The Alchemyst - Michael Scott + GIVEAWAY | Michael Scott Week

Tuesday 31/08 : The Alchemyst
Wednesday 01/09 : The Magician
Friday 03/09 : The Sorceress
Sunday 05/09 : The Necromancer


Title: The Alchemyst
(Book 1 of The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel)

Author: Michael Scott 
Publisher: Corgi Books (Random House Children's Books)
Category: YA
Release Date: 2007
Source: Sent by Random House for review
Paperback : 369 pages

Summary from Amazon:
Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on 28 September 1330. Nearly seven hundred years later, he is acknowledged as the greatest Alchemyst of his day. It is said that he discovered the secret of eternal life. The records show that he died in 1418. But his tomb is empty and Nicholas Flamel lives. The secret of eternal life is hidden within the book he protects - the Book of Abraham the Mage. It's the most powerful book that has ever existed. In the wrong hands, it will destroy the world. And that's exactly what Dr. John Dee plans to do when he steals it. Humankind won't know what's happening until it's too late. And if the prophecy is right, Sophie and Josh Newman are the only ones with the power to save the world as we know it. Sometimes legends are true. And Sophie and Josh Newman are about to find themselves in the middle of the greatest legend of all time.


I have been wanting to read this series for a while and never managed to, but I am so glad I finally did! This series is amazing: a lot of action, plenty mythical creatures and fantastic characters. 

From the first chapters, the reader gets taken in the action and follows the 15 year old twins Sophie and Josh through this adventure. With them you learn that the famous French alchemyst Nicholas Flamel and his wife Perenelle are alive and kicking (after being born in the 1300s). It is amazing because in France there has been so much speculation over the Flamels that it wouldn't be weird at all if that was indeed true! People might also know him from the first book of the Harry Potter series as the inventor of the Philosopher's Stone :)

Sophie and Josh are very different mentally but complementary, it creates a sort of balance between them. I love reading about twins, I find that the potential for stories is endless. Josh is extremely whiny and half of the time he looks like a regular guy child but Sophie is ace (what prejudice against men?). I love how the women characters aren't just pretty objects but are sometimes stronger than men. I absolutely love the fact that Perenelle is considered more powerful than Nicholas Flamel. Girl Power!
The book is fast-paced and you will be cheering "no don't do that!", "run fasteerrr!", "Oh wow, I want to be able to do that too!" during the whole book. The characters are all fascinating with very distinctive traits of personalities. The character of Scathach simply ROCKS and I can't wait to discover all the other creatures present in all the sequels!

What I love the most in this book is that fantasy mixes with history: Michael Scott uses mythological beliefs as well as real historical facts and people who really did exist! Alchemy was a well known specialty and could be compared to being a scientist today. Alchemy is a form of magic, but it revolves more around a certain knowledge of the world and a few rules of chemistry and physics than just making things appear out of thin air. It is a fascinating thing to learn about. Yeah, so now I'm considering Alchemy as a career :)
All along the books, you ask yourself where the magic is all gone? For centuries and centuries, people have belived in magic and supernatural things, but not anymore. Things out of the ordinary are dismissed as a hoax. Did science kill magic or did it simply take its name? I find that it is very interesting to raise the question. What do you think?

This book and the series in general is a real treat, it is as much an adventure as a history book of some sort. The magical world created by Michael Scott will fascinate you and you'll be wanting to know more about everything in there!
Cool plus: this book will appeal to girls as much as boys and to the younger reader as much as to the adult!

(Until 30th September 2010)

Thanks to the amazingness of Random House, I am organising a giveaway for this series!

The first winner will get the four published books of the series (The Alchemyst, The Magician, The Sorceress, The Necromancer) which will contain six.

And the second and third will receive a copy of The Necromancer which was published this summer and which can also be read as a stand-alone novel!

To win, you will need to answer one question:
If you could have a power or special ability, what would it be?

