Chained by Susanne Valenti

chainedcoverChained by Susanne Valenti, e-book, 198 pages, published by Amazon Digital Services, Inc. in 2015.

Years before, humanity was afflicted by a contamination event, which left many dead, and others terribly mutated. Plants and animals were also affected, further endangering humans. The remaining people fled into the walled cities, and began living as part of the population, contributing to and being ruled by the strictures of the new society. Maya has grown up within the safety of the city, hidden behind The Wall, but when her life takes an unexpected course, she finds herself being led beyond the safety zone of the city. Suddenly her eyes are open to a whole other world, making her question everything she has ever been told.

Chained is a fast paced young adult novel suitable for high school students and up. It is packed with action, adventure and a little romance. Nothing explicit though! The story was rather violent with a lot of fighting and deaths, including the use of weaponry such as knives and guns. I enjoyed the action sequences, they were well written and exciting, perfect for getting the adrenaline pumping!

The plot was well developed and logical. I found the story to be engrossing, in fact I had a difficult time stopping myself from reading the next chapter when it was time for bed! Maya and all the residents of the city were being kept in the dark about so many things, and the Guardians used their fear of contamination to control them, a bit like a large cult. As Maya and Laurie began to discover some of the secrets, it made me wonder just what else was being hidden or controlled and why.

The world that has been created in this dystopian novel has the massive enclosed cities, but the rest of the land is similar to that of today, except that everything is exaggerated in size, speed and cognitive functionality. In some ways this makes it scarier, the animals and plants are familiar, yet like nothing we’ve ever experienced, it made me think of what the world might have been like in prehistoric times.

The SubWar area of the city really brought out the worst in people, who were not only condemned to fight for their lives, but appeared to enjoy the killing of others. This might be a comment on the nature of humanity laid bare. The whole situation with the serial killer Grey was a bit odd though. He was completely unhinged, but the way that he looked at Maya, I thought there would be some prior connection between them. The concept of going to fight in SubWar as a punishment is very scary, but Grey and his cronies were just terrifying.

Maya is the main character, and the narration mostly follows her throughout the book. She is petite with a tendency towards anger when frustrated, and has a habit of being somewhat clumsy. Overall I liked Maya, though I thought she should have been straight with Taylor about how she feels about their relationship. However, I think many teenagers could relate to her situation with Taylor, growing up friends, and then puberty changing things.

All of the characters were well written and likable, though I felt a bit sorry for Taylor, with his unrequited love interest in Maya. He seemed like a nice guy, loyal, caring, playful. I thought he would play more of a role in the story than he did, and I would have liked to get to know him a bit better. It could have been an interesting sub-plot with both Taylor and Coal lusting after Maya! Coal was more of a dark horse than Taylor. He has experienced a hard life that has sculpted him into a more mature and serious character than his years would normally lead to. Coal’s sister, Alicia, is tough, but also cheery and cheeky. She often has something snide on the tip of her tongue, but she genuinely embraces life and the people she shares it with. She was a big personality that I really liked. Laurie was more reserved, yet still strong and tough when required.

Susanne Valenti is an emerging author, and Chained is her first book in a five book series called Cage of Lies. This is the start of a great series for fans of dystopian fiction and I am very excited that there is more to come!


*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.


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The Secret of Sinbad’s Cave by Brydie Walker Bain

The Secret of Sinbads Cave CoverThe Secret of Sinbad’s Cave by Brydie Walker Bain, e-book, 128 pages, published in 2015.

Nat, Jack and Kathleen Sheppard arrive at their Dad’s farm for the holidays only to be told that the farm in not profitable and must be sold. They are devastated, the farm has been in the family for generations and they love it. While they are still digesting this news, young Kathleen discovers a hidden room alongside the attic. Inside is a set of extraordinary items that will lead the Sheppards on an exciting treasure hunt. This might just be what they need to save the farm, but all adventures have obstacles. They are not the only ones searching for this particular treasure, and their rivals won’t let a few kids stand in the way of success.

