Australia Illustrated by Tania McCartney

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Australia Illustrated by Tania McCartney, hardback non-fiction, 96 pages, published by EK Books in 2016.

Discover Australia in this beautifully illustrated book. It contains bite-size pieces about Australian culture, its quirks, landmarks, cities, flora and fauna. It is simple enough to be enjoyed by young children, whilst also being interesting enough to engage older kids and adults.

I found this to be a somewhat quirky look at Australia and I loved it! The illustrations are simply gorgeous; colourful, detailed and unique. I enjoyed reading all of the place names and other information contained in the outlines of each state or territory; these were very cleverly compiled. Reading Australia Illustrated made me feel great to be Australian! It made me want to travel and explore my beautiful homeland, and seek out some of the more unusual aspects of our nation.

I read this book cover to cover in one sitting, though I still took my time to enjoy it. It wouldn’t necessarily need to be read in order; it is browsable, and could make a good coffee table or waiting room book. I also think it would be a good book to spark the interest of reluctant readers, hopefully leaving them wanting to know more about Australia.

Australia Illustrated is suitable for children and adults alike. It is a great read and I highly recommend it.

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Secrets of Bearhaven by K.E. Rocha

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Secrets of Bearhaven by K.E. Rocha, hardback novel, 244 pages, published by Scholastic Press in 2016.

Spencer has learnt a lot about bears in his eleven years, after all, both his parents work in bear advocacy, so he has been brought up on bear facts and stories. However, nothing could prepare him for the huge secret they have been keeping.

My ten year-old read Secrets of Bearhaven before I did. Afterwards, she told me it was the best book that she had read this year! Considering how many books she rips through every week, this was quite high praise, so I read it straight away. And I agree with her, this book is excellent. It is a very fast-paced novel full of action and excitement. There is intrigue, crafty villains, and amazing technological advancements. I was hooked from the first few pages, and now both my daughter and I want more!

The world of Bearhaven is beautifully constructed down to the smallest detail. The homes, the shops, roadways and fields; it is all described so carefully that the place comes alive. And the residents of Bearhaven are all very individual with varying physical characteristics and personalities. It would be amazing to walk among them and explore their beautiful home. Rocha has created a better world for these bears, completely hidden within our own world, and it is amazing.

All of the characters are well developed and complex. Spencer is a brave and determined boy who shows strength under pressure. He is clever, innovative and very likeable. He makes an excellent lead character. But it is Kate that I loved the most. The adorably curious and mischievous baby bear that befriends Spencer from their first moments together. She was quirky and fun and made me laugh. Uncle Mark is pretty cool too! I like the way he treats Spencer and the relationship that they have.

Most suitable for upper primary and lower high school students, Secrets of Bearhaven will not disappoint. And it is only the start of Spencer’s adventures; the story continues in Mission to Moon Farm, followed by Hidden Rock Rescue and the latest release, Battle for Bearhaven. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series soon.

 

*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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A long, dark winter….

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This winter was a difficult time for me as I bounced from one illness to the next. Since early May I have been struggling with chest infections, bronchitis, several bouts of conjunctivitis and gastroenteritis, and sinus and ear infections, plus a most hideous case of food poisoning… With a family of six, there were few days when no one was sick, and caring for sick kids is almost as tiring as being sick yourself. All of that has left me exhausted and feeling low. My beautiful husband, Big L, has been an absolute rock, pulling the cart when I could not, and putting up with my complaints, and my snoring! He is an amazing person with a big heart, and I adore him.

During those long months, it was difficult to work and sometimes even to read, so my book reviews have been few. I am sorry for this. I have greatly missed reading great stories and writing about them. I’m hopeful to be back in full swing shortly (I’m yet to beat the latest bout of bronchitis and ear infection). I appreciate your patience, and your support in reading and sharing my blog.

Thank you. Thank you.

Lost in the Woods by Dennis Mews

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Lost in the Woods by Dennis Mews, e-book, 189 pages, published in 2016.

Nadia Hamilton has just started at her new school, The Grange, when her class goes on a week long camping excursion in the wilds of Wales. Nadia doesn’t really want to be there, but she doesn’t yet know how exciting and stimulating the outdoors can be. Craig Wilson is a troubled teen on the run from the police and some dangerous criminals after he stole their car, which contained a mysterious package. He ends up in the woods nearby the school’s camping ground, where he needs to find shelter and food while he hides out, but he keeps running into Nadia.

The premise of the story was good, but I found the execution somewhat lacking. It didn’t flow smoothly as it jumped between the perspectives of Nadia, Craig and Nadia’s teacher, Mr Thomas, which I occasionally found confusing. For instance, I thought it was Nadia that went orienteering, became lost and then was “rescued” by Mr Thomas, but then later in the book, he thinks about Claudia being left alone in the woods by her parents and becoming lost. Maybe I just got mixed up, but in either case, why didn’t the child recognise Mr Thomas, when Nadia met him two days later when she started in her new class, or Claudia, as her own teacher? And there were a few other small things that weren’t quite right, like Nadia zipping up the tent up when they were actually sleeping in their wood shelters. I found the accumulation a little irritating, which lessened my enjoyment of the story.

