Category Archives: Book Review

Wholesome: Together we can save the planet! by Grace Nava

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wholesomeWholesome: Together we can save the planet! by Grace Nava, paperback picture book, 48 pages, published by Media for Life in 2016.

Little Peach Pit is out for a walk. Along the way Pit encounters and appreciates the wonder of nature. The soil and ponds are healthy, there are bees and ants and frogs. However, as Pit draws closer to the city, nature is not so healthy. There pollution and waste and other human activities are hurting nature. What can Little Peach Pit do to help? Pit discovers some ways that we can all help to improve the health of our environment.

Little Peach Pit’s walk is an interesting one, flowing from the healthy countryside into the polluted city. Each step of the way there was advice on how people could help the environment and make the world a better place for everyone. Even though Pit found some very sad areas within the city, such as a polluted pond and unhealthy, weedy soil, he also found hope that we can improve. He saw people picking up rubbish, recycling, and growing a community garden. He learns that the way people interact with the environment, even in little ways, can have a huge impact on the health of our planet.

All children should learn how to help protect and improve our environment, and Wholesome is a great way to introduce some of these concepts. Reading this with young children will provide a starting point for discussions on what we, as individuals, and as communities, can do to make the planet healthy and happy. There is a vocabulary list at the back of the book to help children understand some of the terms referred to in the story and there is also a list of resources that will assist in further education.

Wholesome: Together we can save the Planet! is a lovely educational story suitable for primary school children. It would make an excellent addition to school and public libraries.

 

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

 

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Arsenic for Tea by Robin Stevens

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Arsenic for Tea by Robin Stevens, paperback novel, 333 pages, published by Corgi Books in 2015.

In the second Wells and Wong Mystery, Daisy and Hazel are spending the school break at Daisy’s home, Fallingford. It is Daisy’s birthday and her mother is throwing her a tea party to celebrate. For the weekend of the party, family members and friends arrive to stay with the Wells’. Then a guest is suddenly taken ill and dies, so Daisy and Hazel begin to investigate, but could a family member really have committed a murder?

After reading the first book in this series, A Lady Most Unladylike, I knew I would need more Daisy and Hazel in my life. Though Daisy sometimes calls Hazel ‘Watson’, and likens herself to a young female Sherlock Holmes, their adventures remind me much more of Miss Marple and her knack for being in the right (or perhaps wrong) place and time to solve a murder. These books are like Agatha Christie mysteries for children, and they are fabulous!

In Arsenic for Tea, we are introduced to Fallingford, Daisy’s home. We get to meet her parents, brother and household staff. The setting felt authentic to the era (1930s England), and there was a handy map of the house at the start of the book, including where everyone was sleeping. It was a step back in time, to when children slept in the nursery and were watched over by a nanny or this case, a governess. When families dressed formally for dinner, were waited upon by servants, and the doctors made house-calls as regular practice.

The characters were also realistic, with each character being described in great detail. I liked the mystery uncle, who knows Daisy so well, but is keeping secrets. And her somewhat bumbling father who keeps forgetting things, but is jolly and loveable. Though, of course, Hazel and Daisy are the best characters! Their dynamic is engaging, but I just have to roll my eyes at Daisy’s behaviour; she sometimes forgets how intelligent and capable Hazel is. Daisy might be the head of the detective agency, but she definitely needs Hazel to keep her in check at times, and make sure the case is progressing productively. They are both very bright girls, and I love that they are putting their brains towards solving such interesting mysteries. I think it also highlights that girls can be and do anything they put their minds to, even if society frowns upon those choices. Be brave, break boundaries and be who you are or who you want to be. I’m resisting the urge to write “Girl power!”, but now I’ve gone and done it 🙂

Stevens writes a lovely mystery, with twists and secrets, at a great pace, keeping the reader enthralled until the very end. I really enjoyed the interplay between the family members and how Daisy reacted to the possibility that her family housed a murderer. The household being cut-off by heavy rain heightened the tension and strained relationships, creating even more drama. I also like how the covers for this series have been done. They are clean and clever, very appealing.

Upon completion of Arsenic for Tea, I went straight on to read the third book in the series, A First Class Murder. I am introducing my ten year old to the Murder Most Unladylike series, hoping that she will love them as much as I do.

