Review: Richard Roxburgh – Artie and the Grime Wave

Artie and the Grime Wave
Richard Roxburgh

Artie is always being bullied, along with his rather unfortunately-named pal, Bumshoe. While a shout of ‘Rabbits’ often distracts his dumb tormentors, this time it seems like Artie has gotten into more trouble than he can cope with. With Mary, Funnel-Web and Budgie on his tail, he needs to make things happen… fast.

31927285In the tradition of ‘The Day My Bum Went Psycho’ and ‘The Adventures of Captain Underpants’, this novel contains bums, snot and disgusting boys! If you have a reader that is into that kind of thing, they are going to love this novel.

The action is fast-paced, and the characters such strong caricatures that they will leave some sort of impression in your mind. If you have a weak stomach, and aren’t fond of snot or poop, this probably won’t be for you. There’s bodily fluids flying everywhere!

Honestly, it’s not my kind of novel at all, I didn’t request it to my knowledge. I wouldn’t have read this when I was younger, and the only reason I read this was because I knew my brain would be dead and incapable of digesting good literature after a hard day at work.

Let’s give it 3 stars, and know that there is a deserving audience out there that will enjoy this novel.

3star

Allen & Unwin | 12th September 2016| AU $16.99 | Paperback

Review: Katherine Rundell – The Wolf Wilder

The Wolf Wilder
Katherine Rundell

Feodora is a trainee Wolf Wilder – someone who retrains wolves to understand living in the wild instead of being pampered pets of the nobility. Unfortunately the wolves she and her mother rehabilitate are too good at going wild again – killing farm animals gets them into trouble with the Tsar, and Feo’s mother is taken away for sentencing to death.

30234552This is told in the style of a fairy tale, which I appreciated. The novel is bookended by short sections that tell us what happened when we aren’t looking from Feo’s perspective. There is a hint of Russian culture, although there could have been more of this. I honestly can say I’m interested in Russia and it has a unique environment that I like (maybe it’s the snow?).

In a way, this reminded me of Dog Boy. This is of course, more of a children’s book, but I enjoyed it because of the way humans and animals like dogs and wolves can interact. There’s something about wolves that just excites me, perhaps because they are wild in a way that other things aren’t. You can’t tame those teeth!

Some other reviewers have complained that the story is boring and predictable. But I’m thinking that they have forgotten what age group this is aimed at. There’s hints of rape, which older readers will pick up, and certainly some blood, but it’s suitable for younger readers. I’d say it’s no worse than a Grimm fairytale! And it’s written in a modern way which works.

For what this novel is, I will happily give it 4 stars. I wasn’t bored, I enjoyed the writing and I find it hard to say no to a novel about a plucky (although somewhat sometimes stupid) heroine and her wolves.

4star

Bloomsbury | 1st October 2016 | AU $12.99| Paperback

Review: Sue Durrant – Little Bits of Sky

Little Bits of Sky
Sue Durrant

Ira, short for Miracle, is a care kid, as is her brother. For years, they trade between homes until they come to an orphanage where the gardener is the nicest person there! But everyone deserves a happy ending…

25901616

What am I missing? Seriously. Goodreads is full of positive reviews for this novel, going so far as to call it a ‘Modern Classic’. I was left underwhelmed by this novel. I’m not sure what I missed that should have made it a brilliant novel. I guess I didn’t get attached to Ira in any way, and Zac wasn’t any better.

There are other orphanage novels that are more interesting than this one. For that matter, there are plenty of children’s novels that are more interesting than this one. There just wasn’t anything super special. I’d choose Bridge to Terabithia for a similar level of reading – and hard truths.

I waver between giving this novel 2 to 3 stars. It’s not badly written, I finished reading it, yet I was left feeling like I had wasted that hour and a half of my life.

2star

Nosy Crow | 22 June 2016 | AU $14.99 | Paperback

Review: Dianne Wolfer – The Shark Caller

The Shark Caller
Dianne Wolfer

Izzy’s brother has been killed in a diving accident, and she’s returning to Papau New Guinea to spread his ashes to the sea. She’s always been drawn to sharks in a deeply visceral way – now she must brave the deeps in order to preserve her family’s old ways of life.