The Secret of Sinbad’s Cave is a wonderful fantasy adventure set on the North Island of New Zealand  amidst stunning landscapes and caves carved into the mountains and valleys thousands of years before. The story is fast paced and engaging. I read it fairly quickly and enjoyed every moment of it. It combines mystery and fantasy with drama and adventure to create the perfect hunt for an ancient treasure. It made me think of books such as King Solomon’s Mines, Treasure Island, and The Famous Five books, that I read as a child, and still love today.

The characters are well developed and written. I feel that I got to know the kids rather well through the story, especially Nat. Though I like all the kids, my favourite character is Abraham. He is an amazing leader and protector with a few tricks up his sleeve. As I read about him, my mind conjured an older, yet fairly spry Maori man with the whole wisdom of New Zealand’s history, spirits, legends and myths, as well as an extraordinary insight into human nature. What a beautiful character to guide the young heroes of the story safely through their adventure. The villains were equally well written, and quite dislikable in all respects!

The cover of this book is beautiful. It caught my attention, though it took me a little while to realise what the lights on the roof of the cave are! It would be such an amazing experience to see a cave formation like that, and it is the perfect setting for such a wonderful treasure hunting expedition.

While The Secret of Sinbad’s Cave is suitable for middle to upper primary school children, it is also an exciting read for adults. I look forward to reading Nat’s next adventure in The Ship of Sight and the Hand of Shadow, the second book in The Natnat Adventures series.


*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

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Nobody’s Story: The Golden Locket by Stephanie Mayor

GoldenLocketcover copyNobody’s Story: The Golden Locket by Stephanie Mayor, e-book, 220 pages, published by This Story is Mine Publishing in 2014.

Stephanie finds herself alone in the world when her parents mysteriously disappear. Her only companion is her cat, Angel. Whilst holding a golden locket that belonged to her mother, she accidentally pops open the clasp, and the locket transports her and Angel into a very different world to the one they were living in. This beautiful new world is called Metilia, and is a land of kingdoms, castles, princes and talking animals. Stephanie and Angel embark on the most exciting of journeys, traversing the seas with Prince Aidian to the Silver Isles. They encounter diverse vegetation, an evil presence, a dragon and some terrifying man-eating sea creatures. They also take on the nasty Familians, the people of another Kingdom who enjoy plundering, hurting and killing to get what they want.

I loved The Golden Locket right from the start. It captured my imagination and reminded me of the fantastical adventures I dreamt of having as a child. Such wonderful adventures, discoveries, and animals that can talk! The story is written with such detail, the land and the characters came to life as I read. The scenery was divine, the characters interesting, and the travels exciting. Though if I were travelling through Metilia, I might prefer to avoid some of the nastier creatures such as dirwins! I liked that we were introduced to some of the history and legends of Metilia, Camtra and Famila during the book. The story also contained some romantic elements, but it wasn’t overly soppy or forced. Romantic notions within the story were fairytale-esque with nothing explicit, good for younger readers.

Angel is such a sassy cat. She is feisty, rude and opinionated, but also brave and loyal. Dedicated to protecting Stephanie, she also comes across as over-protective and paranoid, but I liked her a lot. She has such a huge personality, just as I imagine a cat would if they suddenly had the ability to talk. I really liked Stephanie as well. She is strong, intelligent and caring, with plenty of charm, whilst also being quietly spoken and gentle. She is often apologising for Angel’s brash nature, but she loves the cat dearly.

There were many other characters in the story, all of whom were well developed. Prince Aidian, as the main male character seemed to complement Stephanie well, they have similar values, though rather different pasts. He is sincere and generous to all those he meets, and he genuinely cares about Stephanie and her quest. Being a Prince, he is of course somewhat protective of her, but she still gets to be herself with him. I particularly enjoyed the banter between the animals and people, with many of the horse’s and Angel’s comments making me laugh. Muddle the donkey was a memorable character that added a little bit of absurdity to every situation.

The Golden Locket is suitable for children in middle to upper primary school and beyond. It should be especially appealing to fans of fantasy adventure. It is the first book in the Nobody’s Story series, and I am very much looking forward to the second book to see what adventures Stephanie and Angel have next.


