Zarox, by Louis Smith

Zarox
Zarox

Parker is a normal boy…

… living a normal life. Every morning he and his brother, Callum, go to school, where they meet their best friends, Riley and Lucy. Everything seems quite ordinary…right?

During what should be an everyday, regular meet, the group of friends will find themselves transported to a whole different realm. Zarox is a world where many different creatures exist. Some of them are friendly, some hostile, all of them magical. The group of four will soon realize they have a very special role in this situation, and so…adventure begins!

Welcome to Zarox: a world of fantasy, magic and courage!

This is a tale of friendship at its very best! A story that teaches everyone that anything is possible with enough collaboration, hope, communication and above all: love.

This is a story told beautifully. Each and every character is built so differently at its core, but at the same time all the heroes are similar in their values. Kindhearted and brave, they certainly teach us that what is most important in difficult times is to stay together.

I am always happy to read books of new authors. But if I am to be completely honest with you, in the back of my mind I always have the fact that debut stories usually have quite a few plot flaws and need a lot of improvement (they usually have quite a few syntax and grammar errors,as well). Having reviewed plenty such books, I tend to believe that’s the general rule.

However, this time I was pleasantly surprised. I was very happy to realize that this story is as well written as any book by experienced, many-times published authors. Zarox is a story with a plot that I admired, and it certainly had me hooked!

A genuine page turner, I strongly recommend it for all fantasy lovers out there!

 

My grandmother sends her regards and apologises, by Fredrik Backman

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My grandmother sends her regards and apologises

“Because not all monsters were  monsters from the beginning. Some were made monsters out of pain.”

Elsa is not like other children.

She can recite Harry Potter by memory.  Wikipedia is a piece of cake for her. She knows things other eight-year-olds don’t. Elsa is special. And her only friend is her Granny.

Grandmother has always been Elsa’s hero,

her best friend, and her partner in crime. But when Granny gives her a secret mission, Elsa will realize she knows a lot less about her grandmother than what she thought.

While defending the world they created together, the Kingdom of Almost Awake, Elsa will discover there’s more to people than meets the eye. Not all monsters are evil. People keep secrets, and sometimes there’s a good reason behind them. Anger is sometimes sorrow in disguise. And, most importantly, she will get the hardest lesson of all: that whatever happens, life goes on.

Backman works magic in this novel.

He has managed to touch so many aspects of human relationships in a single story, that it makes it hard to describe. Love, loss, pain, secrets, compassion, laughter and magic. And through it all, the hardest lesson a human learns throughout their lives: the lesson of loss and carrying on.

The author has an incredible ability of describing serious matters in a witty way,. The reader goes back and forth between the reality and the Kingdom of Almost Awake. Surprisingly, however, you will find no difficulty following the story right to its end…or is the end just another beginning?

 

My top 5 Neil Gaiman books

Top 5 Gaiman books

Being a fantasy literature enthusiast, Neil Gaiman is probably my  all- time favorite writer.  It is not just about the plot, I believe. It’s about the way his words instantly create  the grounds for your brain to build a world. And he does it in such a simple and easy way, that the readers find themselves building up a universe in a matter of …well, in a matter of pages.

This is such a difficult thing to do, to try and explain how or why a writer’s works appeal to a reader so  much. Everyone prefers their own style and their own genre, of course. But if you find, like me, that you are drawn to the fantasy section of the library quite often, maybe it’s time to get acquainted to the works of Neil Gaiman.

As a lot of people who are familiar with his works will tell you, five books is just too short of a list! However, I wanted to keep this (relatively) short, so here are the five books I think you should start with:

The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book

After the mysterious murder of his parents, a toddler escapes from his house and finds refuge in a graveyard. The ghosts residing there decide to raise him, becoming his new family in the process. As Bod (short for Nobody) Owens grows up, supernatural dangers arise, and he starts discovering more things about his past and his family.

American Gods

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American Gods

Yes, it’s a series. No, it was not originally just a series. This is a book. AN epic, wonderful, amazing, kick-ass book.

After being in prison for 3 years, Shadow is released upon his wife’s tragic death. It is on that day that he meets the mysterious Mr Wednesday. Deciding to become his employee,  Shadow follows him across the US, meeting new, and interesting, if dubious, characters. Who is Mr Wednesday, though? Does he really hold supernatural powers? And what about Shadow? What is his role in this game?

Good Omens

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God Omens

Good Omens was co-written by Gaiman and the late Sir Terry Pratchett. Hilariously peculiar, this is the book to male you laugh your lungs out. If you are one of those people (like me) that read in public transport, prepare to be considered nuts. Seriously.