Since I know I am going to fail at Google Document-ing this giveaway, you can send me an email here with:
- Your name
- Your answer

Since you are dying to know (yes, I know you are, like, really really deep down), I will give you what special ability I would love to have: 
I would love to be able to understand and communicate with nature (fauna and flora) because nature rocks and I want it on my side when it'll take revenge for all the oil spills and other chemicals! 
OK and also because I want to cuddle a baby tiger :)

The rules: 
- UK only
- Be over 16 or let a parent/guardian email for you
- You don't *need* to be a follower to win, but I wouldn't mind if you chose to!
- I will post your answer on the blog when I announce the winners

Just so you know, the contest is until September 30th and I choose the winners with my brain, nothing random about it, so don't hesitate to amaze me :)

Thank you so much to Corinne and Random House for sending me the books!

The Children of the Lost - David Whitley

Title: The Children of the Lost
(2nd book in the trilogy after The Midnight Charter)

Author: David Whitley

Publisher: Puffin Books
Category: Young Adult, 11+, Fantasy
Release Date: 2010
Source: Sent for review by Puffin
Paperback : 394 pages

Summary from Amazon:
Mark and Lily have been banished from Agora, the ancient city-state where everything is for sale – memories, emotions – even children. Lost and alone they discover Giseth, a seemingly perfect land where everyone is equal, possessions are unknown, and Lily believes they will find the secret of their entwined destiny. But paradise comes at a price. Why are their new friends so scared? What hides deep in the forest? And who is the mysterious woman who appears in their dreams, urging them to find the Children of the Lost?


I have this theory about trilogies where no matter how good the story is, the second book is always the weakest link: it doesn't give you quite the same thrill as the first one and it doesn't provide the sense of whole and conclusion which comes with the third.
Hence, I never judge a trilogy on the second book as a rule because I feel it would be unfair, especially since the author imagined the story as an ensemble and that there needs to be a middle part. But let me tell you right now that The Children of the Lost isn't even close to this. I have loved this book even more than I loved The Midnight Charter and I feel that it has taken the entire story a step further. It is simply brilliant.

To tell you the truth, I was halfway through it when  Mockingjay came out and I was so caught up in the story that I prefered finishing The Children of the Lost before starting the third book of The Hunger Games. Yup, you heard me right.

As always, I cannot review this book without giving spoilers to the first book of the trilogy, The Midnight Charter (review here) so don't proceed if you want to discover this trilogy from the start without spoilers!

After a talk with the Director of Receipts in Agora, Lily takes the decision to turn her back on her life and her friends to fulfill her destiny as a Judge who will decide the fate of Agora. Unfortunately, she has to take the decision for Mark as well, who has been thrown into prison but has finally met his own father. As the Judges, the Protagonist and the Antagonist, they are sent out of Agora, beyond the wall of their beloved city.
They had always believed that there was nothing beyond those walls. And it feels as such when they spend days, weeks, in a frightening wood without any trace of any other human being. Lily is also outside because the Director told her she wasn't born in Agora, and she hopes to find her parents.

They are brought in a village, in the land of Giseth, where all the resources are shared and everyone is equal. The village is ruled by a Speaker which speaks the will of all villagers and a monk, Father Wolfram, of an Order. Everything looks idyllic and everyone seems genuinely happy, but are they really? What is this order that that exists in Giseth? Is it the perfect society that Lily has always in mind? The village lives also in autarky: complete auto-sufficiency and complete ban to cross the village's border for beyond it's border, in the forest, lies the Nightmare, a powerful magical entity which brings your worst emotions to the surface and make you act on them.

This new society created by David Whitley is honestly mind-blowing, especially when confronted to the one of Agora. You get a sort of M. Night Shyamalan's The Village (you know, the director of The 6th Sense?) vibe in there. It is truly spooky. The fantastic aspect behind the Nightmare is awesome.
The characters, old and new ones alike (even though most of the book follows Lily and Mark in Giseth, you do get glimpses of what happens in Agora as well) are very well developed and all very interesting, with their flaws and internal conflicts.

As I couldn't explain what was The Midnight Charter in the review of the first book, I cannot explain the title of the second one without giving away major spoilers. All will be explained in the book though, with enough of a cliffhanger at the end to make you long for the third book. I really like how the story developed, this is no simple fantasy story, it is clear that there has been deep thinking on the meaning of it all.