*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.


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The Dream Walker, Land of Mystica Series Volume 1 by Michelle Murray

dreamwalkercoverThe Dream Walker Land of Mystica Series Volume 1 by Michelle Murray, paperback novel, 119 pages, published in 2014.

Miranda is a college student when she becomes plagued by vivid dreams of a different world. As they interrupt her sleep and put her studies at risk, she feels that she might be going crazy. A simple spell from a local bookstore, and Miranda is transported to Mystica, the land of her dreams, and a land which is in trouble. In Mystica there is an old legend of six wizards, three white and three black, who were imprisoned in stone. Since then the magic has been gone from the land. Now the black-hearted wizard, Midnight, is free and rampaging through Mystica with an army of dark creatures and Miranda must find and free the wizard, Lightning, the only person that can stop Midnight before all is lost.

This was a simply written adventure with magic. It lacked the depth that I would expect from a fantasy fiction for young adults, and was really much more suited to middle and upper primary school children. I flew through the book in one evening, as it was an easy and enjoyable read.

The premise of the story is basic; a land in trouble, one special saviour goes on a quest to save said land. It’s a popular theme in books I’ve read lately, but I tend to like these stories, and I did like The Dream Walker, but I thought that it had unfulfilled potential. There could have been a lot more depth, greater description of the surrounds, and the way the characters moved or spoke. The time Miranda spent in each part of Mystica seemed too short, and the action scenes were somewhat truncated. However, the story is still sound, and it would be great for younger or less mature readers.

There were Ice Men, wizards, magical forests, warriors, Kings and castles, all good elements for any fantasy adventure! My favourite part of the story was when Miranda and Walking Bear travelled through the Forest of Lost Souls. I liked the idea that the trees could change the paths and whisper to each other. The trees could protect the forest from malevolent forces, while assisting those with good intentions. Miranda definitely had good in mind. She accepted her task bravely despite the danger she faced, and despite the fact that she didn’t even know that Mystica existed before she was asked to save it. I liked her and I hope we get to know her better in the future volumes of this series.

A handful of spelling and grammatical errors happen in most published work, but there seemed to be more than average in The Dream Walker. It interrupted the flow of the story a couple of times, but should only bother you if you’re a bit pedantic (like me). The formatting also changed midway through the book, going from paragraphs separated by a line at the start, to no separation later on. And the lines were double-spaced, which left me turning pages often. However, these things can be easily overlooked once you really get into the story.

The Dream Walker was a fun and interesting read, and I will be recommending it to my third grader to read. The second book in the Land of Mystica Series, The Dream Walker Returns is now available too.


*I received this book from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

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The Multiverse of Max Tovey by Alastair Swinnerton

TMoMTThe Multiverse of Max Tovey by Alastair Swinnerton, e-book, 220 pages, published by European Geeks Publishing in 2015.

Fourteen year old Max Tovey has some issues. He has been experiencing a terrifying recurrent dream, hallucinations of the distant past, and now his parents are taking him to Ham Hill to run his dying grandfather’s inn. Life is about to get even more complicated for Max though, as he learns that he is a Time Traveller, and that the dream isn’t a dream at all, but a memory. Now it is up to Max to travel through time, searching for the Montacute Cross that will seal the demonic world, and right the past and future of his own time path.

The Multiverse of Max Tovey is the first book in the Hamdun Chronicles, a new series for young adults. Max Tovey is just fourteen, but the fate of the world rests upon his shoulders, placed there by his grandfather and by the Ancient Monarchs of the Nine Hills. He must face his insecurities and anxieties to succeed, keeping his wits and battling demons, soldiers and villains.

