain, and I couldn’t help but feel attached to his story. There were times when he acted like a little bit of a brat, particularly at the beginning of the book, but given the circumstances, I can forgive a young boy for not being a perfect angel. I actually thought that he handled his emotional struggles very well and I admired how strong he was when he needed to be.

The monster that visits Conor tells him three stories. These stories were my favourite aspect of A Monster Calls. They had a fairytale-like quality to them and I thought the messages and lessons they contained were very interesting. I wouldn’t have minded a whole book of just those stories to be honest, but I loved how these stories fit into the plot of the book overall.

There are some beautiful illustrations throughout the whole book. These illustrations appeared mainly during scenes where the monster visited Conor. They were slightly creepy, all in black and white, and were very intricate. I loved looking at them and trying to pick out little details that I would have missed at first glance. I thought Jim Kay’s illustrations really brought the story to life and enhanced it. I definitely recommend the illustrated edition of A Monster Calls!

I feel like this is a book I could recommend to anybody. I think everybody, including children and pre-teens, could take something away from this book. The ending of it affected me so much and had me reflecting on some of my own past and present experiences. And like I had anticipated, I ugly-cried for a while after it was over.

Review: The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare & Holly Black

the-iron-trial

Publisher: Doubleday Children’s Books
Release date: September 9, 2014
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0857532502
Pages: 295
Goodreads || Book Depository

Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial.

Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail.

All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him.

So he tries his best to do his worst – and fails at failing.

Now the Magisterium awaits him. It’s a place that’s both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future.

The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come . . .

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

The Iron Trial is the first instalment in the Magisterium Series, which is a five-book middle-grade series. I initially had no plans to pick up this series but Cassandra Clare and Holly Black are holding an event in Sydney in mid-August to promote the next book, The Copper Gauntlet. So I thought I’d pick it up and give it a go. This was a very quick read for me, since it is a middle-grade series. I finished it in one sitting.

I thought The Iron Trial was a really fun middle-grade fantasy read, and a great start to the series. There was a lot of really good world and character building, though at times I wish we got to see even more of the world, especially outside of the Magisterium. The atmosphere of the whole book was great, as was the twist near the end of the book. Cassandra Clare is just so great with all of her plot twists! (I haven’t read anything else by Holly Black yet, so I can’t comment on her plot twists). The Iron Trial was filled with action and mystery in every chapter, and was just a really engaging read.

While there were some elements that reminded me a lot of the Harry Potter series, I think The Iron Trial brings something completely different to the table. It turns the classic magician’s tale on its head and the story is just not what you’d expect. I liked the magic system in this book and I hope we get to learn more about it in the upcoming books. The writing in this book wasn’t really to my taste. Because this is a middle-grade series, the writing felt a bit juvenile to me, but I would have definitely liked it more if I was younger.

Let’s talk about the characters. I really liked Call a lot. He by no means is a hero or the ‘chosen one’. He’s just your average kid who gets bullied by his classmates, but manages to find a world where he fits in. At times, his spontaneity and recklessness annoyed me a little but you have to keep in mind that he’s a 12 year old. My biggest complaint about his character was his name. I don’t understand why Callum gets shortened to Call… because I read that as ‘call’ and not ‘Cal’. Aaron and Tamara, who I kind of see as Ron and Hermione, were interesting characters. I liked Aaron from the very beginning but it took a while before Tamara grew on me. The friendship between the three was really great and was definitely reminiscent of Harry, Ron and Hermione.

Even though I could keep drawing Harry Potter parallels, I thought The Iron Trial (and The Magisterium Series) was quite unique in its world and magic system and I’m looking forward to the next book.