Escape From Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth

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Escape From Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth, e-book, 178 pages, published by Curiosity Quills Press in 2014.

After her parents are killed in the terror attacks of 9/11, Honoria moves to the rural town, Arnn, with her brother, aunt and uncle. The town is bordered by a forest, known as Witchwood Hollow. Over the years many people have wandered into the woods never to return. The legend of the witch is well known about town. Soon after arrival, Honoria is introduced to the woods by a couple of kids from her new school, but instead of being afraid, she finds a kind of peace among the trees. Could the witch help her reunite with her parents or will she become trapped forever?

Escape from Witchwood Hollow was an easy and fast read which I really enjoyed. The story was appealing and intriguing, while the characters were interesting and well-written. There was an undertone of sadness throughout the story, with many of the characters experiencing the loss of a loved one, or being lost themselves.

This book is not about witchcraft per se, it is more about historical occurrences becoming an urban myth, and the way that such a myth is regarded by locals and newcomers to the area. The story centres on Honoria, and her experiences in Arnn and the woods in 2001. However, it is also about Lady Clifford, an immigrant new to the Arnn area during the 1600s, and another English immigrant, Albertine, who arrives in Arnn in 1850. Both of whom entered the woods never to return. I liked the way the story spanned across and entwined the stories and times of the three young women.

I felt sorry for Honoria, given the tragic loss of her parents. Her behaviour felt realistic for the situation. Something good for Honoria from the move to Arnn was her burgeoning friendship with her neighbour, Leon. Proximity brought them together, but a shared interest in local history and the legend of Witchwood Hollow strengthened their bond. I really liked everything about Leon, he was my favourite character.

Something I found a little odd in the story was the obsession with clothing brands. It was weird, and completely redundant to the story, so why emphasise their fashion choices?

Escape from Witchwood Hollow is suitable for upper primary and high school students and is perfect for fantasy lovers.

 

*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.

Ferret by C.C. Wyatt

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Ferret by C.C. Wyatt, e-book, 418 pages, published by Me Myself Publishing in 2016.

It has been four years since Pia’s life was transformed by a sixteen hour disappearance from her Florida holiday home. She has no recollection of any part of those hours, but believes that she must have been kidnapped. Pia is plagued by anxiety, crippling panic attacks and hallucinatory visions. Her parents believe it is all in her head, but Pia isn’t so sure. When Pia returns to Florida she attempts to unravel some of the mystery surrounding her disappearance. She also hopes to investigate an island that only she can see in the ocean between Miami and Bermuda. On her first day back in Florida, she meets a mysterious boy, Cameron, who is a fellow sufferer of hallucinations. Could he hold the answers that Pia has been searching for?

It took me a little while to get into Ferret, but once I was in, it was a fast and engaging read. The plot was quite intriguing, with allusions to the Bermuda Triangle and alien abduction. I’ve always been fascinated by the Bermuda Triangle; missing planes, boast and people, navigational disturbances, unexplained lights. There have been plenty of theories, but they are all yet to be proved, which makes a wonderful scene for a novel about paranormal and supernatural activity.

Overall I enjoyed Ferret. The premise was great, execution was good, and the characters were interesting and believable. However, throughout the book, I noticed grammatical errors, repeated or transposed words and some spelling mistakes. Really, they were a minor nuisance, but they should have been picked up and corrected during the proof-reading process. I can get a bit distracted by things like this, and it did dampen my enthusiasm a little.

Without spoiling the end, I can say that it took an unexpected turn that I didn’t especially like. It was still written well, but it felt less real than the rest of the story. There was also very little resolved as it ended with “To be continued…” Ferret is the start of a series, but for over 400 pages, I would have liked to have seen Pia make a bit more progress on her mystery. There is still so much to uncover for Pia, Cameron, and even his cousin, Brian. Answers, I need answers! Luckily there is another book coming.

Pia and Cameron are both incredibly complex characters. They have issues and secrets from their pasts, along with a history of mental illness. They were drawn together, and we have to believe that it was fate that they meet. While they were fascinated by each other, they had to learn to like and trust one another. And believe, in each other and in themselves. This all happened in the space of a week, which is rather fast-tracked, but it made for an eventful storyline.