The Antichrist is born, the end of the world is coming, and basically the world is doomed. However, a bookworm-Angel and a Demon with a highly evolved sense of sarcasm refuse to let that happen. Let’s be honest, nobody wants to go back to their work, no matter if it’s hell’s dungeons or heaven’s bureaucracy. The two buddies forge an allegiance and start looking for the Antichrist child. What happens, though, if baby Antichrist has been…misplaced?

Norse Mythology

Norse Mythology

For the fans of Norse myths and legends, here you go, you’re welcome!

Gaiman has constructed a number of short stories based on the original Nordic myths. From Odin to Loki, from Freya to Thor, all the Norse gods you’ve heard of (and then some) are in here. Trust me, you will have an amazingly enjoyable time watching Gaiman breathe new life into the Norse Gods.

Fortunately, the Milk

Fortunately, the Milk

Yes, that is a title. Of a book. Isn’t it awesome?

You’re never too old for children’s books. And if you have children, all the better reason to read this hilarious story.

A father needs to explain to his children why he was late bringing the milk home. Well, he has quite the excuses for it!Dragons, weird creatures, beautiful tales… So what if you don’t believe his excuses? You have to give him an A+ for the effort, right?

 

 

 

Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel

wolf hall

“The fate of people is made like this, two men in small rooms. Forget the coronations, the conclaves of the cardinals….this is how the world changes.”

Sixteenth century.

Twenty years after their marriage, the Royal Couple have failed to produce a male heir. King Henry VIII is anxiously looking for a way to divorce the Queen and has already set eyes on young Anne Boleyn. The Pope has refused to grant a divorce, and the King needs a clever man he can trust to find a solution to this turmoil. Will Thomas Cromwell be the man Henry has been searching for? How can this low born son of a blacksmith rise up to become the right hand of the King of England?

I have finished Wolf Hall for some time now. I was -and still am- so scared of putting a review of it together. It’ s not that I haven’t formed an opinion -far from it. But how do you write about a book that is such a masterpiece in so many ways?

Winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize, Wolf Hall is the book you’ll want to read, especially if you’re a fan of historical fiction.

wolf hall 2

The Tudor Era has never been portrayed so perfectly before.

Hilary Mantel proves to be an expert on the subject, historically accurate in a surprising depth.

This is not the first time this part of English history has been turned into a novel. However, it presents a really refreshing and different angle. We follow the life of Thomas Cromwell, the man who climbed so far up the Royal Court hierarchy as to become Master Secretary, from the time he left home as a boy, to the reign of Queen Anne Boleyn.

While Cromwell has been portrayed as a witty – even sly man, it is actually the first time we see him as a human being. We follow along a life full of pain, tragedies, happy moments, and a struggle to succeed.

This is the actual, real life Game of Thrones. This is how the world worked, and probably still does, with very little change. This is how the fates of people are created. As Cromwell himself says, this is how fates of people are created. This is the book to read.

 

When readers are divided: Our Endless Numbered Days

Our endless numbered days

Peggy is eight years old

when her survivalist father packs a bag and takes her to a remote forest. Leaving her mother behind, her father announces to her that there has been a major disaster, and they are the only to humans that survived. Deep in the forest, in the middle of nowhere, Peggy has to learn how to live with the memories of a mother she considers dead. Hunger, hardships and fear will be their life for years.Their endless days are numbered only by the changing of the seasons.

Things start changing

When Peggy finds a pair of boots, things are about to change. If , as her father says, they are the last people on earth, who does taht pair of boots belong to? Is there someone else living out there? Maybe they are not the only survivors. Or maybe her father has been lying all thise years.

When people review books, there will be a handful of times when they find it difficult to describe their thoughts and feelings about a story. This is one of those times for me.

Our Endless Numbered Days is a book that has received much critisism about its difficult content.I should start by pointing out that this is not a happy book. Most readers are used to happy endings by now. If that is what you are looking for, you will not find it in this story.

That having been said, it doesn’t mean this is a bad story. It is, however, not an esay read. The kidnapping of a child, even by their own father, is never a happy thing to read about. Your instict kicks in, and you feel the need to see this story through with the child safely back home.

Our endless numbered days

From the first chapter, the reader knows that Peggy eventually returns to her mother safely. They also know that the father is not there with them. Is he in prison? Is he dead? We don’t know yet. The fact that Peggy is back, though, doesn’t mean everything ends well.

This is a tale of loneliness, pain, and hopelessness. Carefully detailed and very well written, it guides you through the stories through fragments. You will go back and forth, from the time Peggy lived in a happy family to moving into the wild with her father, and also the present. Attaining only pieces of the story every time, you will start forming a picture of what life was, and is, for this unlucky little girl.

However, you won’t be ready for a lot of the details that will be coming your way towards the end. There are parts you won’t know until the very last pages, and those little details will make all the difference.

