Tag Archives: fiction

Book Spotlight: The Efficiency Claus by Devra Robitaille

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The Efficiency Claus comes from the author of the Muffy Dog series, and the recently released teen read, The Henge.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…. only Under-claus is on the warpath against fun and frivolity!

In a world gone mad Santa’s chief of staff, Under-claus, is trying to suck all the magic out of Christmas and digitize, organize, computerize and industrialize the North Pole. He will replace the toy factory assembly line with cyber-elves and deliver all the toys by drone. Santa will be destroyed and the world will become a sadder place for it. Under-claus simply must be stopped.

Alarik Aldrich is the supervisor of the day shift and he and his son Rooney mobilize the E.L.F., the Elf Liberation Force, to take Under-claus down and rescue Santa, but not before Under-claus forms the Efficiency Army and war is declared.

The Efficiency Claus is an improbable tale of victory over a villain of dastardly proportions; an adventure that will warm your heart and stir your soul and yes, put the magic back into Christmas. Oh……and there’s cake, lots and lots of cake.


Now get a real taste for the story with this excerpt from The Efficiency Claus.

The kitchen was a most unusual place up here in the newly renovated and efficient North Pole because Under-claus had never been there. He was scathingly patronizing about what he considered to be women’s work, he disapproved of women in fact altogether, and would have banned them if he didn’t need to eat and have his laundry clean and get his letters typed. Yes Under-claus was a selfish person, as we know by now, but in this case it served the elves well. They were able to play some music and sing, they were able to joke and laugh, as long as they weren’t too loud. And of course a lot of good cheer managed to get into the food this way.

The kitchen was a long room with a whole wall of ovens and stoves. It was very warm and bright with a golden yellow brightness that looked like home and hearth. Long tables ran the length of the room and a sheer army of glorious elven women were stirring and singing and cracking eggs into bowls. There were tall ones and small ones, plump ones and skinny ones. A plump and very pretty elf with glorious bronze curls stuffed carelessly into a hat, but falling out all over the place, was walking along the rows and, putting a friendly hand on one shoulder, she was saying, “That’s nice dear, keep stirring.” Then she’d move on to the next and dip a finger into the batter and lick it, “Mmmmm,” she was saying, “that’s delicious!” She walked to the oven and peaked in and nodded, then to the next oven and made a little sniff. “This one’s done Martha,” she said, turning to one of the women, who bustled over with big red mitts on her hands and took the steaming pudding out of the oven and put it on a copper cooling rack. The place smelled absolutely heavenly, sweet and spicy, of orange peel and cinnamon and vanilla.

Adalicia and Lyric were standing in the doorway absolutely entranced. They watched and sniffed and were transported by the lilting Irish folk song that the women were singing at the moment. Usually they would sing the songs of all their ancestors, cycling through every different elven culture. They all knew all the words. Some were even in their native tongues, Gaelic and Celtic, Sumerian and Ancient Greek. Addy couldn’t believe her eyes and ears, or for that matter her nose. The room was awash with the glory of plum pudding, and mince pies; Christmas fruit cake and sticky toffee pudding. One entire table was dedicated to cookies and gingerbread, another had all manner of fruit pies and cakes lined up. It was a sensory overload that almost made Addy and Lyric faint right there in the doorway.

Addy waved frantically at the lovely woman with the messy curls as she turned and spotted them. “Mum! Mum!” she cried losing her composure. Mrs. Blithe waved back and, wiping her hands on her apron, she made her way through the crowd of baking elves, being careful not to knock anything over or bump anyone and spoil their rhythm. Baking was a very delicate and magical art and took a lot of concentration, and of course singing, to pull off properly. Mrs. Blithe often mentioned to Mrs. Kulkarni that if the ban on music ever reached the kitchens, everyone would starve.