As Agora could remind of a pure (hence extremist) form of capitalism/materialism where everything has a value and everything can be traded even human beings and emotions, Giseth reminds of a pure form (again, hence extremist) of communism/socialism where the individual is annihilated to create a stable community where everyone's needs are provided for in an equal way. Very very interesting clash of ideas. 
I don't feel there is any World War II reenactement at all over this clash of ideas though, just a very clever story entertwined with political concepts which are today predominant in our societies. Communism/Socialism may be a dirty word today, but some ideas behind the philosophy have stayed, changed name and are used today by governments. I can tell you that this is much better than any class on the subject. I am truly in awe.

I loved this book and I can't wait for the last book of the trilogy, I cannot begin to urge you to discover David Whitley's talent. He may be young, but I feel that he's here to stay! This book is suitable for younger readers (11+) as well as for older readers, boys and girls alike. I am pretty sure that fans of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials might be interested to read this trilogy.

The Midnight Charter - David Whitley

Title: The Midnight Charter

Author: David Whitley

Publisher: Puffin Books
Category: Young Adult, 11+, Fantasy
Release Date: 2009
Source: Sent for review by Puffin
Paperback : 372 pages

Summary from Amazon:
In the city of Agora, anything can be bought and sold. Even children are possessions until their twelfth birthday. Mark has been sold by his father, and Lily, an orphan from birth, has bartered for her life. Thrown together by chance, in the ancient tower of Count Stelli, they face an existence of poverty and servitude, unless they can find a way to break free. But, unbeknown to Mark and Lily, they are being watched by the ruler of the city. Can they survive the traps and treachery that await them and discover the dark secret that binds them together? Their lives depend on this question: what is the Midnight Charter?


I am absolutely amazed by this book. It contains a fantastically spooky setting, very interesting characters and some highly thought-provoking themes. I have started the second book in the trilogy, The Children of the Lost, as soon as I finished this one! 

I can't tell you what the Midnight Charter is because that would be spoiling and that is just plain wrong (no, no, I am not hinting to you Mockingjay spoiler-morons).

We start the book with Mark, a young boy suffering from the grey plague who has been sold to a Doctor by his father. Not very surprising in a city where you can sell everything, including your children and your emotions. He meets Lily who is an orphan and has been sold to a book-binder by the orphanage. Together they will try to survive in the Agora.

The city of Agora lives in autarky meaning no one gets in or out of its walls. The organisation of Agora seems very real and is quite scary! There is the faceless Directory which controls everything and then there is what could be called the Judiciary branch (with a Lord Chief Justice) and there is Astrology which has a strong influence on people's lives. You never know who is a 'good' character or a 'bad', so you keep guessing until the very end, which is awesome!

The major theme in the book is the selling thing. It is one of the best books talking about materialism that I have read. Money doesn't exist in this story, you exchange something for something else, and it makes the transactions so much more vivid. It brings the reader very interesting thoughts and makes you look at your life and your own behaviour towards "things". To be honest, I was blown away. Of course, the book would have talked about the subject more accurately had it been aimed at adults, but I liked the simplifications in this one.
Lily, on the other hand, feels that this system is bad and corrupted. She wants to introduce a new way of thinking - charity. I love this duality present in the book, because saying "charity is good" or "charity doesn't solve the problem" etc. isn't what it is all about. To understand an issue, you have to start by asking the good questions, and I find that, throughout the book, Lily is giving amazing arguments but also asking the good questions to the Agora society.

The book would have been brilliant only with this. But it has so much more. I liked the characters and how they would make mistakes and maybe not even realise how far they have gone. I like Lily because she is a very strong female character and she doesn't let others dictate what she should do and what she should think is right. Mark is also an interesting character and his evolution throughout the book was amazing to read. All the other characters are very well developed and I found myself liking most of them!

I have to admit that I was a little confused with the age of the characters at first, I thought they were in their late teenage years whereas they were only 11 and 12 years old when the story begins. I can't help but wonder what 11 years old read in this book that contains many serious themes. Do they see as much as I do? Do they understand the debate as much as I do? I'm sure they do, and probably better than me. 
It is also a book that can be read by girls and boys, which is rare enough to be noted!

The book may not be perfect, nor a masterpiece, but I was entirely taken by the story. The plot is very thought-provoking and challenges your convinctions on life, trade and charity. If you are a fan of fantasy and like to read a fascinating story as well as an interesting book, don't hesitate to discover this trilogy!

