The information provided on this and other pages by me, Simone Rhea (, is under my own personal responsibility. Similarly, any opinions expressed are my own and I do not claim any rights over third-party works. Please do not copy anything from this site without permission. If you want to use any information, please contact me. Contact details can be found in the About Me page to the right. If I give permission, an acknowledgement of the blog must be stated clearly. Thank you.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Gone by Michael Grant

What would happen if one minute, in a blink of an eye, everybody over the age of 15 disappeared? How would the remaining children act? Who would look after the babies? And what would they have for tea? This novel explores all of this, and the answers make for a very compelling story. Add in some superpowers that some of the children have developed, and you have a situation screaming "what the hell!"

The only problem with this story line is the fact that it is full of children! Being over the age of 15, I did get a bit bored with the childishness of the characters. However, it is realistic in the sense that they are young! They wouldn't know what to do and, even if the age of disappearance was higher, quite a few young adults would get out of hand if there wasn't any law. That is just society.

I did enjoy the plot of the novel, and all the interweaving characters added something to strengthen the story. The characters are very cleverly portrayed, and the author has to be praised for his ability of creating so many solid characters that make an impact and have a role to play.

By the end of the novel I was bored. The story is great, and I do want to know what happens... But I don't have the uncontrollable urge to get started with the next one. I think that is just me though, and it is a book that needs to be judged for yourself - ironic considering I am reviewing it! I have no experience around children of 14 (the age of the main characters), having no children of my own or any young family members, so I couldn't connect with them as I have with characters in other novels. Even though I did like them, some just annoyed me with their immaturity, even though it is probably how children of that age would act. However, I have heard of many older readers who have thoroughly enjoyed the series, and the writing style is nothing less than very well crafted. So, if you have an understanding of this age group (or are this age yourself!) and enjoy fantasy novels, then this series could be for you.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold (Book One of the Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency Series) by Iain Reading

This book is an adventure! There is no other way to put it. The viewpoint is from a young girl, who has just left High School and wants to spend the summer observing humpback whales from her plane over the Alaskan seas. Her attention gets diverted by the history of the surrounding towns when she hears about tales of gold miners and thieves. When she is suspicious of a boat during her whale observations, she is intrigued to know if her gut feeling is right. She stubbornly walks into the danger, and is propelled into an adventure of gold, history and a group of brothers.

You will not be disappointed with the main character. Kitty Hawk is very likeable and it is as though you are taking the journey with her (minus the aching legs from all the walking she endures, but I'm happy without that). I particularly enjoyed how the author spent time going over Kitty's life growing up, because it creates a stronger connection towards her, and makes you more familiar with her character traits. The only aspect of her that you may dislike is the conversations she has with herself. She thinks more than she talks, which can be frustrating when you want to hear from the other characters a bit more, and her inner voice is sometimes annoying and repetitive. But then again, it makes her more human! If I was alone in a plane for hours, then I think I would get into the habit of talking to myself too.

I feel like I have learnt quite a lot from reading this book; although it is a fictional novel, it involves non-fictional details about humpback whales, and includes places and objects that actually exist, as explained at the end of the novel. I did feel as though certain parts of the story dragged, and the romantic scenes felt out of place and a bit of a flop, but they all connected in some way so I can't complain. Although I enjoyed the observations of the whales, I would have preferred it if the book got to the start of Kitty's adventure sooner. The plot does lead to a great weaving of historical events and loveable characters that I wanted to hear a lot more from!

The story did linger in my mind when I was forced to stray away into reality. I must warn you, the book sets you up to the second in the series - quite meanly I will add - because the first chapter of the novel is completely irrelevant until the second novel. It is a bit of an anticlimax, and makes the build up to the adventure slow. I feel as though I would have enjoyed the novel more if I hadn't read the first chapter, because I was constantly waiting for it to circle back to that cliff-hanging scene. However, the story is very enjoyable and I found myself reading the sample for the next novel, where I think it will all kick off. So, even if the opening chapter is irrelevant and slightly annoying, it is a good tactic to get you to read the next one - I know I want to!

If you are into the young-adult-type series, you will enjoy the characters created in this novel. I think it is a good introduction to the subsequent series, and rather sets you up for the sequels than gets you into anything deep. Maybe the author should have combined the two (this novel with its sequel) and cut out a bit, or just got rid of the first chapter, or even expanded on the character building; more 'show don't tell' descriptions, them sort of detailed scenes to expand it a bit... I don't know... maybe I just want to hear more and that is definitely a good sign! Either way, I very much enjoyed the plot and the characters, and see much potential in the series. I will definitely be checking out the second in the novel! Hopefully you will read this and want to join me on the adventures with Kitty Hawk, and if you are anything like me then you should have an exciting new series on your hands!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Ashlynn's Dreams (Devya's Children) by Julie Gilbert

The current price for the Kindle Edition (on 11th June 2014) is 77p.

