Meet another strong girl in a great series

sophie bennettTITLE = GIRL v WORLD: Sophie Bennett saves the Planet

AUTHOR = MEREDITH BADGER

GENRE = IDENTITY, GROWING UP, FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

A delightful addition to the Girl v World series, which employs a range of authors to tell stories of strong girls. Meredith Badger introduces us to young Sophie Bennett, who doesn’t feel strong at the beginning of this story, she simply feels like the odd one out. This is partly because of her environmentally aware family. Both her parents are strong advocates for the environment in every aspect of their lives including diet (vegetarianism), entertainment (no TV) and lifestyle (growing most of their food and reusing products, such as Sophie’s bicycle). Sophie has grown up with a similar philosophy and is well aware that this has made her very different to most of her class mates and being different isn’t always easy as a teenager; sometimes it can lead to bullying or loneliness.

When her folks have to leave her with a neighbour for a week, Sophie begins to question some of her values and ideas as she tries out new experiences with new friends. But if Sophie is trying new things, so too are some of her friends thanks to Sophie who learns that being different can sometimes be fun, too.

A quick and enjoyable read in a very popular series.

Recommended (dma) ****

An exciting adventure set in Ancient Roman times

galdiator bk 1TITLE = GLADIATOR: FIGHT FOR FREEDOM

AUTHOR = SIMON SCARROW

GENRE = ADVENTURE, ANCIENT ROME, IDENTITY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

If you like reading adventure stories set in Ancient times, then this book is for you! At the beginning, Marcus is ten years old, growing up on a small farm in Ancient Greece. He adores his father, Titus, who was a centurion before he retired and loves his mother Livia. Life is good. Until the day that the money-lender, Decimus, sends his men to the farm to brutally slay Titus and send his family to be sold as slaves.

Vowing revenge, Marcus is sent to a gladiator school where life is brutal indeed. Apart from trying to survive the gruelling training, Marcus must try and outwit the local bully, Ferax, who hates him with a passion and would like nothing more than to see him dead. Can Marcus survive these threats to his life? And what news does the kitchen slave have for Marcus about his father Titus and the slave hero, Spartacus, whom Titus fought in the slave rebellions 10 years ago? Spartacus may have died in that uprising but his name lives on and he is still revered by slaves throughout the land.

This book is fast paced and Marcus is a brave and clever lad who will win the hearts of most readers. Furthermore, this is the first book in a series, so there is plenty of action still to come. And if readers wish to know more about Ancient Rome as depiced in this story, then there are useful notes at the end of this book. Or why not check out the “Gladiator” website?

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

An exciting horror adventure awaits … if you dare to read….

screaming staircaseTITLE = LOCKWOOD & CO. : The Screaming Staircase (Book 1)

AUTHOR = JONATHAN STROUD

GENRE = GHOSTS, FANTASY, SUPERNATURAL, ADVENTURE, HORROR

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 10

A bit of horror, a bit of humour and a whole lot of adventure … this book has it all. Set in a world where ghosts come out to play at night, and they like to play nasty, scary, life threatening games! Lockwood and Co is a small company of psychic investigators; for a price they will come in and rid your home of those nasty spectres, they will banish the ghosts to eternity.

Well, that is what Lucy has trained for and that is why she has joined forces with the dashing Anthony Lockwood and his side-kick, their researcher, George. The three teenagers hope to make a name for themselves, even though they are working solo, without the usual adult supervisor. However, it is hard to be taken seriously when your exploits have a tendency to go slightly awry. Customers may want the ghosts to disappear but they don’t necessarily want their house to be burnt down in the process!

This is the predicament they find themselves in early in the novel. To avoid going out of business, they must solve a mystery and take on the scariest challenge ever: a challenge that has already taken the lives of many other ghost seekers. Can they survive the night on the renowned “screaming staircase”? Will Lockwood lead his charges safely or will they pay with their lives for his recklessness?

An exciting adventure awaits readers … and the best news is, this is the first in a series of books by Jonathan Stroud – so there are plenty more to come. This book has already been nominated for a number of awards, including the Edgar award (US award for mystery writing).

Check out the website based on the series or read the interactive shortstory featuring Lockwood and his crew, here.

This book has been Longlisted for the 2014 Silver Inky Award.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Sequel lives up to expectations

TITLE = PRODIGY (A Legend Novel)

AUTHOR = MARIE LU

GENRE = DYSTOPIAN FUTURE, POLITICS, ACTION, THRILLER, ROMANCE, FAMILY 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8 – 10

Marie Lu has written an exciting sequel to “Legend” in this novel. Once again, June and Day take it in turns to tell the story, chapter by chapter; a clever ploy as the two main protagonists are at times separated in their adventures.