Hard as this read might be, it is interesting and worth your time. We must always remember that life isn’t always easy or happy. Sometimes this is reflected on books, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth reading.

And then there were none, By Agatha Christie

“One little Soldier boy left all alone;

He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.”

 

mystery, agatha christie

England, 1930s.

Eight people arrive at an isolated island off the Devon coast. They have all been invited by a man they have heard of one way or another. However, none of them has actually seen him before. Mr and Mrs Owen, the hosts, have unfortunately not arrived yet. Instead, the guests are met by the housekeeper and his wife, and are assured taht their hosts will be arriving the next day.

After their first dinner, however, a gramophone recording will reveal to them the true reason they are there: someone is accusing them of commiting crimes and escaping justice. The voice on the record is clear: none of them are able to leave the isolated island, and all of them will soon be dead.

Ten people on an isolated island.

They are being murdered one by one, just like the old “Ten Little Soldiers” rhyme. How is it possible that no one else is on the island, and yet people are being murdered? Who is Mr Owen and how does he know all of them?

From one of the great masters of mystery

And Then There Were None is a unique and atmospheric story, and few people can argue against that. Agatha Christie has constructed a detailed and careful story plot, one that the reader will not be able to unravel easily. This is widely considered Christie’s masterpiece, and, as a reader, I can very well understand why. It takes a great effort to divert the reader from their suspicions, making them change their mind about who the killer is, and Christie does just that.

In the aftermath of an interesting mystery , the readers find themselves questioning what justice really is. Is everything black and white? Do you think it is good, or even necessary to take justice in your own hands? Is killing a killer justified?

This is exactly what makes this book so interesting. Aside from the mystery, the suspense, the read-it-all-in-one-sitting aspect, the story leaves a lot of discussion points (and isn’t this just wonderful?). This is the kind of story you will not forget easily. For the fans of the mystery genre, this is the epitome of truly intelligent suspense. Happy reading!

The Sacrifice, by Alec Caruso

London, England.

Dr Ted Conway is found in his home, rope tied around his neck, hanging in the middle of the living room. This should be an easy case.

Inspector Rei Yoshima’s first case after a forced break should have been as easy as that. However, the evidence will soon lead her to realize that this is not a suicide. With his client list deleted and no records left on his laptop or his cell phone, Dr Conway is a mystery. What could a pediatrician in his seventies have done to put himself into such a situation?

Cologne, Germany.

The German police force finds a murdered couple. Tied, tortured, not even their real names are known. Inspectors Muller and Morgan will have absolutely no leads to begin with, other than one name written on a piece of paper: Dr. Conway.

What do these different homicides that have occured in two different countries have in common? Other than the name of Conway, nothing is seemingly connecting them. When the two police departments come together, the plot will start to unravel.

This is a story with many different parts. The plot looks like a puzzle. But then again, shouldn’t all mystery books look like one?

The Sacrifice has the ideal length for a reader: it is neither too short, nor too long, so that you can follow through easily, without getting tired. There are no in-betweens where you might feel bored, and that is a key aspect for a good mystery book. Written consisely and simply, it is by all aspects an easy read.

If there is something amiss, it would probably be that the story ends without explaining some of the heroes’ backgrounds. Although on meeting every main character in the book, the reader gets some hints about their background, things are never fully explained even as the story comes to an end.

What, as a reader, I would like to believe, is that the author plans on a sequel with the same characters, where everything will be explained. If that, however, is not the case, then some details should be more thorough.

All things considered, it was a fun and easy read. There were some grammatical and syntax errors here and there, which you do not normally find in an edited book. It is, however, the author’s first book, so it is not too bad for a start.

For the fans of mystery, it is definitely worth reading. The ending was quite unpredictable and the plot well based, so I would suggest giving it a try!

The Last Wild, by Piers Torday

The last wild

In a strange land..

..where animals are almost extinct, people are fed through artificial formulas and contact with nature is gone.

Kester Jaynes is locked away in a home for troubled children.

Mute and convinced that something is terribly wrong with him, he spends day after day in a facility where obedience is much more important than actual rehabilitation. When a flock of birds starts talking to him, though, he will realize that maybe it’s not a problem that he actually has, but a gift.

With the help of a stubborn and fearless cockroach and a handful of determined pigeons, he will manage to escape his prison. Kester will soon discover his destiny: he is the last Wild, the person destined to save the animals from the great plague that is driving them extinct.

This is a captivatng story that makes you think twice about human interaction with nature, specifically fauna. This is a story that captivates you in its constant adventure. At the same time, it helps you understand the hubris of human nature. This is the potential future, if people are not careful or respectful enough. This is what the world might come to, in the worst case scenario.