I found Pia’s parents to be very confusing. At times Pia seemed to be afraid of them, especially her Dad. I can understand that they were frightened by her disappearance and have continued to be concerned about her ‘episodes’, but they also seemed to be using that as an excuse to keep her under their thumb. I didn’t like them. Their reaction to her going behind their backs is extreme. As a parent myself, first and foremost should have come relief, not anger that she broke their trust. Pia did something in order to prove that she wasn’t crazy, but they didn’t appear to care what her motive was, or to want to re-assure her that they believed her. Maybe they will lighten up a little in the next book.

Ferret is most suitable for high school students. I think many mystery and paranormal fans would be interested in this series. The next book, Perseaus, is expected to be published later this year (2017).

 

*I received this book from the author (via @BookTasters) 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.

Fluffy Hugs by Richard Dodd

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fluffyFluffy Hugs by Richard Dodd, e-book, 60 pages, published by Smashwords in 2015.

Fluffy is a baby emperor penguin, born in captivity within a zoo. Fluffy is a little different to the other penguins in the enclosure, as he can understand what the humans are saying. He discovers he has other magical abilities too, which he can put to good use helping animals and people.

Fluffy Hugs is a short and simple story; a bit of magical fun with one of the cutest animals in the world, a fluffy, grey penguin chick. Who could resist such a sweet little fellow? I would definitely hug him! Being able to use his hugs to help is an unique talent, but I really liked his ability to travel about the world just by thinking about it.

Fluffy Hugs did not take long to read. My seven year old could probably knock it over pretty quickly too, and I think she would enjoy it a lot. Magical animals are in at our house! There were a handful of simple line drawings within the book which I liked. I think the story could have been enhanced by more illustrations, due to its short nature.

Fluffy Hugs would be suitable for lower primary school students and reluctant older readers. It is the first book in a series chronicling Fluffy’s adventures. The next book in the series, Minty Visits, is also available now.

 

*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.

Valentine by Jodi McAlister

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valentineValentine by Jodi McAlister, paperback novel, 389 pages, published by Penguin Random House Australia Pty Ltd in 2017.

Four teenagers in the seaside town of Haylesford were all born on Valentine’s day of the same year. Pearl, Finn, Cardy and Marie have grown up together, but now they seem to be marked by the birthday they share. Who or what is after them? And why? Pearl is determined to find out what is really going on, but she might need a little help.

This book came in a book box from The YA Chronicles, and I knew nothing about it when I started to read. And wow! I probably wouldn’t have picked Valentine up myself, assuming that it was a romance novel, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it is actually a paranormal fantasy with some romance. And it is really awesome to boot!

From the first chapter, I knew I was going to have trouble putting Valentine down. The plot was intricate, weaving itself into a fast paced ride of darkness and delight. Every chapter’s end had me saying “just one more chapter…” And there’s another book coming in this new series! Yay! There is a short preview at the end of Valentine, which will have to sustain me until Ironheart‘s release next year.

Valentine is not a fairytale, but it is a tale of faeries. Real faeries who are cruel and unforgiving, and zealously pursuing their task without thought to its effects on the humans. They are ruthless and powerful, with some pretty neat tricks up their sleeves. There were two groups after the Valentine babies, the Seelie and the Unseelie, and while one lot was evil, the others weren’t that much better. The way the Unseelie controlled the black animals to frighten and torment was very creepy. I will never be able to see a black cat again without wondering about its evil intent.

I liked the way the story was told, though it took me a little while to catch up with some of the abbreviations in the lingo, such as PDA. That made me feel a bit old! Still, the plot was dramatic and engaging; a very satisfying read. There were some lusty scenes, which may not be everyone’s cuppa, but I thought they were well written, and appropriately utilised for the story.

Pearl was such an interesting and deep character; strong and passionate, I instantly liked her. Most of the characters were quite complex, and I enjoyed getting to know them all. I was amused by Pearl’s denial of her feelings for bad boy Finn, while crushing on Cardy, who is considerably different in personality and looks. She had a great relationship with her older brother and sister, who were also her guardians. I disliked Finn at the start, he just acted like such a jerk, but he improved. As I got to know him better, I realised that he wasn’t all that bad, much more sensitive than I expected.

Valentine is most suitable for middle to upper high school students and older.

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.