Once more the action is fast-paced as June and Day attempt to stay alive and find a future for themselves and their countrymen. It becomes a game of political intrigue as they try and gauge who they can trust because it is clear from the start of this book that they cannot survive on their own. But can the Patriots be trusted to help them or should they simply head for the Colonies? And will their differing backgrounds and past history finally get in their way: can they continue to trust each other and most importantly, can their love survive, especially when their hearts are tested by their relationships with others?

A great blend of action, politics and romance with plenty of twists and turns in the plot to keep readers guessing. Fans of “Legend” will be well satisfied with this sequel.

Check out the author’s website here.

Recommended (dma) ****

A satisfying conclusion to an exciting series

TITLE = THE PHOENIX FILES Book 6: DOOMSDAY

AUTHOR =  CHRIS MORPHEW

GENRE = ACTION, ADVENTURE, FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

After 5 action-packed books, we finally come to the conclusion of this engaging series. The clock continues to tick for Luke and Jordan and this time they take it in turns to tell the story,  which only serves to increase the sense of drama.

Once more the odds are set against them: not only are they trying to prevent Luke’s murder but they also have broader concerns: harnessing the potential power of baby Tobias, who remains their last chance of saving the world from the outbreak of Tabitha. All the while, they are trying to avoid being captured by Shackleton and his army.

Yet help suddenly appears from unexpected quarters … or does it? Realistically, neiter the characters nor the reader knows quite who to trust apart for much of the story which only adds to the tension that Morphew has created.

Some might quibble that there are one too many character about-faces to be truly credible but the fact that we are never certain about their motivation ensures most readers will be carried along with the story.

Readers looking for fast paced action and nailbiting tension will be satisfied with this final instalment in what has been an exciting series.

Recommended (dma) ****

 

An intriguing paranormal series begins

TITLE = DARKNESS RISING Book 1: THE GATHERING

AUTHOR = KELLEY ARMSTRONG

GENRE = NATIVE AMERICAN INDIAN MYTHOLOGY, PARANORMAL ROMANCE, IDENTITY, FRIENDSHIP, SCHOOL, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10, 11

This is a compelling and engaging story. At the beginning it seems like it will be just a teen story about high school romances and friendship but as it goes on, more mysterious elements begin to emerge. Maya has always had a strong affinity to nature and amazing powers to heal animals. But are these powers linked to her pawprint birthmark?? Are they a sign from her Native American background? Could she be a witch … or something more?

And what about bad boy Rafe – is he as bad as he pretends to be? And what is so strange about his sister?

With the death of her best friend Serena hanging over both Maya and her best friend, Daniel, there seems to be an edge to the story that lurks mysteriously and gradually takes on a more urgent note. When an unwelcome journalist turns up dead, both Maya and Daniel are concerned about the implications – what is there to hide in this small town of St Clouds?

Readers will be sitting on the edge of their seats as the pace and action increases over the final chapters. A real cliffhanger of an ending ensures that readers will eagerly await Book2 in this engaging paranormal series.

Recommended (dma) ****

An enticing opening to a fascinating fantasy series

TITLE = THE COLOURS OF MADELEINE: Book 1 – A CORNER OF WHITE

AUTHOR = JACLYN MORIARTY

GENRE = FANTASY, FATHERS, FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10 – 12

This is a truly enchanting book by Jaclyn Moriarty who writes in an evocative and original manner. It may take some readers a while to truly get into the book as it really contains two stories in one: the story of Madeleine and her Cambridge friends, set in the world we know as ours and the story of Elliott and his friends, in the Kingdom of Cello. But when a letter moves through a crack between these 2 worlds, the stories begin to merge and Elliott and Madeleine begin to tell each other about themselves and their worlds.

Both Madeleine and Elliott are living alone with their mothers and have missing fathers. But whereas Madeleine left her father by choice, for Elliott, there is a deep mystery surrounding his father’s disappearance. Over the course of the novel both teens must face the reality about their fathers, face the fact that these men who they loved dearly may in fact have been quite flawed. Both teens worry about their own failings and how much they may have followed in their father’s footsteps.

There is much to enjoy in this book. The letter writing and gradual friendship between Elliott and Madeleine does not run smoothly as she is initially quite dismissive of him, refusing to believe that he really exists. But they both help each other thorough some difficult times and by novel’s end may in fact need each other to survive the future. Certainly, Elliott’s friendship with Madeleine is daring: for in his world contact with the Other World is shunned, punishable by death…but surely, when you are a popular heroic boy like Elliott, your life couldn’t be at risk??

There are some very clever twists in the plot of this story that will keep the reader intrigued till the last page and eagerly awaiting the next instalment in this fantasy series. The author has said that she likes making her readers think and she has certainly achieved this with this amazing new book.

