Mateship between soldiers and their horses

loyal creaturesTITLE = LOYAL CREATURES

AUTHOR = MORRIS GLEITZMAN

GENRE = WAR, ANIMALS, WW1 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

Frank is a hothead. He is also very close to his father, with whom he works on farms in his close-knit community, tending to water supplies. So when his father is sent a white feather during the early days of the war, Frank is keen for them to join up together: in the Light Horse brigade, of course, so they can take their beloved horses with them.

Frank assumes war will be one big adventure but the reality turns out to be rather different: it is tough, dirty, dusty and disappointingly mundane. Keen to be on the frontline in the midst of the action, Frank is frustrated when his father is sent to Gallipoli and he must stay behind in the heat and dust of northern Africa, organising water supplies for the Aussie troops who are training there. And when his hotheadedness comes to the fore, Frank finds himself in real trouble.

Frank’s hotheadedness may get him into strife but he also shows great courage when put to the test – boys and girls are sure to enjoy reading about his adventures (and misadventures) just as much as they will enjoy reading about his beloved horse, Daisy.

This book is short and easy to read and demonstrates the special bond between the soldiers and their horses in the Light Horse Brigade during WW1. The loyal horses were well trained and would lead their soldiers into the fray of battle. Unfortunately, this loyalty was not always rewarded by the Army itself. Morris Gleitzman is normally better known for lol comedy but If you are an animal lover, you may find it handy to have some tissues at hand as you read the closing pages of the novel .

And if you enjoy reading this book why not have a look at the award-winning graphic novel:  “The Light Horse Boy” (reviewed here) on a similar theme.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Fast-paced from start to finish

machine warsTITLE = MACHINE WARS

AUTHOR = MICHAEL PRYOR

GENRE = SCIENCE FICTION, FUTURE, ACTION, ADVENTURE 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

This novel is a fast-paced adventure from the very first line.

Bram’s mum (the genius behind many Artificial Intelligence (AI) inventions) has always been aware of the potential problems inherent in AI so when one of her creations (Ahriman) starts to act strangely, she has prepared her family with a well-researched “Scatter-and-Hide” safety plan.

But for 14 year old Bram, practising a safety plan and the reality of a safety plan are 2 very different things. Bram finds it exhausting, nerve-wracking and down-right dangerous being on the run from robotic-internet driven AI controlled bugs. IT is just as well he has 2 companions: a friend from school (Stella) who distinguishes herself with her intelligence, and Bob the duck (Bram’s favourite toy when he was a toddler but since turned into an AI protector by Bram’s mum).

Can Bram, Stella and Bob the Duck outwit the power hungry Ahriman long enough for Bram’s mum to come up with a counter-attack?? With clever robots on their tails, the machine wars are very, very real and could end very, very badly for Bram, Stella and Bob.

Great pace, great action and clever plotting make this story an enjoyable romp from start to finish. There are plenty of punches and punchlines andjust  a touch of romance, so it is wonderful  entertainment for younger readers.

Recommended (dma) ****

A sparkling sequel in an original and magical series

Cracks in the Kingdom CVR.pdTITLE = THE COLOURS OF MADELEINE Book 2: THE CRACKS IN THE KINGDOM

AUTHOR = JACLYN MORIARTY

GENRE = FANTASY, FAMILIES, RELATIONSHIPS, ROMANCE, GRIEF, FATHERS, FRIENDSHIP, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9+

Jaclyn Moriarty has crafted a wonderful sequel in a clever and thoughtful series. Filled with a delicious blend of magic, science, adventure and romance…with credible characters who will draw readers into their stories. Again the book follows the stories of Elliott (in Cello) and Madeleine (in Cambridge, the World) but there is an added strand to the story in the sequel: the story of Princess Ko’s attempts to retrieve her royal family members who have been sent into the World by Hostiles (where they have forgotten their identities and ties to Cello). So there is an added political intrigue behind their new adventures, especially as Elliott is part of the team who have been nominated to help find the royal family … even though this means working with Madeleine to open up the crack between their worlds, despite the risk of death if he is discovered.

This book is about mirrors and cracks: in the world, in families and in individuals: he depths we will go to in order to find and/or protect our loved ones … the grief we will feel at their loss. It is also about politics and looking beneath the surface of people: spies pop up at every turn, allies and friends may have hidden depths of despair … no-one is quite as they seem.

Moriarty balances each strand of the story cleverly, with plenty of new twists and turns in the plot and in the characterisations.  As in the first novel (A Corner of White, read a review here), Jaclyn Moriarty’s writing simply sparkles: it is an absolute joy to read each line. Readers will be left asking for more, and impatiently awaiting the last volume in the series.

Read an interview with Jaclyn Moriarty about writing this series, here.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A gothic fairytale in small town America

far far awayTITLE = FAR, FAR AWAY

AUTHOR = TOM MCNEAL

GENRE = FAIRYTALES, GOTHIC HORROR, RELATIONSHIPS, COMMUNITY 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9+

This is an unusual tale, filled with ghosts and the whisper of grim fairytales, where children go missing and evil lurks around the corner. There is a real sense of other-wordliness about this story partly because the narrator is none other than the ghost of Jacob Grimm (yes, of the Grimm brothers’ fame).

