Tag Archives: kids novel

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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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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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.

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.

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.

The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman by Brady G. Stefani

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alienationThe Alienation of Courtney Hoffman by Brady G. Stefani, e-book, 282 pages, published by SparkPress in 2016.

At fifteen, Courtney Hoffman has had to deal with a lot more than most. Her parents are divorced, and her Mum is dating a creepy doctor, her Grandpa tried to drown her when she was seven… and she is being visited by aliens. Could they be real, or is she just losing her mind?

The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman was a thrilling and fast paced young adult read. It was quite different to other sci-fi books I have read, blending conspiracy theory and secret societies with alien visitation and apocalyptic action. It captured my interest very quickly, and I found it incredibly hard to put down.

The plot was complex, well written and riveting. I really enjoyed the conspiracy elements, and the mystery surrounding Courtney’s grandfather. The alien legacy was intriguing, though I’m sure it would have been much better for all the young blood-liners had someone told them of their potential for uniqueness prior to the alien visitations!

Courtney did cry more than most heroes, but that just made her seem more believable as a character. I liked her quite a bit, including her quirky fashion sense. I can hardly imagine living with her witch of a mother though; she was truly awful. I spent a lot of time thinking about her mother, and how she just wouldn’t listen to Courtney, and would rather commit her than believe her. And Dr. Anderson was just ick! I was suspicious of him from the start, he was just too weaselly. I was also wary of Haley, who just kept popping up all over the place, and seemed to know more than was good for her. My favourite character though, was Agatha. She was cool. Maybe slightly eccentric, but certainly cool. And if it wasn’t for her, Courtney could never have faced her reality and her future, which wouldn’t have made for much of a story.

Suitable for high school students and up, I highly recommend The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman to any and all fans of sci-fi. Even if you aren’t a huge sci-fi fan, give this book a try, it might surprise you!

 

*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.

How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

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hiccup1How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell, paperback novel, 227 pages, first published by Hodder Children’s Books in 2003, this edition published in 2010.

Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third is a boy, but not just any boy, he is the son of the Viking Chief, Stoick the Vast. He is expected to achieve great things and become a Viking Hero. Unfortunately, Hiccup doesn’t seem much cut out for life as a hero; he is scrawny, and already known as Hiccup the Useless by most of the other boys of his tribe. In order to become a full member of the Hairy Hooligans, the boys must pass the initiation tests, including capturing and training a wild dragon.

I’m quite fond of stories featuring dragons; I enjoyed the movie of “How To Train Your Dragon” when I saw it with my kids. I promised myself I would read the books when I had a chance. I was expecting the first book in the series to be similar to the movie, so I was surprised to find the book vastly different. Some of the names are the same, but the bulk of the story was not translated. This was by no means a disappointment though, I thought the book was great. My 9 year old was also very taken with the book, and has asked to read more of the series.

How to Train Your Dragon is funny and action filled, if just a tad silly! It has serious entertainment value, I didn’t want to put it down. It made me laugh and sigh, and glare when Snotlout was being mean to Hiccup. He is quite a bully!

Vikings using small dragons to fish for them is ingenious. Having a dragon companion would definitely have its advantages, though I’d be too afraid to crawl into a dark cave full of sleeping dragons to catch one! Most of the dragons weren’t particularly nice, especially Snotlout’s dragon, nor are they overly loyal. The humongous seadragons were the most arrogant of all. Toothless reminds me of my youngest child: stubborn, disobedient, whiny, always complaining, never stops eating! He is there when hiccup needs him most though. I really like Hiccup and Fishlegs; they aren’t your typical blood-thirsty vikings, but they are trying.

Even the names in this story are humorous. The Hairy Hooligans and the Meatheads are funny names for tribes, but what about names like Fishlegs, Hiccup or Snotface Snotlout? And a dragon called Horrorcow; I love it!

How to Train Your Dragon is suitable for primary school children and up. It is the first in a series featuring Hiccup and Toothless; I want to read all of them and so do my kids. I have already started the second book in the series, How to Be a Pirate.

Upside-Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins

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upsidedownmagicUpside-Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins, paperback novel, 196 pages, published by Scholastic Inc. in 2015.