Adventure, fantasy, mythology, and history combine in this exciting and gripping novel. It is very well written, rich in descriptive and emotive language, engaging the reader and pulling them through time with Max. While the story is incredibly complex, as Max jumps about through time and various time paths, it was never confusing. It reminded me a bit of Dr. Who, just with less aliens and more demons. You can learn some British history and mythology too. Max takes us back to first century Britain, to battles with Romans, Celts, Saxons and even Vikings. He experiences life in an alternate reality, when the past has changed to create a new possible future. He even ventures into the Otherworld, an old Celtic myth, where he meets a range of creatures, including faeries and giants, and humans living their second life. I am glad that I wasn’t reading this book aloud, as my pronunciation of Welsh and Old Celtic names and words is rather woeful, but it did add authenticity to the story.

Due to the time travelling, we actually get to meet a few different versions of some of the characters, including Max’s parents. We only get the one Max though, who I came to like immensely. He really grows as a character throughout the story, and we get to see his weaknesses and his strengths, as well as his doubts and his resolve. Max is no ordinary teenager, even before he discovers he is a Time Traveller. He is shy and awkward, and so very lonely, but moving to Ham Hill and discovering the family secrets really opens up a new world for him. His friend, Myvi, is a lovely girl too, quite encouraging and compassionate. She complemented Max wonderfully, and it was nice that they were friends without any complications of a romantic relationship. All of the characters were well developed and described, even the evil ones, and there were a couple of quite dislikable characters!

Suitable for upper primary school students and upwards, it is also a fantastic read for adults. I loved this book, and I’m very excited that there is more to come in this series.


*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.


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Book Week 2015

Book Week was last week and the girls dressed up for a parade at school. They both took a long time to decide on who they wanted to dress up as this year. There were various fairies to consider, Grug, the witch from Room on the Broom, Thelma the Unicorn…. Finally A decided to be Lauren the Puppy Fairy from the Rainbow Magic Fairy books by Daisy Meadows, and L chose to be Esau from Esau the Paw by Chris Gurney and John Bennett.


A as Lauren the Puppy Fairy.

A’s costume was easy. We just went through her drawers and came up with some pink cord pants, pink shoes, a pink singlet and pink fairy wings from the dress up box and she was done. She used a pink pencil with a gem on the end of it for a wand, and took one of her toy puppies along too.

L's cat tail.

L’s cat tail.

L’s costume needed a bit more work. Esau is a very furry cat that needs to be shaved because his fur becomes matted. L vacillated between wanting to be Esau prior to the shaving, directly after or when the fur was beginning to grow back. She eventually decided on the latter, wearing grey shorts and a furry hoodie with joggers. I made her a skinny grey tail with a big fluffy end from yarn, and used the same yarn to create a headband with fluffy, grey cat ears on it. I attached a loop of thick elastic to the tail so that L could wear it around her waist comfortably. To finish her outfit, we used face crayons to give her face more of a catty feel.

They both had a fun time at the parade. We like dressing up for Book Week!


L as Esau the Paw.

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Scary Night by Lesley Gibbes and Stephen Michael King

IMG_5022Scary Night by Lesley Gibbes and illustrated by Stephen Michael King, hardback picture book, published by Working Title Press in 2014.

On a dark and scary night, Pig, Cat and Hare set out on a mysterious journey. Through a dark forest, up hills, over a creek and past a deep, dark cave. Do they get frightened? And where are they going in the middle of the night anyway?

With its lyrical text and distinct illustrations, Scary Night is a fun and engaging picture book for pre-schoolers and lower primary school children. There was some repetition within the text, and a few questions that can help to involve kids in the story. My toddlers and kindergartner enjoyed having this book read aloud to them. My kids really got involved in the story, tracing the stars, and making various night noises, such as hooting when they spotted an owl. They all screamed at the appropriate spot too!

The illustrations matched the story perfectly, and provided just the right atmosphere. The use of colour to depict the creepiness of the night is magnificent. I liked the contrast of colours between their journey and their destination. I thought that Cat was particularly cute and my toddlers liked the bats.

Scary Night was an Honour Book in the 2015 The Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards in 2015.

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The Fox Forest Band by Lisa E. Lindman

foxforestbandcoverThe Fox Forest Band by Lisa E. Lindman and illustrated by Chandra Wheeler, picture e-book, published by Hugo House Publishers Inc. in 2015.