Nadia was quite annoying; she kept breaking the rules, wandering off and generally being a pain in Mr Thomas’ side. She was also a bit whiney, and not very tolerant of others. I didn’t much like Craig either. He was a bit dim, and made some very bad choices. The teacher, Robin Thomas, I did like. He was a very experienced teacher trying to give his students the best education possible. He really took on a lot to have twenty, sixth graders in the woods for a week by himself. I would have thought for that age group it would have been more appropriate for more adults to accompany the kids on an excursion, especially one of that duration and location.

This was an okay read, it just didn’t quite do it for me. Perhaps I would have liked it more if I was still a child. I think I will ask my ten year old to read it and give me another perspective.

Lost in the Woods is suitable for upper primary and lower high school children. There was some death, violence and guns within the story.

 

*I received this book as a digital edition 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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I’ll Rescue You by M.T. Thomas

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I’ll Rescue You by M.T. Thomas, e-book novel, 189 pages, published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform in 2017.

Forty years previously a race of aliens tried and failed to conquer Earth. Since then humans have been studying the aliens’ technology, weaponry and anatomy in preparation for any further attacks. Belle is the product of one of the human’s experiments; she is half alien and half human. She is able to communicate with the aliens and listen in to their telepathic conversations. Apollo is one of the enemy aliens, come to earth as an assassin. After failing to terminate Bell’s life on his first attempt, he hatches a plan to draw her to him. However, he must work quickly before his alien colleagues drop in for a bloody confrontation.

Science fiction, romance and adventure collide in this somewhat off-beat novel. I’ll Rescue You was a quick and enjoyable read; it was funny and unique, with quirky and original characters. The plot was solid, the writing well structured and the characters detailed. I enjoyed the jaunt about the world, especially to the Paris Catacombs, and the burgeoning relationship between Belle and Apollo, though this was perhaps a little predictable.

I quite liked Apollo, despite his original mission, and his brethren. It was lovely reading his journey to self-enlightenment and empathy. For the first time in his long life, he was able to get to know himself, experience emotion and care for others, something quite apart from his previous alien life, which was cold and emotionless. I didn’t like Belle as much, though she was resourceful and kind. Belle’s human sister and bodyguard also featured a lot throughout the story. I liked seeing how events unfolded from both sides of the chase.

Although none of the characters are children or teenagers, this book is still suitable for upper primary and high school kids to read.

 

*I received this book as a digital edition 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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No Virgin by Anne Cassidy

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No Virgin by Anne Cassidy, paperback novel, 183 pages, published by Hot Key Books in 2016.

Stacey Woods is only seventeen, but she has a lot going on in her life. Her younger sister is a teen mother, her parents are divorced and her Dad has a new partner, she is having some issues with her best friend, and school and grades are always on her mind. Stacey needs some time out, but she finds herself in a situation that leads to her being raped. This is her story.

I’ve been mulling over No Virgin for a couple of weeks since I finished reading it. It was a very powerful and confronting story. The pace was at times a little slow, and at times it was a bit hard to continue reading. I can’t say that this book was exactly enjoyable, but I’m glad that I read it.

I felt sorry for Stacey, not least because she was raped either. Her home life was difficult. I really disliked her sister, Jodie, and felt that she made Stacey’s life much harder than it needed to be. Jodie was selfish, self-centred, rude and manipulative. She was so young when she had her baby, Tyler, and she was still growing up, but that doesn’t excuse the way she treated her mum and Stacey and expected them to look after her baby whenever it suited her. Jodie wasn’t going to school or work or even helping about the house, her excuse was the baby, but she’s wasn’t dedicating her time to him, she just wanted to smoke and talk on her phone. Jodie’s attitude and behaviour placed a huge strain on Stacey and her mum. Perhaps if Stacey’s home life was better, she may not have been compelled to escape, and the situation could have been avoided.

However, irrespective of the how and why that caused Stacey to be in that cafe on the morning she met Harry, and irrespective of any choices she made leading up to the rape, it wasn’t her fault, or Jodie’s fault or her Mum’s fault. The only person at fault for a rape is the rapist. I thought No Virgin did a good job of conveying the conflicting feelings of Stacey as a victim of rape; her feelings of guilt, shame, and anger. I was pleased that the attitudes of the perpetrators were also addressed, even if they did make me angry.

No Virgin is most suitable for mature middle to upper high school students. I recommend all teens read it and talk about it. We should all be talking about rape and removing the stigmatism that goes along with it; stop the victim blaming and look at the behaviours and attitudes of the people committing these crimes to try to prevent further assaults.

*I received this book through a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway.

 

If you, or someone you know, have been affected by sexual assault, rape or domestic violence, there are a number of services designed to help you, with counselling, support and information. Below are some sites where you can find more information, and numbers for rape crisis lines within Australia.

