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Book Master

I'm a reader, author and reviewer. I read horror, the paranormal and mystery

The Gift of Charms (The Land of Dragor)

The Gift of Charms (The Land of Dragor) - Julia Suzuki As a reviewer you get to read all sorts of book regardless of the genre and the age group they are directed towards. So, you have to put yourself in the children's shoes to get a feel for what they can understand and enjoy. The Gift of Charms is aimed at children in the 9 to 12 age bracket. As a result the book is an easy read; the characters do not have difficult names to pronounce and they experience many of the problems that children will have.

This, unfortunately, includes the bullying of our protagonist, Yashiko, because he stands out to be rather different to everyone else.

The lead dragon, Yoshiko, has been born with a future and destiny defined already from birth and his colour changes do not go unnoticed. Life lessons still need to be learnt by him in order to win the trust of his peers, complete almost impossible tasks set by Guya, a wise and reclusive dragon and travel through the lands to the human world. Yoshiko embraces these challenges with the special kind of determination that only youngsters seem to have; it is hard not to admire the passion he has with which to do all of this despite pretty tough obstacles.

The story itself was good; more than enough action to keep children occupied for a time. However, I do feel as though I've been cheated. The book has won a British Arts Council Award so I was expecting just a little bit more than what the book provides. Unfortunately, it just didn't have that 'wow' factor for me.

Our protagonist, Yoshiko, needed to undergo some training in order to carry out such a mammoth task of saving the dragon's land. For this to take place, before the end of the book, Julia Suziki pushes the story along faster in some places than others. The characters were also lacking in development. I would have loved to know more about what made Yoshiko the hero other than his birth. What was he really like, his thoughts, his belief's etc.

A good read as a whole but it hasn't endeared me to the genre at all.

The Branches of Time

The Branches of Time - Luca  Rossi The author, Luca Rossi, has become a major hit with readers of all shapes and sizes. Some of these are delving into a genre way outside their usual fare, including me. So, what has attracted them to The Branches of Time?

The novel is set within the complicated elements of time travel and slips. It is a fantasy world caught up in the grips of black magic, love and war; a book that you can safely lose yourself in as soon as you 'turn over' the first page.

The points that stick out for me are:

The Branches of Time has many scenes of love and sex which, for some, could be a problem. If they become a regular feature of a book and do something to move the story along, then the book should be marketed as erotica as well. Too much in a book that does not require it and you could alienate those who prefer not to read about sex.

I do not regard the sex scenes in The Branches of Time as erotica. Does it give anything to the book and story? Is it even well written? This book could do very well without any mention of sex. It wasn't the language or the acts themselves that caused me a problem, but the excessive focusing on some of them. For example, the King Beanor really kneaded this one particular piece of dough almost out of existence. Excessive, yes. Necessary, no. There is a fine line between what is considered erotica and porn. If you're not careful any scenes you write about sex can come over as tawdry.

The novel is shorter than what I would have liked. It seemed to me that it just ran out of room to fully establish the characters and the roles that they played overall. Without a doubt, some characters are stronger than others but I became confused as to whether they mattered or even if they were going to be a continuing part of the story.

I feel the book could be edited further. Some of the words are surplus to requirements and removal of these would have made the book much more enjoyable. Was something, again, lost in translation? It's possible, but I doubt it. Research more into how people generally communicate with one another and it can help to give a more natural feel. A good tip is to read your novel or story out loud. If it makes you wince then you know it can be improved upon.

There are separate stories going in within the one novel which can be disconcerting. It's an awful lot of jumping around in such a short space of time. Fantasies are another genre that can quite easily confuse me: too many long, strange names, battles and unusual worlds. So a lot of happenings can really spin me around.

Overall, Branches of Time is an interesting read but do be aware of its sex and violent content if you decide to give it a go.

The Horse Healer: A Novel

The Horse Healer: A Novel - Gonzalo Giner After reading the book’s synopsis I thought I would be in deep trouble; over complicated historic novels have a tendency to click a switch of understanding off in my brain. Weird, long names confuse me. Novels are like my food; if I have to fight with it, then all joy is taken out of it. Feel free to quote me on this.

I won’t say that I was pleasantly surprised because that is so cliche. Oh wait, I just did. Ignore that then.

Seriously, the novel, although appearing to be complex, is deceiving in its simplicity. Although I wouldn’t recommend it for the under teens, age groups up from that would be able immerse themselves relatively easily. So the novel has a distinct cross-over audience than most books in this genre. Of course that is a definite plus.

I’m taking into account that the book has been translated from its native language which can affect many aspects of the completed manuscript. We, probably, all remember the film titled ‘Lost in Translation’. Well, that could easily have happened to this novel resulting in confusing, literal narrative or just a feeling that some passion has been misplaced from the story. At the time of writing this review, the book had yet to be released so what I have here is a proof copy so any grammatical errors are to be expected.

Story and plot-wise the novel is set in Spain at the time of a religious war and it follows the life of Diego and his beautiful, somewhat, special mare, Sabba. During his adventure, he has to deal with bereavement, a feeling of revenge and excitement as he works and trains to become a horse healer. I didn’t dislike the novel; it was very enjoyable to read and it did keep me interested as to the outcome for all involved but I’m still not converted to the genre overall.

Riding Star

Riding Star - Stacy Gregg Straight off the bat, it is obvious, if you are looking for a competent horse fiction author that would appeal to your daughter or niece, Stacy Gregg would certainly fit that bill. Her writing style is uncomplicated but crucially she still manages to instil plenty of action, drama and intrigue into the pages of her books. So much so, that she has gained a true and loyal fan base very quickly.

Looking through Waterstone’s bookshelves for writers of horse fiction for the 9-12’s, her name, Stacy Gregg, is one of the most prolific in this genre. She has few immediate rivals in this age group aside from Michael Morpurgo but the two authors are like chalk and cheese. There is no competition, in my mind. Ms Gregg outranks Morpurgo in many aspects of writing and marketability as well as appeal.

I’ve come into this Pony Club series quite late (Book 3), but I didn't feel like I’d missed out on anything. If I had, it certainly didn't become a serious problem. I managed to keep up with the action and the individual personalities of the characters. I think I had one small difficulty with the storyline in that everything seemed to come to these girls way too easily. It could be that as I’ve missed out on the other books in this series, that I had not come up against the crucial ‘learning’ processes that this Pony Club would have needed to have gone through. If there is a good enough of a reason as to why someone should start at the beginning then that is it!

To be fair, I am an adult reviewing a book aimed at the 9-12 age group, so it could be difficult to see just what attracts children of this age to this particular series. But, I feel personally, that I can place myself in the shoes of children around the age of 8, simply because of my own personal experiences and difficulties.

I believe it takes a very special writer to be able to publish books aimed at children; not every writer/author can do so, no matter what their status and reputation. There is a fine line between failing to appeal and the act of patronisation. But, there is none of these difficulties with this author. Her skill is very easy to see. This is one author that many other writers should take inspiration and lessons from, including me, if they wish to succeed in their writing.