But in the same time, you will be reminded that there is always hope. There is always light at the end of the tunnel. Kester Jaynes is the light of this story. He is the hero the animals need, the hero the world needs, even if they cannot understand it.

The Last Wild, Greek edition

A beautiful dystopian adventure

The Last Wild begins as every great adventure should: with a detailed map! Unique in its plot, the story will guide you not only through what people think, but also what the animals do. This is a strongly recommended book, not only for adults, but also for teenagers and children. What better way to teach children to care about the world as a whole than through a book?

This must be the place, by Maggie O’Farrell

Do you think, Daniel,” she said to him, rolling over onto her back so that she was able to look out of the window while she spoke, “that we might have reached the end of our story?” 

Meet Claudette

A former Hollywood star and world known actress. On the peak of her career, she will decide to run away from it all and leave an incognito life in Ireland.

Meet Daniel

After an ugly divorce in New York, he will trace his roots back to Ireland.

This is the place where it all begins for them.It must have been fate. Daniel and Claudette will feel drawn to each other from the first instant. They will start a family there, in the middle of nowhere. But , years later, the memory of a mysterious woman will stir their domestic life, and Daniel will feel the need to dig up old wounds. Will their love for each other be enough to draw them back together? Are some things of our past better left burried?

Love has many forms

…and many ways of manifesting. Some love stories have to go through storms, an Daniel’s is one of these. Will his quiet life with his second wife prove stronger than his past? Are past mistakes able to affect your present?

A novel uniquely written, it guides the reader both through time and places. You will follow Daniel’s and Claudette’s past, present and future. But you will also see the lives of their families, their loved ones, and go down the rabbit hole of a mystery that has been left alone for over twenty years. The plot will often be full of sadness and sorrow, but Maggie O’ Farrell creates a story where you clearly see that light can always be found at the end of the tunnel.

Reading back to back: Dracula vs The Historian

Have you ever felt the need, after finishing a book, to read another one on a similar subject?

It happens to me a lot. It’s also a fun way of discovering more beautiful stories out there.

I’m a huge fan of myths and legends. I first read Stoker’s Dracula when I was ten, and have read it again and again ever since (fifteen times and counting!). I read The Historian a couple of months ago, and I was fascinated by its historical accuracy, the geographical components, the sense of danger it creates to you as you red through. So, here goes, these are two books you should absolutely try reading back to back.

Dracula, by Bram Stoker

Victorian London: Jonathan Harker, a real estate employee, is requested to travel for work to the faraway land of Transylvania. His job is to draw the final contract of land ownership for an old Transylvanian nobleman, Count Dracula. Leaving his fiancee, Mina, behind, Harker will soon realize that everything about the Count reeks of danger. Old legends are true, and the Count is more than meets the eye.

This is the most iconic, let alone famous, work of fiction about Dracula. Stoker reimagined tha historical Voivode of Wallachia in a mysterious, intriguing, and dangerous way. It is not about gruesome details, as you might find in many present fiction books. It’s about the mysterious atmosphere. You don’t need to see the fangs to see the vampire. You feel the terror that the Count imposes, and that is more than enough. What makes this book phenomenal is the way of writing, even more than the story itself. So is it possible to read fiction without having read Dracula?

The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova

“To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my History….”

An ancient book like no other lies in a private library. Its pages are all empty but the middle ones. There, in the middle, lies a massive dragon. And the history behind it is almost unbelievable..

The Historian has been searching for an evil source that shouldn’t be alive, a legend that is not supposed to exist. A wild chase begins, from 1930s Istanbul to 1950s Budapest, and from Bulgaria to France. Three generations are on the hunt, each one getting closer to the truth than the one before. Many beng will try to stop them, but many more will offer their help and courage. Are the legends absolutely true? And if so, how can you stop an evil so massive?

Kostova writes about a story long told before, but that doesn’t make the story any less interesting. An absolutely beautiful tale, based on a sometimes eerie atmosphere, it will hold your attention from the first to the last page. Kostova is massively inspired by Dracula, not only regarding the story, but also the way of narrating. She has a very interesting way to emerge you in the plot so mush so, that you end up believing you are the one on the hunt. You are travelling, searching. Budapest is so clear to you, as if you are actually there. And you await the end of the chase, as if this is actually personal to you.

If you’re not sure why you should be reading both…

The similarities in the books is quite intriguing. But at the same time, they are clearly two different stories. And this is what makes them ideal for a back to back reading. If you loved Dracula, the Historian is probably what you should be reading next. Through its details, it becomes truly fascinating, and does not let you down. If you haven’t read Dracula yet…well, here’s a good chance for you. Set both books on your list, and we wish you happy reading!