An evil wizard comes to the forest, spreading a thick fog to frighten and cower the forest animals. At first they all want to run away and hide, but then the smart fox outlines his plan to fight the wizard. The animals work together, and stand bravely to face the bullying wizard and regain their safety.

This is a nice picture book with rhyming text, and cute forest animals. It has a simple and uplifting message about overcoming bullying, and is a good place to start a conversation with kids about this often difficult topic. My kids wanted to know why the wizard was so mean, but they were happy that the animals stood their ground even though they were frightened. I loved the way the animals made their instruments from things they found in the forest, quite ingenious really. Seeing the spider joining in with a tiny little instrument made me happy too.

The Fox Forest Band is beautifully illustrated throughout with water colour images of the forest and its inhabitants. We had fun finding the fuzzy little spider in each scene, though my kids pointed out that it only has six legs in a couple of scenes! The animals are really cute, and the text is still clear and easy to read on each page. I liked the hedgehog, while my daughter liked the fox best.

This is a good book for pre-schoolers and primary school children. I read The Fox Forest Band with my toddlers, and they sat through it, pointing to the animals and enjoying it. My older kids got more out of the actual story, but it was still popular with everyone in our family.


*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

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Horrible Histories: Wicked Words by Terry Deary

IMG_4953Horrible Histories: Wicked Words by Terry Deary and illustrated by Philip Reeve, paperback non-fiction, 191 pages, first published by Scholastic Ltd in 1996, this edition published in 2011.

Learn about the origins of the English language in this witty and engaging book from the Horrible Histories series.

Horrible Histories makes learning history lots of fun, and Wicked Words is no exception. I enjoyed it from start to finish, and learnt quite a number of things along the way! It includes history of the development of English as a language, from when Romans ruled Britain through to modern times. It also explains various facets of the language. There is information about words borrowed from other languages, and about the idiosyncrasies that litter the English language. You can learn about onomatopoeia, euphemisms, riddles, slang, spelling, grammar and important people in the world of words, among many other things that make English the language it is today. There are plenty of jokes as well as some word games that could be fun to play. My kids thought the ‘knock, knock’ jokes were terrible, but they still laughed!

Wicked Words is illustrated throughout with comic-like black and white drawings. These help to explain the text, while breaking it up and making it more light-hearted and fun to read. Some of these illustrations are very clever and funny.

Full of facts and insights into the development of the English language, Wicked Words is a fascinating read for middle primary school students and up. I really enjoyed reading this book and felt that I learnt plenty about words in the process!


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Willakaville: Amazing Adventures of Astronomical Awesomeness by Mathew Heinecke

Willaka_frontcoverWillakaville: Amazing Adventures of Astronomical Awesomeness by Mathew Heinecke, e-book, 166 pages, published through CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform in 2015.

Willakaville is a fictional town where many strange things occur. This is the first collection of short stories from Willakaville. Adventure, time travel, a Tomatozilla, banana men, giant squirrels, even a toilet paper thief, it’s all happening in Willakaville.

Some of the stories are long and some are short, but all are rather odd! Many of them made me laugh, but there were a couple that I found a bit boring. Some of the stories are just ridiculous, and those were the ones that I liked the best. It was very hard to pick a favourite story, though I’m leaning towards the one about the magic mayonnaise that had a very interesting effect on all those that ate it! There were plenty of lessons being learnt throughout the book too, such as not to be lazy or play too many computer games. Most of the stories feature different characters from Willakaville, but there is some overlap. The main characters of each story arepredominantly children.

The book also contained a few poems. I’ve found it hard to get my kids interested in poetry books, so this is a nice way to slip a few poems in without them really noticing! ‘Wish from a Fish’ and ‘This is a Cat…’ were both funny rhyming poems, which I enjoyed.

With it’s simple language, self-contained and easy to read stories, this book is suitable for lower to middle primary school children. Teenagers and adults can still enjoy the humour of these short stories, but I think kids will like it best. There is a second volume of Willakaville short stories available now, and hopefully more to come soon.


*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

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