This novel is centred on a young girl, called Jillian, as she retells her story of being kidnapped. The point of view switches mostly between Jillian (told through her diary entries) and her babysitter Danielle (told through her letters to Jillian's shrink, Dr. Stephanie Sokolowski). The structure of the novel is very unique, with the story being told through a collection of different 'items'; these are mostly snippets from Jillian's diary entries and Danielle's letters.

It is soon clear that Jillian and Danielle were kidnapped for a purpose, and Jillian has to complete a task in order to be set free. During their time as prisoners, they meet other children like Jillian. At this point a daunting feeling came over me, and I prayed that the author hadn't gone down the 'Twilight' superpowers road! However, the novel was taken down a unique path, one that centred on science rather than the supernatural. I was relieved. Don't get me wrong, I love my supernatural! But a novel has to have some new aspect to the theme, or it gets boring. This idea of science, and the horrifying thought of what it is capable of, was a breath of fresh air.

The structure took a while to get used to. I didn't feel as though I was properly set up for the story; however, the background becomes apparent as you read, and after so many 'items' it is easy to get lost in the story. I do think it could have benefited from a small scene of standard narrative at the beginning; maybe a scene with Dr. Sokolowski looking over the files, or something to set you up to the story, a bit of background. Who is this Dr. Sokolowski? I expected something to come from her, especially at the end of the novel... a twist, or just a comment. Overall, the structure is a very good concept, however I don't think standard narrative should be forgotten to the novel.

The two characters, Jillian and Danielle, worked really well together when telling the story. Jillian is more involved in the plot, so she is essential to hear from. Danielle is more of an outsider; however she acts as a viewer to see Jillian from another perceptive. Our images of Jillian are greater thanks to Danielle; we respect her more, and a stronger connection to her is forged. The only negative point in the writing of the novel is that it is made clear to the reader at the start that Jillian has a strong accent, however this kind of phases out as the novel progresses. I noticed it when it flicked from Danielle to Jillian, and the writing stayed as though it was from Danielle's more grown-up voice. I didn't mind this, however, as Jillian's strong accent was distracting from the plot, and it was nice for it to settle into a mild voice.

When I put the novel down for a moment, I did miss it. I had a similar feeling as I did from Dracula, which can be due to the similar structure. The interesting theme and concept made me yearn for more. If you like any novel that is out of the ordinary, something different, then this is worth the read - especially at the kindle price! It is full of new ideas, and I could easily imagine it as a TV series. It has the potential for television, with a massive history to be explored as well as the scientific outcomes - another Roswell in the makings! It is very intriguing, and worth the read as the scientific ideas behind it could be the start of a new genre.

I was disappointed when the story ended, mostly because it finished too soon! I felt like it was rushed, and could easily have been expanded at the end to another set of item entries. It is a good novel to set up the imaginary world for future releases, and I can see the potential for an interesting, long-running collection.

There are a lot of intriguing ideas to the novel which I have not touched upon, so that it doesn't ruin your pleasure of finding them for yourselves. I will tempt you with one: ever wondered what it would be like to be in a videogame? Jillian finds out when she gets thrown into one during a dream.  

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Dracula by Bram Stoker

I was very excited when Bram Stoker's Dracula came up on my reading list at University; being a massive vampire fan, I thought it would be interesting to see where the theme originated from and what inspired the start of the phenomenon. I had the book lying around my room for years, along with other classics such as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, but I never quite got around to reading it. I was more focused on reading modern texts in my spare time, however, after way too many texts from the 15th to 17th century on my course, it was nice to come across one that I had some previous interest in.

Before starting the novel, I didn't expect to be surprised by Dracula; I thought I already knew the story from word-of-mouth and general knowledge. I couldn't have been more naive if I had tried! The writing style is unusual and tricky to get started with, however the diary-entry layout soon becomes very important to strike a unique impact on the reader.

Personally, Dracula was a mixed read... I'm sad to say that if I didn't have to read it for my assignment I may not have persisted with it. With foresight, I now know that it would have been a mistake if I had left it unfinished. It is perfect if you want a book that you can read a few chapters a night, as I could easily put the book down and go back to the real world. Although I didn't yearn for it as much as the majority of the other books I have reviewed on here, it does stick with you long after you have finished the last page. Thinking back on the book now, I have a strange urge to reread it - the writing is just so clever, and the characters linger with you.

I have massive respect for Bram Stoker - the grandfather of vampires - after reading this book. He managed to create such a vivid and feared villain in Count Dracula, despite the character being infrequently present in the book. If you are expecting the modern vampire, then this may not be the book for you and you may be disappointed in the lack of vampire presence. It is not a light book, and it is definitely not one to be rushed, but if you have a passion for the classics then it is a must-read.

I hope that this review helps to bring the forgotten classic to your attention, either if it is to read it for the first time, or to rejoice in reading it again.