Category Archives: Reviews

Otherworld by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller – Blog Tour

Synopsis

The company says Otherworld is amazing—like nothing you’ve ever seen before. They say it’s addictive—that you’ll want to stay forever. They promise Otherworld will make all your dreams come true.

Simon thought Otherworld was a game. Turns out he knew nothing. Otherworld is the next phase of reality. It’s everything you’ve ever wanted.

And it’s about to change humanity forever.

Welcome to the Otherworld. No one could have seen it coming.

What I Thought

Virtual Reality has been around in science fiction for a long time but now science fact is catching up it’s about time for a resurgence in the genre.

This book is a commentary on the lives we are already living online. Otherworld boasts no rules to follow and no laws to break. Some people already seem to think that the internet is a place where they can be their worst self. Otherworld takes this to the next level. The Company say Otherworld is a place to Live Your Best Lives and not to let Reality hold you back.

It’s so easy with what is going on in the world right now to want to escape. In Otherworld you engage with ‘people like you’ just like we connect with pockets of people who think the same as us online. It’s about mass media as social control. About letting real bodies and minds decay. About addiction. It’s also about fondness for the good old days and I can certainly hear Company CEO Milo saying ‘Make Otherworld Great Again’.

It also explores the use of technology for health related benefits, how technology can interact with users brains but also how that could be exploited. It’s a brave new world but we need rules and laws and morals to navigate.

Protagonist Simon is a wise-cracking gamer geek – someone who wants to be in the first wave, see what the fuss is about. He also wants to reconnect with Kat, a childhood friend who stopped talking to him IRL. Something shady is going on and he wants to find out what.

He has help from a cast of characters including the mysterious ‘Clay Man’ in Otherworld and others including Busara IRL to help Kat and keep himself alive. This new technology means that if he dies in the game he literally dies. Would you be ready to play?

The action was fast paced and I liked Simon. The creepy wasteland ‘Children’ were an interesting touch and I think I’d have preferred for those parts to be explored a different way.

With the film of Ready Player One coming out there will be inevitable comparisons but RPO is a flashback to those that like 80s gameplay – It’s much more of a quest book. This is more dystopian in feel. Who is The Company and what is their real agenda?

This is the first book in a trilogy. The second book Otherearth comes out next year To find out more #visitOtherworld – I’ll definitely be coming back! https://www.visitotherworld.com/

I have YALC and the wonderful team at Rock the Boat for my ARC of Otherworld. Opinions are all mine.

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Curse of the Werewolf Boy by Chris Priestly – Blog Tour 


Summary

Mildew and Sponge don’t think much of Maudlin Towers, the blackened, gloomladen, gargoyle-infested monstrosity that is their school. But when somebody steals the School Spoon and the teachers threaten to cancel the Christmas holidays until the culprit is found, our heroes must spring into action and solve the crime!

But what starts out as a classic bit of detectivating quickly becomes weirder than they could have imagined. Who is the ghost in the attic? What’s their history teacher doing with a time machine? And why do a crazy bunch of Vikings seem to think Mildew is a werewolf?

Hugely funny, deliciously creepy and action-packed by turns, this brand new series from Chris Priestley is perfect for 8+ readers who like their mysteries with a bit of bite. Fans of Lemony Snicket and Chris Riddell will love Curse of the Werewolf Boy.

Goodreads link 

The Author 

Ever since he was a teenager, Chris has loved unsettling and creepy stories. He has fond memories of buying comics like Strange Tales and House of Mystery, watching classic BBC TV adaptations of M.R. James’ ghost stories every Christmas and reading assorted weirdness by everyone from Edgar Allan Poe to Ray Bradbury. He hopes his books will haunt his readers in the way those writers have haunted him.

 

Website: http://www.chrispriestleybooks.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/crispriestley

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chrispriestleywriter/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/christopherpriestley/

 
What I Thought

This was such a fun read and perfect for the target audience. I can imagine that this would make a great bedtime story with lots of enjoyment to be had doing the voices. 

The two main characters, best friends Mildew and Sponge reminded me of Phineus and Ferb, as did the whole crackpot adventure. 
Not only did Chris write all the words he drew all the pictures too. And I felt the illustrations added to the story, in one case more clearly contributing details that wouldn’t have been gleamed from words alone. And look at this map? 


This is a fun boarding school parody that will entertain fans of the genre. I’d love to see Robin Stevens and Chris do a Murder Most Unladylike/Maudlin Towers crossover. Maybe the Deepdean Vampire could meet the Maudlin Werewolf?! 

The werewolf aspect wasn’t really introduced until halfway through the book which I thought was a little late, not that there wasn’t lots of enjoyment to be had with all the other aspects of the story first. 

There were lots of threads that were tied up and this was very well executed, and I imagine created quite a headache for everyone involved. Note to self: Never write time travel. Addition to note: Oops too late – – Ask Chris for advice on how to keep track of everything. 

Will our intrepid duo live to have another adventure or will they fall down to the curse? Even though Halloween is over do pick up a copy. This dark nights time of year is perfect for spooky stories. 

I nearly got bitten by this little Werecat the other night but how can you not forgive him?


Don’t forget to check out the other stops on this blog tour to see what other reviewers thought too. 

