6th Grade Revengers: Cat Crimes and Wannabes by Steven Whibley

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catcrimes6th Grade Revengers: Cat Crimes and Wannabes by Steven Whibley, e-book, 88 pages, published in 2015.

Jared and his best friend Marcus style themselves as The Revengers; a team that takes care of problems in their community. Their first task is to rid the Oak Street neighbourhood of a crazy and evil cat that is ruling the street with his claws and teeth. They also have to do something about Gunner, Jared’s sister’s boyfriend and wannabe pop star. He just hangs about Jared’s house pretending to write music and loafing off Ronie (Jared’s sister). The boys are going to have to be creative to solve these problems, and prove themselves as a team that gets things done.

An easy and quick read, Cat Crimes and Wannabes was entertaining and amusing. There were occasional black and white illustrations among the text, and the chapters were fairly short, good for reluctant readers.

The first chapter was a very clever way to begin the story, introducing Jared and his family. I enjoyed reading about Jared and Marcus and their new business. I especially liked their efforts to banish the evil cat. That was one scary cat! So vicious and aggressive, it was more like a small tiger than a house cat. Jared and Marcus really underestimated how difficult removing such a cat would be, but their efforts were funny.  While Gunner wasn’t dangerous like the cat, he was still an annoying presence who I disliked greatly. The boys’ plan to remove Gunner from their lives was ingenious, and much nicer than things I thought of to do to him!

This is the first book in a series following The Revengers. I had a moment of disappointment when the story finished, as I was expecting it to be longer based on the page count. Instead there was a preview for the next book in the series at the end , and now I want to read that one too!

Cat Crimes and Wannabes is most suitable for middle and upper primary school children into lower high school.

 

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

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

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percy1Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, paperback novel, 375 pages, published by Puffin Books in 2005.

Percy Jackson has issues. He is dyslexic with ADHD, and has been booted from six schools in six years. He doesn’t try to get expelled, he just seems destined to screw up at school. As the school year comes to a close, Percy yet again finds himself in trouble, but soon school is the least of his worries, as he and his mother are chased by a minotaur, and he discovers that he is not all human after all. Being half Greek god, monsters are trying to kill Percy, and the only safe place for him to go is to Camp Half-Blood, a camp just for kids like him; children of the gods. When he is presented with a hero quest, Percy embraces it as best he can, and along with his friends, Annabeth and Grover, he sets out across the country to find some stolen property and oust the thief.

I had been trying to convince my ten year old to try reading the Percy Jackson series for a couple of years now, but she was stubbornly refusing. So when I picked up a copy of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief at my favourite secondhand bookshop (Canty’s), I decided to start reading it aloud to her. She very quickly became intrigued by the story, and began begging for more chapters. She is quite capable of reading it herself, but sharing books aloud is a lovely way to spend time with my children, so I kept reading it. We read some everyday, except for when my daughter was away on a school trip for three days, it was incredibly hard for me not to read the rest of the book without her! Once she arrived home, we finished the book quite quickly. About five seconds after finishing Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, she asked could we start the next one, Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters. Luckily I had it on hand to get started!

I am thrilled that my daughter loves Percy Jackson as much as I do. It is an exhilarating ride full of adventure, action, monsters and heroes. I felt like we were given a good lesson on Greek Gods and mythology while we read too, which is fascinating. The story is obviously well researched, my only complaint is that the Greek names really stretched my pronunciation skills! The plot was intricately weaved and fast-paced; I loved the action scenes. There were a few surprises along the way as we followed Percy’s journey with great enthusiasm.

The characters are complex and realistic, flawed and special. Grover was probably my favourite. He is always so worried, but he comes through when required. He is an excellent friend to Percy, and helps keep him safe. Annabeth is also a great friend, but she performs her role with more sarcasm and bluntness. She is quirky and valuable, and while a little prickly at times, she is also a lovely person who cares for her friends. Percy is very lucky to have such friends by his side. We really liked Percy too; thrust into a life he never imagined, he battles through and works hard to right a wrong and prevent a war. I’m looking forwards to seeing how he progresses as a character through the series.