Thank you so much for Puffin for sending me this amazing book!

I'm Not Scared - Niccolò Ammaniti

Hello people,

 After a little neglecting during the summer, Lost in Translation is back with one of the most promising Italian young writer, Niccolò Ammaniti. If you want to know more about Lost in Translation, check this page.

A few months ago, I went to visit The Italian Bookshop situated in a tiny street next to Charing Cross Road and I was amazed: the people are adorable, there are many books for children (downstairs) and a large variety of books translated in English! I am not regretting any of the books I have been advised, so don't hesitate to check it out if you want to discover Italian writers!

Title: I'm Not Scared

Author: Niccolò Ammaniti

Publisher: Walker
Category: Young Adult, Horror
Release Date: 2010
Source: Bought at The Italian Bookshop
Paperback : 240 pages

Summary from Goodreads:
Ammaniti is one of Italy's most acclaimed younger writers, and this carefully constructed thriller is the first of his books to appear here. During a piercingly hot summer, a few kilometres from a bone-dry hamlet in rural Italy, a shy, nervy, nine-year-old boy called Michele explores a derelict house and discovers, under moldering leaves, a horrifying secret. The novel is saved from sensationalism by Ammaniti's almost cinematic ability to conjure detail—the look of scraps of meat on a plate, the sheen of a new bike, the whispers of adults in the night—and by his utterly convincing re-creation of a child's perspective, as Michele's discovery propels him into ever more uncertain territory.


The book takes place in the countryside in the South of Italy. Ammaniti is absolutely brilliant at describing this tiny village next to the small town of Acqua Traverse. The reader can really feel as if they are right there with the characters during this scorching hot summer.

Historical background of the story:
You have to know that Italy is a divided country between North and South. The unity of the country was 'only' brought in the 1870s, and, other than differences in terms of idioms (in some rural parts of Italy, the local idiom is used more than the Italian language by the population) and culture, the North and the South are divided economically and, thus, socially and politically.
With the Industrial Revolution, the North became quickly very wealthy and didn't see with a good eye the redistribution of wealth to the poor agricultural South. Several decades later, this hostility is still patent. The book is set in the 1970s, where corruption and criminality was still very high.
I am not telling you all this to bore you to death (no really, I don't!) but because this poverty, especially in the South of Italy, is the background of this story.

The story:
Michele Ammitrano (9 years old) lives in a very poor village in the South of Italy, all the adults of the village have to go to work in the North or in a big city outside the village to survive and provide for their families. They might not like each other, and even bad mouth one another, but all the families are there in the same boat, so they help each other out by giving food, clothes and exchanging what they can.
The kids of the village all play together. They are very poor and even second hand toys and bicycles are a luxury, they mainly play outdoors with stray dogs or invented games. They have all very different personalities, and, in other circumstances, they would never be friends. But they are stuck together in this small village in the middle of the summer without a pool or a lake to cool themselves.
One day, Michele loses a race and has to climb in an abandoned house. While jumping out a window on a tree outside, he falls on a mattress which is put on top of a hole to hide it. Michele looks inside. The hole isn't empty, and what he will find will change his life. At first, Michele doesn't talk about what he found to anyone. But in a small village, there is only so much you can hide.

The style of the book:
The style is uncharacteristically very fast and gripping. Italian is a very rich language you can play with for several lines without feeling the need to end the sentence. In this book, the sentences are very short and straight to the point. They make you sit at the edge of your chair, turning frantically the pages to read the end. The end which you will probably find disappointing - all this tension for a cliffhanger, REALLY?
The setting is wonderfully described and the characters are very well brought up to the story and are very typical. Michele's mother is the real "Mamma italiana" who is, in turn, as ruthless as a pittbull and as sweet as an apricot pie in the sun. (*cough* Hi Mum!)
The poverty of these people is very cleverly shown and only picky idiots persons like myself could write paragraphs and paragraphs on it :)

The story is very, very dark. Just so you know, this was published as an adult book in Italy (and UK) at first, but it has now been given a new cover in the UK and has been put in the YA section.
It is hard to say that this is a beautiful story, considering the gruesome details which are not spared to the reader. The subject isn't very happy-making either, but the realism and the ideas behind the story are definitely worth your chills.
I wouldn't advise this book to the younger young readers nor the faint-hearted.