Unable to crossover after his death and meet his beloved brother Wilhelm, Jacob believes his destiny is to look after Jeremy Johnson Johnson and ensure that he doesn’t fall into the clutches of the “Finder of Occasions”. So he whispers in Jeremy’s ear and tells him spooky fairytales.

Jeremy is a quiet boy, with few friends – partly because he hears voices (Jacob’s whispers) and partly because he loves reading fairytales (surprise, surprise). He is a kindly lad who cares for his father, bedridden with grief since his wife left them many years ago. But Jeremy is shunned by the townspeople after an unfortunate prank … is the beguiling Ginger simply leading him astray? Or can she help him find his way to fame and fortune … so that he can save his home from the debt collectors?

Jeremy & Ginger need to stay one step ahead of the “Finder of Occasions” … whoever he may be… for if they are caught they may join the ranks of other missing children. Can Jacob help save them or is he too busy watching the wrong person?

A spooky tale that mesmerises readers into believing in fairytales … and hoping for the best for our young hero, Jeremy and his friend, Ginger. This book has won numerous awards, including the California Book Award Gold Medal (2013), it has been shortlisted for the US National Book Award (2013) and been a finalist in the Edgar Allan Poe Mystery Awards (2013) as well as gaining many, many acclaimed reviews from school libraries. A great choice if you are interested in spooky fairytale-like stories.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Plenty of adventure and fantasy

ruins of gorlan newTITLE = RANGER’S APPRENTICE Book 1 : The Ruins of Gorlan

AUTHOR = JOHN FLANAGAN

GENRE = ACTION/ADVENTURE, FANTASY,

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7, 8

Will has always dreamed of being a knight, despite his small size. So when he is denied this chance and instead sent to become an apprentice to a ranger he is disappointed, to say the least. It doesn’t help matters that the ranger himself (Halt) is a man of few words and quite a hard task master.

However, under Halt’s tutelage, Will learns that being a ranger is not as easy as he had at first thought: there are many new and unexpected skills for him to learn and several weapons to master. This newly gained knowledge may come in handy when the kingdom faces a dire threat. Is Will up to the challenge? Will he have the courage and the cleverness required to save the day?

This is a fast paced adventure, the first in a series. Will is a likeable hero and has a lot to learn about himself and his friends. It is easy to see why this book has been so popular with so many students: it is a great read.

Find out about later books in the series here: Halt’s Peril and The Kings of Clonmel

Find out more about the series on the great website dedicated to The Rangers Apprentice

And if you like this book, you may also like John Flanagan’s Brotherband series: reviewed here (Book 1 and Book 2)

Highly Recommended (dma) ***** 

Action packed adventure with links to Percy Jackson

heroes-of-olympus-the-lost-heroTITLE = HEROES OF OLYMPUS: The Lost Hero (Book 1)

AUTHOR = RICK RIORDAN

GENRE = ADVENTURE, FAMILY, ANCIENT ROME, ANCIENT GREECE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

Another great adventure with ties to Ancient Myths and Legends, from the very popular author of the “Percy Jackson” series. This is the first book in what could be considered a spin-off from the original series. AT the beginning we meet 3 new characters (Jason, Piper and Leo) who are suddenly propelled into a battle with mythic beings from which they barely escape with their lives before finding refuge at Camp Half-Blood. Jason discovers that all his memories have been stolen by a god, as a lure to sending him on a dangerous quest. And so the 3 teens set off together to try and save a goddess and maybe the world. Whilst Jason is struggling with his lack of memory Leo and Piper are tsruddling weith memories thaht they would prefer to forget. Each of them is harbouring a secret, afraid that if they reveal the truth it could spell the end of their friendship.

With death hovering at the edge of every adventure, this is a compelling and fast-paced story, as could be expected from Rick Riordan. Fans of the original series are sure to enjoy this excursion into territory which is both familiar yet slightly different. Rather than being focussed on the Greek gods (as happened in the Percy Jackson series) this book looks at the comparison between the Greek and Roman myths.  

You don’t need to have read a Percy Jackson story to enjoy this new series … and don’t worry if you are unfamiliar with Ancient Roman mythology, Rick Riordan will take you on an exciting and whirlwind introduction to some very famous myths and characters. These being may now be residing in Canada and the USA but with clever (and often humorous) echoes with their Ancient past. A truly entertaining read which is sure to be enjoyed by boys and girls alike.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

If a dinosaur travelled to mediaeval times … oops!

TITLE = DINOSAUR KNIGHTS

AUTHOR = MICHAEL GERARD BAUER

GENRE = TIME TRAVEL, KNIGHTS, ADVENTURE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7, 8

Take a scientist who believes he can play with time, a dinosaur and some medieval twins and you have the recipe for an unusual adventure. Roland and Oswald have known better times when they grew up in the castle as the twin sons of the esteemed doctor. Since their father has fallen out of favour their lives have been turned upside down and Roland’s dreams of becoming a knight seem hopeless. Or are they? What happens when an unsuspecting dinosaur is transported into their time … and mistaken for a fire-breathing dragon? Will Roland get his chance to face the dragon and save the princess?? Or will he and his brother simply be collateral damage in a scientist’s attempt to play with time??