This novel is a worthy Notable Book for the 2013 CBCA Book of the Year (Older Readers).

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A nail-biting end to a saga of betrayal and revenge

TITLE = QUINTANA OF CHARYN

AUTHOR = MELINA MARCHETTA

GENRE = FANTASY, POLITICAL INTRIGUE, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 11, 12

Having left readers on a cliffedge at the end of book 2 in this series (“Quintara of Charyn”), from the opening page of this final instalment, Melina Marchetta steps back into the same sense of dread and doom that permeated the middle section of this intriguing series. In book 2, the only glimmer of lightness came when we visited the Queen of Lumatere, Isaboe and her beloved husband and child, Finnikin and Jasmina. Yet book 3 opens with the couple fighting. What does this mean for the happy couple and the future of their land?

Isaboe has been hell-bent on revenge, having lost her entire family to assassins. But as the reader knows, this means she has unknowingly sent her husband out to kill the father of Froi, the young man whom Isaboe and Finnikin cherish as a friend.

Book 1 in this series was about displaced persons and the need for a homeland; book 2 was about betrayal and loyalty on both a personal and national level. Book 3 builds on both themes, for much of this novel is about choices; in particular the choices we make in the name of family loyalty and love. So many of the characters have experienced pain at the hands of others, yet so few of them seem capable of getting past this pain, in fact, many seem determined to inflict pain on others in the name of justice. It seems rare for many of these public figures to show kindness and compassion.

Cleverly, the comparisons between the lives of Quintara and Isaboe are sharply drawn in this third book: both women are pregnant, both imagine they are having sons, both carry the babes of men who love them, both are queens but here the similarities seem to end. Whilst Quintara seems cruel and crazy and hated by most of her kingdom, Isaboe seems the model diplomat and rational ruler. Until they cross paths. Will Isaboe take revenge on her “rival” simply because she is linked to the assassins who destroyed her family? And if so, at what cost to her own sanity? And could such action put Lumatere at risk? Or will Isaboe learn some hard lessons about the ugly side of revenge?

Another compelling novel in the Lumatere Chronicles which is sure to leave readers satisfied and amazed with Marchetta’s craft at tying together the complex and thoughtful strands of this fascinating saga.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A curious adventure from a curious dictionary

TITLE = WORD HUNTERS: Book 1 (The Curious Dictionary)

AUTHOR = NICK EARLS

ILLUSTRATIONS = TERRY WHIDBORNE

GENRE = ADVENTURE, TIMETRAVEL, FANTASY 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

This is a clever and unusual story: a timeslip adventure that all starts with words and their histories … and a very curious dictionary. The aptly named Al and Lexi Hunter discover that they are in fact word hunters: able to travel back in time to learn the heritage of certain words and certain names… just where will their adventures take them next? And can they always be certain to get home safely??

An entertaining story with delightful illustrations that add to the appeal. ou may also like to check out the Word Hunters website here.

Recommended (dma) ****

Why not check out the book trailer below:

Images either sourced from the Animoto website or photos taken by dma. Music “Born This Way” by Ian Cotterill (sourced from the Animoto website).

An exciting and moving tale of the aftermath of war

TITLE = THE GIRL FROM SNOWY RIVER  

AUTHOR = JACKIE FRENCH

GENRE = WAR, FAMILY, RELATIONSHIPS, FRIENDSHIP, ROMANCE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

This is a most engaging novel. It picks up a few years after the conclusion of “Waltzing Matilda” and is set in a similar area (indeed, Matilda makes a brief appearance). The story focuses on Flinty, a resourceful 16 year old who finds herself running the family farm, as both her parents have died and her older brother has gone droving. Yet in many ways , this book is about the impact of WW1 on families and friends, for Flinty’s life has been irrevocably changed by this war – as have the lives of most of the folk who live in her valley. Hardly a family remains untouched – either by loss of a son in battle or by the mental scars carried by the returning soldiers – be they sons, brothers or sweethearts.

We watch as Flinty struggles to cope both emotionally and physically and we see the importance of not only family but also the broader community. There is a lot to enjoy in this novel and the mysterious ghost that Flinty meets only adds to the anticipation felt by the reader as the story unfolds.

Sure to be a big hit with teen readers especially those who enjoy stories with links to Australian history. Whilst Jackie French believes that this book is number 3 in her sweeping “Matilda” saga, each of the 3 books she has written so far are also capable of standing alone. So the reader does not need to have read “Waltzing Matilda” or “A Rose for the Anzac boys” to enjoy this novel.

(However, you may like to check out a review on this blog for A Rose for the Anzac boys)

No wonder this book was longlisted for the 2012 CBCA Book of the Year Awards.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****