Thanks to Faye Rogers and Bloomsbury for arranging the review copy. Opinions are mine. 

Spellchasers by Lari Don – Book Review and Guest Post 

It’s my spot on Lari’s blog tour for her Spellchasers trilogy. Below I have her guest post where she shares her views on witches. First I’d like to outline the first book in the series and tell you what I thought. 

Book 1 – The Beginner’s Guide to Curses

Molly is a human girl whose encounter with a nasty neighbour leaves her turning into a hare whenever a dog barks. She’s been cursed and she needs to learn how to break the curse before she ends up as a dog’s dinner. She’s thrust into a world of witches, dryads, kelpies, sphinxes and fairies. 

Molly joins a group in a curse breaking class where they are set a number of tasks to help them learn how to break the dark magic holding them and, in some cases their families, captive. 

The first part of the book is a great introduction to the world and by working with the others Molly’s eyes are gradually opened to what is around her. There’s a good mix of humour and action as well as developing friendships between the children in the class that are severely tested at times. 

The tension really increased when the curse-hatched crows start trying to foil their plans and I found myself reading the last third of the book at super hare speed. 

I really liked Molly’s character and her role as moral compass in the group. And just who is the Toad in their class? 

Does the whole class gets the promised result of lifting curses? You’ll have to read to find out. 

It reminded me a little of the old TV show Woof. I wonder which of my readers are old enough to remember that! 



Lari Don on witches

 

 
I have mixed feelings about witches. Particularly at this time of year (pointy hats, broomsticks, black capes and dropping chocolate eyeballs into plastic cauldrons…) I’m never entirely sure if I’m meant to find witches funny or fascinating, terrifying or tragic. Perhaps we love witches because they can be all of those things at once?

 
Ever since I was a child, I’ve been absorbing mixed messages about witches. For example the idea that witches could be good or bad probably came from reading L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz. The idea that witches were just ordinary people – male or female – who were unjustly tortured and killed definitely came from studying and performing in Arthur Miller’s The Crucibleas a teenager.

 
Fairy-tale witches, like the ones met by Hansel and Gretel or Rapunzel, were clearly villains. But reading local Scottish folklore showed a more nuanced picture.

 
In those traditional tales, witches had a living to make, just like anyone else. You could buy a fair wind or a love potion from your local witch. If you annoyed a witch, your child or cow might fall sick, but the best solution was to buy a bit of help from the next witch along. So the old tales weren’t really about good or bad witches, they were about witches who happened to be on your side or not.  

 
And witches weren’t all powerful beings, just folk with a bit of skill and knowledge. Though they had wonderful abilities too. In the lore of the North East of Scotland, I discovered witches who could shapeshift into animals, often into hares.

 
 

That vivid piece of witchlore inspired my most recent novels, the Spellchasers trilogy, about a girl called Molly who is cursed (by a male witch) to shapeshift into a hare at inconvenient times, and seeks help from a female witch who runs a curse-lifting workshop.

 
So Molly encounters different kinds of witches – malevolent and helpful, male and female – and she also encounters other magical beings who argue about the wisdom and ethics of dealing with ‘dark magic’ at all. 

 
I write adventure books for 8-12 year olds, so there are chases, ambushes, monsters, and excitement. But in amongst all the shapeshifting and cliffhangers, I couldn’t forget the historical reality of those accused of being witches.  

 
I had many of the initial ideas for Spellchasers while walking round my local park: Lochend Park in Leith. And it was by that loch that a woman called Bessie Dunlop claimed she once saw fairies. Bessie Dunlop was tried as a witch and burnt to death in 1576.  

 

 
I couldn’t just ignore that history, and the history of hundreds of other women and men accused, tortured, tried and executed, when I was writing about fictional witches.  

 
So Molly’s research into curses for the curse-lifting workshop uncovers the tale of a local woman being burnt alive as a witch. Molly is disturbed by what happened to that long-ago witch, and I hope the readers are too… 

 
I’m inspired by old tales and lore about witches. I’m keen to explore ideas about witches in my fiction. I’m happy to have fun with classes of kids making up spells to put in my brass cauldron. But I am also, under it all, disturbed and distressed by the history of witch persecution.  

 
So, here, have a chocolate eyeball for your plastic cauldron, but please don’t forget the dark history behind the stories…

 
Lari’s favourite books about witches (and favourite witches) 

Diana Wynne Jones – Howl’s Moving Castle (Sophie) 

Gill Arbuthnott – Dark Spell (the whole coven) 

Vivian French – The Bag of Bones (NOT Truda Hangnail) 

Robert Burns – Tam O’Shanter (Cutty Sark) 

Arthur Miller – The Crucible (Tituba)  

 

***

 

Lari Don is a full-time children’s writer and storyteller. She grew up in the North East of Scotland and now lives in Edinburgh. She writes in her garden shed, helped by purring cats and hindered by lurking spiders. Lari has written more than 20 books, including adventure novels, picture books and retellings of traditional tales. She can be found on Twitter @LariDonWriter or at 

http://www.laridon.co.uk

 

The Spellchasers trilogy is available and out now.

Do check out the rest of the spots on the tour for more. 

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