Michael Gerard Bauer has all the ingredients for an entertaining story which young readers are sure to enjoy.

Recommended (dma) ****

A new look at the Galahad story

TITLE = PUREHEART

AUTHOR = CASSANDRA GOLDS

GENRE = MYTHS & LEGENDS, ARTHURIAN LEGEND, ROMANCE, GRIEF, REVENGE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9-11

This is a very sad and often heart-breaking spin on the Galahad legend. The first half of the story in particular seems to be filled with tales of woe: dreadful bullying at school for Deirdre, more subtle bullying at home from her Grandmother – and the one shining light in the gloom is forbidden – her friendship with Gal. And overlying this central story is a constant sense of dread and doom: we know that something bad has happened in the past between Deirdre and Gal, so bad that neither can properly remember what happened … we are desperate to learn the truth behind this mystery but also fearful of what that truth may actually be.

Surely young Gal is as pure of heart as in the legend (and the title of the story) … isn’t he?

By novels’ end, all will be revealed and the awful tale of revenge and grief will have been unravelled. Our hero and heroine must learn some painful life lessons which may make them purer of heart … but not necessarily happy little vegemites!

Fans of Cassandra Golds award winning “The Three Loves of Persimmon” will be intrigued by the author’s further foray into the world of love and understanding but the beauty and joy of that earlier novel is replaced by resigned forbearance in her newer book and the writing seems less magical.

There are some clever references to the original legend (in the naming of the block of flats where Deirdre lives, in the parentage of Gal) but the overall mood and feel of the book may be unexpected for those familiar with the story of the perfect knight, Sir Galahad, retriever of the Holy Grail, although the ending captures the essence of that tale’s conclusion and may make us look at that tale with fresh eyes.

This book gained a Notables listing in the 2014 CBCA Book of the Year (Older Readers)

Read more about this author who will be appearing at MWF in 2013.

Read a post about her earlier book here.

Recommended (dma) ***

When Mythic beasts visit modern day Perth .. mayhem ensues

TITLE = FIRE IN THE SEA

AUTHOR = MYKE BARTLETT

GENRE = MYTHS & LEGENDS, ADVENTURE, ROMANCE, GRIEF

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-10

What happens when Ancient myths and legends come alive in modern day Perth? Thrilling action and plenty of mystery and adventure, that’s what happens!

For 16 yo Sadie Miller, the summer holidays are rolling along as usual – until she stops an attack on an old man at the beach, an attack from strange creatures that return to the sea. First the old man leaves her his home, then it seems like he has taken on the body of someone else.. someone who may be a killer .. but a very handsome one.  Is she letting her heart rule her head?

The more Sadie tries to remove herself from his influence, the more deeply she seems to become involved in this strange tale of betrayal and revenge, involving Gods and curses, and most deadly of all…a Minotaur! All the while the clock is steadily ticking down – will history repeat itself and another city be lost to the sea – this time, Sadie’s hometown of Perth?

Join in the fast paced action, the mystery and the romance of Myke Bartlett’s “Fire in the Sea” to find out how this exciting tale will end.

And why not check out the author’s blog where he has posted photos of some of the locations that are used in the novel.

Longlisted for the Golden Inky (2011)

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

An exciting Steampunk sequel

TITLE = CHANGING YESTERDAY

AUTHOR = SEAN McMULLEN

GENRE = TIME TRAVEL, SCIENCE FICTION, STEAMPUNK

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

This is an engaging sequel to “Before the Storm” with plenty of action and lots of plot twists. This time around, the story focuses more on Daniel, who is heartbroken when Muriel abandons him for Fox and heads off to Paris. After Daniel mopes at home for weeks, his family decides to ship him off to England to finish his schooling and prepare him for university; so most of the action takes place on board an array of ships. And what amazing action there is!

For central to this story is a race: a race against time and a race against “bad guys” – what complicates matters is that our sense of who the bad guys are, keeps changing! For Daniel’s street smart and greedy friend, Barry the Rat, sets in train a series of events that threatens his future, Daniel’s future and maybe even the future of the world.

BC, the warrior woman from the future must join forces with Madeleine, a spunky and intelligent waitress from Ballarat (!), to set right the innumerable wrongs that Barry’s actions have caused. But will Daniel help them in their cause? Or is he implicated in wrongdoing?

Daniel may start the novel as a lovesick young man … but he will learn a lot during the course of his travels … about himself, about women and about love. He may turn out to be more of a hero than he thought he could be??

Plenty of action, plenty of plot twists and turns and plenty of humour ensure that this rollicking novel will keep readers amused and engaged from beginning to end. An absolute treat!

Whilst the novel could be enjoyed as a stand alone book, readers will probably get most out of the fun if they read book 1 first –  Read a review here.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****