30346739This novel reminded me of another that I read a while ago, but never got around to reviewing (very naughty of me). It seemed to be aimed at younger readers, with just enough danger to excite them. Apart from the initial rather traumatic way that Izzy thinks of her brother’s death, it’s not too scary. I can’t think of the ideal audience though, apart from children and early teens who love reading. There are other novels which stand out for me a lot more strongly.

The ‘Papau New Guinea’ language was completely lost on me, perhaps as is normal for me. It’s not something that I’m going to use any other time, and honestly it just interrupted the flow of the novel. I had to stop, work out what they were saying, and then keep reading. Or worse, I just skipped over the words and kept going.

I’m giving this novel 3 stars. It simply didn’t call to me enough with any of it. The sense of inevitability basically covered the whole plot line, as as far as I was concerned, it was completely transparent and unexciting, albeit well written.

3star

Penguin Random House | 1 August 2016 | AU $17.99 | Paperback

Review: Sheila O’Flanagan – The Crystal Run

The Crystal Run
Sheila O’Flanagan

While running from bullies, Joe finds himself thrown into a new world where he is likely to actually be killed. Joe’s hearing isn’t so good normally, and his ability to understand the new language is even worse. What he does work out is that the Carcassians are mislead from top to toe, but there isn’t much he can do about it.

29078428I’m not sure what I was expecting from this novel. I wanted something fantasy because I was sick of teenage drama. No fear here – a scrap of ‘isn’t she pretty’, but otherwise fantasy running wild. Very satisfying and light to read.

What I liked about this novel was that the main character was flawed in a way that younger readers are going to be able empathise with. There is nothing like a protagonist that could be a regular person, and really isn’t anything special. It makes people feel like they will be travelling with them.

It has been a while since I read a true teenage or early tween novel and I had forgotten that they are usually plot driven. That being said, I didn’t put this novel down. I was intrigued by the things that were going wrong, and honestly, pretty mad at the Carcassians. Sticking your head in the sand isn’t going to solve anything!

I’m going to compare this to The Dragon of the Month Club, and suggest that the latter has more to offer in terms of character development. However, it no doubt could be difficult to source in Australia.

I’m going to err on the side of niceness here and give it 4 stars, even though I tossed up giving it 3. I don’t want to short change a nice new offering that thinks about power solutions in a way that tweens are going to understand. The environment matters!

Review: Diane Mae Robinson – Sir Princess Petra’s Mission

Sir Princess Petra’s Mission
Diane Mae Robinson

Princess Petra’s life is complicated. She’s totally up for doing any adventure that comes along. The only problem is that her royal father really hates the idea of her staying knighted… And will come up with any mission he can to stop her.

28329659There’s not much I can really say here, it is such a tiny little volume. I snaffled it up in around a half-hour. The action is fast-moving, and tries to keep your attention that way. I did drift off at points, but I think that’s just me.

I haven’t read the first novel, or the second, but this read perfectly well as a standalone.

Now this, this is good fiction for kids. Easy to get into, has some nice jokes (that aren’t too adult in nature) and to me, I think it’s readable for younglings. I’m giving it 3 stars, just because it wasn’t THAT amazing, but it was pretty darn good. How could I not give at least 3 stars to a book with a dragon in it?

3star

Review: Hamilton Hill – Legend of the East Road

Legend of the East Road
Hamilton Hill

Peter has just entered the world of Luhonono. Magdalene and Gimbo are waiting for him there, ready to start adventures in an unseen world. Setting out to find a princess and instead finding evil makes this novel roll forward.

26115925This novel was slow. Very, very slow. The first half of the novel happened, and nothing had happened. The princess they set out to see isn’t all that exciting. I thought she might be in peril! And additionally, 2/3 explorers already knew who she was.

I felt overwhelmed at all the detail, often I just wanted the story to happen more quickly! I couldn’t have cared less whether it was Peter or Gimbo who had the fastest eyes – their rivalry didn’t seem real. The relationships did develop, but it was in an awkward manner.

This novel was written by someone who had a real love of African culture and traditions, but wasn’t able to merge it seamlessly into an exciting read. There was so much potential here, but it just didn’t make it in. Chopping out some more dialogue or trimming down the perspectives would make this novel stronger.