It was interesting discovering some of the Gods and their personalities. Most displayed a high level of arrogance and self-importance, which I suppose can only be expected after thousands of years of immortality and rule. They were also pretty scary, and I am glad that I don’t have to face any of them, especially Ares and Hades. Even scarier, though, were the monsters sent to stop Percy, truly nightmare inducing.

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is most suitable for middle primary school and high school students (and up!). We have already started the next book in the series, Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters. We will definitely be reading more of these awesome books.

 

 

My First Book Box

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Recently I had seen a few places advertised online that were selling book box subscriptions, but they were not available in my area, or the postage costs were prohibitive. Then I ran across The YA Chronicles, an Australian based book box subscription service specialising in young adult literature. I could hardly have been more excited! I love YA and read it as much as I can, so this was just perfect.

Each month, a new release YA book is chosen to develop a book box. It is then accompanied by several themed goodies, which make it a truly fun experience. A subscription would make an excellent gift for a lover of YA.

Book box

Book box

My first box arrived during the week, yay! I got an email from Australia Post early in the morning to say it was on board with the driver for delivery that day. I waited impatiently all day for it to arrive, but it didn’t show up until after four, by which time all the kids were home from school, so I had to sneak off to my room to open it in peace!

I was tingling with anticipation as I opened the box to find black tissue paper surrounding the wonderful contents. Inside was the book, Valentine by Jodi McAlister, along with a lovely smelly and glittery soy candle, a pin, some tea and a bookmark. And I love it all!

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Already looking forward to the next box! Thanks to The YA Chronicles for giving me such joy!

Unfinished by Kendra C. Highley

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unfinishedUnfinished by Kendra C. Highley, e-novella, 56 pages, published 2014.

Quinn is an “artificial”, a fake human, designed with enhanced intelligence and capabilities. Now his creators are making him a friend; the same type, but this time, a girl, Lexa. Together they will train, learn and grow, and prepare for their greater purpose, whatever that might be. The head of the project, Maren DeGaul is a harsh and feared woman, who is willing to do anything to get what she wants. She believes Lexa is flawed and should be terminated, but Quinn is determined to keep Lexa alive.

I started reading this story not realising that it is a prequel to a book series, Unstrung. I was quite taken with Unfinished; it did not take long for me to read, nor did I want to put it down. I am quite keen to read more of the story in Unstrung, when Quinn and Lexa are grown up.

Fascinating and compelling, Unfinished, is an entertaining piece of science fiction. Beings that look and grow like humans, with human DNA, but also with enhancements and controls; very interesting indeed. Could this or something like it, be in our future? The lower models are considered as slaves by “real” humans and are often treated poorly, and with disdain. It’s an appalling situation, the master has total control over their slaves, including administration of punishment and even termination for any perceived misconduct. One of DeGaul’s henchmen, Piers, is particularly brutal to the artificial. He enjoys meting out punishments, especially when he is able to torture Quinn, who is but a child for the majority of this story. I found the adults of the story to be mostly despicable and immoral, with the exception of Doc Mendel, who really tried to help Quinn and be his friend.

I liked both Quinn and Lexa. They exhibit some truly amazing abilities, well beyond the levels that ordinary humans can accomplish in the same fields, such as speed and strength. Lexa is quite fiery, as well as being a phenomenal climber and sneak, while Quinn is more level-headed with advanced strength and camouflage skills. He is capable of being perfectly likeable and agreeable in order to obtain his objective. Together, they like to have fun playing pranks and causing trouble for their creators and masters. They are capable of the full spectrum of human emotions, including love and empathy. This gives Quinn hope that he is more than just a manufactured artificial human.

There were murmurs of political and social unrest outside of DeGaul’s facility that were not addressed in any depth. These issues were applying pressure to the artificial project, as DeGaul seems to be an important member of society. These rumblings are probably described and explained more thoroughly during the book series, so it may have been prudent to read the series and then the prequel for a better understanding of the situation into which Quinn and Lexa are brought.

Unfinished does contain some violence and abuse, and is most suitable for high school students.

The Very Brave Bear by Nick Bland

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18162731The Very Brave Bear by Nick Bland, paperback picture book, published by Scholastic Australia in 2013.

