Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Gift of Charms (The Land of Dragor #1) Book Review and Interview (Children's Book)

Recently I seized the opportunity to review and interview a new fantasy author, Julia Suzuki. Julia has written an epic story all about dragons, so all you fantasy readers gather around and let me tell you a little about Julia...

Julia Suzuki is British author of the widely praised Land of Dragor adventure series and can be found on Wikipedia. As a child Julia grew up listening to the magical sounds of fair rides and animals from a theme park just across from her home in Staffordshire, England. A love for reading, nature and the outdoors fed her imagination and inspired her to become a 'story teller'. 

Julia has a degree in business studies and creative writing as well as studying speech and drama at the' London School of Music'. Her hobbies and interests have always been dance, fashion, movies and reading. Julia worked for a division of Disney licensing, and with a famous leisure entrepreneur before becoming an author. She learned a lot in those formative years which she feels has benefitted her work and business vision. Julia has learned from both successes and mistakes and especially from relationships. Writing is Julia's greatest passion - "I lose all sense of time and have no cares when I am in 'Dragor. I consider myself a 'story teller' more than a 'writer' - i feel as though my imagination knows no bounds and I enjoy sharing my adventures." 

1) Julia's Bio (Above)
2) Julia's Accomplishments (Awards, Media)
3) Proffesional Reviews of 'The Gift of Charms'
4) Pricing and Link to pre-order 'The Gift of Charms'
5) Cover and Summary
6) Sydney's Personal Review of 'The Gift of Charms'
7) Sydney's Interview with Author Julia Suzuki

You can also see some of Julia's accomplishments below. 

British Arts Council Award 2014
Patron of Reading 2014
Julia has also been featured in The Mirror, Daily Mail, The Sun, The Express, Womans Own and on various radio shows.

Julia's Websites and Media:



BOOK Review Sites


"This is a classic in the making - a mythical magical fable in the tradition of Tolkein and JK Rowling"

"A beautifully presented, wonderfully unique debut" 

'Fantasy fans will warm to this tale of how being different can be a strength rather than something to be feared'

'Action packed. This book is on fire"


Sometimes you read a book that is like a big mug of hot chocolate - it's very satisfying and warms you all the way through - and sometimes those books have some very interesting sprinkles you've never seen before and some uniquely coloured marshmallows you've never tasted before. That's how I would describe Yoshiko and the Gift of Charms in a nutshell - or should I say a mug?
Dragons almost always take on the role of sidekick in a fantasy story and are often portrayed either as unruly pets or ethereal creatures. It is just wonderful to find a story where dragons are the main characters and humans are the mythical race. The Land of Dragor is a beautiful place to escape to, rich in detail, legend, myths and lore which is impossible not to get wound up in. In the same breath, Dragor also shares a lot of similarities to the human world: young dragons must attend school and undergo the same challenges that any human child might. I think this is what I find so captivating, Julia Suzuki has created a world of fantasy with an original mythology but has kept it grounded and relevant to children.
Yoshiko is a fantastic hero character, just like any child he has his fair share of flaws when he begins his journey - he's self-conscious, self-pitying and has unusual physical attributes, all of which open him up to bullying from the spiteful Igorr. But as the story unfolds, so does Yoshiko's character. His hard work and determination improve his abilities and confidence, and bring out the courage that was hiding inside him. Yoshiko is a wonderful role model and the story is peppered with important messages for children and, as an adult who loves a good story, I certainly appreciated them too! The book is packed with other well-formed and engaging characters from the overgrown bully Gandar and his terrorised but equally nasty son, Igorr, to the wise old recluse, Guya, who is definitely my favourite character. Everyone you will find in life, you will find within the pages of Yoshiko and the Gift of Charms and I think that is what is at least partly at the heart of this book: it's a fantastic exploration of character. Each of the seven dragon clans have different character traits and flaws but this story is about finding the cure for those flaws and overcoming them. It's about identifying why a character behaves the way they do and not judging them based on their flaws but based on what they have been through and what they have achieved, looking at what they can do rather than what they can't.
Yoshiko and the Gift of Charms is simply a wonderful story filled with subtly delivered lessons on life which you really cannot stop learning. That's why, if this were a film, I would give it a U certificate because it is meant for everyone and has something to give to everyone who reads it, whatever your age. I have been thoroughly charmed and fallen in love with Yoshiko and the Land of Dragor and I cannot wait for the next book - especially if it is in the same beautiful hardback format as the first! ~LYRICAL REVIEWS

Now...that was a lot of info... a lot of info that should definitely make you want to read this even more than it should have when i announced that there'd be dragons. 

Now on with my opinion of The Gift of Charms (The Land of Dragor #1), a tale of dragons with incredible gifts. As Daily Mail mentioned, this is a story that proves that being different can be used as a strength.The Gift of Charms becomes available to the public September 4th but you can pre-order it in Paperback right...about...HERE. Just so you know, it is in British Pounds being that it was published in the UK. The conversion is below. I hope I did it right. 