And something about the author…

London-born Devra is a prolific composer, songwriter and keyboardist, as well as an author of books for kids. She had a successful career as a professional musician in England, playing keyboards and touring with Mike Oldfield of ‘Tubular Bells’ fame, before moving to America in the nineties. She has been music director for several theatrical productions in Los Angeles, including a show she co-wrote, which was optioned for Broadway. Her first children’s book series is a trilogy of books about a dog named Muffy. Muffy and the Dog Catcher, Muffy’s Florida Adventure, and Muffy and the Medicine Cat are all available now on Amazon. Devra has also written a Christmas fantasy adventure book aimed at middle grade readers, The Efficiency Claus, and a sci-fi fantasy space adventure called The Dream Stealers, and her teen book, The Henge is available now. Devra now lives in Florida with her family on the Sarasota Bay. She loves to kayak and bike and is a consummate foodie.


For further information about Devra and her books, visit her Amazon author page, have a look at The Hologram Library website, or follow her on Twitter. The Efficiency Claus can be purchased here.

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Book Spotlight: The Henge by Devra Robitaille

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The Henge is a new novel by Devra Robitaille.

Away to the north of the Noble Village of the Arts there is, buried in a jade lake at the bottom of a quarry, a stone with magical properties—a stone that sings. Izraziti the Dreamer has seen the stone through the eyes of an eagle as he soars over the quarry at night. Concinnity Song and her twin brothers, along with the council of twelve must mobilize all the hunter-warriors to raise the stone and transport it across the land, and build a henge to protect it, according to the covenant with the ancestors for the future of civilization. To do this they must tap into the true tone that will levitate the singing stone and its companion blue stones out of the quarry. They will have to battle their enemies, not just the human kind, but a cataclysmic flood and catastrophic fire that threaten to wipe them all out. As they travel across the land with the stones, the people come together and create an amazing civilization on a journey that will culminate in one brilliant night, the night of the solstice, when all the stones will be raised together to form…The Henge.


Take a look at the book trailer for The Henge.


And a little about the author….

London-born Devra is a composer, songwriter and keyboardist, as well as an author. She had a successful career as a professional musician in England, playing keyboards and touring with Mike Oldfield of Tubular Bells fame, before moving to America in the nineties. All through the nineties she directed musicals and theatrical productions in Los Angeles. Now living in Florida with her family on the Sarasota Bay, she has written several children’s books and several young adult novels.

Devra has always been fascinated by the stone monuments that litter the countryside in England, so her latest book The Henge is a labor of love; combining her love of music with her love of her culture.


Looking for more information? Check out the other participants of The Henge book blog tour via The Hologram Library. Or take a look at Devra’s Amazon author page and pick up a copy of The Henge.

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Guest Post: Danica Davidson

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Danica Davidson is the author of a number of books based around the game Minecraft. Now, I’m not overly familiar with Minecraft, but my ten year old daughter loves playing it, watching videos about it, and reading informational texts and fictional stories set in the Minecraft world. You could say she is a little bit obsessed with Minecraft! And so are many of her friends. So when the opportunity of a guest post by Danica came along, I jumped on it. Now read on to learn a little about Danica’s books!

Millions of people play Minecraft, making the worlds they create come alive for them. I play Minecraft, but I also do something else: I write adventure novels that take place as if Minecraft is real.

It started as a single book, Escape from the Overworld, where an 11-year-old boy named Stevie, who lives in the Minecraft world, accidentally discover a portal to Earth. There he befriends a girl named Maison, and the two go on adventures and journeys throughout the worlds, including the Overworld, the Nether, the End and even Earth. From there, the books Attack on the Overworld, The Rise of Herobrine, Down into the Nether, The Armies of Herobrine and Battle with the Wither were released, and they’ll be coming out as a box set November 7.  Their adventures include stopping a monster attack on the school, saving Minecraft after cyberbullies hack into it and turn it into eternal night, and fighting against the evil Minecraft villain Herobrine. The books have lots of chapter cliffhangers and also discuss real-world things, like friendship and bullying.