Nory’s magic isn’t quite right. She is trying to learn how to turn herself into a kitten, but every attempt ends in disaster. So when it is time for Nory to enter magic school she is placed in a special class for magical misfits, the Upside-Down Magic class, with a bunch of kids whose magic is also considered not quite right. Here Nory might find acceptance and friendship, but only if she can be herself.

The cute little kitten with dragon wings on the cover piqued my interest, and the story sustained it. I love the idea of an all magic world where everyone has a certain type of magical talent. It would be pretty awesome to change into different animals at will, though Nory’s versions could be a little problematic! Her ‘bitten’ (half beaver, half kitten) antics were very funny, despite the utter destruction she wrought.

The story was an easy read for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, finishing it off in one day. It reminded me a bit of The Worst Witch, with the unintentional consequences of their magic, which often made me laugh. It was just a fun story to unwind with, and I think it would be great for my children to read.

Each child in the Upside-Down Magic class is a little different. They have all experienced bullying or ostracisation to some degree, making them feel alone and frustrated, and wanting to be ‘normal’. By bringing them together in this class, they are able to see that they are not alone, form friendships and question what ‘normal’ really is. The kids were well written and I could see what a day in their classroom would entail. They are all quite unusual with quirky talents. I definitely would not like to turn into a rock every day though! I like Ms Starr’s enthusiasm and confidence, she is an interesting character, whom I am sure will never give up on any of her pupils. And of course, there is the requisite mean kid/bully in Lacey and her group. They were horrible, especially to Elliot, who thought they were his friends.

Upside-Down Magic is a great read for primary school children. I am recommending it to both my 7 and 9 year olds. I am also keen to read the next book in the series, Sticks and Stones.

Nobody’s Story: The First Kingdom by Stephanie Mayor

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1stkingdomcoverNobody’s Story: The First Kingdom by Stephanie Mayor, paperback novel, 248 pages, published by This Story is Mine Publishing in 2016.

The First Kingdom is the second book in the Nobody’s Story series. This book follows on from The Golden Locket, which saw Stephanie, and her cat, Angel, arrive in the land of Metilia after opening her locket for the first time. Now the Familian Princes have arrived in Metilia purporting to want peace between the nations. Whilst Princess Stephanie and her friends are showing the Princes around Yorkyin Land, Stephanie suddenly disappears seemingly into thin air. She finds herself alone in a strange and unknown land. Her journey home is full of danger, excitement and new friends.

I was super excited when The First Kingdom arrived! It had been a long wait, and I was looking forward to a trip into Metilia. It seems first I had to visit with those awful Familian princes, Kirk, Joel and Nathaniel. They are such a scheming lot. Then back to Metilia and beyond, a beautiful country full of talking animals, Princes and adventures. Within this book, you will find clans of big cats and wolves, mysterious strangers, kidnapping witches, giants, exciting new lands to explore and even a dragon!

This fantasy novel is beautifully written with witty characters and an exciting plot. I really enjoyed learning the history of Artinear and Metilia through Zanir’s teachings. Mayor has created a fantasy world rich in culture and history, with many layers still yet to be unravelled. The landscapes are stunning, and the inhabitants intricately described. It was quite eye-opening to visit Camtra and Famila, two countries that are very different from Metilia!

I really loved the new characters, Zanir and Icha. The sly fox, Icha, was particularly funny, while his two little kits were very cute. Zanir was more serious, but still had her moments of humour, and I enjoyed the conversations she had with Stephanie while they travelled. The skirmishes between Angel and Chitchat also made me laugh a lot. Deep down, the feisty cat, Angel really adores Chitchat, despite his squirrelyness, I’m sure of it! Angel generally makes me smile with her sassy attitude and her dislike of all things princely, her fierce loyalty and love for Stephanie and her ability to sleep at the drop of a hat. She was rivalled by the newcomer, Zanir, who also becomes dedicated to protecting Stephanie. It will be interesting to see what sort of relationship Zanir and Angel will develop in the future.

The chapter titles gave me a kick. There were some great puns there, which made me snort-laugh more than once!

The First Kingdom is suitable for middle and upper primary through to high school students, and will appeal to anyone interested in fantasy and adventure. I was ripping along through this book, but I forced myself to put it down, as I just didn’t want it to end yet. Oh, the wait for the next book will be too long…. but it will be oh so exciting when it’s here!

 

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