Bear is picking berries when he is startled by Boris Buffalo, who emerges from the slimy waters of the bog. Bear claims he wasn’t scared, and that he can do the bravest things that Boris can do. They challenge each other to various activities trying to out-brave the other. Could there be anything that scares these two brave  beasts?

The Very Brave Bear is another book in The Very Cranky Bear collection from wonderful author and illustrator, Nick Bland. My pre-schoolers love this series, and they are very fond of Bear.

We love this book! It has been read many times in our family; The Very Brave Bear is funny with lovely lyrical language and detailed illustrations. It keeps my kids engaged and wanting to read more. I’m impressed when Bear and Boris try to wear a beard of bees, but my kids like it best when they are tumbling down the steep hill and getting poked with porcupine quills. We all like the ending to the story.

The Very Brave Bear is suitable for toddlers, preschoolers and lower primary school children. It is a perfect book for sharing a giggle with your child.

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

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angusAngus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison, paperback, 239 pages, first published by Piccadilly Press Ltd in 1999, this edition published by HarperCollins Childrens Books in 2005.

Georgia Nicolson is a teenager, and as such, her life is full of problems. Nose size, kissing, school, family, friends, frenemies, boyfriends; Georgia tackles it all. Along for the ride is her best friend, Jas, her little sister Libby, and her unusually large and vicious cat, Angus.

Written in diary style, Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging, chronicles Georgia’s life in all its glory (and missteps). It is a rollicking ride through teenage angst and innovation that had me laughing. It exposes many of the realities that teenagers face, though I think Georgia often tries to solve her problems in an especially unique way. Her poor eyebrows! And kissing lessons, oh my. I was left shaking my head at her solutions, but also chuckling at the outcomes. I don’t remember being that crazy as a teenager, but then, I also didn’t have a giant half-Scottish-wildcat as a pet either!

Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging is a pretty relaxed read that I flew through. Most of the diary entries are short, so there are plenty of logical places to stop for a break, which also makes it more accessible for slower or struggling readers. Georgia provides a glossary of terms at the end of the book, in case you don’t speak English teenager. Though I didn’t have an issue with any of the words or phrases in the story, Georgia’s explanations were worth reading for their humour.

As a character, Georgia, was well written and developed. She is reasonably self-centred, like many adolescents, I suppose, but likeable enough. Her obsession over the size of her nose was amusing, and a refreshing change from teens that think they are just “too fat”. Georgia’s friends, aside from Jas, were all pretty generic, and I couldn’t really tell them apart. Everything about Georgia’s sister, Libby, however, was hilarious. Three year olds are really very special, especially when they have the opportunity to speak to your crush!

Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging contains references to sex, sexuality and sexual development, which lend it to a more mature audience. I think it is most suitable for high school students, though kids in upper primary school might also enjoy it.

Invisible Magic Wand by Rafael Jacimin

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invisiblemagicwandInvisible Magic Wand by Rafael Jacimin, and illustrated by Van der Saim, picture e-book, 30 pages, published by Gripper Products/ Look Under the Rocks in 2017.

Caspian’s Grand-pa has given him an empty box. He says that inside is an invisible magic wand. With this special wand, Caspian can change the way time flows.

Apparently the gift from Grand-pa is for Caspian’s Un-birthday. Just what is an un-birthday? I have no idea. But if I ignore that bit, the story is okay. The premise is fun, I mean, who wouldn’t like a magical wand that could change the speed of time? The execution, however, lacked finesse. The layout of the e-book wasn’t great either. Some pages had text that flowed onto the next page, or had a word next to the picture instead of below it.

I also didn’t like the style of illustrations. Each page has a digital image to accompany the text, but they seemed a little flat and slightly disproportionate, and just not to my taste.

Invisible Magic Wand is suitable for lower primary school children.

 

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

A Day in the Park by Matt Weiss

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dayparkA Day in the Park by Matt Weiss, e-book, 271 pages, published in 2016.

During a science lesson at school, Ryan’s teacher suggests that he investigate a local park area to look for frogs and frog spawn. Along with his mates, Casey and Jay, Ryan heads to the park, but along one of the trails in the forest, he discovers something else. Even though they do not know what it is, the three boys decide to dig it up and research it.