On November 7, my spinoff series begins coming out with the book Adventure Against the Endermen, and Stevie and Maison will have new villains to fight and have to discover mysteries from ancient days in the Overworld.

It’s a totally new way to look at Minecraft, but that’s part of what makes Minecraft so fun. It encourages and allows you to create, and to create in whatever way you see fit. I love how this aspect lets kids implement their own creativity. They can literally build not only their own buildings, but their own worlds. I’m kind of doing that with these books, and I hope they can be a fun way for Minecraft fans to enjoy novels that involve their favorite video game. But I also make sure the stories are adventure stories at heart, so even if you’re not a Minecraft fan, you can still read them.  Besides having fun reading adventure stories, I hope these books can encourage kids to find their own preferred creative outlets.

 

And a little about Danica…

Danica Davidson is a a writer that has penned a series of unofficial Minecraft adventure novels. She has also written numerous articles for a range of well known publications, comics and a book on how to draw Manga art.

Her latest series of Minecraft books will be launched this month, and are suitable for primary school students.

Visit Danica on her website or Facebook. Her books can be purchased through Book Depository and Amazon.

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Guest Post: K. E. Rocha

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K. E. Rocha (Kristin) is the author of the wonderful Secrets of Bearhaven series. This exciting adventure series is suitable for upper primary school students and up. As I read the first book in the series I found myself immersed in an incredible world with cunning villains, young heroes, and bears that quickly felt like old friends. It even includes bear language developed especially for these books.

Kristin has kindly written a guest post for Today We Did to tell us a little bit about herself and why she writes.

If you had told me when I was in third grade that I would be an author one day, I would not have believed you. I know it might seem like all authors say that, but I really would have been horrified by the idea. As a third grader I was still struggling to learn to read. I had to be in special classes, working with literacy specialists, and as a result, reading and writing just felt like hard work to me.

I was in sixth grade when an author’s visit to my school inspired me to become a writer. By then I had finally caught up to my peers in reading and was enchanted (like I think most kids were and still are!) by the magical world of Harry Potter. The author at my school that day was none other than J.K. Rowling. When she read from her third Harry Potter book and talked about the incredible series she’d created I quickly realized that dreaming up worlds and people, and bringing them into existence in a story, was the coolest job I could imagine.

I wrote Secrets of Bearhaven for the reader I was in the third grade, and the one I was in the sixth grade, because it is my hope that these books will help all types of readers fall in love with reading. The vocabulary is meant to be accessible and the chapters intentionally short for less confident readers—like I was for so long. At the same time, the excitement of the adventure, and the themes of family, animal rights, and communication are intended to draw in avid readers—like the one Harry Potter helped me to become.

What’s more, I want kids to feel empowered by Secrets of Bearhaven, whether they are empowered to write their own stories and find their own voices, or empowered to stand up for what they believe in, like Spencer does in each of the four books.

I think it’s essential for kids to have the experience of being transported by reading. Stories about characters with super powers who go on otherworldly adventures are important. They allow our imaginations to fire. But at the same time, I think it’s equally important for kids to read about characters who really aren’t so different from themselves, and who still go on to do extraordinary things. Those are the stories that change us by showing us what we might be capable of.

Spencer is not blessed with any superpowers. He’s not even the fastest kid on his school baseball team, but he rises to the occasion, because the people he loves, and the animals he cares about are threatened. It’s my hope that readers see themselves in Spencer and in doing so, see how powerful the combination of courage and determination can be.

So whether your child is out there saving bears or, like third grade me, still trying to work out what’s so great about reading and writing, I hope they find the books, characters, or authors that inspire them.

And thank you Sara for inviting me to share a little about myself and what makes me so passionate about reading and writing!

Kristin

 

Visit Kristin on her website, Facebook, or Instagram. And definitely check out the Secrets of Bearhaven pages at Scholastic for more information about the books and some cool extras like learning the bear language and watching the book trailer. There are plenty of great reviews of the books on Goodreads too.

You can also purchase the books from Book Depository, and  Amazon.

 

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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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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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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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