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What are Diamonds and How Do They Form? by Judith Hubbard

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What are Diamonds and How Do They Form? by Judith Hubbard, non-fiction e-book, 63 pages, published in 2016.

Geology has never been my favourite facet of science, but this book impressed me. It was interesting, engaging and informative. The writing was perfectly pitched for the intended audience; it was clear and easy to understand with appropriate photographs and diagrams throughout.

This is the first In Depth Science book written by Judith Hubbard, and after reading this, I would definitely like to read more in the series. The way she conveys such complicated material is excellent, and I think it will help to get, and keep kids interested in earth sciences.

Towards the back of the book there was a section of interactive activities. These included a quiz on the content of the book, as well as a range of experiments and projects that could be done at home. Such activities are a great way to get kids involved and excited about science. There was also a comprehensive glossary explaining terms used within the text.

Suitable for middle and upper primary school through to high school kids. I will be giving What are Diamonds and How Do They Form? to both my 2nd and 5th graders to read.

 

*I received this book as a digital edition 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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An Unlikely Friendship by Jasmine Fogwell

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An Unlikely Friendship by Jasmine Fogwell, paperback novel, 118 pages, published by Destinēe Media in 2016.

Ten year old James and his parents return to their village home after a year living in the city. Whilst looking for a new house, the family stay in the local inn, where James meets the mysterious old lady that lives on the third floor. They soon discover that they have both encountered something in the forest that no one else believes really exists.

An Unlikely Friendship is the first book in The Fidori Trilogy. It is a short and easy read that I finished quickly. The writing was simple and  clean and the plot was easy to follow with some black and white illustrations. It was interesting enough to keep me reading, and to make me want to read the second book. However, if the other two books are of similar length to this one, I think that it could have been presented as a single book, rather than be divided into a trilogy. It was just really getting into the story when the book came to an end.

Overall I liked the premise and the execution. I would have been super excited to discover and befriend creatures like the Fidoris as a child, and if I’m honest, I still would be! The description of the Fidoris was excellent, and I can easily picture these funny little creatures living above the forest canopy. The description of Mrs. DuCret was also good; she seemed like a very lonely and unhappy old lady until James came into her life. Their burgeoning friendship, though a little strange, was good for both of them.

An Unlikely Friendship is most suitable for middle to upper primary school children. I am looking forward to continuing the story in the next book, The Purple Flower.

 

*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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Time Travelling with a Hamster by Ross Welford

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Time Travelling with a Hamster by Ross Welford, paperback novel, 400 pages, published by HarperCollins Children’s Books in 2016.

My daughter insisted that I read this book, and I’m glad that I took her advice. Time Travelling with a Hamster is a wonderful and quirky story about a boy whose father invented a time machine, and then died.

At twelve years old, Al (short for Albert) is sent on a unbelievable and almost impossible adventure back through time in an attempt to prevent his father’s death. The story is funny, heart-felt, and completely original. An excellent read that was interesting from start to finish, with colourful characters and a fantastic plot.

The concept of time travel is fascinating, and also terrifying. Any change made in the past could drastically alter the future, but if one could prevent the death of a loved one, would the consequences be worth it? I really liked the way that time travel was approached in this book, and that the travelling apparatus was made up with an old laptop and a tin tub! The calculations that Al’s dad devised to make time travel possible were complicated, but the theory was well explained and enlightening. I thought the science aspects, including the concept of mind palaces for memory retention, were treated appropriately for the intended age group, and made for very interesting reading.

Grandpa Byron was the best character; with his mix of traditional Indian and western clothing, his moped, intelligence, impeccable memory and odd head bob, I couldn’t help but love this wonderfully eccentric character! Of course, Al is pretty awesome too. He was being bullied at school, and intimidated by his horrible step-sister, yet he was strong, innovative and brave. He had to be courageous and loyal to follow his dead father’s wishes when they seemed so crazy and difficult, but his love and trust for his dad was stronger than any fears he may have had. The close relationship that Byron and Al shared was enviable and emphasised the importance of family bonds.

I now also desperately want a cute little hamster that I can call Alan Shearer the Second!

Time Travelling with a Hamster is most suitable for upper primary to lower high school students. It’s a great book for kids interested in science and humorous adventure. We also have Ross Welford’s next book, What Not to do if you Turn Invisible, which I hope will be every bit as good as Time Travelling with a Hamster.

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July Book Box

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The YA Chronicles July theme was “To the Revolution”. The book was The Waking Land by Callie Bates, which I hadn’t heard of, but which sounds extremely interesting! 

My favourite item in this box is the Readvolution sticker from AnnaOMline. Though I’m sure I’m going to enjoy the super proof, Date A Book from Hachette Australia, containing chapters from some of the YA books hitting shelves in 2017. There was also a Feminist pin from Jubly-Umph, a Rise Up decal from GoldParrotCreations and a magnetic bookmark from ByEpikPage. The smelliest product was a scented Rise Up candle from The Book Hangover (oh I love their candles!).

Want your own YA book box each month? Head over to The YA Chronicles and sign up for one of their subscriptions.