Language corner:
As the sentences are very short and straight to the point, a person with an intermediate level of Italian could read the book.

Where to find it in English:
UK: Amazon, Waterstones, WH Smith
US: Amazon, Barnes and Nobles

Curse of the Wolf Girl - Martin Millar

Title: Curse of the Wolf Girl
(Book 2 after Lonely Werewolf Girl)

Author: Martin Millar

Publisher: Piatkus
Category: Adult, Horror
Release Date: 2010
Source: Bought in WHSmith
Paperback : 534 pages

Summary from Amazon:
Scottish teenage werewolf Kalix MacRinnalch is in London trying to settle down and live a normal life. Her new friends support her as she goes to college to learn to read and write, but her old enemies won't leave her alone. Many powerful werewolves want Kalix dead, and the Guild of Werewolf Hunters is still dedicated to wiping out the entire MacRinnalch werewolf clan. Life might be easier for Kalix if her werewolf family were able to help, but her sister the Enchantress needs all of her sorcerous powers to locate the perfect pair of high heels, her brother Markus is busy in Scotland organising an opera, and her cousin Dominil is engaged in her own merciless vendetta with her enemies. Kalix must carry on alone but she's finding it difficult enough to pay the rent and cope with her anxiety and depression, while struggling with werewolf hunters and exams at the same time...


Curse of the Wolf Girl is the sequel to the amazing Lonely Werewolf Girl (my review here), please don't read what follows if you haven't read the first one!!

Awww isn't my Spoiler Alert bat the cutest thing ever?!!

This book is awesome and reviewing it will only butcher the masterpiece. 
Don't read it and go buy the book instead :) 

In this story, the werewolf Kalix MacRinnalch is settling down in Daniel and Moonglow's flat in  London in a relatively safe situation. Though half of the werewolf Council wants her dead, her family protects her and hides her from them. Vex, the young Fire Elemental, is also settling down in Daniel and Moonglow's attic, and both of the girls go to remedial college to learn how to read and write and try to blend in. Which proves to be much mush harder than it seemed...

Thrix (the werewolf sorceress, Kalix's sister and incidentally fashion designer) and Malveria (Fire Elemental, Aunt to Vex and Queen of the Hiyastas) are still deeply passionate about fashion, more than anything else. They are still hated by the vile Princess Kabachetka who wants to be the most fashionable and heir to the throne of the Hainustas. A lot of serious and less serious drama ensues... 
I feel all of a sudden very blessed not to care about fashion...

Dominil, the white-haired wolf, is back in London to help Beauty and Delicious, the blue and pink-haired wolves, become rock stars (with integrity) helping them rehearse and finding gigs - all this with Pete the guitarist falling in love with her and one of her old College acquaintance wanting to kill her.

Decembrius, after being a follower of Sarapen, is finding himself unwilling to go back to Castle MacRinnalch and is wandering in London to find Kalix. Eventually, he isn't looking to kill her.

I want to profess my love for the character of Vex. She is the most hilarious person ever (though, technically, she is a Fire Elemental) and you are in for quite a laugh whenever she is around. This girl is a jinx for all those around but she has some serious style. I loved the interaction between Kalix and Decembrius,  and I can't wait for a third book to read more about them!!

I absolutely love this book and I am putting it among my favourite books of all time. Really. I am loving all the strong female characters, the incredible plot and the werewolf/fire elementals mythology. The book takes all the awesomeness from Lonely Werewolf Girl and mixes it with additional greatness. It is pure pleasure!

If you are not blown away by the world depicted brilliantly by Martin Millar, you will be entranced by his characters, all thoroughly original, his fantastic story-telling skills and his sensational sense of humour which breaks through every line. 
If you are still not interested by the book, I'm afraid nothing can be done for you anymore.
That I loved this book doesn't even cover it. Curse of the Wolf Girl, with Lonely Werewolf Girl, goes beyond this. It is one of my book soulmates, if there is such a thing, with everything I love in a book, plus all the things I secretly like but would never admit and all those I never knew I liked.

Anyways, I'm not sure if I managed to show how much I really liked this book... *grin*
Seriously people, read it, it is made of awesome!