Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The Land of Dragor: The Gift of Charms
by Julia Suzuki
Rating: 4/5


Pages: 288 pages in paperback
Publisher:  Dino Books
Publication Date: 2014
ISBN: 9781782199243

Summary (via Goodreads)

In a secret land, far away from the habitation of man, dwell the world's remaining dragons -- hoping the dragsaur beasts have vanished forever. Here they try to live their daily lives, but all is not well and their talents are fading.

Things change, however, when, from a strange egg, Yoshiko is born - a dragon with a unique destiny.

Great adventure lies ahead as many challenges must be overcome, leading to a dangerous mission to the human world in attempt to return to the clans their missing magic!

Can Yoshiko make it in time?  

Review (Possible Spoilers)

Okay so I don't normally review books designed for younger audiences but I decided to make an exception when I got a twitter notification from Julia Suzuki asking for volunteers to review her book. I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Dragons so The Gift of Charms intrigued me.

The Land of Dragor is not completely dissimilar to our own. Dragons live there peacefully, now separate to humans. Yoshiko is a young dragon with a big secret he is truing to hide from his fellow younglings (young dragons)...he can change colour. Yoshiko meets an older Dragon who doesn't think his abilities to be a curse, but a gift, a gift that will help all Dragons. Through his lessons Yoshiko learns his true abilities and realises his mission, a risky mission he was literally born to achieve.

I won't go into any more detail as I don't want to give too much away. So now for the actual review. I have to admit that initially I wasn't sure about this book. The reason for this was due to the fact the Dragons seemed too domestic (eating with spoons and bowls, going shopping.etc). My problem with this was that for me Dragons are always imagined to be like there are in The Hobbit, Eragon and even in Merlin. However, after getting past this I began to give way more to the story.

I found the characters to be intriguing in how each represented a different "breed" of Dragon. Julia Suzuki is very clever in this aspect of her book as the story now took on a new undertone in terms of how we react to someone different. Yoshiko wasn't like any other Dragon, therefore was marginalised and made to feel like he had to hide his secret from everyone else, even his parents for fear of  being called names and bullied. This undertone isn't resolved in this book, but is something I assume is carried on into the next one. However what A Gift of Charms does achieve is the acquirement of self-worth. Yoshiko learns to appreciate himself for his differences rather than hating them.

I would recommend this book to younger readers, or lovers of young fiction due to the fact not only is it an imaginative story, full of fantasy and wonder but also shows that being different should be celebrated. Suzuki has invented a world that is incredible. Hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

The Arab Season
by Alisa Ahlam
Rating:  3/5


Pages: 296 pages (kindle edition)
Publisher:  ISILINO
Publication Date: first published in 2011
ASIN: B00608T6RE

Summary (via Goodreads)

Secrecy is their byword, family honour, their cross to bear.

If you were a Muslim girl wanting to keep family honour, but loving Western ways, how would you play it? With one foot in each culture, Hani thought she and her friends knew how. They enjoyed what they shouldn’t. They paid a price. One of them paid with her life.

Zuleka’s father, an Imam, keeps his household of girls under strict rule. All have to wear the hijab with abaya or other forms of loose fitting, modest clothing. To him, Zuleka is the epitome of a dutiful daughter. She dreads him discovering her other life.

Hamdi has the most freedom, abandoned by her mother and discounted by her father; she’s loose cannon with attitude.

Ayan manages her life well, respecting her faith and culture, whilst enjoying some light relief.

And, Hani? She can trick her hypochondriac mother, but her radical brother poses her problems.

They enjoy life, but are on a crash course to disaster!


The Arab Season is a story that follows the lives of four young Muslim women: Hani, Ayan, Hamdi and Zuleka, as they take on the challenges and issues facing modern Muslims in contemporary London.

Starting as carefree, untroubled and free to enjoy themselves the girls quickly learn that their rebellious antics have consequences with Zuleka quickly finding herself abandoned and isolated from her community. I actually found her character to be the most interesting personally based on the long journey she takes personally within the book, trying desperately to keep a firm grasp on her dreams when all else is against her.

All four characters develop and change within the book, with each representing a different aspect of not only Muslim culture but also of female culture in itself. Ayan is traditional, the good girl who follows the rules. Hamdi is rebellious, the polar opposite of Ayan, forever trying to be individual and break away from the crowd. This leaves Hani and Zuleka, both living in the middle of Ayan and Hamdi, who despite some differences in the beginning, find themselves clinging to one another by the end of the book, pushed together more by understanding and pain.

The relationship between the four girls develops and changes throughout the book and for me personally is what I find the most interesting area to read. As a non-Muslim, this book was an insight in the incredibly intricate faith and culture of Muslim people, mainly in this case the female side of it. I would recommend this book happily to anyone interested in learning a bit more about this. Although the story is based on contemporary faith, the book still reveals a great deal about how deep routed Muslim culture is for it's followers, something that I believe is most likely relevant for many other cultures, if not all of them. But for Muslim culture in particular, I think this book shows clearly the battle some girls in contemporary life are going through, wanting to express themselves without crossing the line of shaming their families and culture. I think the writer portrays this message beautifully.

My only issue with this book has nothing to do with it's literary content, but rather with the editing of the book which is the only reason I couldn't mark it higher. Whilst reading I found various issues in terms of grammar and punctuation which I felt I needed to mention in order for this to be a fair review. However I would like to mention that despite the errors I didn't feel I couldn't enjoy the book. On the contrary I actually really enjoyed this book and found myself wanting to keep reading to find out what happens in the end, only to be shocked by tragedy. I have a close relationship with a couple of friends myself, so for me, the ending hit home.

So, to finish this review I would say;

I definitely recommend The Arab Season as it portrays a story that encompasses friendship, love, betrayal, sorrow, tragedy and newfound hope. Everything you could possibly want in a book.