For example, a simple discussion of a cubby house is stretched out over multiple pages to include a snake sighting (Chapter 6). I think a simple paragraph with the mysticism of the place would have done a far better job of setting the scene, and there was no need for all the internal dialogue by Mags.

The ending was a disappointment. Just as the pace picked up and things became slightly more enthralling, very quickly they were over and the sorcerer was dealt with. I did finally feel vaguely like reading it at that point, so that meant I could give it 2 stars (I finished it after all).

I’ve seen various things that have proclaimed this a ‘young adult novel’ or the back of the book which says it is ‘middle grade fiction’. Middle grade fiction is what this is. I’m not sure there were any deeper themes explored. However, I’m not sure if it common to middle grade fiction to start talking about the attraction that boys have for girls. Please correct me if I am incorrect – this isn’t usually my genre of choice.

All I’ve seen elsewhere are overwhelmingly positive 5 star reviews, and it seems strange that I can only give this one 2 stars. It’s not the fault of the intended audience, I loved the Dragon of the Month Club. Did I somehow not read the same novel that they did?

2star

Review: Iain Reading – the Dragon of the Month Club

the Dragon of the Month Club
Iain Reading

Ayana and Tyler meet as unlikely friends in a library. Together they stumble upon a book to summon dragons – with the only catch that you have to have specific materials in order to summon some kinds. After an experiment goes slightly awry, Ayana and Tyler will have to use their individual twirks to get things back to normal.

25033448The synopsis might not set you on fire, but I’d advise jumping right in anyway. The front cover might make you feel like it’s just for cutsie little kiddies, but really it isn’t. There are real issues being explored, it’s just that the backdrop is of fantastic dragons!

This novel manages to inform the reader about a range of other novels, which might whet the reader’s appetite for other novels. I was certainly interested to go check some other ones out! This is a novel written by someone who just loves books.

Some of the dialogue and imagery were a bit clunky, but I think that is just the formula of a middle-grade novel to an extent, to help support beginning imaginations. Certainly the others I have read in this area are heavy on the details. This one (rather than the one I am reading right now) gets the balance almost perfect.

Oh no. Ooooh no. I just went to GoodReads to get my hands on a copy of this cover, and found out that the next novel in the series isn’t even written yet! And that the author has a bunch of other things to write instead (which I already knew from the interview with him I did awhile back). I finished reading this one and immediately wanted the next one.

This is a 4 stars from me, and for the right audience (ie. younger than me), I would give it a 5. There’s enough magic and some literature and some friendship, and a little bit of everything actually so that something will appeal to everyone.

4star

Review: Lucy van Pelt – How to be a Grrrl!

How to be a Grrl!
Lucy van Pelt

This is a super slim volume of selected comics by Schulz that have Lucy van Pelt playing a leading female role! The comics aim to have something good in each one that proves a point about girls being awesome!

26056077I’m not certain what kind of audience this book is aimed for. Maybe for a tween girl? Someone who just wants to dip into a book, be inspired, then come back out. It took me maybe 5 minutes to read it, and I wouldn’t see myself buying the book myself.

I’m not even going to star this, even though its technically a fiction book. How can I judge Charlie Brown?!?

Review: Roald Dahl – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Roald Dahl

Charlie is a little boy starving to death, with delicious chocolate smells assaulting him every time he walks to school. With four grandparents to support, and only one toothpaste-lid-tube-tightening father, it seems like things will never look up. But as we all know, Charlie is going to have the experience of his life inside Mr Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

109089So you’ve seen the movie six dozen times (or maybe seven dozen, if you’re my age and it played on the weekend TV every week). But the book is the best, and the two movies don’t do justice to Roald Dahl’s world. Something that this novel has over the films is that you get to see illustrations of the four other children after they have been returned to their approximate original selves.

I own this in both a larger, modern size (pictured) with illustration, and an older, dirty copy. The older dirty copy is the one I read as a child, and it shows it. After finishing this novel I was told by my listeners that they needed to hear the second book immediately. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find a copy of it Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. From what I remember, it’s a bit of an odd book, so I don’t expect them to love it as much as the first.

How could this not be 5 stars? It’s a classic, and a proper should-be-loved-by-all-people-classic at that. None of that Jane Austin business, Roald Dahl is where it is at.

5star