5.99 (GBP) = $9.92 (USD) 


{Publishing Date: 9/4/14 by John Blake Publishing}
{288 Pages}
{Author: Julia Suzuki}
{ISBN-10: 1782199241 ISBN-13: 978-1782199243}


This epic novel, first in the Land of Dragor series, transports the reader to the magical Land of Dragor, where seven dragon clans live hidden from man having beaten off the evil dragsaur beasts. 

Their great wars with the humans are over and the dragons live peacefully among the smoking mud pools and around The Fire Which Must Never Go Out. But the terrible years when they were enslaved by humans have left a lasting scar, and they are told they can never soar above the mountains and leave their safe haven to explore the outside world. 

There is unease in the air of their mist-filled valley, and the coming of a strange egg heralds a new era. Unlike the normal delicate lilac, this shell is multi-coloured like the contents of a treasure chest. The newborn hatchling is called Yoshiko, but he is immediately treated with suspicion by the elders, and is lucky to survive. The last time a coloured egg was laid, legendary warrior leader Surion was born from a red shell, and with his gift of fire the dragons went to battle with the humans. Will Yoshiko bring a blessing to the clans, or a curse? Could Dragor be about to meet its saviour, or its destroyer?

Chameleon-like Yoshiko is bullied and tormented as he grows up, taunted at fire school as he struggles to produce a jet of flame. Desperate to hide his colour changes, he flees from school one day and finds himself on the fabled mountain of Cattlewick Cave, home to the mysterious and reclusive elder Guya. This chance meeting changes Yoshiko’s life, and as he develops from hatchling to youngling, he is inspired to spread his wings and venture outside Dragor. He returns with something, but will it be a blessing to Dragor or a curse.

~Sydney's Review of The Gift of Charms~

Due to this being a children's book I decided to tune down my usual stripping of a book. So here it is!

I believe that for a children's book description is especially necessary to appease a younger audience--to make the world real to them. Julia was exceptional in doing so! Julia is the Queen of Description for Children's Fiction! This book was extremely easy to read and I could just feel the world surrounding me. It was a very beautiful experience that all authors should want their readers to go through. Dialogue was young and rightly so being it a children's book. I wouldn't go as far to say it's a book for Teens or could fit in the YA genre but it is definitely categorized as Fantasy and possibly Middle-Grade, which means that dialogue was perfect for a younger audience. The dialogue between Igoor and Yoshiko in the beginning of the book definitely has a typical bully scenario going on. I do think that young kids do worry about going into school or being worried and what Julia does is prove that being different, is not wrong, or bad. It's amazing and it has definite props! Being different is something to be happy about, I mean who wants to be a clone? Bleh!
Julia has done an exceptional job of sliding in those important life lessons while keeping it fun and age appropriate!
 Along with the Dialogue and Description I'd like to just point out that this story was not choppy like some other books. Some writers have trouble keeping an easy flow happening but Julia has proved that she had everything in control. Yoshiko was an adorable, just ADORABLE character that started off a bit weak, but as the story went on you got to see him blossom into a self-confident character. That's the real beauty of a book like this. When children read books they tend to sit back and try to find similarities to the characters within. Though no kid is really a dragon, Yoshiko is a character that has the personality and was in situations that any kid could have and be in. Yoshiko is a great teacher and I believe that Julia is an even amazing writer!

The Gift of Charms receives a 5/5

~My Interview with Julia Suzuki~

1) What was the hardest thing you came across during writing? 

The hardest part for me was getting published. I had two literary agents, both who were very close to getting deals with some of the worlds largest publishing houses but both decided to focus on other things which was difficult in itself for me. There were many twists and turns on the way. It really was quite a story in itself as to why those deals did not quite come to be. I acquired the publishing deal myself in the end with John Blake without an agent - I refused to give up and just kept my focus. I showed John Blake himself my reviews, and shared with him my vision and he signed me on the spot. I automatically felt at home with the Blake's team.

2) How did you decide that writing Fantasy was what you wanted to do/ enjoyed? 

I have had several careers before becoming an author; I felt in my element as a writer which came easily to me. It just felt right.

3) While writing did you ever find yourself adding things from real life (places, people, descriptions) into your story? 

Yes, absolutely. The Land of Dragor setting  is based on some of the wonderful places I have visited in the world during my prior international career in the resorts industry.  There are characters that feature in my work who are based on people I have known, sometimes a few different people morphed into one.  Many events were influenced by my life experiences - positive and negative.

4) Today there are so many amazing Fantasy authors (Julie Kagawa, Stephenie Meyer, Aprilynne Pike, just to name a few) what authors are your favorites and/or inspired you to write. 

I like love the work of Chanda Hahn and what she has achieved with her 'Unenchanted' series.

5)Do you have any advice for aspiring authors in general and or when dealing with the Fantasy genre? 

A fantasy writer has to be a great story-teller above being a great writer - there are editors to help with perfecting your work. A vivid 'out there' imagination is essential for the fantasy genre but at the same time I believe you need to be able to keep it real or the novel will not have enough grip.

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