Category Archives: adventure

Serafina and the Black Cloak

Title: Serafina and the Black Cloak
Author: Robert Beatty
Genre: Children’s fiction, fantasy
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publishing date: July 14th, 2015
ISBN: 9781484709016
Purchase Link: Amazon.co.uk

Synopsis: “Never go into the deep parts of the forest, for there are many dangers there, and they will ensnare your soul.”
Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of the Biltmore estate.There’s plenty to explore in her grand home, although she must take care to never be seen. When children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows who the culprit is:a terrifying man in a black cloak who stalks Biltmore’s corridors at night. Joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak’s identity before all of the children vanish one by one.
Serafina’s hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear. There she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic. In order to save the children, Serafina must seek the answers that will unlock the puzzle of her past.

My Review:

This book had a huge marketing hype around it. All the marketing, the intriguing description as well as the book-cover got me very excited about this book.
In many ways this book would be better off had the author invented a fictional family to go with the castle. Instead he chose to go with the family who are historically linked to the estate, and then he throws history all over the place. Of course all historical fiction does fictionalize a lot of things, but their fictional facts should in some fashion be linked to actual historical facts or theories.
The characters were easy to enjoy but they were a little flat. The mysteries are a bit simple and the books targeted audience (8-12 year olds) wouldn’t have much trouble figuring out the mysteries presented in the book. That is everything except Serafina’s own “past” which is barely foreshadowed at all and is just info-dumped on the reader in the end. Though it is pretty clear what she is, or it is very well displayed by the books illustrations, but the whole why and whens are just dropped in the end.
That aside, this is a book that can be enjoyed, particularly by it’s targeted audience, but the hype around it is insanely overplayed. This is a normal mediocre book which could have been much better had the story been a little more complex and with more colorful characters. If the novel had been longer and there had been more space for the character’s to evolve, this would have been a superb book.
By all means, this book turned out to be a huge disappointment.

Se the astonishing book-trailer below (I would watch that movie):

The Venetian Job

Title: The Venetian Job: Bad guys and action: Max’s Italian holiday
Series: The Max Books #3
Author: Sally Gould
Publisher: Orbis Media
Publishing date: December, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-9941827-4-6
Purchase Link: Amazon.co.uk

Synopsis: In ‘Mafia Encounter’, when Max is on a family holiday in Sicily, he and Charlie notice the mafia seem to be following them. Are they related to the mafia boss? Will they have to learn the business? Will their lives ever be the same?

My Review:

Curiosity killed the Cat is not a saying Max adheres to. Max is a middle grade book hero, he follows his imagination and curiosity, which tend to get him into trouble. As he is a kid he does like impulse control, which is something that make him easy to relate to, he is a “hero” but still human.
This is the first book in the series I have read, and though most readers would start at book one, I missed references to Max’s history through the two first books. The story starts very abruptly and for me it was confusing at first, though I presume the backstory and characters are more dished out in the first two installments.
Though the minor issues aside, I could imagine Max  a younger Alex Rider adventure type, and the book certainly did not lack anything in the adventure department.

Except:

Sharing a hotel with a mafia boss – even if he was a little old man – didn’t make me feel safe and warm inside. I could feel my stomach doing somersaults while we waited for the elevator. I wondered if Charlie was nervous too. He wouldn’t admit it, even if he were.

Eventually there was a ping and the doors of the elevator opened. It was empty. That was good. Well, it was good as long as no mafia guys got in before we got out.

“I think I’ll do fifty laps,” said Charlie, after the elevator doors closed.

“What about Marco Polo? I want to say we played Marco Polo in Italy.”

He looked at me like I was stupid. “Marco Polo came from Venice; Italy wasn’t a country back then.”

Trust him to turn something fun into a history lesson. “Yeah, whatever.”

The doors of the elevator opened and we followed the signs to the pool. It was an indoor pool, there were three lanes and it was probably about fifteen metres long – long enough for races. I knew as soon as I saw it that Charlie would want to race.

At first I didn’t see anyone in the pool, but then I noticed a figure push off from the edge. Geez, I wanted to have the whole pool to ourselves. Then I saw two men in black suits sitting at the side of the pool. The bad feeling in my gut came back. At first I didn’t recognize them because they weren’t wearing sunglasses. One of them got up and came over to us as Charlie and me were stripping down to our swimmers. I could barely take off my shorts, I was shaking so much.

The man in black was tall and he had big shoulders. He said something to us in Italian.

Charlie said, “Parla inglese?”

I knew that meant, Do you speak English? I hadn’t worked out how Charlie could say four English words in only two Italian words.

“Come back to swim later,” ordered the man in black.

“Sure,” I said and began to put my shorts back on. I wasn’t stupid. I knew from school that if someone three times bigger told me to do something, it was best to do it.

“We’re staying at the hotel. We’re allowed to use the pool.” Charlie folded his arms.

Was he crazy? “We can go back to our room and watch the wrestling,” I said to him. “Let’s go.”

The man in black leaned toward Charlie and said very softly, “Mr. Petruzzelli owns hotel.”

Mr. P must’ve been Mr. Mafia in the pool. That was good enough for me. I was out of here. If Charlie wanted to stay and get his head blown off, that was his business. Real casual, I began to walk back toward the elevator.

I heard a voice behind me. “Boy! You stop!”

Author Bio:

Sally Gould loved books from a young age, but never considered writing them. While she was busy getting up to the mischief that teenagers get up to, she forgot about books all together. Then total insanity took hold and she became a corporate lawyer. Fortunately, she had two sons and they inspired her to write stories for children. Of course, her oldest son is responsible, logical, studious, considerate, grateful and even makes his bed. The youngest one is only interested in having fun – lots of it. And, except for his teachers, he makes everyone laugh. Their antics have inspired many of Sally’s stories. Sally lives in Melbourne, Australia with her family and two dogs – Pebbles, who is sensible, and Jade, who just wants to have fun.

Contact Sally Gould:
Email: sally@sallygould.com.au
Website: www.sallygould.com.au 
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/5010299.Sally_Gould
Facebook: www.facebook.com/sallygouldchildrensauthor?ref=aymt_homepage_panel