Overall, I quite enjoyed A Day in the Park. I have an interest in archaeology and palaeontology, so a book about fossils and prehistoric creatures is right up my alley. There were a lot of references to scientific terms and processes during the story, which might throw some readers. However, all of the terms were explained sufficiently for people new to this area of science.

I was surprised the first time that Ryan drifted off into the prehistoric landscape. And I’m still not sure if he was dreaming, hallucinating or actually travelling back in time! There was also no explanation as to how or why he was experiencing these prehistoric travels. These sequences were some of my favourite parts of the story. They were well developed with lovely descriptive language, bringing the prairie and its inhabitants to life.

The boys were average young teens being encouraged to leave their screens behind and find adventures in nature. Jay was definitely the clown of the trio, doing some rather silly, though funny things. Casey was the brains, always ready to investigate things thoroughly, and read extra information. Ryan was kind of in between. He was quieter than Jay, but less studious than Casey. I liked all three, and through the story I learnt plenty about each of them.

A Day in the Park is most suitable for middle primary school to lower high school children. I read the whole book in one day, and it kept me entertained throughout. While I enjoyed it as an adult, I know that I would have loved this book when I was about ten or eleven, so I am recommending it to my ten year old to read.

 

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

This Hungry Dragon by Heath McKenzie

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hungrydragonThis Hungry Dragon by Heath McKenzie, hardback picture book, published by Scholastic Australia in 2016.

A very hungry dragon goes on an eating spree. Bear, fox, bull, is there anything he won’t eat?

This Hungry Dragon is an hilarious book with a message about eating right. The dragon grows and grows with every meal, eating well past the time when he is actually full, leaving him feeling rather sick.

All of my kids love This Hungry Dragon, especially my three year olds. They will ‘read’ it to themselves over and over, in between asking me to read it to them. The story is funny with great read aloud rhyming language and lovely illustrations. The dragon is pretty cute, but my favourite picture is inside the dragon’s tummy. We all love to spot different items that the dragon has eaten! I also like the unchangeable expression on the beefy bull.

This Hungry Dragon is most suitable for toddlers, preschoolers and lower primary school children. Heath McKenzie is a well loved author in our house; we like I Wanna Be a Pretty Princess and What Does Santa do When it’s not Christmas. We are looking forward to more books from this terrific author soon.

Guardian of the Gold Breathers by Elise Stephens

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goldbreatherGuardian of the Gold Breathers by Elise Stephens, e-book, 176 pages, published by Updrift in 2015.

After Liam’s father dies, his life begins to change, culminating in his mother remarrying and them leaving Dublin behind for a house in the country with his new step-father, Dr Parker. Liam is unhappy about these changes, but at least he meets some interesting people at the new house; the housekeeper Hannah and the gardener Michael. Liam is led to a dragon egg, and Michael instructs him on how to hatch it. Then Liam is set on a path to prove who he is and to help a distant fairytale kingdom right the wrongs of the past.

Guardian of the Gold Breathers is a lovely, though sometimes sad, fantasy novel. Fairies, goblins, and even a troll are brought to life as Liam learns about the real fairy stories.

The story felt a little familiar; lonely boy discovers he is something more, passes trials to prove himself, fulfils destiny. Still, it was well written and entertaining, and I enjoyed it. I liked the old tale of the Guardian and the Prince, and the idea that somewhere dragons and men once lived happily side by side.

Michael was an especially intriguing character, surrounded by much mystery. He was my favourite, though I also liked Liam and Hannah. Liam had a lot going on in his life, and I think he would have really suffered had he not met Hannah and Michael when he did. I mostly felt sorry for his mum, marrying Dr Parker because he could provide for them. Dr Parker I disliked quite a lot. His scientific work using live dogs was awful, but I also hated the way he treated Liam. He was insensitive to the boy’s feelings whilst being derisive of Liam’s love for reading and map making. Dr Parker didn’t even try to listen or understand Liam.

As Guardian of the Gold Breathers is under 200 pages, it would be suitable for slower readers interested in fantasy, who might otherwise be daunted by a longer book. It’s also great for kids who like fairy tales and dragons.

Guardian of the Gold Breathers is most suitable for middle and upper primary school children.

 

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